After Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal from Washington said Israel was a “racist state” last weekend, more than 40 of her colleagues in the House issued a statement that distanced themselves from her.
Even though Jayapal – the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus – has since walked back those comments she made, she has still angered many other members of the House, including a lot of Democrats.
A letter began circulating around the House on Monday, initially crafted by Democratic Representative Josh Gottheimer from New Jersey, that underscored the long-time and historic relationship that the United States has with Israel. Before Gottheimer released his letter to the public, he got the signatures of 42 of his other Democratic colleagues in the House.
The letter reads:
“Israel is the legitimate homeland of the Jewish people and efforts to delegitimize and demonize it are not only dangerous and antisemitic, but they also undermine America’s national security. Israel is critical to our fight against terror, and our defense and intelligence collaboration continues to strengthen our leadership in the world.
“Israel remains our greatest partner for peace in the Middle East.”
Unlike the letter that Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and other leaders in the House Democratic caucus issued that expressed their ongoing support for Israel, Gottheimer’s letter specifically addressed Jayapal.
“Any efforts to rewrite history and question the Jewish STate’s right to exist, or our historic bipartisan relationship, will never succeed in Congress. 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 are deeply concerned about Representative Pramila Jayapal’s unacceptable comments regarding our historic, democratic ally Israel, and we appreciate her retraction.”
Jayapal’s comments over the weekend denouncing Israel shouldn’t really come to a surprise to people who are following what her Congressional Progressive Caucus members have said in the past, specifically those who call themselves part of the “Squad.”
Representatives Ilhan Omar from Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, for instance, have consistently criticized Israel and have backed even some Palestinian groups that the United States have labeled as terrorist groups. They have crossed the line many times before, and aren’t afraid to speak out, even if their words are deemed to be downright crazy by most people in Washington.
That being said, while Jayapal is the head of the progressives in the House, she usually isn’t so boisterous about her opinions on Israel. That all changed over the weekend, though, and her Democratic colleagues aren’t happy about it.
They fully stood behind Israel, and wrote in their letter:
“We will never allow anti-Zionist voices that embolden antisemitism to undermine and disrupt the strongly bipartisan consensus supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship that has existed for decades.”
Jayapal acted swiftly on Tuesday when she realized the uproar she had caused with her comments. She said she doesn’t “believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist.” She did, however, say that Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, pushes “outright racist policies.”
That doesn’t sound like much of a walk-back.