Previously Aired On: Tuesday, March 4, 2008 – Listen to the Show!
James George Abourezk was a Democratic United States Representative and United States Senator, and was the first Arab-American to serve in the United States Senate. He represented South Dakota in the U.S. Senate from 1973 until 1979.
He was elected as a Democrat to the House of Representatives, and served from 1971 to 1973. He then was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served until 1979.
As a senator, he criticized the Office of Public Safety (OPS), a U.S. agency linked to the USAID and the CIA that provided training to foreign police forces. He also was the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs and of the American Indian Policy Review Commission. Abourezk was an early supporter of the National initiative and with fellow Senator Mark O. Hatfield (R-OR) introduced an amendment allowing more direct democracy. However, this initiative failed.
In an interview with Counterpunch on April 16, 2006, Abourezk called the groups Hamas and Hezbollah “resistance fighters”. He repeated this statement in a 2007 interview on Hezbollah’s Al Manar television network and stated that that he “marveled at the Hezbollah resistance to Israel. … It was a marvel of organization, of courage and bravery.
In th Counterpunch interview, Abourezk also argued that America’s support of Israel endures because “the Congress is pretty much reliant on money from radical Zionists”.
He reiterated this statement in an editorial for Electronic Intifada on July 30, 2006, where he wrote:
“…the U.S. Congress is despicable in its silence. They are all bought off by the Israel lobby and are afraid to criticize. If this were happening in any other country by any other country, there would be speeches on the floor of Congress, legislation introduced to stop aid and other help to whomever would be committing this cruelty. But since their campaign money comes from the Israeli lobby, we hear only silence.”
In a letter dated December 2006, Abourezk wrote:
“I can tell you from personal experience that, at least in the Congress, the support Israel has in that body is based completely on political fear—fear of defeat by anyone who does not do what Israel wants done. I can also tell you that very few members of Congress—at least when I served there—have any affection for Israel or for its Lobby. What they have is contempt, but it is silenced by fear of being found out exactly how they feel. I’ve heard too many cloakroom conversations in which members of the Senate will voice their bitter feelings about how they’re pushed around by the Lobby to think otherwise. In private one hears the dislike of Israel and the tactics of the Lobby, but not one of them is willing to risk the Lobby’s animosity by making their feelings public…
I see no desire on the part of Members of Congress to further any U.S. imperial dreams by using Israel as their pit bull. The only exceptions to that rule is the feelings of Jewish members, who, I believe, are sincere in their efforts to keep U.S. money flowing to Israel.
I believe that divestment, and especially cutting off U.S. aid to Israel would immediately result in Israel’s giving up the West Bank and leaving the Gaza to the Palestinians. Such pressure would work, I think, because the Israeli public would be able to determine what is causing their misery and would demand that an immediate peace agreement be made with the Palestinians.”
In an August 30, 2007 interview on the Hezbullah TV network Al-Manar, as translated by MEMRI, Abourezk stated that “the Arabs who were involved in 9/11 cooperated with the Zionists. It was a cooperation. They gave them the perfect excuse to denounce all Arabs.”
In 1980, Abourezk founded the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee, a grassroots civil rights organization. In 1989, he wrote Advise and Dissent: Memoirs of South Dakota and the U.S. Senate and he is the co-author of “Through Different Eyes: Two Leading Americans — a Jew and an Arab — Debate U. S. Policy in the Middle East.”
Abourezk now works as a lawyer and writer in South Dakota.