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Rep. Pramila Jayapal walks back criticism of Israel as a ‘racist state’

(JTA) — A powerful House Democrat walked back her description of Israel as a “racist state” after she faced backlash from her colleagues and party leadership.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, chair of the 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, made the comments on Saturday at Netroots Nation, a progressive conference in Chicago, when faced with pro-Palestinian protesters at a session. 

“As somebody that’s been in the streets and has participated in a lot of demonstrations, I think 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,” she said

That statement prompted a response from the leaders of House Democrats, who issued a joint statement the next day that didn’t mention Jayapal by name but disavowed her remarks. A separate letter authored by Jewish Democratic members of Congress, which is still gathering signatures, also decried the comments and reiterated the signatories’ support for Israel and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Israel is not a racist state,” began the letter by Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and three other senior Democratic members of Congress. It cited pledges of democracy and equal rights in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, and affirmed the signatories’ support for Israel’s right to exist, though it added, “Certainly, there are individual members of the current Israeli governing coalition with whom we strongly disagree.”

Soon, Jayapal issued a four-paragraph clarification on Twitter, also saying that she meant to criticize Israel’s current government, which includes far-right parties, and not its existence as a state.

“Words do matter and so it is important that I clarify my statement,” she wrote. “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.”

The dust-up comes days before Israeli President Isaac Herzog is set to address a joint session of Congress, a speech that has already caused fissures among House Democrats. At least four progressive members of Congress who have been outspoken critics of Israel in the past have said they will boycott the speech in protest

Jayapal has not said she will boycott the speech, but she is a longtime critic of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and has played a role in recent legislative battles related to the country. In 2021, she took part in a successful push to separate voting on new funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system from the general U.S. defense budget. The move was symbolically significant but did not result in blocking or reducing the funding.

In their letter, seven Jewish House Democrats wrote that Jayapal’s remarks were “unacceptable” and added, “we appreciate her retraction.”

“We will never allow anti-Zionist voices that embolden antisemitism to hijack the Democratic Party and country,” the letter said.


The post Rep. Pramila Jayapal walks back criticism of Israel as a ‘racist state’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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University of Toronto seeks injunction to end protest encampment over ‘harmful, discriminatory’ speech outlined in court filing

The University of Toronto is now seeking a court injunction to put and end to the encampment in King’s College Circle after the 8 a.m. deadline passed Monday morning—while unionized workers joined students, faculty and other protesters at a rainy morning rally. Shortly after the ultimatum hour, the university announced in a statement from UofT […]

The post University of Toronto seeks injunction to end protest encampment over ‘harmful, discriminatory’ speech outlined in court filing appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Monday morning saw the Toronto community and politicians showing support for the Chabad girls’ school struck by weekend gunfire

Mayor Olivia Chow was among those who addressed the crowd.

The post Monday morning saw the Toronto community and politicians showing support for the Chabad girls’ school struck by weekend gunfire appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘A Call for Genocide’: South African Jews Blast Country’s President for Chanting ‘From the River to the Sea’

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Chatsworth, South Africa, May 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Rogan Ward

South African Jewish leaders castigated their country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, for what they described as him calling for a “genocide” against Jews in Israel over the weekend.

Ramaphosa was speaking at an election rally in Johannesburg on Saturday when he deviated from his prepared speech to lead the crowd in in a chant of “From the River to the Sea, Palestine shall be free” — a popular slogan among anti-Israel activists that has been widely interpreted as a call for the destruction of the Jewish state, which is located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

The address took place at FNB Stadium, where South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) held its final rally before South African elections on Wednesday. According to Politicsweb, a news website focused on South Africa, a call for the release of the “hostages held in Gaza” who Hamas terrorists kidnapped from southern Israel on Oct. 7 appeared in Ramaphosa’s prepared remarks but not in his final speech.

The South African Jewish community lambasted Ramaphosa for his remarks in a statement shared with The Algemeiner, expressing “its revulsion at the introduction of a call to exterminate Jews from their homeland” by the president.

“The president of the ruling ANC party and the head of state of a democratic country has called for the elimination of the only Jewish state in the culmination of the ANC president’s election speech made to thousands of ANC members and on national television,” said Wendy Kahn, national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). “He uses the populist slogan ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be Free,’ which is widely regarded as a call to genocide of the Jewish people. The call to remove all Jews from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea equates to removing all Jews from Israel.”

Kahn compared the slogan with Hamas’ goal to “see Israel as ‘Judenfrei,’ or Jew free,” before noting that such an endpoint contradicts the South African government’s stated policy of supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The chanting of this slogan by a head of state of a government that recurrently tries to express their commitment to a ‘two-state Solution’ as their policy on Israel and Palestine is hypocritical to the full,” the SAJBD said. “How does a sitting president reject his own government and own party’s international relations policy? This reconfirms our understanding that President Ramaphosa and his government are not looking for a peaceful solution to the tragic conflict, but rather to cause discord among fellow South Africans against its Jewish community.”

Kahn added, “The president’s contempt for South African Jewry is evident in this unscripted outburst at the rally which amounts to nothing more than Jew hatred. The SAJBD is reviewing its options for holding the president accountable for these hateful words.”

South Africa’s ANC government has been one of the harshest critics of Israel since Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists launched the ongoing war in Gaza with their invasion of and massacre across southern Israeli communities.

South Africa temporarily withdrew its diplomats from Israel and shuttered its embassy in Tel Aviv shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas pogrom, saying that the Pretoria government was “extremely concerned at the continued killing of children and innocent civilians” in Gaza.

In December, South Africa hosted two Hamas officials who attended a government-sponsored conference in solidarity with the Palestinians. One of the officials had been sanctioned by the US government for his role with the terrorist organization.

Earlier this month, members of South Africa’s Jewish community protested Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor’s recent call for students and university leaders to intensify the anti-Israel demonstrations that have engulfed college campuses across the US.

In January, the South African government failed in its bid to argue before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that Israel’s defensive war in Gaza constituted a “genocide.” However, the top UN court last week ordered Israel to halt its military operations against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. The emergency ruling was part of South Africa’s ongoing case at the ICJ.

The post ‘A Call for Genocide’: South African Jews Blast Country’s President for Chanting ‘From the River to the Sea’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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