US lawmaker backtracks after calling Israel ‘a racist state’

TORONTO (AA) : US Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal has apologized for calling Israel a “racist state” over the weekend after facing backlash from colleagues and her party’s leadership. 

Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, made the comments while attempting to quiet down a group of protesters displaying Palestinian flags at a conference of the Netroots Nation, a political convention for American progressive political activists.

Jayapal said she had attended many demonstrations against Israel “and wanted to make it clear that Israel is a racist state,” that Palestinian people deserve self-determination and autonomy, and that the two-state solution does not even feel possible anymore.

She faced criticism from many at the conference following the circulation of a widely-shared video of her remarks on social media.

On Sunday, Jayapal released a lengthy statement to address and clarify her remarks while also defending the underlying sentiment behind them.

She said her intention was to deescalate the tense situation at the conference and apologized to those who may have been hurt by her remarks.

“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,” she said in the statement.

She added, however, that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing government engages in discriminatory and outright racist policies and there are extreme racists driving those policies within the leadership of the current government.

According to a Democratic aide, a group of House Democrats also condemned Jayapal’s remarks, appreciating her retraction of her comments.