U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar, D-Detroit, on Wednesday renounced his membership in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), saying it hasn’t adequately denounced Hamas for its “brutal terrorist attacks” on Israel last weekend.
“I can no longer associate with an organization unwilling to call out terrorism in all its forms,” Thanedar said in a statement from his office. “I stand with Israel and its right to defend itself. There is no place for moral equivocation in the face of unadulterated evil as we have seen from Hamas.”
In making his statement, Thanedar noted what he called a “hate-filled and antisemitic rally” held in New York City last weekend and promoted by that city’s DSA as a pro-Palestinian event held in the wake of the attacks on Saturday by Hamas that led to the deaths of some 1,200 people. Hamas, which the U.S. has labeled a terrorist organization, controls the Palestinian territory known as the Gaza Strip, which has been blockaded by Israel since 2007.
Israel has been sharply criticized for human rights violations against Palestinians, including those caused by the blockade, but President Joe Biden and others have said there can be no justification for the deadly surprise massacre in southern Israel, where civilians were killed and taken hostage.
Another DSA party member in Congress, U.S. Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., also blasted the weekend rally, saying: “The bigotry and callousness expressed in Times Square on Sunday were unacceptable and harmful in this devastating moment. It also did not speak for the thousands of New Yorkers who are capable of rejecting both Hamas’ horrifying attacks against innocent civilians as well as the grave injustices and violence Palestinians face under occupation.”
Thanedar was also apparently the only one of a handful of DSA members in Congress — a group that includes U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit — to call out the party for its response to the assaults, saying it was “steadfast in expressing our solidarity with Palestine” and calling the attacks “a direct result of Israel’s apartheid regime.” Contacted by the conservative publication The Federalist, Thanedar characterized the DSA statement as “classic antisemitic rhetoric.”
“What the DSA missed here is that this is a terrorist attack, the biggest murdering of Jewish people since the Holocaust,” he said. “I am not very proud of the DSA at this time as a member of that organization.”
Tlaib, who is the first Palestinian American woman to serve in Congress, meanwhile, has taken heat from Republicans and some Democrats as well for her own statement following the attacks. Long critical of Israeli practices the Palestinian territories, which she has likened to “apartheid,” she said she was grieving for “the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost yesterday, today, and every day,” and that “the heartbreaking cycle of violence” would continue as long as Israel maintained its blockade.
When asked on CNN about Tlaib’s response, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Lansing, said, “It shouldn’t be hard to condemn terrorists and terrorism.” On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, introduced a formal resolution to censure Tlaib for what he called “antisemitic and racist” remarks toward Israel. Censure involves a vote of the U.S. House to express its displeasure with a member, though in itself it carries no specific punishment.
Tlaib on Wednesday in a statement to the Michigan Advance that she did not “support the targeting and killing of civilians, whether in Israel or Palestine,” despite her saying critics have suggested otherwise. Later Wednesday, she told the Free Press that her critics were distorting her position and that she considers the Hamas attacks to be “a war crime, just like the collective punishment of Palestinians right now is a war crime.”
She said: “The violence needs to stop. We need to follow the international laws that protect the innocent… Palestinian and Israeli lives are directly impacted if we don’t push to stop the violence.”
Tlaib also said her office has been receiving numerous death threats.
Late Wednesday, Mikal Goodman, a Pontiac City councilperson and co-chair of the Metro Detroit Democratic Socialists of America, sent the Free Press an email saying Thanedar had been voted out of the local DSA organization in September because of his support of the nationalistic-Hindi Modi regime in India.
“His views are not − and have never been − representative of Detroit DSA,” Goodman wrote. “Rep. Thanedar’s sensationalist statement today renouncing a membership that he has not been entitled to hold for nearly a month is a selfish distraction from the tragedy unfolding in the region.”
Thanedar, however, apparently still considered himself a DSA member, nationally if not locally, until Wednesday.
In his statement Wednesday, Thanedar said he would “continue to work toward the goals” of the DSA, including universal healthcare, workers’ rights and environmental justice and that ending his association with the group would better serve his constituents’ interests. “They expect me to represent them by helping to build a better, more just world, not fanning the flames of hatred,” he said.
Thanedar said he hoped that other members in Congress would denounce the group’s stance as well, saying: “Antisemitism has no place in the halls of Congress. … I think they (the DSA) have gone too far in glorifying terrorism.”
Contact Todd Spangler: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@tsspangler.