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Dems fight over Israel ahead of foreign leader’s visit

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House Democratic leadership publicly rebuked Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., after she called Israel a “racist state.” The dispute came ahead of Israel’s President Isaac Herzog visit to the U.S. this week.

Herzog is expected to visit the White House and address Congress. Jayapal, who chairs the Progressive Caucus, made her comments over the weekend.

“Hey guys, can I say something?” she said. “Can I say something as somebody that’s been in the streets and has 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, that it does not even feel possible.”

House Democratic leadership released a statement over the weekend that did not call out Jayapal by name but did directly refute her comments. Democratic leadership explicitly said Israel is not a racist state, rebuffing the consistent remarks of members of “The Squad.”

The Squad is a name for eight Democratic members of the U.S House that are known for being some of the most outspoken, liberal members of Congress.

House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-Calif., Democratic Whip Katherine Clark, D-Mass., Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., and Vice Chair Ted Lieu, D-Calif., released the statement.

“Israel is not a racist state. As a Jewish and Democratic nation, Israel was founded 75 years ago on the principle of complete equality of social and political rights for all of its citizens irrespective of religion, race or sex, as codified in its Declaration of Independence,” the lawmakers said in the statement. “America and Israel have a uniquely special relationship anchored in our shared democratic values and strategic interests.”

The statement addressed differences in opinion between U.S. Democrats and some Israeli leaders but said the relationship between the two nations is bigger than that.

“As House Democratic leaders, we strongly support Israel’s right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people. We are also firmly committed to a robust two-state solution where Israel and the Palestinian people can live side by side in peace and prosperity,” the lawmakers said. “The special relationship between the United States and Israel will endure. We are determined to make sure support for Israel in the Congress remains strongly bipartisan.”

Jayapal also released another statement where she walked back her comments.

“At a conference, I attempted to defuse a tense situation during a panel where fellow members of Congress were being protested. Words do matter and so it is important that I clarify my statement,” she said in the first part of a lengthy 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.”

This is not the first time Democratic leadership has publicly corrected a member of The Squad. Republicans have taken issue with the comments as well, often calling them antisemitic. The Republican-led House booted Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., from the Foreign Affairs Committee for her past comments, including her comparing Israel to terrorist groups like Hamas and the Taliban.

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