Thou Shalt Not Offend Israel

By Salaam Abdul Khaliq

Hillary Rodham Clinton is center-stage in the news again. More accurately, she is in the center-stage of controversy. She is being honored by Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, for her "humanitarian work." Clinton will be presented an honorary award by Judy Palkovitz, public policy chairperson for Hadassah's 306,000-members, who lauds Clinton as being worthy of the honor because of her exemplary work on causes related to women and children.

Sure. That's all well and good. But how about Hadassah's two dozen members who protested outside the organization's office complaining over what they consider defects in Clinton's political positions regarding Israel.

Well see, that's the give-away. Hadassah's symbolic award is in fact a reward to Mrs. Clinton for her support for moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

A few weeks ago, the First Lady told New York's Jewish community that she believed Jerusalem was Israel's eternal capital. Such a statement was completely out of character given the fact that the First Lady was contradicting even her own husband's official foreign policy. And indeed, U.S. President Bill Clinton vetoed a Senate vote on the embassy issue earlier this year.

But isn't she the same Hillary who visited the Gaza Strip not too long ago and later remarked that Palestinians should have their own state? Isn't she the same Hillary who is said to be the most sympathetic First Lady on Islamic concerns to ever grace the White House?

It seems that political expediency -- also known as political pandering or fawning for public office -- necessitated Clinton's stance. After all, Clinton was addressing New York's Jewish community, and you can't win the Jewish vote in the Big Apple if you don't take a pro-Israel stance. It is a simple fact that the unwritten First Commandment of public office in New York is, "Thou shalt not offend Israel."

Taken within context, the First Lady is excused for saying that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel. Taken out of context, she is a political opportunist pandering to Jewish voters. Taken in and out of context at the same time, she is just another astute politician wanting to get elected to public office at the expense of personal integrity.

The First Lady could have been politically brave by simply telling the hawkish Jewish voters the following:

I want to be elected for the U.S. Senate and I need the Jewish vote. I want to get elected because I am a fair-minded person. In the eyes of many Americans, my status as First Lady aside, I am a very decent woman and would be an excellent choice as your Senator. I am not from New York -- never mind the fact that I have never lived in New York -- but I know I can represent the interests of New Yorkers as well as, if not better than, any other New Yorker. As far as Israel is concerned, let me reassure you that I, like most members of Congress, Senators, and public officials serving in the state of New York, believe in the "unwritten First Commandment."

I support Israel's right to exist, regardless of my support of the right of Palestinians to have their own state. I do not believe the two are mutually exclusive. You may disagree with me, but I am a person who values personal integrity and moral correctness more than political pandering.

I think the question of Jerusalem should be dealt with within the framework of the Oslo Accords. We should not pre-empt and undermine the peace process, agreed upon by the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, by taking a premature position on Jerusalem.

Official U.S. policy, which is also my husband's, falls in line with the U.N. charter. And I support Resolution 181, which states that because of the universal significance of Jerusalem, it should be excluded from the territory of either national state established in the former Mandate territory, making it a "Corpus Seperatum" under direct international administration.

I know that many of you may not agree with me on this issue and would prefer I tell you what you want to hear -- that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Israel. I am afraid I cannot tell you that. My personal integrity and credibility cannot be bought with votes. You can only vote your conscience. Thank you for being a good audience.

This could have been a historic speech by the First Lady, which would have undoubtedly put her persona way up on the list of the top-ten politicians with integrity and moral correctness. But alas! Since such a list does not even exist, neither does Hillary's speech or her political correctness. And if there is any lesson for U.S. Muslims to learn, it is that if you want politicians to pander to you too, register to vote.

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