McLean, Va. – Stephen Solarz, a nine-term U.S. congressman from New York City who became a foreign affairs expert and a strong advocate for Israel, died on Monday, Dec. 6 at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. after a four-year battle with cancer of the esophagus. He was 70.
Elected to Congress in 1974, Solarz was a Brooklyn-born Democrat representing a heavily Jewish constituency. It was his concern for Israel which led him to seek out a seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, where he eventually became the senior Democratic member.
Solarz was remembered by his son-in-law Glenn Prickett as a “great champion of human rights” and a “great opponent of repressive regimes.”
He was perhaps best known for the Foreign Affairs Committee’s highly publicized hearings in 1986 that revealed the extent to which Phillipine President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda had looted the Philippine treasury of millions of dollars to buy real estate in the U.S., and to support Imelda’s lavish tastes, including her infamous collection of 3000 pairs of shoes. He led the Congressional movement to withhold military aid to that country until Marcos could be driven out and Corazon Aquino installed as president.
A year after angering his fellow Democrats in 1991 by co-sponsoring the resolution authorizing President George H. W. Bush to wage the first war against Iraq, Solarz lost his seat in a dramatically re-drawn Brooklyn district that he had served since 1974.
During the debate on the Gulf war, Solarz said, “The great lesson of our time is that evil still exists, and when evil is on the march, it must be confronted.”
After leaving Congress, he was president of Solarz Associates, an international consulting firm. In 1995, he co-founded the International Crisis Group (ICG), a private, non-governmental organization designed to strengthen the international community’s ability to anticipate and prevent man-made crises.
Solarz was a graduate of Brandeis University and held a Master’s degree in public law and government from Columbia University. He met his wife, Nina Glantz, in 1966 while managing the unsuccessful Congressional campaign of Mel Dubin of Brooklyn. Two years later, Solarz was elected to the New York State Assembly from Brooklyn, and served for three terms. In 1974, he defeated incumbent Democratic Congressman Bert Podell in a primary.