Will Loretta Sanchez Condemn the Flotilla Attack?

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The left-leaning website Alternet has started a petition urging President Barack Obama and members of Congress to condemn yesterday’s Israeli attack on an aid flotilla headed to Gaza. At least ten people on board the lead vessel Mavi Marmara were killed in the assault that took place in international waters and targeted a convoy stocked with humanitarian aid headed for the coastal Gaza strip. Worldwide condemnation has followed in the aftermath and so far the White House has only issued a statement expressing “deep regret at the loss of life… and concern for the wounded, many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals.” According to the White House, “The President also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning’s tragic events as soon as possible.”

In the halls of Congress, the attack on the flotilla aimed at breaking the siege of Gaza that has been imposed on the territory since 2007, has already become an issue in a primary race between Representative Jane Harman and her Progressive challenger Marcy Winograd. The Blue Dog Democrat has chided her opponent’s stances on Israel and Palestine before, but has so far only offered silence in response to the current crisis. In complete contrast, Winograd, as a founder of LA Jews for Peace, issued an immediate statement on her website calling for “an international investigation into the Israeli military’s use of deadly force” and urging Congress to “immediately pass a resolution supporting such an investigation.”

Should petitions and pressure bring the issues at hand before Congress, would Orange County’s own Blue Dog Democrat Loretta Sanchez support such a resolution? Like Harman, silence has been the initial indicator. However, the Congresswoman, whose 47th district includes the “Little Gaza” area of Anaheim, has had a voting record worthy of examination. Right-wing opponents like to fashion Sanchez as a “Cairista” who isn’t supportive enough of Israel and offer two forms of supposed evidence: her vote of “present” and not “yes” concerning a resolution supporting, among other things, Israel’s “right to defend itself” during Operation Cast Lead against Gaza in late 2008/2009 (the other more Liberal Sanchez sister voted yes) and her singing onto a letter by Representative Keith Ellison and others urging President Obama to place diplomatic pressure easing – not ending – the collective punishment metered out by the blockade of Gaza.

Given government inaction by the United States and other nations, the flotilla that was attacked yesterday was prompted to organize a people’s navy of sorts in the first place to break the siege and deliver aide. It had been successful before and now has been violently repelled. As a result, the blockade remains solidified by means of violence against those who would dare to defy it in this new critical juncture. Congresswoman Sanchez’s ‘present’ vote and signature on Ellison’s letter is not the end all of her recent record, however. Last year, she was one of the many Democratic congressional lawmakers to condemn the United Nation’s Goldstone Report in a resolution against the nearly six-hundred page examination of war crimes committed by the state of Israel and Hamas during the hostilities a year and a half ago. A member of Human Rights Watch reacted at the time by stating, “This sort of resolution sends a terrible message to the international community about American willingness to believe in international justice for all.”

Now that breaking the siege of Gaza by sea has dramatically and directly intersected with Israeli aggression, which Congresswoman will we see? The one who signed onto the Ellison letter at least acknowledging that the blockade can not continue as is? Or the one who looked the other way on Israeli war crimes by condemning the Goldstone Report? It’s an election year, so those who envision this incident as a ‘tipping-point’ may have misplaced hopes. There is sure to be a protest over the flotilla attack in Little Gaza soon. In previous demonstrations, local politics have been absent on protest signs and demands. Perhaps the time has come for such a focus to come into play.

Contact Congresswoman Sanchez and urge her to condemn the attack on the freedom flotilla and call for an investigation! It may not be a tipping point, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a starting point.


About Gabriel San Roman