Top House Democrats Rebuke Pramila Jayapal’s “Israel is a Racist State” Comments and Prepare for Israeli President’s Address

Top House Democrats Disapprove of Progressive Caucus Chair’s Comments on Israel

House Democratic leaders are rebuking Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal’s recent comments about Israel, stating that “Israel is a racist state.” Although she later attempted to clarify her remarks, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Democratic Whip Katherine Clark, Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, and Vice Chair Ted Lieu released a statement asserting, “Israel is not a racist state.” The statement did not mention Jayapal by name.

Another draft statement, signed by various House Democrats and currently circulating among lawmakers’ offices, expresses “deep concern” over Jayapal’s “unacceptable” comments. It further emphasizes that they will not allow anti-Zionist voices that fuel antisemitism to dominate the Democratic Party or the nation. The criticism comes ahead of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s upcoming address to a joint meeting of Congress, which some progressives have indicated they will not attend due to concerns about human rights.

House progressives have been vocal in their opposition to Israeli settlements in the West Bank and U.S. support for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. During a panel discussion at the Netroots Nation conference in Chicago, Jayapal, a Democrat from Washington State, stated, “Israel is a racist state” in response to pro-Palestine protesters. She later sought to clarify her remarks in a Sunday statement, expressing that she did not believe Israel as a nation is racist. She also apologized “to those who I have hurt with my words” and criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “extreme right-wing government.”

However, Jayapal’s initial comment upset some members of her own party, including Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who labeled it “hurtful and harmful” and commended Jayapal for retracting it. Speaking to CNN, Wasserman Schultz noted that Jayapal had engaged in conversations with Jewish members of Congress, contributing to her retraction and apology. Wasserman Schultz emphasized the importance of careful speech, especially in heated moments.

Jayapal later explained her earlier comment in her statement, reaffirming her commitment to a two-state solution that ensures the freedom, safety, and self-determination of both Israelis and Palestinians. She acknowledged that her comment stemmed from the pain and hopelessness experienced by Palestinians and their diaspora communities but clarified that she did not intend to disregard the pain and hurt felt by Israelis and their Jewish diaspora community.

The draft statement from some Democrats addressing antisemitism also argued that undermining and demonizing Israel, the legitimate homeland of the Jewish people, is not only dangerous and antisemitic but also threatens American national security. House Democratic leadership emphasized their unwavering commitment to a safe and secure Israel, describing it as an invaluable partner and beacon of democracy in the Middle East.

The article highlights the ongoing controversy within the Democratic Party over Israel, with some progressive lawmakers opting not to attend Israeli President Herzog’s address to Congress. The party’s leadership remains supportive of the visit, and President Joe Biden plans to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security during his meeting with Herzog at the White House.

As the discussion continues, each side is grappling with the delicate balance between advocating for human rights and maintaining a strong relationship with Israel. Ultimately, Democrats acknowledge the need for unity and careful language when addressing this sensitive issue.