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Guest Opinion: Arab Community Has Much At Stake

The Arab/Muslim Community Has Much at Stake as Do We All

By Genevieve Cora Fraser

Truthfully, I was surprised by the poll results reported by James J. Zogby in his article, ''How Arab Americans will vote in 2004.'' Zogby indicates that Arab American voters, at this point, show strong support for former Vermont Governor Howard Dean's bid to become the Democratic presidential candidate, giving him 36% over his rivals. Retired General Wesley Clark received the support of nine per cent of Arab Americans, followed by Senator John Kerry with six per cent.

I cannot imagine, aside from Senator Joe Lieberman, any candidate that would least serve the Arab American constituency than Howard Dean. For openers, whenever one of Dean's comments gets him in trouble with his Jewish backers Dean's aides are quick to point out that the campaign's chairman, Steve Grossman, is the former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the nation's most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group.

I will admit to being impressed by Dean's statement that Palestinians are the most prepared people in the Arab world for democracy because women play a prominent role in their government. However, whenever he seems to move forward by using terms such as "even handed" in regard to his preferred role in the Middle East, he is easily bullied and backs away from earlier supportive statements.

I have come to suspect that Dean is a chameleon too green at the game to have a mind of his own and too yellow to take a real stand. Sometimes his comments are tightly controlled by his AIPAC Sharon supporters (like the ones who control Bush's foreign policy decisions). But then he gives a tip of the hat to his Jewish, somewhat Pro-Palestinian billionaire backer George Soros whose money provides a counterpoint to AIPAC.

Unless I've missed something, Dean hasn't wasted too much political capital on expressions of sympathy for the Palestinians. Though he would like to be a Peacemaker, I suspect he does not have much of a handle on the real issues. He's careful to resonate with shock with each suicide bombing, but oblivious to the Israeli state sponsored terrorism that spawns it.

I was active in the anti-war movement as well as a participant in the web-based Move-on prior to the war. Perhaps I am unduly cynical, but I believe Dean's stance on being against the Iraq war had much to do with the then-emerging anti-war movement. By catching the tail-winds of the movement, Dean was able to catapult himself into the man of the hour. What makes me doubly suspicious is that his campaign manager as former head of AIPAC would have most assuredly been for the war, not against it. It is the double game that is all too frequently played in the Democratic Party. It is perhaps no coincidence that this one-and-the-same Dean Campaign chair is not only a former AIPAC chair, but also the former chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Dean's momentum was fed by Move-on which clearly favored him and pushed for his candidacy, according to my observations. Move-on as well as the popular anti-war "Truthout" news bulletin avoid all mention of Palestine and discourage linking the policies leading to the Iraq War with policies which support Israel against Palestine.

To this day, there are those in the anti-war movement who attempt to squelch the pro-Palestine faction. And as absurd as it sounds, my local Women in Black organization which should be dedicated to presenting the Palestinian issue, instead refuses to protest the injustice of the occupation because (and I quote), "We don't want to appear anti-Semitic!" What I am doing here is revealing the dirty-little-secret of the anti-war movement. There is a deliberate effort not to look too closely at the root causes of why the war on Iraq happened... aside from the stealing of natural resources (oil) angle. Israel is never to be mentioned, according to some.

I can understand why the Muslim community would support retired General Clark who worked hard to stop ethnic cleansing and bring stability to the Balkans. Clark's efforts have helped to create a foundation for the multiethnic administration currently being put in place in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Kerry on the other hand speaks openly of the suffering endured by the Palestinians while also expressing concern for the innocent lives lost as a result of the suicide bombing.

In remarks before the Arab American Institute in October, Kerry stated:

"I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli government's decision to build the barrier off of the green line - cutting deep into Palestinian areas. We don't need another barrier to peace. Provocative and counterproductive measures only harm Israeli's security over the long term, increase the hardships to the Palestinian people, and make the process of negotiating an eventual settlement that much harder."

"There is nothing to be gained in an endless cycle of violence and reprisals that only point in a downward direction. There is no future for that tiny sliver of land other than that of two nations living as peaceful neighbors - and the extremists on both sides need to realize that. Israeli mothers and Palestinian mothers cry the same tears over their lost sons and daughters. And Israeli and Palestinian children have no hopes for a lifetime of peace and prosperity that do not involve peace and prosperity for each other."

Clearly, Kerry would continue to support Israel as part of the over-all US strategic interest in the region; however, Kerry is a diplomat as well as a politician and it is best to pay attention to the subtleties of his language.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative has stressed in regard to Oslo and Camp David and the Roadmap that peace cannot be imposed by secret negotiations held behind the backs of the people. One of the great failures is that people have become fixated on the peace process rather than peace itself, Barghouthi has said.

Senator Kerry echoes this insight in a statement to the Jewish community. According to Kerry, "The recent effort by former officials of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to lay out a possible agreement on final-status issues demonstrates that they understand that it may be easier to break the stalemate and end the violence fostered by extremists if the endgame is the focus, not the steps leading up to it."

This belief is also expressed by Salim Tamari in his article, The Case for Geneva. "The document successfully supersedes the dilemma posed by the Oslo accords: that gradualism, phased withdrawals and 'confidence-building measures' do not work between a colonial authority and the colonized."

"Transitional arrangements, such as Oslo, when the end result is not spelled out, always favor the stronger party," Tamari continued. "In Geneva, the Palestinian and Israeli protagonists reversed the formula. They agreed on the basis of the final product (mutual sovereignty and delineated boundaries) and then began to look for the mechanisms to implement it."

Whether or not America is capable of being an honest broker, as the dominant super power, America will play a definitive role in winning the peace or further destabilizing the Middle East region. For this reason, it is crucial that the next President of the United States be experienced and well-versed in the subtle and not-so-subtle variables that will lead us to a safe and sane future. I believe that John Kerry is up for the job. As he recently stated, "Forging a stable and lasting peace in the Middle East is vital to American national security, to the security of Israel and other countries in the region, and to the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a viable Palestinian state."

"It is also an essential part of winning the war on terror. The United States must actively engage in the peace process - keeping both sides focused on the endgame of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security - and helping them take the necessary steps to build enough confidence and trust in each other to get there," Kerry stated.

I am very pleased that Senator John F. Kerry won the Iowa caucus. It is my fondest wish that his momentum builds and that he wins the nomination of the Democratic Party. I agree with George Soros in this, George Bush must be defeated. He has a failed Middle East policy and a bankrupt domestic agenda. America and the world is desperate for real leadership. a person of vision and courage who respects the rights of the citizens of the world and has a determination to sustain, not destroy, our fragile planet.


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