BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — A group rallied outside Rep. Tom Reed’s (NY-23) office in Corning on Tuesday in the name of a free Palestine.
Before gathering, members of several religious communities delivered a letter to Reed’s office asking that the Republican to end his support for Congressional aid to Israel.
The letter was co-signed by Muslims of the Southern Tier, Jewish Voice for Peace Ithaca, the Upper NY United Methodist Task Force for Peace With Justice In Palestine Speakers, Episcopal Peace Fellowship Palestine-Israel Network, Ithaca Catholic Worker, International Veterans Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Southern Tier for Palestine Coalition’s interfaith committee.
It was also addressed to New York U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, both Democrats.
The U.S. gave close to $4 billion to Israel last year, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Nearly all of it went to military assistance.
Sabri Alawawda is Palestinian and part of the group that delivered the message to Reed. He grew up in the West Bank and immigrated to the U.S. in 2006.
Alawawda, who now lives in Ithaca, said he became a U.S. citizen two years ago.
“When I got my [citizenship], I swear to protect this country but I have the right, too, to ask my government, or my congressman, or my president, where is my tax money going?” Alawawda said, speaking during a rally on Corning’s Market Street that followed the meeting at Reed’s office. “Why are you taking my tax money and send it, killing my own people? And make me feel like I’m part of us killing these people.”
More than 250 people were killed during fighting last month between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian militant group. Most of the people killed were Palestinians living in Gaza, where much of the destruction occurred. Israel’s medical services told the BBC that 12 of its citizens were killed, including two children.
In their letter to Reed, representatives of Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups asked that Reed “speak up against oppression and apartheid” by co-sponsoring a bill to ensure U.S. taxpayer funds are not used by Israel’s government in efforts to detain Palestinian children, seize property or further annex land.
Unrest spread throughout Israel, Gaza and the West Bank last month, partially in response to potential evictions targeting Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
The destruction has led to many difficult discussions about Israel, specifically in Jewish communities. Michael Margolin, a Jewish educator at Tikkun v’Or in Ithaca, said he grapples with those conversations daily.
“I’m Jewish and I love my people so much,” Margolin said at the rally. “I’m a Jew who loves my people so much that I’m willing to stand up and confront them.”
In May, Reed co-sponsored a resolution that condemned attacks against Israel and supported U.S. investment in Israel’s security forces. The Republican did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
During his freshman term in Congress in 2011, Reed traveled to Israel with the American Israeli Educational Foundation, affiliated with the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.
Reed has expressed his support for Israel on several occasions, but has not issued any statements on the latest conflict. The congressman has been issued few statements in general since he announced he would not seek re-election in 2022 as a result of sexual misconduct claims, originally reported by the Washington Post.