My thanks to Shirley Rausher of the Meretz USA board and the New York chapter of Brit Tzedek V’Shalom, and to Gil Kulick of Brit Tzedek, for inviting me to join a local BT meeting with my Congressman, Charlie Rangel. It was a very pleasant and illuminating get together at the conference room of Beit Shalom, the New York headquarters shared by Meretz USA with Brit Tzedek, Ameinu and other Israel-oriented inhabitants of the floor.
As chair of both the House Ways & Means Committee and the Congressional Black Caucus, Mr. Rangel is one of the very top leaders of the US House of Representatives. Still, he met with us on our turf, coming alone with no aide. Personal warmth and charm are his stock & trade.
He expressed a concern for the peace and well-being of both Israel and the Palestinians and a desire to advance relations between Jews and African Americans. In this connection, he voiced satisfaction with the landslide primary victory of Rep. Steven Cohen, a Jew who represents a majority Black district in Memphis, Tenn.
He agreed that there was a need for the new US administration to be energetically engaged in moving Israelis and Arabs together toward peace, but also stated the need for the Arab world to do more to advance the prospects for peace. We had some discussion on the mainstream Jewish community’s nervousness about the concept of “even-handedness” in relation to the Israel-Arab conflict. It was clear that he believes in a genuine even-handedness, not as a way of distancing from Israel, but in assisting Israel to achieve peace and security.