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January 16, 2004 - Image 21

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-01-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BACK FOR A LIMITED ENGAGEMENT

Israel Claims
Dog Dean

A

n e-mail smear campaign dis-
torting Howard Deans posi-
tions on Israel, coupled with
the candidate's genuine gaffes,
has his staff working overtime to per-
suade Jewish voters that he is committed
to Israel.
"Even-handed is not a way anyone
fairly describes Howard Dean," said Stu
Brody, chairman of the Democratic
Rural Conference in New York and a
former liaison between the Vermont gov-
ernor and Jewish leaders.
"His commitment to Israel is as strong
as anyone's."
The former Vermont governor's now
famous comment that he would support
an "even-handed" approach to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict led more than
a few Jewish community leaders to fret
that Dean would push Israel to make
risky concessions for peace.
The e-mail campaign this fall —
denounced by the Anti-Defamation
League as a distortion of Dean's record
— accuses Dean of having "promised"
to "no longer support Israel the way it
has in the past under both Democratic
and Republican presidents."
"In his own words, he will insist that
the United States be 'even handed," said
the unsigned e-mail. "I urge you that if
you have any love for America and Israel
you should not and cannot vote for
Howard Dean for the office of presi-
dent."
The e-mails have had an effect, and
national Jewish organizations report
fielding calls from constituents worried
about Dean's record.
Brody and other Jews close to Dean
insist that the U.S. approach to Israel
would not significantly change under
Dean's watch, and that Dean is a strong
supporter of Israel's security.
They say Dean's "even-handed" com-
ment referred to perceptions that the
Bush administration had distanced itself
from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
while Dean meant that he wanted the
United States to resume its role of honest
broker between the sides.
Morris Amitay, a pro-Israel activist,
said Dean's off-the-cuff remarks mean
more than his scripted clarifications after
the fact.
"He can say the right thing, but they
aren't obviously what he feels when he's

WEEKEND SHOWINGS ONLY

speaking on his own," said Amitay, a for-
mer executive director of the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee. "He'll
have to go to real great lengths to con-
vince people that he can be trusted on
this issue.
Jewish leaders say their concerns run
deeper than the off-handed use of "even-
handed." They worry that Dean does
not have a clear record on the Middle
East — largely because he is a former
governor and not a legislator — and that
he has made other questionable com-
ments and decisions.
They include naming Clyde
Prestowitz as a foreign policy adviser.
Prestowitz has said U.S. aid to Israel
should be conditional on Israeli conces-
sions to the Palestinians.
Campaign officials stress that
Prestowitz will focus on globalization
and international economics, not the
Middle East.
Dean has called Hamas terrorists "sol-
diers," a term that some say legitimizes
the group. Dean used the term on CNN
in defending Israel's right to single out
Hamas leaders for targeted killings, and
his campaign says the word reinforces
the argument that terrorists are legiti-
mate military targets.
Dean also has suggested former
President Jimmy Carter as a potential
Middle East envoy, while many Jews feel
Carter is too sympathetic toward the
Palestinians. Dean since has backed off
those remarks.
Dean has suggested that Karl Rove,
the White House's senior political advis-
er, was behind the e-mail campaign. The
White House and the Bush re-election
campaign have refused to comment.
Dean's supporters say his comments
on the Middle East appeal to liberal Jews
who back a Palestinian state and want
Israel to dismantle settlements and make
other concessions for peace.
Dean campaign staffers are distribut-
ing a letter from Steve Grossman, the
campaign co-chairman and former presi-
dent of AIPAC, in which he cites 15
quotes from Dean supporting the Jewish
state and outlining how Dean would
handle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Grossman's letter also highlights the
ADL's declaration that the e-mail cam-
paign is "malicious, misleading and fac-
tually inaccurate."

— Matthew Berger, JTA

JAN. 10 - APRIL 25, 2004

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