In February, when Pervez Agwan launched his campaign for Congress, he talked about economic inequality, a “green new Houston,” and cutting out corporate donors. Moderate Rep. Lizzie Fletcher had won the Texas 7th Congressional District when it was a swing seat; Republicans had re-drawn it as a safely Democratic seat, ready for more progressive representation. And by the end of September, he’d raised nearly $550,000 for his campaign.
Since Oct. 7, Agwan has emphasized another difference with Fletcher: He wants a ceasefire in Gaza, and she supports Israel to the hilt, even calling on the Biden administration to put more pressure on Iran. Agwan had already attacked Fletcher over her support from AIPAC — “a group that openly keeps an apartheid system and an open-air prison where people’s rights are violated,” he’d told The Intercept. He talked more about that with Americana. The primary is on March 5.
Americana: What are the chief disagreements between you and Rep. Fletcher? What votes has she taken this year that you would have handled differently?
Pervez Agwan: We have to contextualize this, because we’re dealing with a powder keg situation right now. I’m proud to be the only candidate in this race that’s actually calling for an immediate ceasefire, ending the violence in Gaza, and she’s really dropped the ball. She’s invited this chaos playing on our TV screens today.
Quite frankly, the top issue right now is what’s going on in Palestine, in Israel. Not only has she refused to call for a ceasefire, but she’s signed on to what I consider to be egregious human rights violations in the Middle East, right. She’s taking all this money from special interests, and that’s dictating her foreign policy. If I get to Congress I’d lead the charge on that.
Americana: On her role in in the current situation — are you referring to her supporting the MaCaul/Meeks resolution about standing with Israel?
Pervez Agwan: Yes. I’m one of a few people around the country calling for an immediate ceasefire. People who aren’t calling for that are basically offering a blank check to the Netanyahu regime. That’s a threat to our national security interests. You can’t prop up human rights violators, and put millions of people in an open air prison, and then say: Hey, Israel has the right to defend itself. No, that’s not how this works.
Americana: How is it a threat to our national security interests?
Pervez Agwan: When we prop up and arm — I’m not going to mince my words — an apartheid state, we destroy our credibility, and we actually breed animosity between the United States and the people of the Middle East. It is really time for us to think critically about our national security priorities, instead of selling them off to lobbyists for foreign governments and special interest groups like my opponent does.
She’s endorsed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the tragedy is that AIPAC has really purchased a lot of our congressional campaigns. I truly believe that our campaign here in Houston is one of the best opportunities for progressives in this country to really confront this problem, by stopping Republicans and AIPAC from hijacking not just the Democratic Party, but all of electoral politics.
Americana: Do you support the resolution that Rep. Rashida Tlaib and some other progressives introduced, calling for a ceasefire?
Pervez Agwan: I immediately supported that resolution, I’m a proponent of it, and I think we need to go a step further. When I am in Congress, I would like to lead the charge to implement sanctions on the leadership of the Netanyahu regime and the Israeli government in retaliation for its decision to commit not just the heinous crime of apartheid, but putting out an evacuation order, giving people 24 hours to evacuate, and then bombing the evacuation routes out. These are war crimes being committed before our very own eyes. We’re watching innocent civilians die.
Americana: A few months ago, you told Mondoweiss that the state of the Israel issue, from your perspective, is “definitely getting better.” Do you still think that’s true?
Pervez Agwan: One problem right now is that a lot of people aren’t happy with the Democrats. A lot of young people don’t even identify as Democrats — they don’t identify as Republicans either. A lot of young people feel like Republicans stab us in the front but Democrats stab us in the back.
There were thousands of people at the Houston Palestine protest. There were thousands in Dallas. A lot of narratives and agendas being pushed from DC are not indicative of what’s on the ground, in the district with the largest Asian population of any in Texas. People want our politicians to be honest, and nobody wants a million people to die, no matter what their race, religion or ethnicity. We cannot allow the Netanyahu regime to step into Gaza and wipe out millions of people. It’s a genocide. When you put out statements like Fletcher has, saying that Israel has every right to defend itself? Well, I don’t think Israel is defending itself when it’s trying to wipe a million people out of the Gaza Strip.
Americana: The president has given what the White House called “unwavering support” to Israel. You obviously disagree with that; do you think it’s making the situation worse?
Pervez Agwan: I think President Biden has a lot of blood on his hands. He has failed in this moment, and his leadership has shown to be lacking, and his judgment, poor. I think President Biden is responsible, if he does not call for an immediate ceasefire, for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. I don’t agree that we should provide unwavering support to an Israeli government that egregiously violates human rights. He misinterprets the entire situation, and I think it is intentional. In this moment, President Biden has failed the test of moral conscience.