As far as Rep. Rush Holt is concerned, Scott Sipprelle’s charges that he is not supportive of Israel are “absolute nonsense.”
“For anybody who looks at my record, I’ve supported over $35 million in aid to Israel and every resolution supporting Israel and every congressional action to strengthen Israel — whether it is sanctions for Iran or condemning terrorist organizations,” he told NJ Jewish News by phone from his office on Capitol Hill.
He responded to Sipprelle’s claim that by signing the “Gaza 54 Letter,” Holt was urging a lessening of the Gaza blockade and “legitimiz[ing] a terrorist organization that…continually threatens Israel,” by calling the charge “a flagrant distortion of the facts.”
“I called for more humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza than was currently going to them,” Holt said. “It has been the policy of the government of Israel to provide more humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. I wasn’t calling for a change in policy. I certainly wasn’t calling for lifting the blockade as Sipprelle seems to be saying.
“Israel is now allowing more aid to the people of Gaza and they themselves are transporting more aid to the people of Gaza. What I have been talking about is not undermining Israel’s resolve at all.”
Holt insisted that he strongly supported Israel’s controversial halting on May 31 of the flotilla headed for Gaza and said so in a speech on the House floor.
“Israel was completely within its rights to interdict the shipments…,” he said. “You can’t have ships sailing and unloading willy-nilly in Gaza. Israel has the right and the responsibility to check the cargos and to interdict unapproved shipments.”
Like his Republican opponent, Holt is not without influential Jewish support. Rabbi Bennett Miller of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick has known Holt since the congressman first took office in 1999. “I’ve always been grateful that he represents me in Congress,” the Reform rabbi told NJJN. “I have always found him to be a good friend of the Jewish people, here and in Israel.”
“It doesn’t mean that he supports the right wing — which believes Israel is right in everything it does. I would not have advised him to sign that letter, but one action does not turn someone into an enemy.
“I believe there are some people who want to make unequivocal support for everything Israel does a litmus test for whether or not someone is a friend of the Jewish community,” said Miller. “I don’t think any human being should be subjected to that.”
Rabbi Donald Weber of the Reform Temple Rodeph Torah in Marlboro said he discounted “the claims of somebody who has not been in Congress against the record of somebody who has been supporting Israel since he arrived there 12 years ago.”
Regarding Holt’s signing of the Gaza 54 Letter, Weber said, “If the Jewish community is going to invoke capital punishment on a representative because he does one thing they don’t like, then we are not going to find many supporters in Congress.”
Weber also took issue with Holt’s critics, who object to his description of a “cycle of violence” between Israel and Hamas.
“When Hamas does something, Israel attacks — which it should. Then, Hamas says, ‘We are going to attack back.’ It is a cycle of violence. I do not see that as a judgment call. I see it as a description of what has been going on since 1948,” Weber said.
“I would take Holt’s record on Israel and put it up against the record of anyone in Congress,” said Weber. “I hope people will look at the record of someone who has been really good for New Jersey and for Israel.”