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
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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.

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… Read more »

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 ?

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

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… Read more »