Nader on Palestine/Israel

Dayne Goodwin dayneg at
Wed Oct 25 23:26:51 MDT 2000

Published on Monday, October 23, 2000 by Working Assets NewsforChange

Gore 'Cowardly' On Mideast, Says Nader
Stance could bolster Arab-American support for
Lebanese-American candidate in swing states
                 by Matt Welch

                 DAVIS, California -- In a sally that could broaden his
support among Arab American voters concentrated in so-called battleground
states, Ralph Nader accused Democratic presidential rival Al Gore of being
"cowardly" in his stated support for Israel Sunday night, and suggested a
more sympathetic approach toward the Palestinians could produce a Middle
East peace settlement sooner than anticipated.

                 At yet another fundraising rally last night at the
University of California at Davis, the Green Party candidate told
approximately 1,400 supporters that there will be no "peace in that area
without justice for the Palestinians."

                 "When you look at the violence, where is most of the
violence? It's in the Palestinian territory," said Nader. "Who are the
victims of the violence? Mostly Palestinian young men throwing rocks. Who
are the forces that are producing most of the violence? The overwhelming
excessive use of force is by the Israeli military.

                 "So if you want to really quell the violence, you say to
the Israelis, 'Back off, these rocks are not reaching the Israeli

                 Nader, a first-generation Lebanese-American who speaks
fluent Arabic and received double-digit support among Arab Americans in a
recent poll, has been critical of both Gore and Republican nominee George
W. Bush for so enthusiastically backing Israel during the presidential
debates. "This is not a time to take sides, even before an election," he
said at a St. Louis press conference last week.

                 With a little diplomatic finesse, he said, a settlement
is within sight.

                 "They're as close as they've been in fifty years on these
negotiations," he said Sunday night. "Israel has finally recognized the
right to a Palestinian state, as well as some Palestinian presence in
Jerusalem and a return of 100,000 Palestinian refugees to their relatives
in Israel, he said.

                 With Israeli soldiers "killing innocent children,"
America should be pushing its ally to stop provoking the much-weaker
Palestinians, who "have got a lot of reasons for their rage,"  Nader said.

                 "Maybe if the U.S. is a bit more forceful, and answers
questions like (those asked) Vice President Gore a little more candidly,
instead of so cowardly ... there will be an agreement reached, and in a
few years both Palestinians and Israelis will wonder why it took 'em so

                 The Jewish state should realize it is dealing from a
position of strength, he said in St. Louis.

                 "Israelis want security -- they have security; their own
military research institute says Israel has never been more militarily
secure and militarily superior than all their neighbors combined," he
said. "And I think the burden of restraint has to be with the party that
A) has overwhelming military force, and B) that is producing overwhelming
number of casualties against largely young people throwing rocks."

                 Gore has long been one of the more staunch Israel
supporters in the Democratic Party (much more so than President Clinton);
his running-mate Joseph Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew who has not always
been as firm a defender of the Zionist state as some Israelis would like.
Bush, consistent with the views of his father, ex-President George Bush,
and the Republican foreign policy establishment, considers Israel one of
the most important U.S.  allies.

                 Nader, whose ethnic heritage rarely merits comment in the
press (perhaps because he hardly mentions it, and generally eschews what
he has called "identity politics"), inherited his sense of civic duty from
his father Nathra, who chafed at French and Turkish colonial rule in
Lebanon before emigrating to the United States during the Depression.

                 Nearly 16 percent of Arab-Americans say they plan to vote
for Nader, according to an Oct.  3-8 survey of 401 voters released last
week by the Arab American Institute. Bush led Gore, 40% to 28%, and 14.5%
were undecided.

                 "Nader has particularly strong support among Arab
Americans," stated pollster John Zogby, who conducted the research (Zogbys
brother James is president of the Arab American Institute). "He is clearly
having an impact on Gore's support. This could be particularly significant
in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio -- three battleground states."

                 There are around 3.5 million increasingly political
Arab-Americans in the United States (compared to roughly 6 million Jews).
As many as 300,000 live in the greater Detroit area alone. Gore irritated
many there when -- in the wake of his pro-Israel debate performance -- he
canceled a planned Oct. 13 meeting with Michigan Arab-Amerians to attend
White House briefings on the Mideast crisis. A strong Nader showing in
Michigan could conceivably be the difference in narrow George W. Bush

                 Nader's rallies are beginning to reflect the increased
role of the Middle East factor in this baffling election. At the "O17"
protest in St. Louis, where Nader was escorted from the site of the third
presidential debate, typical signs and banners ("Capitalism Sucks," "Same
F***ing Difference," "On to Mars!" etc.) were supplemented by a brand new
line of dissent:  "Independent Palestinian State," "Stop Israeli
Aggression," and "Peace With Dignity in Palestine."

                 "By all accounts," AAI President James Zogby said in a
statement, "there are several key swing states that both political parties
are pursuing.  Arab Americans are concentrated in many of these states.
Not only is our community politically active, but we are organized.  Data
also shows that Arab Americans base their vote on issues of concern to the
community so that if a candidate were to reach out to Arab Americans, they
would be very responsive at the polls."

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