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Michael Jansen: Taking a stand
January 11, 2019
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Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren began her presidential election campaign a week ago by hosting a Democratic Party primary event in southwestern Iowa where she answered questions on her programme for more than an hour. A progressive, Warren focused on climate change and income inequality. To an overflowing hall, she stated, “This is how (the race) starts, person to person, town to town, across Iowa and then across America.”

 She chose Iowa for her initial rally because the state’s primaries in February 2020 kick off the presidential campaign. South Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada also stage early primary contests.  

It was a brave start. Generally conservative Iowa voted for Donald Trump during the 2016 contest and gave him the largest margin of any Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan ran in 1980. Furthermore, as a recent poll put her a poor fourth after rivals former Vice President Joe Biden, a centrist, and progressives Bernie Sanders who sought the nomination in 2016, and ex-Texas Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke. He lost in the 2018 Senate race to Republican Ted Cruz but is seen as an attractive new face on the political scene.

However, Warren is a Democratic Party star. She has taken a strong line against Trump, voting with him only 13 per cent of the time. This makes her the third most anti-Trump senator in the last Congress. She is a committed liberal on economic and social issues although she is not as progressive as Sanders who describes himself as a “democratic socialist.” Both castigate banks and big business for dominating the country and demand reforms that would share wealth. Fifty-eight per cent of her funding comes from small donors. During last year’s Senate race she raised nearly $20 million. She has developed a grassroots campaign strategy. However, Warren, 69, is not rated highly on the national level. Many Democrats do not want to repeat Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump and see a new, young male face as their party’s preferred presidential nominee.

 On this region, she has taken a stand against US intervention and evolved on Israel/Palestine. In 2013 during the previous administration, she warned against US involvement in the Syrian war as this could have negative “unintended consequences.” In 2014, she voted against legislation authorising former President Barack Obama to arm and train Syrian “rebels,” arguing she did not want the US to be “drafted into another ground war in the Middle East” and urged regional powers to combat Daesh. While viewing Iran as a threat to US interests, she opposed withdrawal from the agreement providing for the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

Adopting Congress’ traditional support for Israel, Warren went along with Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza and that November she visited Israel and the Palestinian territories and subsequently joined 79 other senators to co-sponsor the US-Israel strategic partnership act. However, she has recently criticised a proposal to criminalise the “Boycott, Divest and Sanction” (BDS) campaign to punish Israel for its treatment of Palestinians living in the occupied territories. In November 2017, she was one of ten Democratic senators to call on Israel to halt the demolition of the Palestinian West Bank villages of Khan al-Ahmar and Sussiya as this would threaten the “two-state solution” which envisages the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In December 2017, she criticised Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While he said “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel” she contradicted herself by saying the city’s status should be determined “by all parties.”

In April last year, she expressed concern about Israel’s shooting of Palestinians protesting their confinement in Gaza and demanding return to their home towns and villages, seized and destroyed by Israel in 1948-49. She said Israel’s army should “exercise restraint and respect the rights of Palestinians to peacefully protest.”

Her shift reflected change in the Democratic party’s mainstream constituency. A poll conducted in early 2018 revealed that only 27 per cent of Democrats sympathise with Israel more than with the Palestinians. Another poll showed that 78 per cent of Democrats back a “one state solution,” the emergence of a democratic state for two people in historic Palestine even if this would succeed the Zionists’ “Jewish state.”

Elizabeth Warren was born in June 1949 into a struggling middle-class family living in Oklahoma City in the state of the same name. At 13 she was forced to take of a waitress job at an aunt’s restaurant after her father had a heart attack and could not work full time. At 16 she won a scholarship to George Washington University but left after two years to marry Jim Warren, move to Houston, Texas, and finish her studies there.

After graduation, she enrolled at Rutgers University Law School and received her degree. The couple had two children before divorcing in 1978. She taught at several law schools, gaining recognition for her expertise in commercial and bankruptcy law before taking up a position at Harvard law. She married a second time but retained Warren as her last name.

In 2012 she became the first woman to be elected from her state to the Senate where she has demanded the rich pay more tax in fairness to workers whose labours made them wealthy. She has been a persistent critic of Trump since his campaign for the presidency and election in 2016. He has retorted by making fun of her claim to native American ancestry, which a DNA test proved to be minimal. Nevertheless, when she ran for a second term last year she won 60 per cent of the vote against a Republican challenger. She is regarded as one of the top progressives in the US. While this is a positive factor among leftists, progressives, and even independents, centrist Democrats are suspicious of her and may choose a more cautious and conservative candidate once the race begins in earnest for the party’s nomination.
 
___________________________________________
The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East
affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict
 

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