Arizona Hopeful Parries Attacks on Israel

Candidate in Hot Congressional Race Insists She's Pro-Israel

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published August 07, 2012, issue of August 10, 2012.
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The level of Jewish involvement in the race is unusual. Both Cherny and Schapira are Jewish. That’s unexpected in Arizona, where Jews make up only 1.7% of the population. If one of them wins, he would become one of a handful of Jews elected to federal or statewide office in Arizona. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was famously the first Jewish women to serve in such an office. Before her, Democrat Sam Coppersmith served one term in Congress in the 1990s and Republican Sam Steiger served from 1967 to 1977.

Reports in the right-leaning website the Washington Free Beacon and on the blog of the right-leaning magazine Commentary have portrayed Sinema as a longtime anti-Israel activist. Both stories cite Sinema’s past involvement with anti-war groups, some of which took anti-Israel positions.

In a release accompanying her joint statement with Schapira, Sinema charged that Cherny’s campaign had “distributed unsigned memos filled with false attacks on his opponents, distributed those false attack memos to right-wing publications…” The release charged the memos of engaging in “guilt by association.”

Sinema forcefully disputed the characterization of her record as anti-Israel. She argued that her history of activism against the Iraq and Afghanistan wars had been used to suggest that she was also anti-Israel. Sinema said that she was a regular attendee of AIPAC legislative events locally and that she had donated to AIPAC.

Sinema’s campaign website includes a policy paper on Israel that supports the two-state solution, supports U.S. military aid to Israel, and supports “leaving all options on the table” with regard to dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

According to Ober, the Jewish event he hosted for Sinema was held in response to what he said were the Cherny campaign’s efforts to portray her as anti-Israel. “The meeting that was held with Kyrsten Sinema was so that she would have an opportunity to address issues raised by Andrei Cherny and to discuss her position on issues related to the U.S.-Israel relationship,” Ober said.

Though some attendees at the event donated to the Sinema campaign, others simply attended and spoke with Sinema, including activists with the local AIPAC chapter.

Ober told the Forward that he or his wife had donated to the campaigns of all three Democratic candidates.

The fact that Sinema has apparently forged a lead in the race may be the real reason that the critique of her stand on Israel has failed to gain much traction.

“The basic principle is, you can never have too many friends,” said Douglas Bloomfield, a syndicated columnist, consultant, and former legislative director for AIPAC, of how pro-Israel activists think about candidates. “And you don’t have enemies, you just have potential friends.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@forward.com or on Twitter@joshnathankazis

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/160013/state-cash-may-fund-orthodox-special-ed/?p=all#ixzz22J7O7Bi3


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