STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — June 16, 2010. On Wednesday, activists from Peace Action, MDS, Staten Island’s Muslim community and the Fellowship of Reconciliation were joined by congressional candidate Hank Bardel (Green Party) in a rally outside pro-war Democrat Mike McMahon’s office. McMahon recently referred to opponents of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza ghetto as “supporters of Hamas.” The two dozen protesters called McMahon’s rhetoric reminiscent of McCarthyism and demanded a retraction — calling on the congressman to demonstrate his ability to be reasonable and urging McMahon to put U.S. interests before Israeli interests.
Two dozen protesters turned out Wednesday night for the second rally in two weeks at Congressman Mike McMahon’s New Dorp office. The issue: McMahon’s pro-war voting record and his recent comments calling peace activists “supporters of Hamas.”
Several community leaders spoke at the rally.
Hank Bardel, the Green Party candidate for McMahon’s job, told the crowd that he was the peace candidate — contrasting his position of ending the war now with McMahon’s refusal to use the War Powers Act to force Obama to bring the troops home from Afghanistan.
“We see how he voted,” Bardel said. “We have to elect representatives to Congress who will work for peace.”
“I pledge to the people of the thirteenth Congressional District that if I’m elected I will work to establish a lasting peace and a prosperous economy,” he added.
“The peace movement is for peaceful solutions, not military solutions, to problems. That’s why we don’t support Hamas,” Bardel said.
Sally Jones of Peace Action Staten Island read a new PASI resolution condemning the Israeli raid on the vessel carrying aid to Gaza, calling for an international inquiry into the raid and calling for an immediate end to the blockade of Gaza. The resolution also asked for a just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jones asked McMahon to support the resolution.
Muslim activist Hesham El-Meligy spoke about the recent rally held outside McMahon’s office and called McMahon’s subsequent statement — calling the Gazan aid activists “supporters of Hamas” — shameful.
“Who are we kidding here? The people were delivering food, water and toys to the besieged people of Gaza,” said El-Meligy.
Noting that constituents always have differences with elected officials, El-Meligy said that McMahon’s comments were over the top.
“This is shocking from our representative. I’m calling on Congressman McMahon to retract his statement. And we demand to meet with him to give him a chance to explain what he said, what he meant, and we need him to speak on the side of justice, on the side of the besieged people of Gaza.”
Richard Greve said that Israeli blockade is collective punishment, illegal under international law.
“The reason that we’re here is to tell McMahon, instead of putting Israeli’s interests first, and instead of supporting AIPAC and being an Israeli-Firster, that he put justice ahead of Israel’s violation of international law.”
Greve argued that blind support of Israeli foreign policy is not in the U.S. national interest. He urged McMahon to put his country first, rather than putting Israel first.
“Trying to compound the suffering of innocent people is just not the answer,” said Lloyd Berg, a member of Peace Action, referring to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
Berg spoke about McMahon’s calling peace activists “supporters of Hamas.”
“This thing about, that it means aiding Hamas to criticize [ the government ] — I mean that’s a remnant of the McCarthy age,” Berg said.
Berg described the McCarthy period as one in which people said, ” ‘Oh you’re agreeing with the Communists,’ if you say anything that comes with justice.”
Berg expects more from McMahon.
“Let us hope that he will be more reasonable. And see that it is not the answer to occupy, to starve, to harass, to imprison a whole people,” Berg said.