Another Democrat Leaves Congressional Progressive Caucus as Fissures Widen Over the Squad’s Anti-Israel Rhetoric

2024-03-01 10:00:28

I think it’s safe to say at this point that the Israel-Hamas war has torn wide open the deep divisions within the Democratic Party over support for Israel.

House Democrats have been flirting with anti-Israelism bordering on outright antisemitism for decades now, thanks in part to the Congressional Black Caucus’ alliances with the likes of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.

The arrival of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley (otherwise known as “The Squad”) to Congress in 2018 only exacerbated the issue. Specifically, Omar’s and Tlaib’s history of antisemitic statements came under the microscope nationally and created big headaches for Democrats, with Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley regularly rushing to the defense of the two Muslim-American Congresswomen.

Since that time, The Squad has added many members, most of whom were already vocally anti-Israel prior to the Hamas terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians on October 7th.

All of them are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which since the beginning of the war has seen deepening divisions within its ranks over the Israel issue.

For instance, Florida Democrat Rep. Lois Frankel left it in late November, not long after voting for Tlaib’s censure:

[Frankel] quit the Congressional Progressive Caucus over an internal split on Israel’s siege on Gaza, according to two sources familiar with her quiet departure. Like many Democrats, Frankel has proclaimed “unwavering support for Israel,” while other caucus members are pushing a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Frankel, first elected to Congress in 2012 and a CPC member since at least 2016, had been considering leaving the caucus for several weeks, according to one source. She was one of at least six caucus members who voted earlier this month to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.

Frankel’s departure is a symptom of a larger split growing within the caucus over the congressional response to the war in Gaza.

More recently, pro-Israel New York Democrat Rep. Ritchie Torres walked away from the CPC as well:

New York Congressman Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) has left the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) after splitting with members over their stance on the Israel-Hamas war.

Torres, a staunch supporter of Israel, has left the CPC, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill on Tuesday. The New York congressman is not listed on the caucus’s website.

Multiple sources said Torres’ issues with The Squad, some of which have been very public, were the main catalyst for his departure from the CPC:

What we’re hearing: Several House Democrats told Axios that Torres’ departure was a long time coming. “Shocked he was ever in the CPC,” said one.

Torres “has been real pro-Israel, and being from the Bronx, that’s a good place for him to be,” said another, adding, “I think he’s … had it with [the] Squad.”

Torres also voted to censure Tlaib.

It should be noted that some members of The Squad (several of whom are facing formidable primary challengers) were not just colleagues of Torres and Frankel in the CPC; they hold leadership positions.

Omar is the Deputy Chair, Rep. Greg Casar is the Whip, and Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Tlaib are Vice Chairs. Though Rep. Pramila Jayapal, who is the Chairwoman, isn’t considered a member of The Squad, she made anti-Israel statements last summer, calling it a “racist state.” She later walked them back.

Torres in particular has been one of the most vocal pro-Israel Democrats in the House, and gave a profound speech on MLK Day about what he’s observed about America since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. Here’s an excerpt:

October 7 has been an awakening for the Jewish community, but it must be a reckoning for all of America. We must confront the deepening rot of anti-Semitism; on social media platforms, on college campuses, and elsewhere in America. We must ask ourselves: What kind of society do we wish to be? Do we wish to be a society that affirms that every life, every Jewish life, every black life, every life, has inherent dignity and value and worth? That each of us is a child of God, that each of us is an equal creation in the image of God?

Or do we wish to be a society that affirms that violence and terror, no matter how barbaric, can be justified and even glorified, under the guise of ‘resistance.’

Republicans and Democrats don’t agree with each other on much, but on the subject of Israel, it’s been refreshing to see  Democrats like Torres who have been unafraid to call out the rot within their party on this issue. Because if not now, when?

— Stacey Matthews has also written under the pseudonym “Sister Toldjah” and can be reached via Twitter. —


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Another Democrat Leaves Congressional Progressive Caucus as Fissures Widen Over the Squad’s Anti-Israel Rhetoric


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