Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
US Congressmen Brian Baird and Keith Ellison Call for
Pressure on Israel
AAI, February 28, 2009
Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA) and Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), the
first American legislators, along with Senator John Kerry, to visit Gaza
since 2000, made their first joint TV appearance since their return from the
Middle East on Dr. James Zogby's weekly show,
"Viewpoint with James Zogby".
The two congressmen discussed
crossing into Gaza, the Palestinians and aid workers they met, and the
destruction they saw firsthand. "It's an immediate difference. You go into a
realm where people are using donkey carts to get around, where you can drive
down a street and just all of a sudden, come across an entire destroyed
area," said Baird.
The two congressmen stated their belief that
there is an immediate need for humanitarian relief to Gaza, and that the
Israeli government must be persuaded to open the borders for humanitarian
aid. "We need to put urgent and immediate pressure on the Israeli government
to allow more relief supplies in the short run, to be more open at the
border, to let people and goods come in and out," said Baird.
Congressman Baird said that it is in the United States' long-term national
security interest to pursue a policy of moderation in the region. "I think
we, as a responsible friend of Israel -- which I consider myself -- and a
friend of the Palestinian people, we have to say, some things are right,
some things are wrong, we're going to not support the things that are
wrong," said Baird.
Congressman Ellison spoke about the need to
create an incentive for peace in the region, arguing that as Palestinians in
the West Bank have maintained law and order, there hasn't been any reward to
them for peace. "We haven't seen any reduction of the outposts, the illegal
outposts or any of the checkpoints taken down... over 600 in the West Bank,"
said Ellison. However, there has been an increase in the settlement
activity, Ellison noted.
When asked to share what stood out in their
memory of what they saw, Congressman Baird described standing on the remains
of a house and looking at what he called 'a panorama of destruction.'
"The entire industrial area absolutely leveled, building after building
after building, not just hit by one round from a tank or one missile, but
intentionally leveled and every piece of equipment absolutely destroyed,"
Baird said. "You don't forget that."
Although the congressmen's
mission was not designed to address the political crisis, they both said
that the Palestinians need to come to an agreement under a national unity
government. "The basic terms of a lasting peace have been spelled out, stop
the settlement expansion, '67 borders, shared capital in Jerusalem," said
For more information on how to watch "Viewpoint" and to catch
up on recent episodes, please visit Viewpoint's