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House Democrats explain boycott of Israeli president’s address to Congress



Several congressional members boycotted Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s address to Congress this week amid tensions between Israel and Palestine. 

U.S. Cori Bush, D-Mo., told theGrio that she declined Herzog’s invitation to meet with congressional members Wednesday because she disagrees with how the Israeli president has addressed the conflict between the two territories.  

WASHINGTON, DC – JULY 19: Israeli President Isaac Herzog addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress at the U.S. Capitol on July 19, 2023 in Washington, DC. Herzog’s speech on the floor of the House of Representatives stirred controversy as some liberal Democrats planned to boycott, underscoring tensions between the two countries. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“There is no way I can go and sit and listen to a speech as we roll out the red carpet for someone who’s in a position to save the lives of Palestinian people and who can change the trajectory of history,” said Bush.

She added, “When we are in positions of power – whether we are the ones that are directly doing the harm or not — it is our job to represent all of the people and to make sure that we’re doing the work” to “end harm or at least mitigate it.”

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., were also among the group of House Democrats who protested the Israeli president’s visit. The Democratic lawmakers accused Herzog of being complacent and permitting Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to mistreat Palestinians. 

Some members of Congress who boycotted Herzog’s speech have referred to Israel as an “apartheid state,” citing years-long oppression and harm of Palestinians caused by Israeli authorities. They say there should be consequences for the actions of Israelis. 

According to Amnesty International, Israeli authorities imposed policies and legislation that deprives Palestinians of their human rights, including stripping them of their land and property.

Arab-Israeli students and Israeli left-wing activists lift flags and placards during a protest against a new law bill bolstering restrictions on raising the Palestinian flag, at the Tel Aviv University campus in the eponymous coastal city, on May 28, 2023. The proposed legislation, which would prohibit flying the flag of a “hostile entity”, is being promoted by a lawmaker from the extreme-right Jewish Power party, which is a partner in the coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

In a statement obtained by theGrio, Congressman Bowman said, “From Israel to India, we must hold our allies accountable when it comes to human rights violations and the abuses of far-right governments.

The congressman said his decision not to attend the meeting with Herzog “in no way stems from a lack of support for the existence of the State of Israel.

He added, “On the contrary, it is out of concern that there is no sense of urgency about ensuring the safety and security of all Israelis and Palestinians in the region and finally achieving a two-state solution.”

Many members of Congress called for President Herzog to impose a two-state solution, one for Palestine and the other for Israel, to quell a decades-long conflict. 

Bush told theGrio that “when Palestinian people are able to live free and whole lives…I will shut up.”

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 22: Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) speaks at the “Just Majority” Supreme Court press conference on June 22, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Just Majority)

The congresswoman said that she would boycott any leader who either violated or permitted the mistreatment of its country’s citizens.   

“If I believe in the dignity and humanity of one group of people. I have to believe it for all people,” she clarified.

“Does that mean that I am anti-Semitic? Absolutely not,” said Bush. “Because if you bring a situation to me where our Jewish friends are being harmed, I’m going to speak out against that as well.”

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