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Congresswoman who visited Israel on AIPAC’s dime has no time for relative of boy beaten by Israeli police

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Rep. Kathy Castor

Rep. Kathy Castor

Update: Congresswoman Castor’s office has responded to the allegations below with a statement issued after our post appeared. And Castor visited Israel on an Israel-lobby-sponsored trip in 2011. Updates below. Our original post follows: 

The other day Max Blumenthal published an account of how Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor has had nothing to say about the brutal treatment of her constituent Tarek Abu Khdeir by the Israeli police, even as she is raising awareness about threats to the manatee.

Tarih Abu Khdeir is met by his mother after his release from jail in Jerusalem on Sunday. (Photo: Reuters)

Tarek Abu Khdeir is met by his mother after his release from jail in Jerusalem three days after his beating 12 days ago. (Photo: Reuters)

Further confirmation of the disgraceful politics of the conflict comes from the Hill: an excellent piece by Tamara Essayyad, an attorney, describing her efforts to get answers from Florida congresswoman Castor, titled “Palestinian-American gets short shrift from Congress member.”

Essayyad says she began by phoning the office again and again, among other federal offices:

Rep. Castor was non-responsive during those first most urgent days. Her failure to do right by a young constituent is surely in part a consequence of a commitment to the “unbreakable bond that exists between our country and the State of Israel,” even when a constituent is attacked and arrested by Israeli authorities. Tellingly, at the same time we desperately needed her to speak up on Tariq’s behalf, she was tweeting about saving the manatees.

Finally Essayyad got her foot in the door:

When her office finally responded to me several days later, it was to claim Tariq was not a constituent and to lay blame on one of her counterparts.  With her staff stalling, I visited her office in Washington.  What happened next shocks American sensibilities: I was kicked out.

Within seconds of sitting down with Castor’s chief of staff, I was verbally assaulted and berated.  The newspaper I carried with a picture of Tariq on the cover was ripped out of my hands and thrown to the table.  The staffer said aggressively, “Let me tell you how this is going to go.”

Suffice it to say, it didn’t.  I asked key questions: What has Rep. Castor done to get Tariq home?  How can we get her involved?  Why hasn’t she contacted the State Department?  The staffer did not answer one question and at one point I picked up my phone to call Tariq’s parents, but he wouldn’t have it. “It’s not the way we’re going to do it.”  And that was that.  I was aggressively ushered out and the door slammed in my face.

Welcome to constituent services in the U.S. as a Palestinian-American.

Unfortunately, for many Americans of Palestinian descent, there is no debate as to whether we are being marginalized by the U.S.-Israel relationship; it is merely an accepted reality. It is a reality emphasized and reinforced by the unwillingness of our Congressional leaders and government representatives to defend American citizens from Israeli aggression and discrimination.

That discrimination is very real for Palestinian-Americans attempting to visit family in Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Now here is the beginning of Castor’s office’s response to Essayyad’s piece. It’s written by press secretary Marcia Mejia:

All who work in Congress, in D.C. or district offices, have had the experience of meeting with someone who is understandably frustrated or angry who wanted immediate responses or results that could not be provided.  That does not mean that they were not heard or that their concerns were not taken seriously.

Our office is assisting the Khdeir family. Congresswoman Castor agrees with the U.S. State Department position announced last week expressing dismay at reports that Tariq Khdeir was severely beaten while in police custody, strongly condemning any excessive use of force, and urging a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force.

Israel’s Justice Ministry announced that it was conducting such an investigation last week, and subsequently that it is leaning toward indicting the police officer responsible for excessive force.

I don’t see how anyone read these dispatches and not see that the Israel lobby is a primary component of the politics of the issue. The reason Castor is publicly unresponsive is the same reason Barack Obama was raising big money for the Democratic congressional campaign committee at the home of a Jewish leader in Dallas who has asserted that Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu are “truly on the same page.” That’s why I think it’s so important to change Jewish life; because we are the Israel lobby. P.S. MJ Rosenberg agrees with me; he says the reason Obama doesn’t say a word about “the dead children of Gaza” is “donors.” (H/t Citizen).

P.S. Below is a photo of Democratic congresspeople visiting Israel on the tab of an AIPAC group, the American Israel Education Foundation. Our commenter ckg says Castor is the fourth person from left, and I believe ckg is right. Richard Silverstein says she was on the trip.

Castor visits Israel, 2011

Castor visits Israel, 2011

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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21 Responses

  1. ckg on July 15, 2014, 1:41 pm

    The Hill article mentions that a staffer told Essayyad that Tariq was not a constituent of Castor. The article leaves that point unresolved, but another longer article in CLTampa says that Tariq is indeed a constituent of Castor.

    BTW, here is a photo of where Castor’s true loyalties lie. She’s fourth from left.

  2. John Smithson on July 15, 2014, 2:45 pm

    I just called her DC office – ‘she has no position or statement’. The staffer seemed pretty shaky/emotional when pressed to fully understand what the implication of having ‘no position or statement’ when a US citizen and constituent has the crap beat out of him by a foreign police force. I advised her to quit working for such a person.

    Anyhoo – here’s the contact info for Congresswoman Castor:
    Washington Office Phone: (202)225-3376
    Tampa Office Phone: (813)871-2817
    St. Petersburg Office Phone: (727) 873-2817

    Have at it Mondoweissers!

    • Ellen on July 15, 2014, 5:17 pm

      Congressional staffers answering the phones are generally clueless college kids. They have been drilled into “Israel Ueber Alles” mantras or become completely flustered if a caller points out their boss’s loyalty to a foreign government over those of the citizenry that voted for them.

      The actions of many in Congress for the benefit of a foreign country, often at direct costs to their constituents, should be called out loudly and often.

      Yesterday AIPAC re tweeted many individual statements of Congressional support for the assault on Gaza. Every single one of those agents should be highlighted — maybe here on Mondoweiss?

      For now all constituents should call Castor’s office.

      BTW, if Castor claimed the brutally beaten boy was not her constituent, did she say who is?

    • Citizen on July 15, 2014, 9:04 pm

      Also tweet her. Let’s expose her.

  3. on July 15, 2014, 2:52 pm

    Your final and very powerful statement is “That’s why I think it’s so important to change Jewish life; because we are the Israel lobby”. Exactly right. Now, what can we do to change Jewish life ?

    • Mooser on July 16, 2014, 10:28 pm

      “That’s why I think it’s so important to change Jewish life; because we are the Israel lobby”.

      I think the Israel Lobby is pretty independent of “Jewish life” (whatever that is) in America. Of course, the two intersect, but give Zionism some credit, they made very sure Jews have to answer to them, and not them to the Jews.

  4. ckg on July 15, 2014, 4:31 pm

    Thanks, Phil. Castor discussed the 2011 Israel trip with CLTampa when she returned:

  5. justicewillprevail on July 15, 2014, 5:34 pm

    This is exactly like a black constituent in the South seeking help for unprovoked assualt and imprisonment by the Klan during the Jim Crow era. With the same dismissive response. So now we know on whose side Castor is, and it isn’t the people who pay US taxes. Shame on her and her prejudiced denial. Surely she is not doing the job the US taxpayer is paying her for (although she is doing the job Israel is paying for).

  6. jenin on July 15, 2014, 5:48 pm

    As I’ve written about this several times on this site when pertinent to various articles, I apologize for the repetition…but for those who haven’t read my comments on the subject, I can provide another example of a very real way in which congress’s refusal to protect Palestinian/Arab Americans has affected me. First, my father, who was born and raised in the West Bank, traveled through Ben Gurion several years ago to visit his family, including his 90-year-old mother. Israeli security would not let him through, strip-searched him, detained him for 3 days, and sent him back accompanied by security guards on the plane which was very humiliating for him. I myself have backed out of two planned trips at this point because I am too worried about spending my hard-earned money only to be sent back, or about spending time in detention, although I would really like to go (I am a bit of a coward in this regard, I admit). Especially because I am very open on public forums about my opinions, as well as facebook, email, etc. Accordingly, I have not seen my father’s side of the family in the West Bank since 1997. I know from other stories I’ve read on this site that I’ll get no help from the State Department or any US politicians, so I am just too concerned about what might happen. Ironically, so many of my Jewish friends who were born and raised in Brooklyn and have no family in the area, can go frequently and with no concerns whatsoever. It’s a bit enraging

    • a blah chick on July 15, 2014, 7:31 pm

      Hang in there, Jenin. I know it looks bleak now but I think things are changing, slowly but changing. My parents grew up in a segregated south with Jim Crow, it was a deeply entrenched system. They lived to see all that swept away and I think you and I will see real change also. We might have to live to be 100 but it’ll be worth it.

      • jenin on July 16, 2014, 2:35 pm

        Thanks for the kind words and I hope so much that you’re right!

  7. Chu on July 15, 2014, 6:28 pm

    What a wimp. Is she afraid the AIPAC capos are going to rough her up? This entire structure operates like a mafioso crime ring.

  8. a blah chick on July 15, 2014, 8:00 pm

    Most information is coming out on the murder of Tarek’s cousin, Mohammed.

    The number of people in this racist “cell” is unclear, but it seems to be more than the three who are under arrest. The three involved in the actual lynching are a 29 or 30 year old man and two teens, age about 16 or 17, uncle and nephews. It seems the homicidal thugs had been planning to butcher someone, anyone, for some time. It isn’t clear to me if the killing of the hitchhikers set them off but they were already looking for victims before the funeral. First they tried to snatch the kid whose mother beat them off. Thwarted in this they went around looking for cars to burn. (Nothing like a good car fire after an attempted lynching.) They prepared for the event by buying handcuffs and gasoline. They also made the decision not the take a woman because “they scream too much.” (Gee, how would they know that?) They would take a male, but someone on the small size who could be easily overpowered. Mohammed was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    After snatching the boy they drove to the Jerusalem park to do the deed. Mohammed was dragged from the car and hit several times on the head with a tire iron, then “dowsed” with gasoline. They said they chose this method because they didn’t want to get any blood on themselves. Afterward they drove to Tel Aviv to eat in a restaurant and create an alibi. They then drove home and started destroying evidence.

    Well, some of it. When the police came calling they still had Mohammed’s cell phone! And the car they used was parked in front of the house. I guess it was too sweet a ride to be dispensed with.

    Now the editorial: when this story broke the thing I heard over and over again was how differently the Jewish community treats its terrorists vis a vis the Arabs. “The Arabs name streets after them but we put them in jail! We would not allow such people to walk the streets amongst us!” But in the case of Mohammed’s killers that does not appear to be the case. At least one of the people released said that he had known what had happened afterward, yet he did not go to the police. Neither did anyone in their community confront them or physically turn them in. So can we stop all this nonsensical talk about how Jewish folk are morally superior?

    • ckg on July 15, 2014, 11:50 pm

      Now the editorial: when this story broke the thing I heard over and over again was how differently the Jewish community treats its terrorists vis a vis the Arabs. “The Arabs name streets after them but we put them in jail! We would not allow such people to walk the streets amongst us!”

      The only defense of bombing innocent humans is to deny that they are humans. They must be savages[Pam Geller] or animals[Netanyahu]…They must care more for revenge than their own childrens’ lives[nearly all in US media]…I am too nauseated to continue. But as anyone in Hebron knows, there is a memorial there to Baruch Goldstein.

    • Kay24 on July 16, 2014, 8:14 am

      Apparently the criminals are being given mental evaluations, a strong indication that Israel will get them to plead guilty by insanity, and keep them in some facility for a while and set them free. This is a very heinous crime, and qualifies for the death penalty in some US states.

  9. traintosiberia on July 15, 2014, 8:34 pm

    Did she ask who killed the young Israelis?
    Who masterminded or created blowback knowingly or unknowingly?

    Supporting Jihadist -“The good, the prime minister said, is Israel, which “saves lives from the daily slaughter taking place in Syria. This is the true face of Israel.”

    The evil, he continued, is Iran, which is arming those carrying out the slaughter. (Jerusalem Post, February 19, 2014)
    Was he also arming and training them? Didn’t Israel send AlQuida operatives to West Bank to implicate PA in 2000 and later,but was spotted and arrested by PA?

    • Nevada Ned on July 16, 2014, 1:05 am

      In the mid-1980’s, Israel and the US Reagan Administration secretly sold advanced weapons to Iran. This was the Iran-Contra scandal, which produced public hearings and even some convictions, although in the end everybody involved received a pardon.

      When an Israeli spokesman is going on and on about the big threat posed by Iran, I’d love to see a US reporter ask, Didn’t Israel sell weapons to Iran? Now, you Israelis are ranting about the Iranian threat. Back then, you sold sophisticated weapons to the supposedly terrible Iranian ayatollahs.

      This whole scandal has been willfully erased from the national memory!

  10. traintosiberia on July 15, 2014, 11:14 pm

    How does someone still hold hope up in the psyche? How could keep the hope alive that justice oneday will be served?
    The corrupt alliance between the rich Muslims ,US power,and Israeli stranglehold on each type of powers across the globe offer no space for hope for the victims of the endemic Middle East violences .
    It was economic benefit and reawakening of Christian values,presence of communism as a threat and provcateuer ,and political windfall that rescued the blacks and provided a safe space for civil right leaders to demand equality before law. Zionism works against the obvious realities including economic political,and clings to the belief of 500 BC as far as foreign policy is concerned . It also has the obvious fear that it will have no moral legs to stand if it ever faced a situation where the forgiveness only oukd save it from wrath of its victims . Guilt provides it with energy of manufacturing crisis for instant and repeated economic,political,and military advantages on an ongoing basis .
    The war like mentality does not offer any room for the peaceniks or for new ideas. It eliminates them fom Israel. Fear is forced upon the population. Every war is existential and essential response with no alternative. Gradually the country is turned into a killing machine where every body is an active pro war robot with visceral animosity to any thought or behaviors which don’t follow the Zionism supplied lines abroad and within the borders.
    Their is only one hope that this hatred will destroy Israel physically sooner than later. It has already destroyed its soul.

  11. Shawshank on July 16, 2014, 11:20 am


  12. Citizen on July 17, 2014, 8:34 am

    The Tampa boy is now back home. No thanks to any Florida rep or senator. Most of the news conduits here refer to his family claiming he was beaten for no good reason.

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