New Congressional Tensions Flare Over Israel

Rep. Pramila Jayapal attends a news conference on June 15, 2023. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address to Congress Wednesday morning is underscoring ongoing internal divisions over the Democratic party’s position on Israel. 

The latest tussle began after Rep. Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Progressive Caucus, called Israel a “racist state” over the weekend at a conference interrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters. “We have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state, that the Palestinian people deserve self-determination and autonomy,” she said.

Members of her own party called the comments “unacceptable” in a letter signed by 43 House Democrats. “Israel is the legitimate homeland of the Jewish people,” the letter reads. “We will never allow anti-Zionist voices that embolden antisemitism to hijack the Democratic Party and country.”

Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and the top two members of his team quickly released a statement Sunday night declaring that “Israel is not a racist state,” though without naming Jayapal specifically. “As House Democratic leaders, we strongly support Israel’s right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people,” it added.

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