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Pro-Israel congressmen raise alarms at rabbinic conference in Washington

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“We’re losing a worldwide propaganda war to baby killers,” said Rep. Brad Sherman of California. “That means things are not going well at all.”

Andrew Bernard


Republican and Democratic lawmakers raised blunt concerns about the progress in the war against Hamas and the state of U.S.-Israel relations in a meeting with 40 rabbis on Capitol Hill on Monday.

The seven pro-Israel congressmen told attendees from the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition that mistakes from both the Biden administration and the Israeli government have undermined the goal of defeating Hamas.

“We’re losing a worldwide propaganda war to baby killers,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.). “That means things are not going well at all.”

Sherman, who is Jewish, said that some of the opposition to Israel could be ascribed to antisemitism. But he also thinks that some of the Israeli government’s actions have been unhelpful.

“Recently, the government of Israel seems to have rejected a two-state solution,” Sherman said. “For my first 28 years on the Foreign Affairs Committee, I could always say that Israel supported a two-state solution, and Hamas and Fatah both rejected it. It’s harder for me to make that point now.”

“You see elements of the government that have said some of the most horrendous things about Arabs, about Palestinians and about the desirability of ethnically cleansing the West Bank and more recently Gaza,” Sherman added. “It’s hard to defend these.”

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) hammered Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Israeli minister of national security, for saying recently that Hamas “loves” U.S. President Joe Biden.

“Ben-Gvir is a damn fool,” Hoyer said. “I think he’s a damn fool, and he’s hurting Israel. And he’s hurting our effort.”

“To call the president of the United States a lover of Hamas is absurd on its face and extraordinarily stupid in terms of wanting that person to continue to stand by Israel,” Hoyer said. (He appeared to invert Ben-Gvir’s statement that “Hamas loves Biden.”)

Hoyer, a former Democratic House majority leader, also alluded to the Biden administration’s decision to pause an arms shipment to Israel and the subsequent leak of that news to Axios by two Israeli officials.

“Frankly, both Bibi and the Biden administration made a terrible mistake,” Hoyer said. “That was: They’re our friends. They’re our allies. Those discussions ought to be private.”

“Friends have got to be able to criticize one another—not for public consumption, not for consumption by Hamas, not for consumption by Iran, but by one another,” he added. “That was a huge mistake.”

Max Miller
Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio) speaks at a Zionist Rabbinic Coalition event in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on May 22, 2024. Photo by Andrew Bernard.

Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio), one of two Jewish Republicans in the House, was one of several congressmen who shared their frustrations about colleagues on both sides of the aisle with the rabbis and lay leaders in attendance.

“We can combat antisemitism, but how about we start in this damn place?” Miller said. “You see it with legislators on both sides of the aisle who are antisemitic. We have them on the Republican side: Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene.”

Reps. Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) were criticized by Jewish groups in 2022 for speaking at a conference organized by the Holocaust-denying alt-right figure Nick Fuentes. In 2023, Gosar’s newsletter linked to an article that referred to “Jewish warmongers.”

“I don’t have the space laser. I wish I did,” Miller added, joking about Taylor Greene’s social-media posts about an antisemitic conspiracy theory.

Miller said, however, that while some five members of the Republican caucus “spout Russian disinformation” and make absolutist demands, on the Democratic side, they “have about 30 of them.”

“The problem is they all hate Israel, and they all hate Jews,” Miller said. “And it’s that simple. It really is.”

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) told attendees that he believes that electoral politics are responsible for the recent shift towards criticism of the Netanyahu government from some senior Democrats, including Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Mike Lawler
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) speaks at a Zionist Rabbinic Coalition event in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on May 22, 2024. Photo by Andrew Bernard.

“When we have the highest-ranking Jewish official in American history calling for regime change in a democratic ally, when we had the former speaker of the House calling for the resignation of the prime minister, and when we have the administration withholding aid and support despite Congress passing legislation to provide that support, I am concerned,” Lawler said.

The New York Republican also slammed Schumer for his failure to take up antisemitism legislation that has passed in the House, and for not visiting Columbia University during the anti-Israel tent encampment protests.

“You can’t claim to be the defender of Israel and the Jewish people and sit silent and refuse to go to Columbia University in your own state,” Lawler said. (Schumer has claimed that his family name means “defender” in Hebrew.)

“I’m embarrassed that he’s my United States senator,” he said. “Schumer translates to good for nothing.”

“He has not done what he needs to do to stand up for the Jewish people in the United States,” Lawler added.

‘Bipartisan support for Israel remains strong’

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), who is also Jewish, told attendees that members of the so-called “Squad” of anti-Israel Democrats haven’t spoken to him since 2021. That includes Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.).

“Jamaal Bowman went to Israel on a J Street trip—was proud to go,” Schneider said. “I don’t think it’s his moral compass that’s driving him one side or the other. I think it’s political calculation.”

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, chair of the Rabbinic Zionist Coalition and senior rabbi of Congregation B’nai Tzedek, a Conservative congregation in Potomac, Md., told JNS that it was important to hear from pro-Israel members of Congress amid concerns about a growing contingent of anti-Israel lawmakers.

“I think the bipartisan support for Israel remains strong,” Weinblatt said. “It would be naive not to recognize that there are concerns with some of the influence that we see, some of the rumblings, especially within the Democratic Party.”

“It’s reassuring to hear from the people we’ve heard from that they want to counter those voices,” he added.

Image: Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) speaks at a Zionist Rabbinic Coalition event in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on May 22, 2024. Credit: Courtesy.

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