WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rep. Jim Moran, a longtime congressman from Virginia who repeatedly clashed with pro-Israel and Jewish groups, is retiring.
Moran, 68, told the media on Wednesday that he would not run again in his northern Virginia district because it has become strongly Democratic, making his vacant seat safe for his party. He was first elected to Congress in 1990.
Moran had repeated clashes with pro-Israel groups and with Jewish members of his Democratic caucus over claims he made in 2003 and 2007 that without Jewish support, the United States would not have launched the war with Iraq. His apology in 2003 seemed to accuse Jews of controlling who is elected, further escalating his problems.
His district includes one of the fastest-growing Jewish populations in the Washington area, and in the 2002 election he solicited a letter from Jewish lawmakers praising his support for Israel.
A year later, following his claim at a town hall meeting that “if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this,” a number of the Jewish lawmakers who had signed the original letter repudiated him and said they would no longer support his election.
Referring to the repudiation and other calls for him to step down in a newspaper interview in which he also apologized for the original offensive remark, Moran said, “It’s unhealthy for the American political process for any group within our society to be able to decide who should and who shouldn’t represent a constituency.” That occasioned another round of condemnations.
His notoriety was such that in 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama welcomed Moran’s endorsement, which was routine – and simultaneously reassured the Jewish community that he disagreed with Moran on who was to blame for the Iraq War, which was not.
When faced with such complaints, Moran would note that one of his daughters had converted to Judaism.