YOUNGSTOWN Traficant gets flak, praise for remarks
A local Jewish leader said the congressman's statements are akin to giving comfort to the enemy.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- U.S. Rep. James Traficant Jr.'s statements that the nation's "policy in the Mideast is so one-sided that we endanger now American citizens" rings true with the local Muslim and Arab communities.
It also meets with condemnation from the local Jewish community.
"The general perception in the Muslim world is that American policy, Western policy, is pretty one-sided in favor of Israel," said Dr. Mustansir Mir, director of Youngstown State University's Center of Islamic Studies.
"I agree with what he's saying about American policy essentially being one-sided. The West usually goes for short profit, and in the end, this can turn into a long-term loss."
Called brave: Traficant's speech on the House floor Wednesday, the day after terrorists attacked New York City's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., was an incredibly brave act, said Ray Nakley, chairman of the Coalition for Peace in the Middle East. Traficant's "political courage" was refreshing, said Nakley, who heads the Youngstown-based organization of Arabic and Islamic people concerned with the U.S.'s Mideast policy.
"The timing was absolutely courageous," Nakley said. "It's an act of political courage. It doesn't do him any political good, but he was courageous enough to speak the truth. I'm going to support Jim Traficant 100 percent for what he is saying. We endanger American citizens with our policies."
But the statements of Traficant, of Poland, who is a frequent critic of the United States' support of Israel, are not meeting with praise from the local Jewish community.
"The congressman's comments were entirely inappropriate," said Bonnie Deutsch Burdman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation. "It's akin to giving comfort to the enemies of the United States of America. There's simply no justification whatsoever for the act of war that was perpetrated against our country; least of all any sound foreign policies that are supported by a majority of the United States."
Condemned him: The National Jewish Democratic Council, a Washington, D.C.-based pro-Israel national organization, also condemned Traficant, D-17th, saying his House speech was "muddle-headed and disgraceful."
Muslims and Arabs don't see it that way, Mir and Nakley said. The United States practices democracy, but it does not always promote democratic governments in other nations, they said.
"The perception in the Third World in general is that the West, which prides itself on democracy, when it comes to the Third World supports undemocratic regimes," Mir said. "Those regimes are not representative of people. They are unrepresentative. They rely on Western support for their continuous power and people resent that."
Arabs condemn the terrorist attacks, but they may unfortunately continue if the United States does not change its pro-Israel slant in the Mideast at the expense of other nations, Nakley said.
"I'd like to see justice and see the United States of America live up to its own ideals," he said. "This is something all faiths and ethnicities have been wanting to see for years. We are not going to see this go away unless we have some strong leadership who is willing to practice fair policies."