Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Not All Politics Is Local: A Colorado Race and the International Kahanist Network

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Not All Politics Is Local: A Colorado Race and the International Kahanist Network

Article excerpt

By The DC Investigative Journalism Collective

ON MARCH 1, 2008, a Palestinian-American woman named Rima Barakat Sinclair raised her hand at a Denver meeting of the Colorado Republican Party. Little did she know that her simple action would initiate a string of unforeseeable consequences, with the potential of substantively changing the terms of the Israeli-Palestinian debate in U.S. politics.

About 50 party members attended the meeting, held in Colorado's overwhelmingly Democratic, and Jewish, 6th House District. They were there to choose a candidate for the seat of Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D), who was ineligible to run for re-election due to term limit restrictions.

By a vote of 25 to 23, Barakat Sinclair defeated the one other contender for the position. Her candidacy was then confirmed in a unanimous second vote.

Then the trouble started-thanks, perhaps, to individuals associated with Denver-based Jewish Republicans of Colorado, or J-GOP, which has a history of support for Israel's most extreme right-wing politics.

Just days after the March 1 meeting, Denver Republican blogger Joshua Sharf expressed his dismay at President George W. Bush's efforts to achieve before leaving office a framework agreement for a Palestinian state. "Will someone please explain to me exactly why we're supposed to help broker a base of operations [crossed out in original] state for these jackals and hyenas?" Sharf wrote.

A few weeks later, Sharf issued a challenge to the state party's nomination of Barakat Sinclair, labeling her an "Islamist" and a "terror apologist." Since he had referred to her in a 2006 post as a "terrorist financier," this ad-hominem attack actually showed relative restraint on Sharf's part.

An article in the InterMountain Jewish News entitled "Daggers at Israel: Unusual House Primary" describes Sharf as a supporter of "Americans Against Terrorism" (AAT), a "grassroots pro-Israel group based in Denver." Records at the Colorado secretary of state's Web site indicate that AAT was registered in March 2003 by Boulder attorney Matt Finberg, with directors William P. Eigels and Neil Dobro-only to be "administratively dissolved" in September 2004.

On June 3 of this year, Sharf announced that he had turned in the required signatures allowing him to challenge Barakat Sinclair's nomination. The now candidate also noted that his "close friend and supporter, Dr. Neil Dobro, will be the speaker at the monthly dinner of the Jewish Republicans of Colorado on June 19. Neil, the founder of Americans Against Terrorism, will be speaking on Israel's Prospects Against Terror for the Next 60 Years."

Dobro has accused Barakat Sinclair of being a champion of "terrorist gangs." His view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is clear cut: "Arab 'victims,'" he writes, "are killed inadvertently and in part for their bad choices. Israelis are killed purposely by terrorists."

His solution is equally straightforward: Palestinians who do not want to get killed should "do as thousands of other Arabs have done: get away from what surely will be the line of fire." In other words, Palestinians who wish to stay alive should leave their homes and flee, as thousands did during 1948.

When contacted via e-mail, Barakat Sinclair shared with the authors (dc-ijc) an April e-mail exchange with Sharf's current campaign manager, Ruth Prendergast, discussing the latter's "concerns" about Islam. In her e-mail, Barakat Sinclair expressed her "shock and pain" over Prendergast's claims in a conversation during a monthly breakfast meeting of Colorado Republican Women that "Muslims have a plan to infiltrate the U.S. government and that [they] believe that all infidels should be killed. Your suggestion," Barakat Sinclair writes, "that Muslims should, first, renounce their beliefs before they run for office was outrageous." Pendergast does not deny in her response that she holds those views. …

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