Several House Democrats sidestepped questions on whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is racist on Tuesday, a day before the country’s president is expected to address a joint meeting of Congress.
Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., has been under fire from both sides of the aisle for calling Israel a ‘racist state’ over the weekend. She then released a follow-up statement, clarifying that she does not ‘believe that the idea of Israel as a nation is racist’ but that ‘Netanyahu’s extreme right wing government has engaged in discriminatory practices and outright racist policies.’
House Democrats, ranging from moderates to progressives, were hesitant to say whether they agreed with her, and some switched topics altogether to recent antisemitic comments made by 2024 presidential candidate Robert Kennedy Jr.
Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., a freshman Democrat who’s been among the most vocally opposed to Jayapal’s comments, told Fox News Digital he was ‘very happy’ she clarified the remarks but did not weigh in directly on Netanyahu’s governing.
‘Israel is not a racist state nor is it an apartheid state,’ Moskowitz said. ‘I thought her comments … were unacceptable and outrageous, to say a whole country is racist. … That being said, I’m very happy that she clarified those comments. I think that was important.’
‘Especially, you know, look, we’re just seeing a rise of antisemitism around the country. We’ve got RFK Jr., who’s going to be testifying this week because the Republicans want him to come and tell people how, you know, the Jews, I guess, engineered COVID because it didn’t affect the Jews. I’m not really sure what RFK Jr. is trying to say, but it just feeds into all this.’
Kennedy is slated to come before a GOP-led House panel on Thursday to discuss censorship.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., similarly pivoted to RFK Jr.’s upcoming testimony.
‘Israel is not a racist state. Pramila Jayapal apologized,’ Swalwell said. ‘You know who has not apologized? Speaker McCarthy for bringing an antisemitic witness to Congress in RFK Jr. He should apologize for that, and RFK Jr. should not be given that audience.’
A freshman Democrat, Rep. Jeff Jackson, D-N.C., simply said, ‘I was glad she walked back her initial statement.’
Ways and Means Committee ranking member Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., was more pointed in distancing himself from Jayapal’s comments on Netanyahu.
‘I think you can have honest disagreements with any … democratically elected government,’ Neal told Fox News Digital. ‘I don’t think that we should question a nation based upon the election of one prime minister or another.’
On the other end, progressive Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., said there are ‘extreme’ officials in Netanyahu’s government, but he stopped short of saying the entire administration falls into that category.
‘I would categorize, at the very least, certain members of his cabinet as very extreme. And I think there are plenty of people who would say that,’ Takano told Fox News Digital. ‘I’m concerned about Netanyahu’s — the direction he’s going with the independence of the Israeli Supreme Court and the rule of law because these pertain to Israel’s status as a vibrant democracy.’
‘That’s also important to me because it’s what ties our countries together, this sense that both countries share liberal democratic ideals,’ he said.