Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Is "Blind Allegiance" Blinding the Democratic Party?

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) February 27, 2008 - The recent Democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama was advertised as the last slugfest before the critical primary elections in Texas and Ohio, and to some extent, it was exactly that. Both candidates came out swinging, with Senator Clinton clearly being the aggressor, taking shots at Obama on issues ranging from health care, to international trade, to their relative qualifications on issues of national security and international relations.

However, many Muslims probably took special notice of their exchange on the related topics of Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, and their uncritical support for the policies of the state of Israel.

Obama took a question from the debate moderator, one related to Minister Farrakhan's recent endorsement of the Obama candidacy. The junior senator from Illinois was quick to utter his repudiation of the Muslim leader, noting Minister Farrakhan's statements (from more than a decade ago), that were highly critical of Jews.

Obama went on to praise the support that his campaign receives from the Jewish community. He spoke of his denunciation of anti-Semitism in the African-American community, as well as his appreciation of Jewish contributions to the civil rights movement and his desire to revive the Black-Jewish alliance of the civil rights. He also declared that the security of Israel was "sacrosanct".

But this was not enough for Senator Clinton. She pushed Obama to go even further in his excoriation of the Minister, and demanded that he reject the Farrakhan "endorsement" out of hand. The segment then turned to Israel - with both candidates pledging their uncritical support for Jewish state.

It was a script that could have been written by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). And that is troubling.

My issue is certainly not the condemnation of anti-Semitism in any of its manifestations, whether in Europe, the American heartland, or in African-American or Muslim communities. The hatred of Jews, or any people is morally repugnant. And apparently by evoking the words and political endorsement of Louis Farrakhan, anti-Semitism, or the perception of it, became the "tar baby" of the debate, that the Obama candidacy was all too eager to distance itself from.

But the question about the Farrakhan endorsement of Senator Obama raises two issues: first, the suggestion that there is some linkage between Obama and Islam (a myth which Obama haters would love to hype), and the even bigger, and more insidious, implication that any implied criticism of the current U.S. political relationship with Israel is a disqualifier as far as the American presidency is concerned.

On the first point, it's absolutely true that Mr. Farrakhan is not exactly in the running for a humanitarian award from the Anti-Defamation League. Some of his past rhetoric regarding Jews has been thoroughly vetted and vehemently criticized by the Jewish community, and many others. But that does not mean that his preference for Senator Obama indicates that he has even the smallest influence on the Obama candidacy.

The second and more significant point, however, is the fact that both Clinton and Obama demonstrated, in this debate, their mutual towing of the policy line laid down by the one special interest that nobody talks about - namely, the American-Israeli lobby. This lobby, in the opinion of many, dominates the national political discourse related to the U.S. relationship with Israel, and in the final analysis, the policies that America chooses to pursue in the Middle East.

That is why, in my opinion, the personality of Minister Farrakhan, and his opinions about the American Jewish community, are presented to be more significant in a national debate than, say, the Israeli economic blockade of Gaza, or the continuous violations of international law committed by Israel in the Palestinian Territories.

The United Nations and the International Court of Justice routinely condemn these actions by Israel. But for all major party candidates, the people of Palestine are virtually invisible, and their human rights, are almost totally ignored.

This is the essence of "blind allegiance" to the dictates of Israel. It materially supports the continued occupation of the Palestinian Territory and the racial apartheid and discrimination that exists within Israel itself. But this blind allegiance is incompatible with the values of fairness, compassion, and respect for international law that America claims to believe in.

As Muslims participate in the political process in greater numbers that ever, we should recognize the importance of a plethora of important national questions, and not just the ones concerning U.S. policy in the Middle East. We must not judge candidates solely on this issue. But Senators Obama and Clinton must also recognize that their mutually blind allegiance to the dictates of the Jewish lobby is not, in the final analysis, good for the people of Palestine, Israel, or the United States of America.

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