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National Advocacy Days 2007
Transcript of comments by Members of Congress
Rep. Lois Capps:
You are a wonderful organization for members of congress like David and I'm sure that David has a few words to say as well. When looking for a place to find support for peace while supporting Israel, you fit the bill. (applause) This is a wonderful reception. This is a great turnout, and I know it warms the heart of your founder Marcia Friedman who gave birth to this organization and must feel somewhat like, wow look what you did in those early days. (applause) And because she comes from a city where six of my grandchildren reside, we have a special bond.
Enough of the lightness, I mean we..., your presence is so keen. Who would have thought the events of the past few days and even today with PM Olmert here, somewhere, either in New York or Washington, that... Does anyone doubt the need for Brit Tzedek? It is really so critical that the work that you do multiplies and Marcia you started this all. I'm particularly pleased that we have so many young people here, embodied by your incoming president, Steve Masters. I think it is really fitting that this is the new voice that will speak on behalf of peace from the vantage point of Israel. Support for Israel, support for peace, and support for the Palestinians and the ambassador is here as well. I wanted to also... (applause)
Last time I saw the ambassador was in my hometown of Santa Barbara, it was a little cooler there that day wasn't it? But I also want you to know many of you who've come to my office in the past have come in large part because of my former chief of staff Jeremy Rabinovitz who's moved on and but I want you to know that I am ably served by Amy Fisher, back there, (applause) who has a keen interest in what happens there because she has many family members residing in Israel, makes a point to stay in touch with them and visits at least, as far as I can tell, once or twice a year. So my office is very firmly connected with your goals, your mission, and as David and I talk so frequently on the floor of the House, we are determined to put your voice front and center in the House of Representatives.
It's not going to be easy to do that, but the configuration of all that's going on today in the region underscores the need for what you're about. And the fact that Jerry Nadler was here, believe me, he and I will have a conversation when we go to vote, in a few minutes and I'm going to thank him on your behalf for coming and thank you for your effort. (applause) This...one final thought, this is the time to gear up with all that Marcia envisioned and you all envisioned who were there in the beginning. This is the time to build that coalition even stronger to reach more and more people, to speak so firmly so that Members of Congress can not help but notice to see the new way to relate to Israel is the peaceful way. Thank you so much for having me. (applause)
Rep. David Price:
(applause) Thank you. (applause) My, what a nice warm welcome. Thank you so much. Um, we are glad to see you here. I hope you can pick that up from what Lois Capps just said and the earlier guests who were here.
We really value what you do and have been in awe of the organizational work you've done out in the communities of this country. I've seen this happen in my district, the Raleigh-Durham chapter is well represented here tonight, and we here that more chapters are on the way. So to come from all over the country and to have this kind of presence in Washington, I know that's been your vision and I know that you understand the importance of that. And so, we're glad to see you.
We feel reinforced. We of course want to talk to you tomorrow. I understand that we're going to be meeting in our individual offices with many of you tomorrow. We want to see what you're thinking and talking about but we also want to communicate to you what the needs are here for those who want to push the cause of a just peace in the Middle East; security for Israel and justice in the region and the kind of proactive role for the United States that we know is absolutely essential to making progress, the kind of role that's been there in the past that in recent years has not been there, and that perhaps we have a chance of reviving at this moment. So, thank you for all that you've been doing.
Tommy Ross is here with me. Tommy's the staff member who handles this. (applause) And... I know Susan Davis either was here or is coming and I want to say something about her resolution and I hope you're going to be pushing that. (applause) I'm sure Susan could use some cosponsors. This is the resolution on the special envoy for Middle East peace.
This organization has had an important part in a couple of recent debates here, and that's what I think has gotten the attention of lots of people. The time that it mattered most to me and people working with me was the debate about a year ago on the question of foreign aid and the way we ought to modify foreign aid after the Hamas victory in the Palestinian territories. The question had to do with humanitarian aid... (interruption) had to do with the question of humanitarian aid. Aid to schools and clinics and many, many, many, many NGOs that in fact stood for exactly the opposite of the Hamas philosophy, but who yet were being caught in this overly broad prohibition. You know what that was all about. You also know that along with Americans for Peace Now and the Middle East Forum and the Center for Middle East Peace, a number of organizations came together that had not been heard from so prominently before. But the grassroots component of that was Brit Tzedek. (applause)
The grassroots component was this organization and I have to tell you that that is what had been missing and it's what we still need to work on, believe me. But that, that has been the missing piece, that kind of grassroots interest and involvement. That ability on a moment's notice to contact receptive members of congress or maybe some who aren't so receptive but might become so. That's the way things work around here and that's what Brit Tzedek has brought to the table. And that's why I say that we're so glad to see you here. I think the recent debate, which really wasn't much of a public debate, but you can look at the Congressional record, and you can see the range of things that were said and written about this most recent resolution that having to do with the anniversary of the '67 war and the reunification of Jerusalem. A very, very different set of offerings I think of our nuance set of offerings to that debate than what you might have seen before. And again, I think that you should take full credit for the way you've been working with members of congress, working with organizations around this town who share your point of view.
Don't underestimate the importance of that, the power of it, either politically or intellectually, the kind of point of view you represent, because it is the way to peace. It's the way to the kind of solution for the region that we're all looking for. So you can be confident of that. But you also can be confident that there will be a political response if you reach out and educate and do the kind of work that goes into grassroots politics. So I hope you take some satisfaction in these developments and the kinds of efforts that we've seen. I hope that you'll take encouragement. I hope you'll keep on keeping on and will let us, let us, reach out to a wider and wider circle of our constituents and to our members here. It's a very, very important...(applause)
Now, I'll just conclude by saying that we're at another one of these junctures in terms of Middle East politics. The news over the weekend of course is very, very unsettling in Gaza, the emergence then of a Fattah government in the West Bank and the questions of how we and the Israelis relate to these developments and that in the midst of all this that there might be a chance of moving forward with Israeli-Syrian talks of a serious sort. There is a great deal going on, it's a very mixed picture as usual. A picture that is very demanding on this country's diplomacy and demanding I would say on your best efforts. So thank you so much, let's keep pushing. (applause)
Rep. Susan Davis:
(applause) Thank you. Thank you. Great. Wow, you know, that cheer made putting in the resolution all worthwhile. But seriously, I appreciate the remarks of David Price and my colleague Lois Capps from California and the address that they made to you. I'm just delighted to be here to say hello, to welcome you to Washington, and to thank you for your over five years of work and growing. Because as I understand in San Diego, where I am from and represent, they're beginning a chapter and that's happening throughout the country. How many of you have been involved for just six months to a year? (pause) Yeah, and how many for all five years? (pause) Ok, so that's the bulk of the folks that are here. Well, thank you. Thank you for being involved.
You've heard about the resolution and what we're saying in that, which I know you obviously appreciate, is that the only way that we can take advantage of each and every opportunity that presents itself is to have somebody ready to go! Every minute, on the ground, to say "this is a special time, and we need to take advantage of that". We know that in Israel, and I'm sure that you've all visited, we always say "this is a special time" and that "we're living in difficult times". We probably can't imagine a more difficult time for Israel than what they are going through and living through right now. But that's why it's important, I think, to keep that focus and to certainly, with its neighbors, be willing to extend a hand and action to do something that's positive for the entire region. We know that has to happen. So I appreciate your work on this very much.
Many of you may not know, and I was just talking to my colleague Lois Capps, and I said "gee I wonder if I should tell them that I'm actually a kibbutznik". In 1965, I know that dates me, but in 1965 after completing UC Berkley, I went to Israel to be part of Shuflam, which was an organization at that time bringing Americans to Israel, hopefully to make aliyah at some point, but to get to know the country, to live in the country, to experience kibbutz life, if they chose to do that, and then hopefully to work and make a contribution to the country. So I had this incredible opportunity to do that. I remember so much of it. I don't remember what I did yesterday. But honestly I remember so much of that year working on the kibbutz, I was at Deganya Bet, and some of you are familiar with Deganya, it's the oldest- it's actually Deganya Alef that's the oldest kibbutz in the country, but Deganya Bet had a marvelous history. So I had a chance to work there and work the fields every day and learned at their ulpan. And then I went to Yerushaliym, I went to Jerusalem and I worked as a social worker and an English teacher in an institute for delinquent boys, outside Jerusalem, right near Hadassah hospital.
So I have a very special relationship and feeling with Israel and many Israelis there as well. And I'm a fervent advocate for peace in Israel and for security for Israel. But I also know that we need to look at a broader picture sometimes, we need to really understand it. And so I will continue to work hard so that that peace, that's been so elusive, hopefully in the next number of years, finds its way to the entire region and that we really can look to a day that Israelis and Palestinians and the neighbors can live in peace and some kind of partnership together. (applause) It seems far off...(applause) I know it's very far off today, but we really do have to believe in that don't we? And so thank you for the work that you're doing and I hope that you'll enjoy your days here in Washington and that your advocacy will be a strong one. I know that my colleagues will be participating with you. Thank you all very much. (applause)