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Michael Jansen: Leslie Cockburn’s brave crusade
June 04, 2018
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Democratic party candidate for a Virginia Congressional seat Leslie Cockburn is being branded as an anti-Semite by the Republican incumbent who has resigned his post because of alcoholism.

Cockburn (pronounced Coburn) has been accused of being anti-Semitic due to a book, “Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the US-Israel Covert Relationship,” she published with her husband Andrew in 1991. As usual, this well-researched and diligently documented book caused an uproar among Israel’s supporters and is being used against Cockburn now, 27 years after its publication. Upon its publication a New York Times review accused the authors of “Israel-bashing for its own sake.”

This charge has been refuted by Irad Malkin, Israel Prize Laureate for History, who tweeted: “The desperate Republicans have lost their candidate and are slinging mud. I wrote extensively about her book in Ha’aretz in 1991. To say Leslie Cockburn is anti-Semitic is outrageous.”

In a New York Times article published on May 29th, Thomas Kaplan and Michael Tackett spoke of her “drawng attention, in part for her strident views on Israel.” Sherry Kraft, a supporter quoted in this article, made the point that there is a good deal of criticism of Israel at this time, especially among left-wingers and progressives. She said that “some of that anti-Israel sentiment crosses into anti-Semitism, but not in her case.” The writers of the Times’ article admit that although it would seem she is an unlikely candidate, her campaign could be given impetus by the post-Trump rise of liberalism on college campuses and the campaign calling for boycott, divestment and sanctioning of Israel for its colonisation policies and brutal treatment of Palestinians.

What the Times’ piece does not say is that 80 per cent of US Jews are unhappy with Donald Trump’s uncritical embrace of Israel’s right-wing government, Trump’s recogition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the shift of the US embassy to the holy city. Liberal Jews – and most US Jewish citizens are liberals and vote Democratic – see the risks posed by the collapse of the peace process with the Palestinians even if Israel’s evangelical Christian supporters residing in the district where Cockburn seeks election do not.

Like her husband and two brothers-in-law, Alexander and Patrick, Leslie Cockburn has had a distinguised career in crusading, truth-telling journalism. She has tackled a wide range of issues from corruption, the Vietnam war, Pentagon procurement scandals, US involvement in repression in Haiti, CIA heroin trafficking, and the suffering of Iraqi civilians caused by US sanctions. She has won a slew of awards for her journalism and has made both documentary and commercial films. In 1997, she co-produced “The Peacemaker,” a thriller starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman about a planned nuclear attack on New York City.

Cockburn has spent her entire career fighting for fair treatment of minorities and immigrants, calling for cutting carbon emissions that cause climate change, demanding an end to Washington’s brutal foreign wars, regulation of banks, and gun control and lambasting corporate lobbyists.

Her British-born-Ireland-raised husband of 40 years is also a campaigning journalist. Their daughter Olivia Wilde is an actress who has played in the “House” medical drama series and is currently starring in “A Vigilante,” about domestic abuse. Their other daughter Chloe is a Harvard-trained lawyer who specialises in criminal justice; their son Charlie is a writer.

Leslie Cockburn took part in the January 2017 Women’s March in Washington protesting Trump on the day after his inauguration. Her determination to run in order to fight against Trump-inspired racism was strengthened by the violence in Charlottesville on August 12th of that year after white supremacists attacked liberals over plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a park in the city. Charlottesville is home to the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the US. A young woman, Heather Hayer, was killed when a neo-Nazi slammed his car into a group of liberal protesters. The coroner did not immediately declare her death a homicide.

In any other country but this Leslie Cockburn would be counted as an ideal candidate for membership in parliament. She is a problem in the US for more reasons than her anti-Israel stance. Her gender is wrong. She is a woman. She is a clever woman, a graduate of elitist Yale University and the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Many voters – both male and female – do not like clever women. Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who earned her law degree at Yale, lost the presidency to dotard Trump in part due to hostility toward clever, accomplished women, among less educated, resentful largely white men and women.

On her campaign website, Cockburn promises to fight the good fight on all the issues that matter: clean water and air, social security and health care, student loans that beggar families, raising the minimum wage, deportation of migrants, drug addiction, and racism. Unfortunately, for many voters, particularly white rural and urban underprivileged, strong stands on these issues are less impressive than the lying, hateful rantings of Trump and his Republican imitators.

Cockburn has driven thousands of kilometres during her campaign, talking, talking, talking to prospective voters. She has spoken to urban elites as a member of their club, to rural farmers as a farmer on the slopes of the Smokey Mountains, and to women and people of colour as a woman who rejects discrimination and marginalisation.

She is, of course, facing stiff opposition from the Israel lobby, the most powerful foreign interest group in Washington and the entire US. But it is significant that she stood against three other potential candidates and won the nomination. The test of tolerance will come in November when the US votes in mid-term elections for all members of the House of Representatives and one-third of the members in the Senate.

___________________________________________
The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East
affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict

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