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On July 29, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Keith Ellison did something unique for a Member of Congress. He published an op-ed in the Washington Post calling for ending the economic blockade on 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, noting that most of the victims of the blockade were women and children.

As of this writing, Representative Ellison stands alone among Members of Congress in calling for the economic blockade on civilians in Gaza to end.

"Every schoolboy knows" that the so-called "pro-Israel lobby," i.e. the lobby pushing for U.S. policy on any issue of interest to the Israeli government to be determined to the greatest extent possible by the Israeli Likud party, has tremendous influence in Washington and especially in Congress. The generally accepted shorthand for this pro-Likud lobby is "AIPAC." (It's common practice to use the term "AIPAC" to refer to the pro-Likud lobby generically, including such groups as the (so-called) Anti-Defamation League [ADL] and the American Jewish Committee [AJC], rather than merely to the activities of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee per se, much as one uses the term "xerox" to mean "copy." I will follow this practice here, using the term "AIPAC" to refer to the pro-Likud lobby more generally.)

But here is a crucial fact that is largely unacknowledged: until now, there is no consistent, strategic, coordinated effort by DC-focused reformists to reduce the harm caused by AIPAC to U.S. policy on the Israel/Palestine issue, with the goal of opening political space for concrete measures to support a realistic diplomatic resolution of issues related to the Israel-Palestine conflict, similar to the coordinated efforts that have opened political space for diplomatic efforts to resolve the U.S.-Iran conflict over Iran's nuclear program. There is a vacuum of pragmatic, reformist leadership to try to limit AIPAC's destructive influence on U.S. policy towards Israel/Palestine.

If there were not such a vacuum, Keith Ellison would not be standing alone.

On the one hand, there are reformist groups. Unfortunately, at this juncture, the historic fulcrum of these groups appears to be too obsessed with getting the approval of pro-AIPAC Jewish communal institutions to be relied on to consistently lead a reformist effort that moves the ball forward in Washington on Israel-Palestine. On the other hand, there are non-reformist groups on the left which are incapable of leading strategically because they are obsessed with quixotic fantasies of cutting U.S. military aid to Israel, or of opposing AIPAC "yay Israel" resolutions that are unstoppable. These so-called "strategies" don't pass the minimal "one Member of Congress" test for a non-quixotic DC strategy. The "one Member of Congress" test for a non-quixotic DC strategy is: could you get one Member of Congress to lead it? If not, then you're not on the playing field of Washington, and have no hope of getting there.

Quixotic efforts are counterproductive over the long term to engagement and mobilization. If you mobilize people for a quixotic strategy, they're likely to be discouraged when the strategy predictably goes down in flames. They're likely to conclude that engagement is useless, but it was the pursuit of a quixotic strategy that caused their demoralization, not engagement per se. When people win, they do more. When they lose, they do less. It's a moral responsibility of a strategist to try to create opportunities for people to win.

Pushing to end the economic blockade of 1.8 million Palestinian human beings in Gaza is passing the "one Member of Congress" test, because Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison is in the house. So here's a strategy that could potentially be on the playing field of Washington right now: let's try to get other Members of Congress to #StandWithKeith in favor of ending the economic blockade on 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza.

We have to start somewhere. Where should we begin?

Twenty-seven Members of the House have two things in common:

1) like Keith Ellison, they signed the July 2013 Dent-Price letter backing the Obama Administration's diplomatic engagement with Iran, in defiance of AIPAC, and
2) like Keith Ellison, they are members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Why is this group of twenty-seven Members of Congress so special?

When Rep. Ellison sent a letter on July 18, calling for intensifying U.S. diplomacy to end the war in Gaza, 2/3 of the signers were CBC members (like Ellison) who had signed the Dent-Price letter. Twenty-eight (67%) of the forty-two House Members of the CBC (including Ellison) signed the Dent-Price letter. So, while CBC signers of the Dent-Price letter comprised 6% of the House, they comprised 67% of the signers of the Ellison ceasefire letter. That's why these 27 Members of the House are special.

Here they are, with their districts and some geography:

Karen Bass (CA-37) (Los Angeles/Culver City)
Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) (SW Georgia, Columbus-Cordele-Bainbridge)
André Carson (IN-07) (Indianapolis)
Donna M. Christensen (VI) (Virgin Islands)
Wm. Lacy Clay (MO-01) (St. Louis)
Emanuel Cleaver, II (MO-05) (Kansas City)
James E. Clyburn (SC-06) (SE South Carolina, Charleston-Columbia)
John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13) (Detroit)
Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07) (Baltimore)
Danny K. Davis (IL-07) (Chicago-Oak Park)
Donna F. Edwards (MD-04) (Prince George's, Montgomery, Anne Arundel Counties)
Chaka Fattah (PA-02) (Philadelphia)
Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20) (Miami)
Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) (Houston)
Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) (Dallas)
Hank Johnson (GA-04) (Atlanta-Decatur, DeKalb County)
Robin Kelly (IL-02) (Chicago-Kankakee)
Barbara Lee (CA-13) (Berkeley-Oakland)
John Lewis (GA-05) (Atlanta)
Gregory W. Meeks (NY-06) (Queens)
Gwen Moore (WI-04) (Milwaukee)
Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC) (Washington, D.C.)
Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) (Newark)
Charles B. Rangel (NY-13) (Upper Manhattan)
Bobby L. Rush (IL-01) (Chicago-Joliet)
Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (VA-03) (Newport News-Norfolk-Richmond)
Maxine Waters (CA-43) (South Los Angeles County)

Roughly 6% of Americans are represented by one of these 27 Members of the House. If you belong to this 6%, then you are special, because they are special.

If you a member of this 6% group of special Americans, then I encourage you to call your Representative (you can look up their phone number here) and urge them to make a public statement now in favor of lifting the blockade on 1.8 million human beings in Gaza. Time is pressing, because negotiations are happening in Cairo right now that are likely to have a decisive impact on whether and when the blockade is ended.

If you belong to the other 94%, then I encourage you to look at the list of twenty-seven districts above and send the link to this post to someone you know who lives in one of those twenty-seven districts.

Let's form a ad-hoc "pressure group" to try to turn the CBC in favor of ending the economic blockade of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. If we succeed, yay for us. If we fail, we won't fail because we chose a quixotic strategy; we'll fail because we couldn't recruit enough pragmatic engagers to carry it out.

Robert Naiman is Policy Director at Just Foreign Policy.

Originally posted to Robert Naiman on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 07:53 AM PDT.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.


I'd like the Congressional Black Caucus to #StandWithKeith to end the economic blockade of 1.8 million human beings in Gaza

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Comment Preferences

  •  T'd R'd Republished to Adalah. Also see this op-ed (11+ / 0-)

    By Prof. Brittney Cooper in

    I was wrong about Gaza: Why we can no longer ignore the horrors in Palestine

    Over the last few weeks, as the stories of rocket launches, bombings, screams and pictures of babies with their heads blown off have filtered out of Gaza, I have tried to limit my exposure to such horrors. Those are the privileges of living in the West, the ability to turn off the world by turning off one’s TV and bypassing articles in ones news feed.

    ...As a black person attuned to the processes of colonization, slavery and apartheid that built the West on the backs of black and indigenous people, I cannot help seeing these acts of war and terror as interconnected. There is no way to morally justify the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. Therefore, I must redirect my outrage from organized resistance groups or “terrorists” toward the powerful nations that make people vulnerable to these militant extremist groups.

    I place the term “terrorist” in scare quotes not because the violence and terror that Palestinians and some Israelis are enduring isn’t real but rather because the social construction of the “terrorist” performs important political work in justifying our political interests. In prior centuries, European powers constructed ideas of a savage Indigenous other and a benighted animalistic African other to justify the plunder and enslavement of the places where these people lived.

    The entire piece is a must-read.
  •  BUT I'd extend invitation to entire Progressive... (11+ / 0-)

    ...Caucus as well.

    How any politician can call themselves a progressive, yet stand mute - or even support - when their country aids and abets the mass jailing of 1.8 million people, women men and children, year after year, even as we see the bloody toll of this jailing to all sides - is a mystery to me.

    Rep. Ellison's courage notwithstanding, there's no reason to single out only the Black Caucus for grassroots pressure.

  •  Why would anyone end the blockade (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Happy Days, DeeDee001, rduran

    when doing so would allow Hamas to again import rockets and materials to build tunnels?

    You don't mention any controls or restrictions that would prevent this from happening again.

    Without serious and tight controls on the importation of those materials, or the elimination of Hamas, this effort stands zero chance.

    I'd of course support efforts to assure that other goods that have no military uses can get to Gaza easily and safely with the right controls.

    •  Too bad we can't put such controls on Israel (n/t) (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Happy Days, maregug, JoanMar, allenjo

      "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

      by wader on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 09:59:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm a-okay with Tel Aviv getting whatever (0+ / 0-)

        arms she thinks she needs.

        •  Because the Netanyahu government has demonstrated (0+ / 0-)

          such restraint in their use?

          "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

          by wader on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 10:12:26 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Compared to the US, yes (0+ / 0-)
            •  That logic makes no sense (0+ / 0-)

              Is this a Chewbacca defense?

              Wanton, mass destruction of heavily populated areas in a concentrated series of attacks - all in the face of increasingly obvious pain being inflicted upon an entire culture, rather than achieving measurable goals vs a small opposing force - seems to fit quite squarely into the "they are all one, and they are animals" mindset that Netanyahu and his administration has clearly set as the tone withing Israeli society for years.  We're not talking collateral damage so much as punishment for civilians - who are already managed by his military - simply existing in a region that he would rather claim fully for Israelis.

              "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

              by wader on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 10:22:19 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  That "small" opposing force (0+ / 0-)

                consists of some 15-40,000 militants deeply entrenched in urban areas; a force capable of hurtling thousands of rockets at Israel over the course of four weeks and still have half left in reserve.  Not exactly the sort of opposition you can surgically remove. What did you expect was going to happen?

                •  The IDF is also entrenched in civillian areas (0+ / 0-)

                  Don't sound like a fool who merely defends a tribe, I find that even less than stupid.

                  The lopsidedness of effectiveness and numbers has been offered many times over here and elsewhere - less than 5 Israeli civilians were killed vs almost 2000 for Palestinians in the Gaza region.  And then, UN schools were bombed - twice - as well as primary water treatment and energy facilities in Gaza.  The entire Palestinian population is suffering from these non-strategic hits - even above their virtual imprisonment that the Israeli government already enforces.

                  Realistically, it appears that Netanyahu can stay in power as long as desired by actions of this nature: he fabricated a rationale for the initial attacks by placing a false story in the press, then went forward with his "thinning" operation to cull parts of the Palestinian "herd" and used language throughout which matches his Palestinians = Hamas = terrorists rhetoric of the past decade.

                  Hamas and their ways are not desired by most of the Palestinian population, yet they are the only force (however feeble) pushing against the highly dominating Israeli military that oppresses the entire population - so, there is implicit acceptance of that arrangement, however much disliked.

                  This entire Israeli operation was based on a lie, setup for months to occur as it did and finalized only when civilian targets were destroyed and International outrage blaming Hamas did not materialize.

                  "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

                  by wader on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 11:09:36 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Trust me (0+ / 0-)

                    We're well beyond the point of mutual respect.  I described the operational problem faced by the IDF.  Observing that the "IDF is also entrenched in civilian areas" is about as useless non-sequitur as I've seen from your side as late, a wordy version of the "well, I know you are but what am I?" taunt.

                    Hamas and friends playing defense on terrain they've known and prepared for years, and in any direct fire engagement that gives you an advantage of 3 to 1 over the offense.  All other things being equal, 15-40,000 militants should be able blunt an atack by 45-120,000 people.  Al Qassam and al Quds knows their ground; and with an enemy that actually takes pains to notify people of incoming air strikes can scatter from indirect fire and concentrate where IDF is weak.  This doesn't mean that IDF is easy to kill--the loss ratio is quite lopsided and obviously reduces Hamas' advantages.  But it does mean that brigades are notoriously difficult to root out.

                    •  Again, your logic fails due to subjective (0+ / 0-)

                      preferences - you aren't even trying to hide the irrational sense of superiority your position is meant to imply.  Truly don't care about your level of respect for me, this subthread is meant for historical reference to benefit others at this site when it comes to your behaviors.

                      Where are IDF bases?  Oh, that's easy - near and even within highly populated areas within Israel.  If your tortured reasoning is taken to its extreme, Hamas would be most responsible to target Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, etc. in order to attempt minimizing the organizational structure of Israel's military.

                      And yet, you feel that Hamas has everywhere to run when it comes to assaults by a force which has billions more dollars invested in armaments, air power, resources and training.  Hamas has no ability to magically "blunt" superior Israeli rockets or air strikes - is that thinking similar to women being able to will themselves to avoid pregnancy due to being raped?  Further, Hamas's rockets are either locally manufactured or down-trend technology+payloads obtained second-hand through intermediaries - they are annoying gnats to Israel.

                      Hamas and the Netanyahu government are extremely similar in purpose and goals, when it comes to desire for control and power in their respective regions, plus in having a demonized leadership/people that they can use in justifying their violent rhetoric + actions.  In terms of the impacts, though, only Israel has gone overboard in the killing of kids, women and non-Hamas men - without warnings - far beyond what their attacker has provoked.  Hamas exists within a framework created mostly by Israel's government, while Netanyahu merely exists to gain more power and use it as he desires.  Neither are angels, but the greater devil is rather obvious.

                      My father went to school with Lee Harvey Oswald in middle school and said that the kid used to taunt him on a constant basis.  My dad was something of a bully at the time and Oswald was an annoying, skinny kid who talked big.  One day, my dad beat Oswald during school and was suspended - there was a higher power that punished my Dad for taking the wrong path.

                      There's nobody to suspend Israel.  But, entire Palestinian population remains suspended by Israel, itself.  That should be a clue to you.

                      "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

                      by wader on Thu Aug 07, 2014 at 12:14:20 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  You are deliberately missing the point (0+ / 0-)

                        And "near" usually means miles away from residences and downtowns, and occupying several square kilometers in their own right.  None of which has to do with the fact that fighting an entrenched enemy within residential areas and areas trafficked heavily by civilians is a tough, thankless task that favors the defenders.

                        I'm not going to even bother reading the rest of your ridiculous descent into non-sequitur babbling.  I don't have the patience or interest in discussing anything further than the point you initially raised--which is that the IDF could easily go through Hamas like a hot knife through butter.

    •  Because jailing 1.8 million people is both illegal (7+ / 0-)

      and immoral.

      It is not a legitimate "solution" to any problem. Rather, it is a problem that has pretty quickly became bigger than the original.

      Meanwhile, this "solution" has completely failed to solve the problem it was supposed to address. In case you haven't noticed, the Hamas have been able to arm themselves and build tunnels. It is only the civilian population that suffers. And yet, Israel insists on continuing the jailing. One must wonder why?

      A country should not control its neighbors' contact with the outside world. Any arguments about this being an exceptional case due to the neighbors' supposed "barbarity", only betray the racist nature of this blockade and the racist undertones and heritage that have caused the hypocritical Western governments to collaborate in it.

      I suggest you read Brittney Cooper's column in my comment above.

      No one is talking about a free-for-all wild open border. No organized country has that anyway. But an end to the jailing will be the #1 step to improve the situation, on the list of anyone seriously interested in that.

    •  re: why would anyone... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barleystraw, stargaze

      we are calling for the blockade to be ended as part of a negotiated agreement. of course there are going to be controls on what is going into Gaza. Egypt is on the Egyptian side of the border and Israel is on the Israeli side of the border. Moreover, the Palestinians are proposing that the Palestinian unity government - led by Abbas's people - be in control of the Palestinian side of the borders.

      So this is a red herring. There are two aspects of the blockade:

      1. legitimate Israeli and Egyptian security concerns about the importation into Gaza of military and dual use materials, which are certain to be thoroughly addressed in any diplomatic agreement; and

      2. collective punishment against 1.8 million Palestinian human beings in Gaza, mostly women and children, for example by almost completely blocking exports from Gaza (what does that have to do with Israeli or Egyptian "security"?)

      Our focus is on #2. Of course it is it is a standard tactic of the AIPAC crowd to pretend that the blockade is all about #1. But that is a lie.

      •  #2 can't happen without #1 (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DeeDee001, rduran

        Unless Israel's security is protected, this has no chance.  With #1 being clear and verifiable, I'd support #2.

        •  if that's true, you're ahead of Bibi (0+ / 0-)

          if it's true that:

          "With #1 being clear and verifiable, I'd support #2."

          by which you mean, you'd support getting rid of #2, then you're ahead of Bibi.

          until now, the Israeli government has refused any plan that would remove #2 and focus on #1 alone.

          what is exactly at stake in Cairo right now is whether the Israeli government will accept, at long last, a plan that would remove #2 and focus on #1 alone.

          •  Oh come on (0+ / 0-)

            Bibi may not be the grandest soul in the world, but even he can count.  And blockade duty is expensive, wearing work.  If there were a cheaper alternative to meeting his objectives, do you seriously think he wouldn't take it?

      •  Regarding exports (0+ / 0-)

        One of Hamas' principle objectives is to get killers out from under the blockade so they can strike Israel.  To do that, you have to leave Gaza.  So Israel naturally conducts customs checks on exports as well as imports.

    •  Why don't we blockade Chicago then? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barleystraw, stargaze, Utahrd

      It's the only way to be sure that more guns don't get in and more shootings don't happen. Shit, guns kill way, way more people in Chicago than rockets kill in Israel, so by your logic it is even more justified.

      No War but Class War

      by AoT on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:05:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's really sad that if you oppose the status quo (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Robert Naiman

    by ending a blockade or a bloodbath, you could be compared with Don Quixote, a man who was delusional, fighting a windmill.

    Information is the currency of democracy. ~Thomas Jefferson

    by CIndyCasella on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 11:11:15 AM PDT

    •  re: Don Quixote (4+ / 0-)

      I think it's very important to try not to be Don Quixote.

      The blockade is under significant political pressure internationally right now. We don't need to convert all of America to our side to end the blockade. It's the near-monolithic support for the status quo, so far, in the mainstream political system in the U.S. that keeps the blockade going. If we could even create a real debate about it in the U.S., that would probably be enough to make the blockade fall.

      The fact that Keith Ellison has spoken out clearly, publicly, forcefully against the blockade proves that it's possible for a Member of Congress to do it and live. John Conyers could do it. Barbara Lee could do it. Hank Johnson could do it. That would be a great start. It would be a 400% increase in the number of Members of Congress speaking out. When we've got those four, let's move on to the next tier.

      What did Gandhi say? First they ignore you...

    •  Ending the blockade is simple (0+ / 0-)

      It requires making certain guarantees to Egypt in order to keep Rafah open regularly for migration, visitation and commerce.  Doesn't even involve Israel at all.

      It is quixotic to expect Israel, which has zero interest in having any relationship with Gazans whatsoever after withdrawal, to do what the world and Egypt won't.

  •  Seems rather complicated (0+ / 0-)

    I think I'll just consider AIPAC what it is, an American interest group that advocates on behalf of our mutually beneficial relationship with Israel.  Easier than trying to sort Jews and friends globally  into some outsider's one dimensional caricatures of Israeli domestic political factions.

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