Monday, February 16, 2009

It was a rare moment on Capitol Hill

M J Rosenberg is Director of Policy for the Israel Policy Forum.


Yesterday, Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Chair of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia convened a hearing on the Gaza situation.

Dr. Ziad J.Asali, President of the American Task Force on Palestine, delivered an eloquent statement explaining why it is morally wrong to punish the people of Gaza and also why it is naïve to believe that Hamas will ever change its terrorist stripes.

Naturally, he was attacked by several of the Representatives in Congress who, with the lobby's talking points in hand, struggled mightily to justify withholding United Nations-sponsored humanitarian aid from innocent people. It was the usual stuff from the usual suspects, one of whom was not Gary Ackerman.

Ackerman has long been Israel's most outspoken advocate in Congress. However, his idea of supporting Israel does not include punishing children. And, wonder of wonders, the Democrat from Queens blames both Palestinians and Israelis for the current horrors. In Congress, it is de rigeuer to insist that the Israelis are always innocent and the Palestinians always guilty.

But, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Ackerman said yesterday that Israeli hardliners and Palestinian terrorists are "all part of the same destructive dynamic."

The "downward spiral" in the region "comes from terrorism and the march of settlements. It comes from the firing of rockets and the perpetration of settler pogroms. It comes in daily images of destruction and the constant reiteration that 'they only understand the language of force.' It comes from tunnels in Gaza and, yes, from digging in Jerusalem as well."


Will Ackerman catch hell for his statement? Will he be sat down for some friendly warnings by the lobby? Will he be threatened by wealthy donors?

You bet he will. But he knew that before he opened his mouth and, rare on Capitol Hill, he concluded to "damn the consequences." (There won't be any anyway--none that matter--which will encourage his more timid colleagues to follow Ackerman's example).

It was a rare moment on Capitol Hill. A powerful pro-Israel Representative departed from the script and told his listeners that the current course is bad for America, bad for Israel, and bad for the Palestinians. It was, perhaps, the first such moment in a subcommittee that has always been rather predictable when it comes to Israel. But I suspect it won't be the last.

What can you do to help?

Why don't you give Congressman Ackerman a call and thank him? Believe me, the status quo lobby will be calling and reading Ackerman the riot act. Just call 202-225-2601 and tell whoever answers to give the Congressman a message. A hearty "way to go, Gary" will suffice.

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