Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab-American Caucus at Texas State Democratic Convention

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab-American Caucus at Texas State Democratic Convention

Article excerpt

Once again rank-and-file regulars of the Texas Democratic Party are demonstrating that they are prepared to speak for Palestinian human rights, despite the continuing hold American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) funds have established over party leaders nationally. AIPAC, Israel's Washington, DC lobby with a board of directors representing a variety of Jewish organizations from all over the United States, is not a political action committee (PAC), but it directs or guides the donations of scores of pro-Israel PACs around the country.

For the second time in a row, the Texas Democratic Party this year included in its platform a plank calling for peace negotiations in Israel, with language giving Israelis and Palestinians even-handed treatment. This year, however, it almost didn't happen.

State Issues Take Precedence

In Texas, 1990 is the year for Democrats to regain the governorship, a political imperative in a redistricting year. Unlike 1988, a presidential election year, in 1990 state and local issues take the fore. Time, money, and energy -- the currency of the political realm -- are saved for winning state offices, not debating national and international issues.

For this reason, members of the Texas Arab-American caucus had spent the year working for various candidates of their choice. No plans had been made for activities at the state convention beyond hosting a hospitality booth with Arabic food, posters, and brochures and handouts of various sorts touting Arab-American contributions to Texas and the nation, and presenting Arab-American viewpoints too often ignored in media reporting. In other words, the Arab-American caucus was adhering to the cease-fire that had been negotiated at the end of the 1988 National Democratic Convention.

For these reasons, the approximately 35 Arab-American caucus members who were delegates to the 1990 Texas Democratic Convention were quite surprised to receive a letter to all delegates from the office of Garry Mauro, Texas Land Commissioner (an important statewide elective office), calling for support of platform language promoting peace in the Middle East and strong relations with our democratic ally Israel."

The two-page letter essentially called for a return to the failed Camp David process to deal with the Palestinian issue, and for support of Israel's current peace proposal, which failed because Israel itself refused to implement it. The letter never mentioned Palestinian human rights, although it referred to "the current situation which has taken its toll on Israelis and Palestinians alike."

Lest someone want to begin a dialogue on the issue or present another viewpoint, Mauro's letter declared that "attitudes in the Middle East have been shaped by a set of conditions difficult to understand through Western eyes, and which make the pursuit of a solution to the conflict slower and more difficult."

The sneak-attack letter was accompanied by a press release from a group called Texans for Justice & Freedom," which had been signed by approximately 200 Texas party officeholders and leaders, including nearly every Texas candidate for office. Only US Representatives Kika de la Garza, Henry B. Gonzalez, and Charles Wilson and a handful of state senators and representatives were not listed as signatories.

Texans for Justice & Freedom, a previously unknown organization, clearly follows the long tradition of local AIPAC shadow organizations. The Texans for Justice & Freedom coordinative co-chair is the former regional coordinator of AIPAC. Listed on its letterhead are the current North Texas and South Texas state chairs of AIPAC, and one of its regional officers.

In fact, signatories to the sneak-attack letter were solicited directly by AIPAC on its own stationery. AIPAC realizes that its name carries weight with elected officials, but that rank-and-file party regulars not susceptible to its financial carrots and sticks must be approached indirectly behind names such as "Texans for Justice and Freedom. …

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