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Rep. Brian Baird: Break Gaza Siege


Rep. Brian Baird (D, WA) is now in Gaza speaking truth to power. He in effect told our president: “Mr. Obama, tear down this siege!” What a profile in courage:

A U.S. congressman says the United States should break Israel’s blockade of Gaza and deliver badly needed supplies by sea.

Rep. Brian Baird, a Democrat from Washington state, also says President Barack Obama’s Mideast envoy should visit Gaza to get a look at the destruction cause by Israel’s offensive last year.

The U.S. shuns Gaza because the territory’s Hamas rulers refuse to recognize Israel or renounce violence.

Baird, who has announced his retirement from Congress, spoke Sunday evening to a group of Gaza students.

Israel and Egypt have kept Gaza’s borders largely sealed since 2006, and have not allowed building supplies into the area. Baird said that U.S. vessels should anchor off Gaza and deliver what’s needed.

Here is one House member who has a conscience and isn’t afraid to express it. I should add that for his troubles the Israeli government and its operatives in this country closely monitor his trips to Gaza along with those of Keith Ellison, who has accompanied Baird on previous visits. Thus it is no accident that the recent letter from 54 House Democrats to the president calling on him to pressure Israel to ease the siege has been attacked by the Republican Jewish Coalition and others by falsely featuring Ellison as its author: not true, that honor goes to my own House representative Jim McDermott.

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  • mary February 15, 2010, 7:32 AM

    It was truly pathetic that only 54 members of Congress would sign McDermott’s letter but clearly indicative of the overbearing influence of the Zionist lobbies on our government. We were grateful for the 54 signatures and thanked each signatory for their courage and compassion. It is shameful, however, that so many of our politicians’ political life hangs on whether or not they “support Israel.”

  • Shirin February 15, 2010, 10:10 AM

    The U.S. shuns Gaza because the territory’s Hamas rulers refuse to recognize Israel or renounce violence.

    That’s a lie. Looks like it was added in by the “journalist” who wrote the story.

    • mary February 15, 2010, 12:08 PM

      Pure hasbara rubbish. Of course, it’s to be expected. It’s as though no article criticizing Israel can be published without the “Hamas disclaimer.”

      There is no valid reason for Hamas to “recognize Israel” and it will renounce violence when the Israelis agree to end their occupation and siege. If they stay within the 1967 borders, and if this is acceptable to the Palestinian people, Hamas has said any times it will abide by it.

      • mary February 15, 2010, 12:10 PM

        Excuse the typo. The last sentence should say “many times.”

      • Shirin February 15, 2010, 1:53 PM

        Oh yes, Hamas must renounce violence, but of course Israel is free to continue its violence against the Palestinians, who are just supposed to sit quietly and take it.

  • george February 15, 2010, 11:45 AM

    Israel gave Gaza open borders, the requisites to build a state, and access to its markets; in return the Gazians elected the “no Jews no Israel” Hamas to power. So sorry if I don’t cry for the Gazians for facing closed Israeli borders. And btw, last time I looked at a map Egypt also bordered Gaza; or is the Jewish cabal so strong that it forces Egypt to also close borders with Gaza. Ah, those Jews, so strong, so powerful; no wonder we need to murder them as often as possible.

    • Richard Silverstein February 15, 2010, 12:38 PM

      Of one thing you can be certain: the pro-Israel habasrist brigade full of ignorance is just around every corner waiting to spout their utter ignorance. Thanks for reminding us of that George. I wouldn’t expect moral morons like you to cry for non-Jews’ suffering. So because Egypt is strangling Gaza you wish us not to denounce Israel for doing the same? Or did you want us not to criticize either & praise them for violating international law & morality?

      • mary February 15, 2010, 12:55 PM

        At least the hasbarist crowd could say something original and not this same old drivel.

        Of course, of course! Silly me! I never realized that it’s all Hamas’ fault, and that the other 50 years of occupation were all their fault, too? Or the 1967 War resulting in the theft of Gaza, the Sinai, Golan Heights and the West Bank are purely the fault of the Palestinians? I guess I need straightening out.

        I guess I also need straightening out as to how the siege of Gaza is actually controlled by Egypt and not Israel. And so this must also mean that Egypt had something to do with Operation Cast Lead, right? And tell me, who is responsible for the settlements in the West Bank – Hamas? The PA? The Tooth Fairy? And the situation in East Jerusalem involving the demolition of 300 Palestinian homes is also Hamas’ fault?

        Wow, I’m confused….or is this how hasbara is supposed to work?

        Or maybe you just don’t make sense, “George”.

        • uncle joe mccarthy February 15, 2010, 7:23 PM

          funny how history, according to you, only starts in 1967

          cuz as i recall, israel had no control of the gaza or west bank from 48-67…yet not one attempt at creating a palistinian state was made

          oh, and one doesnt steal land during a war…one gains territory…

          territory that was never in palistinian hands…but in jordanian and egyptian

          • Richard Silverstein February 15, 2010, 7:57 PM

            Blah, blah, blah. YOU’re only the 5,000th person to think up those brillaint rejoinders. Did you actually come up w. them yrself or read them in Hasbara manual circa 1952? Or was it ’53?

            Can you tell me why not one serious attempt was made at creating a Jewish state from the time of the Roman conquest till the early 20th century??

            You’re wrong about conquest btw & under international law to boot. Israel didn’t GAIN territory, it conquered it. Conquest doesn’t confer sovereignty or legitimacy. The territory belonged to Jordan. Jordan has ceded its claim to the Palestinians. Ergo, Palestinian whether you like it or not.

          • mary February 15, 2010, 8:16 PM

            Jeez, Uncle Joe, you sure like to nit-pick, don’t you? The 1967 war was ostensibly to defend Israel, yet somehow at the end, it miraculously picked up some new territory. You need to read up on what the UN says about territory gained this way, whether it is legal, and whether it is OK to build settlements on it.

            You also seem to forget that prior to 1948 the whole shebang was “Palestine.” There was no “Jordan” and Egypt was under British control.

          • Andy February 15, 2010, 9:04 PM

            Uncle Joe is right in one limited sense. It always bothers me when someone says that Israel is “stealing” Palestinian land. The law makes a distinction between theft (simply taking something that isn’t yours) and armed robbery: Israel’s actions fall squarely in the latter category.

        • Shirin February 15, 2010, 10:52 PM

          Excellent point, Andy.

        • alex February 16, 2010, 11:15 AM

          what is “hasbara?”

          • mary February 16, 2010, 10:36 PM

            Google is your friend. Google “hasbara” and you will find out.

    • Koshiro February 17, 2010, 3:14 AM

      Israel gave Gaza open borders,
      That’s a lie. Access was still controlled by Israel. See the Rice-brokered access agreement and its near-nonexistent implementation.

      the requisites to build a state,
      Next lie. Even if one accepted (which would require one to be insane) the ridiculous idea that Gaza could ever be a viable state on it’s own, Israel contributed jack squat to any institution-building.

      and access to its markets;
      Another lie, which is essentially a repeat of the first lie. Lying: The gift that keeps on giving.

      or is the Jewish cabal so strong that it forces Egypt
      Ah, that’s a nice one. A lie by implication. As everybody who knows even a little about the matter knows: Yes, the “Jewish cabal” or to be precise the binding treates Egypt had to sign with Israel in order to win back (limited) sovereignty over the Sinai do force Egypt to close the border.

      Today was a good day to lie. Every day is for the proud warriors of the Hasbara tribe.

      • mary February 17, 2010, 11:03 AM

        Koshiro, thanks for illustrating perfectly what “hasbara is.” It’s pro-Israel propaganda that is pure hooey, made up of twisted facts or fabrications such as those you have just responded to so eloquently.

        Sure, Israel pulled the settlers out of Gaza but left it with no economy, no independent infrastructure, and with no “open borders.” It also sent many of the settlers to squat in the West Bank, so the Palestinian people were no better off. There is a propensity on the part of Israel to create a kind of mental image wherein there are two sets of Palestinian people living in two regions. This is utterly false. When Israel rips off the Palestinians in Gaza, they rip off all Palestinians. The West Bank belongs to the people in Gaza, just as Gaza belongs to people in the West Bank, and East Jerusalem belongs to them both, and all areas belong to all Palestinians living around the world. This is why Hamas began firing rockets into Israel after the settlers were transferred out of the West Bank.

  • Robin February 15, 2010, 2:09 PM

    Congressman Baird actually has a statement on his website.

    http://www.baird.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=940

    Now I suppose “George” will find fault in that as well.

    • mary February 15, 2010, 2:24 PM

      I find fault in it, actually. Baird focuses for several paragraphs on Hamas rockets but doesn’t utter a single word about Israeli actions that are construed as war crimes. He also takes the tone that both sides are equal as adversaries. It’s a nice piece of political finesse – to criticize Israel without criticizing it, therefore not upsetting any of his constituents.

      By contrast, here is Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio:

      http://minnesotaindependent.com/22335/kucinich-in-gaza-israel-has-violated-arms-export-act

  • Robin February 15, 2010, 6:20 PM

    Mary, Congressman Baird has upset quite a few people, rest assured of that, if that is what you are measuring his statement by, not just this one, but the totality of what he is reporting from his trips, now his third, to the area. I don’t read it as you are reading it. Rather I see only one paragraph, I believe it is the second one, where he addresses the rockets and then in my opinion very firmly puts that issue to rest. Furthermore, if you go to the link I gave you can peruse the rest of what he has posted on his website. Go to the pictures for instance. He posts several, both in Gaza and in Sderot. Any reasonable person can compare the physical damage. I believe that if you look at the totality of what he has posted there, plus, know that in the House of Representatives he spoke as well. Unlike Kucinich I don’t know if the entire presentation is anywhere to view, but Al-Jazeera showed a short clip

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99H96o5e49Y

    • mary February 15, 2010, 8:18 PM

      Yes, but what does it take for a Congressman (other than Kucinich and other than Ellison, the lone Muslim) to speak truth to power, other than imminent retirement? He doesn’t have to placate the lobby anymore, so he can finally tell the world about Palestine. Too little, too late. I’m sorry to be so cynical.

  • uncle joe mccarthy February 15, 2010, 7:19 PM

    ya…lots of courage…especially since he isnt running again

    EPIC FAIL

    • Richard Silverstein February 15, 2010, 7:59 PM

      Brian Baird has been to Gaza 3 times since 2008. How many times have you been there?

      And no one inside Congress has called for the end of the siege. He’s a member of Congress in good standing till the next election. But what say you ’bout the Gaza 54 who ARE running for reelection & don’t support the siege as well. Uncle Joe, the lobby’s cracking, slowly but surely.

      • mary February 15, 2010, 8:20 PM

        Brick by brick. That is the only way it will happen.

        54 members of Congress isn’t bad, considering only about 30 voted in favor of adopting the Goldstone Report. We’re making headway, little by little.

  • Robin February 15, 2010, 9:07 PM

    Mary, Keith Ellison is not the only Muslim in the House of Representatives. Andre Carson, like Keith Ellison is a Muslim revert. (Ellison was Catholic and attended Jesuit law school)

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1164415020080312

    He won again and is currently serving. You can find his website.

    What you won’t find is anything other than his writing a letter to Egypt when Code Pink was there and he was one of the 54.

    In fact his score on supporting Gaza is abysmally low according to this score card. In fact, look at it, he got 0 in the column for HR 34 (right of Israel to defend itself). This means he voted FOR HR 34.

    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/twn_up_fls/2009CongressionalScorecardByScore.pdf

    Where is his courage? One’s religion or the fact that he may have come late to his actions is of no significance to me.

    It is important and praiseworthy what that person chooses to do, does all they can do, when they do it.

    • mary February 16, 2010, 9:54 AM

      I forgot about him. Thanks for returning me to speed. And you are absolutely right. Maybe he is too afraid of appearing to favor his Muslim constituents, who knows?

  • Norman February 16, 2010, 6:59 AM

    First, Richard, let me apologize for bringing up what I know is a petty complaint in reaction to what is otherwise an interesting posting. The sound accompanying the video automatically comes on from the moment I enter your general site. Then I have to scroll about to turn it off. It’s an utter nuisance, an imposition that, for me at least, distracts from your various postings. Please consider the value of silence, and give your visitor the option of listening or not. Thanks.

    • Shirin February 16, 2010, 8:32 AM

      It IS annoying to have the video start up every time you open or refresh the page. Is there a setting that will change that?

    • Richard Silverstein February 16, 2010, 9:00 PM

      The audio settings as far as I can tell aren’t controlled by me, but they’re set by the site that hosts the video. I find this annoying too if it’s any consolation.

      • Norman February 17, 2010, 1:17 AM

        Richard, I’m sorry it annoys you, too, but why, simply, can’t your site host eliminate this irritation. It really does upstage whatever else one might be reading and thinking about. If it were merely background music, it would be intrusive enough, but this is speech.

        • Richard Silverstein February 17, 2010, 10:23 AM

          It’s not MY site host. It’s the server hosting the video which is not mine. As soon as the post containing the video drops off my blog main page the video will no longer be bothering you. In the meantime, all you have to do is drop down to the post & click on the Stop button & the video will stop playing.

          UPDATE: I did some googling & discovered that autoplay is controlled by the embedded code that displays the video on my site. This is the way the video coding was configured by the folks who placed it on Rep. Baird’s website. I figured out how to change the settings in the code so now it doesn’t play automatically. Sorry again for the annoyance.

        • Mary Hughes-Thompson February 17, 2010, 11:12 AM

          It didn’t annoy me for more than few seconds. It was so very easy to turn off the volume on my computer. There are so many things in life that aggravate me that I CAN’T do anything about, so this was a no-brainer for me.

          • mary February 17, 2010, 11:25 AM

            Absolutely right. It’s not nearly as annoying as going to my favorite poetry website, opening a page to read a poem, and automatically a toilet bowl cleaner ad begins to run (with the audio painfully loud). Try reading Rainer Maria Rilke while that’s going on. What a weird culture we live in.

      • Shirin February 17, 2010, 8:29 AM

        This has nothing to do with the audio per se. The problem is that the clip begins to play automatically whenever the page is opened or refreshed. When the clip plays, the audio obviously also play, and to stop it, you need to pause the video. s. I don’t know whether that default can be reset here, or whether we are stuck with it because that is how it is set at the source. What I’ve been doing to stop the annoyance is just muting the sound.

  • Mary Hughes-Thompson February 16, 2010, 9:11 AM

    Apparently one less than 54 members with courage after all. See this remarkable photograph of 15 Jewish leaders in Rep Yvette Clarke’s Brooklyn district showing her the error of her ways.
    As a result, Clarke “rues” signing it, and retracts her support.

    http://www.forward.com/articles/124915/

    • mary February 16, 2010, 6:10 PM

      Thanks, Mary. I wonder how she’s sleeping at night. The photo is rather depressing, don’t you think? Not to mention the obvious pressure to “rue” signing and to issue a public retraction. Sickening.

    • Norman February 17, 2010, 5:31 AM

      How utterly depressing! And significantly a microcosmic representation of what transpires throughout almost the entire U.S./Israel relationship.

      • mary February 17, 2010, 11:10 AM

        Yes, a Congressperson speaks truth to power, and the next thing they know, they get a phone call or a visit from someone who explains to them the connection between how they vote on matters pertaining to Israel, and the possibility of their keeping their job after the next election. The American people allow this kind of thing to happen, which is the real problem, not the lobby groups. If politicians don’t get enough votes, they will lose elections, no matter how much lobbying money they have in their coffers.