Commentary Magazine


Topic: Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles

Mainstream Media Discovers Tom Campbell’s Israel Issue

After Phil Klein and I have written about this for a week, the mainstream media, reporting on the Republican Senate primary in California, have finally discovered the controversy concerning Tom Campbell’s record and rhetoric on Israel. The Los Angeles Times has now weighed in:

In a dispute that commingles foreign policy and a quest for political advantage, U.S.-Israel relations have taken an unexpectedly central role in the California race for Senate.

Rivals in the race for the Republican nomination are questioning whether former Rep. Tom Campbell is sufficiently supportive of Israel. They base their criticisms on his voting record, statements about a Palestinian homeland and capital, and some of his past associates.

After some back-and-forth regarding whether his rivals have dubbed him anti-Semitic (they say they have not) we learn that Campbell has rounded up former Secretary of State George Shultz to vouch for him. But then we get to the meat of the concern regarding Campbell’s record:

Criticism of Campbell’s voting record centers on efforts to reduce foreign aid for Israel. While in Congress, Campbell said, he supported military aid for Israel but twice sought to reduce economic aid. In the late 1990s, when foreign aid to other nations was being cut to help balance the budget, Israel’s allocation was not affected. Campbell said he favored allowing the military aid to remain unchanged but supported slightly reducing economic aid.

A second instance occurred when he voted against giving Israel an additional $30 million in economic aid, which was to have been taken from funds set aside for the neediest nations, such as those in Africa. That money, he said, was on top of a $700-million aid request that he supported and an earlier $3-billion appropriation. . . Campbell also drew criticism in the past for saying that Jerusalem should be the shared capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state. He said in the interview that he stands by that view.

Now Campbell is back to admitting he did accept a contribution from convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian. (He flatly denied it in his New Ledger interview yesterday.) The story now is:

His opponents also questioned Campbell’s past associates, notably Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to help a terrorist organization. Al-Arian had donated $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 campaign for Senate. Campbell, who was the business school dean at UC Berkeley and now teaches at Chapman University, wrote a letter to the University of South Florida protesting its decision to fire Al-Arian over comments he made. He also visited Al-Arian’s brother in jail.

Campbell said he did not know about Al-Arian’s illegal activities at the time and said that if he had he would not have written the letter.

“None of that had come out,” he said. Al-Arian was also photographed with George W. Bush during his first presidential campaign, Campbell noted.

(Al-Arian had, of course, been the subject of a 1994 documentary, had been under investigation for years before 2000, and had long spewed jihadist rhetoric.)

But on this one, the lede is buried, and perhaps with it Campbell’s standing in the Jewish community:

“He’s a brilliant gentlemen and an engaging personality, and I don’t think he’s particularly pro-Israel,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who has known Campbell since the 1980s. “I think there’s enough there on the record that would send real alarms that this is someone who maybe doesn’t fully understand, doesn’t fully value or fully support a strong ongoing relationship with the state of Israel, an alliance with the state of Israel.”

Campbell can whine all he likes that his rivals’ attacks are “unacceptable” and “personally hurtful,” but that probably isn’t getting him anywhere. He is, however, reportedly to meet with representatives of AIPAC. Perhaps he can convince those Jewish leaders that his record is a stellar one on Israel, that his praise of Alison Weir (not mentioned in the Times report) is nothing, that his support of Al-Arian is also nothing, and that past rhetoric is not indicative of his views on Israel and a Palestinian state. Stranger things have happened. But first he should, on matters such as Sami Al-Arian, pick one story and stick to it.

After Phil Klein and I have written about this for a week, the mainstream media, reporting on the Republican Senate primary in California, have finally discovered the controversy concerning Tom Campbell’s record and rhetoric on Israel. The Los Angeles Times has now weighed in:

In a dispute that commingles foreign policy and a quest for political advantage, U.S.-Israel relations have taken an unexpectedly central role in the California race for Senate.

Rivals in the race for the Republican nomination are questioning whether former Rep. Tom Campbell is sufficiently supportive of Israel. They base their criticisms on his voting record, statements about a Palestinian homeland and capital, and some of his past associates.

After some back-and-forth regarding whether his rivals have dubbed him anti-Semitic (they say they have not) we learn that Campbell has rounded up former Secretary of State George Shultz to vouch for him. But then we get to the meat of the concern regarding Campbell’s record:

Criticism of Campbell’s voting record centers on efforts to reduce foreign aid for Israel. While in Congress, Campbell said, he supported military aid for Israel but twice sought to reduce economic aid. In the late 1990s, when foreign aid to other nations was being cut to help balance the budget, Israel’s allocation was not affected. Campbell said he favored allowing the military aid to remain unchanged but supported slightly reducing economic aid.

A second instance occurred when he voted against giving Israel an additional $30 million in economic aid, which was to have been taken from funds set aside for the neediest nations, such as those in Africa. That money, he said, was on top of a $700-million aid request that he supported and an earlier $3-billion appropriation. . . Campbell also drew criticism in the past for saying that Jerusalem should be the shared capital of both Israel and a Palestinian state. He said in the interview that he stands by that view.

Now Campbell is back to admitting he did accept a contribution from convicted terrorist Sami Al-Arian. (He flatly denied it in his New Ledger interview yesterday.) The story now is:

His opponents also questioned Campbell’s past associates, notably Sami Al-Arian, a former University of South Florida professor who pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiring to help a terrorist organization. Al-Arian had donated $1,300 to Campbell’s 2000 campaign for Senate. Campbell, who was the business school dean at UC Berkeley and now teaches at Chapman University, wrote a letter to the University of South Florida protesting its decision to fire Al-Arian over comments he made. He also visited Al-Arian’s brother in jail.

Campbell said he did not know about Al-Arian’s illegal activities at the time and said that if he had he would not have written the letter.

“None of that had come out,” he said. Al-Arian was also photographed with George W. Bush during his first presidential campaign, Campbell noted.

(Al-Arian had, of course, been the subject of a 1994 documentary, had been under investigation for years before 2000, and had long spewed jihadist rhetoric.)

But on this one, the lede is buried, and perhaps with it Campbell’s standing in the Jewish community:

“He’s a brilliant gentlemen and an engaging personality, and I don’t think he’s particularly pro-Israel,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, who has known Campbell since the 1980s. “I think there’s enough there on the record that would send real alarms that this is someone who maybe doesn’t fully understand, doesn’t fully value or fully support a strong ongoing relationship with the state of Israel, an alliance with the state of Israel.”

Campbell can whine all he likes that his rivals’ attacks are “unacceptable” and “personally hurtful,” but that probably isn’t getting him anywhere. He is, however, reportedly to meet with representatives of AIPAC. Perhaps he can convince those Jewish leaders that his record is a stellar one on Israel, that his praise of Alison Weir (not mentioned in the Times report) is nothing, that his support of Al-Arian is also nothing, and that past rhetoric is not indicative of his views on Israel and a Palestinian state. Stranger things have happened. But first he should, on matters such as Sami Al-Arian, pick one story and stick to it.

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