By Cindy Mindell ~
As many members of Connecticut’s Jewish community see it, Lee Whitnum isn’t just anti-Israel, she’s antisemitic.
As Whitnum herself sees it, however, she’s simply “clear-headed and purposeful.”
Whitnum is one of six Democrats vying for the Senate seat to be vacated by Joe Lieberman at the end of the year.
An outspoken critic of AIPAC, the Greenwich resident has grabbed headlines with her unabashed proclamations against U.S. support of Israel and the policies of individual lawmakers. Many of her comments use blatantly anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric, though Whitnum and her supporters deny that she is antisemitic.
Whitnum has filed legal complaints against bloggers and politicians who claim that she is racist. A recent defamation lawsuit filed against Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy was thrown out last month in the Stamford Superior Court.
On Mar. 23, the Connecticut Democratic Party held its annual Jefferson Jackson Bailey Dinner at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. Outside the event, Whitnum and a group of some 20 supporters distributed a manifesto-type document addressed to “Democratic leaders.” Whitnum later entered the Convention Center to hand out copies of the screed. The Ledger later learned that several attendees lodged complaints with the Connecticut regional office of the Anti-Defamation League.
The manifesto targets Senators Richard Blumenthal and Joe Lieberman, accusing them of inappropriate and conspiratorial ties to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his policies.
“Democrats, you have blood on your hands from when you unleashed Lieberman on the world,” Whitnum writes, blaming the senator and “fellow Neoconservative Israel-firster (Israelist) Paul Wolfowitz [who] who clamored for war at the Wehrkunde Conference in 2002.”
She is no kinder to Connecticut’s junior Senator, whom she accuses of representing Israel’s interests when he urged the UN to charge Syria’s leader with war crimes.
“You blundered again by electing Blumenthal,” she writes. His recent request to the UN to charge Bashar al-Assad with war crimes was ‘bi-partisan?’ I think not. He, like Lieberman, turned into a neoconservative. I believe his action was to pay homage to Netanyahu during his visit.”
The document also impugns Susan Bysiewicz, a fellow contender for the Senate seat. When asked about Bysiewicz on WFSB Channel 3’s “Face the State” in February, Whitnum told Dennis House, “I don’t like her at all. I think she is a card-carrying Israelist. Is she running to make sure this Congress remains pro-Israel?” In her recent document, Whitnum writes in an underlined passage, “Susan Bysiewicz can no more get away from her ethnic group than any of us can. To ignore her core beliefs is to stick your head in the sand.”
(To the stated implication that Bysiewicz is Jewish, a campaign staffer who wished to remain anonymous told the Ledger that Bysiewicz was actually raised as a Catholic.)
In response to Whitnum’s charge, Bysiewicz told the Ledger, “The U.S. and Israel share a special relationship that is based upon their shared commitment to the values of freedom, democracy and human rights. A strong U.S.-Israel relationship is vital to America’s national security interests and helping to spread democracy in the Middle East.”
In her Mar. 23 document, Whitnum blames both the 2000 Intifada and the 9-11 attacks on the “the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict [sic].” Since the 2000 Intifada, she claims “66,000 non-Jews and peace activists have been murdered or maimed by Israeli soldiers or settlers,” adding in parenthesis, “This number does not include our own 9-11 victims).”
In 2008, Whitnum ran for Congress in the Fourth Congressional District of Connecticut. She lost in the primary to Congressman Jim Himes. She then campaigned for the 2010 Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat previously held by Christopher Dodd. During her campaign, she advocated lobby reform with a critical focus on AIPAC, stating in an interview, “AIPAC had a strong hand in pushing for the Iraq War, and AIPAC has fully infiltrated our election process.” She outlines her views in a forthcoming book, “Anti-AIPAC Not Anti-Semitic: The Israel Lobby’s Dangerous Control of Congress.” Whitnum blames AIPAC for the weakening of American security. In the Mar. 23 document, she writes, “Is it coincidence that the rise in AIPAC’s power in 20-years [sic] has resulted in the decline of the United States? Not in my mind. AIPAC is a cancer in our government that must be put in check. I’ll fight for that.”
In fact, if elected, Whitnum promises to introduce term-limit legislation. “This would cure a variety of abuses,” she states on her website, which seems to center on issues relating to Israel, “the most significant to me: AIPAC’s unchecked power.” She also proposes bills that would “prosecute American settler violence (also known as the anti-Zionism bill),” abolish the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement, and “return Connecticut’s portion of federal money sent annually to Israel.”
Whitnum has criticized other lawmakers for their support of Israel. In the “Face the State” interview, Whitnum criticized U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy because he “pledged $30 million to Israel over the next 10 years.” In response, Murphy told the Ledger, “I fully support American security assistance for Israel – it allows Israel to defend itself against near-constant threats to its very existence. Israel is our close friend and ally; we share fundamental interests and values, and a commitment to democracy, human rights, freedom of religion, and the rule of law. As the Middle East undergoes significant cultural and political shifts, it’s critical that we stand by our strongest democratic partner in the region as they navigate the challenges ahead.”
Last September, Whitnum sued the Town of Greenwich and First Selectman Peter Tesei for allowing UJA Federation of Greenwich to host an Israel Independence Day celebration and bar-mitzvah ceremony at Town Hall. The lawsuit is pending. In response to the federal civil-rights action, Rabbi Mitch Hurvitz of Temple Sholom in Greenwich was interviewed by the Greenwich Time, citing Whitnum’s “long history of anti-Semitic diatribes.”
“For me, anti-Zionism is antisemitism,” Hurvitz told the Ledger.
Whitnum will participate in a Democratic Senate debate on Sunday, Apr. 15 at 11 a.m., hosted by WFSB-Channel 3. She will face off against fellow Democratic candidates Susan Bysiewicz, Chris Murphy, William Tong, Matthew Oakes, and Sylvester Salcedo.