It should come as no surprise to those closely following the New York senate race that Hillary Rodham Clinton could return a $50,000 donation from American Muslims. For this latest move was one in a series of unabashed attempts to win the support of New York’s influential Jewish voters. But in doing so, Hillary has aligned herself with a small, radical segment within the Jewish community, which seeks to exclude those critical of Israel’s oppression of its indigenous population.
It wasn’t too long ago that Hillary had made great strides in recognizing the Palestinian struggle. But in typical New York-style politics, where entry is not allowed until an allegiance is given to the State of Israel, she quickly abandoned her conciliatory tone for a more hawkish pro-Israel stance.
She has also allowed herself to be swayed by those seeking to disenfranchise Muslim and Arab American groups from the American political process. It is no less surprising that behind this effort is Islamophobe Steven Emerson, who no longer frequents the news talk show circuit thanks to his false and ridiculous claims that “Arab terrorists” were behind the Oklahoma City Bombing and the TWA 800 crash. In their coverage of this particular story, both the New York Times and the New York Daily News attributed the story to Emerson who has made a career of Muslim and Arab bashing.
Hillary’s decision to return the donation is just one in a series of mistakes she has made with regards to her new stance on the Middle East. In 1998, Hillary rightfully recognized that Palestinians have a right to statehood, saying that it was “very important for the broader goal of peace in the Middle East.” But as she began to campaign in New York, she quickly changed her tune to appease a pro-Israeli constituency. Suddenly, instead of talking of Palestinian rights to a state and self-determination, she talked of Israeli security saying, “The United States must stand beside her as any good friend would.”
In a campaign policy statement, she made the outlandish assertion that Israelis who are being victimized. “The people of Israel have lived far too long with bombs. They have lived with the awful fear that their children will come home from school.” Nowhere in her policy does she even make mention of the Palestinians who have suffered more as a result of Israeli occupation.
But her shameless pandering didn’t end there. In late July of this year, Hillary said that U.S. aid should be cut off to the Palestinians if they acted unilaterally to declare statehood. She also departed from a long-standing U.S. policy on Jerusalem by declaring it the undivided capitol of Israel and said she would support a move of the U.S. embassy to the Holy City.
As it became apparent that Hillary was gaining ground with Jewish voters in the polls, her xenophobic opponent Rick Lazio began questioning her loyalties to Jewish voters by making accusations regarding her past support from Arab causes in a style reminiscent of the McCarthy era. But instead of denouncing such tactics, she quickly engaged in a tit-for-tat resembling a school yard spat.
After Lazio criticized her for a trip to Ramallah and a visit with Suha Arafat, which ended in a much publicized and highly criticized kiss, Hillary went on the offensive. She orchestrated the release of a White House photo that had Lazio shaking Arafat’s hand in the hopes it would create doubts among his Jewish supporters. The photo was ineffective, but it sent a crystal clear message that the Clintons consider Arafat a political pariah and do not see him as an equal partner in the so-called "peace process".
Late this summer, Lazio hit back with a demand that she return a negligible contribution from Clovis Maksoud, a well-respected Arab American academic and activist who has been a long-time critic of Israel. But instead of defending the right for Arab Americans to donate to her campaign, her spokesman called Lazio a hypocrite because George W. Bush had not returned the exact same contribution from Maksoud.
Perhaps in her most brazen attempt to win the Jewish vote, Hillary questioned the use of secret evidence in the case of convicted spy Jonathan Pollard during a debate in September. Pollard is serving a life sentence for transferring American military secrets to Israel. Not even Jewish Senator Joseph Lieberman would come to Pollard’s defense. In fact, Lieberman led a group of sixty-one U.S. senators last year who urged President Clinton to resist “political intervention” in the case. It should also be noted that Hillary has been conspicuously silent on the disproportionate use of secret evidence on Muslims and Arab Americans.
Her recent announcement to return donations from Muslim Americans has sent a chilling message that not everyone should be included in the American political process. Perhaps Hillary’s decision to return the money to Muslim donors has been a blessing in disguise, because in the course of several months, she has made it clear that she is not worthy of Muslim votes nor their money.