Election 2000

October 19, 2000

Source: Los Angeles Times

On October 19, 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported that "soon after his selection as Al Gore's running mate, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman met with several dozen Arab American leaders in Michigan who worried that, if elected vice president, the orthodox Jew would not be evenhanded on Middle Eastern policy. At the time, Lieberman earned guarded praise by listening to their concerns and reassuring them that he understands their agenda and has a record of fighting for the civil rights of Arab Americans. But after violence exploded in the Middle East, Lieberman was the first national candidate to sharply criticize Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat for not reining in the Palestinian protesters. Lieberman's strong language upset Arab American leaders, who now say they fear that the Connecticut senator's presence in a U.S. administration would cripple the country's credibility as a mediator in the Middle Eastern conflict. 'If you want to be an honest broker, you have to be neutral in your positions so you can gain the trust of both sides in the negotiations,' said Ahmad Chebbani, chairman of the Michigan-based American Arab Chamber of Commerce. 'When the U.S. administration takes a biased position, as Joe Lieberman has against the Palestinians, that creates a mistrust on behalf of the Palestinian people.' Both of the presidential nominees--Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush--also called on Arafat to publicly order an end to the violence. But Lieberman used the sharpest language in referring to the Palestinian leader's role...At the American Muslim Council, a 10-year-old lobbying effort geared toward strengthening Muslim participation in the political process, there was a sense that Lieberman had betrayed them. 'I wish that Sen. Lieberman would have commented as strongly as we expect him, a man of faith, about the burning of some Palestinians and the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian youth by the powerful Israeli military,' said Aly Abuzaakouk, the council's executive director. 'While I do not condone the killing of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah, I call upon our public officials and media to not put the blame on the victims.' In the past, Lieberman has insisted that his Jewish faith would not obstruct his ability to deal fairly with the Middle East. He said his commitment is always to the Constitution and the interests of the United States."