the presidential campaign season heats up every day brings
news of endorsement one-upmanship. In one week we witnessed
Al Gore endorsing Howard Dean, Charles Rangel and other black
elected officials endorsing Wesley Clark, South Carolina Black
Congressman James Clyburn endorsing Dick Gephardt, and Al Sharpton
angry because no one had endorsed him. It was expected that
Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, Chair of the Congressional
Black Caucus, would soon endorse Howard Dean as well.
Cummings’ endorsement hit a temporary snag. The Baltimore Sun
reported that the Cummings endorsement was in jeopardy because
leaders of Baltimore’s Jewish community were concerned about
Dean’s commitment to Israel. Dean
made headlines in September when he said that the United States
should be “even handed” in dealing with Israel and the Palestinians.
One would have thought from the response that Dean had expressed
love for suicide bombers. It didn’t seem to help that Dean’s
wife is Jewish and that his national campaign co-chairman,
Steve Grossman, was formerly president of the American Israeli
Political Action Committee (AIPAC). Anyone who steps outside
of pro-Israeli orthodoxy gets the cold shoulder, even if his
credentials are otherwise acceptable.
of the Congressional Black Caucus have been particularly vulnerable
to the pressures exerted by the pro-Israel lobby. In 2002 Cynthia
McKinney of Georgia and Earl
Hilliard of Alabama were both defeated by challengers who
raised large sums of money from Jewish groups outside of their
states. Both McKinney and Hilliard committed the sin of being
even handed. The message was not lost on other members of the
Congressional Black Caucus. Toe the line or lose your seat.
ascendancy of George W. Bush and the American right wing has
emboldened the Israeli right wing and its American allies.
So much so that not only black elected officials are under
threat. During a call-in segment on C-Span Senator John Kerry
gave an odd response to a question about politicians who are
afraid to stand up to Israel when its policies don’t merit
American support. The caller “sensed a visceral fear of all
the candidates to take this issue head on.” Kerry responded
that he and other candidates had no such fear but he then went
on to answer in such a way that he proved the caller right.
He said in part, “Israel is fighting for its survival.” Israel
is the only nation in that region with both nuclear weapons
and the backing of the world’s only super power. That is not
a description of a country fighting for survival.
unstated assumption of the Baltimore Sun article was that Cummings
would suffer the fate of his colleagues if he didn’t ask “How
high?” when he was told to jump. The story began to change
a bit as time passed, however. The website of the Forward,
a Jewish publication, reported that the Sun was incorrect and
that the Cummings endorsement of Dean would proceed as
planned. Congressman Cummings ended the suspense when he
endorsed Dean on December 13, in
issues raised by this concentration of power effect more than
the election chances of black politicians. The same forces
that give black politicians pause when dealing with Israel
also helped bring about the disastrous American invasion of
Iraq. The neo-conservatives who run Bush foreign police advocated
this war partly on the premise that getting rid of Saddam Hussein
was good for Israel. I wonder when someone will experience
an epiphany and figure out that expanding settlements on the
West Bank hurts Israel. I am still not sure how the end of
Saddam’s regime makes Israelis safe from Palestinian suicide
bombers. Instead the hawks believe that the region’s difficulties
are caused by a lack of Arab “modernization.” Bringing about
modernization seems to mean invading their countries, establishing
puppet governments, taking their oil and paving the way for
American capitalists to make a fast buck. George W. Bush is
so retrograde in his thinking that in a moment of delusion
I actually missed his father, who on the advice of Arab allies
decided not to remove Saddam Hussein during the 1991 Gulf War.
In contrast, Bush the younger sees no need for Arab allies.
Warnings of dire consequences from the Arab world went unheeded
and have resulted in the continuing disaster caused by the
fear of being labeled anti-Semitic keeps many Americans from
expressing dissent when issues about Israel are raised. I am
not one to say that all Jews wanted war in Iraq or that Jews
run the government or the banks or the media. When the pro-Israel
connection to the Iraq war is mentioned it is always pointed
out that President Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and others
aren’t Jewish. Being Jewish isn’t really the issue. The issue
is the actions of two countries whose desire for power and
control of other nations is insatiable. It doesn’t matter that
Dick Cheney isn’t Jewish. His worldview requires that he and
his ilk control the resources of that part of the world and
make them safe for American capitalists. Israel’s demand for
total control of the region meshes nicely with the fantasies
of empire of likeminded gentiles. The belief that individuals
and nations are “either with us or against us” only increases
the danger these two nations present to the rest of the world.
It was recently revealed
that Israel is advising the U.S. military on tactics against
resistance. Towns have been sealed off by barbed wire, residents
cannot come and go as they please and are required to carry identification
to enter and leave their communities. America has established
a South African style pass system in Iraq. When the next terror
attack is committed on American soil will we whine and cry that
we don’t know why “they” hate us? I hope that some brave soul
stands up and says it’s partly because we are not even handed.
In all likelihood such a person will not be a candidate for any
office in this country.
Freedom Rider column appears weekly in . Ms.
Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City. She
can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected]. You can read more
of Ms. Kimberley's writings at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com/