Kucinich Hires Critic of Israel for Hill Panel
Posted by uscsjp on March 17, 2007
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who is Jewish and a staunch supporter of Israel, chairs the full panel.
Kucinich, who is again seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, hired Noura Erakat, a former grass-roots organizer, to work on the domestic policy subcommittee that he chairs.
Before coming to Capitol Hill, Erakat, a Palestinian, served as the national grass-roots organizer and legal advocate for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a group that seeks “to change those U.S. policies that both sustain Israel’s 39-year occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and deny equal rights for all.”
Republicans and Democrats alike maintain hawkish diplomatic and financial support for Israel. But Democratic calls to withdraw from Iraq concern some members of the pro-Israel community.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) received a mix of boos and applause when she denounced the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a failure during her remarks to the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
Kucinich, an anti-war liberal, defended Erakat on her merits, saying he chose her from among many applicants.
“She has a tremendous background,” Kucinich said. “She’s brilliant.”
The congressman’s domestic policy subcommittee oversees issues related to energy, labor, education, criminal justice, the economy and national drug policy.
U.S. support for Israel has always been a sensitive political issue on Capitol Hill, where questions about support for Palestinians often spark heated debate.
Asked whether he believed his hiring of Erakat would raise such questions, Kucinich pointed out that his subcommittee’s chief of staff is Jewish, as are his staff attorney in Cleveland and the aide who handles arts and education issues.
“This rounds out my balanced approach to the Middle East,” Kucinich said of Erakat’s hiring.
Waxman said he had not spoken to Kucinich before he hired Erakat, but Kucinich assured him later that she is “highly intelligent and an excellent researcher.”
“I don’t think we have a litmus test for her views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, even if they may or may not agree with mine,” Waxman said.
Erakat is an outspoken opponent of U.S. foreign policy in Israel. During an appearance last year on the “O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News, host Bill O’Reilly asked Erakat if she wanted to “destroy Israel.” And she replied: “I want to ensure stability, security and freedom for all people, and that is not going to happen with occupation,” but she added that she does “not want to destroy any nation.”
Her former group likens the Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem to apartheid in South Africa. Its members are organizing a rally in Washington in June to “protest the 40th anniversary of Israel’s illegal military occupation” of the disputed territories.
In a farewell letter to members of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Erakat pledged to help organize the rally and encouraged members to make the trip.
“I hope to see you all in Washington, D.C., in June to tell the world that international law and human rights must prevail in this conflict and that Israeli Apartheid must, and will, end,” she wrote.
Erakat has appeared at numerous rallies to protest U.S. policy toward Israel, according to videos posted on YouTube.
At last summer’s Rally in Support of Lebanon outside the State Department, she yelled, “Stop placing Israel above international law.”
The Web site of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation touts former President Carter’s most recent book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” which sparked a controversy over a passage in which Carter seemingly justifies violence by Islamic terrorists. The group also sells black T-shirts that read: “End the Occupation.” (link to article)