We want to express our strong support for Ralph Nader’s presidential candidacy.
There are several reasons. The first is a response to the many who say that, because Obama cannot be seen to sympathize with the Palestinians or criticize Israel during the campaign, we should all lie low for now, not even press him on the issue, get him nominated and elected, and then work on him to change after he becomes president. With all due respect to this position, which we recognize as legitimate, and to those who believe this, we feel it is a pipe dream to expect that Obama will ever change after being elected on a platform of unquestioning support for Israel and its oppression of Palestinians. He will have huge debts of gratitude to the Jewish community, and particularly to his very pro-Israeli political endorsers as well as huge monetary debts to pro-Israeli contributors, that will keep him from ever looking honestly at what Israel is doing to the Palestinians and particularly from ever speaking out forthrightly against this oppression.
Secondly, Obama has taken an extremely immoral stand on the Palestinian-Israeli issue by, among other positions, actually applauding Israel’s siege and starvation of 1.5 million innocent Gazans, and by mourning Israel’s losses to Palestinian rocket fire (12 people in seven years) without bothering even to mention the approximately 2,600 Gazans killed by Israeli rocket fire, airstrikes, and assassinations in those same seven years. He made one reference last year to Palestinian suffering, was immediately dumped on by Jewish leaders, and has since said nothing honest about the occupation — not even expressing support for the two-state solution.
This is so distasteful that it ought to be totally unacceptable to anyone who works for peace in the Middle East, not just in Palestine-Israel but also in the broader region. Many responsible people have said that Israel is committing or is nearing the commission of genocide against the Palestinians. How in God’s name can we just sit back and wait for the Israel lobby to work its will before we complain to Obama about his silence?
There might be some mitigating factors here if Obama were truly committed to really ending the Iraq war, but his position on this is ambiguous and uncertain enough to make us believe that here too he is at least partly in the pockets of Israel and its supporters. Anything short of an immediate withdrawal from Iraq constitutes, in our view, a perpetuation of the militarism initiated by the Bush/Cheney/neocon/Israel conglomerate and backed by the centrist DLC. This is horrifying. We also see little hope elsewhere: although Obama is not bad on Iran, he wants to attack Pakistan!
Our concern about Palestine-Israel, and about the way that oppression of the Palestinians is always put on the back burner in the interests of not antagonizing a key voting bloc, is not overdrawn. U.S.-supported Israeli oppression of the Palestinians is the principal root cause of anti-American terrorism and of hatred of the U.S. around the world, particularly the Arab and Muslim worlds. However often Mubarak and the Kings Abdullah and Abbas assure us that there is nothing to worry about, that it does not really matter if Palestinians are oppressed, we should never forget that their people, the proverbial “street throughout the Arab world, do care and care very deeply. One day, the U.S. will pay dearly — again — for our obliviousness to Palestinian suffering. And that is quite apart from the hatred that Iraq and Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo arouse.
We feel that Ralph Nader offers an alternative for anyone who longs for a candidate with principles, and we urge those who simply hope for the lesser of evils please not to interfere to limit our choices by denying him the right to run for election. Nader spoke very directly about Palestine-Israel and Iraq when he announced his candidacy on February 24, 2008, and we applaud him heartily. It’s about time we saw a candidate with the courage of his convictions, the honor to speak out against injustice no matter how politically risky, and the guts not to sell his soul for the Jewish vote — to say nothing of a readiness to speak out against the corporate interests that strangle us and limit our democracy.
As Nader himself said, if the Democrats can’t win this election in a landslide, then they should fold their tent and reassess. He will not win the election, obviously. But if enough of us who care about the Middle East were to vote for him because he stands for a set of principles that greatly concern us all, then maybe we could send a message that cow-towing to Israel in order to get elected is not good enough. Some of us want some principle in the U.S. political scene, and only Nader offers this.
We will vote for him if he stays in the race. If he does not, we will probably — and very deliberately — not vote for president at all.
Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence officer and as director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis.
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