U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a prominent progressive leader and the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has denounced the Israeli occupation as a racist state and called for the recognition of Palestinian rights to self-determination and autonomy.
Jayapal made the remarks on Saturday at Netroots Nation, an annual gathering of progressive activists and organizers in Chicago, where she joined a panel of fellow lawmakers and advocates to discuss the U.S. role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“As somebody who’s been in the streets and participated in a lot of demonstrations, I want you to know that we have been fighting to make it clear that Israel is a racist state, that the Palestinian people deserve self-determination and autonomy,” Jayapal said, drawing applause and chants of “free Palestine” from the audience.
Jayapal expressed her frustration with the fading prospects of a two-state solution, which she said was being undermined by Israel’s continued occupation and annexation of Palestinian lands.
“The dream of a two-state solution is slipping away from us, it does not even feel possible,” Jayapal said.
Jayapal also warned of the organized opposition from pro-Israel groups and politicians who seek to silence and discredit progressive voices on the issue.
“While we may have arguments with whether or not some of us on stage are fighting hard enough, there is an organized opposition on the other side – and it isn’t the people that are on this stage,” she said. “It is people that are literally trying to make sure that we do not take the positions we take, that the rest of the progressive caucus has been pushing and pushing.”
Jayapal is among the lawmakers who have urged Congress to condition U.S. military aid to Israel on its respect for Palestinian human rights and international law. She has also spoken out against Israel’s recent bombardment of Gaza, which killed over 250 Palestinians, including 66 children.
Her comments come as several other progressive members of Congress have announced their boycott of Israeli President Isac Herzog’s speech to a joint session of Congress later this week. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush have all confirmed they will not attend Herzog’s address, citing Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian rights and dignity.
Jayapal’s bold condemnation of Israel as a racist state is one of the highest-level criticisms of the Israeli occupation from a U.S. elected official.