Tuesday, Jun 25th

Bowman Fails to Denounce Anti-Semitism

collegecampus(The following was written by Scarsale resident Diane Greenwald)

Open Letter to Congressman Bowman:

Your vote last week against the resolution denouncing campus anti-Semitism, HR 798, was wrong. It didn’t need your vote to pass, but you should have supported this bipartisan resolution. The resolution specifically calls out Hamas and Hezbollah as known terrorist organizations and enemies of the US, and it calls against rampant and increasing antisemitism on college campuses. Your voice on this would have been a welcome salve in this crisis time, but you felt the resolution was too flawed for you to sign on.

I understand that the pro-Israel organization, J Street, did not fully support the HR 798 measure as written, though they did support the Senate resolution. They got this wrong. It may be an imperfect text, but so are most. Grandstanding as a purist is not a successful approach to governance, in a body that functions only when there is compromise. Sometimes I agree with J Street, sometimes I do not; theirs is not the definitive voice and does not give you cover for this vote. ADL supported this resolution. All Jewish members of Congress supported this resolution, many who are also members of the Progressive Caucus. If they can abide it, so could you. When in doubt, stand in solidarity with their voices, like they often stand with yours.

You could have voted in favor of HR 798, and then voiced your nuanced thoughts about its issues. That is always an option when presented with a binary vote (you could have done that with Infrastructure too, as many have pointed out.) Perhaps you wished this resolution included others, such as students facing Islamophobia. Yes! Another, independent resolution could call out against anti-Muslim hate. This important work does not excuse your no vote on this resolution, HR 798.

I needed your solidarity, like you have had mine. When I stand up for Black Lives Matter, and I do stand up, and I will continue to, I do not stand for "All Lives Matter.” Of course, all lives do matter but not the point, is it? When I stand up for Black Lives Matter, I stand with the movement to combat systemic racism, to ensure we together end targeted police brutality, profiling, and wrongful mass incarceration of people of color. You could have stood with us for one moment.

And the fact is, you do not always insist a resolution be unflawed to support it. You were willing to co-sponsor a call for an immediate ceasefire, a deeply flawed, unnuanced resolution that sought humanitarian aid for Gaza, laudable, but did not require the return of the Israeli hostages, and that did not acknowledge the potential futility of seeking a ceasefire agreement from a terrorist organization, Hamas, committed to chaos, brutality and violence. It did not even make it to the floor. Wishing desperately for peace, a shared hope, is not the same thing as wading into complex foreign military strategy, but if you have viable solutions for protecting Israelis and Palestinians from Hamas terror without military action, that would be valuable insight to share. It was not included in that flawed resolution.

You should know by now that Jews, including 150,000 in your district, are not monolithic. In fact, we are defined by our constant wrestling -- with ideas, with ourselves, and our world. Israel literally means “to wrestle with God,” an intimate task taken on face-to-face, with our imperfections and each other, as lifelong learners. Little is simple, so we must work. And yet, Elie Wiesel believed that the common mission of the Jewish people, “has never been to make the world more Jewish, but to make it more human.” The beauty and simplicity in this statement is breathtaking. We have needed you to stand with us on this rare common ground in making the world more human – stand against terror, stand against antisemitism.

You claim in the press to be talking daily to members of your Jewish constituent population, but if that were true, then you would know that most Jews desperately want peace and to preserve innocent lives, regardless of faith. You would know how much Israel means to us, despite our ready criticisms of specific politicians, policies. You would know how afraid we are of real and rising hate, here and abroad. I know dozens who write you regularly but hear nothing from you. I write you and get no answers. The only calls I have ever received from you are to ask for contributions. You have alienated and dismissed over a dozen community Rabbis, each a unique and learned leader, who have repeatedly tried to work with you and finally resort to public outcry against your policies.

Congressman, this is personal for me. I have two children on different college campuses. One son is in Lewiston, ME, where a few days before he was placed on multi-day campus lockdown and terrorized by gun violence fears, he faced a swastika painted on a dorm. Your “no” vote on HR 798 tells me you think that is ok. It is not. Hate against Jews here cannot be excused by the geopolitical situation in Israel and Gaza.

Please wrestle with these many hard truths that require deeper learning and real humility. I do not expect you to be an expert in Middle East policy, a situation that confounds even the most seasoned thinkers and leaders. We are asking little else of you than this bit of work and solidarity. This is an extraordinary and diverse district where you could be a bridge builder, but you are just putting up walls. And I needed you, an educator and a leader and a lawmaker, to show my voting-aged college kids and me that there is a voice for them in the American government. Votes are your legacy, and you failed us in this vote.


Diane Greenwald

Proud Jewish Mother, Patriot, Progressive, Feminist, Liberal, Advocate, and Ally.
Longtime supporter of fair but elusive solutions for Middle East peace.
I Stand with Israel. Bring home the hostages.

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