Analysis: The perceptions of Power

Power – who gave her first public speech as UN ambassador over the weekend – was careful to take back her comments during her confirmation hearings and to express her support for Israel.

By
August 12, 2013 22:49
2 minute read.
Samantha Power

Samantha Power points 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

NEW YORK – On August 1, the US Senate confirmed former journalist and academic Samantha Power, 42, as the United States’s new ambassador to the UN, with a vote of 87 to 10.

Her nomination, originally announced on June 5, ruffled some feathers among pro-Israel advocates in New York and Washington due to a past string of comments that many said were flat-out anti-Israel – a stance that many deemed unacceptable for a US diplomat.

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Power – who gave her first public speech as UN ambassador over the weekend – was careful to take back her comments during her confirmation hearings and to express her support for Israel. The confirmation sailed through with room to spare and several high-profile endorsements, including from US senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham – both established Israel supporters.

The Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham H. Foxman, said in a statement after her confirmation that Obama “has wisely chosen an emissary who deeply understands the UN system and its human rights mechanisms and is committed to fight the injustice of their abuse to target Israel’s legitimacy.”

He also commended her for her “clear voice and moral courage.”

The American Jewish Committee similarly welcomed Power’s confirmation.

AJC executive director David Harris said she “represents a strong and principled voice on America’s global role.”

Even Michael Oren, Israel’s outgoing ambassador to the US, told The New York Times in an interview after her nomination that Power “had a deep understanding of Israel’s security issues and sympathy for its concerns.”

Her opponents have been citing three examples of her previous work as evidence of her anti-Israel stance.

The first is a 2002 video in which she called for US divestment from Israel in favor of ramping up investment in "the future state of Palestine." Second is a  May 2003 article in the Boston Phoenix, in which she talked about the perception of the US being "hard on one side [the Palestinian side] and not on the other [the Israeli side]," and touched on Israel's human rights abuses - a designation that Israel's staunch supporters hotly contest.

Third is her 2007 interview with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where she was a professor at the time. While discussing the US’s war in Iraq, Power said in the interview that America’s reliance on Israeli intelligence in war situations “can turn out to be counterproductive.”

In light of these comments, the Republican Jewish Committee and the Zionist Organization of America both released statements after Power’s nomination, calling for her confirmation to be blocked. Matt Brooks, RJC’s executive director, said Power had a record of “statements that are troubling to Americans who support Israel,” and the ZOA called her a “borderline anti-Semite.”

Neither organization has yet commented on her confirmation.


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