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Rep. Pocan emphasizes progressive caucus’s commitment to Palestine

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Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) recently told an audience in his Madison WI district that the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), of which he is co-chair, is planning (depending on how Israel’s government-forming works out) to send a delegation to Palestine.

“But,” he noted to applause, “the permission has to include Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.” The two first-term members are both members of the CPC.

Pocan added, “We’re also saying we have to go into Gaza. And we have some commitments from our leadership, who say they’re going to help us do this– which we never had when Paul Ryan was Speaker.”

Pocan made these comments on October 27 during the introduction he gave to Gaza-Palestinian Yousef Aljamal, who gave a speech, “Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Youth Under Siege and Occupation.”

The event was held at Christ Presbyterian Church in Madison, WI. The primary organizer was the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, and it had several other co-sponsors. This event was part of the nationwide speaking tour for Aljamal that Just World Ed organized under the title “Crisis in Palestine.”

Christ Presbyterian kindly made and posted a great video of the afternoon’s proceedings, which can be viewed in full here. (The images in the main part of this blogpost are all stills from the video.)

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) discusses his support for Palestinian rights in Madison, WI. (Photo: Just World Books)

Rep. Pocan’s introductory remarks take up the first seven minutes of the video. They provide an informative indication of the degree to which support for the rights of all Palestinians is growing within the 98-member-strong CPC.

Pocan prefaced his remarks by noting that, “We get so little information out of Gaza! And under this administration, our government has caused so much damage there.”

He recalled, “Three years ago, I led the first congressional delegation ‘to Palestine’– that’s what we called it! We had five members that went with us and we saw everything we could see. And on the final day, we were set to meet up with UNRWA and go into Gaza for a day. But the night before, we had a phone call, telling us we were not allowed to go in…”

He said that he and some of the other members of the delegation decided to go to the Gaza crossing-point anyway, since their notification had not come in writing… “And while we sat there we saw some of the bulldozers and things going through to take out some of the cropland… Eventually we got our official ‘No’. But to me, an official no just means we want to go even more!”

He recalled that it had been more than a decade since Keith Ellison was the last member of Congress allowed by the Israelis to visit Gaza. (Ellison, who had been the first Muslim member of Congress, is now the Attorney General of Minnesota.)

Pocan made a point of noting a couple of positive developments. One was the CPC’s plan to organize another– probably bigger?– delegation to Palestine than the one he had led back in 2016. The other was a plan that he said is projected to launch later this month for a series of Skype sessions between members of Congress and various groups of citizens inside Gaza.

He recalled the strong impression the 2016 visit had made on him: “It really was alarming to go into downtown Hebron and other areas… But in Gaza, we don’t even have people getting in!”

Yousef Aljamal speaking in Hawaii. (Photo: Just World Books)

He stressed that “Conditions there are so bad. So many of us refer to it as an open-air prison. We can’t let this White House just continue to push things like the defunding of UNRWA.”

He gave full-throated support to the project the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project is pursuing, to win official support from the Madison City Council for their city-twinning program. “I truly believe nothing is more powerful than to have a sister-city relation with [a city in] Gaza,” he said. “I’ve talked to the new mayor about it and she’s open to the conversation.” He referred to the very real contribution he felt that Madison’s twinning programs with cities in Colombia and El Salvador had made to the situation of the people in those cities– also, amidst conditions of intense inter-group conflict.

“I am committed to doing this,” he said, of the Madison-Rafah twinning project.

The congressman sat very attentively as Yousef Aljamal gave a presentation that covered both the acute humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the crisis caused by the Israeli military’s detention of hundreds of Palestinian youths in the West Bank, every year.

Aljamal, who has many close family ties with the West Bank, was the translator of the recently published book “Dreaming of Freedom: Palestinian Child Prisoners Speak.” Earlier in October, he presented copies of the book to Members and congressional staffers he met with on Capitol Hill.

When meeting Rep. Pocan, Aljamal made a point of thanking him for the early support he gave to H.R. 2407, a still-pending House Bill that seeks to hold Israel (and all other recipients of U.S. military aid) accountable for any violations member of aid-receiving military units commit against the Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

This post was originally published by Just World Books on November 12, 2019. 

Helena Cobban

Helena Cobban is the President of Just World Educational (JWE), a non-profit organization, and the CEO of Just World Books. She has had a lengthy career as a journalist, writer, and researcher on international affairs, including 17 years as a columnist on global issues for The Christian Science Monitor. Of the seven books she’s published on international affairs, four have been on Middle Eastern topics. This new series of commentaries she’s writing, “Story/Backstory”, will have an expanded audio component published in JWE’s podcast series. They represent her own opinion and judgments, not those of any organization.

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15 Responses

  1. Elizabeth Block on November 15, 2019, 12:51 pm

    Wow.
    Even if they aren’t allowed in – especially if they aren’t allowed in – this will speak volumes.

  2. mondonut on November 16, 2019, 6:05 pm

    As Israel does not control the borders of Gaza, its permission is not required for entry. Go to Egypt and cross from there.

    And while he is there, maybe he can let everyone know if he is in “Palestine”.

    • eljay on November 16, 2019, 10:07 pm

      || mon donut: As Israel does not control the borders of Gaza … ||

      So…ships can sail into Gaza’s coast waters and dock and airplanes can fly into Gaza’s airspace and land and Israel will not interfere in any way? That’s terrific news, donut!  :-)

      • mondonut on November 17, 2019, 2:11 am

        @eljay So…ships can sail into Gaza’s coast waters

        Nope, because that is not a border. But anything that needs to make it into Gaza can go through Egypt. Because Israel does not control their border.

      • eljay on November 17, 2019, 8:49 am

        || mon donut: Nope, because that is not a border. … ||

        Right, they’re just the coastal and airspace boundaries of Partition-borders Palestine and Israel controls them.

        || … But anything that needs to make it into Gaza can go through Egypt. Because Israel does not control their border. ||

        There’s no reason that anything that needs to make it into Partition-borders Palestine can’t get there directly and freely through Palestinian coastal waters or Palestinian airspace. Well, no reason other than the fact that Israel controls them.

      • eljay on November 17, 2019, 8:58 am

        It’s strange how Zionists think that attempting to foist onto others some of the responsibility for the evil they deliberately and with impunity have done and continue to do somehow absolves them of responsibility and accountability for that evil.

        It’s like the abusive rapist boasting that he’s an innocent man simply because his buddy failed to set those women free.

      • mondonut on November 17, 2019, 12:02 pm

        @eljay Right, they’re just the coastal and airspace boundaries of Partition-borders Palestine…

        Once again, they are not borders, but you seem to understand that now. Israel controls its own borders and maintains an entirely legal blockade on Gaza’s coast and airspace. All in an effort to limit the offensive weaponry from entering Gaza.

        And BTW, nobody but yourself is buying into your “partition borders” nonsense.

      • mondonut on November 17, 2019, 12:04 pm

        @eljay , It’s like the abusive rapist boasting that he’s an innocent man…

        I am not sure how your often repeated (and creepy) rape analogy applies to Gaza’s borders.

      • eljay on November 17, 2019, 5:34 pm

        || mon donut: Once again, they are not borders … ||

        I know: They’re the coastal and airspace boundaries of Partition-borders Palestine and Israel controls them.

        || … And BTW, nobody but yourself is buying into your “partition borders” nonsense. … ||

        If you say so.

        || … I am not sure how your often repeated (and creepy) rape analogy applies to Gaza’s borders. ||

        The rapist analogy appropriately applies to Zionist Israel. It’s telling that…
        – a mere analogy creeps you out; but
        – the hateful and immoral reality of a deliberately and unapologetically oppressive, colonialist, (war) criminal and religion-supremacist Israel commands your loyalty and support.

      • eljay on November 17, 2019, 5:56 pm

        And just the rapist – and not his friend – is responsible for the evil he has done and continues to do, no amount of Zionist foisting or apologetics changes the fact that Israel and Zionists – and not Egypt – are responsible for the evil Israel and Zionists have done and continue to do.

      • eljay on November 17, 2019, 6:48 pm

        || eljay: And just the rapist … ||

        Correction: And just as the rapist …

      • RoHa on November 17, 2019, 8:23 pm

        ” they are not borders”

        Then this

        https://www.abf.gov.au

        must be just another government rort. We haven’t got any international borders.

  3. Ossinev on November 17, 2019, 1:09 pm

    @Doughnut
    “Nope, because that is not a border.”

    Great news for travellers all over the world. If you can`t get into Zioland by air or land crossing simply take a boat to a beach in or near Tel Aviv and wade ashore because yes you have guessed it the Tel Aviv beach is not a border.

    Time for you to try out a different flavour of Zioweed methinks.

    • mondonut on November 17, 2019, 3:41 pm

      @Ossinev take a boat to a beach in or near Tel Aviv and wade ashore

      That your ridiculous argument is untrue does not make it a border. But for the sake of your argument were we to assume that a sea constitutes a border, it still does not prove the original premise – which is that Israel controls the borders of Gaza. Israel does not control the (land) border between Egypt and Gaza, so therefore it does not “control the borders of Gaza”.

  4. Ossinev on November 17, 2019, 5:29 pm

    @Doughnut
    “That your ridiculous argument is untrue does not make it a border. But for the sake of your argument were we to assume that a sea constitutes a border”

    Whoops I think you have drifted wildly off Zioscript old bean.
    https://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Israeli-Navy-stops-Gaza-flotilla-attempting-to-breach-naval-blockade-562128

    Best get back to Zio Central on this one as a priority. They should be able to sort out some of therapy. Assuming of course that they want to keep you on their books. You are bordering on the ridiculous and they may just decide that you are too much of a risk.

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