Top Progressive Democrat Apologizes for Calling Israel a ‘Racist State’

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus of left-wing Democrats, apologized on Sunday for calling Israel a “racist state.”


Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus of left-wing Democrats, apologized on Sunday for calling Israel a “racist state.”

  • Jayapal was addressing the left-wing Netroots Nation conference in Chicago when her panel discussion was disrupted by pro-Palestine protesters. She sought to placate the protesters, telling them, “I want you to know that we have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state!”
  • Jayapal’s comments drew a swift rebuke from House Democratic leadership. Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries and his top deputies – Reps. Katherine Clark, Pete Aguilar and Ted Lieu – issued a joint statement declaring “Israel is not a racist state. As House Democratic leaders, we strongly support Israel’s right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people.”
  • Within 24 hours, Jayapal issued a groveling press release stating the exact opposite. “”I do not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist,” Jayapal said in a statement before doubling down on her criticism of the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 
  • Several Jewish Democratic members of Congress including Reps. Josh Gottheimer, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Dean Phillips and Jared Moskowitz, are circulating a draft letter directly condemning Jayapal.
  • “Israel is the legitimate homeland of the Jewish people and efforts to delegitimize and demonize it are not only dangerous and antisemitic, but they also undermine America’s national security,” the draft letter says. “We will never allow anti-Zionist voices that embolden antisemitism to hijack the Democratic Party and country.”
  • Jayapal’s remarks come as Congress prepares to welcome Israeli President Isaac Herzog for an address to a joint meeting of Congress. At least three members of Congress – Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman, and Ilhan Omar – are planning to boycott his speech marking the 75th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • Politico published Jayapal’s explanation behind her remarks. The congresswoman claimed to be “responding to the deep pain and hopelessness that exists for Palestinians and their diaspora communities” 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 anti-semitism and hate violence that is rampant today.”
  • CNN noted Jayapal was joined by two members of Congress at the event where she made the “Israel is a racist state” remarks, which she parroted from chants the crowd was making. Jayapal was accompanied by Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Jesús “Chuy” Garcia of Illinois.
  • Haaretz observed, “Jayapal has long been a critic of Israel’s creeping annexation of the West Bank, calling upon Congress to condition military aid to Israel should it continue using U.S. taxpayer dollars to violate Palestinian human rights.”



  • Fox News covered the backlash to Jayapal’s comments. Florida Sen. Rick Scott called her “despicable” and her comments “truly disgusting.” Jason Brodsky, the policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran called her statement “disgraceful” and “tone deaf.”
  • Breitbart observed the logical flaw in Jayapal’s comments. Although Jayapal called for a “two-state solution” at the same time she called Israel a “racist state,” “She did not explain why a “racist” state, if Israel were such a state, would deserve to exist at all.”
  • The New York Post linked Jayapal’s comments with other anti-Israel comments from left-wing Democrats. Rep. Ilhan Omar, for example, has said “there is no way in hell” she will attend President Herzog’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress.

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© Dominic Moore, 2023