SNN: Warren Speaks at Tufts, Despite Protests Over Gaza Stance
SOMERVILLE, Mass. – Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wowed a crowd of some 500 students, faculty and neighbors on September 15 with stories from her youth, but she also issued dire warnings about the big banks, the lack of investment in education and the “hollowing out of the middle class.”
The senator was also protested by those who came to criticize her stand on the most recent chapter of the Israel-Gaza conflict. Once inside, however, Warren seemed to back away slightly from statements she made in August, saying that Palestinians had a right to self-defense.
In a 45-minute conversation with Dean Alan Solomont of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Warren said she believes the country is “at a crossroads” because the current economic and political system “works well for those who have money” but is failing everyone else.
“For the rest of America, this country isn’t working so well, and Washington isn’t working at all,” she warned.
Excoriating everyone JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, a Tufts alumnus, to federal regulatory agencies to Congress to the for-profit colleges and banks, Warren deplored the lack of investment in infrastructure and research, the rising cost of higher education, and the fact that – contrary to 50 years ago when her mother supported her family – a minimum wage cannot sustain a family today.
“That was an America that was building a future for its kids. That’s what gets me up every day and that’s what we’ve got to fight to get back!” she said to applause.
Warren also lamented the influence that money buys at agency meetings, in Congress, and almost everywhere else.
“At every meeting, the point of view of the rich and powerful gets fully heard,” she said. “They get the benefits of what money buys” while other points of views are often minimized.
Warren received warm applause many times during the conversation and when she answered questions on the need for adjunct faculty to have decent wages and working conditions. Despite the protesters outside, Warren was also applauded for agreeing that Palestinians had a right to “self-defense” and that she supported a two-state solution.
Earlier this year, Warren came under fire from many of her progressive supporters for statements she made at an August 13 town hall meeting in Hyannis where she defended her vote to approve $225 million for Israel’s missile defense program. According to the Cape Cod Times, the senator explained the vote by saying that “America has a very special relationship with Israel. Israel lives in a very dangerous part of the world, and a part of the world where there aren’t many liberal democracies and democracies that are controlled by the rule of law. And we very much need an ally in that part of the world.”
What most angered her supporters was when she said: “When Hamas puts its rocket launchers next to hospitals, next to schools, they’re using their civilian population to protect their military assets. And I believe Israel has a right, at that point, to defend itself.”
With signs like “Sen. Warren – Right about student debt, wrong about Gaza” and “Sen. Warren: Stop Excusing,” about 20 members of Massachusetts Peace Action, Jewish Voice for Peace and other organizations stood outside Cohen Auditorium on September 15 to let Warren know their disappointment.
“We’re here to say it’s not okay to say you’re a progressive and to justify the massacre of civilians in Gaza, which is what she did,” retired machinist Jeff Klein of Mass. Peace Action explained.
Mass. Peace Action is part of Peace Action, a national organization which started as two anti-nuclear activist organizations, SANE and FREEZE. They merged and changed the name to Peace Action in 1993, according to its website.
“People like Elizabeth Warren that want to be called ‘progressives’ have to speak out on this issue and say ‘No free ride for Israel ‘ and hold the country accountable,” said Klein, who added that he had worked as a campaign volunteer for Warren.
During the question-and-answer period, the senator nuanced her public position on Israel.
Palestinian-American Hania Khuri-Trapper, a graphic artist who said she also volunteered for Warren, asked Warren about the fate of those living in Gaza and “the occupied territories.”
“I am very much committed to the two-state solution,” Warren said. “I worry every time a rocket’s flown, every time another piece of land is seized that we move further away from that, instead of closer.”
Eva Moseley, a Mass. Peace Action board member who said her family fled Nazi oppression in 1939, raised cheers when she told Warren: “I’m extremely concerned that Jews don’t do to another people what was done to them.”
Moseley, the former curator of manuscripts at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Radcliffe. pressed the senator on whether or not Palestinians had the right to defend themselves.
“The answer is ‘yes,’” Warren said, but she added, “The direction we need to be moving in is not more war.”
“The direction we ought to be moving is not toward more war,” Warren said. “As I said, I believe we need to move to a two-state solution where both peoples can be secure and safe within their own borders.”
A version of this story appeared in the September 18 Somerville Journal. http://somerville.wickedlocal.com/article/20140917/News/140916500