Israel’s empty Foreign Ministry represents Israel fairly well.

israel mfaWhen it became clear last December that he was about to be indicted on corruption charges, Avigdor Leiberman resigned as Israel’s Foreign Minister. He did not quite resign from wielding influence, however.

Indeed, having since held elections and formed a new government, Prime Minister Netanyahu is essentially retaining the Foreign Ministry for its former occupant, at least until the trial is completed; Lieberman himself is expected to testify in two weeks. In the meantime, the Foreign Ministry essentially stands bereft.

Mind you, Netanyahu did name a Deputy Foreign Minister: the ultra right-wing Ze’ev Elkin, an MK with no diplomatic credentials who boasts a strikingly anti-democratic voting record, and who said this past January that

We will try to apply sovereignty over the maximum [of the West Bank] that we can at any given moment. It will take time to change people’s awareness but in the end this will penetrate. And then, what seems today like a fairy tale will eventually become political reality, and the reality on the ground.

So the Foreign Ministry does have the anti-democratic, fairy tale guy (who, coincidentally, doesn’t speak English) at its disposal; Elkin met with the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan just the other day.

And there’s also Yuval Steinitz. Steinitz currently holds the “International Affairs” portfolio, and may be given the real Foreign Relations post if Lieberman is convicted. According to veteran Israeli political scientist and commentator Shlomo Avineri, Steinitz’s office is “a kind of second Foreign Ministry, but without the staff or the means,” and though many visiting diplomats have been referred to him,

this scandalous situation has already drawn expressions of displeasure from world leaders. Not only that—it has led a European foreign minister, a known friend of Israel, to cancel his visit.

So Israel also has the Foreign Affairs-Lite guy, who no one really wants to see (the diplomat who went so far as to actually cancel was Belgium’s Foreign Minister).

Then there’s this odd little chestnut:

The Samaria (Shomron) Regional Authority [local council of the northern West Bank settlements] has even established its own quasi-“foreign ministry,” which circumvents the official one. The Authority carries out its own independent contacts with foreign diplomats, and brings some of them to Samaria for tours.

Finally, Netanyahu is officially the acting Foreign Minister, but he’s too busy to be involved with much beyond visits from the likes of Hagel, Kerry, and Obama (hence the Belgian snub), and maybe-possibly sorting out the mess with Turkey at Obama’s behest.

But while reasonable people might reasonably describe this situation as “scandalous,” it is also strangely appropriate.

The Real Foreign Minister awaits trial and expects his country to await him, consequences be damned; his deputy doesn’t like freedom of speech and can’t speak English; the country’s Shadow-and-Wannabe-Foreign-Minister is working out of what amounts to a makeshift  office and annoying people in the process; the settlers are disregarding the government entirely; and Netanyahu is pretty much focused on keeping the US government on his side (a goal he once said is an easy one to achieve).

This in a country which has in recent years seen a former Prime Minister, a President, a Justice Minister, and a collection of other government officials indicted and/or convicted for various kinds of malfeasance; a country run by people who have often seemed exceptionally tone-deaf to English-speaking supporters and exceptionally eager to stifle democracy; a country led by a government that continuously irritates and annoys its closest allies (also seemingly on purpose), its  political scene wholly dominated by the settler movement and headed by a Prime Minister who says he wants better relations with his country’s nearest neighbors but doesn’t actually do much to achieve that end.

This might not be the image that Israel wants to project. It might not reflect what I love about Israel.

But the current state of Israel’s foreign affairs is pretty representative of the Jewish State circa 2013, whether any of us likes it or not. And that’s the Israel with which the rest of the world actually has to do business.

Crossposted from The Daily Beast/Open Zion.

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Gone fishin’! Left you a humorous video!

My mother and I are about to leave on a trip that I’ve been planning (possibly only in my mind, because she doesn’t remember me talking about it) since high school. We’re off to Scotland!

What this means for the blog and my Twitter account is either total silence, or maybe near-silence. I can’t really imagine what I might feel a desperate need to write about while I’m away, but knowing me, there may just be something!

Tomorrow you’ll see the crosspost of my latest Open Zion piece (about the laughable/sob-inducing state of affairs at Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Wheee!), and we should be back to our regularly scheduled programming on May 6.

As I take my leave, please enjoy the following, and have pity on two poor American women who will no doubt find themselves struggling through the morass of another nation’s English.

xo <3,
ellaesther

Senior Netanyahu adviser admits Fayyad was a partner for peace.

Ron-Dermer-150x150

Ron Dermer

As anyone who has spent any time observing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can tell you, it’s pretty much Gospel among Israeli government types that “there’s no partner for peace” on the Palestinian side.

Oh, alas and alack (goes the argument), if only we could make peace with the Palestinians! Everyone knows that no one wants peace more than we—but there is no partner! Etc, and so on.

But then along comes American-Israeli neocon Ron Dermer, a man whose writingreportedly influenced George W. Bush; a man who once said that the U.S.-backed Road Map for Peace (signed, then quickly ignored, by Ariel Sharon) undermined Israel’s sovereignty; a man who has had Netanyahu’s ear for years (indeed, a manwho was once famously called “Bibi’s brain”)—along comes Ron Dermer and in a meeting with Jewish American leaders last week, says the following:

I don’t believe that the Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad’s departure from the scene is going to be very good for peace. In my view, Fayyad was the first Palestinian leader in a century who cared about the Palestinians. There’s been many Palestinian leaders that cared about the Palestinian cause, but Fayyad is the first to actually care about the Palestinians. And from that point of view—not because he’s a Zionist—from that point of view, I think he was a peace partner, because he wants a better life for them. Any Palestinian leader who wants a better life for the Palestinians would want to have peace with Israel. So he is now departing from the scene; that doesn’t bode well. [emphasis Dermer’s]

There’s a word for this. It’s a Yiddish word, a word that has crossed oceans and land masses and worked its way into the languages of many peoples, and that word is chutzpah.

Dermer’s chutzpah takes a variety of forms, not least that special kind required for an American-Israeli Jew to pass judgment on all Palestinian leaders in the last century and find precisely one with a heart for his or her own people. That’s some ding-dang chutzpah, right there.

One is tempted to ask just how many Palestinian leaders Dermer has met, how much of their work he’s read, how many times he’s polled the Palestinian people about how they, in turn, feel about their leaders. And who is a leader, by Dermer’s lights? Are we talking Haj Amin al-Husseini, Aziz Shehadeh, Hanan Ashrawi, Sari Nusseibeh…?

And yet (with all due respect to Dermer’s disrespect for the people that Israel occupies) the largest, most significant slice of Dermer’s chutzpah pie is the one salted with crocodile tears over Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s resignation.

Or, I don’t know, maybe the metaphorical tears are real. Maybe Ron Dermer is genuinely worried about the resignation of a Palestinian leader who was routinely sabotaged and undermined by the very government that Dermer has advised, supported, and defended. It’s entirely possible that Dermer truly believes that this doesn’t bode well for Israel’s future.

But there is something mind-blowingly disingenuous about a man who has had almost unparalleled influence over Israeli-Palestinian relations suddenly piping up to say that Salam Fayyad “was a peace partner.”

Oh was he, Ron? Was he really now? Did you urge your good friend Bibi to actually do anything to support the Palestinian Prime Minister’s peace partnership? To reward him for it, so that Fayyad would have something to show his people, so that they would want to continue to see him at the helm of their government? Anything? Anything at all? (And please note: All answers that contain the words “settlement freeze” will be disqualified as being equal parts smoke and mirrors).

To this American-Israeli, it seems pretty clear that Salam Fayyad was the one in search of a peace partner all these years, and that neither Bibi, nor his brain, were very much inclined to cooperate.

Crossposted from The Daily Beast/Open Zion.

photo source

Bethlehem Marathon can’t find 26.2 miles of contiguous land.

bethlehem marathon

Ammar Awad/Reuters

What does military occupation look like?

It looks like a lot of things. In the case of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, it looks like Israeli soldiers in full riot gear using a handcuffed Palestinian as a human shield; it looks like armed incursions into Ramallah, the seat of Palestinian government; it looks like the arrest and imprisonment of children (for instance, an 8 year old arrested by Israeli soldiers while playing with his cousin).

But occupation also looks like this:

Runners in the first ever Bethlehem Marathon [held on Sunday] were forced to run two laps of the same course, as Palestinians were unable to find a single stretch of free land [26.2 miles] long.

And in case you were wondering if Gaza is really still under Israeli military control, occupation also looks like this:

Around 100 competitors took part in the full 26 miles, while another 150 joined the half marathon…. Another 26 runners from Gaza were denied permission by Israel to travel to Bethlehem to join the race.

So to sum up: Military occupation looks like athletes not having enough space to run 26.2 contiguous miles or, in some cases, even being allowed to get to the truncated course in the first place.

Which is why the organizers in Right to Movement planned the marathon, actually—not just to give runners a chance to do their thing, but also to draw attention to just how difficult such a simple task really is:

Article 13 of the U.N. Human Rights Charter [states]: Everyone has the right to freedom of movement.

…Everyone has the right to freedom of movement, but not everyone has the option. Restriction on movement is one of the major challenges for the Palestinian people living under occupation. They cannot travel freely on roads, or go from one city to another. Where they can go depends on their ID, whether they have a permit, which city they belong to, or who they are married to.

… The EU and the U.S. talk about a two-state solution, an independent Palestine—but we cannot find the 42 km [26.2 miles] needed for a marathon. Not [even] 42 kms of an area which [is] supposed to be an independent state are controlled by the Palestinians themselves. This is why we do it.

We also do it to show that the Palestinians not only are capable of having a marathon, but capable of statehood and self-determination. That Palestinian people love their land and have a lot to offer. We want to show more people, and runners, Palestine and the Palestinians. We want to contribute to tell a different story than the one of conflict and hate.

That, by the way, is what nonviolent resistance looks like.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

Writers need to learn to write differently about terrorists who happen to be Muslim.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/63/Salat_Salah_%22Muslim_Prayer%22.jpg

How to pray as a Muslim.

The first thing I read on the morning after the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a well-written, well-constructed, and very informative piece about Chechnya, Chechens, and the Tsarnaev brothers written by David Remnick (a hell of a writer) in The New Yorker (a hell of a publication).

Yet in the midst of all this quality, Remnick fell into a particularly pedestrian, non-quality trap: He used simplistic conventional wisdom as shorthand, and in so doing, conflated (whether intentionally or not) two very different things that simply are not conflatable.

Throughout the piece, wherever there is reference to the Tsarnaevs’ religion, there is an unspoken assumption that the more religious a Muslim is, the more likely that Muslim is to engage in extremist behavior. For instance:

The Caucasus region is multicultural in the extreme, but the predominant religion in the north is Islam…. In 1991, nationalist rebels fought two horrific wars with the Russian Army for Chechen independence. In the end, the rebel groups were either decimated or came over to the Russian side. But rebellion persists, in Chechnya and in the surrounding regions—Dagestan and Ingushetia—and it is now fundamentalist in character. The slogan is “global jihad.” The tactics are kidnappings, assassinations, bombings.

…Members of the [Tsarnaev] family occasionally attended a mosque on Prospect Street in Cambridge, but there seemed nothing fundamentalist about their outlook.

…[Tamerlan, the older brother,] described himself as “very religious”; he didn’t smoke or drink…. Three years ago, he was arrested for domestic assault and battery. 

“He was a cool guy,” Ashraful Rahman said [of the younger brother, Dzhokhar]. “I never got any bad vibes from him…. Dzhokhar went to the mosque more than I did, but he wasn’t completely devoted.”

The problem here is how much is left unsaid, and it’s very hard to quantify or sketch an absence. Nowhere does Remnick (who is, as I say, a hell of a writer, and I believe an unusually honest and careful one) say anything even remotely like “the more religious a Muslim is, the more likely that Muslim is to engage in extremist behavior.”

But when you’re writing in a society which everywhere makes just that assumption; a society in which the faith, Scripture, habits, and even clothing choices of Muslims are frequently treated as signs of a violent pathology, you must be particularly careful not to further a conventional wisdom that is not only wildly inaccurate, but physically dangerous to Muslims. Remnick doesn’t need to write “the more religious a Muslim is, the more likely that Muslim is to engage in extremist behavior” — far too many of his readers will make the leap on their own.

There is one sentence in the piece in which Islam is mentioned in a context that does not, somehow, end up in violence. Dzhokhar’s friend Essah Chisholm says this:

“Tamerlan maybe felt like he didn’t belong, and he might have brainwashed Dzhokhar into some radical view that twisted things in the Koran.”

“Some radical view that twisted things in the Koran” – nine short words that open a door to the possibility that in order to descend into pathological violence, a Muslim must, in fact, twist the Qur’an, twist his or her faith, leave actual Islam behind and create something awful and new onto which he or she slaps the word “Islam” — just as the KKK, and Westboro, and Scott Roeder call themselves Christians; just as Yigal Amir, and Baruch Goldstein, and the West Bank’s Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva call themselves Jews.

But that door is small, so small as to be missed entirely. In the very next paragraph we read:

Tamerlan’s YouTube channel features a series of videos in support of fundamentalism and violent jihad… [one] provides a dramatization of the Armageddon prophecy of the Black Banners of Khurasan, an all-powerful Islamic military force that will rise up from Central Asia and defeat the infidels; it is a martial-religious prophecy favored by Al Qaeda.

Writers use shorthand all the time, often in order to create space to tell a complicated and complex story. In 21st century America, “he started to pray more frequently” is often shorthand for “this was a Muslim about to descend into pathological violence” — but when we use that shorthand, we are, in fact, denying the complexity of the very story we’re telling.

We can no longer write this way. If our goal is to tell the truth, we can’t let dangerous inaccuracies fill the spaces between our words. We have to seek out sources who can help us clarify to readers that what terrorists call “Islam” is not accepted as such by the vast majority of the faithful; that increased devotion is almost never a sign of hatred but rather a sign of love of God; that 99.999% of Muslims who pray five times a day would no sooner launch a terrorist attack than would 99.999% of faithful Christians or Jews. That terrorists who happen to be Muslim represent not Muslims, but pathology.

Remnick serves as my example here, but as anyone who has spent any time reading about the events at the Boston Marathon can attest, he is far, far from the only writer who has fallen into this trap.

The story of terrorism, and fear, and those who would harm innocent people, and the innocent people they harm is far too important a story for us to get wrong by means of shortcuts. We need to write better.

Cat. In a shark costume. On a roomba. Chasing a duckling.

Because you deserve it:

My source was Nick Harkaway, who retweeted Rick Lipman, who retweeted Susan Arendt. I wish I knew who made the actual gif, because I’d like to buy him/her an enormous chocolate cake.

Hey, Louie Gohmert: Stop using Israeli blood to score political points.

Louie_Gohmert_PortraitWhen dealing with certain politicians, to borrow a phrase from comic Patton Oswalt, I don’t always know where to start or where to begin. Take Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

Gohmert appeared on CSPAN’s Washington Journal on Wednesday to discuss immigration reform, but he and host Greta Brawner understandably opened with the Boston Marathon bombings. Gohmert led by singing the praises of 9/12—that is, the day after 9/11: “There were no hyphenated Americans that day, there were no Euro-Americans, African-Americans, everybody was an American, and it was just such a warm time,” he said.

Ok, first of all: I have the sneaking suspicion that hyphenated Americans who have the words “Arab,” “Muslim,” “South Asian,” “Iranian,” “Sikh,” or, in some cases, “Latino” to the left of their hyphen would beg to differ regarding the warmth of 9/12. These Americans surely suffered alongside the rest of us (indeed, some were among the dead), but pretty much no one let them forget that hyphen—not for a day, not for a minute.

Then the good Congressman managed to link this week’s bombings to his opposition to immigration reform, using Israeli blood to make his point:

We’ve seen this in Israel, and after Israel had to suffer the slings and arrows, and deaths and the maimings for so long—I’ve been in the coffee shops over there: ‘Oh this was a coffee shop where a bomber killed a bunch of people, oh this is a park bench area where people were killed, that’s where that bus blew up that killed a bunch of people’….

Finally the Israeli people said, you know what: Enough. They built [the Security Barrier] to prevent snipers from knocking off their kids and they finally stopped the domestic violence from people that wanted to destroy them, and I am concerned we need to do that as well.

Where to start? Where to begin?

I know the  bombing sites of which Gohmert speaks—at least, I think I do. There was a coffee shop/park bench bombing about two half blocks from my Tel Aviv apartment; the bus I rode nearly every day was bombed at least twice. I covered these stories and others like them for the foreign press, so unlike Gohmert, I actually saw the blood when it was still on the ground.

And yes, the Israeli government said “Enough” and built a massive wall, one which snakes throught the Palestinian West Bank at its leisure and at the Palestinian people’s expense. The wall (along with the Israeli- and American-acknowledged help of the Palestinian security services) did put a halt to most terrorism—a fact which must not be discounted—but in the meantime there have also been three official wars, a war-in-all-but-name (2006’s Operation Summer Rains) and endless skirmishes. “Security,” it would seem, remains an elusive goal.

But there’s more: “snipers” never really entered into it, the violence is not “domestic” (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, after all, a clash of two nationalisms), and whatever threat illegal immigration might pose to the U.S., to suggest that it’s on the level of actual terrorism is grossly inaccurate. But Gohmert would probably disagree. As he told Brawner:

We know al-Qaeda has camps over with the drug cartels on the other side of the Mexican border. We know that people are now being trained to come in and act like Hispanic when they’re radical Islamists.

We do? We know that? We know that “radical Islamists” are being  trained to “act like Hispanic” so that they can—what now? “Knock off” American children in coffee shops? And we know that a wall like Israel’s (which, by the way, Palestinians by the score regularly get around in order to work inside Israel) is what’s going to stop those al-Qaeda snipers? And I presume we likewise know that violent resistance to foreign occupation is just like al-Qaeda’s pan-national nihilism?

Look, Gohmert’s a kook with a Washington office. This is the man who once said that terrorists are coming to America and having “anchor babies” in order to destroy us from within—I don’t expect a lot of sense from his corner of the Capitol Building. I’d ask for verifiable proof of these outrageous allegations, but as I rather suspect he doesn’t have any, I won’t hold my breath.

But here’s the thing: I am so, so tired of American politicians using Israeli blood to score cheap, xenophobic political points on U.S. soil. You hate immigrants, Muslims, Latinos, and/or babies? You go on with your bad self. You spread whatever wild fantasies you want to spread about people acting all “Hispanic” and we’ll leave it to the voters to decide whether or not they want to believe you.

But my people actually bled and died. Again and again and again. Israelis have often lived with a kind of numb, daily fear about which Louie Gohmert knows nothing. It’s a kind of fear that the people of Boston have now come to feel, too—and neither Israel’s blood, nor Boston’s, should ever be used as a tool for political gain.

Louie Gohmert should be ashamed of himself. Lord knows he’s an embarrassment to the rest of us.

Crossposted from Open Zion/The Daily Beast.

How did your Senators vote on background checks? Let them know what you think.

Well, despite the fact that 90% of Americans want to see background checks for gun purchases written into law; despite the fact that the bill actually got a majority of votes in the Senate; and despite the fact that some 3,500 Americans have been fatally shot since the Newtown massacre on December 12 – the Senate voted down the Manchin-Toomey background check bill.

I will be honest: I am so angry, I can hardly see straight. This is not right. By any measure.

At the same time, I agree with the President: This is Round One (you can watch the video of his very powerful, and very angry, statement, below). This will happen, if we don’t lose focus, if we don’t lose our passion. If we continue to stand up and say that something has to change – we will bring that change.

Here’s how we do that: We don’t let up. We keep the pressure on.

Click here to see how the vote broke down, and if your Senator(s) voted yea, please call and thank them, especially if it’s one of these Republicans:

  • McCain (R-AZ) 202-224-2235
  • Kirk (R-IL) 202-224-2854
  • Toomey (R-PA) 202- 224-4254
  • Collins (R-ME) 202-224-2523

If, on the other hand, your Senator(s) voted no, call them and tell them what you think – here’s the list of all the nays, by state, followed by their direct phone numbers* (if you’re looking for email addresses, go here).

CALL THEM.

  • Alabama: Sessions (202) 224-4124  Shelby (202) 224-5744
  • Alaska: Begich (202) 224-3004  Murkowski (202) 224-6665
  • Arizona: Flake (202) 224-4521
  • Arkansas: Boozman (202) 224-4843  Pryor (202) 224-2353
  • Florida: Rubio (202) 224-3041
  • Georgia: Chambliss (202) 224-3521  Isakson (202) 224-3643
  • Idaho:  Crapo (202) 224-6142  Risch (202) 224-2752
  • Indiana:  Coats  (202) 224-5623
  • Iowa:  Grassley (202) 224-3744
  • Kansas: Moran (202) 224-6521  Roberts (202) 224-4774
  • Kentucky: McConnell (202) 224-2541  Paul (202) 224-4343
  • Louisiana:  Vitter (202) 224-4623
  • Mississippi:  Cochran (202) 224-5054  Wicker (202) 224-6154
  • Missouri:  Blunt (202) 224-5721
  • Montana:  Baucus (202) 224-2651
  • Nebraska: Fischer (202) 224-6551  Johanns (202) 224-4224
  • Nevada:  Heller (202) 224-6244 Reid (but Senator Reid gets a pass for voting against the thing he supports for the reasons you can read about by clicking here)
  • New Hampshire:  Ayotte (202) 224-3324
  • North Carolina:  Burr (202) 224-3154
  • North Dakota:  Heitkamp (202) 224-2043  Hoeven (202) 224-2551
  • Ohio: Portman  (202) 224-3353
  • Oklahoma: Coburn (202) 224-5754  Inhofe (202) 224-4721
  • South Carolina: Graham (202) 224-5972  Scott (202) 224-6121
  • South Dakota: Thune (202) 224-2321
  • Tennessee: Alexander (202) 224-4944  Corker (202) 224-3344
  • Texas: Cornyn (202) 224-2934  Cruz (202) 224-5922
  • Utah: Hatch (202) 224-5251  Lee (202) 224-5444
  • Wisconsin:  Johnson (202) 224-5323
  • Wyoming:  Barrasso (202) 224-6441  Enzi (202) 224-3424

*Please note: I copy-pasted these numbers from the Senate website. If something’s amiss (my fault or theirs) you can always call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senators by name.

*

Big, big h/t to my internet pal @ferallike, who started tweeting out phone numbers almost immediately upon the completion of the vote.

Senate vote Wednesday afternoon on gun purchase background checks – CALL YOUR SENATORS.

Moment Of Truth: Senate To Vote On Background Checks

It’s a moment of truth for the centerpiece of Congress’s efforts to curb gun violence — the first major effort in nearly two decades. Defeat would be a huge blow to the cause and to the families of the Newtown, Conn. shooting victims who have urged Washington to act.

Call them, call them, call them – and if you’ve already done this once, please do it again, even if your Senators are Republicans and you know they’re opposed. They need to hear from us over and over – nearly 3,500 Americans have been fatally shot since the Newtown massacre on December 14.

  • The US Senate: 202-224-3121. If you’re not sure who your Senators are, find them by clicking here (if you’d rather send an email, you’ll find that information here, too).
  • The White House: 202-456-1111 Let President Obama know that  you support his efforts, and encourage him to continue to fight the fight.

Sample scripts/letters:

  1. When speaking with a Senator who’s opposed to the bill: “Hi, I’m calling from [location], and though I know that the Senator doesn’t plan to vote in favor of background checks, I wanted to make sure s/he knows that I support the bill currently being considered in the Senate. Background checks are nothing more than basic common sense, and having them in place could have saved some of the nearly 3,500 Americans who have been fatally shot since Newtown. I very much hope that the Senator will reconsider his/her position.”
  2. When speaking with a Senator who supports the bill or may be on the fence: ”Hi, I’m calling from [location], and I just wanted to make sure that the Senator knows that I support the White House gun control initiative. I think the President’s plan, in particular the idea of background checks, is simple common sense, and I very much hope that the Senator will vote for the Senate bill in question.”

h/t TPM

“GOP Opposition Mounts To Background Checks”; “Democrats Scramble To Keep Gun Control Bill Alive”

Democrats Scramble To Keep Gun Control Bill Alive:

Senate Democrats were desperately working Tuesday to keep alive the modest bipartisan legislation to expand mandatory background checks to some gun sales, claiming momentum in public and offering new concessions to skeptical senators in private.

GOP Opposition Mounts To Background Checks:

Republican opposition is growing to a bipartisan Senate plan for expanding background checks for firearms buyers, enough to put the proposal’s fate in jeopardy. But the measure may change as both sides compete for support in one of the pivotal fights in the battle over curbing guns.

The Senate was continuing debate Tuesday on a wide-ranging gun control bill, with the focus on a background check compromise struck last week between Sens. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. Manchin said the vote on that amendment was likely to be delayed from midweek to late in the week, a move that would give both sides more time to win over supporters.

Call them, call them, call them – and if you’ve already done this once, please do it again, even if your Senators are Republicans and you know they’re opposed. They need to hear from us over and over – nearly 3,500 Americans have been fatally shot since the Newtown massacre on December 14.

  • The US Senate: 202-224-3121. If you’re not sure who your Senators are, find them by clicking here (if you’d rather send an email, you’ll find that information here, too).
  • The White House: 202-456-1111 Let President Obama know that  you support his efforts, and encourage him to continue to fight the fight.

Sample scripts/letters:

  1. When speaking with a Senator who’s opposed to the bill: “Hi, I’m calling from [location], and though I know that the Senator doesn’t plan to vote in favor of background checks, I wanted to make sure s/he knows that I support the bill currently being considered in the Senate. Background checks are nothing more than basic common sense, and having them in place could have saved some of the nearly 3,500 Americans who have been fatally shot since Newtown. I very much hope that the Senator will reconsider his/her position.”
  2. When speaking with a Senator who supports the bill or may be on the fence: “Hi, I’m calling from [location], and I just wanted to make sure that the Senator knows that I support the White House gun control initiative. I think the President’s plan, in particular the idea of background checks, is simple common sense, and I very much hope that the Senator will vote for the Senate bill in question.”

h/t TPM