WASHINGTON, DC, December 3, 2023—Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA07) deflects answering why progressive women are “silent” on the widespread use of brutal rape and sexual violence against Israeli women by Hamas.
“With all due respect, I was just asking about the women, and you turned it back to Israel,” host Dana Bash told Rep. Jayapal, pressing for an answer.
“I already answered your question Dana,” Rep. Jayapal responded.
During her 13-minute interview with Bash, Jayapal stood firm in her position to an indefinite ceasefire saying this is needed for Israel “to create a durable and strong coalition of allies within the middle east.”
“We were able to see a significant number of hostages released,” Rep. Jayapal said on the benefits of the latest ceasefire. “We were able to get aide into Gaza.”
On November 24, Israel and Hamas brokered a ceasefire that saw the release of 105 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners. On December 1, Israel Defense Forces resumed its military offensive in the Gaza Strip after Hamas failed to provide a list of hostages it intended to release that morning and then began firing rockets into Israel.
Jayapal told Bash that although she is a supporter of President Biden, his handling of the war has “alienated huge communities.”
In clarifying her statement warning that President Biden’s approach “jeopardizes his support of progressive and Muslim voters and that they could stay home [in the 2024 General Election],” Jayapal said, “At the end of the day, the United States has its reputation to think about globally. And if we alienate all of our allies in the Middle East, that is not going to help us ensure that President Biden wins domestically at home.”
Jayapal condemned the “urban warfare” approach of Israel saying that it will only lead to more casualties.
“For Israel, the only way through this is to create a situation where there is a political solution that involves a Palestinian state and an Israeli state,” said Jayapal.
When pressed on how Israel can broker such a deal, when Arab states in the region do not appear to be willing to put pressure on Hamas for a resolution, Jayapal blamed U.S. foreign policy telling Bash, “We [The United States] have been allowing Israel to literally and indiscriminately bomb hospitals and violate international humanitarian law.”
Earlier in the interview Jayapal shared that the U.S. should not condone the killing of 15,000 Palestinians where “three quarters of whom are women and children and say that is going to help us in the long term.”
So far during the war, Hamas has used its own civilians as human shields by storing weapons at hospitals—the Hamas command center was housed under Al Shifa Hospital—which is a violation of the Geneva Convention.
“If we want to defeat terrorist, we have to abide by international humanitarian law…that is my fundamental belief,” Jayapal told Bash.
However, when pressed to explain why progressive women appear “silent” on the use of rape against Israeli women by Hamas as a war tactic in a clear violation of international humanitarian law, although Jayapal condemned Hamas, she deflected the question away from what polls are pointing out is a growing divide within the Democratic Party—its waning support for Israel.
According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, “among Democrats, a plurality (41 percent) say their sympathies lie more with the Palestinians, while 34 percent say their sympathies lie more with the Israelis. In October [immediately after the Hamas attack], nearly half of Democrats (48 percent) said the Israelis and 22 percent said the Palestinians.”
“But I think we have to remember that Israel is a democracy,” Jayapal said. “That is why they are a strong ally of ours and if they do not comply with international humanitarian law, they are bringing themselves to a place that makes it much more difficult strategically for them to be able to build the kinds of allies to keep public opinion with them.”
She continued, “Terrorist organizations like Hamas obviously are using these [rapes] as tools. However, I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians; 15,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, three-quarters of whom are women and children.”
When Bash pointed out that Israeli soldiers aren’t raping Palestinian women, Jayapal again deflected saying, “I don’t want this to be the hierarchy of oppressions; 15,000 people [Palestinians] have been killed.”
Floridia Representative and former Chair of the Democratic National Committe, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL25) took to X to criticized remarks from Jayapal pertaining to Bash’s questions of sexual violence against Israeli women and girls by Hamas as double-speak.
“Hamas terrorists raped Israeli women and girls. The only ‘balanced’ approach is to condemn sexual violence loudly, forcefully and without exceptions. Outrageous for anyone to ‘both sides’ sexual violence.,” Rep. Schultz (D-FL25) tweeted.
Hamas terrorists raped Israeli women and girls. The only ‘balanced’ approach is to condemn sexual violence loudly, forcefully and without exceptions. Outrageous for anyone to “both sides” sexual violence. https://t.co/dH6q0ksYqR
— Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (@RepDWStweets) December 4, 2023
Washington State Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) in a statement to the Lynnwood Times condemned the use of rape as a war tactic by Hamas.
“The actions by Hamas to kill and kidnap civilians to terrorize the people of Israel should be unequivocally and universally condemned,” Senator Billig wrote in a Facebook post a few days after the October 7 attack by Hamas. “Hamas’ ultimate goal is to wipe the State of Israel off the face of the Earth. There is no way to negotiate a peaceful resolution to this conflict with Hamas, and Israel has the right and responsibility to respond and to neutralize Hamas.
“It is important to differentiate between civilians in Gaza and the fighters, supporters and leadership of Hamas. I hope that any action against Hamas will avoid or minimize the impacts on civilians living in Gaza who want and deserve peace, just as the people of Israel do.”
Jayapal chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus with Deputy Chair Ilhan Omar (D-MN05), who is a fierce critic of Israel and who was removed earlier this year from the House Foreign Affairs Committee over her antisemitic remarks.
Omar, a Muslim American, introduced a joint resolution on November 16, disapproving of the of proposed export of $320 million in weapons to Israel. Her colleague and fellow caucus member, Rashida Tlaib (D-MI12), who is also Muslim American but of Palestinian background, faced backlash from fellow Democrats when she posted on X criticizing President Joe Biden for his support of Israel.
“We will remember in 2024,” Talib said in the video followed by the text: “Joe Biden supported the genocide of the Palestinian people.”
The Congressional Progressive Caucus is composed 103 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. According to its website, caucus members are committed to standing up “for progressive ideals in Washington and throughout the country.” As of the date of this article the Caucus has not released an official statement condemning the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel nor address the sexual violence against Israeli women committed by Hamas.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Article updated at 12:05 a.m. on December 4, 2023, to include statements from Washington State Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig (D-Spokane) and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL25).