The following press release was issued today by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation:
Today, a coalition of civil society and human rights organizations delivered the names of thousands of constituents who sent letters and signed petitions to their members of Congress calling on them to #SkipTheSpeech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 3.
Constituent letters and petitions were delivered to 75 members of Congress who have either pledged to skip Netanyahu’s speech or have expressed hesitation about attending. In total, more than 37,000 people have sent more than 110,000 letters to members of Congress. An additional 20,000 people have signed a petition calling on members not to attend. (Photos of the petition deliveries can be viewed here.)
More than 30 members of Congress have already publicly or privately committed to #SkipTheSpeech, with additional Representatives and Senators expected to do so this week. Those who have already pledged not to attend include members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including its leader, Representative G.K. Butterfield, and Representative John Lewis, one of the heroes of the US Civil Rights Movement. The #SkipTheSpeech campaign is being organized by Roots Action, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink and American Muslims for Palestine.
Josh Ruebner, of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, stated: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress has opened a huge political rift between the Obama administration and Democratic members of Congress on the one hand, and Republicans in Congress on the other. Our campaign is designed to provide grassroots political backing for the more than 30 members of Congress already pledging not to attend and to embolden others to follow their lead. As the head of a government engaged in serious human rights abuses and war crimes, including last summer’s attack on Gaza, Netanyahu should never have been honored with an invitation to address Congress in the first place.”
“A growing constituency of American Jews oppose Israeli policies led by Netanyahu that entrench the occupation and oppress Palestinians,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, the Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace. “The 2013 Pew study of Jewish Americans and a poll during the war on Gaza in 2014 demonstrate growing criticism for Israeli policy among young people and Democrats. It’s time for our elected officials to follow their lead.”
“With the politicization of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech and the growing divide between Democrats and Republicans over Boehner’s invitation to the foreign leader, there is no more appropriate time to confront Congress on US foreign policy, the influence of the Israel lobby group AIPAC, and again highlight the brutal military occupation of Palestine,” said CODEPINK organizer Anna Kaminski.
“It is outrageous that the head of a foreign state is interfering in US foreign policy by trying to thwart diplomatic talks with Iran and push the US into war,” said Kristin Szremski of American Muslims for Palestine. “This shows that Israel is not a true friend or ally of ours.”
David Swanson, of Roots Action, stated: “Netanyahu’s failure to cancel this speech looks like the same obtuseness that has led him to continue misrepresenting an Iranian threat and urging his nation and this one closer to war. When Congress members hear Netanyahu say ‘there’s no one on the other side we can negotiate with’ they should remember that he puts them in the same category of people unworthy of any respect or compromise.”