Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, recently came under fire when she called Israel a “racist state.”
Jayapal had every reason to believe she was on solid ground. President Joe Biden, who did not condemn the statement, is determined to do the bidding of progressives because he needs their votes to be reelected.
The issue is not that Jayapal believes what she said; it was that she was caught on tape admitting it. Thus, her fellow Democrats had to distance themselves, though they support her radical progressive ideology. They feared being caught mainstreaming antisemitism in the Democrat Party.
The lesson they have learned is that it’s fine to be a bigot and a radical, just don’t get caught on tape admitting it.
Given recent history, one might think Jayapal would have known that.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, many Americans suspected that Barack Obama held white working-class Americans in low regard. Indeed, his campaign promises and his personal history supported that conclusion.
Obama only ran into trouble, however, when he was caught on tape saying of white Americans, “It’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
The statement almost derailed his campaign. But with the help of an adoring media, the American people elected Obama twice.
In short, it was acceptable for Obama to hold large numbers of Americans in contempt. He just couldn’t get caught on tape admitting it.
Something similar happened to Terry McAuliffe when he ran for governor of Virginia in 2021. He admitted during a debate, “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions. … I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”
Clearly, McAuliffe and his supporters thought it was fine to put teachers’ unions ahead of students. The problem was that he publicly admitted it. It cost him the election.
Jayapal not only didn’t learn from these incidents, she also failed to understand that, when you’re in a hole, you should stop digging.
“I do not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist,” she said in an attempt to backtrack on her bigoted statement. “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.”
“I was also 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,” she went on.
Jayapal added, “As an immigrant woman of color who has fought my whole life against racism, hate and discrimination of all kinds and viscerally feels when anyone’s very existence is called into question, I am deeply aware of the many challenges we face in our own country to live up to the ideals of our nation here.”
For Jayapal, it seems, Israel can exist in theory but not in reality. As a progressive, she sees everything through the lens of victimhood. As “a woman of color,” she identifies with the Palestinians who are supposedly being oppressed by the Jews.
Jayapal does not understand that Israel exists precisely because Jews decided to take their fate into their own hands and cease to be victims. Israel is about the empowerment of the Jewish nation.
Nor does she acknowledge that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government was democratically elected in a fair and free election. The utterly corrupt Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, in contrast, is now in the 18th year of his four-year term.
While Jayapal goes out of her way to denounce the allegedly “racist” policies of the Israeli government, she does not mention Palestinian terrorism or that the Palestinians turned down a state of their own in 1948, 2000, 2005 and 2008. She further omits that Hamas does not just want to destroy Israel, but also to annihilate the Jewish people.
Most tellingly, she never refers to Israel as a Jewish state. To her, absent the Holocaust, there is no reason for Israel. As the Holocaust fades into history, so too, she likely believes, should Israel.
In response to Jayapal’s slanders, the House of Representatives passed a resolution stating that Israel is not a “racist or apartheid state.” Cynically, Jayapal voted in favor of the resolution. The vote was 412-9. All Republicans voted in favor. The nine opponents were all progressive Democrats.
The truth is, I have far more respect for the Jew-hating nine than I do for Jayapal. The nine at least have the courage to state publicly what their colleagues believe but will not say out loud.
Jayapal’s views are mainstream in today’s Democratic Party, but as Obama and McAuliffe learned, progressive radicals should never get caught on tape saying what they really think.