UP #355: My letter to Congress regarding the Gaza crisis


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Since the beginning of last week, over 1,000 people have contacted my office expressing their thoughts and concerns about the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and whether it is within the role of a Seattle City Councilmember to express their opinion on these kinds of issues.

I believe that it is important for Councilmembers to let their concerns be known to other elected representatives in our democracy, whether they are regional or national issues, if they touch on our core democratic principles or if they have a financial impact on our citizens.

When I spoke at the Council meeting on Monday, August 4th, I said that the destruction and civilian death toll resulting from the conflict between Israel and Hamas is a tragic situation that has become a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. I also mentioned that it’s important for citizens in Seattle to civilly express themselves in public no matter what their position.

In this particular case, which is admittedly one infused with passionate beliefs on both sides, some have alleged that those who question our country’s responsibility in this crisis are being anti-Israel, or worse, anti-Semitic. That perception can be reinforced when we see signs carrying that message at public demonstrations. I agree with the statement by the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and the Anti-Defamation League that “Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all bias-motivated speech have no place in our political discourse.” I also agree with, and appreciate, their statement that criticizing Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic. I condemn anti-Semitism and hateful speech. While those making such speech should be held accountable, it should not detract from the overall message I heard at a demonstration at Westlake Park, for example, in support of stopping the killing of civilians during the conflict.

I personally wrote a letter this past weekend to express my concerns about the Gaza humanitarian crisis. I believe it is our representatives’ right to be informed how U.S. foreign aid may have contributed to it. Doing so would not only be an exercise in transparent governance, but also would show that we care about the welfare of civilians around the world, and that we expect our allies to show that same concern. The letter does not address who is at fault in this conflict, but instead encourages the evaluation of our country’s role in the humanitarian crisis that has developed in Gaza. My letter also differs from the letter Councilmember Sawant drafted last week.

I appreciate your time and consideration of my position, and I am thankful for all of those who have peacefully and respectfully engaged in dialogue regarding this tough issue.

Keep in touch . . .

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Comment from Debby Norman
Time August 14, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Thank you for urging an approach to this crisis that is free from ethnic bias. However, I think your post doesn’t go far enough. Americans must change their social and political bias against Palestinians. This bias informs our unquestioned support of Israel, which in turn enables Israeli war crimes against Palestinians.

I would like to think that I can oppose Israel’s war crimes without being anti-Semitic. But for a Palestinian who has had his house blown up or his olive grove cut down, I fear it’s a distinction without a difference.

Debby

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