Posted on March 06, 2013 in Countdown
This should be included as the official dictionary example of the word “irony:” On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden marched with community leaders to commemorate the savage beating of civil rights activists on “Bloody Sunday” in Montgomery in 1965. Biden praised the progress our society has made in combating segregation and injustice, but seemed visibly upset that he and so many others were so late to get involved. "My regret has been, 'Why were we not there?' I regret and I apologize it took me 48 years to get here. I should have been here. I should have been here," Biden repeated. Then, perhaps because a brick fell on his head and gave him retrograde amnesia, Biden spent the very next day at the AIPAC conference, praising the Obama administration for voting against a UN fact-finding mission on Israeli settlements. If you think that’s an unfair parallel, then you probably haven’t heard that Israeli settlers have now successfully pushed the Israeli government to segregate buses in the West Bank, and stories are now emerging of Palestinians being kicked off buses and told to walk to other stations. Will we have to wait another 48 years?
Wah wah wah. That's not [really] a baby crying, that’s the sound of anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller whining because she's been blacklisted from speaking at the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). CPAC, if you didn't know, is the biggest annual conservative conference in the country, and Geller, a regular fixture at the conference for the past few years, classily said that since her application to speak at CPAC was "ignored," she's not going. If you ask us, it's about time someone ignored her. Over the past few years, it's been hard to get away from Geller's rampant anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigoted rhetoric because it's all-too-often given a national platform. And if she doesn’t get the attention she wants, she'll go local and come to your hometown like she did in Dearborn (but don't worry, we stopped her dead in her Islamophobic tracks that time). From political campaigns to training manuals for federal and local law enforcement, Geller – and many of her friends – have enjoyed mainstream prominence and influence for far too long, especially within the Republican Party. But CPAC may be a sign that Geller and her conspiratorial, hate-mongering friends are becoming more of a marginal entity within the Republican Party. Fun fact: guess who Geller blames for banning her from CPAC: Grover Norquist. She’s attacked him multiple times in the past, including for having an Arab American wife. Well, if he really is the one that blocked Geller, thanks Grover, you've done the country, your party, and the community a service.
Despite being dragged out for weeks, the confirmation of John Brennan as the new CIA director is right around the corner. The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12-3 on Tuesday to move the nomination forward, and it looks like the Senate confirmation won’t be far behind. Though Brennan hasn’t received anywhere near the same level of vitriol faced by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the nomination has been held up by dissenters from a few different camps. First, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have refused to vote for Brennan unless the White House supplied more information on…the embassy attack in Benghazi. The other, more relevant camp is led by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who has promised to “do everything I can to stop him” based on Paul’s concern with the CIA's drone program and the willingness to assassinate US citizens. Ahead of the vote, the White House released the memos detailing the administration's legal basis for the “targeted killings of Americans” overseas. And Brennan has argued that drones should only be used “as a last resort” (though apparently we’ve had to use the last resort a few thousand times in the past couple of years), so even with Senator Paul's current filibuster, the Senate will likely confirm Brennan by the end of the week. Oh, and here is something else you might find interesting: Attorney General Eric Holder says the president can use drones on US soil. See for yourself.
Dennis Zine, an Arab American candidate for controller in Los Angeles, came in a close second yesterday in the city’s primary election, ensuring that he will face attorney Ron Galperin in a runoff election in May. The primary election was extremely close; Galperin beat Zine by less than 250 votes. In Los Angeles’s electoral system, the top two vote-getters in the primary, regardless of party, face each other in a general election. Zine, who is the son of Lebanese immigrants, served for more than 30 years in the Los Angeles Police Department before running successfully for the city council in 1997. Representing a number of San Fernando Valley communities, Zine gained a reputation for fighting waste and corruption in city government as well as leading efforts to protect celebrities from crazed paparazzi (the so-called Britney Spears law). He is just one of the many Arab American public servants around the country working to improve their communities, and we hope he has the chance to continue that work as the city’s controller.
We’ll tell you what: Iran better shape up. That’s essentially the message a new 20-nation Zogby poll sends to the Islamic Republic, and they’d do well to listen. Yesterday, AAI President Jim Zogby released the results of a new comprehensive study surveying Arab and Muslim attitudes toward Iran at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. The results show Iran’s favorable ratings have decreased significantly from where they once were in 2006 when Zogby polled a similar sample. So what’s got people all mad at Iran? Oh, the usual: civil war in Syria, meddlesome activity in neighboring Iraq, nuclear ambitions, and that little thing called regional hegemony. It’s all very nuanced but the data is clear; Iran is slipping in the eyes of Arabs and Muslims. You can read more about Arab and Muslim attitudes toward Iran in a new book by Jim Zogby, “Looking at Iran: the Rise and Fall of Iran in Public Opinion.” We’ve also got the panel discussion on our website. We think you’ll enjoy it.
This week, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held their yearly conference in Washington, bringing thousands of pro-Israel activists from around the country together in the nation’s capitol. They heard speeches from a number of American political figures, including Vice President Joe Biden. Yesterday, the activists hit Capitol Hill to lobby members of Congress on Israel issues and at the top of their wish lists was a request that Congress exempt Israel’s aid package from the sequester. Israel’s $3.1 billion aid package stands to be cut by about $250 million under the terms of the sequester, hardly a devastating reduction to an already wildly generous aid package. At a time when sequester cuts are forcing cuts in vital programs including vaccinations for children, education, healthcare and unemployment benefits, it is beyond unseemly for AIPAC to be advocating special treatment for the Israeli aid package. Though some pro-Israel members of Congress, like California Democrat Brad Sherman, seem to recognize the unfairness of asking Americans to sacrifice while exempting Israel, AIPAC rarely leaves Capitol Hill disappointed. Israel is often honored in Washington as the best friend and closest ally of the US; unfortunately, the relationship often seems rather one-directional.