1/19/24: Watertown Daily Times: Green Party of New York, former presidential candidates Ralph Nader, Howie Hawkins call on Stefanik to resign

Jan 19, 2024 Updated Jan 24, 2024

The Green Party of New York and about 125 upstate New Yorkers have signed onto a letter demanding Rep. Elise M. Stefanik resign from her seat representing the 21st Congressional District because of her support of Israel in the violence in Gaza.

It’s got the support of Ralph Nader, 89, a repeat third-party, then independent presidential candidate from nearly 30 years ago, and his Washington-based group, the Center for Study of Responsive Law.

The letter was authored by David Doonan, the former mayor of Greenwich, Washington County, and the web manager for the Green Party of the United States, with the help of Nader and constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein, according to Peter A. LaVenia Jr., co-chair of Green Party New York, who answered questions for Doonan.

In a terse, aggressively worded letter addressed to the congresswoman, the supporters demand Stefanik resign for “aiding and abetting genocide of Palestinians in Gaza,” because of her support of sending defense aid and weapons to the Israeli government as its Israeli Defense Forces fight in Gaza.

They also said her prominent role in criticizing the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology over campus rules regarding antisemitic and political speech was inappropriate and had no basis in fact. The criticism contributed to two university president resignations and a congressional investigation into conduct rules at a number of U.S. universities.

“You voiced outrage at the resistance of the Presidents of Harvard, Penn, and M.I.T to declare categorically that any student who hypothetically called for genocide of Jews would be expelled,” the letter reads. “No evidence was adduced suggesting such a student is more than a figment of your fevered imagination.”

Yet faculty, staff and students at a number of American academic institutions have raised repeated concerns about a culture of antisemitism on their campuses, with scattered reports of some protests against Israeli violence in Gaza taking on antisemitic, genocidal messages, including at campuses run by the presidents questioned by Stefanik in early January.

When reached for comment, Alex DeGrasse, a longtime Stefanik adviser and spokesperson, said the congresswoman is proud to support Israel, which began its campaign in Gaza in October after a group of Hamas militants based in the territory sieged Israel’s borders, killing about 1,200 civilians and IDF soldiers, and kidnapping about 250 people, about 100 of whom have been released or confirmed dead since hostilities began.

Israel has been retaliating with significant force, dropping tens of thousands of bombs on targets all across Gaza, cutting off services like water, food and medical care and barring a significant amount of humanitarian aid from entering the territory. Israel began a ground invasion in late October that has only recently started to scale back, and so far the Hamas officials who run Gaza have said that more than 24,600 residents in the territory have died since the bombing began.

Those hostilities, which have boiled over into a brewing regional conflict, have led to a reckoning among Americans. Some have firmly supported Israel and its right to defend itself from violent attacks on its borders, including Stefanik and many Republicans, while others have firmly criticized Israel for its heavy response in Gaza and the apparent willingness to accept significant amounts of civilian death, which has grown among some left-leaning groups. The lines between groups don’t always follow party lines or other ideological lines, and there are many who find themselves critical of both Israel and Hamas-led Gaza.

Through it all, the political debate has become dangerous in the U.S. Jewish Americans, especially on college campuses and in major cities, have reported increased levels of antisemitic speech, threats and violence.

Reports of violence and threats of violence against Middle Eastern, if not necessarily Palestinian, groups and Muslims have grown as well since the violence began.

Stefanik’s adviser said the people signing onto the letter criticizing her are “pro-Hamas leftists,” and said they’re downplaying the real manifestations of antisemitism that have come to the surface in the U.S.

“It’s incredibly shameful that radical pro-Hamas leftists would disgustingly downplay anti-semitism and refuse to condemn the Hamas terrorist attack against Israel on October 7th — the bloodiest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust,” DeGrasse said in a statement.

He also discounted the letter’s value in itself, with a relatively small number of signatures compared to the people who support and regularly donate to Stefanik and her political operation.

“The fact is that Congresswoman Elise Stefanik has never had stronger support to date in the district and across America,” he said.

The letter authored by Doonan calls the military response from Israel in Gaza a “genocide,” on the 2.3 million Palestinian residents of the territory. It argues that if a university president should resign for failing to categorically condemn calls for what it terms “a hypothetical genocide” on their campuses as Stefanik has argued, Stefanik should resign because of her ongoing support for what it calls an “actual genocide.”

Nader, whose organization has boosted the letter and helped to publicize it, said he wholeheartedly stands by the message. He said his criticisms fall solely on the Israeli government, and not the Israeli people, but said what is happening in Gaza is unquestionably a violation of international law, and the U.S.’s willingness to support Israel’s actions is similarly illegal.

“There’s no declaration of co-belligerency,” he said. “She is supporting a weapons policy that is violating two separate federal statues, the Leahy Amendment that says you must not ship weapons to countries that violate human rights, and another statute that says you can’t send weapons to countries that use them for offensive purposes.”

Nader said he doesn’t dispute Israel’s right to defend itself, but is opposed to the ongoing operations in a region that is not necessarily a part of its formal borders. The so-called “Gaza Strip” exists in a kind of legal gray area, not formally its own country and not formally part of another. It was occupied by Israel in 1967, when the Israelis also occupied the Palestinian West Bank, but the Israeli government ceded ground-level control of the two territories to Palestinian governing authorities in the 1990s.

“Israel has the right to defend itself, but what are its borders?” Nader said.

The letter bears some repeat signatures, like Doonan’s, but appears to include 129 names, including Doonan’s two signatures, LaVenia and an entry for The Green Party of New York.

While most of the signatures appear to be average, nonprominent residents of upstate New York, if not necessarily Stefanik’s NY-21, one notable exception is Howie Hawkins, the former Green Party 2020 presidential candidate and New York gubernatorial candidate in 2010, 2014 and 2018. Hawkins lives in the Syracuse-based district, NY-22.

Correction: A prior version of this article misstated the address and Congressional district for Howie Hawkins. It has been updated to reflect the correct information.

Originally posted at https://www.nny360.com/top_stories/green-party-of-new-york-former-presidential-candidates-ralph-nader-howie-hawkins-call-on-stefanik/article_96231610-18b8-5f87-9477-e90e72eb559a.html

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February 10, 2024