[R-G] Two Leading Jewish Dems Pull Support for Iran Sanctions Resolution
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Thu Jul 17 11:19:35 MDT 2008
Even on the sanctions front, there are a few promising signs. -- Yoshie
Two Leading Jewish Dems Pull Support for Iran Sanctions Resolution
Reps. Frank, Wexler Back Away From Measure Criticized by Doves as Bellicose
By Nathan Guttman
Tue. Jul 15, 2008
Two senior Jewish congressmen are distancing themselves from a
resolution calling for tougher sanctions against Iran, arguing that
the bill would send an unnecessarily bellicose message to Tehran.
Democratic Reps. Robert Wexler of Florida and Barney Frank of
Massachusetts pulled their support — Wexler on July 9, and Frank a
week earlier — from a congressional resolution that called for
increasing inspections on all sea and air traffic in and out of Iran,
among other measures. The bill has been targeted by a coalition of
progressive groups that give an argument that the measure is pushing
for a de facto blockade on Iran that may lead to war.
Jewish lawmakers and communal leaders have been treading a thin line
on the issue of Iran's nuclear program, as they have been upfront in
warning about Iran's nuclear ambitions. Jewish groups and members of
Congress, however, have gone out of their way to avoid being seen as
promoting war or military action against Tehran.
"It's a little trickier for the Jewish community, because there is a
school of thought that believes the community bears disproportionate
responsibility for the war in Iraq," said Mark Pelavin, associate
director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. "The fact
that this claim is out there makes people be more measured this time
Israeli diplomats and policymakers have expressed a similar concern.
Over the past year they have repeatedly stressed that Iran is a threat
to the entire Middle East, and that dealing with Tehran should be a
task for the entire world and not just the Jewish state.
The nonbinding resolution, known as House Concurrent Resolution 362,
was introduced May 22. The clause that has drawn criticism from groups
opposing military action against Iran calls for "imposing stringent
inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes,
trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran." The groups believe that
the clause amounts to a call for imposing a military blockade against
Among those calling on lawmakers to turn down the proposed resolution
is Americans for Peace Now, a dovish Jewish group that is pushing for
a peaceful solution to the standoff with Iran. In a July 8 letter to
members of Congress, the group wrote that "ambiguity in the text of
the resolution has led some to see it as de facto approval for a land,
air or sea blockade of Iran, any of which could be considered an act
On July 9, activists from the women's antiwar group Code Pink, which
opposes the resolution, launched a symbolic blockade of the Washington
houseboat of Rep. Gary Ackerman, a New York Democrat and one of the
authors of the resolution.
Ackerman, who has faced mounting criticism for his support for the
resolution, answered his critics in a hearing of the House Foreign
Relations Committee that took place the same day as the blockade.
"The whole idea that the resolution calls for a blockade can only be
sustained by a determined refusal to read the resolution, or to accept
the plain meaning of the words within it," Ackerman said. The only way
to find the term "blockade" in the resolution, he added, is "by the
amending power of imagination alone."
Ackerman's clarification, however, was not enough to prevent Frank and
Wexler from withdrawing their support for the legislation. In June,
both had signed on to the resolution as co-sponsors.
"I regret the fact that I did not read this resolution more
carefully," Frank wrote July 5 to an activist from Peace Action, a
grass-roots antiwar group that supports nuclear disarmament. Frank,
who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, promised to
withdraw his support from the resolution as it currently stands.
Wexler voiced similar views in a Huffington Post article, pledging to
"lead an effort to make changes to this resolution before it comes to
the foreign relations committee for a vote." Wexler added he would
condition his support for the resolution on changes being made to its
The resolution currently has 230 co-sponsors in the House, and this
number ensures that it will be brought to a vote in the foreign
relations committee. A similar resolution has been circulating in the
Senate, but that bill does not include the wording regarding
restrictions on air and sea traffic into and out of Iran.
Both the House and Senate resolutions are among the top items on the
agenda of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The pro-Israel
lobby is focusing its efforts on the elements of the resolution
calling for the end of the sale of refined petroleum products to Iran,
not on the part dealing with increased sea and air inspections.
The debate over the resolution, which has split Jewish lawmakers and
activists, may be close to a solution, according to congressional
A Democratic staff member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee told
the Forward that wording of the resolution is still open for change.
"If it is not clear enough, it is the fault of the writer, not of the
reader," the staffer said. "If it is not clear, we will clarify it."
The staff member did stress, however, that advocacy groups and members
of Congress opposing the resolution "did not do their homework."
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