A rift has opened up between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the far-left “Squad,” including Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, over the issue of Israel.
Mrs. Pelosi, who some believe is in her last term leading House Democrats, has taken an unequivocal stand over the wave of violence that has rocked Israel and the Gaza Strip this week.
“Israel has the right to defend herself against this assault, which is designed to sow terror and undermine prospects for peace,” said Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat.
Gaza-based Hamas militants fired rockets on Tel Aviv, Israel, on Wednesday. The airstrikes reportedly killed 35 Palestinians, including 10 children.
The flare-up is the worst in Israeli-Palestinian tensions since 2014. The fighting began over the weekend when Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department, and other Islamic militants fired more than 500 rockets into Israeli territory.
Tensions have long been frayed between Israel and Islamic militants over Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their own.
Democrats, who for decades were staunch supporters of Israel, have split on the recent wave of violence. Older members of the party’s establishment, including Mrs. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, have backed Israel’s right to self-defense.
“Every civilian death is a tragedy that we mourn. Hamas’ accelerating violence only risks killing more civilians, including innocent Palestinians,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “The recent inflammatory provocations including by extremist forces in Jerusalem have exacerbated the situation, and restraint must be shown by all to deescalate the crisis.”
Younger Democrats, however, have taken a dimmer view of Israel in recent years. Far-left insurgents to Mrs. Pelosi’s leadership, most notably those in the Squad, have accused Israel of war crimes.
“We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian residents … Israeli forces are forcing families from their homes during Ramadan and inflicting violence,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. “It is inhumane and the U.S. must show leadership in safeguarding the human rights of Palestinians.”
By far, the most vocal criticism from the Squad has come from Ms. Omar and Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Ms. Omar, a practicing Muslim, has lambasted Israel for responding to the violence perpetrated against its people during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
“Israeli airstrikes killing civilians in Gaza is an act of terrorism. Palestinians deserve protection. Unlike Israel, missile defense programs, such as Iron Dome, don’t exist to protect Palestinian civilians. It’s unconscionable to not condemn these attacks on the week of Eid,” the Minnesota Democrat said.
Likewise, Ms. Tlaib has called on Congress and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to “condition the aid we send to Israel” to prevent further escalation.
“American taxpayer money is being used to commit human rights violations,” said Ms. Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent. “Congress must condition the aid we send to Israel, and end it altogether if those conditions are not followed. Statements aren’t working [Mr. Blinken]. Enough is enough.”
The rift between members of the Squad and Mrs. Pelosi is not new.
In 2018, when Democrats first took control of the House, liberals led by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez sought to push the party further to the left.
In recent months, though, the situation has mellowed. President Biden’s ascent to the White House and Democrats winning control of the Senate has papered over tensions between the far-left and moderate Democrats.