A Tragic Loss for America and the Middle East

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Perspective

by

Hady Amr

It has been a few days now and I have hardly heard mention of the tragic death of United States Senator Paul Wellstone in the Arab World. Senator Wellstone was in the midst of his re-election campaign crisscrossing his home state of Minnesota when his plane crashed. When I heard the news of the crash, my heart sank. The last time I felt that was when Faisal Husseini passed away a year and a half ago.

Knowing that Senator Wellstone was up for reelection this year, I was already nervous that his courageous and sometimes unpopular views might cost him his seat in the United States Senate and his important voice would be absent as America continues to make history-changing decisions in the wake of September 11th.  I never imagined, however, that his tireless efforts for a social justice for America and the world, would suddenly be absent from humanity.  The loss is not only tragic, it is frightening.  I can only imagine how had Faisal Husseini been alive, he might have helped steer Israelis and Palestinians back towards negotiations. The loss of Senator Wellstone may be equally tragic, not only for the people of America, but the peoples of the Middle East as well, as America continues to formulate its policy towards the Middle East.

Paul Wellstone was an American and a Jew who had the courage and the dignity to befriend the Arab American community when it was less popular to do so. He also was a genuine friend of justice and peace in Israel and Palestine and spoke and voted often and courageously on the side of justice.  I had the privilege of knowing Senator Wellstone and to be invited to meet with him in his private office on Capitol Hill on more than one occasion in the 1990s to talk about Arab American issues and the US role in the Middle East.  Senator Wellstone and I attended the same government-funded, free, public high school in Arlington Virginia and as such his election to the Senate in 1990 always served as an inspiration to me. I still remember the feel of his handshake, and the way he would sometimes sit on his desk when he talked.  After these visits, I always left with a sense that this was a man that I admired, a man whose judgment I respected, and a man whose motives I trusted.  It was the same feeling I had after every meeting with Faisal Husseini, whether in Jerusalem or Washington.

Although I very, very rarely say prayers for people, this week when I did my prayers at Al Aqsa, I said a prayer for Senator Wellstone and his family.  The last time I said a prayer for a person was actually over the grave of Faisal Husseini, also at the Haram A-Sharif at Eid back in February this year.

I don’t know how many prayers have been said for this American Jew in the Haram, or for that matter, across the Muslim and Arab world, but I can say, whatever the number, it is not enough. For the most part, the Arab World has seemingly spent the last several years missing an opportunity to get to know one of the great allies in the struggle for social justice. Yet I do know that Senator Wellstone will be missed by the Arab American community, particularly the political leadership who knew him.  But I also wish that he would have been missed across the Arab World.

Hady Amr

was formerly the National Director of Ethnic American Outreach for Al Gore’s presidential campaign and served in former President Bill Clinton’s Department of Defense at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. Amr is currently an independent consultant who divides his time between Arlington, Virginia and the Arab world. He contributed

was formerly the National Director of Ethnic American Outreach for Al Gore’s presidential campaign and served in former President Bill Clinton’s Department of Defense at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. Amr is currently an independent consultant who divides his time between Arlington, Virginia and the Arab world. He contributed

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