Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN)
The highlight of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights conference that concluded Sunday in St. Paul was a speech by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) that was that very rare and brave thing in mainstream US politics: an unapologetic endorsement of Palestinian human rights.
McCollum denounced Israel’s “brutal” “cruel” policy of detaining and torturing children, which she has sought to sanction through groundbreaking legislation that would end U.S. aid that supports those practices. She said that it is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel: “why can’t I hold a foreign government accountable for how they abuse an entire population of people under their control?”
She referred to the power of the Israel lobby over other legislators — a power that she first defied in 2006, when she told the Israel lobby group AIPAC that it was barred from her office till it apologized for saying she supported terrorists. She said that more and more Congresspeople are at last willing to take on Israel openly, witness the 29 co-sponsors of her bill (all Democrats).
And most importantly, McCollum described Israel under its “nation state of the Jewish people” law, which was enacted last July, as an “apartheid” state.
“Friends, the world has a name of that form of government that’s codified in the nation state law, and it’s called apartheid.”
McCollum, 64, is a former social studies teacher who represents a district that includes all of St. Paul and its northern and eastern suburbs. She is endorsed by J Street, the liberal Zionist organization. Her speech, in which she accepted a leadership award, can be found on Facebook. We have transcribed much of it below.