When I first read about Marcy Winograd, the political activist challenging Rep. Jane Harman (D.-Calif.) in the Democratic primary on June 8th, she struck me as not your typical Jewish candidate for office. Jane Harman, who has been in Congress for 18 years, is more the typical Jewish candidate for office; liberal on domestic policy, and solidly pro-Israel. Winograd leans pretty far left on domestic issues, and is avowedly anti-Israel. In fact, she got into an ugly spat with Henry Waxman, who represents a nearby congressional district, after she said in a speech, "As a Jew, I do not want my name or country associated with occupation or extermination." Waxman responded in a fundraising letter for Harman: "In Marcy Winograd's foreign policy, Israel would cease to exist. In Marcy Winograd's vision, Jews would be at the mercy of those who do not respect democracy or human rights."
Winograd is obviously outside the American Jewish mainstream, but by how much? I'm very interested in the question -- brought to the fore last week by Peter Beinart -- about whether American Jews are slipping away from Israel - so I thought it would be interesting to ask Winograd about her challenge to Harman, and about her views on the Middle East. This is Winograd's second attempt to wrest the seat from Harman; in 2006, she won 37.5 percent of the Democratic primary vote. Now, she has the backing of Howard Dean's grass-roots group, Democracy for America, and stands to pose more of a challenge to Harman in this season of anti-incumbent feeling.
I spoke with Winograd by telephone a few days ago. In our conversation, she said she personally supports the replacement of Israel with a bi-national state; she also argued that the U.S. should engage Iran in "people-to-people" diplomacy; that aerospace companies in her district should re-orient themselves away from manufacturing weapons and to the pursuit of green technologies; and she suggested that Henry Waxman is treasonous. Here is an edited transcript of our conversation:
Jeffrey Goldberg: What originally motivated you to challenge Jane Harman?
Marcy Winograd: My original motivation had a lot to do with her covering for the Bush Administration's crimes, covering for the invasion of Iraq and covering for the massive illegal wiretapping program. Jane Harman failed in her duty to provide oversight as the ranking minority member of the House Intelligence Committee. She either didn't read or didn't take seriously doubts raised by members of the intelligence community about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and she recklessly took us to war on the heels of that. Then I saw her on "Meet the Press" attacking The New York Times for finally releasing a story on illegal wiretaps and I thought to myself that someone has to challenge her, someone has to challenge Democratic incumbents who are complicit in the crimes of the Bush Administration. We need real representation, not someone who is in the pocket of special interests.
JG: What special interests is she in the pocket of?
MW: Wall Street, weapons manufacturers, Israel. Not Israel, but AIPAC, because it's not necessarily the same.
JG: Talk about the Obama Administration and Afghanistan.
MW: When he ran he talked about redeploying troops to Afghanistan so it's no surprise. I would hope sooner rather than later that the Administration would understand that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. There has to be a diplomatic one involving the stakeholders and the neighboring countries.
JG: Did you support the original invasion?
MW: I had deep misgivings about it because it didn't address the root causes of the problem.
JG: What are the root causes?
MW: Most of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia and were angry at the proliferation of U.S. bases and forces in Saudi Arabia, so I think there's a great degree of pushback over the presence of U.S. troops all over the world. We have bases in three-quarters of the countries of the world. Rather than being an occupier, we should reassess our role and become a global partner.
JG: What would you do if you controlled foreign policy? Would you immediately redeploy from Afghanistan?
MW: Yes. Ninety percent of our budget in Afghanistan is military, for big contracts, weapons and mercenaries. For every innocent person killed by a drone, we multiply our enemies ten times. It becomes a recruiting tool. I think we should be investing the lion's share of our resources in humanitarian aid, and partnering with NGOs, particularly if they are led by women, or who are encouraging women to be leaders in the NGOs.
JG: But if we left Afghanistan, wouldn't the Taliban shut down these women-led NGOs?
MW: Well, that would be the whole point in investing in women-led NGOS, to make them stronger and to help women emerge in leadership positions politically. Under the Soviet-influenced government in Afghanistan, women had far more freedom than they do today, after how many years of American occupation?
JG: Talk about how you would fight terrorism.
MW: I would work very hard for a peace agreement in the Middle East with Israel and Palestine. I think that is part of the problem, certainly not the whole problem, but it creates a great deal of tension which fuels this kind of opposition. I would, as I said, reassess whether we need all these bases, or whether we would be better off investing our resources in working with NGOs to improve local economies. I mean, in Afghanistan, forty percent of the adult population is unemployed. The biggest enemy is poverty and unemployment.