Saturday, November 04, 2006

AAPAC Disappoints; Vote for Smith for Congress, 15th Dist., Michigan

This year, Michigan Democratic Congressman John D. Dingell is running for re-election without a Republican Party challenger on the ballot. It is virtually inconceivable that Dingell will not be re-elected. This fact provides progressives and anti-war voters with a unique opportunity to vote for their principles without worrying about having to vote for the "lesser of two evils."

Green Party challenger, Aimee Smith (pictured right) has campaigned aggressively--albeit with very limited resources--against Dingell on his record of disrespect for Arab Americans and his support for Israel. With more than $20,000 in its coffers at the end of September, the Dearborn-based Arab American Political Action Committee (AAPAC) could have given a significant boost to Smith's fledgling campaign. Even a simple endorsement would have been a great help.

Instead, without even interviewing candidate Smith, AAPAC chose to endorse Dingell even though according one AAPAC insider Dingell didn't even bother answering the AAPAC candidate questionnaire (see Smith's answers at bottom). AAPAC's November 2006 newsletter (page 7) claims:
Congressmen Conyers and Dingell have been long-time friends of our community. They serve us in the 14th and 15th Districts which cover Dearborn, downriver, and parts of Detroit. Both congressmen have been there whenever we needed them, especially in the difficult days following the 9/11 attacks. Both voted against H.R. 921 last summer, a lopsided piece of legislation that completely endorsed the massive Israeli attack on Lebanon. They were two of only eight to do so. Our community is very thankful for both congressmen. Our community has always supported them and will continue to do so.
Let's examine Dingell's recent record. Below, from May 22, 2006, are excerpts from Dingell's remarks to Congress concerning the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 (see Cong. Record 152: H2998-9) . My emphasis appears in italics.
I yield to no man in my support for Israel. I have voted for hundreds of billions of dollars for it over the years I have served here. And I yield to no man my position to terror and terrorism and terrorists. But that is not what is at issue here tonight. ...

Think about it. The needs of Israel are not served by this resolution. The needs of the United States are not served by this resolution. The needs of the Palestinian people are not served by this resolution. ...

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to the resolution on the floor. I oppose Hamas. I oppose what they stand for. I oppose their use of violence, their targeting of civilians; their vision for the Palestinian people; their rejection of Israel; and most of all I deplore their rejection of peaceful reconciliation.

For all these reasons, and many more, I do not think that Hamas is a true partner for peace. But while Hamas may not be, the Palestinian people are. The vast majority of Palestinians want peace. The vast majority value peace, follow the law, oppose violence--and legislation like this only hurts the vast majority we need for peace.

I understand the House's desire to ostracize Hamas. ...

If we destabilize Palestine we will destabilize Israel. If we help create chaos we weaken the chance for finding peace between Israel and her neighbors--and even threaten the very viability of the Jewish state.

If this legislation is signed into law we will lose once and for all the Palestinian people. Our rejection of them will create one clear victor--the government of Iran. If we pass this legislation, Iran will win by default. Instead of textbooks for Palestinian children being written by USAID they will be written by the Iranian Revolutionary Council. Schools will be built with Iranian oil money and our ability to influence peace will be weaker as a result.

What I find so strange is that this legislation is being championed by people who believe themselves to be the staunchest supporters of Israel. Mr. Speaker, in order to strengthen Israel peace needs to prevail in the region. In order to guarantee Israel's survival the Palestinians need to find prosperity and view the United States as a friend. This bill will only stymie those efforts. I ask my colleagues to vote no.
Late last July, AAPAC president and Arab American News publisher Osama Siblani touted the Congressman: " 'Today [July 31, 2006] Representative John Dingell refused to characterize Hizbullah as a terrorist group,' noted Siblani, to cheers from the crowd. 'That's 434 to go until they are all on our side.' " What Siblani said was untrue.

During the interview in question Dingell said, "Now, I condemn Hezbollah as does everybody else, for the violence ..." Below, is an excerpt from a letter issued by Dingell reiterating his opinion of Hizbullah. Again, my emphasis appears in italics.
August 2, 2006

Mr. Rush Limbaugh
1270 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

Dear Rush:

Your comments about me and my position on the terrorist organization Hezbollah during your program on August 1 and 2 were dishonest and misleading.

I am consistently on the record saying that I believe Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization dedicated to the elimination of Israel. The world community must come together to work to eradicate Hezbollah and their power. They unilaterally provoked this conflict, they use civilians as human shields, and they generally have no regard for the loss of either Israeli or Lebanese civilian lives. The sad and unfortunate events of the past few weeks have reinforced this belief.

Here are the facts:

In March 2005, I voted for a resolution calling on the European Union to list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

In June 2006, I voted for a resolution urging the Organization of American States countries to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

On July 28 of this year, I signed onto a letter again reiterating the request for the EU to regard Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

You also disregarded my continued support of the State of Israel including:

* A July 19, 2006 statement in which I said on the House floor "Israel's right to defend itself is absolute."
* A statement two days earlier on July 17 on the House floor in which I said: "The actions of Hezbollah have been wrong and counterproductive. They violated Israel's borders, they have continually targeted civilians, and they have endangered Lebanon's promising future."
* And, the fact that during my 50 years in Congress, I have proudly supported more than $300 billion dollars in aid for the State of Israel. ...
Below are excerpts from an op-ed piece that was published in the Detroit News on August 2, 2006, and in the Arab American News on August 4, 2006. Again, my emphasis appears in italics.
Only U.S. can bring sustainable peace
Change Mideast dynamic so reach of Hezbollah terrorists doesn't increase
by U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell

Two weeks ago, I took a very tough vote on a resolution that I believed was not in the best interests of Israel and Lebanon. My vote against a resolution expressing congressional solidarity with Israel's response to Hezbollah's unjustified attack caused a mixed reaction in our diverse community.

I understand the passionate response from partisans on both sides of this conflict; but that vote was made out of grave concern for peace, not passion.

I believe the United States has no truer friend in the Middle East than Israel. I have been in Congress for 50 years, and during my tenure I have proudly helped to move more than $300 billion worth of American aid to Israel. I believe our continued commitment to Israeli security and democracy is not only smart policy, but also a moral imperative. ...

There is no doubt that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. It kills with impunity -- from U.S. Marines in 1982, to Argentines at a Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, to the attacks on Israelis that continue today. There is no room in politics, in Lebanon or anywhere, for groups that use violence and terror to achieve political ends. ...

How to end conflict

First, the United States should push for an immediate cessation of hostilities. Some will argue that this will allow Hezbollah to survive. I counter that that outcome is probably inevitable, and what we need is a disarmed Hezbollah that denounces the use of terror and that is no longer a threat to Israel. ...
In late August, under pressure from the Detroit Jewish News, Dingell removed links to the Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Arab American News from his congressional web site " 'because they are voicing sentiments about the conflict in the Middle East that Congressman Dingell strongly disagrees with and that are offensive to Mr. Dingell and to other constituents of Mr. Dingell's district,' Dingell press secretary Adam R. Benson said."

As an Iraqi friend notes, Dingell "has also voted in favor of $78 billion for the current war on Iraq and Afghanistan, voted for the 1990 war on Iraq, and then for imposing sanctions on Iraq." On November 7th, the choice is clear: Vote for Dingell for more of the same craven kowtowing to the Zionist lobby or vote for Aimee Smith and vote Green to tell the Democrats that Arab Americans and their friends will no longer be taken for granted. Vote Smith and build the Green Party for the next election.

See also:
AAPAC Endorsement Committee – General 2006 Endorsements

Questions for Candidates

Date: 10/13/06 Candidate: Aimee Smith Office: US Representative, 15th District


1- Describe the parts of your background, education, and experience which make you the best candidate for the position you are running for.

I completed my PhD at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the field of Materials Science. My thesis research was on solar cell materials. This background prepared me to deal with data analysis, critical thinking, and assessment of technical feasibility. It has also helped me to understand that the barriers to progress for our society are political and not technological. Addressing critical problems like global warming and the threat of nuclear conflict will not be solved by a scientific fix. Instead, it will take the manifestation of political will of all those who hope to preserve the earth for future generations. As a mother of a small child, I am constantly reminded of my responsibility to help bring about this political shift. I joined the Green Party in 2000 and ran for Cambridge City Council in 2003. I'm a member of the national Green Party Peace Action Committee, an officer in the Green Party of Michigan, and Co-chair of the Huron Valley Greens.

2- Describe your past and current involvement with issues of importance to the Arab American community (including involvements with community organizations)

I have been active in protesting the US war and sanctions against Iraq for many years. I was a founding member of the New England Committee to Defend Palestine, a group founded to advocate for full rights of Palestinians, including the right of refugees to return and the right to resist occupation. I worked on campaigns to defend Arab and Muslim immigrants from detention and repression, including the Amer Jubran Defense Committee and distributed “know your rights” cards to immigrants facing special registration with the US government. While a graduate student, I worked with Arab and Muslim students on divestment from Israel, Palestine awareness, and against a ban on visas for students from Iran, Libya, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba. Shortly after 9/11/01, I started wearing the hijab in solidarity with Muslims targeted by hate crimes and racial profiling. While I can't say that this action has had much positive impact for the treatment of Muslims in our society, it has been an eye-opening experience for me. Since moving to Michigan, I helped start Defend Palestine, an Ann Arbor-based group that has organized protests of Israel Day and does other work focused on exposing Zionism.

3- For legislative candidates, discuss any new law you would like to propose if elected

I would introduce comprehensive legislation to end the US military presence in Iraq and other Arab countries; end military and financial support of Israel; end economic relations with Israel; make major reparations to the people of Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan and other Arab countries for the harm caused by US foreign policy; pursue enlightened policies toward Hamas, Hizbullah, and other Arab resistance movements and governments; and, lift US sanctions against the Palestinian authority and Palestinian NGOs. I would also propose legislation directing the Justice Department to initiate broad investigations and prosecutions of American citizens and resident aliens guilty of terrorism and other crimes in support of the Zionist occupation of Palestine.

Furthermore, I would introduce legislation repealing the USA PATRIOT Act, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, and other repressive laws that threaten fundamental civil liberties. I would also propose legislation for universal healthcare. Rather than an impersonal, centralized bureaucracy, a network of locally based collective, non-profit organizations would best empower practitioners and patients and deliver the best quality health care. Health care must not be tied to employment and we must address the crisis in escalating costs, which are deterring job creation in Michigan.

4- Why should AAPAC endorse you and not any of the other candidates for the same position?

My main opponent, John Dingell, is proud of the $300 billion in US aid he has helped send to Israel. That money has caused untold harm and suffering in Palestine, Lebanon, and other parts of the Arab world. US support for Israel has also harmed people in this country, too. The harm comes in the form of the excessive military spending—hundreds of billions of dollars—needed to protect the beneficiary of US aid—Israel—and to protect the US from the opponents and justifiably angry victims of Israeli and US policy. It also comes in the form of domestic repression against those who would support a just foreign policy in the Middle East and against those who would support the just resistance of Arab people against US and Israeli violence. An endorsement of my campaign by AAPAC would send a powerful message to Mr. Dingell that he cannot take the votes of the Arab American community for granted and $300 billion in blood money to Israel is nothing for him to be proud of.

5- Additional Comments

The Green Party is part of a movement that believes we need an entirely different way of doing politics. Green candidates are not for sale, we take no corporate or PAC money, and we commit to promoting our values of social justice, nonviolence, grassroots democracy and ecological wisdom.

As a Green Party member I am deeply committed to nonviolence—one of our ten key values—however, I believe that nonviolence is a value to be practiced by we who hold to it and not one to be used as a cudgel with which to condemn oppressed people here or elsewhere. For an American, the greatest demonstration of a sincere commitment to nonviolence is not only to practice it in one's own life but also to work diligently to change the policies of this country. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once observed, the United States government is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

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