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July 17, 2023 4:02 pm

US Congress Members Denounce Colleague’s Anti-Israel Rhetoric


avatar by Dion J. Pierre

U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Photo: Reuters/Bryan Olin Dozier

Leading Democratic members of the US House of Representatives on Sunday denounced a colleague’s comments in which she described Israel as a “racist state” and called on their party to reject anti-Israel hatred.

“As somebody’s who’s been in the streets and participated in a lot of demonstrations, I want you to know that we have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state, that the Palestinian people deserve self-determination and autonomy, that the dream of a two-state solution is slipping away from us, that it does not even feel possible,” Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said on Saturday, addressing a group chanting “Free Palestine” during a conference held by Netroots Nation, a left-wing nonprofit organization.

Jayapal, who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus alongside Ilhan Omar (D-MN), apologized on Sunday, but by that time a group of lawmakers — including House Democratic Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Democratic Whip Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Caucus Chair Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Vice Chair Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) — had circulated a draft letter expressing that they were “deeply concerned” by what was said about “our historic, democratic ally Israel, and we appreciate her retraction.”

The lawmakers added, “Israel remains the only vibrant, progressive, and inclusive democracy in the region. Arab parties serve in the Knesset, women serve at the highest levels of the military, and the country remains an oasis for the LBGTQ+ people in a region hostile toward the community.” The statement also underlined Israel’s legitimacy as the homeland of the Jewish people, condemning attempts to undermine its sovereignty as antisemitic.

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“Regardless of extremist views from groups aligned with either party, efforts to rewrite history and question the Jewish State’s right to exist, or our historic bipartisan relationship will never succeed in Congress,” the letter continued. “We remain committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians to establish two-states that exist side-by-side in peace prosperity, and mutual security. We will never allow anti-Zionist voices that embolden antisemitism to hijack the Democratic Party and country.”

In Sunday’s apology, Jayapal said she does not in fact believe Israel is “racist” but blamed it for prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, describing Palestinians as feeling “deep pain and hopelessness” and casting doubt on the viability of a two-state solution. Additionally, she said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition, whose proposed judicial reforms have polarized the country, is led by racists.

“I in no way intended to deny the deep pain and hurt of Israelis and their Jewish diaspora community that still reels from the trauma of pogroms and persecution, the Holocaust, and continuing anti-semitism [sic] and hate violence that is rampant today,” she added.

Jayapal has a history of opposing Israel. In Sept. 2021, she vowed to vote against legislation for funding the government if it included support for Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile shield.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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