From the Democratic Party Convention: Room in the Tent for Everyone but Arab Americans

By Bird, Eugene | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, September 3, 1992 | Go to article overview

From the Democratic Party Convention: Room in the Tent for Everyone but Arab Americans


Bird, Eugene, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


From the Democratic Party Convention: Room in the Tent for Everyone But Arab Americans

All hues in the spectrum of Jewish opinion, from AIPAC to Peace Now, were discernible at the table of power in the Democratic National Convention in New York. In fact, mainstream Jewish leaders expressed great relief that the party traditionally supporting Israel was "back in the fold," and no longer arguing from the convention floor, as in 1988, over self-determination for Palestinians. Only the die-hard Likud supporters within the Israel lobby seemed to be missing from the inner councils at the convention.

Two key officials from the Clinton campaign, Samuel (Sandy) Berger and Michael Mandelbaum, defended the party platform which called for unconditional loan guarantees. Jewish American Peace Now advocates, in a rough private questioning of Mandelbaum, made clear that they want to see an end to settlements as a price for peace. But the unity ultimately demonstrated by both hard-line pro-Israel delegates and Jewish peace advocates in supporting the party and its platform makes it certain that the Clinton-Gore ticket will garner far more than the 70 percent of Jewish votes that went to Dukakis and Bentsen in 1988.

Although Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Zalman Shoval, a Likud political appointee, attended the convention, only Yitzhak Shamir's American supporters seemed left out of the mainstream Jewish effort to bring the Democratic Party back to traditional unquestioning support for Israel. They were reduced to handing out "Peace for Peace" buttons.

Campaign and Jewish Organization Officials "Indistinguishable"

Jewish organization officials and Democratic campaign officials were almost "indistinguishable," as Forward, the New York Jewish weekly, put it. They mounted a full-court press behind the scenes against Arab Americans, who were excluded from key positions in convention program and policy councils. Congresswoman Mary Rose Oakar (D-OH) was removed as co-chair of the Platform Committee at the last minute, and was granted no opportunity to speak at the convention.

Arab Americans reacted differently to the party's tilt toward Israel. Some may take the advice of one convention official who actually told them they should vote for George Bush. Others said they would remain in the party and work for Clinton's election to the extent they are allowed to do so. Their rationale is that former President Carter and 1972 candidate George McGovern would have some clout in a Clinton/Gore administration, and they are balanced and fair on the issue of Middle East peace.

Jackson Rated Top Applause

At the convention, however, only Jesse Jackson dared to mention Palestine, in a speech that provided one of the convention's emotional highlights. Although Jackson received heavy and enthusiastic applause, The New York Times called it the speech of a crippled politician. However, a news service that surveyed reporting across the country on the Jackson speech concluded that the Times was definitely alone in its claim that Jackson, allowed to speak during the least attractive All-Star Game time slot, was wounded and all but finished politically. …

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