At the World Can’t Wait event about Gaza in New York last Thursday night, Josh Ruebner, a Washington lobbyist as policy director of the US Campaign to End the Occupation (and author of the new book Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Middle East Peace), told about an encounter with Eliot Engel, the ceaseless advocate for Israel as a congressman from Westchester/the Bronx.
The encounter came during an event on Palestinian human rights on Capitol Hill two weeks ago. The hall was jammed, and Ruebner reflected that our leaders are going to be surprised by the shift in the discourse that is taking place at the grass roots.
This is from minute 11:
Israel has clearly lost the debate. Its supporters in the United States have clearly lost control of the discourse…. We need to engage our public officials and tell them, Enough is enough. If we don’t, if we shrug our shoulders and we give up, and say the Israel lobby is too strong and too powerful, then what’s the dynamic that we’ve created? We’ve created a dynamic where the only people who our members of Congress are hearing from are people who are in the Israel lobby!
And now some of you might consider the traditional forms of lobbying a little too tame for your lights. Let a thousand flowers bloom. I think you all know how to step up the tactics, and step up the tactics we need to do. When we did the congressional brieifng… in the break between, I went out into the hall and who did I run into but Rep. Eliot Engel of New York City… And I said to him, “Rep. Engel, it is time to end military aid to Israel.” And he looked at me kind of shocked, like he didn’t hear me correctly.
He’s like, “Did you say end aid to Israel. No! I support increasing aid to Israel!”
And I told him that he had the blood of hundreds of Palestinian children on his hands. And you know what he did? He just shrugged it off and got on the elevator. Another day of business in Congress. So we’ve got to work on our elected officials and we’ve got our work cut out for us, that’s for sure.