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Jews for McKinney By: Bob Cohen
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, August 27, 2002


What do Louis Farrakhan and Michael Lerner have in common? They both backed the anti-American and anti-Israeli five-term congresswoman from DeKalb County, Georgia, Cynthia McKinney in the primary held August 20. Lerner, the self-proclaimed rabbi and publisher of "Tikkun Magazine" sent out an email to his supporters. On the magazine and the letter's masthead the Hebrew word "tikkun" is said to mean: "to mend, repair and transform the world." Although Farrakhan and Lerner with their "transformed world" might seem to be a slight improvement over Uncle Joe, Mao, Kim, Pol, and Ho, the gang some of us thought would build a "better world", the present combo is only a little less lethal because they are not in power.

In a bit of Orwellian doublespeak or leftwing euphemism, Lerner includes McKinney in the group of "progressive candidate(s)" he, as a private citizen, will support. The Forward goes him one better and says that some call her the most "outspoken liberal in congress." Some of us might more accurately describe her as a wacko equal-opportunity hater. Certainly the good citizens of DeKalb County knew what she represented and the result was that they turned her out.

Lerner goes to great pains to say that McKinney is not an antisemite. Against the "numerous letters" he received telling him that's just what she was, he quotes the ADL office in Georgia as saying "explicitly that she has NOT crossed over any such line." (emphasis in the original). Poor Lerner. Unfortunately for him Congresswoman McKinney has a dad, Billy. And Billy, just like the late Billy Carter and the even later Billy the Kid, shoots from the hip and 'tells it like it is'.. In this week's Forward, Daddy Bill, whom the paper describes as a "civil-rights stalwart", told a local TV reporter that the election had hinged on the "J-E-W-S." Some year's back Pop McKinney had called one of his daughter's opponents a "racist Jew". The man does have a way with words, not to mention a mendacious obsession with — well by now you can spell it out for yourself! Well, his last comment seems to have pushed him over that fine line between just general hatred and antisemitism and the Forward quotes the ADL southeast director, Deborah Lauter in a press release condemning Poppa Bill's remark and characterizing it as "classic antisemitism". Now it's true that the daughter did repudiate her father's first remark, but don't hold your breath for her reaction to this one. Perhaps Lerner should go back to hustling the "politics of meaning" or should that be, "the politics of meanness'"?

But the real enemy in DeKalb, Georgia, according to Lerner, is not antisemitism, or former Judge Denise Majette who ran against and defeated McKinney. No, it is Ariel Sharon! I thought I detected a southern accent amid the Prime Minister's rolling rrrrs! Or maybe his family came from the original Georgia a way out East. Lerner knows that the "pro-Sharon groups" are out to get McKinney, and although to his mind she did not "speak out clearly enough" on the "terrible bombing of the cafeteria of the Hebrew University" (I wonder what she may have mumbled that Lerner found unclear), "…it seems perfectly clear to me that the reason she is being targeted by pro-Sharon groups is solely for the areas in which she agrees with the Israeli peace movement and with The Tikkun Community." (ah, at last some clarity of speech if not of thought.) After that proclamation, Lerner posts the McKinney for Congress address and website where Tikkun Communitarians can send their donations.

Lerner has learned his McCarthyism very well. Those of us opposed to McKinney because of her off-the-wall charges that George Bush planned or knew about 9/11 before it happened and let it happen so he could profit from it, or recoiled in disgust at her published apology to the Prince of Saudi Arabia for Rudolph Guiliani's righteous and courageous act of refusing his millions because he said that American wrong-doing was the root cause for what happened on 9/11 (a letter which even David Hilliard, the recently defeated pro-Palestinian congressman refused to sign), are all a bunch of Sharonists according to Lerner. Not another Jewish conspiracy? Shades of the good old Protocols of Z-I-O-N!

In his overwhelming hatred of Sharonism, Lerner just pays lip service to what might be good for the people who actually live in DeKalb County as in "some people who support her opponent are doing so for perfectly reasonable reasons having nothing to do with her stance on Israel." The New York Times, certainly not pro-Sharon by a long shot, in an article analyzing the primary election results quotes Jarvic C. Stewart, a Wahington lobbyist and major Democratic fund-raiser: "The black electorate is increasingly well-educated, more entrepreneurial, business savvy and politically moderate. Many who were not raised in the era of the civil rights movement don't relate to or see the benefit in polarizing politics." And further on: "Ms. McKinney…and her supporters expected negative reactions from Republicans and Jewish voters but political strategists said they might have underestimated the negative effects that her positions would have among blacks." (Well, wha'd'y'a know! — I always love it when the liberal elite finally figures out that black folks can really think for themselves.) And then it gets even better: "It did not help that prominent blacks, including Julian Bond, the chairman of the N.A.A.C.P." (a well-known Sharonista group!) "and former Mayor Maynard Jackson of Atlanta — who supported Ms. McKinney in the past — distanced themselves from her this time." Perhaps, let me hazard a guess here, they were wary of McKinney's financial backing from Islamic groups now under investigation for funding or backing terrorists groups in the Middle East — about which, interestingly enough, Lerner has absolutely nothing to say. McKinney and her supporters response to questions about her sources of funding make me want to paraphrase the old saying: "the last refuge of a scoundrel is…free speech"! The most insightful quote in the article is from someone whom I am sure Lerner knows for sure is a Sharonite: Morris J. Amitay, founder of the Washington Political Action Committee. He says "This (the election results) shows that there is a price to pay for taking a position that is out of step with the views of most Americans." But isn't this what it is all about. The American public throughout our history has always eventually fought for, struggled for, voted for what is right, sensible and balanced. Unlike our European so-called more sophisticated relatives, we are not swayed for long by demagogues of any hue or direction.

So this brings us finally to the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus: Eddie Bernice Johnson. Although I do not know if she campaigned for McKinney, as did Jessie Jackson, Martin Luther King III, and Al Sharpton (the usual suspects), her reaction shows the corrupt and out-of-touch-with-their constituencies status of the current civil rights leadership. She said about the Majette v. McKinney outcome, "I definitely have some feelings about any outside group exerting this kind of influence in a race and I've been receiving angry calls from black voters all day saying they should rally against Jewish candidates." Shades of the Citizen Councils of my youth. How ironic that that kind of statement , so fitting for some 1960's southern white politician, should now be coming from a black female congressperson who, if not for those nosy, meddling Jews, would not be a congresswoman from Texas today! And what an insult her remarks are to the blessed memory of Michael Schwerner, Andy Goodman, and James Chaney, and to all of the Jews and non-Jews alike who dared to think, back in the summer of 1964, that Mississippi was part (despite Phil Och's mistaken lyric) of the U.S.A. and that hatred and injustice anywhere in this country or the world was our business. For us in the civil rights movement then, it was an article of faith (as well as reality) that even the worst pockets of violent resistance to integration and the right to vote of black citizens, was part of America and therefore should be made to be as free as all the rest of country. Also, Ms. Johnson might be unhappy to learn that her xenophobic (or dare we say: antisemitic — quick what's her ADL rating? And please don't talk to her Daddy!) statement is in complete agreement with Patrick Buchanan's sister, Bay Buchanan, who opined on the Judy Woodruff show (on Certainly Not the News) that Jews (and she did not even have to spell it!) should not have butted-in in the fair County of DeKalb.

At the beginning of this piece I said that McKinney could more accurately be described as a wacko equal opportunity hater. Perhaps you thought that a bit too strong. But according to the Times of India, a group of Indian Americans (not Native Americans) living in DeKalb County, formed a support group for McKinney's opponent, Denise Majette, because they found McKinney's defense of Islamic terrorists in India, Kashmir, Pakistan etc. and her condemnation of India's efforts at defense against them, intolerable. Are they Sharonics too? But in one important way, that Lerner is blind to, he is right about the Georgia-Israel connection. Most Americans identify with Sharon's Israel, its democracy, and its fight against terrorism. They do not identify with the killers of 9/11 in New York or the homicide bombers in Jerusalem. They know that under the Palestinian Authority its Arafat v. Arafat and that's no choice at all. When it comes to the haters and destroyers, we are all Jews!

At the end of the day, one finds oneself wanting to ask Michael Lerner in a paraphrase of the stirring words of attorney Joseph Welch: "Have you no shame, Mr. Lerner, have you no shame?" This is a question we do not have to ask Louis Farrakhan, for we already know the answer. There are a number of Jews and Jewish groups critical to one degree or another of Sharon and current Israeli policy. To ask them to rally around McKinney is tantamount for those of us who support Sharon to ask our colleagues to rally around the late and unlamented Meir Kahane. The good and sane people of Georgia have spoken — politicians on the fringe, whether left or right, black or white, Jew, Christian, or Muslim, should not be running our government and our country. That's why America is, and I pray will always be, beautiful.


Bob Cohen was the director of the Mississippi Caravan of Music during the Freedom Summer of 1964. He is currently the Cantor at Temple Emanuel, Kingston, NY, songwriter, and a lecturer at Bard College. His group, The New World Singers inspired Bob Dylan to write “Blowin’ in the Wind” and they were the first to record it. It now appears on the Best of Broadside CD re-issue which was nominated for two Grammys in 2000.


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