Issa’s letter cites racism
|November 08, 2007|
In an unusual plea for campaign funds, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) recently evoked images of racism against Arab- Americans, criticized a congressional colleague by name, and reminded potential donors of a 2001 bomb threat to his office.
“I am one of only five Arab-Americans in Congress,” begina a letter written by Issa to potential donors. “I have been personally the target of anti-Arab racism and hate speech on the Internet and in other media.”
The letter, which was sent to roughly 80,000 members of the Muslim and Arab community on Oct. 24, cited an incident in December 2001 when Issa’s California office was the target of a bomb plot.
“Inspired by the malicious writings of one person, members of the radical Jewish Defense League targeted my California office — a U.S. Congressman’s office – in a terrorist bomb plot that was thwarted by the FBI just days before it was to be carried out.”
The two members of the Jewish Defense League were later charged with plotting to blow up a California mosque as well. Issa believed he was targeted as a result of a local columnist who targeted him based on his ethnicity.
“Those are the things that occurred and the only reason was because I [am] an Arab,” he said in an interview Wednesday.
Issa’s letter did not sit well with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), who is singled out in the congressman’s plea for contributions.
Issa explained in his missive that Congress wanted to draft a resolution in 2006 after the short-lived war between Hezbollah and Israel broke out. He wrote that Arab-American members of Congress wanted to call on both sides to limit the number of civilian casualties.
“Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said language urging restraint to protect civilian life would have been interpreted as a slap to Israel,” the Issa letter states.
“As time would reveal,” the letter adds, “Israel showered Lebanon in the last few days of its military campaign with hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs that to this very day are killing innocent Lebanese civilians.”
Engel expressed shock that a fundraising letter would use another member’s name.
“This is unusual and I think it is unfortunate, frankly,” he said. “I understand as colleagues we are going to have differences but it is inappropriate to use anyone else in a fundraising letter.”
He added, “We are colleagues, we are friends. I thought we were friends… I don’t personalize [an issue] to try to raise funds.
“I think his point could have been emphasized another way.”
Told of Engel’s reaction to his letter, Issa said it is common practice to quote other members in fundraising letters.
“I would be shocked if he is shocked,” Issa said.
While direct-mail letters to donors and constituents are common, the language that Issa used in his letter has also attracted criticism from outside groups.
In his letter, Issa criticized members of the “pro-Israel lobby” for blocking the civilian casualty language in the 2006 measure. (article continued below)
Congressman Eliot EngelThis week's guest is Congressman Eliot Engel, Democrat from the 17th district of New York. A staunch supporter of Israel and an active member of the International Relations Committee (SOURCE)
Trips taken by Eliot Engel: (SOURCE)
"Consistently ranked as the most influential foreign policy lobbying organization on Capitol Hill, AIPAC is a nonpartisan American membership organization that seeks to strengthen the relationship between Israel and the United States. For more than 40 years, AIPAC has been working with Congress to build a strong, vibrant relationship between the United States and Israel. Its more than 85,000 activists throughout the United States work to improve and strengthen that relationship by supporting U.S.-Israel military, economic, scientific and cultural cooperation." (source)
"Certainly, there are great friends of Israel on the Democratic side, such as Senator Joe Lieberman (who if he is re—elected, will triumph largely from the votes of Republicans after the Democratic Party rejected him in the primary), Congressman Eliot Engel, Steny Hoyer, and Tom Lantos, to name a few. (source)
Dan Mariaschin, executive vice president for B’nai B’rith International, said the phrase “pro-Israel lobby” is a “discredited term” and claimed Issa’s comments about the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel were delivered without context.
“Whether it is a speech on the floor or a mailing I really would hope that [members have] a commitment to accuracy, a commitment to context and a commitment to avoiding the use of phrases that are insensitive,” he said.
Maybe DanMariaschin ought to suggest a new slogan for AIPAC and "staunch supporters of Israel". We wouldn't want to hurt any one's feelings after all :(
David Vance of the Campaign Legal Center said there is nothing legally wrong with Issa’s letter though he did note it’s not surprising that the controversial letter ended up in the media’s hands.
Issa, who is of Lebanese decent, said the examples of discrimination and violence referenced in the mailing were intended to communicate that he understood and experienced firsthand many of the injustices and prejudices that many Arab-Americans and Muslim- Americans had experienced in their day-to-day lives.
“We thought about writing to a community that is disenfranchised,” Issa said, stressing that it was important for that community to know that it had an advocate in Washington.
An Issa campaign spokesman said the response to the letter has been excellent.
The congressman, who is in his fourth term, said he did not intend to disparage any group.