James Edward Johnson

my thoughts from right to left

An Arab Muslim who is sensitive to the Jewish people.

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Shams Ghoneim is a good person. She is sensitive to Jewish concerns in ways that many are not.

During debate on the Johnson County Democratic Platform last weekend, one plank echoed the charge that Jews are not loyal Americans. The plank was shrouded in coded language, likely to mislead innocent observers. However, it was the same kind of Jew-baiting coded language that Nazi-sympathizer Charles Lindbergh and America First used to stir anti-Jewish incitement in the US leading up to WWII. While most who ultimately supported the plank undoubtedly did so innocently, they also did so with a lack of sensitivity towards Jews and the history of anti-Semitism.

Shams, despite obvious peer pressure to the contrary, did a simple thing that demonstrated deep compassion and understanding towards the Jewish people. She refused to support that coded language. She is willing to display, publicly, that she is unwilling to help those who are insensitive to our concerns, even when they are superficially “on her side.”

Shams and I have serious disagreements. But, she can set aside those disagreements and make difficult choices when necessary. She is an asset to the Iowa City community, the Muslim community, and the Arab community. She may not be a member of the Jewish community, but because of her courage, she is an asset to our community as well.

Postscript: The foregoing is a letter I wrote that was published in the Iowa City Press-Citizen today. My initial submission did not explain the details of last weekend’s Johnson County Democratic Convention and much of the second paragraph was omitted. It is not my desire to unfairly criticize the Johnson County Democratic Party. I am already exchanging e-mails with those who I feel were most responsible for this troubling language, and I hope we can reconcile our differences. I also want to note that there were a couple people who spoke for “our side” on this issue Saturday. They were not Jewish and, prior to Saturday, were not known to “our side.” They were moved by our concerns to speak in our favor. They represent what I think of when I think of Democrats generally. I was worried that I might have written something very different coming out of the platform debate. People like Shams, and these other gentiles who care about our sensitivities, preserved the integrity of the local Democratic Party and acted in a manner consistent with historic Democratic interests in diversity and sensitivity towards minority populations.

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Written by JamesEJ

Saturday, March 22, 2008 at 9:23 am

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