For more than a month, members of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee
have been angling for face time with Democratic Congressman Russ Carnahan. But they say his staffers have been blowing off their calls and emails -- and ignored a deadline they set for getting a meeting on the books.
Now they're accusing Carnahan of refusing to meet with them. They note that he took a trip to Israel last summer, sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
, which takes a hard line on Palestinian statehood. They want to know why they're less of a priority.
Carnahan's director of communications, Sam Drzymala, says that he believes that scheduling conversations with the pro-Palestinian group are ongoing. "We were in the process of working with them," he says. "No one has ever refused them a meeting."
But Sandra Tamari, a member of the group, says that the group is getting the blow off. Some members of the committee traveled to Palestine this summer, and she says they're simply eager to share their experiences.
"All we're asking is that he have as much knowledge as possible," she says. "He's been making very definitive statements in the press. What's he basing these statements on? We simply want him to be as well-informed as possible."
Both Tamari and Drzymala agree that members of the committee met with the district director of Carnahan's St. Louis office, Jim McHugh, on August 15.
But thereafter, Tamari says the group followed up with numerous emails and calls, asking to meet with the congressman himself, but never got anywhere. She says they emailed on August 16 and 18 and left phone messages on August 22 and 29 -- with the stated goal of arranging a visit before the end of the congressional recess and Carnahan's return to Washington, D.C.
When Carnahan departed for D.C. on September 6 without that meeting being scheduled, the committee asked its members to begin making calls. After a flurry of calls from its membership, McHugh finally took a call from the committee's coordinator, she says.
In this call, the pro-Palestinian group gave McHugh a September 16 deadline to get something on the congressman's schedule.
"We did not hear back to say, 'We're sorry' or get a request for more time," says Tamari. "There was no response."
Says Drzymala, "I think the office has been incredibly responsive to them, and we'll continue to be responsive."
Palestine recently announced its intentions to make a bid for full membership in the United Nations
. The U.S. is almost certain to veto the Palestinian bid; some lawmakers have threatened to cut Palestine's aid if it continues to push for statehood via the U.N.