The Arab-Israeli conflict is taking center stage in a U.S. congressional primary election in the southern state of Georgia Tuesday where incumbent Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney faces challenger Denise Majette.
Congresswoman McKinney is an outspoken supporter of Arab causes in the Congress and has received the bulk of her campaign contributions from Arab-Americans around the country.
But fellow Democrat Denise Majette has mounted an unexpectedly strong challenge, thanks in large part to donations from Jewish Americans. In fact, Ms. Majette has raised more than $1 million, almost double the amount collected by Congresswoman McKinney.
The congressional primary campaign between the two African-American women has become a surrogate battle between Arab and Jewish American organizations and figured prominently in a recent debate between the candidates.
Ms. Majette criticized Congresswoman McKinney for accepting campaign contributions from Arab organizations currently under investigation for possible ties to terrorist groups, saying that as the September 11 terrorist attacks were in progress, Ms. McKinney was "counting money received from some people who have been named as Arab terrorists." The congresswoman responded by saying, "we don't racially profile our contributors."
Congresswoman McKinney added that all of her contributions are legal and include donations from respected Arab-American doctors and lawyers from outside Georgia.
Ms. McKinney is in trouble in part because of some controversial statements she has made since last September's terrorist attacks. At one point, she suggested that President Bush ignored warnings of the attacks because a war on terrorism would be good for businesses allied with the Bush family. That brought strong criticism not only from Republicans but from several Democrats as well.
This is the second congressional election campaign this year that has featured the Arab-Israeli conflict as a major issue. In June, businessman Artur Davis defeated Congressman Earl Hilliard in a Democratic primary race in Alabama. Mr. Davis was heavily funded by pro-Israel groups while Congressman Hilliard was backed by Arab-American organizations.