Dear Rep. Engel and Rep. Lowey,
We, members of the Westchester chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, are your constituents. And we proudly #StandWithIlhan.
Many of our colleagues and allies have already robustly and eloquently called out the dishonesty, Islamophobia, and anti-Black racism evident in Democratic leaders’ swarming attack on Rep. Omar. We echo those views, and note that your actions do nothing to counter the real and growing threat of antisemitism in this country and around the world.
But we wish to address a different point that your attacks on Rep. Omar seek to suppress, namely that your fidelity to the Israel lobby is inconsistent with your responsibilities as our elected representatives in Congress.
This non-exhaustive list highlights some of our areas of concern:
The most glaring recent example of your willingness to subvert the essential obligation of your office — to uphold our Constitution — is your determination to enact lobby-drafted laws that would penalize Americans for exercising their Constitutional right to free speech that criticizes Israel. There is no way to dress up this legislation as anything other than an effort to silence legitimate, Constitutionally-protected speech and debate on questions of significant importance. Shame on you both.
Where the State of Israel has pursued policies that are contrary to US interests and long-held policy you have thrown your support behind Israel, as you both did, for example, in opposing the JCPOA (multilateral Iran nuclear deal); condemning the US abstention on the UN Security Council vote acknowledging the illegality of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine; and supporting relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. These positions are incomprehensible to us; they weaken the rule of law and the cause of peace and stability in the region.
For years we have watched in amazement and disgust as both of you impugn the mountains of findings of fact and conclusions of law by actual experts, documenting Israel’s extensive and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as of essential norms concerning interstate relations like the prohibition against the acquisition of territory through force — and uncritically spout dishonest and discredited lobby-drafted talking points to justify your support for those policies of oppression. We deserve representatives who are willing to countenance real facts, even if those facts challenge their long-held beliefs.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act requires that agents for foreign interests register with the Department of Justice and report on their contacts with elected officials. Throughout your years of Congressional service, both of you have willingly engaged with the many-headed hydra of the unregistered Israel lobby, knowing full well that the messaging you were receiving originated within agencies of the Israeli government. Because these lobbying entities are unregistered it is impossible for us, your constituents, to learn the extent of your engagement with them. It is clear to us, however, that you affiliate with and are sympathetic to organizations that actively work to silence and intimidate Americans who seek serious and honest examination of our Israel/Palestine policy.
We #StandWithIlhan because we too have been smeared by you, Mr. Engel, accused of being “self-hating Jews” when we spoke to you of the rights and dignity of Palestinians.
Rep. Omar courageously spoke up because too many of us have failed to confront our representatives and hold them to account. We salute her for her bravery and integrity. And we pledge to #StandWithIlhan by persisting in our demand for honest debate around the legitimate question of Israel lobby influence over our Congress and other areas of our civic and political life.
The Members of JVP-Westchester