After the Elections: U.S. policy, Israel and Gaza - A conversation with Congressman Brian Baird

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We invite you to listen to this extraordinary conversation with Congressman Brian Baird on "After the Elections: U.S. Policy, Israel and Gaza." Congressman Baird is the congressman of Rachel Corrie and has traveled to Gaza on four separate occasions.

In this remarkable interview he discusses why he became so involved in the issue of Gaza and his experience in Congress. He reflects on U.S. policy in the Middle East and discusses what he thinks the U.S. should do to protect our security, the security of Israel and justice for the Palestinians. Listen here.

Written transcript of call:

[Start of recorded material]

Rabbi Brian Walt: Thank you so much for joining us. So I'm going to welcome -

Rep. Brian Baird:
It's my privilege. Thanks for the invitation.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
So I'm going to welcome -- good. So I'm going to welcome everyone to the call, and then we'll start right up.

Rabbi Brant Rosen: Okay.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
So we have a bunch of people who are signing on as we speak to this conference call all over the country. Welcome to - this is the monthly call of Ta'anit Tzedek - Jewish Fast for Gaza. As many people on this call know, Ta'anit Tzedek - Jewish Fast for Gaza, is a project that was initiated by rabbis some year and a half ago as a response to the crisis in Gaza, responding as Jews and as rabbis to the moral dimensions of this - of the tragedy that's happening in Gaza.

We have three goals. One is to break the silence in the Jewish community and in the American community about Gaza. Gaza's an area of land that is surrounded on all sides and doesn't- therefore doesn't have much communication with the outside. And so we want to break the silence, both between us and people who live in Gaza, and we also want to break the silence in terms of our community talking about what the situation is for people in Gaza. Secondly - and primary goal is to lift the Israeli siege on Gaza. And the third is to pursue peace, which means negotiation between all parties, including Hamas, towards a negotiated settlement.

These calls are held monthly on our fast day. We fast one day a month as a form of prayer and protest against the Israeli siege in Gaza and as a prayer for people to - for - to us and for all people to be more active in seeking justice and human rights for everyone.

We've had several people on these conference calls, including Craig and Cindy Corrie, who are - live in the district, are constituents of Congressman Baird. We've also had Mary McGuire recently, who's a Nobel Peace Laureate; Israeli peace activists like Yonatan Shapira, who was on one of the ships that went into Gaza. We have also had people who live in Gaza who have spoken to us, journalists and activists in Gaza. And we've also had human-rights activists from the United States. And we also had a special call last year with Judge Richard Goldstone, which was a call just for rabbis, where Judge Goldstone spoke to the rabbis.

So I want to welcome you all to the call. And I'm going to hand over to Rabbi Rosen, who will introduce the Congressman, and then we'll start the interview. I want to say one more thing, and that is there will be an opportunity for question and answer. We're going to start just with questions probably 20 minutes or so into this call. I will indicate that you can start to - if you want to ask a question, you can sign up in line by pressing star one on your telephone keypad. And then we'll ask you - you need to wait on line, and then we will call on you in the order in which you do that. But I'll ask you not to do that yet until we get to that point, because then you're going to be waiting a really long time. So Brant, Rabbi Rosen.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
Thank you, Brian. And I also want to welcome everyone who's joined our call, and especially welcome Congressman Baird and thank him so much for taking the time to join us. Congressman Baird is the outgoing representative for Washington State's 3rd District. And prior to being elected in 1998, Congressman Baird practiced as a licensed clinical psychologist in Washington State and Oregon. He's also worked in state and veterans administration psychiatric hospitals and community mental-health clinics and substance-abuse treatment programs.

For our purposes on the call, Congressman Baird is notable for being one of the few members of Congress who is willing to openly advocate for Palestinian human rights. He's visited Gaza on three separate occasions, and he has seen a great deal and has had much to say about the situation in Gaza, which is why we are eager to hear from him, especially now that a new Congress is being seated. We're also interested in not only hearing about Gaza, but also the Congressman's opinions about the potential for the peace process which is unfolding as we speak, as well. So thank you so much, Congressman, for joining us.

Rep. Brian Baird:
Oh, it's really my privilege. Thank you all for inviting me, and thank you for the very important work you do. It's absolutely vital, and I admire it, and I'm grateful for it.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
Thank you. So I'd like to start by focusing on Gaza in particular and to begin by asking you why you have seen fit to pay such special attention - well, really, to the crisis in general, the Israel/Palestinian crisis in general, but in particular in Gaza. What was it that motivated you to pay special attention in these areas?

Rep. Brian Baird:
Well, as all things, there are long stories behind it, but I'll give you a few key events. Craig and Cindy Corrie are, of course, constituents of mine, as was their daughter Rachel. And I was very involved trying to make sure that that case was handled fairly and justly - I still don't think it has been, by the way - but also in trying to give support and aide to Craig and Cindy and Sarah and the rest of the family as they dealt with a tragic personal loss and all that has happened subsequently.

In the case of the more recent activity in Gaza, there was a very widely publicized picture in the New York Times and elsewhere of three little tiny Palestinian children. And they were laying on a rug. And I have twins - now they're five and a half year old boys, but at the time, of course, they were just barely, I think, three and a half. And these three little children looked like anybody's children, maybe that they could be asleep, and that sort of angelic look of tiny children, except that right beside them was a father holding his head in abject agony, because they were his kids, and they had all been killed in Kasled. They weren't asleep. They were, in fact, dead. And I just felt that father's grief so acutely and knew that our country was involved directly in supporting that mission through arms, et cetera. And I felt a personal moral obligation to go, and if nothing else, bear witness.

No Americans had been in - officials. There are some courageous and heroic relief workers for UNRWA and other agencies there. But no American officials, either from the administration or the Congress, had been in Gaza in, I think, three or four years because of official policy vis-a-vis Hamas, but also because - I think the prior official delegation that had been hit by a coordinated attack that killed a number of people. And so there were some personal risks to going, but also some policy issues, as well.

So Keith Ellison and I were going to be in the region. Keith's a Democrat from Minnesota, the first Muslim-American elected to Congress. And we were going to be in the region. And we both approached each other simultaneous on the floor and said, "If we're going to be in the region, we have to go to Gaza." And we went. And that was my first of what have now been four visits. I feel it's important to see a timeframe to see what's happening there. But it was - first and foremost, it was sort of a humanitarian mission of bearing witness, but also, obviously, trying to understand the implications of our conduct there for the region and for our own - ultimately, our own national security.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
So your first visit to Gaza was immediately after Cast Lead?

Rep. Brian Baird:
Exactly.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
And could you tell us a little bit about your experiences on that first trip and what you saw, how they impacted on you, how they might have changed your own feelings, both as a father, but also as a member of US Congress?

Rep. Brian Baird:
Well, the situation on the ground was pretty raw our first visit. It was just a couple of weeks after the concentrated bombing. There were still occasional airstrikes from the Israeli side, very occasional mortars and rockets coming from Gaza towards Israeli, as well. But we might a point to visit Sderot, as well, and into Gaza. We met with - I'm a mental-health professional, as you were kind enough to mention in the introduction, so we met with mental-health professionals.

I visited burned-out Al Quds Hospital, which was especially moving. They had - the top floor of Al Quds had been this fantastically inviting therapeutic treatment facility for children. They had the kind of places with those plastic balls that kids can jump and dive in. There were paintings of Disney characters on the wall. There were all the PT and OT things that I know from my own work in rehab settings. And yet it had been hit by white phosphorous bombs that had burned the whole roof in, and an entire wing of the hospital had been destroyed. Ambulances were burned out and crushed in front of the hospital. It had really been - taken a devastating hit to a facility that any of us would have been previously pleased to have available as treatment for our kids, and it now was completely devastated.

We visited the American International School. And there's a very powerful video of that on my website. People can just log on to Congressman Brian Baird on any search engine. It'll go there. And then you can click through and find not only that interview, but interviews with mental-health professionals, et cetera.

Then we visited with Palestinian business owners whose factories and companies had been destroyed. Actually, after the areas were secured, there was a strategic campaign of the IDF to go into the area, this one particular industrial area, and just devastate any opportunity, any cement factory. But this - not just that. There were also places that made biscuits, that made ice cream. And one of the gentlemen we met with had a Ph.D. from Ohio State. He said, "All of my kids are studying in the United States. I got my Ph.D. there. This business made biscuits, for goodness sakes." And after it was secured, there were no snipers. There were no rockets. They drove tanks and armored bulldozers and destroyed the whole operation.

And we visited multiple sites of that, plus Palestinian Gaza residents who were living in - literally, some of the buildings had been hit and blown up. They would sort of fold up into sort of an A shape. And there were people living inside these things for lack of any other better shelter. They would have been red tagged in any American city. But they had no other place to go. So we visited all of those facilities and some more and then tried, on subsequent occasions, to visit some of the same facilities to see what was or was not happening as far as recovery.

Rabbi Brant Rosen: And so if someone, upon your return from that trip, would have asked you what -- you know, how has this trip impacted on your feeling about how this operation was carried out and what you think the United States response to it should be, what would your response have been, or what would your response -

Rep. Brian Baird:
Well, I was very explicit at the time and have been since. I think, first of all, morally, it was unacceptable. And I think, on any standard of international law, it was unacceptable. I read the entire Goldstone report and spoke up on that on the floor of the House, helped lead the effort against the resolution that condemned Goldstone. I think Justice Goldstone did a fair and accurate job, from everything I saw.

There's no question in my mind that what is happening there is collective punishment. And interestingly enough, some of the most pro-Israel people in the Congress I've talked to have said, "Well, yes, it is collective punishment." And then I've pointed out to them that they're accusing Israel of a war crime, and they actually - some of them said, "Well, we don't think it is a war crime." Well, it is, and it is for good reason, actually. The destruction of the civilian infrastructure, schools, hospitals, industrial capacity that had no relationship to war making - completely unjustified and unnecessary and, I think, ultimately, counterproductive. You have four to 600,000 young people in Gaza who - there's no possible way they're responsible for Hamas being in power. And yet they are bearing the brunt of much of the attack and effectively imprisoned.

Strategically, in our country's own national interest, the global eyes see this as an injustice. The Arab world does. And thankfully, many Americans who are fond of Israel do, and many Israelis do. But it cannot be in our strategic best interest to condone this. And yet we do.

And to bring it up to date, though the blockade has been eased, there are still no significant exports allowed from Gaza. The imports of raw materials are very specifically targeted to a few things like hospitals and water treatment, which is less bad than it was, but no real opportunity for independent economic activity. And when we met with Palestinian - well, with Gaza businesspeople, they basically said, "Essentially, you're meeting with business men and women now who are, in many cases, Western educated, believe in a free-enterprise system, believe in free markets, believe in rule of law. If you come three or four years from now, we'll all be wiped out economically or, in fact, possibly literally, but at the very least, economically. And in our place will be black marketers who care nothing about Western values or rule of law. But they'll be the only people left in any business relationship."

So from a humanitarian perspective, it's a tragedy. From a legal perspective, it's unlawful. And from a strategic perspective, it's unwise.

Rabbi Brant Rosen: I wanted to go back to a comment you made about your colleagues in Congress and the issue of collective punishment. As I recall, you were one of thirty six members of the House who voted to oppose the bill that was condemning the Goldstone report.

Rep. Brian Baird: Right. Had about thirty six Nos, and I think twenty-some more present votes, which is a symbolic No, basically. And a small number of people just didn't show up for the vote as a way of avoiding the issue. But they - that is a statement in and of itself.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
Right. So I wanted to ask - and this - I'll ask you - we'll ask you, maybe, to expand on this kind of a question later when we talk more about US policy toward that region in general. But can you speak as candidly as you can about why you think there were such a minute number of people who were willing to cast that No vote?

Rep. Brian Baird:
Well, a combination of factors. For overt reasons, the amount of inadequate and biased information that comes out on these issues in general, whether it's West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, is overwhelming. And most of our colleagues don't realize that they're getting only one portion of a story.

In the case of Gaza, of course, the rhetoric had always been - and President Obama, during his visit, repeated this, actually, prior to Cast Lead. You know, the rhetoric had been no American would allow their cities to be shelled or rocketed without a reaction of some kind. And that's very likely true. But what it fails to mention is that there had, in fact, been a largely successfully ceasefire for over six months that had held until some attacks and counterattacks from the IDF and from militants in Gaza. But for basically six months, there had been a ceasefire.

But that ceasefire was supposed to be accompanied by a Freedom of Movement and Access Agreement, which Condi Rice had observed the signing of, that never materialized, which is really part of the history, this virtual imprisonment of the people of Gaza so they can't get out for healthcare, for educational, for business means, for commerce. That continues and had continued on through the ceasefire.

But most of my colleagues - if you ask, "Was there ever a ceasefire that was effective," they would say, "Absolutely not." If you ask any - most of my colleagues, frankly, have no idea that there is an Arab Peace Initiative, that the Arab world has largely said if they reconcile some of the issues with Israel, they would be willing to accept Israel's right to exist and guarantee its existential security, et cetera. Most people don't know that.

So the first reason was one of lack of information. The second one is an inherent bias that doesn't question the information. Many of my colleagues - it's absolutely accurate to say that the vast majority of colleagues who voted for that resolution had never read the Goldstone report. Most had never read the resolution. And certainly, almost all of them had never been to Gaza. So they're voting on a resolution they haven't read, condemning a report they haven't read, about a place they've never been. And that's a problem, but that's what was there.

To be perfectly blunt, a big portion of that is the influence of AIPAC and other lobbyist groups and their financial and other clout in the Congress. People don't necessarily act on the legitimacy of the issue, which they sometimes don't even study. They act on the recommended vote according to AIPAC, to be perfectly blunt.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
And why - this is Rabbi Walt. This is Brian Walt. Congressman, can you explain, well, why? Why do they act upon what AIPAC -

Rep. Brian Baird:
A combination of reasons. One, a belief, and with some significant legitimacy to it, that there's an important strategic relationship between the U.S. and Israel. I recognize that importance myself. That doesn't mean we - in my judgment, it doesn't mean we just blank check whatever Israel does. We have been doing that for far too long, and we continue to do it to this very day. But there is a legitimate strategic relationship.

There's a long-standing relationship because of our relationship and cultural ties, you know, issues such as freedom of the press, rights of women, et cetera. Israel's a bulwark in many of those cases. And we support that. In addition, obviously, for many people, the Judeo-Christian religious heritage is very, very powerful. There's a certain element for whom the Christian Zionist aspects are important. There's a natural sympathy there, I think. There is a fear of the broader Arab and Muslim world. Many of my colleagues, by the way, don't have any appreciation that there are Christian Palestinians. But there's that fear. So all of those things are sort of - are part of it.

But then, sadly, there's no - there could be no intellectually honest question that the role of campaign contributions from AIPAC and NORPAC and some of the other lobbying groups plays heavily in these issues. Some of the people who spoke on the Goldstone resolution, against the Goldstone Report and for the resolution condemning it - when - I thought to myself, why is that person offering this speech at this time? What is their interest in it? And then when one explored, you could say, "Oh, well, they're running for Senate," or "They're doing this," not necessarily that they had a large pro-Israel constituent per se, but they're - in my belief, some of that at least had a relationship. We're taught to not question the motives of our colleagues, and I respect that tradition. We certainly never do it on the floor. But I will say that my experience and belief is that, for many people, financial concerns of campaign contributions have an impact in their voting decision.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
Thank you.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
I want to ask one more question on this track, and then I'll turn it over to Rabbi Walt. And that's really to conclude this track. What do you think - what role should the US take in resolving the crisis in Gaza? What would your - if you were advocating a specific US role, what would that be?

Rep. Brian Baird:
I'll get to that in a sec. You know, there's one other thing that I want to say about the prior question. There's - the things I describe are all things that are present. The other reason people vote as they do on some of these issues is there's a lack of awareness of many members of Congress of organizations and individuals such as yourselves. There is a sense that-- there - the Jewish American Israeli peace and the pro-peace Israeli movement hardly ever gets attended to here in the Congress or in our country. If there were more awareness of that, I think there would be more sense of freedom, I think, on the part of members. I mean, the - one is immediately tagged as anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic or pro-terrorists or something. It's important for people to know that people of conscious who are Jewish in America, people of conscious who are Jewish, Christian, Palestinian, whatever, in Israel, are concerned about these policies. But that voice doesn't get out. And that's why I'm so grateful for what you do.

As far as what I would do, I called - after my third visit, I called for the US to break the blockade with roll-on/roll-off military vessels of the kind that we bring to Haiti and other disaster areas. We should have, I think - this was prior - I should say prior to the flotilla. I had talked to the UNRWA people on the ground and said, "Could you - if you were asked, could you give a list of needed supplies to rebuild schools, apartments, hospitals, et cetera, if it were run through you so there's no possible diversion to any military or terrorist means? Could you do that?" They said, "No question. Absolutely we'd do it. We would welcome it." Hamas might not have welcomed it, but I doubt they would have necessarily gotten in the way.

But I think the US should have run the blockade analogous to the Berlin Airlift and said, "Look, we are not going to put up with this." Because the record shows clearly that if all we do is sign documents and exhort our Israeli friends to do something, either - even if it's in the international law, we have minimal success. And I frankly was quite tired and fed up with people at the level of John Kerry and the Secretary of State of the United States being relegated to asking, "Please, please, can you let toothpaste and garbanzo beans and pasta in?" I thought - I felt it was disingenuous and an insult and manipulative to our country. And yet that's where we were at. We were begging for lentils, for goodness sakes, to get in, instead of saying, "Look, this is unjust. It's unlawful. And it's in - it's not in our best security interests or that of Israel. We need to make a change, and there will be consequences if you don't change."

So from that illustration with the roll-on-roll-off vessels, I personally believe there need to be consequences in terms of some form of penalties in terms of reduced US aid, restrictions on tax-deduction status for people who contribute to settlement expansion, other measures that get folks' attention. Because the records have shown that administration after administration after administration, Democrat, Republican alike, continue to jawbone about some things that are - we would like to see. But when those things are violated, there are no real consequences.

And in fact, the most recent example I think is egregiously shameful, the offer that we'll give billions of dollars of fighters in exchange for a very brief respite in settlement expansion, and then we will promise never, ever to ask for that again, and we'll block any resolutions in the UN that call for recognition of Palestine. I think it's massively shameful and counterproductive, and not in our best security interests or that of Israel.

Rabbi Brant Rosen: Well, thank you for - actually, on that last point, we want to talk to you a little bit more about that issue and the larger implications of the peace process. But in the meantime, we wanted to ask you a little bit more about the Corries and about their current - the trial that's been ongoing in Israel. I'll let Brian ask those questions now.

Rabbi Brian Walt: So I'm tempted to just continue on this, but maybe we can integrate the -

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
Yes. That last comment definitely primed the pump!

Rep. Brian Baird:
Well, I speak bluntly, as you can tell. And I should -- I want to underscore this. You know, people may say, "Well, you're not running for office again. That's why you're doing this." Anyone who knows me well and knows my record in Congress - I would be saying the exact same things. And I - you know, I went to Gaza well before I had made a decision not to run for office. I thought it was the right thing to do. And I see that as both my moral and my political responsibility as a citizen, as a Representative, that I speak with candor about things that are pertinent to justice and the security of our country.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
And we appreciate that.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
Well, we honor you for that. We're delighted to have you on the call because of that. So I actually was in Israel in April and had the privilege of going - meeting with the Corrie family -

Rep. Brian Baird: Thank you.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
- and attending one day of the trial. So I'm familiar with - and I've been, also, in - I was formerly part of Rabbis for Human Rights, which had made contact with both Cindy and Craig and got to meet them that way. So I'm interested. You know, earlier you said - you explained your - the importance of the Corrie family being in your district to your own involvement in this issue. But you also said that you wanted to see that the case was handled fairly, and you don't believe it was. So tell us what wasn't handled fairly, what your hope would be, and what is the situation right now.

Rep. Brian Baird:
Well, let me - I can take you back. I won't belabor this too much, but let me go back, actually, to the days immediately after Rachel was killed. My experience at the time was that there were a number of people within our own administration and within the Israeli government who were sincerely and deeply moved and saddened by the loss. You can tell it when you talk to someone. There were also some people for whom it was lip service, almost, to express their sadness. Some of the people who visited my office - the feeling I had was, "Well, we're here to express our condolences," but you - I had a feeling in my gut that the attitude was, "And we know you understand these things happen. You're not going to do anything about it." And then when I said, "Well, as a matter of fact, I don't really accept this explanation. I want to see the evidence. I want there to be a full investigation," people were somewhat taken aback.

Now, the fact that they were taken aback was troubling. After all, my constituent had been killed by a US-made bulldozer purchased by US funds by one of our biggest allies. And I think that's a problem. And I have a responsibility. But there was almost an attitude of, “Oh, well, of course we'll do that.” But not - but it was clearly a surprise that I would ask for it.

The next day after I introduced the resolution calling for an investigation, Tom Lantos, then chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced basically a counter resolution calling for the investigation of any US citizens' deaths at the hands of any terrorist. I don't fault that. In fact, those things already happen. But the timing of that, the day after I introduced the resolution on Rachel's behalf, was very telling and problematic.

Then it became a long process of pulling teeth, almost literally, to get evidence. So we would get smidgens of evidence about the case. "Okay, here's a two-minute segment of a video that we know to be 12 to 15 minutes long." Whatever. I - those numbers are off the top of my head. I wouldn't quote them. But the gist is we'd get small portions of video imagery when we knew there was more imagery present. We would get some testimony but not the rest. And on and on this went.

We were assured - and this is particularly galling of late. I was told by the Israeli government that the bulldozer driver was in a state of shock, grief, mourning, and loss, and was on psychiatric watch, and there were concerns about whether he would commit suicide, et cetera. Now, the testimony we've heard over the last couple months - it appears that he can hardly remember the event. There's no evidence that he was moved by it at all. So one comes to believe that perhaps that was just a story made up to elicit empathy on the part of the Psychologist/Congressman, myself. But in fact, it doesn't seem from the testimony, at least, I've read - I've not been in the courtroom, but - that that was the case.

Another very significant event happened. The transfer of Rachel's body from Gaza to Israel, from Rafa to Israel, was quite complicated. And I was literally on the phone negotiating with friends of Rachel, the Israeli government, the US government, simultaneously, three phones. At the time, the Iraq war was about to start, and it was pretty complicated. But a key issue was would an autopsy be conducted, and how would it be conducted. I don't need to tell the people on this line the significance of autopsies, but particularly in this case, the religious and cultural, but also the forensic significance, as well. The agreement was reached that an autopsy would only be done if a member of our state department were present during the autopsy. I was present on the phone when that agreement was reached. It was central to the Corrie family. It was central to Rachel's friends. And that was entirely violated, we have subsequently learned, by a person who apparently is of ill qualifications. And no American was present in the room, as per the agreement that they would have been.

So all along the way, evidence was not provided. Misleading evidence and information was given. A fundamental core sacred promise about something as important forensically and religiously as an autopsy was violated and, all the while, with the complicity of at least some fairly high people in the Israeli government and the diplomatic corps. Again, there were some remarkable and notable and courageous and honorable exceptions to that. But the overriding train is as I've just described, sadly so.

Rabbi Brian Walt: And so - and what was the role of the US government in getting this information?

Rep. Brian Baird:
Well, we had some very, very good people in the embassy in Jerusalem and the consulate in Jerusalem, the embassy in Tel Aviv. And we had some very good people, Barry Wilkerson among him -- among them, here at state in the US. Repeatedly, my sense was that even the best efforts of some of the best people were being blocked in a number of ways by both our higher-ups in our own administration and people within the Israeli government.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
So your assessment was that there were people higher up in the US administration that were also interested in not revealing the truth or not being -

Rep. Brian Baird:
Well, I sort of -

Rabbi Brian Walt:
- completely transparent.

Rep. Brian Baird: Yeah. It's more sort of - more of a passivity. "Well, we will just leave this to the Israeli government to do, and we are not - " The issue really was we were asking, if I remember correctly - and it's been a long time- but if I remember, we were asking for FBI and others to investigate this. I mean, there was a killing of a US citizen by an ally with US-made goods. And we wanted a full and thorough investigation. And the attitude basically was, "Well, we'll defer to our friend and ally, Israel. We're sure they'll do the right thing, and we'll trust whatever they say." Now, that's not that everybody in State - certainly Wilkerson was not that way, to my memory. But there were higher-ups, it seemed, for whom that was the attitude, and that was sort of the official attitude. And sadly, that was the attitude of Chairman Lantos, to my judgment, and the - many of the members of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House and Senate.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
And do you - what is the status - what is your involvement in the current trial -

Rep. Brian Baird:
I was going to try to go over and testify when Craig and Cindy's side was calling witnesses. As you know, now it's the other side's turn. And the - I was scheduled -- I was going to literally fly over - the entire way over and back in basically a 36-hour period, go over and testify and come back. That happened - my testimony was scheduled on the day of the healthcare vote. And as you know how close that vote was in our Congress, I talked to Craig and Cindy, and it was one of the very, very rare and few votes that I would not have missed, could not have missed it. We offered to do recorded testimony, video testimony, satellite link. And I don't think that was either - I don't know. But that never happened. I think it was not allowable, but -

And so I'm mostly just following it. Having read in the last two weeks the testimony of the bulldozer driver, I've been tempted to see if there's not a way I could speak to the issue of the duplicitous information we were given by the Israeli government, that I was personally given about his alleged grief and psychological distress over what he'd been through. There's such a mismatch between what Craig and Cindy and others have been witnessing in the courtroom.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
So I think, you know, I'm tempted to go on with this, because, of course, I'm wondering about whether there's connection for you with other incidents that have happened in likely killing of Americans in Israel by suicide bombers and also the killing of Americans by Israeli government or army officers, either on the West Bank or in other instances that have happened over time. But I think we should -

Rep. Brian Baird:
Well, I can just very briefly address those. It'll be very brief, because I want to give lots of time for questions. One, I have been steadfast in condemning acts of violence against civilians by both sides. In fact, three days before Rachel's death, three days before her mom was in my office in DC - and I said, "I hope your daughter would stand up to homicide bombers who blow up innocent Israelis on school buses and public transit and in - you know, in discos, et cetera." And not surprisingly, knowing Cindy now much better, she said, "Absolutely. If she knew something like that were to happen, Rachel would put herself in harm's way to prevent that, as well," which speaks to Rachel and Cindy well. But I have consistently condemned that.

And that's why we visited Sderot on our visit. Launching rockets against innocent civilians is absolutely unacceptable. It doesn't - the magnitude of what was happening there is unacceptable and had to be responded to, but not in the manner in which Cast Lead happened. But-- and then, of course, not surprisingly, as far as other cases, the journalist for HBO who was killed - I met with his wife. Some of the other Americans who've been killed there I've met with. And then I've met - also made a real point on the Palestinian side to meet with non-violent Palestinian activist people like Mustafa Barghouti and many others, Abu Elaish the father whose family was rocketed in Gaza, and then, also, the Israeli peace movement, B’tselem, and many of the others in Israel.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
Very good. Thank you. I think at this point we will invite people who are participating, because we're halfway - a little bit more than halfway through the call. I'm sorry it's gone a little longer. But it's just been such an incredible opportunity to hear the Congressman's perspective and to learn from you. So if you want to ask a question, you press star one. It'll show up, and a line will be created, and we will call on you. And Rabbi Rosen is going to, meanwhile, move into the third part, which will really just continue our conversation about US policy and broaden it to US policy regarding the overall conflict, the peace process.

Rabbi Brant Rosen: Right. So Congressman, you mentioned your opinion about the current US government offer to Israel vis-a-vis a settlement freeze. I wanted to maybe take a step back and ask you what is your opinion of both how the United States has facilitated the peace process over the last two decades or so and, in particular, to give your estimation of how you think the Obama administration is handling the peace process currently.

Rep. Brian Baird:
Well, when I was in Gaza, I met with three boys, one of whom had just had his first nephew born, and the nephew was named Barack Obama. That's how much affection the people of the region had for the president following his Cairo speech. And even following Cast Lead, people were naming their children Barack Obama. I think the President's heart is in the right place. I think his mind is in the right place. I think he's been undermined significantly by the United States Congress.

I think our allies in Israel have rebuffed our president and our Vice-President and our Secretary of State at every opportunity, but in almost every case, with absolutely no consequence of any significance. And I think the world and certainly the region has looked to us as the only viable option for a just and lasting peace, the elements of which are well known and well discussed. And we have never put real teeth into that insistence.

And we have bought what are, frankly, specious, in my judgment, and invalid arguments against that. The idea that, just to give one - that President - that Mr. Netanyahu has to hold his coalition of Shas and Beiteinu and others together or his government will collapse is not true. He could work with Tzipi Livni's group and others and form a coalition that would be still a majority and work for peace. But he's chosen not to do it. And we have put no real pressure, other than jawboning, on him to do that. And the result has been feckless inefficiency. And the clock is ticking on the hopes of any two-state solution.

Rabbi Brant Rosen: So you spoke earlier about the need to have consequences for actions - in other words, to use sticks as well as carrots diplomatically.

Rep. Brian Baird: Right.

Rabbi Brant Rosen: Do you - and this is something I often wonder myself: How much power would Obama have to realistically use a stick? If he wanted to attach some of the consequences you mentioned, how much power does he have to really do that? Could the president just pick up the phone to Netanyahu tomorrow and say, "These settlements have to stop or else?"

Rep. Brian Baird: Yeah.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
Or would he -

Rep. Brian Baird:
He could.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
How could he go about doing that?

Rep. Brian Baird:
He could. He might be - he could say, for example, "Or no US military sales." He could say - there are a host of - and by the way, not everyone will agree with this. I in no way want to make Israel vulnerable existentially to foreign attack. I think Israel is making itself vulnerable existentially through these policies. I - all that I've been saying today is as somebody who admires and considers himself a friend of Israel. And I - and for countless reasons, have great admiration for the State of Israel. What I'm concerned about is what Israel is doing is not in Israel's long-term best interest, not in our own security interest, and not consistent with the core values of humanity, decency, tolerance, and justice that makes Israel such a remarkable place when it's at its very best. But the president truly could say, "We are not going to condone this."

And one of the concerns I personally have is that the policies of Israel are increasingly being driven by what I consider extreme ideological and fundamentalist religious motivations that are actually antithetical to many of the values that many of us hold dear in Israel and our own country. And we are not seeing that handwriting on the wall. But it is going to make a lasting peace agreement even more difficult. Because if the government of Israel covertly or implicitly, through its policies, is dedicated to a greater Israel that extends all the way to the West Bank and - who knows? - possibly farther, than a two-state solution is not going to happen, unless, as Ehud Barak said, it's an apartheid-like state, which it frankly, in many ways, is. We have not vigorously challenged that in a meaningful way.

Now, I think the prospects of challenging that may - at least in the legislative branch, may be getting worse because of the recent outcome of the election. But still, he's the President. He's the chief decider of foreign policy. He has a great deal of say over where USAID money goes or doesn't go. And I think he should exercise that.

Rabbi Brian Walt: So then why doesn't he do that? Again, the question is -

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
Well, there's two - let me - let's make this a two-part question.

Rep. Brian Baird: Okay. Sure.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
I just - I don't want to belabor the point, but - and maybe I should have taken this in Civics way back when. But could the President pick up the phone tomorrow and say, "This has to happen, or else there will be consequences with future military aid." Could he do that?

Rep. Brian Baird:
Yes.

Rabbi Brant Rosen: Without being hamstrung by the Congress?

Rep. Brian Baird: The Congress could try. And then you'd have - for example, he could - if the Congress issued some kind of legislative mandate that money go a certain way, he could veto that, and they'd have to override the veto. But he could then come to the American people and say, "Here's why it's not in our national interest to see this happen." He might lose that. But, you know, that's why you're the President.

Rabbi Brant Rosen: So - okay. Now we'll go to Brian's question.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
No, that's okay. I mean, you've just answered it. He may lose that.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
He may lose that.

Rep. Brian Baird: He might, but I don't know that he would.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
Well, but he's - then you're asking - then he - from what I understand from - you tell me if I'm wrong. If it goes to that, we're then talking about the President of the United States going head to head with the Israel lobby and with all those who oppose any pressure like that on Israel. I -

Rep. Brian Baird:
Exactly. But, you know, we take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And our first priority has to be United States security. That's got to be our first priority. Our security is imperiled when we deviate from our fundamental values of justice and constitutional liberty, and when we fund entities that do that, as well. And that has tended to harm our security internationally.

And we are not - what - I'm not saying let's abandon our friendship or alliance or anything of the sort with Israel. I am saying there are certain fundamental principles of how we're going to resolve this conflict that go back multiple administrations, including Republican and Democrat, that are recognized by multiple international bodies that are in our national best interest and, frankly, in the long-term security interests of Israel, whether or not AIPAC or somebody else thinks so. I believe it. I think the President believes it. But he's got to stand up to it.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
So that leads to another question that we -

Rabbi Brian Walt:
But wait. Brant, should we take a question?

[Cross talk]

Rabbi Brian Walt: OK. I'm calling now on the first person. If you can introduce yourself. Just say your name and ask your question. Thank you so much for being on the call.

Alex Patico:
Well, this is Alex -

Rabbi Brian Walt:
Are you there?

Alex Patico:
Can you hear me?

Rabbi Brian Walt:
Yes, Alex. We can hear you. Go ahead, please.

Alex Patico:
Alex Patico, the Orthodox Christian Peace Fellowship. Representative Baird, you said after your visit to Gaza in early 2009 that the visit represented a change in the US attitude and approach to Gaza under President Obama. Now, I was meeting this week with Prem Kumar, the administration advisor on Israel, Palestine. And his summary of things frankly didn't sound all that different to me. But it only makes sense, if you accept their idea that this, you know, brief pause will lead to something substantial. What's your opinion of that assessment, that in the period of another moratorium on most settlement activity, that something sustainable will come out of it or that there will be some serious momentum generated?

Rep. Brian Baird: I personally believe it's extraordinarily naive and foolish. It has no historical precedent. It is dependent on a person who has said that he can't do things up to this point because it would collapse his political coalition. Why would ninety days suddenly change that political calculus?

And how are we - what kind of message are we sending when we're saying there are certain activities that we have long agreed to, by preceding American administrations, by international resolutions, by preceding agreements - that you should not engage in. You have continued to engage in them and, therefore, as a consequence of continued engagement, we're going to give you $2 billion worth of military hardware with which you can bomb the people of Gaza or somewhere else, and we're going to promise that we'll never, ever ask you again to stop building the settlements which you're not supposed to build again, and we're going to block anybody in an international forum that - where the logic of that is absolutely, completely escapes me.

Now, my fervent hope is that some magical secret agreement has been reached, and I'll be dead wrong. But I see no evidence that this has any logic to it at all, except humiliating obeisance to someone who's supposed to be our ally. If you ask me how I really feel, I'll tell you.

[Laughter]

Rabbi Brian Walt: Well, I must say, it's so refreshing to hear the clear answers that you're giving to these questions. You know, and -

[Cross talk]

Rabbi Brian Walt -- I hope that you're wrong, also.

Rep. Brian Baird:
Yeah, I hope I'm wrong, too. I mean, nobody would be happier than me to say, "Wow, those guys were really smart. There was a - " You know, you take it for granted that there's a lot of behind the scenes stuff you can't see that has to happen. But goodness gracious, why make such a crazy offer? Why say, "We'll never again ask you to do this," you know? I don't get that. I - you know -

Rabbi Brian Walt: So what hope - so let me just interject. I will call on the next question. We're getting more questions, and I want to make sure. But then what is your hope that this peace process will lead anywhere? Do you think it -

Rep. Brian Baird: I think -

Rabbi Brian Walt:
Do you think it's just a sham? Do you think it's a sham?

Rep. Brian Baird: I think - I don't know. We'll see. I hope it's not. The outcome determines it. But I do not think-- I think that the people have to - you all understand, but the Congress and others don't. When you go there and see the layout, there is real significance and detrimental significance to settlement expansion. Many of the people who are insisting - who are tying the - allegedly tying Netanyahu's hands have explicitly as their goal a Greater Israel that extends to the West Bank. Antithetical. You - to negotiate with them. If that's their conditions, you can't get there. You have to just say - politics is about making tough decisions. Elections matter. And leadership matters. And you're going to have to say, "That is not official US policy. We don't believe it's in your security interest. Most importantly, it's not in our security interest. If you insist on going down that road, you will increasingly go down it alone, because we can't abet that. And we have been for too long. You don't have - you know, you don't have to lose our support. But if you go down that road, just like a cocaine addict, I'm not going to pay for your coke anymore."

Rabbi Brian Walt:
Thank you. Let me take another question. Please introduce yourself.

Bert Sacks: Hello. This is -

Rabbi Brian Walt:
Yeah. Go ahead. Thank you for being on the call. Please say your name and ask your question.

Bert Sacks:
Yes. Thank you. My name is Bert Sacks. I live in Seattle. And -

Rep. Brian Baird:
Hi, Bert.

Bert Sacks:
Hi. I want to say how grateful I am for so many of the things that you're saying, Congressman Baird.

Rep. Brian Baird:
Thank you.

Bert Sacks:
I've been to Gaza three times. I've lived in Israel for five years. And I agree completely with everything you said. My question concerns, going back in history a bit, your comment about the United States-led blockade against the country of Iraq where we, through the United Nations, knew that 5,000 children were dying every month, and yet we continued our sanctions in having bombed electrical plants. What kind of precedent do you think that set, and do you see any relationship between the twelve years of sanctions and what Israel is doing to Gaza right now?

Rep. Brian Baird:
I actually think there are - there - I understand the question. I think there are some differences that are probably too complex to cover on a call like this. Remember that those sanctions followed Saddam Hussein's military invasion of Kuwait and all the devastation and destruction that happened there. So it's more complicated.

I think probably most effective to focus on - I mean, I voted against the invasion of Iraq, as you may know. Probably most effective to focus on Gaza per se and both the humanitarian and justice issues, and then also the strategic issues.

You know, from a strategic - let me also say this: one of the lasting impressions of multiple visits now to Gaza is the resilience and commitment of the Palestinian people to not let this drive them in the direction of terror. You know, I've met psychologists and doctors and nurses and businesspeople who are just so steadfast to say that, you know, we are - the Palestinian people, as you all on this call know, traditionally had been - interacted with Israelis for many, many years in productive business partnerships, educational partnerships, et cetera. Now they hardly see one another, especially in Gaza, except as a receiving end of a bomb. That can't be good for long-term peace prospects. And so just as a strategic prospect, for Israel to say, "Can we really bottle up 600,000 people under the age of 18 and except there not to be consequences one day for this?" I think we really need to focus on the Gaza thing.

I also want to say, Bert, hearing from folks like you is really heartening to me. As you can imagine, I hear lots of other perspectives. But also, the people on this call - it's so essential that members of the House and Senate hear from committed Jewish Americans and others, Christian Americans, people of all faiths, that they have concerns. Because if people only hear from one side of this argument, there's not a realization that many Americans have real deep concerns about this, from all perspectives. And that has to get through to members of Congress and their staff.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
So I'd like to follow up that with - thank you, Bert, for your question. So I'd like to follow that up with a question about the prospects now. You mentioned that, of course, the last election probably makes the prospect for American clarity as regards peace in Israel and the issues that you have been talking about less. So I'd like you to talk about that. And how was it for you - I mean, you're about to leave Congress. Could you tell us what it's like to take the stance you've taken, what pressures you were under? Is there hope that, in fact, more congresspeople will take this on?

And I guess I have another question. You know, in the Jewish community, there has been, despite the - there's been two parallel developments. One is increasing hard-line positions by mainstream Jewish organizations and leaders, and also the emergence of J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace, and other - and a much wider debate, in some ways, although there are still efforts to silence it completely. So do people in Congress hear that there's some change happening in the Jewish community? Do they feel that in any way? So if you could talk about your experience in this regard.

Rep. Brian Baird: Well, I think organizations such as yours are absolutely critical. Organizations within Israel and other organizations within the U.S. that present a pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-justice message, especially coming, frankly, from members of the Jewish community, are absolutely essential, so that there can't be a belief in this sort of monolithic narrow focus on what's good for Israel or what - you know, what is a religious perspective on this. It's absolutely essential.

You know, Peter Beinart wrote a fantastic article in, I think, The New York Review of Books about four months ago that gave voice to a lot of this. And that message is so important. J Street has been absolutely essential for - the New America Foundation has done some tremendous work, as have a number of others. The challenge is, to be perfectly frank, the financial influence of AIPAC remains paramount and dominant. The Christian Zionist appeal - there are, by the way - Kairos, which is now called the Telos Project-- but Kairos has been doing some great work on bringing people of all faiths together, including evangelical American Christian pastors. I think that's incredibly important. All those voices need to continue and persevere. Because frankly, that's the only hope.

And then I think they especially need to reach out to people on the Foreign Affairs Committee, because - and in the general body of Congress to say, "We will be there for you vocally to support you, as volunteers in campaigns, where appropriate financially, et cetera." That voice has to get out. Because otherwise, only one voice is being heard. You know, Eric Yellin's great work in Sderot, who we met with - he does - he founded other - I think it's called “Another Voice.”

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
“Another Voice.” Yeah.

Rep. Brian Baird:
“Another Voice.” What courageous wonderful examples of humanity those folks are. But except for myself and Keith and a handful of others, people just don't know. And I think the other thing is people from your community on this call - I would encourage them to ask their member of Congress to take a trip to that region, but an independent trip. Go with Telos. Go with Kairos. Go with J Street. Go with - J Street, by the way, is organizing another trip. They were banned from Gaza by the Israeli administration last time they tried. I managed to get in on the same day, but I had to go through Rafah to get in. But they - ask your representative to go on a neutral or alternative trip, not just the usual AIPAC trips.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
Two more questions we have from the people on the - and I want to honor your time, obviously, Congressman --

Rep. Brian Baird: I can take a few extra minutes if we -

Rabbi Brian Walt: You can? Thank you so much. So let's listen to both questions, and then we will have heard all the questions. You'll answer them, and we'll close.

Rep. Brian Baird: Okay.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
So I'm calling on -

Rabbi Michael Lerner: Rabbi Michael Lerner from Tikkun magazine.

Rep. Brian Baird:
Oh, Rabbi Lerner, I want to tell you how influential your book - I think “Healing Israel/Palestine,” if I'm not mistaken.

Rabbi Michael Lerner: Yes.

Rep. Brian Baird:
Profoundly important in my own understanding of the issue. And I want to thank you for that. Profoundly. I recommend it to all my colleagues.

Rabbi Michael Lerner:
Wonderful. Thank you. I - actually, I'm in the process of updating it to 2011. Put it - and we're going to put it out again next year.

Rep. Brian Baird:
Thank you.

Rabbi Michael Lerner:
So thank you for saying that. I'm wanting to push you a little bit more about what you think we should do. I understand that you're saying that there - it's good that we have organized - that J Street was organized and that we are pushing in the variety of ways that we're pushing. But at the moment, we don't have the financial clout to offset the power of AIPAC in terms of supporting Congress people. And given that, the question is what we - is there anything else that we can do?

And in that regard, I want to know what you think about the validity of a Boycott, Divestment Sanction strategy, whether you think that that's smart or whether you think that's counterproductive. And also, what other - what kind of way could we have, apart from money, to get this message to Congress? Because I know we've been sending Tikkun magazine that I edit - we've been sending Tikkun to each congressional office. And yet we get very little in the way of response. And I don't know what-- from those offices. I don't know - I'd love to hear your advice and know what your own personal role will be after leaving Congress in terms of leading some kind of effective move to try to switch the vision of Congress on these issues.

Rep. Brian Baird:
Well, it's a marvelous and -

Rabbi Brian Walt: Congressman, do you want to answer Michael's - Rabbi Lerner's question, and then -

[Cross talk]

Rep. Brian Baird: Don't despair just because of the money. You know, I spoke about the paramount financial strength of AIPAC. But remember that most members of Congress from both sides sincerely want to do what is right. They care about their country. They love their country. And they have a profound sense of justice. What they don't know is that they are inadvertently participating in injustice for reasons they don't really fully understand. That's my belief. People will get affronted if I say that, but I really believe it. And if it weren't so, then I would ask, how is it that so many of my colleagues voted for the anti-Goldstone resolution without ever reading it? Why did they do that? How do you vote on condemnation of a report by one of the most respected human-rights jurists and never read the report or, frankly, ever ask Goldstone to testify when he actually offered to do so?

So here's what I think has to happen. I would - and this will sound like I'm being flattering here, but I'm absolutely sincere. Last month I sent about 150 copies of Mitri Raheb's book, Bethlehem Besieged. He's a Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem. And it's a powerful book. I would encourage everyone on this call to get a copy of Rabbi Lerner's next book and take it to the members of Congress office and personally ask that - you'll most likely meet with the staff. Go to town halls, and say, "Would you please read this?" It's not a complex book. It's easily understood. It will help you understand things from both perspectives in ways you never did before. Please would you make a commitment? You have many things on your schedule, Mr. or Ms. Congressman or Senator, but this matters. It's our number-one foreign policy - or foreign-aid recipient. Its our - the number-one hot point in world peace and terrorism. Please read this book."

And I'm not being flattering, Rabbi Lerner. I really think it's that serious. Ask them to just do that. Ask them to read it and consider it as openly as they can. You know, shouting at somebody in a town hall won't work. It'll be counterproductive. Not that any of you on this call would do that. But believe me, I've been shouted at. It's not productive. So just say, "Would you please read this? And would you be kind enough to talk with me about it the next time you have a town hall?"

Rabbi Brian Walt: So can you address the question about BDS, as well, that Boycott, Divestment, Sanction?

Rep. Brian Baird:
Yeah, I will. One other thing on Tikkun. Most members of Congress don't know what comes into their office. Some staff member opens the mail. They filter the right magazine to the foreign-policy person. The foreign policy says, "I shouldn't share this with the member of Congress, because it will upset them and cause them to do things that not in their political best interest. I'll just chuck it." I'm sorry to say that, but trust me, it's the most likely reality. Most members probably don't even know they get it. If they do get it, some may read it as op research, but most probably don't read it. But try to get them to read it. You know, when you visit or talk to them, say, "Are you aware you get this magazine? It's a very thoughtful magazine. Here's an issue. Would you read that?"

As far as a boycott, I think the boycott makes sense. I think it has an impact. Or people - one of the things that's been - some of the folks from New America said it very eloquently. I think it was Dan Levy, actually. He said, "You know, we've been telling the Palestinians for so long that they should engage in nonviolence." In fact, they are. The film “Budrus” demonstrates that. My most recent trip to the region was so focused on nonviolence. We met with Mustafa Barghouti. He's got a great video coming out, by the way, called “Our Story.”

But what's happening is nonviolence is now being delegitimized. People who engage in it are being jailed, prosecuted, told they can't enter certain zones. And even the boycott is being delegitimized. So we're saying terrorism is rejected. There have been - it's been so long, thankfully, thank goodness, that - there have been no terrorist actions in Israel of late. But now we're saying, even though terrorism has stopped, we're going to continue to expand the wall. But the boycott to try to prevent that expansion, the nonviolent resistance, is now somehow delegitimized. It's not Israel that's being delegitimized. It's resistance to any Israeli policy that is being delegitimized. And that's dangerous to Israel. So I'm actually an advocate for the boycott.

Rabbi Brian Walt: Thank you. Let's take the last question. Oh, there are no more questions. Good. So I can't tell you, Congressman, what a wonderful call this has been, so helpful and inspiring and informative and helpful in terms of us - and we're so honored and privileged that you spent the time with us.

I want to say to our participants, as well, that the way to get this out is if every one of the people listening on this call would write about the call in an email, if you have a blog, to your newspaper, to just quote some of the things that Congressman Baird has said to us. We will place an audio recording of this call - hopefully by the end of the day it will be on our Web site, which is fastforgaza.net. And just go to fastforgaza.net. I encourage you to go to the Congressman's Web site, to--

Rep. Brian Baird: They should do that now. It'll probably only be up for another month. But I thank you. I'm very serious about that. I will lose that platform. But some of the video images from my trips to Gaza are - if you just ask - if you did nothing else, ask a member of Congress to watch the video of the mental-health professionals in Gaza and the head of the American Palestinian School. If that doesn't touch people's hearts, then sorry, we can't touch them.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
So can you tell us - you didn't answer Rabbi Lerner's call - maybe you're not ready to do this - about what your next plan -

Rep. Brian Baird: I don't know. I hope - we're moving back to Edmonds, Washington, so we'll be relative neighbors of Bert, who was on the line earlier. And I hope, in some fashion, to be - to continue my involvement in the region. Once we get resettled and get our new lives set up there, we're considering a number of options. But I'm so committed to this issue that - you know, there are too many faces and lives that are touched by this to just walk away from it. So we'll find some way to stay involved. And I hope to continue contact with your group, as well, in some fashion.

Rabbi Brian Walt: Thank you so much.

Rep. Brian Baird: My privilege.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
Brant, you want to end?

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
Well, we will absolutely stay in touch with you, as well, and follow your post-political career very, very carefully. I just - speaking for myself, but I suspect for many people on this call and many who aren't on this call, I just want to say how grateful we are and have been for your leadership. And it's inspired us to know that there's someone such as you in Congress. And, you know, we know - you know, you mentioned your colleague Keith Ellison. And we know there are others, as well.

Rep. Brian Baird: Lois Capps, Jim Moran, lots of other good people, lots of people.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
And I think another piece, in addition to everything else that's been said here about sharing resources, is to really give support to those congresspeople and senators who are fighting the good fight.

Rep. Brian Baird: Bob Filner. Goodness sakes. He takes so much flack for this. Incredibly courageous man.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
So we thank you for that.

Rep. Brian Baird:
Thank you.

Rabbi Brant Rosen:
I just want to also mention - I want to underline what Rabbi Walt said about sharing the audio of this call, which - it contains some remarkable statements - as far and wide as you can. And finally, our next fast day will be on December 16th. And we will have another conference call at that time. And you'll hear more about that if you -- you'll read more about that on our Web site, fastforgaza.net. And again, I want to thank our guest, Congressman Baird, so much, and all of you for joining the conversation.

Rep. Brian Baird: It's been my honor. And thank you all for the work you've done to date -

Rabbi Brian Walt:
Thank you so much, Congressman. Thank you everyone who was on the call. Bye-bye.

Rep. Brian Baird:
Bye-bye.

Rabbi Brian Walt:
We are now ending the call.

[End of recorded material]