Over at the New Ledger, Pejman Yousefzadeh has a lengthy interview with Tom Campbell, in which he’s asked to respond directly to some of what I’ve written on this blog about his background on Israel and terrorism. There’s a lot there, so I wanted to focus mainly on the misleading statements and outright lying.
As a general rule, I don’t like to use the word “lying.” But it’s hard to come to a different conclusion in this case. Asked about the $1,300 in donations he received from Sami Al-Arian, the former University of South Florida professor who subsequently pled guilty to conspiring to help associates of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Campbell denied it.
“I received no contribution from Sami Al-Arian,” Campbell told the New Ledger. “I believe the blog to which you refer spoke ambiguously as to whether I received a contribution from Sami Al-Arian or his wife. If I received a contribution from his wife, it was, obviously ten years ago.”
This is demonstrably false, because all you have to do is search the Federal Election Commission database. Then you’ll see this, which is a screen capture of a search I ran just moments ago.
Even more bizarre, when I asked the Campbell campaign to respond to my post last week, they passed on a statement from Campbell in which he not only acknowledged the Al-Arian donation, but said Al-Arian was also, “instrumental in asking others in his community to contribute to my 2000 Senate run. I have always stated that fact plainly; and I bring it up so no one can claim I am attempting to hide it.”
At another point in the New Ledger interview, Campbell claims: “I never said President Clinton’s foreign policy was one-sided in favor of Israel.” Yet that’s almost precisely what he did in fact say.
Read this bit from an article that appeared in the October/November 2000 issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs about Campbell’s run for Senate in 2000 against Dianne Feinstein:
When asked his opinion on the status of Jerusalem, Campbell opined that both Israel and Palestine should claim Jerusalem as their capital.
“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, but it’s wrong to say it can’t also be the capital of Palestine.”
Alluding to President Bill Clinton’s comment that he is considering moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, he stated, “In order to be helpful to the peace process, an intermediary shouldn’t criticize just one side.”
Emphasis my own.
At another part of the interview, Tom Campbell was asked about his statement praising the work of Alison Weir, who has lately been pushing conspiracy theories about Israeli harvesting of Palestinian organs.
“I never stated any agreement with any statement made by Alison Weir,” he said. “I cannot validate that she is or is not a ‘conspiracy monger.’ And if she’s said something recently that is wrong, my quoted statement was from many years before any such statements of hers. This is a classic attempt to attack by association.”
But even putting aside Weir’s recent dabbling with blood libel, she runs an organization called If Americans Knew, the entire purpose of which is to argue that Israel is using U.S. tax dollars to carry out atrocities. Or as her website puts it, “Empowered by American money, Israel is occupying land that does not belong to it, is breaking numerous international laws and conventions of which it is a signatory, and is promulgating policies of brutality…”
Keep in mind, this is what Campbell said of Weir’s work: “Ms. Weir presents a powerful, well documented view of the Middle East today. She is intelligent, careful, and critical. American policy makers would benefit greatly from hearing her first-hand observations and attempting to answer the questions she poses.”
This isn’t a matter of guilt by association. It’s a matter of asking a simple question. How can anybody who claims to be a strong supporter of Israel have ever found anything praiseworthy in any of Weir’s writings on the Middle East?
Yesterday, I quoted a section of the same article from Washington Report, about his cordial relationship with Palestinian terrorist Yasser Arafat:
(Campbell) recalled a visit to Ramallah, Bethlehem and Gaza. He had bumped his head on a taxi door and the next day while he was in Damascus, Representative Campbell received a phone call from Yasser Arafat.
The Palestinian leader offered condolences that the congressman had been slightly injured in his country. Campbell’s reply was: “This makes me the first American to have shed blood in your country.”
Campbell didn’t directly address this story about Arafat, but he was asked about Arafat’s legacy. “Let me observe that Yasser Arafat allowed a substantial amount of corruption to characterize the PLO, and that, in the end, he missed the best chance for a permanent settlement that is likely to be presented to the Palestinian people.”
At no point did Campbell mention terrorism as part of Arafat’s legacy.
UPDATE: David Frum comes to Campbell’s defense again. It’s my general view that when evaluating political candidates, their records are a lot more important than anything they are currently saying, because politicians tend to tailor their positions to the office they’re seeking. In this case, Campbell is trying to win a Republican nomination, so he wants to sound hawkish on foreign policy and portray himself as a supporter of Israel. So I don’t take much stock in what Campbell is currently saying, while I am disturbed by his record. Frum, by contrast, has a more charitable interpretation of his voting record, is willing to excuse his troubling statements and associations as part of a misguided “Muslim outreach strategy” in the 1990s, and accepts his current policy pronouncements at face value. Furthermore, he doesn’t address the fact that Campbell is now outright lying about the political donations he accepted from Al-Arian. Given this sort of blanket defense, it’s difficult for me to present any evidence from Campbell’s actual record that is likely to convince Frum, but readers can judge for themselves. Jennifer Rubin has a longer response to Frum here.