PRO-ISRAEL MCCARTHYISM: "Loyal Supporter of Israel" Exploits Bigotry to Defeat Lebanese-American in California Republican Primary

By J, James | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September 3, 1998 | Go to article overview

PRO-ISRAEL MCCARTHYISM: "Loyal Supporter of Israel" Exploits Bigotry to Defeat Lebanese-American in California Republican Primary


J, James, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


PRO-ISRAEL MCCARTHYISM: "Loyal Supporter of Israel" Exploits Bigotry to Defeat Lebanese-American in California Republican Primary

Although Arab Americans have made real political progress in the United States during the past two decades, the community remains disturbingly vulnerable to attacks of bigotry. This fact was brought home by the war waged against the congressional campaign of Sarkis Joseph Khoury.

Khoury was an ideal candidate who ran an extraordinary campaign in the Republican primary in California's 43rd congressional District. This area is quite conservative in both politics and religion. It is inland from Los Angeles, with the city of Riverside as its population center. Since 1992 the district has been represented in Congress by Ken Calvert, a Republican.

Khoury is married and a father of four daughters. A native of Lebanon, Khoury is a classic American success story. He holds a Ph.D. in international finance from the prestigious Wharton School. For a number of years he has been a professor at the University of California in Riverside. He has authored 20 books and is widely known and respected in his field.

Khoury ran for Congress twice before, in 1992 and 1994, losing on both occasions by an extremely narrow margin. In 1994 he lost to Calvert by only a few hundred votes. This time, in an effort to run the most effective campaign possible, Khoury began early, raising money and seeking professional campaign assistance.

With over $400,000 in his campaign war chest and an unbeatable political team made up of two of the Republican Party's premier political strategists (Ed Goas and Ed Rollins), Khoury had everything going for him.

Khoury began his campaign to unseat the incumbent by spelling out the principle differences between his candidacy and that of Calvert. In addition to the issues he raised, Khoury also reminded voters of his opponent's past outrageous behavior. In 1994, Calvert was caught by the police engaged in a sex act with a prostitute in an automobile.

Calvert's team struck back with a vengeance. Using a multi-pronged approach, their campaign against Khoury focused both directly and indirectly on ethnicity.

Early in the campaign, for example, Calvert's manager publicly denounced Khoury for raising large amounts of campaign contributions from Arab-American donors. When a number of national Arab-American leaders demanded an apology for this bigotry, Calvert excused his campaign manager's behavior saying that he had only sought to point out that Khoury's support was coming from outside of the district.

This tactic was reminiscent of Calvert's 1994 attack on Khoury in the form of a mailer that included a cartoon of Khoury flying into the congressional district on a "flying carpet."

One Republican leader questioned whether Khoury had "dual citizenship."

As in 1994, the tactic worked. What Calvert sought to establish in the minds of those among his constituents who were fundamentalist and chauvinistic was that both Khoury and his supporters were "foreign."

To pound this theme home, Calvert's campaign sent a mailing to all of the households in the district charging that their investigation of Khoury's publicly filed list of campaign contributors "revealed an attempt to buy Riverside's seat in the U.S. Congress." The long list of names printed in the mailing only included the Arabic-sounding names who had sent money to the Khoury campaign.

But Calvert's use of bigotry didn't stop there. A letter that was distributed by a Calvert supporter charged that Khoury "must seek foreign campaign contributions because he cannot win the support of his own people in his own home town."

Further developing this line of attack was another letter sent by Calvert's Jewish supporters in the 43rd District. …

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