By Miriam Raftery
November 5, 2023 (San Diego) – After the House of Representatives finally elected a new Speaker, Mike Johnson, the first action was a bipartisan resolution in support of Israel’s war against Hamas, also condemning Iran for aiding Hamas and other terror groups. The resolution passed 412-10, with all five of San Diego’s Congressional representatives voting in favor.
But the local members differ sharply on other aspects of the Israel-Hamas conflict, including whether aid to Israel should be linked to humanitarian aid for Gaza and support for Ukraine.
Congressman Scott Peters, a Democrat, said of the resolution, “The House made clear that it stands with our ally, Israel, following Hamas’s barbaric attack on October that killed over 1,000 Israelis and dozens of Americans. We condemn the kidnapping of hundreds and call for the immediate release of all hostages.”
But he said in a separate post on X (formerly Twitter on Oct. 25, ”Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people.Civilians, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or nationality, should not have to suffer for Hamas’s atrocities. We must continue to work on getting food, water, and shelter to innocent civilians in Gaza.” The United Nations estimates that as many as 9,000 people in Gaza have died during the Israeli military response to the October 7 massacre of Israeli civilians by Hamas.
Peters, on Nov. 2, said he supports “robust funding for Israel to defend itself,” but voted no on a Republican backed bill that would have funded aid to Israel but slashed IRS funding, a move Peters said would “increase the deficit by $26 billion by hampering the IRS’s ability to recover money from wealthy tax cheats AND go after money laundering by terrorist organizations.” He also criticized the bill for not providing any humanitarian aid to Gaza civilians who are suffering.
The Senate plans to put forward a bill of its own, of which Peters said, “I look forward to a comprehensive national security package from the Senate that funds Israel, Ukraine and humanitarian aid.”
But Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican, backed the bill to fund Israeli aid only, without humanitarian aid to Gaza or military aid for Ukraine. “Our aid to Israel will help take the fight to Hamas—and its paid for by funding we’re cutting from the Biden IRS,” he posted on X.
Issa also retweeted a photo of pro-Palestinian demonstrators whom he likened to a “mob.” The protesters were carrying signs calling to “End the War on Gaza” and “Free Palestine.” Issa commented, “Stand up to the mob. Stand with Israel.”
Issa has also called for stronger sanctions on Iran and permanent freezing of Iran’s oil assets, since Iran has reportedly trained and aided Hamas terrorists.
In recent weeks, pro-Palestinian groups have held marches and rallies locally and nationally seeking a cease-fire. San Diego streets were shut down by a pro-Palestinian march last month, NBC 7 reported. Some have called for a cease fire, but more radical elementary have called for end in to the nation of Israel, a position that backers of Israel say makes negotiations futile and eradication of Hamas essential for Israel's survival.
But recent Israeli bombings have included a refugee camp, where Israel said a high-level Hamas leader was located, but that along with strikes on civilian targets have sparked anger across the Arab world.
Jewish Voice for Peace held a rally at the San Diego office of Congresswoman Sara Jacobs, who is Jewish, and delivered a letter asking her to support a resolution calling for a cease fire. Avital Aboody, an Israeli-American, said, “We’re all grieving,” adding that she does not support Hamas’ attack on Israel, nor Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza, ECM news partner 10 News reports. (Photo, right: Jewish Voices for Peace outside Congresswoman Jacbobs' office, courtesy of 10 News.)
The Biden administration has opposed a cease fire, but has called for a pause by Israeli’s military to allow for getting more foreign nationals out of Gaza and more aid to enter Gaza. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has said that, “a cease-fire would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on Oct. 7.”
Thus far, none of the San DIego delegation has voiced support for a full cease fire.
Jacobs, who is Jewish, has stood with Israel but also condemned the refugee camp attack by Israel, calling it “Horrific.” She added on social media, “States have an obligation to protect civilians. Even if the strikes were aimed at legitimate military targets, repeatedly bombing Jabalia refugee camp is completely unacceptable.”
Jacobs, a Democrat, has coauthored a resolution calling on leaders of both houses of Congress to swiftly pass President Joe Biden’s request for emergency supplemental funding to include disaster assistance for humanitarian needs in Gaza. “We believe that a prompt and robust humanitarian response is necessary to protect the lives of Palestinians, Americans and Israelis—whose security will be weakened if we fail to meet the humanitarian needs in the region,” the letter states, noting that over a million people have fled violence in Gaza but the region lacks adequate food, water,fuel and medical care.
Congressman Juan Vargas voiced strong support for Israel immediately after the violent Hamas attack on Israeli civilians. “The United States must condemn these acts of terrorism against one of our strongest allies. I’m proud to support Israel, her democracy, and her right to self defense,” he wrote on October 9.
He also denounced Iranian-backed Houthi and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants for firing missiles at Israel. “Iran has grown its network of proxies and funds its foreign terrorism regime against our allies and partners,” he wrote. “We must provide a bipartisan front to hold Iranian backed terrorists accountable.” Vargas also called on “all nations of the world to demand that Hamas release all abducted prisoners immediately!”
Most poignant are the comments of Congressman Mike Levin, who was raised by a Jewish father and Catholic mother. “I visited Kibbutz Kfar Aza in February with a group of my House colleagues,” he wrote on Oct. 10. “We met with brave families committed to peace. The atrocities committed there and elsewhere by Hamas terrorists are unimaginable and heartbreaking. We must stand uniquivocably with the people of Israel.”
But Levin, a Democrat, voted against the Israel aid bill and blasted Speaker Johnson for tying aid to gutting IRS funding. He also slammed the Chair of the Republican National Committee for calling the Hamas attack “a great opportunity for our candidates.”
Levin, in a press statement, said, “I support aiding Israel as it seeks to rescue its civilians kidnapped by Hamas and to end the threat of future attacks that terrorism poses to the Israeli people” But he said of the bill put forward by House Republicans, ”It sets an awful precedent to condition critical aid in a time of war to advance an unrelated political agenda...protecting wealthy tax cheats while increasing the deficit.”
He said he also voted against the measure because its passage would make it harder to later seek aid for other allies including Ukraine and Taiwan, which were excluded from the GOP bill.
Levin also urged the Senate to take up President Biden’s supplemental funding request including humanitarian aid for Gazans and send it back to the house, “So that we can show bipartisan unity in the face of threats to democracy and peace worldwide. I look forward to voting for aid to Israel, without partisan conditions, at that time.”