Arab Americans Fail to Influence Democratic Party Platform on Jerusalem
By Munir K. Nasser
Leaders of the Arab American community participating in the Democratic National convention in Los Angeles this week admitted that they have failed to influence the Democratic Party Platform, which calls Jerusalem “the capital of Israel.”
The Platform, which was decided by the Democratic Party before the Los Angeles Convention, said in part: “Al Gore and the Democratic Party are fundamentally committed to the security of our ally, Israel, and the creation of a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors… Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”
Jim Zogby, Co-Chairman of the Ethnic Council at the Democratic National Committee told Albawaba.com in a telephone interview from Los Angeles that he was unable to change the language of the Platform. “I had an opportunity to weigh in on language and we limited some of it,” he explained. “We were not able to win the platform that we wanted.”
He said the Republican Platform is calling for moving the Embassy to Jerusalem, but the Democrats say they recognize it as capital. “I still argued against it and urged that we should leave it out, but they did not listen to us,” he pointed out.
Zogby believes the powerful pro-Israel lobby is behind this language. “This is unfortunately the other side playing these games, and they think that they win, but I don’t think they do, because it is a loss for everybody around,” he stressed.
When asked whether this Platform language contradicts Clinton’s policy on Jerusalem, Zogby said that he does not expect Gore to follow up on it. “It didn’t have any impact on Clinton, and will not have impact on Gore,” he predicted.
Zogby believes that some of the language in the Democratic Platform is less problematic than the language in the Republican platform. He noted that the Republican Platforms of 1980, 1984 and 1988 say the Embassy should be moved to Jerusalem, and it didn’t have any impact on Reagan or Bush. In this year’s Republican Platform, he said, “George W. Bush says he will move the Embassy immediately upon taking office, and it won’t have any impact on him either.”
Meanwhile, the Arab American delegates at the Democratic Convention are organizing events to win the party’s recognition of their views. A record high of 52 Arab American delegates have been elected to the Convention from 20 states and trying for a visible role in the party. The Arab American Institute on Monday hosted a luncheon with the delegates and talked about their political plans. Another big Arab American event at the Convention is planned for Tuesday where1,000 delegates are expected to attend.
Among the prominent Arab Americans participating in this year's Convention are members of Congress Nick Rahall (WV), Chris John (LA), John Baldacci (ME), and Pat Danner (MO), Governor Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Louisiana Attorney General Richard Ieyoub, Tennessee Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh, Bridgeport Connecticut Mayor Joe Ganim, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, UAW President Steve Yokich, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Bill George, DNCF Ethnic Council Co-Chair
James Zogby and New Hampshire Gore 2000 Chair William Shaheen.
Zogby said Arab Americans are celebrating their involvement and the recognition that they have received from the Democratic Party. “The fact that they are coming as leaders and recognizing our role and that Al Gore placed on his platform 52 Arab American delegates, I think it is important. This is an incremental building process. We are just feeling good about how far we have come,” remarked Zogby.
Zogby said that Arab Americans have come a long way since they entered politics in 1984. He added that in 1984 Arab Americans had only 4 delegates at the Democratic Convention, and Vice President Walter Mondale refused to accept contributions from Arab American candidates. In 1988, they joined Jesse Jackson’s campaign, and did very well with the ticket, but Michael Dukakis rejected their endorsement. In 1992, it was the first opportunity to participate in the Democratic campaign with Clinton and “it was Joe Lieberman who broke the doors down and got us in,” he stressed. “I never forgot that. I think it was very good that he did it. In 1996, we were full participants and this year again we are full participants.”
When asked about Liebrman’s nomination as Vice President, Zogby said it put Arab Americans in a tough position. “People are concerned about it, and I understand that,” he said. “We have raised issues with his record, and we talked about what he has done, but at the same time, I have to tell you, in 1992, when AIPAC was blocking our participation in the campaign, it was Joe Lieberman who broke the doors down. He called George Stephanopoulos and said: ‘I want these people in the campaign and I want them in now,’ and it happened. He can be a very good guy,” he said – Albawaba.com
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