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Maligned for Doing the Right Thing

Cynthia McKinneyTwice Cynthia McKinney lost her congressional seat for supporting Palestinian rights.

Doing the right thing is costly. Going along with what's wrong pays well. Staying in government depends on it. McKinney is too principled to play that game.

The Israeli Lobby went all out to get her. Ruining her political career became policy. Ariel Sharon even bragged about it on an earlier visit to Georgia. McKinney lives there. It's her home state.

Virtually no one in Congress criticizes Israel. Doing so risks being a career ender.

A TV commercial once showed Mother Nature's wrath following a tag line saying "It's not nice to fool" her.

The Israeli Lobby practically matches her blow for blow.

Democratic National Committee (DNC) member Evelyn Garcia felt its sting. A July 3 Palm Beach Post article explained.

Earlier emails she wrote surfaced. She took a principled stand. She criticized Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Her comments were accurate and honorable. Pressure forced her DNC resignation.

She's a candidate for Florida's House of Representatives. She's the eldest child of Haitian immigrants.

She likely knows its history of adversity and anguish. Living in South Florida avoids its harshness. She appreciates how oppressed people suffer and said so.

News broke about her criticism at the wrong time.

On August 14, voters will accept or reject her bid to represent Florida's District 88. It includes parts of West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach.

She'll continue campaigning. She and three other Democrats vie for the same seat. Republican challengers are absent. The August 14 winner will represent District 88 post-November elections.

While holding firm on moral principles, she apologized for her remarks. Doing so is politically correct. Honor and integrity on sensitive topics and politics don't mix.

It goes with the territory. Consequences follow standing up for what's right.

Her emails were sent anonymously to local Democratic party leaders. Some were written to a South Florida congressional aide.

On July 26, 2011, she said:

"The continued Israeli occupation of Palestine is ugly on moral, ethical, religious and legal grounds."

"Palestinians had nothing to do with the holocaust and it is time that this guilt trip was taken off their backs….And I deeply resent U.S. taxpayer funds being used to continue Israeli aggression."

On May 24, 2011, she wrote:

"Slavery was ended, apartheid was ended and so this occupation must end."

County Democratic party chairman Mark Siegel expressed outrage, saying:

"I was shocked by her choice of words." She never showed "animus toward Jews she encountered in her work for the party."

She showed none in her emails.

County commissioner Burt Aaronson also expressed anger, saying:

"She can say what she wants but not as an executive of the Democratic Party. The party, locally, statewide and nationally, supports the state of Israel."

"I am personally offended as a Jew, as a Democrat and as a supporter of the state of Israel. The Democratic Party is better off without her."

Criticism of Israel is unrelated to views about Jews. Siegel and Aaronson know it. So do other party leaders. Speaking forthrightly like Garcia isn't part of their portfolio.

Israel is a political state. It's also an apartheid one. It's accountable for its actions under international laws and its own. Criticizing its lawless behavior is justifiable and principled. Failure to do so is dishonorable and cowardly.

In 2008, Garcia was elected to the DNC. The same year, she served as a party delegate at its Denver national convention.

On June 29, she resigned expressing "great sadness and a heavy heart." She was dismayed that private emails were released "by someone I believed was my friend."

"In passionately advocating my position supporting the rights of people I felt were being harmed, I used language that I now regret."

"The gist of the conversation had to do with my concern for innocent people being oppressed, but such support for the oppressed does not diminish my support for the good people of Israel."

Separately, she emailed the Palm Beach Post, saying:

"My comments were not only inappropriate and hurtful, they are exactly the kind of ugly rhetoric that is not conducive to the overall atmosphere needed to create a prosperous peace and security for both parties."

"I apologize to anyone I offended and to my friends in the Democratic Party, in particular, members of the Jewish faith whom I have worked with for years."

"My continued presence would merely serve as a distraction to the good work of Democrats and it is for this reason I have submitted my resignation."

In criticizing Israel, she spoke her heart and conscience. In apologizing, she commented like a political candidate seeking votes.

Serving at federal, state or local levels and doing the right thing is incompatible.

A Final Comment covered this story several times. It published further Garcia comments made on July 6, saying:

Her private emails in question went to Lauren Londner and Dan Liftman. Why did either or both individuals release them months later to "members of an unelected Palm Beach County political action group," BIZPAC?

It calls itself Palm Beach County's "voice of business in the political arena."

Who authorized their release to BIZPAC, she asked? "Was it Diana Demarest, former Palm Beach County Democratic Party Secretary, or another member or surrogate of 'the PAC?' "

"What was their intended purpose? Was it to spur a debate about US policy in the Middle East? Did they not anticipate the barrage of hate mail and threats I've been receiving from places as far away from Palm Beach County as Oklahoma?"

"And, who are 'they' anyway and what do 'they' stand for? Did this unelected so-called leadership demonstrate sound leadership in contributing to tactics which appear to be pathetic attempts to silence or crush an opposing point of view?"

"Are they raising issues of loyalty and patriotism? "Or, did they really intend a conversation among the wider electorate of the extent to which U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing an illegal occupation by Israel? And, who says it's an occupation and illegal?"

"Well, let me count the ways: numerous United Nations resolutions, J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Presbyterian Church, CodePink, religious and political leaders and public opinion worldwide."

She added that she holds BIZPAC responsible for what happened. Hate threats against her are totally uncalled for. So are anti-Semitism accusations.

Doing so presents a chance to publicly discuss why US taxpayers have to "subsidize the illegal, immoral occupation of Palestinian territories. How about" airing that topic "instead of persecuting one messenger?"

Don't Palestinians have rights? Aren't they entitled to a homeland like Jews?

She stressed her support for "freedom, human rights, civil rights, and the right to self-determination."

She said she fought anti-Semitism since high school. In whatever capacity ahead, she intends "to remain true to these principles."

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