ISRAEL: NOW YOU SEE IT, NOW YOU DON'T
Robert L. Jamieson, Jr., Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/29/04
King County Democrats just pulled off a nifty magic trick.
They made Israel disappear.
Not the country, mind you, but the word -- as it had appeared in
proposed language for the party's 2004 county platform.
The plank called for the United States to stop sending aid to Israel
unless it treats the Palestinian people with dignity and respect. But
when county Democrats, preparing for the big state convention, ironed
out the final wrinkles of the platform Tuesday, "Israel" vanished.
The whole thing makes me wonder if the "party of the people" is open
to all so long as influential toes are not stepped on. Do that, and
the Democrats suddenly become "the party of select folks who must be
I'm talking, of course, about supporters of Israel.
This tale of abracadabra began May 8, when the King County Democratic
Party gathered for a convention in Seattle. It was a time when
thinking people could put forth thoughtful planks for the platform.
Naseem Tuffaha, a Seattle businessman and a voice of consciousness in
the Arab American community, offered this: "We believe our tax
dollars should not be sent to Israel while it is in violation of
At least one hand rose up in opposition to his words. A debate, which
is a normal part of the process, ensued. Then, more than 200 people
voted. The plank passed by a slim margin.
On the same weekend, the Seattle chapter of the Council on American-
Islamic Relations met for its annual banquet. The group's vice
chairwoman, Samia El-Moslimany, told a crowd of hundreds about the
vote. "This," she said, "is a memorable day."
Those words had barely left her mouth when a draft of the county
Democrat's 2004 platform started to make the rounds.
The specific mention of Israel and tax dollars was nowhere in sight,
though a platform plank did mention the "United States should commit
to vigorous, serious and persistent engagement in a peaceful
resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict."
Did someone prefer much blander language? Did someone purposely nix
the sharper call to action? What happened?
"Good question," Tuffaha said.
After Tuffaha's plank was voted on -- and affirmed -- the party was
besieged. Greg Rodriguez, chairman of the county Democrats, received
calls and e-mails in opposition. Conservative radio wordsmith Michael
Medved fired away, too, suggesting that the resolution was an
embarrassment for the Democrats. In a radio interview with Medved,
Rodriguez sounded a tad defensive. "Personally, I do not believe in
this platform plank," he said, adding, "I was actually not even aware
that this had been put in."
What troubles me more than the bungling, left-footed backtracking is
the way the plank's language ended up on the cutting room floor.
Democrats can be so sanctimonious and smug about "the process"
and "inclusiveness." It boggles the mind that an issue democratically
supported by the diverse grass roots -- and not just Arab Americans
or Muslims -- somehow failed to show up in drafts of the platform.
"It was inadvertently left out," Rodriguez explained -- or tried to.
He mentioned mumbo jumbo about procedural this-and-that. "It was a
mistake by my platform committee chair. There was no covert operation
to make sure that (plank) didn't get in."
Rodriguez told me the mention about Israel and U.S. tax dollars would
reappear in platform language in time for the meeting held a few
It did, as if by magic.
But the plank lasted shorter than a rabbit in a black top hat.
At the Tuesday night meeting to finalize the county platform, someone
proposed adding two other countries -- Colombia and Egypt. They also
receive hefty amounts of U.S. foreign aid despite human rights woes.
Just don't pick on Israel alone.
Someone pointed out, lest anyone forget, Israel is a valuable buddy
of the United States.
One person proposed that the entire plank that mentions Israel be
watered -- or was that hosed? -- down.
As the proposals and counterproposals flitted and fluttered, one
couldn't help appreciating the Democrats' dilemma.
Liberal-leaning King County is home to many people -- including
impassioned Jews -- who are sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians.
The county also has a vibrant Jewish and pro-Israel community that
has backed Democrats for generations.
When county party honchos emerged from behind closed doors the other
night, a verdict was in. This is how the final plank on the hot-
button issue reads: "No U.S. tax dollars should be given to any
nation while said nation is in violation of international law as
determined by the United Nations."
It was gone, voila, just like that -- thanks to political Merlins who
decided 'tis better to dis the democratic process and the grass roots
than ruffle friends in high places.
P-I columnist Robert L. Jamieson Jr. can be reached at 206-448-8125
ZINNI CHARGES NEOCONS PUSHED IRAQ WAR TO BENEFIT ISRAEL
Ori Nir And Ami Eden, Forward, 5/28/04
The simmering debate over the role of Jewish neoconservatives in
drawing America into war in Iraq erupted with new fury this week. One
of America's most respected ex-generals took to the airwaves to
charge on CBS News' "60 Minutes" that the war had been fought for
Israel's benefit, just days after a similar charge was leveled on the
floor of the U.S. Senate.
The retired general, Anthony Zinni, a past chief of the U.S. Central
Command and President Bush's former Middle East special envoy,
told "60 Minutes" on Sunday that the neoconservatives' role in
pushing the war for Israel's benefit was "the worst-kept secret in
Washington." Three days earlier, Senator Ernest "Fritz" Hollings, a
South Carolina Democrat, rose on the Senate floor to defend a
newspaper essay he had written earlier in the month making the same
charge. Both men complained that they had been unfairly labeled
antisemitic for speaking out.
Their comments come just weeks after the United Nations' special
envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, called Israel a "poison in the
region" and said that American support for Israeli policies was
making his job more difficult.
In the face of these mounting criticisms, a leading Jewish Democrat on
Capitol Hill, Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, told the Forward that the
president's policies were increasing the danger to Jews across the
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