Pramila Jayapal says she's victim of racism, sexism after being slammed for antisemitic comments

"It’s not right to call out progressives, but then not recognize that most of us that get called out are women, Black, brown, immigrant. You cannot, you just cannot skip over that."

Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) doubled down on her antisemitic statements from the weekend calling Israel “a racist state” and then attempting to claim victim status for the international condemnation she received in response.

In an interview with The Seattle Times, Jayapal said, “It’s not right to call out progressives, but then not recognize that most of us that get called out are women, black, brown, immigrant. You cannot, you just cannot skip over that.” She also claimed there is a “double standard” against progressives.

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

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.”

Following international outcry as well as condemnation from members of her own party, Jayapal attempted to walk back the comments claiming she was trying “to defuse a tense situation during a panel where fellow members of Congress were being protested.”

In a statement, Jayapal doubled down on her original antisemitic comments stating, “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.”

She added, “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.”

In her interview with The Times, Jayapal again reiterated her antisemitic attacks on the Jewish state’s government telling the outlet, “I do believe that the Netanyahu government has racists in the government and is furthering racist policy.”

Jayapal then doubled down on her comparisons between Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Nazi’s genocide of the Jews during the Holocaust. “Most of the time I feel like I am very careful — not that I don’t make mistakes. But I do respond to pain because at the end of the day, there is so much pain. I mean, the pain and persecution that the Jews have felt from the pogroms, from the Holocaust … and the real fear that that’s going to happen again and they’re not going to have a homeland to go to — is very real” adding that Muslims and Palestinians “who feel like they’re being treated as if they don’t have a right to exist and are being treated like second-class citizens.”

Ignoring that in the Jewish state, Israeli Arabs have the right to vote, serve in the Knesset and as Supreme Court justices, Jaypal told the outlet, that criticism of her antisemitic remarks “…seems actually directed towards stifling any legitimate criticisms of the Netanyahu government and its policies.”

According to the outlet, Jayapal also claimed that the “response to progressives who criticize Israel amounts to ‘a double standard’ compared with more muted reaction to Democrats who have voted for abortion bans or amendments barring spending on transgender health care.”

The New York Times also attempted to help the progressive with damage control from the public relations fallout in an op-ed. According to the author, “Almost as soon as she got off the stage, Jayapal told me on Monday, she realized she shouldn’t have used the phrase ‘racist state.’”

Jayapal also told the outlet that “Israel’s most die-hard backers are feeling that they’ve lost credibility because the Netanyahu government’s policies are so racist, and they want to silence any discussion of any criticism,” and the author of the piece agreed. She even attempted to walk back her faux apology calling her antisemitic remarks a "slight misstatement." 

Jayapal’s Twitter feed 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.

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

A bipartisan furor over Jayapal’s comments erupted, with House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries and other top Democrats issuing a statement that did not directly name Jayapal but began with “Israel is not a racist state.”

During the interview with The Seattle Times, Jayapal seemed surprised at the condemnation from Democratic leadership on Sunday, letting on that there were back-channel discussions with the congresswoman of how the rebuke would read.

On Monday, forty-three House Democrats, including three from Washington’s congressional delegation, issued a statement calling Jayapal’s remarks “unacceptable,” and requested “her retraction.”

In the statement, Democrats called the Jewish state “the only vibrant, progressive and inclusive democracy in the region,” and that Israel is “an oasis” for the LGBTQ+ community.

Jewish Congresswoman Kim Schrier (D-WA) posted on Facebook that she was “concerned about recent comments referring to Israel as a ‘racist state,’ and the rising tide of antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric in this country and throughout the world.”

On Wednesday, Israeli President Isaac Herzog is scheduled to address a joint meeting of Congress after meeting with President Joe Biden. 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 stated they will be boycotting the event.

Immediately after her original antisemitic comments were made, 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."

On Monday, Jayapal told The Seattle Times that she won’t be attending Herzog’s address, claiming, “It’s not a boycott. I’m looking forward to listening to the speech and I intend to do that as soon as I am able. I just have a bunch of meetings that were preset already.” However, as the outlet noted, Jayapal “…did not specify what meetings she was talking about.”

She then again played the victim lamenting, “I feel like everyone’s already bludgeoning me.”
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