Special to The Seattle Times

During a weekend panel at the annual Netroots Nation conference for political progressives, demonstrators interrupted a discussion that included Washington Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal and two other members of Congress.

Jayapal got out of her seat to tell them: “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, that the dream of a two-state solution is slipping away from us.”

She did not retract her statement. Instead, she mixed up a word salad to say, “I do not believe the idea of Israel as a nation is racist.” That’s a theoretical comment, potentially implying Israel really is a racist state.

Jayapal has implied in the past that Israel is at fault for there not being a two-state solution. She forgets to mention that the Palestinians rejected every peace plan offered, and that there could have been an independent Palestinian state as far back as 1947. Jayapal omits that Israel has numerous laws in place to ensure equality of all its citizens, including the 21% who are Palestinian Arab.

The facts are that Zionism is deeply rooted in Jewish history and tradition. It is the right to self-determination and statehood for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland, the biblical Land of Israel. Eight in 10 American Jews say caring about Israel is an essential or important part of what being Jewish means to them, according to the Pew Research Center.

In November 1975, the U.N. General Assembly adopted Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism to racism. The resolution was formally repealed in 1991 but the damage was done. “Zionism is racism” was popularized by the Soviet Union, which based its claims on the conspiracist “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a piece of Russian propaganda that sought to blame Jews for the ills of society. As Elie Wiesel put it, “if ever a piece of writing could produce mass hatred, it is this one.” And false claims that Israel is a racist state serve to advance that mass hatred, including right here in Seattle.


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