The Celebrate Israel Festival on May 31 at Pier 94, slated to be the largest gathering to date of Israeli-Americans in New York.
Many pundits have been predicting that the House of Representatives will have a Democrat majority after the mid-term elections in November. This would hold perils that are unappreciated by many.
The majority party controls the naming of chairmanships of the committees in the House. These posts usually follow seniority. Several of the most senior Democrats hail from districts that are anti-Israel, particularly the Michigan congressmen. Chairs are the gateway to legislation. They can control items on the committee’s agenda, table measures they do not support, and bollix up the work of the committee to such an extent that they become black holes where legislation is never heard from again.
What chairmanships will accrue to them if the Democrats do indeed win control of the House, and what acts might they take that would affect American Jews and Israel?
John Conyers would assume the chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee. He has made clear his intention to hold an impeachment proceeding against George Bush. Given that his previous “mock” hearing became a mini-frenzy of anti-Semitism, can we look forward to a repeat performance? This inquisition would be much more public as it would occur in the House itself, with all its trappings of power and authority.
Will Conyers again enable conspiracy theorist to dredge up anti-Semitic canards, this time to be placed in the Congressional Record and before all of the nation to see and hear? Will that please his base of Arab-Americans back home in Michigan?
John Dingell would assume the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee. Will he seek to prevent America from becoming more energy self-sufficient and thereby help empower Arab oil-exporting nations? Will he take actions that would upset the Arab-Americans in his community?
David Obey would become chair of the Appropriations Committee. This is the committee responsible for drafting the legislation authorizing spending by the U.S. government. He will very clearly cut the defense budget wherever possible and direct money to domestic programs.
Military aid is key to Israel’s ability to defend itself. Will Obey cut aid to Israel, as he has already voiced a desire to do (over the settlements issue)? Will he try to cut funding for military programs that create high-tech weapons? These are the very defense items we supply Israel with and that give the Jewish state a qualitative edge over foes that vastly outnumber it.
Would he leave the inventory of America’s arsenal so low that there may not be enough weapons to send Israel if it is attacked? It was the emergency airlift of excess military supplies made available because of the winding down of the war in Vietnam that enabled Israel to avoid destruction in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Charles Rangel, who has publicly feuded with the Anti-Defamation League for years and compares the Iraq war to the Holocaust, would become chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. This committee has jurisdiction over all taxation, tariffs, and other revenue-raising measures. Anti-Israel congressmen have periodically threatened the tax-deductibility of charity aid going to Israel. Would he oppose such a measure when push came to shove? Would the committee enact trade legislation that would harm Israel, one of our major trading partners, as a way to exert pressure?
Neil Abercrombie would become chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee of Armed Services. A flourishing and synergistic trade in defense goods exists between Israel and the U.S. Access to the high-tech weapons America produces helps to offset the advantages Arab nations have in manpower and oil wealth. Yet Abercrombie is on record as opposing the purchase of Israeli munitions, stating, “by no means, under any circumstances, should a round from Israel be utilized” in Iraq or Afghanistan.
While this kowtowing to Arab sensibilities might seem justifiable, it has to be seen in the context of a member with one of the worst voting records in the House in terms of U.S.-Israel relations. When a congressman proudly stands as the only member of his legislative body to vote “no” on a resolution that merely offered Israel a mild degree of support in its battle against Hizbullah, one wonders what he might do were he to be further empowered. Would he work to cut the close ties between the Israeli military and the American armed forces? Would he put a halt on the trade in defense goods vital to Israel’s security as it faces existential threats to its survival?
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On his shloshim, I want to discuss a term I’ve heard countless times about Rav Aharon: Gedol HaDor
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