WASHINGTON — The vast majority of Democratic lawmakers and top party officials are united in their support for Israel following the devastating terror attack by Hamas over the weekend that has taken the lives of more than 1,000 Israelis and counting.
President Joe Biden, speaking at the White House on Tuesday, called Hamas’ actions “pure unadulterated evil” and compared them to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group.
“We must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel and we will make sure it has what it needs to defend its citizens, defend itself and respond to this attack,” Biden said, confirming that 14 Americans are among the dead.
Congressional Democrats were quick to issue statements of support for Israel over the weekend as harrowing stories about Hamas’ brutality emerged. They include the murders of hundreds of attendees at a music festival in southern Israel, indiscriminate shooting of civilians and the kidnapping of Israeli women and children.
On Tuesday, 390 lawmakers co-sponsored an overwhelmingly bipartisan resolution in the House denouncing “the barbaric war launched by Hamas” and reaffirming Israel’s right to self-defense.
The outpouring of support for Israel in Congress included leading progressives who have been vocal advocates of an independent Palestinian state and the rights of all Palestinians.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) condemned the attack and said, “There is no justification for terrorism ever,” while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) did the same and further warned that “innocent people on both sides will suffer hugely because of it.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.), meanwhile, joined Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in condemning a pro-Palestine rally in Times Square on Sunday that was connected to the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Some at the rally chanted, “Resistance is justified when people are occupied.”
“The bigotry and callousness expressed in Times Square on Sunday were unacceptable and harmful in this devastating moment,” Ocasio Cortez said in a statement to Politico. “It also did not speak for the thousands of New Yorkers who are capable of rejecting both Hamas’ horrifying attacks against innocent civilians as well as the grave injustices and violence Palestinians face under occupation.”
Democrats’ pro-Israel stance is notable given that sympathies within the party have trended more with the Palestinians in recent years: Many on the left have long criticized Israel for its treatment of Palestinians in territory controlled by Israel, which groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called apartheid. According to a Gallup poll conducted in March, 49% of Democrats said they sympathized with Palestinians versus 38% who said they sympathized with the Israelis, an 11-point increase over the past year.
The U.S. provides billions of dollars a year in financial and military aid to Israel, including munitions for its Iron Dome missile defense system that protects Israeli skies from rocket attacks.
Still, not every Democratic lawmaker is staunchly backing Israel in the wake of the attacks.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the House’s only Palestinian American, drew harsh criticism for referring to Israel as an apartheid state and calling for the U.S. to cut funding to the country.
The path to peace in the region “must include lifting the blockade, ending the occupation, and dismantling the apartheid system that creates the suffocating, dehumanizing conditions that can lead to resistance,” Tlaib said in a lengthy statement issued on Sunday. “As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue.”
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) went a bit further, calling on Saturday for ending all U.S. government support “for Israeli military occupation and apartheid.”
Their statements didn’t sit well with Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.), who accused both congresswomen of making “reprehensible and repulsive” comments following the attack on Sunday.
“Shame on anyone who glorifies as ‘resistance’ the largest single-day mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust,” Torres said in a statement. “It is reprehensible and repulsive.”
Aides to Tlabi and Bush did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the responses they’ve gotten to their statements.
At least 830 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes and thousands more have been wounded, according to authorities there. More than 200,000 have fled their homes, according to the United Nations.
The Israeli government has vowed to launch a ground operation into Gaza in order to eliminate the threat from Hamas, likely leading to the death of more civilians.
In his speech on Tuesday, Biden drew a distinction between Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and the plight of the more than 2 million Palestinians who live there.
“Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self- determination,” said the president. “Hamas offers nothing but terror and bloodshed, with no regard to who pays the price.”