Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Your Congressmember At Work--For Israel

Your Congressmember At Work—For Israel

 edited by C.A. Matthews

It took over a month and a multitude of repeated attempts to contact Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. Local activists phoned, emailed, and even held several very loud protests in front of the building where her district office in Toledo is located before they garnered her attention. The Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition formulated and submitted a letter signed by many activist groups and others asking for Rep. Kaptur to co-sponsor a ceasefire in Gaza bill in the US House of Representatives. Within a week after sending the letter, a Zoom call was set up between Kaptur and constituents to discuss the reasons behind why she isn’t open to supporting a Gaza ceasefire bill in the House. The following excerpts from the Zoom transcript reveal her attitudes toward her constituents, especially Palestinian and Arab Americans who comprise a sizable minority in the Toledo area where Kaptur was born, grew up in, and currently serves as a representative in Congress.

First, a little background information about her: Marcy Kaptur (D) is 77 years old. She serves as the US representative from Ohio's 9th congressional district, a strangely shaped, gerrymandered district which includes the western suburbs of Cleveland as well as most of the city of Toledo. Now in her 21st term, Kaptur has been a Congresswoman since 1983. She is the longest serving woman in Congress in history and presently sits on the appropriations committee.  

According to Open Secrets, the current total Political Action Committee (PAC) money accepted by Kaptur for the 2023-2024 season is $370,550 and comes primarily from business (46.21%) and ideological (39.49%) PACs. The pro-Israel “JStreetPAC” has given her $1,000 so far this year. JStreetPAC has a strong link to *AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, according to the Jewish independent publication Forward. AIPAC has been a contributor to her earlier campaigns. Kaptur has also been endorsed by the Jewish Democratic Council of America.

The following are some of the questions and answers discussed in the Zoom call with Rep. Kaptur. They have been edited slightly for punctuation and grammar, as the transcript was in a rough draft form.

Imam Farooq Aboelzahab of the Islamic Society of Toledo made these comments:

“Why has the US slept on this issue for 75 years? Kids have right to go to school, have fun, learn, live honorable lives. What do you expect after many generations of tragedy? Expect them to be tolerant and kind to the occupier? If we aren’t doing our job we cannot blame others for what they’re doing. Lack of justice anywhere is lack of justice everywhere. Badly failing for years... president after president, no one showed interest in solving it. Billions of dollars in war machines to kill more innocent people—those dollars could build a future instead. Ceasefire is needed, but not the answerotherwise after two months or years, the bloodshed will start again.”

Kaptur’s response:After 9/11 I came and circled around your mosque to protect it, and I sent that photo around the world.”

(Editor’s note: Apparently Marcy Kaptur is thinking more about a photo opportunity she took advantage of from more than two decades ago than the fact there is currently a genocide going on in Gaza. This was her only reply given to the Imam. Its brevity and self-centeredness are telling.)

Jasmin Abu-Hummos representing American Muslims for Palestine, Toledo
chapter, provided a slideshow and made these remarks as she shared her photos and graphics with Rep. Kaptur:

“[I] met with folks last night. Here are points they want me to cover. CEASEFIRE NOW is our main plea right now. My father was expelled from Rafah in 1948... My uncle was shot and killed at age of 15 in 1989, and I never got to meet him.

Kaptur: “Where was he shot?”

Jasmin: “He was shot in Ramallah by Israeli forces for attending a funeral. That’s what brings us here today. We have similar stories and struggles. It appears that you don't have time for us, don’t care for our suffering pain. We watched you attend and mourn [at] Israeli vigils, posted in their favor, in your stories on Instagram, etc. You’ve sent statements for their events. We also mourn these lives, but we can’t help but notice your lack of regard in standing by [your] Palestinian constituents. I’m the only Palestinian on this panel today—that shows something.”

“It’s insulting, how you refuse to vote for a ceasefire. You’re enabling collective punishment and genocide. What does it take for you to call for a ceasefire? What are your criteria?”

During the ‘ceasefire’ that (ended) in 2014, Israel was sending in Apaches, killing 3 year-olds, during your so-called ‘ceasefire.’ When it’s broken from one side, you say it’s ‘gruesome, tragic, violates all rules of modern warfare.’ You fail to call it gruesome when it’s the attacks on October 8th… These are the bombs you’re paying for, your bombs, dropped by Israel funded by US. Those bombs don’t fall on combat people, but on children. Here are their faces—here are the kids in Al-Shifa hospital.” (The slide show displays photos of dead babies lying on a stretcher and sickly premature babies in incubators. Jasmin continues.)

How do you want these kids to evacuate the hospital? Here are gruesome images that you don't want to call ‘gruesome’. Maggots coming out of wounds.”

These (photos) are the Israeli leaders you are so happy to back and support, saying ‘We will turn Gaza into ruins.’ (Photos of Netanyahu and others Israeli government officials with quotes that said:)Focus on destruction not accuracy.’ ‘Burn Gaza now.’ This is the government you’re backing and giving the green light to. How can you be anti-genocide while backing this government?”

“Co-sponsor Cori Bush’s resolution, or write another resolution for a ceasefire, whatever you need to do. I see my family dying every day on the screen. When I was little I looked up to you… blindly voted for you. Now a disgrace to be represented by you. I remember my brother giving you a rose and a hug, and I said, ‘Marcy’s for us, she’s with us,’ but now those thoughts aren’t clear anymore. That’s what the majority of your people are also thinking.”

Kaptur’s response: 

Thank you, that took a lot of courage and depth to say that publicly. I don’t agree with some of what you said regarding my own efforts, but I respect your delivering them in such a respectful manner, and this is how you make progress. And I especially liked how you said I could make my own resolution because Cori Bush’s resolution would not pass, and we want to be much more thorough in what we’re proposing."

(Editor’s note: Marcy Kaptur seems to want to do things her own way and not work in a cooperative manner with a fellow Democrat like Cori Bush. Her response doesn’t provide any comfort to Jasmin, her constituent, or the others in the call. She doesn’t even provide a deadline as to when we could expect to see her proposed resolution for a ceasefire in Gaza. Also notice how Kaptur doesn’t deny that she is biased by her sympathetic actions toward Israelis and by her ignoring the pain of Palestinians in the past. She didn't even make a remark about the very powerful imagery of dead and dying babies from Gaza that Jasmin displayed in her slide show.

You’ll notice that Rep. Kaptur also didn’t make any comments about the lack of clean water causing death and disease in Gaza since the Israelis cut off water to Gaza. She doesn’t seem to see or acknowledge the suffering of Palestinians at all. Perhaps they are invisible to her, but she’s clearly supportive of Israel as indicated by her recent endorsement. She praises Jasmin for acting in a respectful manner, as if this isn't the usual way a Palestinian acts. It’s almost as if Kaptur agrees with the Israeli Defense Minister who labeled Palestinians “human animals.” Animals don't have manners, now do they?

The takeaway from this exchange is that Palestinians are simply not worthy of Kaptur's tears or efforts to establish a temporary ceasefire or a permanent peace. One wonders if she could even be diagnosed as a sociopath since she demonstrates a total lack of empathy toward the suffering of Palestinians and the fears and concerns of her constituents such as Jasmin.)

Adam Smidi gives his comments:

“Any taking of life is sickening. The narrative right now is that there is no such thing as an innocent Palestinian life. … One doctor, from Doctors Without Borders, said this is the ‘worst humanitarian crisis she’s ever experienced.’ These are the people we should be listening to, humanitarian people, people on the ground. An acronym was invented, ‘WCNSF,’ unique to Gaza. It stands for ‘wounded child no surviving family.’ This acronym shouldn’t exist.”

“There is a natural human impulse to protect children. Right now, that impulse is broken, and disincentivized by our representatives. Muslims in Ohio are diverse and civically engaged. We will elect those that hear us. Your legacy in the local Muslim community has been so positive, all we ask is to be brave enough to stand with us and be on the right side of history on this thing. Stop the bombing, ceasefire, ending of innocent lives lost. Two thirds of Americans agree. (…) A local family near to us, the (Abu Shaban?) family, lost 35 members, age 2 weeks to 85 years, all in one sitting.”

Kaptur’s response:

In [the] Middle East, this war could expand. The US cannot operate alone, must have allies in region that help all of us. Keep that wider scope in mind as we look towards a solution. (...) This will take a united front, global. We need many nations on board, first to help us keep honest as a country, and second to help us heal that wounded region.

(Editor’s note: Once again, Rep. Kaptur seems not to have heard or understood the concerns Adam voiced about the deaths of innocents and entire families and how a ceasefire could prevent further suffering. She’s focused on the US fighting in other parts of the region and making “allies” in a global conflict that would only continue the senseless and immoral killing of children and innocents. It’s like she needs a “moral hearing aid” to hear and understand that her constituents’ concern is not about war strategies and politics—it’s about saving endangered human beings and ensuring their health and safety.)

Protest outside Kaptur's district office.

A brief excerpt from the Q & A section that ended the Zoom call:

Jasmin: “As our representative, a lot of people here today understand that all that work needs to be done, to figure out a two-state or one-state or five-state solution. We don’t care about that right now. We want you as our representative to back a ceasefire immediately.”

Kaptur: “Who’s going to stop the shooting?”

Jasmin: “What do you mean?”

Kaptur: “If we pass a nonbinding resolution—and, I’ll tell you, this resolution isn’t going to pass.”

Jasmin: “We’re asking you to take that stance, and go on the record. We want to know that we feel supported by our representatives.”

Kaptur: “I can’t make it happen. I’m just a representative.”

(Editor’s note: It seems odd that Rep. Kaptur feels she is powerless. Here she has been elected to Congress over twenty times and has sat on many committees and has many connections in Washington, DC, but she has no political pull at all according to her. She says, “I can’t make it happen” when it comes to addressing a life and death issue such as genocide. “I’m just a representative,” she whines. She can’t even speak out against ethnic cleansing on the floor of Congress?

Why would any voter support a candidate with so little belief in their own agency? Is Kaptur just a puppet—not her own persongoing whichever way the wind blows? Possibly it explains her long tenure in office. She’s the perfect party hack with no original thoughts or sense of morality of her own. She does as she's told by whoever pays her the most money.)

Jasmin: “You’re our representative, and we’re asking you to do this.”

Kaptur: “I’ll do what I can. And what I can do is what I am doing. And that’s strengthening our allies’ voices who are negotiating, our top advisors working with Hamas and our allies. I don’t have a voice in that, I can just encourage them. Right now, we could try to pass this resolution in Congress, but it’s not related to the future or any kind of truce to stop the killing.”

Jasmin: “What’s the harm in supporting the resolution?”

(Editor’s note: A good question. If there’s no harm in it, why not? Even a symbolic gesture to say you’re standing with the Palestinian people would be of great comfort to Jasmin and other Palestinian American voters, wouldn’t it?)

Terry Lodge, Northwest Ohio Peace Coalition: “Vote against the appropriations, cut off the weapons now. This has to stop. It’s madness and will get worse.”

Kaptur: “That bill did not move.”

Terry : “It’s only temporarily on hold, will be up again quickly.”

Kaptur: “It could be.”

Terry: “This is an emergency. I agree this will take a community to stop this, but it begins by advocating, using your voice to put on the brakes. Please put on the brakes. Please tell the rest of Congress that YOU want this to stop, take immediate steps. I remember in 2003 when you were one of the brave voices who voted against the invasion of Iraq! You’ve demonstrated courage in the past.”

(Editor’s note: Alas, Marcy Kaptur hasn’t demonstrated much courage this time around—except for courageously representing the pro-Zionist lobby. She sits on the appropriations committee, but she can’t even promise that she’ll attempt to stop the spending on the weapons of genocide. There’s so much Kaptur could do and say, but, in the end, she says and does little to nothing.)

These excerpts from the Zoom call with Rep. Kaptur aren’t meant to dissuade you from ever contacting your representatives in Congress, but they are to give you an idea of the resistance you’ll be up against. The pro-Israel, AIPAC lobbyists are very rich and very powerful. Be ready to counter each and every excuse they’ve given to your representative whenever you communicate with them. Bought-off politicians are always looking for an excuse to ignore you and, when they can’t hold you off any longer, a way to gaslight you.

Don’t let your Congressmember get away with it. There’s a genocide going on in Gaza. It’s not a picnic or a football game. There’s no time for sweet talk and niceties. Show your representative the horrific photos of dead children. Give them the numbers of deaths and wounded. Don’t let them tell you they’re powerless to affect real change. 

Anyone who can spend that much time and energy on gaslighting their constituents has enough time and power to spend on doing good things for them instead. Let your representative know you will no longer support them in their re-election bid if they won't represent you. Let them know that you know which lobbyists (PACs) are paying them off to act against their constituents' best interests. And let them know that you're not afraid to take stronger measures to re-establish democracy in the future.

*More on AIPAC from Hamas: Winning by Not Losing

AIPAC was founded in 1953 as the American Zionist Committee for Public Affairs–the lobbying division of the American Zionist Council in an effort to whitewash reports of Israeli atrocities—specifically the Qibya massacre.

In 1963, it was reconstituted as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – AIPAC—which has had immense influence in Congress—despite being out of step with mainstream Jewish opinion. Zionism also made inroads in the media and entertainment industries. Not to mention academia.

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If Netanyahu believes dropping over 20,000 bombs and missiles on the civilian infrastructure of this tiny crowded enclave and its people, nearly half of whom are children, is so restrained, why has he kept Western and Israeli journalists out of Gaza, other than a few recently embedded reporters restricted to their seats in Israeli armored vehicles? Why has he ordered four nightmarish total telecommunications and electricity blackouts, with excruciating consequences, over the whole Gaza Strip for as long as 30 hours at a time?
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