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State Department leader tweets, deletes message with pro-Gaza hashtag

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On Saturday, Richard Stengel, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and former Time magazine managing editor, issued a tweet addressing the downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight over Ukraine, but ended the tweet with a hashtag causing many to suspect he supports Gaza over Israel. The tweet was deleted, but not before sparking a great deal of criticism.

"Critical for a full, credible and unimpeded intl investigation of crash. Urge Russia to honor it’s commitment. #UnitedForGaza,” he wrote.

"Please explain the hashtag? Is this an order from the President? Are you being paid by a foreign power? Qatar?" one person asked.

"Wow, cat's out of the bag, eh? Thousands of screen captures, no doubt," another person said in response.

The Blaze said Sunday the State Department did not respond to inquiries, but acknowledged the hashtag could have been an innocent mistake, noting that "at least three of his tweets below the Gaza one were hashtagged #UnitedForUkraine." Stengel removed the message early Sunday with a message calling it "my bad."

"Earlier tweet with wrong hashtag was a mistake," he said. "My bad."

A number of critics, however, did not buy Stengel's explanation. One person thanked Stengel for the correction, but most thought the "my bad" portion of his explanation was unprofessional and inappropriate.

"That's something a 12 yr old would say. Shameful that you represent this country," one person said.

"Guess the 'stand with terrorist group Hamas' is only used on internal tweets! Wouldn't want the public to know," another person added.

PJMedia's Paula Bolyard noted that Stengel has a history of inflammatory remarks against Israel, pointing to a 2010 Time article called "Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” She also said he "blamed the West Bank security fence for what he considered to be Israel’s complacency in the peace process" while appearing on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe."

The Blaze's Sharona Schwartz said the article -- which made the cover of Time -- sparked an outcry from Jews, with many saying it bordered on anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League also took Stengel to task for the article, demanding Time apologize for the stereotypes involving Jews and money.

"After having received calls and e-mails from around the country expressing outrage at Time magazine's September 13 article, 'Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace,' the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on the editors to apologize for a cover story the League said was predicated on the 'insidious subtext' of Jews being obsessed with money," the ADL said in November 2010.

"The outcry from the Jewish community and others over Time's Israel cover story has been overwhelming," said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman. "We have received calls and e-mails from around the country expressing outrage at the implication that Israelis care more about money than a future of peace and security. After reading the story, we understand why so many people were offended."

Stengel's tweet may have been a simple mistake, but some say he has a bit more explaining to do, given his history at Time.

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