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Waxman Attacks Winograd On Israel; Ignites A Political Firestorm
by Linda Milazzo
At the behest of his congressional ally, Jane Harman (CA-36), Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman (CA-30) has launched a mean-spirited ideological assault on Harman's Democratic primary challenger, Marcy Winograd, that is garnering disfavor for Waxman and Harman amongst Democratic voters.
In a move characterized by one Harman constituent as desperate, Waxman sent the following letter to Harman's Jewish supporters, attacking and misquoting Winograd's position on the issue of Israel/Palestine. Here is the text of Waxman's letter, distributed on his letterhead:
FROM THE DESK OF CONGRESSMAN HENRY A. WAXMAN
Recently, I came across an astounding speech by Marcy Winograd, who is running against our friend Jane Harman in her primary re-election to Congress. Ms. Winograd's views on Israel I find repugnant in the extreme. And that is why I wanted to write you.
What has prompted my urgent concern is a speech Ms. Winograd gave, entitled, "Call For One State," at the All Saints Church in Pasadena last year. The complete text is attached, but in it she says:
- "I think it is too late for a two-state solution. Israel has made it all but impossible for two states to exist."
- "Not only do I think a two-state solution is unrealistic, but also fundamentally wrong..."
- "As a citizen of the United States, I do not want my tax dollars to support institutionalized racism. As a Jew, I do not want my name associated with occupation or extermination."
- "Let us declare a one-state solution."
To me, the notion that a Member of Congress could hold these views is alarming. Ms. Winograd is far, far outside the bipartisan mainstream of views that has long insisted that US policy be based upon rock-solid support for our only democratic ally in the Middle East.
In Marcy Winograd's foreign policy, Israel would cease to exist. In Marcy Winograd's vision, Jews would be at the mercy of those who do not respect democracy or human rights. These are not trivial issues; they cannot be ignored or overlooked. Jane's victory will represent a clear repudiation of these views.
In addition to Jane Harman's expertise and leadership on national security, intelligence and foreign policy, she is my ally on the Energy and Commerce Committee and our fights for health care reform, energy independence and curbing global warming. Jane's staunch leadership and commitment to Israel are internationally recognized.
I ask you to join me in showing maximum political support for Jane. I have already done so through my federal campaign and PAC.
Sincerely, Henry A. Waxman
Not printed at taxpayer expense
Paid for by Friends of Jane Harman
I contacted Waxman's office to ask who the intended recipients of the letters were, who supplied the recipient list, and why the letter wasn't dated. The Congressman's representative, David Sadkin, responded with the following:
Rep. Waxman has endorsed Jane Harman for her re-election, and wrote the letter of support for use in her campaign. The letter was prompted by a speech given by Ms. Winograd entitled "A Call for One State." A copy of that speech is attached.
The letter was originally distributed in November 2009, though Mr. Waxman chose to leave it undated so that the Harman campaign would have the option to use it again at a later date.
The letter was sent both electronically and by mail, and was sent primarily to friends and supporters in the Jewish community. The recipient list was developed by the Harman campaign.
Unlike the substantial Jewish population in Waxman's affluent 30th Congressional District whom he relies on for financial support, the Jewish population in Harman's 36th Congressional District is significantly smaller. Issues concerning Israel don't regularly affect the day to day lives of the majority of its residents who care mostly about jobs, healthcare and housing. 18.3% of the under 65 population of the 36th CD have no health insurance. Over 7,500 home foreclosures took place in 2009 and another 25,000 foreclosures are anticipated over the next four years.
Though Harman stresses Israel as more relevant to her reelection, Winograd bases her election on a platform of policies on issues most relevant to her constituents, which she outlines on her website.
That Waxman and Harman stress Harman's devotion to Israel as the primary catalyst for Harman's reelection is illuminating, and underscores to what great extent their legislative focus is defined more by the welfare of Israel and Israelis than by the welfare of America and Americans.
One Jewish resident of the 36th, Frances W. Wells, was so incensed by Waxman's Israel-based assault on Winograd, that she confronted him in person at his recent Women's Club speaking engagement in Pacific Palisades.
In that exchange, Wells, who is in her 90s, and who vividly recalls the era of World War II and the pivotal events in the formation of Israel, asked Waxman, a self-described progressive, why he supported blue-dog conservative Harman over Winograd with whom he should share more common ground. Here's their exchange summed up by Wells:
Wells: You're supporting Jane Harman instead of Marcy Winograd?
Waxman: Jane's on important committees.
Wells: Yes, but she never votes the way I want her to.
Waxman: Marcy's for a one-state solution for Israel.
Waxman then walked away, leaving Wells even further incensed.
Another resident of the 36th, Lillian Laskin, an affiliated Jew [belonging to a synagogue] who lives in the community of Mar Vista, was similarly angered by the Waxman/Harman letter. In an interview Laskin told me, "Harman had Waxman send this letter because she's desperate Winograd will give her a strong challenge." Laskin went on to say, "I'm a constituent in the 36th and Israel is a separate issue that shouldn't be the driving factor in determining our leadership in the district. We need leadership that focuses on the needs of the people - like jobs."
With his hyperbolic letter, Henry Waxman has stepped into a firestorm of controversy that includes criticism from Harman's constituents, his own constituents, the blogosphere, and prominent members of the Jewish community. Although Waxman doesn't face a strong challenge this November, many of his constituents believe this ideologically based letter goes way too far; dwelling too much on Israel and too little on America.
Prominent Jewish writer, Richard Silverstein, makes an eloquent case against Waxman's Israel-baiting of Winograd in this powerful piece today.
Yesterday a post on Daily Kos by TomP, titled Winograd Nails Henry Waxman and Jane Harman ignited a firestorm of comments against Waxman and Harman. The ire over this letter has been palpable.
To top it off, Marcy Winograd, Harman's popular progressive opponent - not one to mince words or shrink from debate - quickly fired back her own open letter in response to Waxman/Harman:
Dear Congressman Waxman:
I write this as an open letter in response to a letter you sent contributors, urging them to join you in financing Jane Harman's re-election to Congress. More importantly, I write this as an open letter because I believe the establishment of world peace merits an international conversation.
Both of us recognize the importance of strengthening our country's role as a global partner in world affairs.
Hence, it is with great disappointment that I received your letter urging readers to support my opponent Jane Harman, a woman recently under an FBI investigation for allegedly conspiring with members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to use her influence in Congress to subvert due process.
On the domestic front, you have advocated for the protection of constitutional rights. It is therefore disconcerting to learn that you would lend your name and financial support to a woman who lobbied the New York Times to suppress reports of the Bush administration's crimes involving illegal wiretapping and who ultimately became the chief Democratic Party defender of those unconstitutional methods.
This is not the definition of a patriot.
Like you, I am intimately aware of our Jewish history. On my mother's side, my great-grandparents escaped the Russian Pogroms to make a better life for themselves in Europe. On my father's side, my great-grandparents were killed in the Jewish Holocaust of Nazi Germany. Because of our collective experience with persecution, it behooves us to stand in opposition to persecution anywhere and everywhere, rather than sanctify reductionist state policies that cast all Jews as victims who can only thrive in a segregated society. Furthermore, we must stand in explicit opposition to the Israeli persecution of the Palestinians; the brutal blockade of Gaza, an act of war by international standards, denying children clean water, food, and medicine.
We are better than that.
In your letter, you reference my speech in support of a one state solution, one that would recognize both Israelis and Palestinians as equals in a land of great historical significance to both. Security for Jews and Palestinians will be increased, not decreased, by efforts to establish a state where all are welcome and treated equally, but such a day may be far down the road given the existing enmity and lack of accountability in U.S. foreign policy regarding ever-expanding Israeli settlements. To stop the suffering of the Palestinian people and to end the rocket attacks on Israelis near the border, I am ready and willing to accept a negotiated peace agreement that adheres to principles of justice and recognizes a two-state solution based on withdrawal of illegal settlements to the 1967 borders or a mutually-agreed exchange of territory.
Nowhere in my speech do I advocate destruction or violence. Those are your words.
In your letter, you include what you term an "alarming' quote of mine - "As a Jew, I do not want my name associated with occupation or extermination." Frankly, I am mystified as to why you would find my words objectionable. Surely, you are not saying the converse is true - that you want Jewish people associated with occupation and extermination. Such a legacy would dishonor our people.
As Jews, we have so much to be proud of - our participation in the Civil Rights Movement, our leadership in the anti-war movements, our role in the construction of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To uncritically support profoundly discriminatory policies undermines our proud past and imperils the sanctity of our international position on human rights.
Please reconsider lending your name and your status to a cause not worthy of your stature.
In your letter, you praise Harman's "leadership on national security" yet fail to mention Harman lobbied for the Iraq war while shirking her oversight responsibility on the Intelligence Committee, ignoring warnings in the National Intelligence Estimate that discounted fictitious accounts of weapons of mass destruction. You also failed to mention that it was Harman who was briefed on the Bush administration's use of torture, only to shirk her responsibility to denounce torture. Such a lack of oversight further endangered our troops.
This is not the definition of a patriot.
You call Harman an ally on health care, though she voted against your own much-needed amendment to fast-track exorbitantly-priced drugs for patients suffering with breast cancer, brain tumors, AIDS or the dreaded Parkinson's, which confined my father to a wheelchair the last decade of his life. Not only does Harman's opposition to your amendment cost patients their lives - but also taxpayers billions of dollars, for Medicaid and Medicare, both federal programs, subsidize the profits of large drug companies with monopolies on clinical trial data funded by our government.
Please also note that Harman's position on health care is revealed in her support for a bankruptcy bill that hurts those who are forced to declare medical bankruptcy and then can't find employment or obtain credit.
You praise Harman for her position on energy and the environment, never acknowledging that Harman's support of perpetual war leaves the worst carbon foot print of all - a scorched earth.
Time and again my opponent has proven to be a virtual lobbyist for large corporations, big banks, and war profiteers, while voting against mortgage relief for constituents facing foreclosure. How tragic when so many California families are struggling to make ends meet. We, the People, deserve real representation in a congress too often beholden to large corporations. That is why I am running for Congress - to give the people a voice in Washington.
On Capitol Hill, I hope you and I develop a productive working relationship because we share an interest in reform and good governance, both in the domestic and foreign policy arenas.
To begin that effort, I ask you to courageously join me in encouraging engagement and dialogue on conflict-resolution and world peace, and to refrain from rubber-stamping the candidacy of someone who has deeply betrayed American values.
Thank you for your time, consideration, and public service.
36th Congressional District Candidate
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
What has emerged from Waxman's strong letter and Winograd's equally strong response is the further energizing of the dialogue amongst Democratic voters on the issues of Israel, Palestine and United States' Middle East policy, which has long been slanted toward Israel. Due in large part to the flow of information on the internet, the American electorate's once blind acceptance of Israel as the perennial victim of Palestinian aggression has turned to a more factual understanding of Middle East politics and a day to day awareness of the realities on the ground. Because of access to international news services, countless Americans no longer view the world through the distorted lens of American corporations whose biased support for Israel had engineered and influenced public opinion for years.
Here's an excellent example of aware young Americans in a hip hop video from January 2009, expressing dissatisfaction with America's bias toward Israel and the atrocities of the Gaza War:
Who would have thought young Americans would be so knowledgeable about Middle-East policy? Only through alternative news sources is such access to information made possible.
Looking back, many Americans' romance with Israel began when American corporate media glorified the 1967 Six Day War. Their reverence for Israel persisted through four decades of American media's biased reporting of Palestinian attacks on Israel with little to no reports of Israel's attacks on Palestinians.
Today the Middle East 'take' held by many Americans mirrors that of the rest of the world in condemning Israel's unmitigated aggression that divides Palestinian families, creates illegal West Bank settlements, and imprisons, represses and even starves the people of Gaza. All across this nation, Americans are discarding years of pro-Israel propaganda and honing in on their new found awareness that their once beloved Israel is more perpetrator than victim.
Internationally respected luminaries, including former President Jimmy Carter, Jewish-American scholars Norman Finkelstein and Noam Chomsky, and South Africans Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Constitutional Court Judge (and Zionist) Richard Goldstone, along with humanitarian organizations across the globe, are vociferously decrying Israel's human rights atrocities. Over the New Year holiday, in remembrance of the one-year anniversary of Israel's attack on Gaza that took 1,400 lives, 1,400 peace pilgrims from across the globe ventured to Egypt in an attempt to enter Gaza for the Gaza Freedom March and to bring needed supplies to its people. The Egyptian government permitted just 84 peace marchers to enter Gaza. The rest were left on the streets of Cairo, enduring daily mistreatment by Egyptian police.
The humanitarian group, Viva Palestina, under the leadership of British Parliamentarian, George Galloway, made a heroic attempt to bring medical supplies into Gaza, also facing grave difficulties from the governments of Egypt and Israel. You can read up-to-date details on Viva Palestina here.
Though American corporate media covered very little of the Gaza Freedom March and Viva Palestina, blogs, internet news sites and independent news outlets covered these events extensively - as did news services across the globe. Despite corporate media's suppression of these events, independent media and global news sources gave them ample visibility, advancing the irrelevance of corporate media and accentuating corporate media's attempt to control the truth.
As more and more Americans become aware of realities in the Middle-East, their newly-formed perspective provides more impetus to elect candidates with a balanced Middle East policy, since such policy benefits America. Such revelatory thinking would be alarming to legislators like Lieberman, Harman and Waxman, whose legislative foreign policy has been predicated on what benefits Israel the most. In fact, Joe Lieberman and John McCain are in Jerusalem today, traveling on our tax dollars to bolster Israel. Since they're there on our 'dime,' shouldn't we taxpayers have the right to demand they visit Gaza and the West Bank? But of course they won't. Instead they'll continue their biased foreign policy, just like Waxman and Harman, to the detriment of the United States.
In November, 2009, the same month Congressman Waxman's all-Israel anti-Winograd letter was distributed, he, too, was in Israel where he participated in the installation of a monument dedicated to September 11th.
Waxman's dedication to Israel is legend. His daughter resides there and his office is adorned with Israeli memorabilia. As his letter to Winograd elucidates, policy that is critical of Israel is "repugnant" to him and to Harman, who place Israel's interests at the apex of their legislative and political agenda. As Waxman says appreciatively of Harman, "Jane's staunch leadership and commitment to Israel are internationally recognized." It's Harman and Waxman's staunch commitment to Israel that is the basis for their desperate attempt to silence Marcy Winograd, an American Jewish candidate seeking a humane (and enlightened) Middle East policy that serves both Arabs and Jews.
That Israel would be the driving force for Waxman and Harman's fund raising effort above more relevant issues like jobs and housing, shows just how out of touch they are with people's daily struggles. It also shows how fearful they are that the popular Winograd prevails on issues people really care about - jobs, health care, a sound and vibrant economy, the environment, ending war, and more.
In his letter, Waxman states:
To me, the notion that a Member of Congress could hold these views [on Israel] is alarming. Ms. Winograd is far, far outside the bipartisan mainstream of views that has long insisted that US policy be based upon rock-solid support for our only democratic ally in the Middle East.
One could rightly assume, considering Israel's near universally condemned human rights abuses, that Waxman and Harman's ideological views of Israel are the views that are the most alarming - not Winograd's. Their nationalism consistently leans more toward Israel than it does toward America. It's high time that Lieberman, Waxman and Harman, who've been elected to serve this nation, direct their passions toward the best interests of America, and not the interests of Israel. Only then can they facilitate a revitalized Middle-East policy that leads to peace and understanding.
Of course, there's an even better solution to ending their influence on American foreign policy, and that is to vote all three of them out of office. In the case of Harman, whose formidable opponent Winograd is gaining traction every day, a November eviction from Congress is merely eleven months away.