Congresswoman Rues Signing Gaza Letter

Gentle Persuasion: A delegation of Orthodox constituents and other Jewish leaders met with Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) Feb. 1 and convinced her to renounce her support for a congressional letter calling on President Obama to press Israel to ease its blockade of civilian goods and raw materials moving in and out of Gaza.
Gentle Persuasion: A delegation of Orthodox constituents and other Jewish leaders met with Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-Brooklyn) Feb. 1 and convinced her to renounce her support for a congressional letter calling on President Obama to press Israel to ease its blockade of civilian goods and raw materials moving in and out of Gaza.

By Nathan Guttman

Published February 03, 2010, issue of February 12, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

In the strongest sign so far of pushback against dovish Jewish groups, a New York congresswoman representing an ultra-Orthodox constituency retracted her support from congressional initiatives meant to ease the pressure on Palestinians in Gaza.

Yvette Clarke, of New York’s 11th District, which covers large parts of Brooklyn, met February 1 with a group of local Jewish leaders, many ultra-Orthodox, to discuss their concerns about her decision to sign on to two congressional letters dealing with the plight of Palestinians in Gaza. One letter called for lifting travel restrictions on Palestinian students, and the other for easing the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

The Jewish leaders’ intervention produced an open letter to Clarke’s Jewish constituents in which she expressed her regret for supporting the congressional letters. “Unfortunately, these letters are uneven in their application of pressure and do not sufficiently present a balanced approach/path to peace,” Clarke wrote, adding that the letters have “a provocative and reactionary impact.”

A spokesman for Agudath Israel of America said that Jewish participants in the meeting with Clarke responded to her new letter with “cautious optimism” and expressed their hope that her future stance on the Middle East “will reflect the support for Israel she is voicing now.”

Dovish Jewish groups supported the congressional letters on Gaza, and while mainstream pro-Israel organizations were not supportive of them, they did not actively lobby against them.

Hadar Susskind, director of policy and strategy at J Street, a group that advocated in favor of the letters, said he understood Clarke’s wish “to balance her needs with the needs of her constituency,” but he called on the Jewish community to break with “the zero-sum game and understand that improving the situation in Gaza will help us all reach a solution.”

Clarke’s retraction of her support for the Gaza letters echoes similar pressure put on lawmakers in the run-up to J Street’s first national conference, in October 2009. Then, too, some members of Congress from strongly Jewish districts came under constituent pressure to withdraw from a list of sponsors for the event.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com






Find us on Facebook!
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.