‘Netanyahu doesn’t have a vision for peace,’ Gillibrand says at town hall aroused by boycott bill

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This past Saturday morning, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York’s junior senator, held her first Town Hall of the Congressional Summer recess at Hostos Community College in the Bronx.  She reported briefly on what is happening in Washington, particularly on health care, expressed her support for a single-payer health system, and then answered questions.

Gillibrand was, at last count, one of 14 Democratic and 31 Republican Senatorial sponsors of the AIPAC-generated Anti-Israel Boycott Act, which would penalize, and in some cases criminalize, individual and corporate advocacy in support of boycotts of Israel for its violation of Palestinian rights, including its occupation of, and expansion of settlements in, the West Bank.

The bill has reportedly been around since March in stealth mode, its proponents garnering 45 co-sponsoring Senators and an absolute majority of 234 co-sponsors in the House, 63 Democrats and 174 Republicans.  When the Intercept sounded the alarm last week, the Westchester chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (“JVP”) called Gillibrand’s office and, hearing of the coming Town Hall, mobilized on short notice to appear there, joined by WESPAC (the Westchester Peace Action Coalition), Adalah-NY and Jews Say No!

In order to go to a Gillibrand Town Hall, one must RSVP.  She also uses a lottery system for questions.  Each cost-free ticket has a numbered stub which is detached and surrendered when checking in if one wishes to ask a question. All stubs go into one big bowl. Those whose numbers are selected then go to microphones in the aisles.  Gillibrand estimated the crowd in the Hostos auditorium at 600.  There were only about 12-15 questions asked in the 45 minutes allotted to questions, so the chances of being selected were not large for those in attendance interested in asking Sen. Gillibrand why a good progressive like her wanted to jail those exercising their constitutional right to political boycott.

Arriving early, Steve Siegelbaum of JVP had a chance to engage others in surrounding seats on the issue.  When one of those sitting behind Siegelbaum won the right to ask one of the first questions, he tapped Siegelbaum on the shoulder and handed him his ticket, saying “I like what you had to say just now.”  Siegelbaum made the most of his opportunity.  His statement and Gillibrand’s response is transcribed below.

 

Siegelbaum:

My name is Steve Siegelbaum, with Jewish Voice for Peace. I’m one who lost a distant relative in the Holocaust. Lost is a euphemism for murdered.  And I find it ironic, hearing from your colleague Charles Schumer that opposition to current Israel policies is considered anti-Semitic.  I find it insulting. (Applause.) I was brought up to respect the rights of all people, and under current Israeli policy that is not happening with Palestinians.  Your support for this Senate Bill 720 is an affront to me and the memory of my relatives.  It is clearly, clearly reminiscent of McCarthyism and it is clearly unconstitutional. (Applause.)

And given your fine record on so many issues, on one of which you just stated your support for single payer health care, I am surprised and disappointed that you would be supportive of S 720.  And I urge you, and think I’m backed by many people here APPLAUSE  I urge you to not only not support such a bill, but to come out in opposition to it, and to urge your colleagues to do the same.  This is not what I as a Jew wish for, it is not what the world needs.  What we need is support for the rights of the Palestinian people, peace for Palestine, peace in Israel. (Applause.)

Gillibrand:

Thank you for sharing your story and your perspective.  And I agree with you. The way I read the bill is not the way you read the bill. I saw the bill as an extension of foreign policy to not allow companies to side with foreign entities that were doing boycotts.  I support everyone’s right to free speech, I would never do anything to undermine people’s rights to free speech, but I do see how this issue is seriously being debated, and I have asked the ACLU to come meet with me.  I am open to looking at it again because I do not want to undermine people’s free speech rights on any level.

I share your concerns about the government of Israel.  I am concerned that Prime Minister Netanyahu does not have a plan for peace, and doesn’t have a vision for peace.  It was clear to me when I took a delegation of Senators about a year ago to Israel.  We went to Israel, we went to Vienna, to meet with the IAEA to see how the Iran deal was being implemented. We went to Saudi Arabia and Turkey.  And in our meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the question we asked is, what is your vision for peace, and he didn’t have one.  He just said my only hope is that I protect my people from rockets.  If you don’t have a vision, if you don’t have a plan, then it is never going to happen.  And so we do need to require more of our world leaders, and I think a call to action to Israel’s government to have a plan for peace is really incumbent on all of us.

Gillibrand’s explicit commitment to look at the bill again and not to support it if it would “undermine people’s free speech rights on any level” – which it clearly does – was welcome. But whether it survives the political pressure from AIPAC and her wealthy Israel-right-or-wrong donors to toe the line on support for Israel and its current campaign to demonize BDS supporters, only time will tell.

She may have been surprised by the fact that two other constituents came to the microphone and deplored the bill and its attack on the First Amendment.  Neither one was part of our contingent or known to us.  Again, both times, the audience erupted in applause and cheers, without a boo or other suggestion of dissent from the audience.  That 20 or 25 percent of her questions, drawn at random, evidenced support for the right to boycott Israel may be another sign that American public opinion, and American Jewish public opinion, on Israel’s oppressive treatment of Palestinians may be changing.

“After the event, when I thanked the man behind me for giving up his right to speak,” Siegelbaum said, “he said he was from Cuba and that his wife is Palestinian, so what I said resonated with what he already knew of the situation. And there have been over 53,000 views of the video on Facebook, with almost 100% favorable comments, including from Jews (and others) in France, and from England, South Africa, and elsewhere.”

As Rebecca Traister said of Gillibrand in New York Magazine earlier this year, “[O]ne of her strengths, sometimes mistaken for a hollow willingness to shape-shift, is her nose for where her constituents, and the country, are headed. Through some combination of happenstance and remarkable political instincts, she often manages to show up there early.”

When Gillibrand represented her upstate district in the House of Representatives, she had an A rating from the National Rifle Association (“NRA”). That changed when she was appointed to the Senate to replace Hillary Clinton.  And at her Town Hall Saturday, she told one woman who confessed her despair about gun control that the NRA had a “stranglehold” on the Congress, but that sensible gun control measures were a necessity that would come to pass if she and others kept pressuring for change.

As she posed for pictures with constituents on her way out, I mentioned to her that there is another lobby in Washington with a stranglehold on Congress.  With a smile, she asked, “Which one is that?”  AIPAC, I said.  “I agree,” she replied.

About Robert Herbst

Robert Herbst is chapter coordinator for Westchester Jewish Voice for Peace and a civil rights lawyer

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41 Responses

  1. Scott
    July 24, 2017, 10:48 am

    Extremely interesting /valuable post

  2. Citizen
    July 24, 2017, 1:31 pm

    Insightful post; thank you, Mr. Herbst. Let’s see if she withdraws her support, and, even joins in support of ACLU stance. Wouldn’t it be amazing if one of the cable TV news/infotainment shows did a segment on AIPAC, BDS, and the First Amendment? We might even get a Trump tweet out of it! Meanwhile, his big deal maker for I-P peace, Javanka, is being grilled tomorrow by the House committee, having waltzed though the Senate’s today–not under oath or in public.

  3. lonely rico
    July 24, 2017, 1:32 pm

    Shouldn’t Schumer’s lapel pin be the Magen David?
    Or perhaps he pins himself with the Stars & Stripes so that, with a quick downward glance he can remind himself whose interests he is pretending to represent/defend?

  4. Kay24
    July 24, 2017, 2:28 pm

    Very interesting developments. Although a lone voice, I guess she did bravely criticize Netanyahu’s lack of vision, if one can believe he really wanted peace., which most people don’t.
    His actions show that he is more interested in stealing lands, and keeping the occupation going.
    Netanyahu far prefers the status quo than bring peace for his people and freedom for the Palestinians.
    At least Ms. Gillilbrand is not pretending to believe that he wants peace, unlike most in Congress.

    As for AIPAC/Israel’s stranglehold on Congress, it is refreshing to hear a member of Congress admit to it. I guess Kirstin Gillibrand will now be the target of AIPAC’s hate campaign.

    • inbound39
      July 24, 2017, 3:00 pm

      The American Government needs to answer why it is illegal for Russia to meddle in American Politics but not Israel or its Agents like AIPAC and ADL.

      • Kay24
        July 24, 2017, 4:30 pm

        Good point. Israel has meddled into US affairs for decades, when Obama ran for re-election, Nutty openly endorsed his rival and made election ads on his behalf in Florida. The worst was Nutty interfered in our foreign affairs, and tried to sabotage Obama’s efforts to get an Iranian nuclear deal, and invited himself to speak against it in Congress. The Congress shamelessly let him. Russia and Israel are equally despicable.

      • JWalters
        July 24, 2017, 7:22 pm

        Excellent points, Kay24 & inbound39.

        A couple of good articles on this for new readers are:
        “Let’s talk about Russian influence”
        http://mondoweiss.net/2016/08/about-russian-influence
        “Why Not a Probe of ‘Israel-gate’?”
        https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/20/why-not-a-probe-of-israel-gate

      • Misterioso
        July 25, 2017, 12:31 pm

        Agreed.

        Also, why is it okay for America and its allies to institute sanctions against Russia for invading/occupying and annexing Crimea while doing nothing of real consequence in response to Israel’s 1967 invasion and now 50 year belligerent/illegal/brutal occupation of Palestinian and other Arab lands or its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and Syria’s Golan Heights?

      • Atlantaiconoclast
        July 25, 2017, 1:14 pm

        There isn’t even any evidence that has presented to show that Russia interfered in our election.

        And Russia did not invade Crimea. It was already there per a longstanding agreement with Ukraine. Furthermore, the people of Crimea rejected the new illegal anti Russian regime that we helped install in Kiev, and voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia.

        It isn’t even on the same page with Israel’s 50 year long occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

      • Talkback
        July 26, 2017, 8:49 am

        @ Atlantaiconoclast

        It’s astonishing how blatant stupid and see trough US propaganda has become.

    • Kay24
      July 25, 2017, 7:28 am

      Thanks JW, I will definitely read the two articles.

      • Misterioso
        July 25, 2017, 3:45 pm

        @Atlantaiconoclast

        I made no reference whatsoever to whether or not Russia “interfered in our election.”

        Setting aside whether or not Russia illegally invaded/occupied/annexed Crimea, perhaps I should have written:

        Why is it okay for America and its allies to institute sanctions against Russia for what they consider to be its illegal invasion, occupation and annexation of Crimea** while doing nothing of real consequence in response to Israel’s 1967 invasion and now 50 year belligerent/illegal/brutal occupation of Palestinian and other Arab lands or its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and Syria’s Golan Heights?

        **
        http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/policies/sanctions/ukraine-crisis/

        Enough said.

      • RoHa
        July 25, 2017, 7:47 pm

        It’s OK because Russians are Bad Guys and Israelis are Good Guys.

  5. JLewisDickerson
    July 24, 2017, 4:39 pm

    Thanks for your efforts, Mr. Siegelbaum!

  6. JWalters
    July 24, 2017, 7:10 pm

    Kudos to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand for being willing to make those statements publicly. Max Blumenthal has said that many Democrats in Congress are fed up with the Israeli control. When those members see sufficient public support for a revolt against the Israelis, then it can happen effectively. The Israeli criminals are running scared, and this desperate, stealth attempt to torpedo the US Constitution shows their true colors.

    And now the DNC email leak has been proven conclusively to be an inside job, not an outside hack by Russia or anybody else. Forensic analysis has found that the transfer of those emails happened at such a high speed that it could only have been a direct transfer to a local device (such as a thumb drive), and could not possibly have been a web transfer to a remote device (such as a computer). I highly recommend Senator Gillibrand look at this case, put forward by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.
    “Intel Vets Challenge ‘Russia Hack’ Evidence”
    https://consortiumnews.com/2017/07/24/intel-vets-challenge-russia-hack-evidence

    Who is behind this false flag operation to blame the Russians? Very likely the dominant donors to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the omnipresent Israelis, with their long history of false flag operations. For a succinct, broader perspective on the Israeli control of America’s press and politicians, I recommend Senator Gillibrand look at “War Profiteers and the Roots of the War on Terror”.

  7. JosephA
    July 24, 2017, 7:13 pm

    Eloquently stated, Mr. Siegelbaum.

  8. a blah chick
    July 24, 2017, 7:26 pm

    Why are some of these people taking a “second look”? Shouldn’t they have read the damn thing before signing it?

  9. Kris L Doyle
    July 24, 2017, 8:02 pm

    Netanyahu has no interest in peace.
    He has stated categorically there will NEVER be a Palestinian state on his watch.
    He has openly gone full throttle by increasing the building of more squatter enclaves on stolen Palestinian land in a move to make it impossible to remove squatters from Palestines West Bank, and continues to abuse and traumatise Palestinians in Gaza.
    His attacks on Al Aqsa are deliberate acts of incitement to force Palestinians to fight back, thus justifying his murderous attacks on them.
    Way overdue for this arrogant war monger of a man to face the Hague.

  10. DaBakr
    July 24, 2017, 8:15 pm

    ho-hum again. there it goes, another aggrieved jew milking the holocaust ( a “distant relative” no less who who knows how little or how much it effected his life?) for cheap points and fake credibility. but that’s JVPs whole deal. that’s pretty much their core tactical position.
    tsk tsk , what would prof. finklestein think….

    • eljay
      July 25, 2017, 7:46 am

      || @aa: ho-hum again. there it goes, another aggrieved jew milking the holocaust … for cheap points and fake credibility. … ||

      Could be worse – he could be a Zionist Jew milking the Holocaust to justify endless financial, political, economic and military support for a colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine.

      • DaBakr
        July 25, 2017, 6:52 pm

        You really think there is a difference if you could tee remove yourself from your emotions for just a minute and judge objectively?*

        * Something tells me I should never have ‘asked’ that.

      • eljay
        July 25, 2017, 8:51 pm

        || You really think there is a difference if you could tee remove yourself from your emotions for just a minute and judge objectively? … ||

        Yup. As objectively as I can tell, there is a difference between milking the Holocaust:
        – for a moral purpose (support for peace and the rights of oppressed Palestinians); and
        – for an immoral purpose (support for supremacism and colonialism for Jews).

      • DaBakr
        July 25, 2017, 9:49 pm

        @e

        Well, while I agree that there are some people and some groups that can reasonably accused of using the shoah to raise funds, scare, etc but I find it impossible to believe that folks from the residents of skokee to the few remaining survivors that go around and give talks to students from every walk of life, religion and nationality, some in partnership with rwandan, Armenian, native American speakers who educate the students what an actual and true genocide is. Not one made up in ultra liberal bleeding heart offices funded by millions that claim a genocide can be committed with 10 fold population growth, exponential growth of international attention and the focus of 90% of UN resolutions condemning individual nations

        Also, it doesn’t sound like you understand the definition of objective except from the most closed minded pov possible.

        One thing my Zionist grandfather drummed into my childish Jewish head was the not particularly unique to judaism motto: always put yourself into your enemies shoes, then try and walk a kilometer in them, see what you think, feel.

        I don’t get a lot of that cruising this site. Sometimes a flash but mostly believers who have set themselves hard.

      • eljay
        July 26, 2017, 7:27 am

        || @r: @e … Also, it doesn’t sound like you understand the definition of objective except from the most closed minded pov possible. … ||

        Says the closed-minded Jewish supremacist. Dude, you really know how to amuse. :-)

        || … One thing my Zionist grandfather drummed into my childish Jewish head … ||

        …was “Jews are entitled to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them”. Words you clearly live by.

    • Citizen
      July 25, 2017, 8:14 am

      Finkelstein would think no milking of Shoah going on here by this guy; rather, the guy is just shielding himself from attacks on him using the standard anti-semitic charge, so what he says cannot just be dismissed as motivated by Jew hatred.

      • DaBakr
        July 25, 2017, 7:04 pm

        @cz

        what,? he’s using a very distant dead relative to lend credibility to his outrage at the congressional bill amongst other complaints about Israeli policy. as if he should have more right to be angry and justified just because his great aunts nephews niece was gassed. That, my friend, is exploiting the holocaust.
        Anyway, it’s finklesteins raison d’etre not mine.

        I just read the very first of group of. Yazidi girls(now young women) who were captured, stolen , kidnapped and sold for a few dollars to be sexual slaves and passed around from one disgusting filthy isis fighter to the next are testifying at the UN. They are using the lessons of the Jewish people in Europe during ww2 as an example and inspiration. Guess there will be a lot of frustration and anger with that.

    • bryan
      July 26, 2017, 9:06 am

      || ho-hum again. there it goes, another aggrieved jew milking the holocaust … for cheap points and fake credibility. … ||

      That sounds like a classical example of anti-Semitism. I must have it wrong: anti-Semitism is not the stereotypical scapegoating of Jews – it is better defined as any evidenced, justified and principled criticism of the state of Israel.

  11. LHunter
    July 24, 2017, 9:20 pm

    Thank you for your time and efforts Mr. Siegelbaum. Great read – thank you Robert. It’s really amazing how far things have moved along – wonder if we are nearing a tipping point

  12. JLewisDickerson
    July 25, 2017, 12:02 am

    RE: ‘Netanyahu doesn’t have a vision for peace,’ Gillibrand says at town hall

    MY COMMENT: Netanyahu appears to be psychologically incapable of actually committing to “peace”. There always has to be a qualifier, as in:
    A “DURABLE” PEACE, or
    A “REALISTIC” PEACE or
    A “GENUINE” PEACE.
    Apparently these vague qualifiers are really just placeholders (i.e., Trojan qualifiers) for the many unspoken, specific qualifiers (i.e., negators/dealbreakers) he has in mind.

  13. Vera Gottlieb
    July 25, 2017, 11:44 am

    As I keep saying…Netanyahu will be israel’s downfall.

    • DaBakr
      July 25, 2017, 7:06 pm

      Netanyahu just made a lot of his supporters on the right and far right pretty fkn angry by rescinding the metal detectors. They want his head. I can’t tell if this means he’ll hold onto his seat or lose it.

  14. James Canning
    July 25, 2017, 1:13 pm

    I think Netanyahu hopes Israel can retain permanent supervision of numerous Palestinian enclaves in the occupied West Bank, and regard this as “peace”.

  15. catalan
    July 25, 2017, 1:54 pm

    I agree that Netanyahu’s vision is for war. As it should be for a responsible leader. War is the normal state of human affairs. Peace happens when we die.

    • Tuyzentfloot
      July 25, 2017, 2:10 pm

      Also, I see you took to heart that ignorance is strength.

    • eljay
      July 25, 2017, 2:19 pm

      || catalan: I agree that Netanyahu’s vision is for war. As it should be for a responsible leader. … ||

      A responsible leader should have a vision for the peace, prosperity and security of his country and its citizens based (in part at least) on respect for and mutually-beneficial relationships with other countries.

      A vision for war is as it should be for the leader of a supremacist and unapologetically (war) criminal state. The leaders of “Jewish State” and “Islamic State” are of like mind.

    • Mooser
      July 25, 2017, 2:39 pm

      “War is the normal state of human affairs”

      So, “catalan”, how much war have you been involved in? Enough to be normal?

  16. gingershot
    July 25, 2017, 5:03 pm

    Cowabunga!

    A big New York railroad spike driven into Mad King Bibi – no doubt part of the Diaspora Revolt against the Kahanist Apartheid

    Let’s not forget to SHAME Israel and her Lobby for continuing to try to criminalize American freedom of speech as part of the American Police State created to prop up the Apartheid

    Times of Israel is repeatedly referencing Mondoweiss

    “I am concerned that Prime Minister Netanyahu does not have a plan for peace, and doesn’t have a vision for peace,” Gillibrand said Saturday at a town hall meeting in the Bronx in New York City, in remarks first reported by Mondoweiss, an anti-Zionist news site.’

    “He just said my only hope is that I protect my people from rockets,” Gillibrand said. “If you don’t have a vision, if you don’t have a plan, then it is never going to happen. And so we do need to require more of our world leaders, and I think a call to action to Israel’s government to have a plan for peace is really incumbent on all of us.”

    Gillibrand was responding to a questioner — whom Mondoweiss identified as belonging to Jewish Voice for Peace — who challenged her support for a bill that targets the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The American Civil Liberties Union has said the bill impinges on speech freedoms.’

    We need to take the Lobby down to the mineral level – as we are doing

    We need to run the board on Israel and the lobby – one victory after another without them getting ONE MORE BITE or one more breath of air

    Courage is Contagious…

  17. John Wagner
    July 25, 2017, 11:15 pm

    A wonderful post Bob. We met in Portland – will never forget your witness. Sharing this with our network.

    • Bob Herbst
      July 27, 2017, 11:08 pm

      Hi John, I well remember. Much appreciated. Please say hello to all the wonderful folks I met out there.

  18. Marnie
    July 26, 2017, 12:41 am

    “And in our meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the question we asked is, what is your vision for peace, and he didn’t have one. He just said my only hope is that I protect my people from rockets. If you don’t have a vision, if you don’t have a plan, then it is never going to happen. And so we do need to require more of our world leaders, and I think a call to action to Israel’s government to have a plan for peace is really incumbent on all of us.”

    I bet she had a private meeting with Schumer after he recovered from his angina equivalent he had to have experienced after she deviated from the course set by AIPAC guidelines when talking about israel. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a politician talk about netanyahoo truthfully before and this was refreshing. I just hope there is a plan for action after she ‘takes another look’.

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