Open Letter to Nancy Pelosi: No 2016 Committee Chairs to Lieu, Sherman, and Other Iran Deal Opponents

Dear Honorable Nancy Pelosi:

One day soon, perhaps in 2016, the Democrats will retake control of the House as the nation rejects Tea Party nativism. At that time, please do not award any committee chairs to Democrats who rejected the President's diplomatic initiative with Iran, for these are the Democrats we can expect to join Republicans in their frenzied mouth-watering rush to another war in the Middle East. To entrust lawmakers such as Los Angeles Congress Members Ted Lieu, Brad Sherman, and Tony Cardenas - among other naysayers in the House - with increased power and prestige would be to set the nation on the wrong self-destructive and militarist course that sent our boys home from Iraq in body bags.

While it is disturbing that my West Los Angeles Congress Member Ted Lieu sided with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its 40-milllion dollar "Kill the Deal" campaign -- against J-Street, Jewish Voice for Peace, a long list of former Israeli military and intelligence officers, the Gulf states, Europe, and our Democratic leadership, it is small comfort that Lieu's support of a congressional veto will be of little consequence, except to tip his hand to you, for you must now understand that when push comes to shove, Rep. Lieu, who inappropriately enjoyed an AIPAC-sponsored junket to Israel as the deal was pending, might dangerously fall in line with the Israeli hawks who have been clamoring to bomb Iran.

I joined MoveOn's nationwide campaign to support an Iran agreement for the most rigorous UN inspections of any nuclear power program. As part of that effort, I led a delegation that met with my often personable Congress Member Ted Lieu, organized with MoveOn, Peace Action, and Actor Ed Asner to deliver over 2500 pro-deal petition signatures to Lieu's office, and with Progressive Democrats of America hosted a candlelight peace vigil in front of the Federal Building in Westwood to thank pro-deal lawmakers, such as Senators Boxer and Feinstein, and Congressional Representatives Adam Schiff, Janice Hahn, Alan Lowenthal, Judy Chu, Xavier Becerra, Linda Sanchez, Karen Bass, Maxine Waters, and more.
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Not only was it disappointing to learn of Rep. Lieu's opposition to the President's peace initiative, but on the same day of that announcement came word that Lieu was joining with Republicans to co-sponsor a House resolution (H.Res.402) to oppose Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against corporations profiting off of the Israeli occupation, including companies like Caterpillar, which BDS advocates say manufactures special bullet-proof tractors with razor sharp blades to quickly demolish Palestinian homes to make way for ever-increasing illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Rachel Corrie, the young woman who laid her life on the line to block a Caterpillar tractor, was mowed down and killed when the tractor driver ran her over.
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Lieu's anti-BDS resolution calls on Congress and the President to use their voice and their vote to oppose peaceful boycotts of the Israeli occupation, and calls on state legislatures to pass laws to oppose "politically motivated acts of boycott, divestment from, and sanctions" against Israel. This resolution lays the groundwork for later legislative efforts to defund public universities in which student senators exercise their free speech rights by voting to support BDS. Such efforts, arguably, would be anti-constitutional in their negation of the First Amendment.
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What Lieu fails to acknowledge is that BDS is a non-violent form of resistance, far preferable to armed resistance to Palestinian home demolitions that clear the land for more settlers, which now number 600,000, a number making a two-state solution all but impossible. How disappointing that our representative, someone who takes progressive stands on LGBT and climate issues, feels compelled to diminish the spirit of the martyred Rachel Corrie's of the world and silence student senators who vote to divest university portfolios from Motorola, a company the BDS movement describes as providing surveillance systems for illegal Israeli settlements.

How fortunate for AIPAC leaders that at the midnight hour, when time and patience was running out on Israeli expansionism, they found not a firebrand, but a low-key Democrat to carry their anti-BDS water, for the BDS movement just announced a spectacular victory with the decision by Veolia, a European company once providing transit for illegal settlers, to get out of the "occupation" business altogether after suffering 20-billion dollars in lost contracts, a result of worldwide abhorrence to its complicity in an illegal occupation.

If you, the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, find Lieu's, Sherman's, and Cardenas' opposition to diplomacy troubling, if you find Lieu's anti-BDS resolution repugnant in its attempt to quash free speech and peaceful resistance, please promise to never award a committee chair to someone who so willingly goes along with the voices of militarism and censorship.

On high-stakes issues of war and peace and human rights and free speech, we need leaders in the House who champion diplomacy and constitutional rights.

I trust you will find and elevate those voices.

On to 2016,

Marcy Winograd