Racism, Immigration and Human Rights

Question 1: The murder of George Floyd is prompting a national discussion concerning our nation’s failure to fully address historic racial injustice. What is the role of Congress in defining and addressing historic injustices? What measures will you promote as a member of the United States Congress to combat racial injustice?

The George Floyd Act has sparked a movement in this country, and everyone--including candidates for Congress--must be prepared to offer concrete solutions to how we move forward. My Race and Criminal Justice policy calls for a sweeping set of reforms. First, we must reform policing to make it more accountable to the communities that police serve. We do this by passing national use of force laws, community oversight mechanisms, and national data collection on police use of force. In the medium term, we end practices like cash bail, mass incarceration, and for-profit policing. And finally, in the long term, we must realize that our best defense against racial injustice is education. That's why I have called on Congress to pass the George Floyd Education Act, an idea that I will champion from day one if elected.

The George Floyd Education Act calls for the creation of a commission to study black history education in America with the goal of making sure that every public school student engages critically with black history. Groups like Facing History and Ourselves have shown us that the power of education is unmatched in correcting the root causes of bigotry and hatred.

Question 2:   There is widespread agreement that our current immigration system is in need of reform consistent with our nation’s economic and national security interests and its historic commitment to be a haven for the vulnerable and oppressed around the world. What do you foresee as the best pathway forward for immigration reform and how would you work across the aisle to achieve these policy goals?

First, I fully support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, the Dream Act, and the Migrant Justice Platform. Undocumented people are humans that contribute to our society and must be allowed to come out from the shadows and become full, participating members of our society. This makes sense morally, economically, and from a public safety standpoint. For too long, we have allowed our broken immigration system to harm the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and it is time we take action to rectify that harm.

I have worked closely with labor unions throughout my campaign, and they all support these measures as well. They support them because when we have a large undocumented population living in fear, corporations will exploit them, and this hurts all workers, regardless of immigration status.

In the long run, we must restore our historical promises and credibility in the world by creating an orderly, fair, and inclusive immigration system. My family came to this country from Eastern Europe where they almost certainly would have been killed had they stayed. For so many people in the world, the United States represented a place of sanctuary and hope. Now, under the current Administration, the United States is, for millions of people around the world and especially in Central and South America, a place of exclusion and even terror. This is an abdication of moral leadership in the world. I believe that we can work across the aisle by appealing to the better angels of our history and tradition. America is at its best when we welcome those throughout the world yearning to breathe free and eager to build lives here as Americans. America is still a beacon of hope in the world, even during these dark times. I think that much is still bipartisan, and we can make progress from that shared belief.

Question 3: To what extent should the safeguarding of human rights, including but not limited to preventing genocide and combating racism and religious persecution, inform our nation’s international relationships, trade agreements, and diplomatic conduct?

The United States is still the most powerful country in the world and, in that role, we are still capable of setting the tone globally on issues like human rights. If we make human rights a centerpiece of our foreign policy and diplomacy, the world will follow.

Right now, President Trump has a chaotic foreign policy at best, and an amoral, transactional foreign policy at worst. He befriends dictators either because he is too weak to rebuff them, or because he sees the world in transactional terms and does not care to exercise moral courage or moral leadership.

I still believe that soft power is a stronger weapon than military might. The United States can exercise soft power by making it clear, in our dealings with foreign countries, that we practice what we preach and uphold our values of liberalism and tolerance. Two quotes from Reinhold Neibur come to mind. He said “The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world.” The United States is the only nation powerful enough today to practice a politics of justice on the world stage. The other Neibur quote that I often think about is “Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” Our approach with other nations should be to comfort the afflicted--those persecuted by the powerful, those marginalized, discriminated against, or worse. And in so doing, we should afflict the comfortable--the despots, plutocrats, and mass murderers of the world. Nobody but the United States is in a position to do that.

If not us, who?

Question 4: There is growing concern in the country about financial inequality and its consequences for those lower on the economic ladder.  If elected to the United States Congress, describe at least one initiative you will propose to address this concern?

Income inequality is one of the hallmark issues of our time, and it is one of the most dangerous threats to our democracy. All of my policies, directly or indirectly, deal with lessening income inequality--from ending cash bail, to expanding public transit, to lowering healthcare costs. Yet one policy I’d like to focus on here is the estate tax. Currently, the estate tax only kicks in for wealth in excess of $22 million. It used to be $7 million, and it’s time to return to that previous figure. We need to lower that number to make sure that millionaires are not bypassing the IRS and leaving their kids with small fortunes. That intergenerational transfer of wealth is one massive barrier to lessening income inequality, and it creates the kind of American aristocracy that our Founders were so against. Lowering the estate tax from $22 million to $7 million will impact the 14,000 richest families in the country, whereas the tax revenue from this change could provide affordable housing for hundreds of thousands or millions of struggling families.

 

Antisemitism

Question 5: Antisemitism and violence against Jews are on the rise around the world. According to the FBI’s most recent Hate Crimes Statistics report, in 2018 anti-Jewish hate crimes accounted for 57% of all religiously motivated hate crimes. Nearly one third of respondents in a recent AJC survey of American Jews reported having been afraid to wear something in public that identifies them as Jews. To address this problem, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance drafted a “Working Definition” of antisemitism, which has been adopted in dozens of countries in Europe (including Germany, France, and the UK) and endorsed by UN Secretary General Gutierrez and the US Department of State. This definition provides a means for assessing when given actions may involve bias against Jews, thereby reducing confusion and providing a basis for constructive action. Will you go on record to endorse the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism?  

Yes, I will endorse the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism. As an American Jew, I saw antisemitism up close as a kid. And now, we all see it bolstered and enflamed during the Trump Administration, during which cemeteries have been vandalized, Jews have been murdered in synagogues and homes, and the President initially refused to condemn those participating in a neo-Nazi march. This antisemitism and white supremacy is representative of centuries of oppression that Jews have endured and continue to endure. I lost family members in the Holocaust, have family in Israel, including some who have made Aliyah, and visited the country half a dozen times, including to see my father, a university professor, receive an honorary degree at Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 1997.

I have been involved with the Anti-Defamation League for years and also worked in the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office to promote our hate crimes hotline. I also worked with our Civil Rights Division on protecting vulnerable communities, and served as a liaison to Jewish
congregations and communities in the aftermath of the Tree of Life mass shooting and the rise of antisemitic incidents in this country. I know how to stand up every single day in Congress against antisemitism. That work begins by adopting the definition proposed by the IHRA. As American Jews, we must always stand up for ourselves and for Jews all around the world. 

Question 6: In recent years, advocates for anti-Israel and, at times, anti-Jewish political agendas have demonstrated growing success in their effort to coopt the movement for racial justice.  For example, before and since the murder of George Floyd, some proponents of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement have circulated a false and tendentious narrative that holds Israel responsible for law enforcement tactics that brutalize people of color. These claims undermine the fight against the current manifestations of white supremacy (e.g. voter suppression, de facto segregation, over-policing, over-imprisonment and other measures that promote inequality). They also demonstrate how readily false and malicious claims about Jews and Jewish interests can take root and spread. Should you be elected to the United States Congress, how do you propose to ensure that the quest for racial justice remains strong and that those who would undermine it through false and malicious claims are marginalized?

First, as your Congressperson, I would take an active stand against BDS. I believe that this movement is ineffectual and cloaked in antisemitism (sometimes veiled, sometimes troublingly overt). I will also always remind my colleagues and constituents that in a Middle East region that is overwhelmingly hostile to social justice, Israel is our best partner and ally to uphold the liberal values we believe in as Americans. Finally, as your question alludes to, I will always make it clear that our focus should be on white supremacist violence, hatred, and antisemitism. Israeli scientists trying to cure complex diseases at research facilities are not responsible for white supremacist violence against people of color. We need to speak bluntly about this and keep our eye on the ball. What united Jews with people of color is our shared interest in fighting the regressive forces of racial supremacy, hatred and bigotry. That is the root of the problem, and we are all safer and better poised to make progress when we recognize that and work together.

 

Israel

Question 7: We are in the midst of another fraught moment in the ongoing struggle for peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors. Hamas continues to advocate for Israel’s destruction. The Palestinian Authority has refused negotiations for more than 5 years. And, in the absence of a credible peace process, the new Israeli coalition government has stated its desire to apply Israeli law to West Bank settlements (albeit, it appears now, within a much smaller territory than was proposed before the formation of the current government).  For decades, a two-state solution has been a pillar of American foreign policy. Do you support a two-state solution to this conflict that will provide for a Palestinian and an Israeli state? What do you believe the role of the United States should be in resolving this conflict? As a member of Congress, what policies would you advocate for to advance your view of our nation’s role?

I believe that a two-state solution is the only long-term path to stability, peace, and a Jewish and democratic Israel. Our shared goal is peace. A permanent two-state end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the 1967 lines and security guarantees is the only way to guarantee a peaceful, prosperous, and stable future for Israel. That’s why I will oppose unilateral actions that obstruct the path toward two states on either side of the conflict, including demanding the Palestinian government abide by its international commitments by recognizing Israel and renouncing violence as a means of achieving its goals, while also opposing the potential Israeli settlement expansion activities on the West Bank that would make peace harder to achieve.

Ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to make the difficult choices to achieve peace, but leadership and encouragement from the United States will be indispensable to any successful peace plan. To that end, I support efforts like Barack Obama’s $38 billion dollar security aid package to Israel to ensure that Israel is always negotiating from a position of security and strength.  I also support a plan to reduce aid to the Palestinian territories on a one-to-one basis as punishment for Palestinian acts of terror. At the same time, I do support substantial humanitarian aid to Palestine, and I support being explicit about the United States’ opposition to annexation. I believe that when these policies work together, the United States will set up the Israelis and Palestinians to work out the most productive and promising peace deal.

Question 8: Israel is home to nearly half of the world’s Jewish population. Israel is a democratic country and its citizens are accustomed to robust debate, at home and abroad, concerning their nation’s policies and actions. Regrettably, in the United States and elsewhere, there is mounting support for movements, such as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign, that purport to promote Palestinian rights but do so by denying Israel’s legitimacy, refusing dialogue, and advocating for Israel’s destruction. This malicious portrayal of Israel and the reality of its conflict with the Palestinians has prompted notable acts of antisemitism; especially on college campuses. It has also polarized public discourse and dimmed prospects for a negotiated solution to the conflict. If elected to Congress, what, if anything, would you say to those who deny Israel’s legitimacy and advocate for an end of the world’s only Jewish state?

As mentioned in previous answers, I believe that it must always remain the explicit position of the United States that Israel has a right to exist as the only Jewish state in the world. This is not a position that we can compromise on or negotiate at the table. It is a sacred precondition, without which no peace plan will ever be accepted by the United States. 

BDS is a not-so-subtly antisemitic movement whose goals are misguided and will never bring about peace. The way to counter this is to a) acknowledge this out loud and from positions of power, like the US Congress, and b) to lead by example. Israel is a shining democracy in a Middle East that is overrun by dictators and regimes hostile to basic freedoms and liberties. In Congress, I will recognize this special relationship with the State of Israel and will support it to foster a closer relationship between Israeli and American businesses, universities, and nonprofits. To counter BDS, we must lead by example and support policies that foster a closer integration between our democracies.

 

International Relations and the U.S. Role on the Global Stage      

Question 9: Should a new administration come to Washington, a discussion may result concerning a return to the JCPOA.  Given new evidence of Iran’s secret undeclared nuclear facilities and Iran’s: (1) refusal to allow inspection of these facilities, (2) ongoing efforts to destabilize countries across the region,(3) continuing to financing and arming of  Hezbollah and other radical actors dedicated to Israel’s destruction and (4) repeated bellicose attacks on Western values and interests, are there conditions you would want to attach, beyond those stipulated in the JCPOA, to any proposal to return to the JCPOA?

I believe a nuclear-armed Iran remains the single biggest existential threat to Israel and the stability of the Middle East. I support the complete and unobstructed implementation of the JCPOA to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. I believe President Trump’s abandonment of the JCPOA — with no alternative and no apparent strategy to prevent Iran from restarting their nuclear program — was a terrible miscalculation and betrayal of our own allies and members of the Israeli security establishment. We must prioritize diplomatic re-engagement with Iran and ensure that both the US and Iran come back into compliance with the deal. In addition, we might consider the following additions to the JCPOA: restrictions on the development of ballistic missile technology, international inspections to ensure compliance with these restrictions, and explicit language to curb Iran’s foreign military adventurism (e.g., aid to the Syrian regime, Hezbollah, Houthis in Yemen), within the scope of the JCPOA.

I am honored that Ben Rhodes and other experienced national security leaders have endorsed me in this race. With so many lives on the line, we cannot afford anything but informed and educated action.

Regardless of whether the United States is part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or any future agreement with Iran, the United States must hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses, threats against our allies and attempts to destroy Israel and destabilize the region.

Question 10: A robust Transatlantic relationship between the United States and European democracies (AJC has 5 European offices and three regional representatives) has been a pillar of US foreign policy since the end of World War II. In recent years, this relationship has suffered strains. Some contend that this historic alliance is undergoing a fundamental change. Is it important that we sustain the United States historic post-World War II partnership with Europe or is it time to rethink this relationship? If elected, what policies will you pursue to advance your views?

Our NATO alliances have maintained a historic peace in Europe and seen an unprecedented increase in wealth and living standards. I remain 100% committed to our alliance system, especially in Europe. NATO is our best shot at defending against the rising illiberal regimes of Russia and China, both of which are clear about their desire to achieve global hegemony. NATO, as an alliance of democratic, liberal states, is the best bulwark against that.

Our NATO alliances have maintained a historic peace in Europe and seen an unprecedented increase in wealth and living standards. I remain 100% committed to our alliance system, especially in Europe. NATO is our best shot at defending against the rising illiberal regimes of Russia and China, both of which are clear about their desire to achieve global hegemony. NATO, as an alliance of democratic, liberal states, is the best bulwark against that.

I would go further than saying these relationships have merely suffered strains recently. Our current President has actively and gleefully damaged these relationships to the point of breaking. It is unclear if he is doing this intentionally to help Russia, or if he is doing it because he lacks the impulse control and attention span to engage in thoughtful, constructive diplomacy. In either case, the result is that the most powerful, stable alliance of military power in the world is waning, and there are illiberal forces in the world waiting with bated breath for its final decline. As your member of Congress, I will frustrate these illiberal forces to no end. We have sacrificed too much during World War II to get to this place. NATO is not going anywhere under my watch.

To strengthen and reform NATO, I would support the United States exerting more pressure on our allies to increase their military spending to 2 percent of their respective GDPs. I would also support the United States exerting more pressure on some of our NATO allies, like Turkey. Turkey, by purchasing Russian anti-aircraft systems and collaborating with Russia in Syria and Libya, is not behaving like a good NATO ally, and we must put pressure on that country to return to more liberal norms and practices.

 

General

Question 11:      What experiences qualify you to represent the citizens living in your district?

I was born and raised in Brookline and met my wife at Tufts University nearby. My mom, Cathleen Cavell, has been involved in Brookline politics her whole adult life and founded Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts. In my career, I have worked with the best young leaders of our party- Governor Deval Patrick, Barack and Michelle Obama in the White House, and most recently, Attorney General Maura Healey. I saw firsthand how these leaders built diverse coalitions and teams around them. When I’m in office, I’m going to implement a “traveling office” to bring this Congressional seat to people everywhere in the District. Currently, there are only two district offices, one in Newton and one in Attleboro. I think we can do better.

Question 12: What would be your top three priorities if elected?

Given the times we are in, my first priority is to get massive and immediate covid-19 relief to states, cities, and towns. I have spoken to so many people who are food insecure and uncertain about what the next weeks and months will hold for them. I have also spoken to teachers and parents who are horrified by the prospect of returning to school in unsafe conditions. I think the answer is simple here: we need massive federal relief to keep teachers on the payroll, to keep small businesses open, and to get the PPE we need to open schools safely. So, my top priority in Congress is to pass a multi trillion-dollar covid-19 package to get these things done.

A second priority is to face the greatest existential threat to humanity we have ever faced: Climate

Change. In Congress I will be a fearless and tireless advocate for the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take the bold steps we need to combat the climate crisis, build more equitable, resilient, and sustainable communities, and put people back to work. As we face 25%, or even 30% unemployment because of covid, I envision a massive public works program that will restore livable wages to our workers while building the clean infrastructure we need to become climate leaders in the 21st century.

My third priority will be to end the opioid crisis. When I was Assistant Attorney General and Senior

Advisor to Maura Healey, I met families whose lives had been ruined by this crisis. I made a promise to them that I would go to Congress and get them the compassionate and comprehensive resources they deserve. I also made a promise that no pharmaceutical companies would ever take advantage of people in real pain the way the opioid companies had. My comprehensive “Opioid National Emergency (ONE) Plan” on my website details how I will create more centralized, better funded, and easier to access resources and treatment for families in need.


American Jewish Committee (AJC) is the leading organization dedicated to Jewish advocacy at home and around the world. Through a global network comprised of 24 domestic regional offices; 12 overseas posts in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East; and 37 partnerships with international Jewish communities, AJC engages with political, religious and civic leaders to combat antisemitism and bigotry, support Israel’s quest for peace and security, and advance democratic values at home and abroad.

AJC New England recently invited all 11 Republican and Democratic declared candidates for the Congressional seat from the 4th District of Massachusetts to participate in a survey on some matters of import to our community.

AJC is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan organization and does not endorse or support any candidate for elected office, whether or not they responded to the survey. We offer this survey to educate the electorate about the views of the candidates for this office.

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