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Steny Hoyer’s 2020 primary challengers call him out for going on AIPAC trip to Israel while the U.S. mourns two mass shootings

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Mckayla Wilkes and Briana Urbina, the two progressives hoping to unseat Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, have criticized the Maryland Representative for leading a congressional delegation on a trip to Israel while Americans mourn the victims of mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

Hoyer and 40 other House Democrats will travel to Israel and the West Bank from August 5-August 11 as part of an annual trip that is sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and organized by their educational wing, American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF). The objective is for new members of congress “to learn more about issues critical to the U.S.-Israel relationship and international security.”

“I am pleased to join 41 of my colleagues in traveling to Israel to reaffirm our support for a critical U.S. ally and to continue learning about the opportunities and the challenges facing Israel and the Middle East,” tweeted Hoyer the day before the trip.

That same day Wilkes responded to Hoyer’s tweet: “While the nation mourns, our Representative is fulfilling the obligations of his real constituents…wealthy donors like [AIPAC] Whenever you get back [Rep. Hoyer], we have gun reform to pass and a racist president to impeach.”

Briana Urbina is a former special education teacher and civil rights attorney also running against Hoyer. In response to his aforementioned statement she tweeted, “This isn’t something to be proud of. Touring an apartheid state on the dime of special interests requires us to act with repercussions towards Israel, not applause. They violate international resolutions on a daily basis and reject the right to statehood to Palestinians.”

Later that same evening she tweeted, “Despite 2 lives lost in Charles County, Despite, the lives lost in OH and TX, Despite the lives lost in Chicago, Despite the lives lost in CA, [Hoyer] is touring Israel…”

The antiwar group Code Pink and the anti-occupation organization IfNotNow spearheaded a campaign encouraging House members not to attend the AIPAC junket under the hashtag #SkiptheTrip. “For decades, AIPAC — through its educational arm, the AIEF — has been taking freshman members of Congress to Israel during their first August recess,” reads IfNotNow’s website, “These trips whitewash Israel’s grave human rights violations and obscure Israel’s brutal military occupation of millions of Palestinians.”

The AIPAC trip is predictably not being attended by Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), all of whom have been critical of the organization and Israel’s right-wing government. In fact, Tlaib and Omar are currently planning on visiting the West Bank as part of their own trip this month.

Wilkes was inspired to run against Hoyer after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s shocking 2018 win against establishment incumbent Joe Crowley in New York. Like Ocasio-Cortez, Wilkes is a supporter of the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. “[Hoyer’s] not for people that are my family, my friends, my coworkers,” she told Buzzfeed in June, “It shows in the policies that he sponsors and that he endorses, and it shows in the donors that he gets his contributions from.”

Urbina has said that many people in the district feel isolated by Hoyer’s connection to AIPAC. “He can’t serve in Congress forever,” she said in a June interview, “It’s time for him to step aside and allow, for the good of the party and for the good of the people of Maryland, allow for a new voice and leadership to take us…to the next place.”

At AIPAC’s policy conference this past March, Hoyer launched a blistering attack against lawmakers like Ilhan Omar who have criticized the influence of groups like AIPAC on our political system. “I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically,” he thundered, “So, when someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me. I am part of a large, bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel. I tell Israel’s detractors: Accuse us.”

In June, The Intercept ran a piece detailing how Hoyer pressures incoming congress members to attend the trip. One former lawmaker told the website, “His senior staff lock down cooperating members by getting their bills to the floor and punishing non-cooperators. I was tortured for a decade because I refused to go on that trip and went with J Street instead.”

“As highlighted in The Intercept, the Majority Leader leverages his position as a threat to freshmen members,” tweeted Urbina, “That’s undemocratic, irresponsible, and insulting to the service he and others are elected to do. I’ll be happy to shut down this workplace harassment come April 2020.”


Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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8 Responses

  1. DaBakr on August 5, 2019, 11:59 pm

    I believe that approx. 17% of the Democrat party in congress has decided to visit Israel on this trip despite the publicized campaign of code pink and INN to prevent it . One can interpret this as fear of losing votes or dedication to the US alliance with Israel. But there is no definitive explanation one way or the other except that nobody in congress cares much about what code pink or inn complains about

    • Misterioso on August 6, 2019, 10:47 am


      “One can interpret this as fear of losing votes or dedication to the US alliance with Israel.”

      Wrong!! As Congresswoman Ilhan Omar correctly stated, “It’s all about the Benjamins.”

      Poll after poll reveals that as they learn more about the dispossession, expulsion and horrors fascistic/racist Zionist Jews have inflicted and continue to do so against the defenseless indigenous Palestinians, the more disgusted Americans are with their politicians kowtowing to “Israel” to gain financial contributions for their election campaigns.

      “The times, they are a’ changing.” Zionism is in accelerating free fall.

      • DaBakr on August 7, 2019, 6:00 am

        “….poll after poll..” ? I’m assuming these polls are the most unbiased polling source out there. No data on the increased number of ‘lone wolf’ soldiers in the IDF to compare, yes?

    • genesto on August 6, 2019, 7:07 pm

      Give Code Pink, INN and all the other organizations trying to wake up the public, about Israeli atrocities at US taxpayer expense, the money and access that the Zionist-controlled mainstream press has had forever and watch how much people will care!

  2. Lillian Rosengarten on August 6, 2019, 12:37 pm

    Steny Hoyer needs to be OUT! He is a wealthy disgrace!

    • genesto on August 6, 2019, 7:08 pm

      Yeah, and take Cardin, Schumer the ‘Shomer’, Israel, Sherman, and all the other Zionist agents in Congress with him!!!

    • DaBakr on August 9, 2019, 12:49 am


      I understand the sentiment but how exactly do you propose to oust Hoyer. Or Netanyahu? Or, in an even more absurd scenario, the Hamas dictatorship ruling gaza? People seem to choose the leadership they want, regardless of your opinions on who should be “in” or “out”. At least in the US and Israel there is a choice. Abbas and Hamas?not so much

  3. JWalters on August 6, 2019, 4:23 pm

    “So, when someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me. I am part of a large, bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel. I tell Israel’s detractors: Accuse us.” – Steny Hoyer

    Okay Steney, I accuse you. I accuse you of subverting America’s fundamental principle of equal justice under the law, by using the power of your office to further the blatantly segregationist, apartheid, and sadistic actions and policies of the state of Israel. You have done this for campaign money.

    Here is a House resolution that you would bring forth if you had a speck of Justice in your being.

    H. Res. xxx

    Whereas the state of Israel is officially an apartheid state, favoring Jews over non-Jews;

    Whereas Israel has been dedicated to its apartheid character since its founding;

    Whereas Israel intends to maintain its apartheid policies and actions indefinitely into the future;

    Whereas Israel has consistently violated the conditions of the Balfour Declaration to which it agreed;

    Whereas Israel has consistently violated the civil rights of the non-Jewish people of Palestine;

    Whereas Israel has consistently violated international law and U.N. resolutions;

    Whereas Israel has consistently violated the fundamental principle of equal justice under the law, enshrined in the United States Constitution;

    Whereas Israel’s unjust actions and policies have become a security liability for the United States;

    Resolved, That the House of Representatives-

    (1) suspends all monetary payments to Israel immediately;

    (2) demands that Israel comply with all U.N. resolutions regarding Israel’s violations of international law and the civil rights of the people of Palestine;

    (3) requires AIPAC and other Israeli agents in the United States to register as agents of a foreign government.

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