Progressive “Squad” Democrats in the House of Representatives in recent days condemned anti-Semitic attacks in the United States as they also assailed Israel as an alleged “Apartheid” state that is killing children – comments some have said are creating an excuse for pro-Palestinian radicals to violently attack Jews.
The “Squad” members – consisting of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.; Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.; Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; Cori Bush, D-Mo.; and Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y. – all issued statements over the weekend or late last week amid a rush of anti-Semitic attacks in American cities.
“Horrific and unacceptable,” Omar said of an attack at a Los Angeles sushi restaurant. “Nobody should face threats and harassment based on their religion or ethnicity.”
“There is no room for antisemitism, hate, or prejudice in New York’s 16th Congressional District,” Bowman said in a lengthy statement. “So I ask you today – wherever you encounter antisemitism, speak up… As a community, we will send a clear message: Hate never has a place her, and it never will.”
In this Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, file photo, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., questions Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in Washington On Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. Ocasio-Cortez condemned anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP, File) (AP)
But other members of the small informal caucus issued statements that were more equivocal, mentioning ant-Semitism alongside Islamophobia or couching statements against anti-Semitism with critiques against Israel.
“I strongly condemn the rise in anti-Semitism and islamophobia we’re seeing across the country.,” Pressley said. “Let me say it again: our freedom and our destinies are tied. The struggle for liberation and justice requires all of us to reject hate and division in any form.” Her statement was shared by Tlaib.
“The work of dismantling antisemitism, anti-Blackness, Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian racism, and every other form of hate is OUR work,” Bush added. “There is no room for hate of any kind in our movements for justice.”
“There is no room for anti-semitism in the movement for Palestinian liberation,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Friday. “Our critique is of Israel and their human rights abuses. This is not an excuse for anti-semitic hate crimes.”
The comment from Ocasio-Cortez drew criticism from Seffi Kogan, the global director of young leadership at The American Jewish Committee. Kogan noted that the tweet condemning anti-Semitism came from her official congressional Twitter account rather than her campaign account, which has a much largervfollowing.
Kogan also wrote in Newsweek that comments from Ocasio-Cortez and other “Squad” members saying Israel is an “Apartheid” state give a justification to radicals who might be inclined to attack Jews, even if the members of Congress are clear in their condemnations of bigotry and violence.
“While anti-Zionist gangs beat up Jews in her city, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was providing a quasi-intellectual basis for their actions, defaming Israel as an apartheid state employing indiscriminate force in what she seems to think is a capricious quest to murder as many Palestinian children as possible, instead of a highly restrained military operation tightly targeted on terrorists,” Kogan wrote.
He added: “Rep. Ocasio-Cortez didn’t call for violence, but she carved out an area of respectability for a certain type of anti-Semitism, and others were only too happy to rush in, fists flying.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., an intellectual ally of the “Squad,” on Sunday echoed comments made by the liberal House members CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Sanders condemned Hamas as a “terrorist group” but also assailed the Israeli government as “right-wing” and containing “overt racists.”
“You have a right-wing Israeli government and the situation is getting worse,” Sanders said. “And all that I’m saying is that the United States of America has got to be leading the world in bringing people together, not simply supplying weapons to kill children in Gaza.”
Sanders himself is Jewish. But similar comments were made by Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., and Omar, which Kogan called “the contemporary blood libel that Israel indiscriminately murders children.”
“The United States should be doing everything in our power to bring about an immediate end to this conflict and the carnage it has caused,” Omar said in a statement disapproving of U.S. weapons sales to Israel, “not continuing to sell Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the very bombs used to kill Palestinian children.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks during a press conference at a memorial for Daunte Wright on April 20, 2021 in Brooklyn Center, Minn. Omar and other “Squad” Democrats have condemned anti-Semitism in recent days, but some say their comments aren’t enough. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Democrats in recent years have struggled with how to handle Israel and the Middle East with a growing divide between old-guard, pro-Israel Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and younger members like those in the “Squad.”
Omar in 2019 made comments condemned by many senior Democrats as anti-Semitic, writing on Twitter that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at the time said Omar’s “use of anti-Semitic tropes… is deeply offensive.”
The House later passed a broad resolution condemning anti-Semitism and racism.
The latest round of fighting between Hamas and Israel has brought those tensions to the surface again, with Schumer keeping a low profile on the issue and only referring to a boilerplate statement when asked about it. Schumer has, however, explicitly condemned anti-Semitism without qualifying his statements.
“We must stand together to stop the recent surge in anti-Semitic attacks,” he tweeted Sunday night. “We must stand together against the forces of hate. Anti-Semitism, bigotry, and intolerance have no place in New York or anywhere else.”
Fox News’ Gregg Re contributed to this report.