Jeffries Fires Back at McCarthy for Faulting House Democrat Leadership on Handling Antisemitism

Jeffries Fires Back at McCarthy for Faulting House Democrat Leadership on Handling Antisemitism
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) talk to reporters during his weekly news conference in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington on Feb. 9, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Jackson Richman

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) fired back at House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for criticizing House Democrat leadership over their handling of antisemitism within their own conference.

In comments to The Epoch Times on July 19, Mr. McCarthy blasted the nine Democrats who the previous day voted against a pro-Israel House resolution, which also condemned antisemitism: Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Summer Lee (D-Pa.), Andre Carson (D-Ind.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).

“Well, if you look at the nine Democrats there, they’ve got a real antisemitic problem inside their conference, and it seems to be growing with their leadership doing nothing about it,” said Mr. McCarthy. “They allow them to continue to say the things they have—to equate the U.S. military to the Taliban, to say Israel is evil, to say only members’ relationship with Israel is ‘all about the Benjamins.’”

In June 2021, Ms. Omar equated the United States and Israel to the Taliban and Hamas, the latter of which is a U.S.-designated terrorist group.

“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” Ms. Omar posted on Twitter.

She subsequently sought to clarify her tweet.

“On Monday, I asked Secretary of State Antony Blinken about ongoing International Criminal Court investigations,” Ms. Omar said in a statement. “To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the U.S. and Israel. I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
In 2019, Ms. Omar posted in a now-deleted tweet that U.S. lawmaker support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins, baby,” echoing the antisemitic notion that Israel pays lawmakers to support the Jewish state. She later apologized.

“I mean, they continue to allow this behavior, antisemitic talk—go on and ignore it,” said Mr. McCarthy. “But what’s even worse is they let them be the most influential head of a caucus they have in their entire conference. So it shows that the Democratic Conference will ignore antisemitism and allow it to grow in their own conference.”

When asked by The Epoch Times on July 20 about Mr. McCarthy’s comments, Mr. Jeffries did not hold back.

Won’t ‘Be Lectured’

“We are not going to be lectured by extreme MAGA Republicans on antisemitism, on racism, on bigotry, and on intolerance. Period. Full stop,” he said.

“Are you kidding me? Just look at their track record and the fact that they continue to stand behind the hater-in-chief,” Mr. Jeffries stated. “Someone who has unleashed, in terms of the former president, a wave of bigotry and hate crimes and an effort to turn back the clock that is extraordinary in scope.

“And yet they continue to bend the knee to Donald Trump. When Donald Trump tells extreme MAGA Republicans in the House to jump, they say ‘how high?’ Try to accommodate his fantasies. And so we’re not going to be lectured by extreme MAGA Republicans about intolerance.”

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) leads a House Progressive Caucus news conference in the midst of ongoing negotiations seeking a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, on Capitol Hill, on May 24, 2023. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) leads a House Progressive Caucus news conference in the midst of ongoing negotiations seeking a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, on Capitol Hill, on May 24, 2023. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

“We are the party that has done as much as we can to march toward a more perfect union to make sure that every single community in America feels welcome, inclusive of race and religion and ethnicity and region and educational attainment,” he said.

“And so I think the vote on the Israel resolution speaks for itself in terms of the House Democratic Caucus and its perspective on the special relationship that exists between the United States and Israel. A relationship that is anchored, as [Israeli] President Herzog articulated so well yesterday, in our shared democratic values and our shared strategic interests.”

The resolution, introduced by Rep. August Pfluger (R-Texas), states that Congress believes: “The state of Israel is not a racist or apartheid state” and that “Congress rejects all forms of antisemitism and xenophobia,” and “the United States will always be a staunch partner and supporter of Israel.” It passed on July 18, 412–9–1.

The resolution was put forth just days after Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), called Israel a “racist state.”

“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,” Ms. Jayapal told pro-Palestinian demonstrators at the annual conference for the progressive organization Netroots Nation on July 16.

“...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,” she continued.

Jayapal Reverses Course

However, Ms. Jayapal later reversed course, saying the Jewish state is not racist but that its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his government are.

“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 a statement.

“I do not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist,” Ms. Jayapal said. “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.”

Ms. Jayapal reiterated her call for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

She explained that her response at the conference was her “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 antisemitism and hate violence that is rampant today.”

House Democrat leadership—Mr. Jeffries, Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), House Democrat Conference Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), and Vice Chair Ted Lieu (D-Calif.)—rebutted Ms. Jayapal’s initial claim while not calling her out by name or condemning her.

“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,” they said in a statement.

“America and Israel have a uniquely special relationship anchored in our shared democratic values and strategic interests,” the Huse Democrat leadership statement continued.

“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.”

While House Democrat leadership went on to acknowledge that there are members of Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition and of Congress with whom they disagree, it reiterated its commitment to ensuring bipartisan support for the Jewish state.

Ms. Jayapal’s initial claim falls under examples of antisemitism under the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by dozens of countries, such as the United States, in that an instance of hatred toward Jews includes “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

Jackson Richman is a Washington correspondent for The Epoch Times. In addition to Washington politics, he covers the intersection of politics and sports/sports and culture. He previously was a writer at Mediaite and Washington correspondent at Jewish News Syndicate. His writing has also appeared in The Washington Examiner. He is an alum of George Washington University.
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