It has been many years since I have been in Congress to lobby. With all the craziness going on caused by a few Democratic Party members of the House of Representatives, I decided that this year would be different. I went with 1,100 other individuals in the New York/New Jersey region (through NORPAC) to advocate on behalf of continued United States support for Israel. The last time I was in Washington, DC, none of the legislative aides whom I saw were alive.
One of the limitations of a local group is that most of the members of Congress are not constituents of those visiting from NORPAC. To the credit of the members of Congress, NORPAC was able to see 80% of the members.
The issue I was to speak about was Bill HR 1850, which was proposed legislation to prohibit any support, including financial, to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad or leaders of these organizations. The legislation would also punish the countries or entities that give such support.
Unlike many groups, the group I was with, led by Rabbi Hayim Schwartz, did not meet with the three legislators but met with three millennial staff members. Some would say that the staff members are more important since they are the filters to the member of Congress who cannot spend the time addressing every issue.
None of the members were from New York or New Jersey. Two were Republicans and one was a liberal Democrat. These days, the impression from many, including those who write for the Queens Jewish Link, is that the Democratic Party, especially its progressive and/or liberal wing, is anti-Israel. Congressman Marc Veasey, whom many would consider a progressive, indicates otherwise. Congressman Veasey has spoken at AIPAC and was a co-sponsor of a resolution criticizing those who want to boycott Israel.
It was clear from the conversation with Veasey’s chief of staff that the congressman might not be the biggest fan of Prime Minister Netanyahu but is still a strong supporter of Israel. He can separate the leader from the country. This idea should not be shocking to us if you think about America. You may not like the current president and/or the Congress and yet be a true patriot. Administrations come and go but countries endure.
When we met with the staff, they were interested in what we were saying. Some gave us more time than others. We talked to one staffer in the hall and with another we sat inside the office for 30 minutes. They took notes as it related to proposed legislation.
If you listen to statements by the president and the speaker of the House of Representatives and other media coverage, you would think that nothing is getting done or will eventually get done in Congress. When you walk the halls of Congress and you check the list of proposed bills you see otherwise. We were not the only group in Washington advocating or lobbying the members of Congress to support a position.
There are a lot of bills that are being proposed in the House and Senate, including many that are important to the Jewish community and other supporters of Israel.
The business of governing can and will continue whether or not there are investigations by Congress of the president and others in the administration. Watergate consumed much of the country’s time. There is no comparison between today and Watergate, and yet many important pieces of legislation passed back in 1973 and 1974. As the speaker said, “Congress can chew gum and walk at the same time.”
Our country, including the supporters of Israel, must make sure it does not get distracted from the noise and should focus on making sure that the government keeps on doing the people’s business, including passing legislation that continues the historical close ties between Israel and the United States of America.