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Would Kerry Change History?

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Genevieve Cora Fraser

Following a recent protest march in Boston prior to the Democratic Convention, I confided to a Pro-Palestinian activist who had identified himself as Jewish when we first met that I am supporting John Kerry as President.  He was manning an information booth in the designated Boston Common protest area and stared at me in disbelief. Shiny with sweat from the heat and exertion from the march, he immediately flew into a litany of the pro-Israeli stances the Senator has announced in recent months ? his support of Ariel Sharon, the Gaza Disengagement Plan, and the racist Apartheid Wall.  He railed against my hypocrisy spouting off against the incongruity of my articles, my poetry that reveal the horror of the Israeli-Zionist policies on innocent Palestinians that contrasted so sharply with supporting such a man. 

United in the need to rid the world of the Administration of Mass Destruction, America's progressives are no more divided than on John Kerry's bid for the Presidency.

United in the need to rid the world of the Administration of Mass Destruction, America’s progressives are no more divided than on John Kerry’s bid for the Presidency.

I defended Kerry as best as I could, stated that it was easier working on changing a person?s mind as an insider, rather than condemning from the outside, and was impressed with his other positions. Then I walked away leaving him to continue his diatribe to those who stood nearby and had witnessed the encounter.  Later, I received an email from a Palestinian friend in Ramallah who knew of my support for Kerry.  “Listening to Kerry I think he sees the South African situation in reverse, with the Palestinians practicing the apartheid.  No?” he quipped.

The day the convention was to begin my stance had made the opening paragraphs of the top story in the New York Times owned Worcester (MA) Telegram and Gazette.  It must have been karma.  The day before, as protestors lined up along the sidewalk following a series of impassioned speeches, I had sat down on a park bench next to a man jotting into a notebook.  I asked if he was a reporter.  As fate would have it, he was someone I had spoken to many times over the phone, but never met, while working as an aide to a state senator in the 1990s. 

So, on Monday, July 26, 2004 the Telegram and Gazette headlines read: “Protest Takes to Streets - March draws 2,000 - Protesters march on eve of DNC.” The article by Shaun Sutner bore the subtitle “Protesters march yesterday from Boston Common to the FleetCenter, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.” The day before, Shaun had expressed delight that he had run into a “local” (namely, me) who would provide an opening for his article.

"Proudly holding aloft her Palestinian flag, Genevieve Cora Fraser took her place in the throng of protesters determined to march yesterday to the FleetCenter, where the Democratic National Convention opens today. Unlike many of the other approximately 2,000 marchers, Ms. Fraser, of Orange, said she backs U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry’s presidential bid. But Ms. Fraser, a former Statehouse aide to retired state Sen. Robert D. Wetmore of Barre, charged Mr. Kerry with ignoring what she said was the plight of the Palestinian people under Israeli rule. ?Protests like this are part of exercising your rights under a democracy,? she said as marchers assembled on the Boston Common after two hours of impassioned speeches by activists who criticized Mr. Kerry and championed causes from Palestinian independence to Haitian democracy.”

Sutner?s article continued, “Most of the activists expressed disappointment and anger at Mr. Kerry and mainstream Democrats, whom they accuse of abandoning the poor and powerless and serving big corporations instead. Many also railed against the much-despised fenced-in ?free speech? zone outside the FleetCenter, which yesterday’s protesters refused to use.  They rallied at noon under the rubric of, a national coalition of leftist groups that mostly work outside the electoral system.”

Sutner?s comment about working outside the electoral system unintentionally echoed the reproach of my Pro-Palestinian activist acquaintance who clearly viewed me as a sell-out.  However, I beg to differ.  According to a new Zogby International Poll commissioned by the Washington-based Council for the National Interest “half of all likely American voters agree that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry ?should adopt an entirely new policy, different from the present administration, towards Israel.?  The poll, conducted during the Democratic Convention, showed that 51% of likely voters somewhat or strongly agreed that a policy change was necessary. Only 34% strongly or somewhat disagreed. The number who supported Kerry adopting a new policy towards Israel was even higher among Democrats: 70% of Democrats, Kerry’s voter base, supported such a change.” It has also been reported that 90% of Democratic Convention delegates did not support the war in Iraq.

There is also movement on the issue with Washington insiders.  According to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, “In May, a number of retired diplomats and government officials signed a letter to President Bush advocating a change in U.S. foreign policy to be truly honest in our dealings with Palestine and Israel for the good of all concerned: Palestinians, Israelis, and Americans.” Currently there are 90 signatures on that letter, Republicans and Democrats alike.

The Palestinian American Congress responded to the letter by issuing an invitation, requesting that a delegation of diplomats and journalists from the Washington Report visit Palestine and President Yasser Arafat, who remains isolated and besieged in his Ramallah compound. Consequently a trip was arranged for July 16 to July 23; however, the Gaza portion had to be canceled due to the unstable situation which developed after they arrived.

On August 2, the returning diplomats held a press conference on Middle East Peace before the National Press Club.  The event was covered by CNN and while no joint statement was issued, individual statements were made.  Though the transcripts should be read in their entirety to fully grasp the situation as reported, I offer two quick insights.  Ambassador Edward L. Peck former Chief of Mission in Iraq and Mauritania spoke of the participants who have “extensive experience living in and working on the Middle East, and considerable familiarity with the issues generated by 37 years of occupation. Nonetheless, it was a shock to see the extent of land seizures, tight travel restrictions and endless humiliation which the Palestinians are forced to endure. In addition to violating every principle defining democracy, human rights and the rule of law, Israel?s policies, strongly supported by the administration, sharply undercut the two-state solution which has been the basis of all reasonable efforts to resolve the problem, and permit all the inhabitants of the region to exist in peace and security,” Peck stated.

Ambassador Andrew Killgore, former Ambassador to Qatar and Publisher of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs spoke of American soldiers dying in Iraq, threats from al-Qaeda on financial institutions in New York City and Washington, DC as well as Israeli plans to build an additional 600 homes in the West Bank.  “These events are not unrelated,” Killgore stated.  “Until there is a fair and just solution to the 56-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we submit, Israelis, Palestinians and Americans?not to mention Kenyans, Tanzanians, Spaniards and other victims of al-Qaeda terrorist attacks?will continue to die. We urgently request our government to go beyond the recommendations of the 9/11 commission, which gave scant attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and address the root cause of the problems our country and the world face today.”

My support for John Kerry is not a recent phenomenon, though it has wavered in recent months as he swung his support to Israel in apparent disregard for the brutality of Israeli Occupation Forces in Palestine.  Nor is it tied solely to his bid for the Presidency, but rather to my first encounters with him two decades ago when I enlisted his support in publicizing the environmental impact of Acid Rain.  Since his decision to run for President was made public, I have often reflected back on my experiences with Kerry and wondered if they might serve as a predictor of his approach to governance, and in a strange twist illustrate his modus operandi as he seeks to unravel tensions in the Middle East.  I?ve also wondered if Kerry?s environmental activism might help to usher in a New-Age Conservation Movement as the efforts of Teddy Roosevelt did at the dawn of the 20th century.

A little over one hundred years ago President Theodore Roosevelt, buttressed by the actions of John Sprague Sargent, author of the Silva of North America (who also generated the 1st census of the trees in the United States), Gifford Pinchot - founder of the USDA Forest Service and the Scotsman John Muir, naturalist, writer and founder of the Sierra Club, engineered the salvation of vast acres of pristine wilderness from the ravages of unregulated mining, logging and polluting activities and promoted the creation of a system of national forests that would serve as wildlife preserves.  Roosevelt also popularized regulated sportsman activities through his Boone and Crockett Club. Without his efforts there would be little need for an Endangered Species Act because these creatures would have been eradicated long ago by hunters and the complete degradation of wildlife habitat. 

Twenty years ago as a newly appointed Conservation Commissioner in a small, rural community in central Massachusetts I first learned of an Acid Rain Monitoring Project that found more than 78 percent of the waterways tested in the region endangered and nearly 20% already acidified.  Throughout the winter, snow and ice had accumulated airborne acidic depositions from burning fossil fuels in power plants and car emissions.  To test its impact on wildlife, during the spring runoff as snow and ice melted and poured into streams and rivers, trout were placed in cages by state aquatic biologists and deposited near the mouth of tributary entrances to the Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts.  The Quabbin is one of the largest reservoirs in the world, supplying water to millions of residents in the greater metropolitan Boston area cities and towns.  Because of the size of the Quabbin some theorized the impact would be minimal.  Instead, the trout died as a result of acidification of the water that had leached toxic levels of metals out of the rocks and soil.

It seemed to me as if life on this planet was doomed if something wasn?t done and fast.  So I began contacting environmental and sportsman?s groups about the findings.  I had come up with a plan, an event created to “Rally Round the Quabbin” against acid rain and to promote state and federal legislation to mitigate the impact.  My intent was to confront the foot-dragging and excuse making of then President Ronald Reagan.  But to do this somehow I needed to get the governor in back of the plan.  I was new to the area and at that point not politically active in Massachusetts.  So I went to the state Democratic convention hoping to get a few legislators to back the event.  (The majority of legislators in Massachusetts are Democrats.) Though my future boss, state Senator Robert Wetmore listened, few others showed any great enthusiasm.  In a last ditch effort I boldly walked up to the then Lt. Governor John Forbes Kerry, who just happened to be running for the US Senate.  I shook his hand and introduced myself, explained my concern and what I planned to do about it if I could only enlist his support.  I discovered Kerry to be a most receptive listener, but better still, he promised action for he too had learned of the study and was as worried as I was.

Kerry not only got Governor Dukakis to sponsor the rally, he put me in touch with all the key environmental agencies I would need to coordinate the event and assist in publicity.  I booked Jim Scott from the Paul Winter Consort group to perform his moving “Song for the Earth” which was also performed one year later for the General Assembly on the 40th Anniversary of the creation of the United Nation.  Kerry was taking a gamble because Reagan?s cavalier dismissal of the importance of acid rain, with claims that it was “naturally occurring” despite the fact that it had destroyed fish and plant life in thousands of American and Canadian lakes and streams, was the accepted attitude at the time.  Luckily, one of my nieces was a copy editor and occasional reporter for the Washington Post and supplied contact names and numbers for the major media.  So while I was busy convincing LIFE Magazine to drop by, Kerry secured the foremost expert on acid rain, Lars Overrein of the Norwegian Environmental Institute to fly in for the event.

The Rally Round the Quabbin turned out to be a huge success in terms of publicizing the catastrophic impact of acid rain.  It was prominently featured in LIFE?s November 1984 issue (just in time for the election) and made news throughout Massachusetts, the nation and even in Europe.  Soon legislation was passed in Massachusetts and several years later Ronald Reagan accepted the fact that acid rain is rooted in industrial and auto emissions and agreed to spend billions on safeguards.  Kerry was elected to the Senate with strong backing from his new found central and western Massachusetts supporters who learned of him through his championship of the acid rain issue.  He later thanked me for helping to make him senator and confided that he had fallen in love with the region.  He asked if I could help locate a small farm with a barn to house ponies for his young daughters and where his wife Julia might find peace and quite far away from the stress of the political spotlight.  For many months I searched for an idyllic setting for the newly elected senator until the day when someone told me that he and his wife sadly had separated.

Supporters of the 'Rally Round the Quabbin Acid Rain Proclamation', August 1984, at the signing by Governor Michael Dukakis. Lt. Governor John Kerry stands behind Dukakis, and to Kerry's left is Genevieve Cora Fraser.

Supporters of the ‘Rally Round the Quabbin Acid Rain Proclamation’, August 1984, at the signing by Governor Michael Dukakis.  Lt. Governor John Kerry stands behind Dukakis, and to Kerry’s left is Genevieve Cora Fraser.

Based on recent speeches, including the one he made at the Democratic Convention, I believe Kerry?s conservation/environmental vision is inclusive of, but more far reaching than Roosevelt?s and involves gaining control over a vast matrix of international forces in an attempt to reverse global warming, environmental degradation and reduce dependency on foreign oil and thus the need for colonial wars to acquire control over these reserves.  Kerry has shown great heroism in war but as his protests against the racist war in Vietnam demonstrate, at heart he is a man of peace.  Several years ago, I remember reading statements he made on the need for gun control.  A balance must be struck between the 2nd Amendment Right to Bear Arms and the mandate for Domestic Tranquility cited in the Preamble of the Constitution, Kerry reasoned.  Our current administration relies far too much on creating divisions through fear and coercion and creating bogeymen derived from racist profiling and suppressing dissent rather than opening dialogue. 

Kerry?s strength is his ability to defend and protect yet be open to new ideas, new ways of tackling old problems, while exercising diplomatic restraint as he ruminates on matters.  Bush? mind-set in contrast is one of perpetual hunkering down, preparing for a fight, and if need be to use designer atomic bombs to “win a peace” as he vanquishes all supposed enemies wherever they may be. During the protest march prior to the Democratic Convention in Boston, I spoke with a man from Syria who is working on a doctorate in engineering.  He told me that it is widely believed in the Arab world that President Bush intends to use nuclear weapons in Iraq if he is elected; whereas, Kerry it is believed would attempt to negotiate a way out. One way or the other Iraqis will gain control he assured me but they would rather have Kerry at the helm because Bush will only bring further catastrophe.

Through the years I have found Senator Kerry to be supportive of a wide range of issues.  When I was a special projects coordinator for the creation of a transportation system in the region, his staff went above and beyond in their assistance for an undertaking that would benefit the most marginalized members of his constituency. Later I participated in the development of a Forest and Wood Products Institute which sponsored a Biomass to Energy plant that now heats the community college where it is based.  This plant would not be in existence except for the strong support of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation.  The college complex is now heated through long, cold, New England winters by wood chips that normally would have been dumped into a landfill.  The key to biomass gasification is heating the chips at a very high temperature where gasses contained in the wood are released and pass into a second chamber.  The “natural gas” produced is burned and fuels a heating system that is based on a local sustainable resource purchased at a fraction of the cost of other fuels. Grasses, corn and other natural resources can be developed for use instead of depending on expensive foreign oil that is increasingly derived at the cost of war and sullies the air we breathe and water we drink. There are even species of trees that grow in record time and can be farmed for use as biomass fuels. Biomass gasification and dozens of other technologies such as the use of Fuel Cells are waiting for the right president to bring about a new environment-friendly industrial revolution which should also concentrate on strengthening an American-based hazardous waste clean-up enterprise ready to serve the needs of the world.

During his speech at the Democratic National Convention, John Kerry had this to say on the matter:

"We value an America that controls its own destiny because it’s finally and forever independent of Mideast oil. What does it mean for our economy and our national security when we only have three percent of the world’s oil reserves, yet we rely on foreign countries for fifty-three percent of what we consume? I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation - not the Saudi royal family. And our energy plan for a stronger America will invest in new technologies and alternative fuels and the cars of the future—so that no young American in uniform will ever be held hostage to our dependence on oil from the Middle East."

Over the last one and a half centuries America and the world has grown increasingly dependent on fossil fuels, mostly found in the Middle East, to supply its industrial, transportation and domestic needs.  Wherever you see colonial aggression by super powers one should look closely at the resources they seek to control. (Someone recently told me that even the Vietnam War was generated by an attempt to control undersea oil resources found off the coast of Vietnam.  The project, he claimed, was called White Tiger.) Some believe that the Balfour Declaration was a pact or cabal between the British Empire, international financiers, Zionists and industrialists who used the imposition of non-Semitic Northern European Ashkenazi Jews in Palestine as a wedge, a stake driven into the heart of the Arab oil rich region.  Armed to the teeth by America, Israel now maintains a dominant threat to the region and remains the only nuclear power capable of delivering a catastrophic blow to any Arab nation that challenges its supremacy.  But to maintain this dominance the people of Israel and their American supporters must be kept on board, brainwashed into firmly believing in the Zionist agenda which is anything but a democratic ideal.  Certain Israeli scholars describe it as a caste system with as many as 10 types of “citizenships” with the Ashkenazi as top dog and ruling class.

According to Richard Melson, a Jewish activist who believes the Muslim world should be kept informed, in October 2003 the first annual Jerusalem Summit was held, pushed by Richard Perle and the Israeli government “to serve as an ?offshore think tank? whose aim is to control American foreign policy worldwide and particularly in the Middle East.  The main purpose of these summits is to bring into being a ?clash of civilizations?, a global civil war between America-led-by-Israel against the Moslem and Arab worlds, to kill the idea of a Palestinian state and force the Palestinians out of the territories by completing Sharon?s Wall and then squeezing the Palestinians out.”

I have no doubt that a John Kerry ? John Edwards Administration would seek to maintain a solid commitment to Israel because a significant number of Americans maintain ties to Israel and claim duel citizenship.  Also, we are a long way off from the ideal of energy independence. Such an administration would also be concerned that justice for Palestine would not result in the destruction of Israel.  But as John Aloysius Farrell, the Washington bureau chief for the Denver Post, a man who has known Kerry for a number of years recently stated, he believes Kerry?s priorities would be “Foreign policy. Foreign policy. Foreign policy. And not just because we’re at war. At his core, Kerry is an internationalist. In looking ahead to a Kerry presidency, think Woodrow Wilson or John F. Kennedy, not Bill Clinton, Farrell counsels.

“Kerry is a man with the lifelong conviction that with concerted American leadership and unrelenting diplomacy, there is no problem that cannot be solved: not AIDS, nor global warming, nor Palestine, nor outsourcing, nor nuclear proliferation. And he’ll try to solve them in his first four years. It’s all of a piece to him,” Farrell explained.  “I would not want to be the leader of France or China or Israel or the Palestinian Authority. The USA would be in my face, or on my phone, all the time.”

Another indicator of a Kerry presidency is found in his wife?s speech before the convention. Teresa Heinz Kerry grew up in East Africa, in Mozambique, in a land that was then under a dictatorship, she informed us. “My father - a wonderful, caring man who practiced medicine for 43 years, and taught me how to understand disease and wellness - only got the right to vote for the first time when he was 71 years old,” she said.

"As a young woman, I attended Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa, which was then not segregated. But I witnessed the weight of apartheid everywhere around me. And so, with my fellow students we marched against its extension into higher education. This was the late 50’s, the dawn of the civil rights marches in America. As history records, our efforts in South Africa failed and the Higher Education Apartheid Act was passed. Apartheid tightened its ugly grip, the Sharpsville riots followed, and a short while later Nelson Mandela was arrested and sent to Robin Island,” Heinz Kerry said. “I learned something then, and I believe it still. There is a value in taking a stand whether or not anyone may be noticing and whether or not it is a risky thing to do.  And if even those who are in danger can raise their lonely voices, isn’t more required of all of us, in this land where liberty had her birth?” Teresa Heinz Kerry proclaimed.

Now how could John Kerry truly support the Zionist racist apartheid agenda with a wife like Teresa, I ask you?  Besides, Kerry condemns Bush?s “ideological fixation” as he recently referred to it which is controlled by Bush?s Neo-Con, Israeli-Zionist administrative support team.  But AIPAC and other Zionist American committees are well-funded and have a long reach and have been known to destroy the best of plans and individuals that do not suit their agenda.

Back at the convention, on Monday I strode into the “protest pen” or “cage” as others called it with my Palestinian flag and black and white Kuffieh scarf with its red, green, white and black flag tassels, worn as a symbol of Palestinian freedom, nationalism and pride.  Other protestors were shunning the place but people in support of peace in Palestine and Israel felt being caged-in was a perfect setting to take a stand on Palestine?s occupation by Israel which incarcerates and daily brutalizes 3.5 million Palestinians in over 60 fenced-in and walled-up holding cells.  When I first arrived speakers were announcing the Palestinian and Israeli dead by month and year, since the start of the most recent Intifada.  There was a group assembled holding man-sized American, Palestinian, and Israeli flags with dozens of news photographers snapping photos. 

I joined in at the end of the group with my small flag, feeling somewhat foolish, but if this was the vigil/protest I was determined to participate.  Then the group fell to the pavement and covered themselves head to toe with their flags in a “Die-In” illustrating the effect of the Israeli occupation.  So I dropped myself onto the filthy pavement but fortunately had a shoulder bag stuffed with a jacket to rest my head on.  I placed my slip of a Palestinian flag over black jeans and arranged the Palestinian scarf over my black blouse, shut my eyes, tried not to move and pretended I was dead.  Though when the speakers began to read emails Rachael Corey had sent prior to her death it was hard not to cry.  Later speakers from Palestine and Israel and elsewhere broadcast through the PA system describing the horrors of occupation.  The stage was set up by convention planners facing the parking spot for the delegate buses.  So as delegates disembarked they couldn?t help but get an earful.  The place swarmed with reporters and TV crews from around the world.  Some conducted interviews through the metal mesh.  Of course, we could leave these confines at will, knowing full well that Palestinians must endure with only the hope that someday their message broadcast to the world will bring about a Free, Free Palestine, as the slogan goes.

Later in the week a friend with the Democratic National Committee was able to secure a pass for me to attend the Friday morning Kerry-Edwards sendoff of their Believe in America Tour.  Gates opened at 6 am and there were no bags, signs or umbrellas permitted, but rather American flags and Kerry-Edwards placards were to be handed out once you entered the gated park area.  The weather was glorious as we gathered off of Commercial Street overlooking the harbor.  The movie star Ben Affleck led off the rally.  I was positioned close to the front.  Soon both Kerry and Edwards and their families were on stage with about 1000 secret service men and women nearby (I jest but only slightly) as helicopters hovered overhead.

But for me cheering the Kerry-Edwards team on was not the only thing I wanted to do.  I wanted to make a statement.  So lacking a Free Palestine sign or flag, I chose to wear my distinctive black and white Kuffieh scarf with the red, green, white and black flag tassels, recognized throughout the world as a symbol of Palestinian nationalism and pride.  Later as both men got into the pit in front of the stage and worked the crowd, I managed to have both Kerry and Edwards sign my Believe in America placard and Edwards grabbed my hand briefly.  As Kerry signed my placard I called out, “John, remember Acid Rain.” He looked up and I wondered if he recognized me, though as recently as the last election he did.  Later I worked my way out of that crowd and moved toward the far end of the field where the bus was parked which I presumed was the one Kerry and Edwards would be taking.  (Several black secret service SUVs parked nearby were the tip-off) Katie Couric was broadcasting the Today Show nearby.  I was about four feet from her when secret service men shoved in between me and Kerry and Edwards who suddenly appeared for their interview with Katie. 

Once the interview with the Today Show was over Kerry and Edwards disappeared into the bus along with their wives.  By now the crowd had significantly thinned down.  Most had no idea where they had gone.  I could see Teresa through the bus? smoked glass, seated inside facing a brick wall on which I was standing along with a hand-full of well wishers and a few photographers.  As anticipated, before the bus left Kerry and Edwards poked their heads out of the window together and waved.  I smiled and waved back with one hand as I held my placard below the red, green, white and black flag tassels of the Palestinian scarf.  They both seemed to stare at me with their happy campaign smiles.  But what I hoped they were really staring at was the Palestinian Kuffieh scarf which silently asserted ? Free Palestine!  Only time will tell if they got the message.

Published Tuesday, August 17th, 2004 - 11:44pm GMT
Genevieve Cora Fraser is an environmental and human rights activist, and a resident of Massachusetts.

This article was kindly submitted by the author to the World Crisis Web.
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