A Palestinian professor said that he was denied a job because of his views on Israel and has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against Illinois Congresswoman Marie Newman. Iymen Chehade is Professor of Middle Eastern History at Columbia College Chicago.
Chehade claims that he had a signed agreement with the progressive Democrat Congresswomen for him to take a senior position in her team in return for dropping out of the 2020 US election in order to give the 57 year old a better chance to oust a pro-Israel candidate. He was denied the job, he claims, because of his strong sympathy with the Palestinian cause.
Newman, who is a former supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders, was one of the US lawmakers to support a draft bill recently specifying that Israel should not be allowed to use American taxpayer's money to kill, torture, imprison, displace or otherwise harm Palestinian children and families.
Having narrowly lost the 2018 Democratic primary to a conservative Democrat and House veteran, Dan Lipinski, who is said to be reflexively pro-Israel and one of the favourite Democrats of the Israel lobby, she ran again as a candidate in 2020, as did Chehade. Fearing that having two candidates on the nominal left would split the vote, Chehade bowed out only after coming to an agreement that he would be employed in a prominent legislative position which had the potential to have an impact on Newman's foreign policy position. Chehade shared that contract online; the final page bears his signature and one that he says is Newman's.
The two began to fall out over a statement from Newman on Palestine. Chehade says he worked with the Congresswomen to draft "a powerful statement in support of Palestinian rights." Disagreements arose over the content, though, including the position Newman should take on the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. In the final draft, Newman says she supported people's right to boycott, though she did not back the BDS movement herself.
Ultimately, Chehade was disappointed. The Palestine Statement on Newman's website deleted any reference to the possibility of a single state solution, which Chehade says they agreed on; deleted reference to UN General Assembly Resolution 194 on the right of return and replaced it with a vague reference to the return of refugees; and recognised Israel as a "democratic and Jewish" state.
"As I told Newman," recalled Chehade, "to say Israel is a Jewish state is tantamount to saying America is a white state or a Christian state."
After defeating Lipinski in the Democratic primary, ensuring that Newman would go to Congress, Chehade says that he was informed "that she would not honour the employment contract we signed." The Palestinian professor has filed a breach of contract lawsuit in a federal court and a national-origin discrimination claim with the Office of Congressional Worker Rights (OCWR). Both cases are pending.
Newman's office has denied the allegations against her and said that the lawsuit is frivolous and a waste of time.