ATLANTA: A Palestinian-American history professor is suing Chicago Congresswoman Marie Newman for breach of contract after she allegedly refused to honor a written agreement she signed promising him a high-profile position at her office after her electoral victory last year.
Iymen Chehade filed the lawsuit at the Federal Court in Chicago, alleging that Newman is in breach of a contract that she signed with him in 2018 while she was a candidate for the Chicago area’s third congressional district in the state of Illinois.
Chehade told Arab News that he informally advised Newman on Middle East foreign policy issues and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict during her election campaign.
He said he had crafted some of her statements in support of Palestinian political rights, helping her win the large Arab-American vote in the district, which has about 111,000 Arab Americans — the largest concentration in the state and the sixth-largest in the US.
Newman, who identifies as a “progressive Democrat,” defeated Congressman Dan Lipinski, who alienated many of his Arab-American constituents — the majority of whom are third- and fourth-generation Palestinians — with his voting record.
Chehade said Newman had pleaded with him not to run for Congress as he was in the process of exploring competing for the same seat.
He said she asked him to support her campaign in return for the position of foreign policy advisor or legislative or district director.
Newman’s office released a statement to Arab News confirming that she had “employment discussions” with Chehade, but that she “clearly communicated” to him “well before her election to Congress that he would not be employed by her office.” The statement described the lawsuit as “frivolous” and a “waste of time.”
Chicago-based lawyer Rima Kapitan, who is representing Chehade, told Arab News that Newman is being sued by her client in her official and individual capacity for the alleged breach of contract.
Kapitan said Newman’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case in court, relying on a legal technicality alleging that she enjoys sovereign immunity from lawsuits as part of the US government in her capacity as a member of Congress. Newman signed the contract with Chehade before she was elected to Congress.
“There’s an obvious injustice here because Newman didn’t fulfil her contractual agreement with my client,” said Kapitan.
Chehade said the conflict with Newman started when she changed the wording of a statement on Palestine, which he helped craft for her during the campaign, by expressing her support for Israel as a democratic and “Jewish state.”
Kapitan said it appears that “Newman decided not to honor the contract with Chehade because he objected to her insistence to characterize Israel as a Jewish state.”
Chehade said: “Supporting Israel as an exclusively Jewish state is anti-Palestinian because it denies the Palestinians full and equal citizenship in their homeland, and lays the political and legal foundation for Israel to either expel them or relegate them to a status lesser than that of its Jewish citizens.”
He added that Newman not only failed to live up to her reputation as a progressive, but acted in a “discriminatory manner” against him because of his national origins.
“There would’ve been uproar had Newman refused to honor her signed employment contract with a person from a different racial or religious minority group than mine,” he said.
Newman has voiced support for an independent Palestinian state on the territories Israel occupied in the 1967 war.
She also opposed moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and has described Israeli settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land as a “violation of international law.”