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One congressman takes a courageous stand against the one-sided nature of U.S. policy in the I/P conflict:

A US congressman plans to brief fellow members of Congress and the Obama administration about his recent trip to Gaza, saying the US should pressure Israel regarding border closures and reassess its military support for the Jewish state.

Rep. Brian Baird, a Democrat from Washington state, visited Gaza last week with fellow Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and was struck by "the level of destruction, the scope of it, specifically the civilian targets - schools, hospitals, industry."

Baird also said Israel had "apparently willfully destroyed any capacity of the Palestinians to rebuild their own infrastructure."

"If our colleagues had seen what we have seen, I think their understanding of the situation would be significantly impacted," he said. "They would care about what happened to the Palestinians."

Baird added that he hoped they, as well as members of the Obama administration, would come away with a sense that "the US has a responsibility to insist on a change in the situation in Gaza and the situation in the West Bank."

. . . .

He also said he was troubled by the American origin of so much of the IDF weaponry used in Gaza, and suggested that the US should reconsider
the military aid it provides and the weapons it sells to Israel.

"We need to use every pressure available to make these needed changes happen," he said.

. . . .

Pro-Israel organizations were chagrined at the message Baird was preparing to deliver to his colleagues but said they weren't concerned that many minds would be changed.

"By and large, we continue to see support for Israel and understand why it was necessary for Israel's leaders to do what they did," one official said about Congress, speaking anonymously. "I'm not afraid of these members coming back and giving a briefing."

A representative from a dovish Israeli group welcomed Baird's efforts to publicize his experience in Gaza, noting that it was unusual to hold Congressional briefings presenting this perfect, but also didn't expect members' attitudes towards Israel to change.

"To expect that that would bring about a sharp change in Congress's attitude toward Israel is a reach," he said.

Maybe not a turning point, but a hopeful sign nonetheless.

Not so hopeful is the continued blatherings of Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation (of Israel) League.  In his best kneejerk manner, Foxman blasts Amnesty International (certainly a bastion of anti-Semitism) for daring to suggest that a military embargo be placed on both Israel and Hamas:

The Anti-Defamation League on Monday blasted Amnesty International as denying Israel the right to defend itself after the human rights organization urged a global freeze on arms sales to Israel.

"In calling for an arms embargo of Israel, Amnesty International is doing nothing short of denying Israel the right to self-defense, an internationally accepted right of every sovereign nation," said ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman in a statement.

Amnesty called for the embargo in a report released Monday that claimed more than 20 countries sold Israel weapons and munitions whose use during its offensive in Gaza could constitute war crimes and might pose serious infractions of international law.

"Indeed, with this pernicious and biased report, Amnesty International has now become the research arm for and a proponent of the extremist anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement," the Jewish-American organization's statement said.

"The manner in which Amnesty's 'evidence' is presented and the tone of the report convey an obvious agenda to vilify Israel."

Of course, according to Abe, any criticism of Israel is "villify[ing]" it.  Or worse.

This is the mentality those of us who care about peace and justice in the conflict face in trying to change the policies coming out of Washington.  Foxman is representative of the vice grip his organization and AIPAC have over U.S. mideast policy.  Brian Baird, and several others in the House, are trying to break that grip.  It won't be easy, but he and they certainly deserve plaudits for making the effort.

And it may be having an effect, or at least is operating as a parallel track of support, if this report is true:

The Defense Ministry is concerned that US President Barack Obama will cut military aid to Israel in an effort to pressure the new government to take action against illegal outposts and settlement construction, defense officials said.

The officials spoke with The Jerusalem Post ahead of both a visit later this week by US Middle East envoy George Mitchell and the Obama administration's anticipated release of the fiscal 2010 budget, which includes funding for foreign aid.

"Mitchell is a known opponent of the outposts and the settlements," a senior defense official said. "The Americans may try to use the military aid as a way of pressuring the new government into dismantling outposts and freezing construction in settlements."

We shall see.

Originally posted to Paleo on Tue Feb 24, 2009 at 06:22 AM PST.

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