Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is taking worldwide criticism after appearing to deflect criticism of rape and sexual violence by Palestinian Hamas terrorists against Israeli women in its October 7 terror attack, saying Israeli misdeeds had to be considered.
As Breitbart News has reported, there is ample evidence of sexual violence against Israeli women during the attack, though the Israeli military was not able to conduct forensic tests, and the apparent victims known thus far were killed and cannot testify.
CNN host Dana Bash, interviewing Jayapal on State of the Union on Sunday, asked Jayapal — who leads the Progressive Caucus — about whether she condemned sexual violence committed on October 7. The following exchange took place (via CNN transcript):
BASH: I want to ask you about sexual violence. And the — it is kind of remarkable that this issue hasn’t gotten enough attention globally, widespread use of rape, brutal rape, sexual violence against Israeli women by Hamas. I have seen a lot of progressive women, generally speaking, that are quick to defend women’s rights and speak out against using rape as a weapon of war, but downright silent on what we saw on October 7 and what might be happening inside Gaza right now to these hostages. Why is that?
JAYAPAL: I mean, I don’t know that that’s true. I think what — we always talk about the impact of war on women, in particular. In fact, I remember, 20 years ago, I did a petition around the war in Iraq, saying that…
BASH: Have you talked about it since October 7?
JAYAPAL: Oh, absolutely. And I have condemned what Hamas has done. I have condemned all of the actions.
BASH: Specifically against women?
JAYAPAL: Absolutely, the rape, the — of course. But I think we have to remember that Israel is a democracy. That is why they are a strong ally of ours. And if they do not comply with international humanitarian law, they are bringing themselves to a place that makes it much more difficult strategically for them to be able to build the kinds of allies, to keep public opinion with them.
JAYAPAL: And, frankly, morally, I think we cannot say that one war crime deserves another. That is not what international humanitarian law says.
BASH: With — OK, with respect, I was just asking about the women, and you turned it back to Israel. I’m asking you about Hamas. In fact…
JAYAPAL: I already answered your question, Dana. I said it’s horrific.
JAYAPAL: And I think that rape is horrific. Sexual assault is horrific. I think that it happens in war situations. Terrorist organizations like Hamas obviously are using these as tools. However, I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians.
JAYAPAL: Fifteen thousand Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, three-quarters of whom are women and children.
BASH: And it’s horrible, but you don’t see Israeli soldiers raping Palestinian women.
JAYAPAL: Well, Dana, I think we’re not — we’re not — I don’t want this to be the hierarchy of oppressions.
BASH: Right. It shouldn’t be.
JAYAPAL: I think 15,000 people have been killed, Palestinians.
BASH: It shouldn’t be, and it — which is horrible.
JAYAPAL: And 2.2 million Palestinians live in a 140-square-mile area, which is about the size of Las Vegas, with a population that is four times that of Las Vegas. And 1.8 million Palestinians right now are displaced. They are living in shelters. They are being told to move to South Gaza. Then South Gaza’s being bombed.
JAYAPAL: They’re being told to move to North Gaza. There are no homes left. The vast majority of infrastructure has been destroyed. This is not the way that we are going to beat terrorism, whether it’s Hamas or some future iteration of Hamas.
Critics began mocking Jayapal’s response, noting the hypocrisy of her earlier exhortations to believe every woman, versus her willingness to “balance” sexual violence against Israeli women against some other alleged misdeeds, real or imagined.
— Chaya Raichik (@ChayaRaichik10) December 4, 2023
The Israeli media noted Jayapal’s response, which made headlines in that country:
המחוקקת הפרוגרסיבית וחברת בית הנבחרים האמריקני נשאלה על מעשי האונס של מחבלי חמאס ב-7 באוקטובר – אך השיבה על פעילות צה”ל בעזה. לדבריה: “אונס הוא דבר נוראי שקורה במצבי מלחמה, אבל חייבים להישאר מאוזנים כשמדברים על הפגיעה הקשה בפלסטינים”@itamargalit pic.twitter.com/xyG1AZsnre
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) December 3, 2023
The Times of Israel also noted Jayapal’s answer, and published a story about it: “Asked about Hamas rape, US congresswoman criticizes Israel, calls for ‘balance’ in outrage.”
Jayapal’s attempt to pivot to Israel’s alleged misdeeds took, at face value, Hamas death statistics for Gaza, which do not distinguish between civilians and terrorists killed, and which allegedly include terrorists killed during the October 7 attack.
Moreover, Jayapal’s claim that “rape happens in war situations” is simply incorrect. Israeli soldiers do not rape Palestinian women — a fact that the left acknowledges, though anti-Israel critics have claimed that is because Israeli soldiers are racist.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.