October 28, 1997
Many Alabamians wonder why Governor Fob James went on a 2-week trade mission to Israel. If the Governor really wants to pursue hot prospects for trade, shouldn't he be in Acapulco? Many believe that Fob and his wife Bobbie, both enthusiastic Bible readers, just want to visit the Holy Land with the protection of Israeli security agents. (James had the good sense to leave behind his own.) Others think that he just wanted to provide amusing news stories for all of us back home. (Exactly what did Bobbie mean when she said, "One of the things I love about Jewish families is that they believe in procreation, and they are replicating themselves in a special way''?)
When the Governor's reelection campaign warms up, citizens will understand the real reason for this trip to Jerusalem. James will soon amplify his attacks against church-state separation. He has already tested his rhetoric at a rally in Etowah County earlier this year, arguing that Judge Roy Moore has every right to lead jurors in prayer and to display the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. James knows that these issues play well in this state. However, he also knows that his populist strategy can sound like a cynical ploy to attract support from otherwise apathetic voters. So he travels to the Holy Land with an entourage and a goggling wife. Who would doubt the sincerity of a pilgrim?
It is a safe bet that most Jewish voters in Alabama are aghast by the Governor's call for public prayer in classrooms and courtrooms. Not many years ago their parents suffered real discrimination in their communities. Anti- Semitism is no longer socially acceptable, but for the victims its legacy includes an appreciation of what it means to be an outsider, a member of a scorned minority. It is sadly ironic that when he returns from Israel, Fob James will be even more insensitive to the feelings of those who believe differently.
-- -- Dan Silver