September 15, 2003

Kerry, Lieberman, and the House Democratic Leadership Attack Dean

Where is the President of the U.S. Oh, that's right.
We do not really have a President, we have a
_resident, AND never has it been more clearly
illustrated that there is a vacuum of leadership in
the White House...The WTO Cancun's session collapsed
this weekend as the new G-21 (India, Brazil,
Argentina, Indonesia, etc.) walked out. An outcome
that Gore would have avoided. Israeli officials are
talking publicly about assasinating Arafat (utter
insanity). A direct result of the _resident's
anti-policy of "benign neglect" followed up with a
"roadmap" which was issued only after the road had
been torn up. VICE _resident Cheney's Sunday morning
appeareance on NotBeSeen's "Meat the Press" was one of
the eeriest, most disturbing incidents of disconnect
between political reality and an invidiual holding
Constitutional office that I can recall. )Clearly, the
Bush cabal is living out its Final Days.) MEANWHILE,
we are indeed in the Bizarro world and everything is
upside down and backwards...I admire John Kerry
(D-Mekong Delta) and I earlier pulled for him to take
this nomination, BUT his decision to vote for the Iraq
war resolution was a terrible mistake, and his
business as usual approach to this campaign is all
wrong. We are in a state of national emergency and
leaders need to lead here and now. I admire Wesley
Clark (D-NATO). I hope he runs and I hope he weilds a
sharp and efficient political sword. But for right now
Howard Dean (D-Jeffords) deserves acknowledgement and
encouragement. He has led -- with courage and
principle. The anti-Bush, however it is, must run
against the "conventional (i.e. convenient) wisdom."
(And of course "conventional wisdom" is to wrap
yourself in the Israeli flag). But the anti-Bush must
speak the truth (or as close to it as you can parse)
both to the US electorate and to the world, and to the
Arab Street. This current political flap will be used
by the propapunditgandists to bury him, it will not
bury him and the intestinal fortitude it is indicative
of may actually propell him to victory...

Published on Sunday, September 14, 2003 by
Kerry, Lieberman, and the House Democratic Leadership Attack Dean
by Stephen Zunes

In one of the relatively few policy differences that
have brought serious fireworks to the campaign for the
Democratic presidential nomination, former Vermont
governor Howard Dean has been attacked by two of his
principal rivals as well as the House Democratic
leadership for calling on the United States to take a
more “even-handed role” as the chief mediator in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Dean declared that the U.S. role should be to “bring
the sides together” and “not point fingers” at who is
to blame. “It means bringing them together in a
constructive way.”

However, Senators John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman have
denounced the former Vermont governor for his moderate
stance. Senator Lieberman went as far as to claim that
Dean was essentially calling on the United States to
“compromise our support for Israel” and that taking a
more balanced position was tantamount to “breaking
commitments to longtime allies.”

Dean has dismissed such attacks, pointing out
accurately that he is a strong supporter of Israel and
that his position on Israeli-Palestinian issues is
essentially the same as former President Bill Clinton.

For years, independent analysts -- including experts
on negotiation and mediation -- have noted that the
U.S. policy of supporting Israeli positions in the
peace process regarding the extent of the Israeli
withdrawal from Palestinian land conquered in the 1967
war, the Israeli settlements in the occupied
territories, the status of Jerusalem, and other
outstanding issues has made a negotiated settlement
with even the more moderate Palestinian leadership
impossible. The result has been that many Palestinians
have given up on the peace process and have instead
thrown their support to radical Islamic groups which
have engaged in a series of horrific terrorist attacks
against Israel.

However, Senator Kerry claims just the opposite,
declaring that if Dean as president had made such a
remark calling for a more even-handed approach, “it
would throw this volatile region into even more

When Dean pointed out that Israel would have to remove
an enormous number of settlements in the occupied
territories to achieve peace, Senator Lieberman
strongly objected, insisting that the number of
settlements evacuated by Israel should be up to the
parties in negotiations. However, despite eight years
of demands by the Palestinians at the peace talks
during the 1990s that Israel withdraw from its
settlements in the occupied territories or even just
suspend construction of new ones, the number of
settlements nearly doubled during that period.
Sharon’s insistence on incorporating most of these
settlements into Israel has made a final peace
agreement impossible, since it would divide the West
Bank into a series of non-contiguous units that would
make the creation of a viable Palestinian state
impossible. Furthermore, the Fourth Geneva Convention
-- to which both the United States and Israel are
signatories -- categorically declares that
transferring civilians onto lands seized by military
force is illegal. UN Security Council resolutions 446,
452 and 465 explicitly call on Israel to withdraw from
these settlements. Given that Lieberman declared that
Iraqi violations of UN Security Council resolutions
justified invading Iraq, overthrowing its government,
and occupying the country for an indefinite period, it
is ironic that he apparently now believes that such UN
resolutions can be violated with impunity.

Fearing that Dean’s insurgent campaign, capitalizing
on growing popular opposition to the policies of the
Bush Administration, would expose their spineless
acquiescence to President Bush’s disastrous foreign
policy, leading Democratic members of the House of
Representatives have joined the attack against the
former Vermont governor. House minority leader Nancy
Pelosi, assistant minority leader Steny Hoyer, House
Democratic Caucus chair Robert Menendez, and dozens of
other top Congressional Democrats signed a letter last
Wednesday addressed to Dean claiming that his call for
more balance by the U.S. government in the peace
process was somehow an attack against Israel’s right
to exist in peace and security.

This is simply a repeat of the old canard that only by
supporting the illegal, repressive and self-defeating
policies of Israel’s rightist government can one
support the state of Israel.

The House Democratic leadership also declared that
since, in their view, it was the Palestinians alone
that were responsible for the ongoing violence it was
therefore “unacceptable” for Dean to suggest that
Israel -- as the occupying power -- might also need to
compromise. The letter went on to declare that U.S.
policy must be “based on unequivocal support for
Israel’s right to exist and to be free from terror,”
even though Dean has never given even a hint of
believing anything to the contrary.

Similarly, despite Governor Dean’s repeated and
categorical denunciation of Palestinian terrorism, the
House Democratic leaders in their letter declared that
Americans must “raise our voices against all forms of
terrorism” and that “This is not the time to be
sending mixed messages.”

The Democrats appear to have adopted the same twisted
logic of the Republicans who insist that only by
supporting Bush Administration policies can one
support America and that any questioning U.S. foreign
policy is indicative of being soft on terrorism.

In reality, moderate Israelis have repeatedly called
upon the Bush Administration to take a more
even-handed approach in the peace process and to press
Prime Minister Sharon to compromise on the settlements
and other issues. They recognize that the ongoing
Israeli policies of repression and colonization only
encourage terrorism and that Israel would be far safer
by ending the occupation. Kerry, Lieberman, and the
House Democratic leadership, however, demand that Dean
should instead follow lock-step in support of
President Bush’s strident backing of Israel’s rightist

Ironically, Dean has been widely seen as a hawk on
Israel and Palestine. (See my article “Howard Dean:
Hawk in Dove’s Clothing?” CommonDreams, Feb. 26.) He
has stated that his position is closer to the
right-wing American-Israel Public Affairs Committee,
which allies itself with Israel’s ruling Likud Bloc,
than it is with Americans for Peace Now, which
identifies with the Israeli peace movement and the
more liberal Israeli parties. Much to the chagrin of
peace and human rights advocates, Dean supported the
recent $9 billion loan guarantee to Sharon’s rightist
government without conditions. He has repeatedly
stated his belief that the major issue in the conflict
is Palestinian terrorism, not the Israeli occupation
that has spawned it.

Such positions have led many Democrats concerned about
peace and human rights in the Middle East to abandon
Dean and back the campaign of Ohio Congressman Dennis
Kucinich, who supports the position of the Israeli
peace movement and the Zionist left.

However, Dean is apparently not right wing enough for
Kerry, Lieberman and the House Democratic leadership.

It is unclear what political advantage could be gained
from this attack on Dean, the current front runner for
the Democratic presidential nomination. According to a
nationwide public opinion poll this past May from the
Program on International Policy Attitudes at the
University of Maryland, a clear majority of Americans
not only recognized that the Bush Administration is
biased towards Israel, but, when asked about what
position the United States should have, a full 73%
stated that the United States should not take either
side in the conflict.

In other words, Senators Kerry and Lieberman and the
House Democratic leadership have gone on record
supporting the policies of the Bush Administration
against the overwhelming majority of the American

And then they wonder why so many former Democrats have
joined the Green Party….

Stephen Zunes is an associate professor of Politics at
the University of San Francisco and the author of
Tinderbox: U.S. Middle East Policy and the Roots of
Terrorism (Common Courage Press.)


Posted by richard at September 15, 2003 02:23 PM