Cynthia McKinney's Israeli adventure

What was the former congresswoman doing on a boat that got in a confrontation with the Israeli navy?

Published December 31, 2008 5:40PM (EST)

Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, the Green Party's presidential nominee this year, is back in the news.

McKinney was on a boat that confronted the Israeli navy as it attempted to enter Gaza to deliver medical supplies. Depending on whose version you believe, the ship -- sent by the Free Gaza Movement -- was either deliberately rammed three times, causing serious damage, or was part of an accidental collision that occurred as it attempted to maneuver around the Israeli vessel.

For me, the incident raises a question beyond the one of what actually happened at sea. I'm one of those who think the conflict is not nearly as one-sided as it seems in the American media, and I think that too often legitimate criticism of Israel's actions is shut down by illegitimate accusations of anti-Semitism. But I do have to wonder: What is a legitimate peace organization doing, putting McKinney on that ship? She has a long history of anti-Semitism around her -- among other examples, her father tagged one of her electoral opponents "a racist Jew" and once opined, "Jews have bought everybody. Jews. J-E-W-S." (You can see the video at the bottom of this post for more.) Somebody in the group had to know about that.

This sort of thing puzzles me; the way I see it, there are a limited number of answers to the question I posed. Maybe the organizers genuinely think those incidents don't represent McKinney's feelings about Jews, and maybe they're naive enough to believe that having her on board (no pun intended) works out in a cost-benefit analysis. Or maybe they're principled enough to stick by her and to take the PR hit, even though they should surely know she won't bring much in the way of money or support. But there's still that nagging voice at the back of my mind saying that the explanation is not quite so innocent, and that bothers me. Certainly it should bother those who genuinely wish to see peace -- a fair peace, for all sides -- in the region, as her presence in the movement can only serve to harm that cause.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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