Posted by Lilly from ? (126.96.36.199) on Monday, August 26, 2002 at 11:11AM :
It's the thought that counts. It would be sad to see people blame "the Jews" in general for her defeat, but it is not wrong to be upset that there are some people in the Jewish community who back & lobby for the Israeli gov't, even at its most inhumane, & who even *desire* to hinder the progress of another community merely because they have a leader who does not agree with the blind backing of one of the most horrible regimes since WWII. That said, I agree with what Zunes has to say. The corporate "elite" are sneaky bastards...
Sunday, August 25, 2002
Don't Blame the Jews for Cynthia McKinney's Defeat
by Stephen Zunes
With the defeat of five-term Representative Cynthia McKinney in the August 22 Democratic primary in Georgia, the U.S. House of Representatives will soon be losing one of its most progressive voices. This is very bad news for those of us who support peace, human rights, and social justice. It would be even worse news, however, if the blame for her defeat is placed primarily upon the Jewish community.
As has been pointed by both the mainstream and progressive media, political action committees with close ties to the right-wing Israeli government of Ariel Sharon – funded primarily by conservative American Jews – poured in thousands of dollars worth of campaign contributions to her opponent. Unlike most liberal Democrats, McKinney did not make an exception for Israel in her outspoken support for human rights and international law. As a result, she became a target of the so-called "Jewish lobby," which challenges elected officials who dare queestion U.S. military, financial and diplomatic support for Israel's occupation and repression of the Palestinians.
Despite this, it would be a big mistake to blame Jewish money for the defeat of this progressive African-American Congresswoman.
The first reason is that there were more significant factors which led to Cynthia McKinney’s defeat:
The first is Georgia's system of crossover voting, where voters can cast their primary ballots within any political party they choose regardless of their own party affiliation. In a district where barely half of all registered voters were Democrats, 14 out of 15 primary ballots cast were in the Democratic Party. In short, thousands of conservative Republicans – with no significant primary races in their own party – voted in the Democratic primary for the sole purpose of defeating one of Congress' most outspoken defender of civil rights, labor and the environment and one of its most vocal critics of President George W. Bush.
These Republicans were particularly incensed at McKinney's criticism of President Bush's "war on terrorism," including a couple of remarks that even progressive believed went too far, such as her claim that President Bush may have known about the September 11 terrorist attacks beforehand.
Furthermore, her opponent's campaign coffers were enriched by contributions from individuals and PACs affiliated with big business and other special interests that well surpassed that of the "pro-Israel" groups.
In short, Cynthia McKinney would have lost anyway, even without the infusion of "Jewish money" into the campaign.
The second reason it would be a mistake to overstate the role of Jewish campaign contributions is that it re-enforces certain ugly anti-Semitic stereotypes and exacerbates the divisions between Jews and African-Americans. Once close allies in historic struggles for civil rights, labor and social justice, these two communities have become increasingly divided in recent decades as the increasingly affluent Jewish community has drifted to the right and African-Americans have increasingly identified with Third World causes, such as the struggle of the Palestinians for self-determination.
Such divisions between these two historically-oppressed minorities can only help the wealthy white Gentiles who control virtually all of the reins of political and economic power in this country. Indeed, pitting Jews and African-Americans against each other is a classic case of divide and rule. Blaming the loss of Cynthia McKinney on the Jews only benefits those who seek to continue to dominate and oppress, particularly since it ignores the large numbers of progressive Jews who supported her re-election and the many other cases of ongoing Black/Jewish solidarity and cooperation.
Meanwhile, we must rededicate ourselves to electing more candidates to office who are genuninely commited to peace and justice -- for the Palestinians, and for everyone else.
Stephen Zunes (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate professor of Politics at the University of San Francisco.
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