Iowa Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, now running for Senate against GOP state senator Joni Ernst, joined some of the most liberal members of the House Democratic caucus in 2010 on a letter urging President Obama to work to force Israel to lift the Gaza blockade, according to a copy of the letter obtained by Breitbart News.
The letter underscores Braley’s relatively left-wing views on foreign policy just as he is coming under attack from GOP rivals on his votes to defund the Iraq War and other matters.
“The unabated suffering of Gazan civilians highlights the urgency of reaching a resolution into the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and we ask you to press for immediate relief for the citizens of Gaza as an urgent component of your Middle East peace efforts….The humanitarian consequences of a continued near blockade would be disastrous,” the Jan. 21, 2010 letter, signed by 54 House Democrats, says.
The Gaza blockade stems from 2007, when Hamas, designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Government, took control of the Gaza Strip, a small autonomous Palestinian region in along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea where Israel’s border meets Egypt.
Following numerous rocket attacks from Gaza, Israel instituted restrictions a partial blockade of the region that restricts movement and the transfer of goods. Egypt enforces the blockade along its border with Gaza, and both countries view the effort as responsible for undermining Hamas, especially financially.
Four years after Braley signed the letter, the blockade remains a topic of controversy. For example in July, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and one of the co-signers of the 2010 letter, penned an op-ed pushing for easing the restrictions on Gaza.
Braley was endorsed in the Senate race by J-Street, a controversial liberal Jewish group that, for example, defended Secretary of State John Kerry when he was revealed to have warned Israel was on the verge of becoming an “apartheid state.”
In a page noting its endorsement on its website, J-Street describes Braley as a “rising star in progressive politics.”
The 2010 letter was signed by some of the most liberal members of the House, including Reps. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Raul Grijalva (D-NM), James McGovern (D-MA), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and George Miller (D-CA). Some of the relatively centrist signers included Reps. Jim Himes (D-CT), Nick Rahall (D-WV) and former-Rep. Joe Sestek (D-PA).
The letter could be controversial for Braley as he seeks the Senate seat because it downplays Israeli security concerns that Palestinians would use relief from blockade to import weapons, a concern many experts view as vindicated by the recent war in which Hamas forces used “civilian” goods like building cement to construct tunnels used by terrorists.
While the letter does call the Hamas rocket attacks “abhorrent” and says Israel acted based on a “legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action,” it makes no mention of whether the concern is actually justified and urges the resumed passage of commercial goods.
In addition to votes to stop funding for Iraq operations, Braley is separately under fire for saying in a recent debate he had voted to authorize President Obama to begin air strikes in Syria against ISIL. In fact, the September vote only authorized Obama to begin arming Syrian rebels, and Obama moved ahead with air strikes without any congressional authorization shortly thereafter. Braley’s spokeswoman subsequently said that in saying he authorized Obama to “begin strikes,” he was referring to voting “to facilitate strikes against ISIS in Syria by training and equipping Syrian rebels.” Experts panned the explanation.