Say one thing about Charles Barron — he doesn’t pander.
In his decade in public office he has never sugarcoated his views on the Middle East, making it clear that in every possible scenario his sympathy and loyalty go to the Palestinians. While he often talks of “evenhandedness” in Middle East policy, his mindset often shows anything but, seeing malice in every Israeli and altruism in every Arab.
A gifted and passionate orator who could use his talents to unite people, he instead throws rhetorical firebombs, making no apologies for comparing the blockade of Gaza to the Holocaust and, evidently incapable of nuance, seeing no difference between Israel’s defensive strikes against terrorism and the savagery of the terrorists themselves.
Incredibly, as he told us recently, he sees no legitimate complaint by the United States against Iran’s nuclear program so long as we ourselves are nuclear armed.
So voters in New York’s newly created 8th Congressional District can’t say they weren’t warned in advance about precisely what a Rep. Charles Barron would stand for on Capitol Hill.
Truth be told, were Barron to be elected, he’d surely be marginalized in an overwhelming pro-Israel House of Representatives. Pronouncements like his June, 2010 statement, at a rally that “The biggest terrorist in the world is the government of Israel” would make a few headlines, while his votes against Israel aid or any resolution remotely positive toward the Jewish state would be drowned out by supportive votes on both sides of the aisle.
But Barron would gain a powerful bully pulpit for at least two years and embolden more anti-Zionists to run. And the people of the district deserve a better representative capable of building coalitions, not driving people apart, while New York needs all the effective leadership in Washington it can muster.
It’s easy to be complacent about Barron’s chances of winning, given his string of losing bids for higher office, and running against a candidate, Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, with strong establishment support. But nothing should be taken for granted in a race with no incumbent and in which voter turnout is expected to be low.
Barron has picked up powerful public employee union endorsements, DC 37 and 1707, as well as the surprising backing of the man he wants to replace, Rep. Ed Towns.
In tough economic times, a tendency to focus only on vague promises about housing and programs for the elderly could resonate enough with people in the district that they may overlook or ignore Barron’s larger worldview, boosting his prospects.
Strongly anti-Israel politicians have run for office before, but rarely do we see them in New York City in credible runs for important offices. With New York’s changing Jewish demographics under close scrutiny, it would send a sad message about the community’s voting power if Barron becomes part of the state’s shrinking House delegation.
In the event that he is elected next week, the Jewish and pro-Israel communities should not try to marginalize Barron, but instead attempt — futile though it may seem — to expose him to information and include him in events that could expand his mindset beyond textbook PLO propaganda.
At the same time, serious attention should be paid to the political landscape of 2014.