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36th District Race Heats Up Over Israel

by Tom Tugend

January 12, 2010 | 8:18 pm

36th District Race Heats Up Over Israel

The sunny beach towns along Los Angeles County’s southern coastline are famous for their surfing culture, but some of the waves roiling the electorate of the 36th Congressional District originate in the Middle East.

Veteran Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman is being challenged on her left flank by longtime progressive activist Marcy Winograd in the strongly Democratic district, stretching from Marina del Rey to Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and on to San Pedro. Both women are Jewish.

Although the district’s voters share with the state and nation such concerns as the economy, environment and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a spate of attacks and counterattacks have shifted some of the attention to American policy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Harman has been a longtime champion of U.S. support for Israel, along with the mainstreams of both major political parties.

Winograd, a public school teacher, is the co-founder of LA Jews for Peace and an advocate of Palestinian rights and of a one-state solution. She is a frequent presence at meetings denouncing Israeli oppression of Palestinians and accusing the Jewish state of various war crimes.

The simmering issue came to a boil this week, after Democratic congressional leader Henry Waxman circulated a pro-Harman letter stating that “Ms. Winograd’s views on Israel I find repugnant in the extreme.”

Waxman added that if the U.S. government were to follow Winograd’s proposed policies, “Israel would cease to exist.”

Quoting from a previous Winograd speech at a Pasadena church, Waxman noted that she and her group had picketed the Israeli consulate and the Museum of Tolerance following Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and cited her statement that “it is now too late for a two-state solution.”

In the same speech, Winograd declared that “I do not want my tax dollars to support institutionalized racism. As a Jew, I do not want my name associated with occupation or extermination.”

However, Winograd also said, “I cannot condone cross-border rocket attacks or discotheque bombings that send blood through the streets of Tel Aviv.”

Linda Milazzo, a self-described participatory journalist, educator and activist, struck back Monday in the Huffington Post, under a headline claiming that Waxman had stepped “into a firestorm of controversy.”

She charged that [Waxman’s and Harman’s] “legislative focus is defined more by the welfare of Israel and Israelis and less by the welfare of America and Americans.”

Winograd herself has toned down the rhetoric on her Web site, stating that she supports “a negotiated peace settlement that ensures peace and justice for all parties to the conflict.”

She conditions that sentiment by adding, “A two-state solution should not preclude reparations for displaced Palestinians and should not preclude the eventual establishment of a binational state where all people live as equals.”

When Winograd ran against Harman in the 2006 Democratic primary, she pulled a respectable 38 percent of the vote.

Some Harman supporters fear that Winograd’s progressive stands on social issues and her opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may appeal to many Jewish voters, especially those not familiar with the challenger’s views on Israel.

Voting positions have not hardened yet, but political consultant Allen Hoffenblum believes that for Winograd to win “she will have to have mainstream liberals rally around her and not just the Tom Hayden, hard core, ultra-liberals.”

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