Pramila Jayapal claims she said 'Israel is a racist state' to appease protesters

"I want you to know that we have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state."

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), attempted to walk back comments she made Saturday calling Israel “a racist state.”

Jayapal made the remarks against the Jewish state after pro-Palestinian protesters interrupted a panel discussion at the progressive Netroots Nation conference in Chicago.

Reggie Hubbard, of Active Peace Yoga, introduced the panel featuring Jayapal, Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Jesús García (D-IL) which was moderated by Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas and said, “In this moment we stand in solidarity with Palestine.”

He also cited Jayapal's fellow Squad member Rep. Ilhan Omar’s previous comments claiming that the Palestinian people “have now experienced occupation and displacement for 75 years” to applause from the audience.

During the event, the pro-Palestinian activists began chanting and waving flags. During the event, anti-Israel activists even booed the so-called “two-state solution” for peace in the Middle East of a Jewish state side-by-side with a Palestinian state.

While attempting to placate the activists Jayapal said, “As somebody 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.”

Jayapal has worked with and defended some of the most antisemitic members of the Democratic party including Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). She was one of only 17 members of Congress to oppose a condemnation of the antisemitic Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement against the Jewish state and asked the White House to refuse to back the widely-accepted definition of antisemitism. Jayapal also voted against a resolution honoring Israel’s 75th anniversary.

The Squad member has also never condemned the Hamas terrorist organization’s attacks against and even attempted to justify the terrorist organization’s actions in an interview on CNN.

Her social media is filled with statements attacking the Jewish state and most recently, when Hamas was firing missiles at Israeli civilians, Jayapal asked the US to stop sending defensive weapons to Israel.

After the subsequent backlash, Jayapal attempted to walk back Saturday's comments claiming she was trying “to defuse a tense situation during a panel where fellow members of Congress were being protested.”

She then doubled down on her antisemitic comments writing, “Words do matter, and so it is important that I clarify my statement. I do not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist. I do, however, believe that Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government has engaged in discriminatory and outright racist policies and that there are extreme racists driving that policy within the leadership of the current government. I believe it is incumbent on all of us who are striving to make our world a more just and equitable place to call out and condemn these policies and this current Netanyahu government’s role in furthering them.”

“On a very human level, I was also responding to the deep pain and hopelessness that exists for Palestinians and their diaspora communities when it comes to this debate, but 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 and hate violence that is rampant today.”

She then claimed that she cannot be an antisemite because she is the real victim of racism. “As an immigrant woman of color who has fought my whole life against racism, hate, and discrimination of all kinds and viscerally feels when anyone’s very existence is called into question, I am deeply aware of the many challenges we face in our own country to live up to the ideals of our nation here.”

A draft letter obtained by Axios was written by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Greg Landsman (D-Ohio), Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) and Kathy Manning (D-N.C.), calling Jayapal's comments "unacceptable."

The letter stated, "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.”

Despite the well-known antisemitism of the progressive wing of the Democratic party, the authors of the letter, who are all Jewish, politically moderate, or in swing districts wrote, "We will never allow anti-Zionist voices that embolden antisemitism to hijack the Democratic Party and country.”

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Whip Katherine Clark (D-MA.), and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) also released a statement on Sunday that did not mention Jayapal but said, "Israel is not a racist state."

They added, "Certainly, there are individual members of the current Israeli governing coalition with whom we strongly disagree. Government officials come and go. The special relationship between the United States and Israel will endure."

The US House and Senate have invited Israeli President Isaac Herzog to address a joint meeting of Congress on Wednesday after meeting with President Joe Biden and some members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, such as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MS), and Omar have already said they will be boycotting the event.

Jayapal was asked by CNN if she is planning on attending the speech, to which she responded, "I don't think I am. I haven't fully decided," and added: "I think this is not a good time for that to happen."

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), a progressive, told Axios she was attending the speech, saying about Herzog: "I met him when I was in Israel, and he's actually much more moderate, liberal."
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