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Published: Sunday, 8/20/2000

Choice of Lieberman is a refreshing change

Three cheers for Vice President Gore - and no, not for inventing the Internet or for recognizing the big hole in the ozone layer.

It is for his bold and brilliant choice of Sen. Joe Lieberman as his running mate. That Mr. Gore and the Democratic Party have brought down yet another ethnic/religious barrier is praiseworthy.

The choice of Mr. Lieberman has sent shock waves through the staid and usually predictable political circles in this country. It has also given pause to many people around the world, particularly those in the Middle East. After all, given the inherent racial tensions and subtle anti-Semitism in this country, a Jew, an orthodox, practicing one, on the national ticket makes some people very uncomfortable.

Their discomfort is based either on ignorance of the man and his religion or on preconceived notions about Jews and other minorities.

His unabashed support for Israel has been of concern to those who expect an even-handed U.S. policy in the Middle East. In this regard he is no different from the majority of our lawmakers who for one reason or another feel obliged to support Israel even though that country has pursued a brutal policy of land grab on the West Bank.

In fact, the gentiles in Congress have been more pro-Israel than some of the Jewish members. Mr. Lieberman was among those who opposed the release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, whose release was made a condition by then-Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to sign the Wye River Accord.

Will a Vice President Lieberman give preference to American interests over those of the state of Israel? One has to assume he will. After all, Henry Kissinger, Richard Nixon's secretary of state, was accused by the pro-Israel lobby of being less sympathetic to their cause.

If Democrat Joe Lieberman has the courage to stand in the well of the Senate to chastise President Clinton for his personal behavior, Mr. Lieberman can certainly be expected to raise his voice against the excesses of the Jewish state. While Mr. Gore's choice of a Jew as his running mate has received a ringing endorsement from his party, it is yet to be seen whether America will also embrace a Jew on the ticket.

In a recent Time/CNN poll a great majority, 91 per cent, said it would have no effect as to what party they vote for. Almost half thought Joe Lieberman qualified to become president if something happened to Al Gore.

The real surprise was the Christian conservatives. Almost half of them were concerned that Joe Lieberman "does not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." One would have thought that a practicing orthodox Jew would be more to their liking since they appear to have a corner on God, family values, and morality.

Mr. Lieberman is a refreshing departure from the stereotypical politicians. He defies the usual label of a liberal or a conservative for he is both. As a modern Orthodox Jew he is capable of practicing his faith, does not inflict his beliefs on others, and is quite comfortable in playing a meaningful role in the world around him.

Well done, Al Gore.

Dr. S. Amjad Hussain is a Toledo surgeon whose column appears every other week in The Blade.



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