On June 1st, a Politico.com article about Congresswoman Donna Edwards (MD-04), "Should Edwards be shvitzing?", was published. The article states that there are some members within her district's Jewish Community that are not pleased with her stance on Israel. As a result, there is speculation that these constituents may try to back a primary challenger whose positions on Israel are more in line with former Congressman Al Wynn.
In the last few weeks, AIPAC backed a Congressional letter that was signed by 329 House members, including 29 of its 31 Jewish members. Of this last group, only Congressmen Barney Frank (MA-04) and Bob Filner (CA-51) did not sign the letter. Reps. Edwards and Filner did, however, sign a recent J Street-backed letter to the President supporting strong U.S. leadership in pursuing a negotiated two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as a comprehensive regional peace.
Each of these Representatives was endorsed by J Street's Political Action Committee (JStreetPAC) in the 2008 elections. From the J Street PAC website:
JStreetPAC is the first and only federal Political Action Committee established to explicitly promote meaningful American leadership to end the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts peacefully and diplomatically.
The PAC's goal is to demonstrate that there is meaningful political and financial support available to candidates for federal office from large numbers of Americans who believe a new direction in American policy will advance U.S. interests in the Middle East and promote real peace and security for Israel and the region.
Here are J Street's comments about these three officials:
Congresswoman Donna Edwards-
Her positions on Israel and the Middle East are closely aligned with JStreetPAC's positions. During her primary campaign against Al Wynn, Edwards ran on an anti-Iraq war platform, having opposed the war from the start. Her website states that "the U.S. should not cease in its efforts to achieve a two-state solution in which Israel's neighbors recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state, living in security alongside an independent and autonomous Palestinian state" and that "resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be pursued in parallel to diplomatic engagement that must take place with Iran, Syria and Arab allies." She also believes that "Israel and the United States share a common bond based on common values."
JStreetPAC was happy to have Donna Edwards in our first group of candidate endorsements and we were excited to welcome her to Congress in 2009.
Congressman Barney Frank-
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Rep. Frank is a leader in the House of Representatives. He was a signatory to the 2007 Ackerman-Boustany letter that endorsed the Annapolis peace conference, and he also disagreed with the recent Iran resolution because of the language it contained that could be construed as urging a blockade. He has also been very critical of his House colleagues for not giving President Bush the freedom he requested to grant direct economic aid to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Rep. Frank is no stranger to the debate surrounding Middle East policy. He has been critical of the practice common in Washington which labels anyone critical of Israel as not being "pro-Israel," such as when he told Congress the following in February 2005:
"Criticism of specific policies of any Israeli Government, at any given time, in no way implies that someone is anti-Israel, much less anti-Semitic. Indeed, if people want to hear at any given time, vigorous, even virulent criticisms of the Israeli Government in power, go to the Knesset, go to Israel. [...] There is certainly nothing remotely anti- Israel about being critical, any more than my saying that I deplore the Iraq War and I feel every day that I was right to vote against it. I do not think that makes me anti-American. And I do not think it makes me anti-Israel to say that some aspects of the occupation were wrong."
Rep. Frank is a strong supporter of diplomacy in the region, exemplified by a letter he wrote to recent Israeli Prime Minister Olmert expressing his admiration for Olmert's initiative in negotiating with the Syrians. He has also been critical of Israeli settlements, and in that same letter urged Olmert to understand "that to the extent that it appears that settlements are being maintained contrary to the needs of a peace agreement, Israel suffers a loss of support within the United States."
JStreetPAC was proud to endorse Rep. Barney Frank, a brave and dedicated advocate for Middle East peace.
Congressman Bob Filner-
As a young man, he was inspired by the legacy of his father, who, in World War II, participated in liberating the Nazi concentration camps. Bob says of his father, "having viewed such painful and flagrant suffering, he became an advocate for all human rights and a strong supporter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He understood the devastation that is caused by discrimination and hatred, and he decided to do everything in his power to stop the spread of prejudice. I was fortunate to grow up under his positive influence, and I am proud that many Jews, and many Americans of all faiths, share his love of freedom and equality." He demonstrated this belief at a young age, spending months in a Mississippi State Penitentiary at age 18 for being a "Freedom Rider" in the Civil Rights Movement.
A strong Jewish progressive in the House of Representatives, Congressman Filner is also a robust critic of American foreign policy and stalwart advocate for Middle East peace. A distant cousin of former Israeli Prime Minister and current Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, he has spent extensive time touring the Middle East, visiting Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Morocco and Tunisia. During the 2006 war with Hezbollah, he was one of only 28 Democratic Members of Congress – and the only Jewish Member – to courageously sign a resolution calling for a cease-fire in that conflict. He also signed the 2007 Ackerman-Boustany letter that supported the Annapolis Peace Conference.
On Iraq, Congressman Filner voted against the Iraq war resolution and has both actively tried to end that conflict and demanded accountability in its execution. He introduced a bill to eliminate mercenary training camps, supported a bill to end the use of private security firms in Iraq, and attended a protest against Blackwater. As deeply as he opposes the war, he is equally strong in favor of veterans’ rights. As Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, he introduced the "GI Bill for the 21st Century" in June.
J Street was proud to endorse this established champion for Middle East peace for reelection to Congress.
It is extremely important for people who want to move away from the "status-quo" with respect to the Israeli/Palestinian and Israeli/Arab conflicts to offer political and financial support to those officials and candidates by donating to their campaigns.
To donate to these officials, or any other worthy candidates, go to this JStreet PAC page and place the names of the candidates in the comment section. This will ensure that the entire donation gets to that person.
It is also important to come to Washington D.C. between October 25th and 28th for J Street's First National Conference: "Driving Change, Securing Peace". There will be educational seminars, panel discussions, and Congressional lobbying for a just resolution to the Middle East conflicts. You can learn more about the conference and register at this page.
I originally mentioned that Rep. Frank signed the J Street supported letter. In fact, he did not. In his reaction to the AIPAC-backed letter, he wrote a letter directly to President Obama. His letter supported certain elements of that Congressional letter, but stated his problem with the statement "the proven best way forward is to work closely and privately together both on areas of agreement and especially on areas of disagreement".
I apologize for the mistake.