Tom Joad

For Those Who Seek Peace and Justice

A collection of
Barbara Lee Votes and Statements on Palestine/Israel

See a report of our July 2014 protest of Lee's support for military aid to Israel here. Our September protest here.

Barbara Lee represents Oakland/Berkeley in the US Congress. She is highly regarded as probably one of the most progressive currently serving in Congress. Her predecessor  was Ron Dellums (Lee worked as a congressional aide under Dellums), Dellums helped make history by finally getting Congress to vote sanctions on apartheid South Africa in 1986. This congressional district remains probably the most progressive in the country, a constituency that fights for peace and justice both here and abroad, fighting unjust US policies. Barbara Lee made a name for herself as the lone NO vote after 9/11, refusing to give George Bush a "blank check for war" as she called the AUMF (Authorization to Use Military Force).  While attacked viciously  by many conservatives, it made her a hero in her district. She later wrote an autobiography called "Renegade for Peace and Justice: Congresswoman Barbara Lee Speaks for Me" It is natural to expect then that many in this district would demand justice for Palestinians, and protest US policies that support Israeli oppression.

So how does this "renegade" act on the issues of Palestinian freedom? It's a mixed record. While even the slightest deviation from the norm (that is, complete support of Israeli policies) on this issue is rare, Lee has shown herself to be at times cautiously opposing some policies (such as calling for an end to siege on Gaza), but in important ways, including support for massive US military aid, quite the conformist.

 Funding the Israeli Military: Barbara Lee supports "robust American military aid to Israel"  This is not something she mentions in any speeches that i have seen, and bills in Congress that include funding for the Israeli military are almost always part of a much larger package that include many things, so that voting No on such bills would leave many other projects unfunded. However, since she is currently (in both the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, in rather paltry amounts) receiving donations from J Street, the "liberal" supporters of military aid to Israel, we know she must have made a commitment to them to support such aid, as it is part of their requirements for supporting any candidate.

Barbara Lee opposes the Boycott Divestment, Sanctions movement of Palestinian civil society. While supporting the tools of Israeli oppression and the means it uses to violently suppresses Palestinian rights, Lee also is on record with J Street, again, as opposing a nonviolent tool of Palestinian resistance. Much in the same way President Reagan advocated against any real sanctions on apartheid  South Africa, instead relying on "quiet diplomacy". That policy was called "constructive engagement". It was also called a racist policy that put the US on the wrong side of history.

The motivations for these policy decisions are not entirely known, except perhaps to Lee herself. But I expect it was not the meager donations from J Street, but more likely practical politics. Non-conformity on this issue can make you a pariah in Congress, and being a pariah means that any success in Congress becomes much more difficult in overall success in getting any of her bills passed or even considered. So Lee treads lightly. Every once in a while saying something inspiring, but more often just reciting platitudes and clichés.

Statements and Votes

September 4th- Barbara Lee again confronted with Protesters challenging her continued support of military aid for Israel. Details here.

August 4th- Barbara Lee sends out Letter defending her vote for more aid to Israel.

Responding to rising criticism, Barbara Lee sends out a letter defending her decision to support more aid to Israel. See letter and a response here.

August 1st- Barbara Lee votes to send another $225 in Military Aid to Israel

Barbara Lee votes to support more money for the so-called Iron Dome, as Israel targets UN Schools, medical facilities and Palestinian homes receive no such protection from US-funded weaponry. Significantly, 8 members of Congress, 4 Democrats and 4 Republicans, oppose the measure. Roll Call here.

July 26th- Escalating Crisis in the Middle East

"I remain deeply troubled by the ongoing and escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza and mourn the tragic loss of innocent lives in Gaza and Israel."

“It is clear there can be no military solution to this conflict and I call on all parties to agree to an immediate and indefinite ceasefire."

“The only way for peace is to ensure Israel's security free from rocket attacks and a two state solution with Israelis and Palestinians living side by side."

"This military action and the terrible human suffering that we are seeing, will not resolve the conflict, restore the peace, or end the violence."

"I have consistently called for decisive action to alleviate the ongoing humanitarian suffering in  Gaza including efforts to end the blockade and ensure Israeli security."

"Addressing the underlying humanitarian needs of this crisis and restoring hope to Palestinians and security for Israeli civilians is critical to achieving a lasting peace."

“Once again, I call upon the leaders of Hamas and Israel to agree upon and abide by an immediate and indefinite ceasefire, and upon the Administration to continue to engage in the intensive, high-level diplomacy necessary to assist the parties in developing concrete steps  than can be implemented immediately to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, guarantee the safety of Israeli civilians and start on a path to a sustained peace."

July 17th - Congresspeople Lee, Ellison and others  "sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary Kerry urging the administration to continue efforts to find a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Palestine".  Urging diplomacy. Letter here.

Barbara Lee also put out her own statement on Gaza:

July 10th Washington, DC - In response to the violence in Israel and Gaza, Congresswoman Barbara Lee released this statement:

“I am gravely concerned about the current violence and loss of life in Israel and Gaza; this horrific violence does nothing to enhance the security of Israelis or Palestinians. Only a diplomatic solution can ensure lasting security,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “We need strong diplomatic intervention by the US and regional partners to help establish an immediate ceasefire that allows for the negotiations of a permanent and peaceful settlement.”

July 11- Barbara Lee votes to support Israel's "right to self-defense" in attacking Gaza, supports "Operation Protective Edge". This was passed unanimous consent, in a voice vote. If Lee had any concerns about how lop-sided this resolution was, she did not express them. More on this resolution here. In contrast, see the statement of dissent put out by former Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

March 2014- Barbara Lee votes for the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act by a 410-1 vote. This bill reaffirms military aid to Israel as agreed to under the Bush administration ($30  Billion over the course of ten years, that is, at least $3 billion per year),  and that "Israel  is a major strategic partner of the United States." More on the bill and what it means here.

June 2010- Cong. Lee and Keith Ellison send letter to President Obama calling  for end to military siege on Gaza. See the letter here. This is an important letter, but it resulted in no action. Lee also, in 2009, wrote the Bush administration a similar letter of concern. While Israel continues to receive, with Barbara Lee's support, massive military aid, Palestinian civilians are left with letters of concern, and at the same time, the very tangible results of US largess with modern weaponry. These weapons have proved to be very effective in destroying schools and hospitals. Letters of concern have, alas, proven to be useless in keeping such facilitites safe.