Contemplating Unacceptable Evenhandedness

by Kim Petersen

Dissident Voice

September 13, 2003


Now that Howard Dean is emerging as a frontrunner in the battle to nominate a presidential candidate for the Democratic Party, he is increasingly subject to intra-party sniping. Associated Press reports: “Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman is hammering former Vermont governor Howard Dean over remarks he made recently about the Middle East conflict. But Dean maintains that he has not retreated from the strongly pro-Israel positions he articulated early in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.” (1)


Mr. Lieberman calls the statement by Dean “without precedent,” and “irresponsible.”


Mr. Dean chalked it up to trouble-making by Mr. Lieberman and notes: “The position of every Democratic candidate is the same as mine.”


Mr. Dean avers this position is the same as the failed position of former President Bill Clinton -- a bizarre position to stake a claim to.  This position backs former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s “generous offer.” The corporate media failed to elucidate that the generosity of the offer was only to be forthcoming from the Palestinian side. A look at a map of the proposal reveals that Palestinians would be left with a Bantustan-like patchwork state with Israel in effective control.


Mr. Dean was also under fire for courting the Arab vote in the upcoming Michigan primary. “That's silly,” he said. “I’m not thinking about who’s going to vote where.”


Surely this is just politicking. It is a rare politician who is indifferent to demographics and doesn’t seek to broaden his/her political base accordingly.


Dean says his view is closer to AIPAC than Peace Now. Yet, clearly this does not reflect a progressive US position on Israel and Palestine. Mr. Dean’s pretense to the progressive platform is risible. (2)


Mr. Dean has more Democrats to contend with than Mr. Lieberman. He is also “coming under attack from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and several of her colleagues for his remarks on Israel.” (3)


A letter circulated about US support for Israel and signed by many Democrats states: “It is unacceptable for the U.S. to be ‘evenhanded’ on these fundamental issues.”


To openly utter such a sentence is so audacious that it bears repeating: “It is unacceptable for the U.S. to be ‘evenhanded’ on these fundamental issues.” Evenhandedness is unacceptable. It leaves one feeling utterly dumbfounded upon consideration of the implications of such a confession. In other words, when it suits the “national interest,” (which MIT professor Noam Chomsky translates as  “corporations, and business in general”) fairness goes out the window -- sacrificed on the Democratic altar to Mammon.


No wonder that Mr. Dean’s “It’s not our place to take sides” statement has stirred up such a hornet’s nest within the Democratic fold.


For his “irresponsible” evenhandedness, Mr. Dean is threatened with a drying up of Jewish campaign funds. (4)


It didn’t take long for Mr. Dean to drop the hot potato of extending fairness to Palestinians. Nedra Pickler quotes Mr. Dean on his climb-down: “I believe the position that I take on Israel is exactly the position the United States has taken for 54 years.” Mr. Dean instead says he has nothing new to offer other than a dog-eared tendentious policy that has been an abject failure as far as peace and human dignity in the Middle East is concerned.


Ms. Pickler notes that Mr. Dean acknowledges “an ‘evenhanded policy’ toward the Israelis and the Palestinians may have been a poor choice of words.” Said Mr. Dean: “I have since learned that is a sensitive word to use in certain communities. So perhaps I could have used a different euphemism. But the fact of the matter is, at the negotiating table, we have to have the trust of both sides.”


So, let’s see, stated otherwise: the US doesn’t have to be an impartial arbiter as long as both sides trust it? Is that really the logic Mr. Dean proffers the American voters?


In his book Understanding Power, Mr. Chomsky provides some perspective into what is going on in the Democratic Party. He discusses how, when George Bush Sr. was campaigning for his successful bid at the presidency, a link between the Republicans and neo-Nazis was disclosed. This was handled by an internal reshuffling of the Republican Party staff and followed by silence thereafter. Even the Democrats didn’t raise this matter during the campaign. As for why the Democrats were muted, Noam Chomsky maintained that the Democrats backed down in the face of certain criticism from hawkish Jewish groups.


I think the Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League basically called them off. The point is these organizations basically don’t care about anti-Semitism, what they care about is opposition to the policies of Israel -- in fact, opposition to their own hawkish version of the policies of Israel. They’re Israeli government lobbies, essentially, and they understood that these Nazis in the Bush campaign were quite pro-Israel so what do they care? The New Republic, which is a sort of organ for these groups ... said: the real anti-Semitism that we ought to be worried about is in the Democratic Party, which is filled with ‘Jew-haters.’ (5)


The result was that these hawkish Jewish groups drove their point home and the Democrats “never raised a peep” about the Republicans and their neo-Nazis.


So today the US finds itself with President George Bush Jr. surrounded by neo-conservatives who unashamedly support the hawkish Israeli agenda. Indeed Mr. Bush pushes the extremes of Newspeak by referring to war criminal Ariel Sharon as a “man of peace.” The upshot of the neo-conservative pursuit of empire and hawkish Israeli interests is that the US finds itself economically and militarily challenged by deadly and costly guerilla insurgencies in its far-flung colonies.


Even the contentious penmanship of Thomas Friedman admits that the hawkish Israeli policy and US backing for this policy is contrary to the interest of both countries. (6)


Kim Petersen lives in Canada and is a regular contributor to Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimpetersen@gyxi.dk


Other Recent Articles by Kim Petersen


* Stretching Credulity 

* Dispelling the Orwellian Spin: The Real Foreign Terrorists

* Salmon Propaganda

* The Broken Iron Rice Bowl

* China, Neoliberalism, and the WTO

* An Act of Cowardice that Must Surely be Unrivalled in History: Challenging the   Assumption of Valour

* The Buck Stops Here or Does It?

* US and Them

* Superpower in Suspended Animation

* Scarcely a Peep in Mainland China

* Verifying the Evidence

* Pulp Fiction at the New York Times: Fawning at the Feet of Mammon

* Hoodwinked?

* Canadian Predation in Africa




(1) EJ Kessler, “Lieberman and Dean Spar Over Support for Israel,” Forward, 12 September 2003: http://www.forward.com/issues/2003/03.09.12/news4a.lieberman.html 


(2) John Turri, “A Progressive Case for Dean? Not Yet, Kucinich Is Still Our Man,” Dissident Voice, 26 August 2003: http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles8/Turri_Dean-Kucinich.htm 


(3) Nedra Pickler, “Dems Criticize Dean's Israel Remarks,” Star-Telegram, 11 September 2003: http://www.dfw.com/mld/pfw/news/politics/6740330.htm


(4) Nathan Guttman, “Democrat’s remarks on Israel may lead Jews to cut funds,” Ha’aretz, 12 September 2003: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/339448.html


(5) Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel Eds., (New Press, 2002), p. 52.


(6) Thomas Friedman, “Breaking Death’s Grip,” New York Times, 9 September 2003: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/11/opinion/11FRIE.html




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