When Congressman Brian Baird (D-Washington) announced last December that he would not be seeking another term, the cause of justice in Israel/Palestine lost one of its truly courageous advocates in Congress. Especially when you consider the face of the incoming House and Senate – a Congress that is already gearing up to do Netanyahu’s every bidding – the loss of one such as Baird is profound indeed.
If you'd like to participate in what will likely be Baird's final public discussion of Israel/Palestine as a congressman, you should know that he will be featured in a conference call hosted by Ta'anit Tzedek - Jewish Fast For Gaza on Thursday, November 18 at 12:00 pm (EST). The access information for the call is at the bottom of this post.
In truth, Baird has been one of the precious few politicians in Washington who has been willing to openly advocate for Palestinian human rights. Take a look at the clip above and you’ll see him say the US should consider withholding aid to Israel if it continues to settle the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He also pleads the case of the Palestinians because “ignoring the plight of these good people is at our peril.”
Baird has been particularly fearless on the issue of Gaza. He has visited the strip on three separate occasions, the second of which occurred immediately following Cast Lead in February 2009. While the rest of Congress was lining up to defend Israel's right to decimate Gaza, this is what Baird had to say:
The amount of physical destruction and the depth of human suffering here is staggering... Entire neighborhoods have been destroyed, schools completely leveled, fundamental water, sewer, and electricity facilities hit and relief agencies heavily damaged. The personal stories of children being killed in their homes or schools, entire families wiped out, and relief workers prevented from evacuating the wounded are heart wrenching – what went on here, and what is continuing to go on, is shocking and troubling beyond words...If this had happened in our own country, there would be national outrage and an appeal for urgent assistance.
After his third visit to Gaza in February 2010, Baird called on the US to break Israel's blockade by delivering aid in a “Berlin airlift” style mission. You may also recall that he was also one of the few members of the House to vote against (and in fact openly excoriated) the infamous House Resolution 867 - the bill that "unequivocally opposed any endorsement or further consideration" of the Goldstone Report.
Baird also happens to be the Corrie family's Congressman, supporting them steadfastly since Rachel's killing in 2003. He continues to stand by Craig and Cindy Corrie as they pursue their wrongful death suit against the Israeli government.
From an LA Times article at the start of the trial:
Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), who represents the Olympia area, said the family had been subjected to an ugly counter-campaign for pursuing their daughter's case. He and others say it's a pattern that's increasingly common. "Any questioning of Israel is met with hostility, no matter who asks the questions -- a congressman, a journalist or even the president of the United States," said Baird, adding that his support of the Corrie family had cost him campaign donations.
What else can we say except that Congressman Baird's fearless voice will be sorely, sorely missed in Congress?
Here's the info on this Thursday's conference call. It promises to be a powerful and important conversation:
"After the Elections: US Policy, Israel and Gaza" - A Conversation with Congressman Brian Baird
Thursday, November 18 at 12:00pm (EST)
Access Number: 1.800.920.7487
Participant Code: 92247763#