Rep. Eric Swalwell left Sunday for Israel and the West Bank as part of a massive Democratic congressional delegation “to gain a firsthand understanding of some of America’s most pressing foreign policy challenges,” his office reported.
Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, is with Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and 36 other House Democrats who’ll meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. They’ll also meet with Israeli tech leaders to explore opportunities for bilateral economic and technological cooperation between the U.S. and Israel.
“I look forward to visiting our strong ally in the Middle East, and as a Member of the Homeland Security Committee, I’m particularly interested in viewing the security situation on the ground and learning about the technology Israel is using in its fight against terror,” Swalwell said in a news release.
“This is a critical time in the peace process with this new round of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” Swalwell said. “The visit will be an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the quest for a peaceful two-state solution through meetings with a wide variety of leaders across the spectrum –Israelis, Palestinians, religious figures, opposition members, and ordinary citizens.”
Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Israel Defense Forces to reopen an investigation into the grievous head injury suffered by an Oakland activist during a West Bank protest in March 2009, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.
Tristan Anderson, then 39, was at a protest of Israel’s security fence in the West Bank city of Na’alin when a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier struck him in the head, causing severe brain damage.
The Israel Defense Force investigated whether the Border Police were at fault following the incident, but a petition to the court – filed by attorneys for Anderson’s family and by Yesh Din, an Israeli human-rights group – claimed the probe was inadequate. The petition said the army did not visit Na’alin and questioned only a few soldiers who were on the scene; it’s not clear whether the army questioned the soldier who fired the canister. No criminal charges have been brought against any police or military personnel involved in the case.
“It is the obligation of the State of Israel to investigate suspicions of unwarranted injury of protesters, which occur time after time,” Yesh Din attorney Michael Sfard said in a news release issued by Anderson’s supporters Wednesday. “It is a shame that it took three-and-a-half years for the High Court to intervene in order to force the investigators to implement basic investigative procedures.”
Anderson’s mother, Nancy Anderson, said in the release that her son “will live the rest of his life with serious mental and physical limitations and chronic pain. This has devastated his life and profoundly affected our family forever.” The family’s civil lawsuit against the Israeli military and government is scheduled to go to trial in November.
Gabrielle Silverman of Oakland – Anderson’s girlfriend, who was with him when he was injured – said Wednesday that Anderson was released from an Israeli hospital in June 2010 and now lives with his parents in Grass Valley. He remains hemiplegic – paralyzed on his left side – and suffers permanent cognitive and emotional impairments from his injury; he requires around-the-clock care, Silverman said.
Three Bay Area House members have just returned from a four-day, bi-partisan Congressional delegation trip to Iraq, Qatar and Israel, where they met with U.S. troops from the Bay Area as well as with military commanders and foreign leaders.
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, issued a statement today saying he gained valuable insights on the region.
“I get a lot of good information in Washington, but when it comes to making tough decisions about our troops and our nation’s security it is also essential to get a first-hand view in critical parts of the world like Iraq and the Middle East,” he said. “The opportunity to meet face-to-face with U.S. military commanders and American troops on the ground to better understand the conditions there is invaluable.
“The troops we met with expressed a huge sense of pride over the daring mission that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden,” Miller continued. “Clearly, even the troops that were not directly involved in the raid were proud to be members of the military forces that accomplished it. And they have every right to feel that way. The mission was a huge victory for our country’s security efforts and for President Obama, U.S. military forces and the American intelligence community. And hopefully the death of bin Laden will hasten the return of American troops from the war in Afghanistan.
“Regardless of one’s position on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the men and women who serve this country day in and day out are to be commended. Their sacrifice and the sacrifices made by their families and friends is something that we must always keep in mind.”