At a conference, I attempted to defuse a tense situation during a panel where fellow members of Congress were being protested. Words do matter and so it is important that I clarify my statement. I do not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist. I do, however, believe that Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government has engaged in discriminatory and outright racist policies and that there are extreme racists driving that policy within the leadership of the current government. I believe it is incumbent on all of us who are striving to make our world a more just and equitable place to call out and condemn these policies and this current Netanyahu government’s role in furthering them.
I have always worked toward a two-state solution that allows both Israelis and Palestinians to live freely, safely, and with self-determination alongside each other and that is still what I am absolutely committed to. I also know that the many policies of the current Israeli government, including rampant settlement expansion, make it extremely difficult for Palestinians who simply want the same rights as their Israeli neighbors to believe such a solution is possible. On a very human level, I was also responding to the deep pain and hopelessness that exists for Palestinians and their diaspora communities when it comes to this debate, but I in no way intended to deny the deep pain and hurt of Israelis and their Jewish diaspora community that still reels from the trauma of pogroms and persecution, the Holocaust, and continuing anti-semitism and hate violence that is rampant today.
As an immigrant woman of color who has fought my whole life against racism, hate, and discrimination of all kinds and viscerally feels when anyone’s very existence is called into question, I am deeply aware of the many challenges we face in our own country to live up to the ideals of our nation here. The only way through these difficult moments is to have real conversations where we develop our own understanding of each other and the traumas we all hold. These are not easy conversations but they are important ones if we are ever to move forward. It is in that spirit that I offer my apologies to those who I have hurt with my words, and offer this clarification.
We know that the status quo is unacceptable, untenable, and unjust. It will take all of us — elected officials, movement activists, advocates, and communities — to work together for real progress.