CD-7 Candidates at a forum on 1/4/2020
On January 4, 2020 Candidates for Congressional District 7 attended a forum at the Islamic Society of Baltimore. Numerous -- but not all -- candidates attended.
During this forum, the gathered candidates were asked a question about legislation pertaining to the Israel/Palestine conflict: HR2407 Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation. This bill prohibits American funding for the military detention of children in any country, including Israel.
The candidates were asked if they would co-sponsor this bill within their first 30 days in Congress. Most of the candidates -- and all eight of the Democratic candidates present -- said they would. Click here to watch the video. The full transcript is below.
Moderator Mr Saad Malik: What’s going to happen next is that the timer will be adjusted to one minute. And I know it’s very difficult to answer a question in one minute. So I think we're just going to be going down the line and what we’ll do is we will take turns. There are four microphones that are out, so it may take some coordination to pass them down. We are going to start with Dr. Cummings when it comes to the first question and then so on and so forth. We may go to Dr. Hill to turn it back on the second question just so that we can keep it balanced.
I will go ahead and begin with the first question. One thing to the audience: We have received a lot of questions. If you have other questions, Mr. Mumin Abdul-Qadeer is to my left with the green tie on. Please pass him the questions. He is walking around. What I will say is we may not get through every single question. And I do apologize about that, but this is a timed event and our candidates do have other places to be. But we are going to try our best to get through as many as we can. If you feel that your question was not answered, there is literature that’s in the main lobby downstairs. Please get literature for these candidates so you can visit their websites and you can see what their stances are in a more comprehensive manner. Because again, a one minute question is not going to be something that is going to address your answers completely.
With that being said, I want to start with the first question for our candidates and it comes from Mr. Saqib Ali. The question is:
An estimated ten thousand Palestinian children have been detained by the Israeli security forces and prosecuted in Israeli military system from since 2000. Independent monitors such as Human Rights Watch have documented that these children are subject to abuse and in some cases torture -- specifically citing the use of choke holds, beatings and coercive interrogations on children between the ages of 11 and 15. Representative Betty McCollum from Minnesota has introduced HR 2407: Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. This bill amends the provision of the of the Foreign Assistance Act known as the Leahy Law to prohibit the funding for the military detention of children in any country including Israel. Will you co-sponsor HR 2407 within your first thirty days in Congress?
Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings (Democrat): Yes. I believe in human rights. And I believe in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. And that declaration made an elegant statement about the humanity of every single one of us regardless of ethnic affiliation or religious background or even statehood. And so, with that we have to understand that there is a very special obligation for us not just to respect human beings but also to respect our children. And so, when it comes to human rights and when it comes to children, I absolutely stand for and protect. Torture is wrong whether it is for adults or for children. And so I think it is important that we protect our children no matter where they are on the planet. Thank you.
Ms Reba Hawkins (Republican): Hello. I am new to the bunch here. So I would like to say that I am a Republican candidate here at this forum. A lot of times a lot of these bills can’t get passed -- not because we don’t want to see the injustice solved but because it is 800 pages and within the 800 pages you have so many different things from so many different aspects that it negates and makes it almost impossible for both sides to come to a decision so we can move forward doing what's right. I don’t want to see any injustice to any human that is one of the things that I am the biggest advocate against. Also, the suffering of children – the suffering and injustice of one individual is the suffering and injustice for us all. And I don’t want to see that happen. But we have to look at these bills thoroughly. And stop playing political games within these 800 pages and we put so many gobbledygook in there that the true point of these bills are never satisfied and never passed. We need to go back to looking at individual issues, taking it one issue at a time so that we can work together and come together across the aisle and make these bills pass. Thank you.
Mr Christopher Anderson (Republican): Hello. I am Republican candidate as well. Yes, I will co-sign that Bill within the first thirty days. This issue with Palestine and Israel has been going on a long time. Obviously it is going to be going on even further. No children at all should be subject to torture, subject to beatings, subject to being caged or arrested at any time. The children are not involved in this conflict. And yes, I will support this bill the first thirty days to get the children out of this conflict all together. We do not need to be torturing children anywhere on the planet in any conflict. Thank you very much.
Mr Saafir Rabb (Democrat): Yes, I too will support co-signing the bill and any other that is for human rights. I would encourage everyone to understand the following: The best way to know whether or not anyone will do a thing is not through what they say; It is based on what they have already done. And I have spent my life serving, defending and devoting myself to issues of human rights, issues of injustice, etc. You can expect my time in Congress to re-enforce that same judgement, to show up in co-sponsorships and introduce others. Because right now it's personal. Muslims are being banned and Baltimore is under attack from the highest levels in this country. We’re called trash-filled, rats, whatever from the highest level. We have to show up. So absolutely, the same way I've demonstrated my proof of past performance in serving the citizens of this district for my entire life, you can expect that judgement to show up in Washington DC when you elect me to represent you from Maryland's District 7.
Moderator: Thank you. [Unintelligible]. It's HR2407 for those who were interested in looking it up.
Professor Michael Higginbotham (Democrat): Yeah, I don't need 30 days. I would support it on day one. Children are a protected class and they are very vulnerable. And they need our protections whether it is in the Middle East or here in the United States. So not only would I support this bill, I would support other bills to protect our children here. I've fought for human rights all my professional career. Fought here in the United States as well as overseas. I was involved in the anti-Apartheid protests. I did a lot of writing about Apartheid and Jim Crow practices and the similarities between the two. And I stood strong against Apartheid. You can rest assured that I will stand strong against these kind of practices against children.
Mr Jay Fred Cohen (Democrat): [Unintelligible] If I don't read it, I don't vote for it. And a bill that's 800 pages -- or whatever it is -- is ridiculous. I go by a theory; It’s called K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid. And if it isn't simple, then don’t vote for it. I don't know what the bill says, because I'm sure if it's 800 pages there are a lot of things in there that shouldn’t be in there. I would have to look at it and read it before I even think about it. Thank you.
Mr Paul V. Konka (Democrat): Yes, I would co-sponsor the bill. That's easy to do. You put your name on the bill. What’s important in this divided Congress -- it's divided now and chances are that it will be divided in the future -- what's important in getting the bill passed is to be able to reach across the aisle. You do that by explaining to those that you have the experience and the wisdom to bring them to your position. I have served for many years overseas in the United States Navy. I'm a retired Navy Captain. I'm a Vietnam veteran. I served in Vietnam and the Philippines. I've also served in the United States Agency for International Development. So I have served tours in Hungary, El Salvador and Kenya. And so I would bring that experience to the table to not only co-sponsor the bill, but to make sure that it gets passed. Thank you.
Mr T. Dan Baker (Democrat): President Jimmy Carter returned from a trip to Israel years ago and he labelled the situation in Palestine as Apartheid. I’ve been to the Holy City. I’ve been on both sides on the wall. My career path is a lot of AID work in the Third World. And definitely it is Apartheid. The difference between the two sides is just remarkable. So in terms of voting for the bill or not, I just want to clarify one thing: I am seeking to be a 21st century representative in District 7. It's not like I'm going to get hired to go to Washington and you are not going to see me again. If I get hired and I go to Washington, I will make the pledge right here and I will challenge anybody at the table to join me: For any and all major legislation that comes across my desk I will vote with the district. So if the majority or plurality of the people of the district... You know, I have been talking to folks. They've lost their voice. They don't have any communication out to the representation. I am looking to re-establish that. It is a government of, for and by for the people.
Delegate Talmadge Branch (Democrat): The answer is yes. And I have a twenty-five year record of supporting human rights, just as I do for immigrants. And anytime anything impacts children, families; Yes, I will certainly be part of supporting it. So that's my answer.
Senator Jill Carter (Democrat): Thank you Delegate Saqib Ali. And I am sorry I didn't recognize you before, having worked with you as well before many years ago. Thank you for the question. Of course I will be a co-sponsor of this legislation. Palestinian rights are human rights and I am a lifelong human rights champion. But I want to say that it is not enough to simply passively sign your name to a piece of legislation you agree with and expect anything to happen. You have to use the leverage that you have and the latitude that you have to build coalitions and to educate others on the need for the legislation. So I would never just be a co-sponsor of a human rights issue. I would be a champion of the issue. Thank you so much for the question.
Delegate Dr. Terri Hill (Democrat): Thank you very much. Again, my name is Terry Hill. And as with most of my other colleagues up here I would also be a co-sponsor. But I think that the bill also needs to be broader. It’s not just that its wrong for Palestinian children to be held captive without given their rights. It’s wrong for children in any country. And we know that there are children around the world in nations that are also being held. And so we want to make sure that all of our children are protected. In fact we know the same thing happens here in America. The real problem is that this particular Trump administration has so compromised America's standing that it makes it difficult for us to stand on moral issues anywhere. So one of the things that I would champion is re-establishing who America is and why we stand for civil rights around the world, starting with America. And why we can speak with authority because we actually honor ethical standards as well. So we need to establish who we are.
Moderator: Thank you so much for your questions.