Rep. Pramila Jayapal doubles down on Hamas rape comments

Pramila Jayapal,Merrick Garland
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) speaks to Attorney General Merrick Garland as he appears before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Rep. Pramila Jayapal doubles down on Hamas rape comments

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Congressional Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) stood by her controversial comments in which she appeared to compare Hamas‘s alleged deployment of sexual violence against Israeli women to Israel‘s response to the Oct. 7 attacks.

“Let me be completely clear again that I unequivocally condemn Hamas’ use of rape and sexual violence as an act of war,” Jayapal said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “This is horrific and across the world, we must stand with our sisters, families, and survivors of rape and sexual assault everywhere to condemn this violence and hold perpetrators accountable.”

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However, the Washington Democrat pledged to continue speaking out “about these issues and how we can achieve a long-term political solution,” saying that “many on all sides are feeling abandoned and unseen, and it is important to acknowledge all that pain.”

Jayapal faced some backlash over her original comments equating Hamas’ use of rape with Israel’s retaliatory attacks in a Sunday interview with CNN’s Dana Bash, including from Democrats such as Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), a fellow Progressive caucus member.

“Rape and sexual violence against Israeli women calls for nothing less than unequivocal condemnation,” Torres said.

During a Monday press briefing, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the group’s atrocities “absolutely reprehensible,” although she did not condemn Jayapal.

The progressive lawmaker attempted damage control in her statement by elaborating on her comments regarding Israel’s adherence to international law.

“My comment about balance was not about rape, and not intended to minimize rape and sexual assault in any way,” Jayapal said. “It was about recognizing the tremendous pain and trauma of so many—Israelis, Palestinians and their diaspora communities—in this terrible war.

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“I understand that I have critics who disagree with me on policy, but for them to insinuate that I would think, say or act in any way that equivocates on rape is outrageous and completely inconsistent with my record and life’s work,” she continued. “It also deeply hurts the ability to have meaningful conversations about critical issues.”

At least two House Democrats reportedly are working on a resolution to condemn Hamas over the rape allegations this week. Jayapal’s comments are just the latest sign of internal Democratic tensions on how to respond to the war between Israel and Hamas, which is quickly approaching its two-month mark.

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