Solomon Rajput is a 27-year-old University of Michigan medical student, though he is currently on leave from his studies to pursue a run for office. He is the son of Pakistani immigrants and a proud product of the public school system. The 2016 presidential election marked his first real political involvement.
A strong Bernie Sanders supporter in the primary, recognizing the need to defeat Donald Trump, Rajput became a field organizer for Hillary Clinton during the general election and was named one of the best three in the entire state of Michigan. After Clinton’s eventual defeat, Rajput continued his activism by founding his own grassroots organization, The Michigan Resistance. The group organizes phone banking events to call members of the Republican-dominated Michigan state legislature in an attempt to prevent bad bills from becoming law.
Now, Solomon Rajput is running to represent Michigan’s 12th congressional district. A progressive Democrat, he is taking on the longest-reigning political dynasty in the country. Incumbent representative Debbie Dingell’s (D) family has held the seat for 87 years.
Michigan’s 12th congressional district includes the city of Dearborn — the largest Muslim population center in the U.S. Dearborn’s Muslims are primarily of Middle Eastern descent. In an attempt to speak to these constituents, Solomon Rajput has separated himself from his incumbent opponent along the fault line of Palestinian rights.
We are now well over a half-century into a harsh, brutal, and vicious Israeli occupation supported unilaterally by the United States. Atrocities and war crimes abound, many of which directly target Palestinian children. 87% of them between the ages of seven and fifteen have been teargassed, and 99% of Gazan youth suffer from severe psychological trauma as a result of the violence inflicted upon them.
Around this time last year, Democratic representative Betty McCollum (MN-4) introduced the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act, or H.R.2407. The very moderate bill would amend the “Leahy Law” to prohibit aid to Israel from being put toward the “military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment” of Palestinian children. It also appropriates funds for nongovernmental organizations to monitor Israeli human rights abuses and rehabilitate child victims of military detention.
Debbie Dingell was an early sponsor of the bill but took her name off of it back in September of last year. After her withdrawal, she oddly attempted to justify her decision by calling the bill “… ultimately counterproductive to a peaceful, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Her decision was met with much condemnation. The Detroit chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, for instance, referred to Dingell’s actions as “… a shameful statement that she is unwilling to hold the Israeli government accountable for its actions.”
This leaves Solomon Rajput as the only person in the race for the MI-12 House seat who supports H.R.2407. The bill is not the end of Rajput’s advocacy for Palestinian rights. He has also come out in support of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, as he has said he “… supports all non-violent methods to pressure the Israeli government to respect the rights of Palestinians.” A proponent of an equitable two-state solution, Rajput also has been unequivocal in his condemnation of Israeli settlements as clear violations of international law and has promised that, if elected, he would fight to reverse executive branch rulings that have tried to claim otherwise.
On the issue of Palestinian rights, the contrast between Debbie Dingell and Solomon Rajput is stark. And with the only other Democratic primary candidate, Anthony Carbonaro, dropping out on April 21st, the primary race has come down to a head-to-head between the two. Michigan’s 12th district is quite blue, so whoever wins the primary is all but guaranteed to go on to win the general election.
I commend Solomon Rajput on his commitment to standing with oppressed peoples. Injecting into politics a sense of decency and care, Rajput’s candidacy is inspiring many. I wish him nothing but the best in his campaign and would encourage him to continue his principled advocacy going forward. Regardless of how this race shakes out, I can say with certainty that Rajput has a bright future ahead of him.