A group of Democratic lawmakers are coming to visit Israel to fortify what some see as the lagging alliance between the two countries. Meanwhile, other Democrats are working for the release of a Muslim Brotherhood cleric being held in an Egyptian jail after calling to murder Israeli tourists for the crime of using the blood of Christian children to bake matzoh.
Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY) and Representative Steny Hoyer are leading a group of 24 House Democrats to Israel this week.
“While in Israel and the West Bank, the Members will hold high-level meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, meet with various activists and stakeholders and spend meaningful time in areas important to the security of the region,” A press release stated. “The delegation will explore a variety of pressing issues, including the effort to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear capable, prospects for a two-state solution, the ongoing judicial reform debate, combating terror and the development of the Abraham Accords.”
The trip is organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, a nonprofit, charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC, America’s pro-Israel lobby.
Jeffries has traveled to Israel five times on AIPAC-sponsored trips since arriving to Congress in 2013 and this will be his second visit to the Jewish state this year as the Democratic House Minority Leader.
During his visit in April, Jeffries told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his government’s judicial overhaul plan makes it harder for them to defend Israel in the US.
He supports the two-state solution with the provision that any future Palestinian state should be a “demilitarized” one. He has been called “one of the most pro-Israel Democrats in the House” and in 2022 was the sixth-highest recipient of pro-Israel donations.
In 2020, Jeffries told an AIPAC conference, “back home in New York City we consider Jerusalem to be the sixth borough”. Indeed, his district, New York’s 8th Congressional District, is the 15th most Jewish congressional district in the country as of 2020.
Jeffries is a lifelong member of the Cornerstone Baptist Church.
Hoyer is also a powerful pro-Israel Democrat. In January 2017, Hoyer voted for a House resolution condemning UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which called Israeli settlement building a flagrant violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace. In 2017, he crossed party lines and supported President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Democratic party has historically received support from about 70% of the Jewish population and its pro-Israel platform reflected that. But that is changing. Most secular American Jews support a two-state solution and, as such, continue to vote Democrat. But anti-Zionist and even anti-Semitic elements are beginning to become more prominent in the party. Last month, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal made waves when she said “Israel is a racist state” last month while addressing pro-Palestine protesters who interrupted a panel discussion at the Netroots Nation conference in Chicago.Hakeem Jeffries was one of several Democrat lawmakers who chastised Jayapal.
More recently, Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) asked the Egyptian government to release Muslim Brotherhood senior leader Salah Soltan, a U.S. green card holder. Soltan, a prominent Muslim cleric in Egypt, called for the murder of Israeli tourists. Soltan claimed Jews use the blood of Christians to make bread. He also proposed “obliterating America” in a holy war.
In 2011, Soltan issued an Islamic religious decree ordering the death of Israel’s ambassador and Israeli tourists in Egypt. “As someone who has studied Islamic law, specializing in Islamic jurisprudence, I am calling to kill the [Israeli] ambassador, not just expel him,” Soltan said in a statement that aired on Al Jazeera and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
“Any Zionist—tourist or other—who enters Egypt must be killed,” he added. “We will not kill tourists from any [other] country. We stress that this fatwa is directed only toward those Zionists who destroyed our country, killed our people, and shed our blood on our land.”
“I want our brothers, and the whole world, to know what’s going on these days during Passover,” Soltan said in a 2010 appearance on the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa TV. “Every year, at this time, the Zionists kidnap several non-Muslims—Christians and others.”
“They took [a doctor] on one of these holidays and slaughtered him, along with the nurse,” Soltan continued. “Then they kneaded the matzos with the blood of Dr. Toma and his nurse. They do this every year,” he said.
Ironically, Cardin serves as the special representative for anti-Semitism to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Cardin submitted a statement to the congressional record last week claiming that Soltan “addresses his previously held anti-Semitic positions and remarks, apologizes for them and disavows them,”
Shebita, Soltan’s daughter-in-law who married his son Mohamed in 2017, has worked as a legislative aide to Cardin since last October, according to congressional records.
Soltan’s children have donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic lawmakers over the years, while petitioning for their father’s release. Soltan’s son, Mohamed, donated $5,800 to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) last year. Mohamed also gave at least $10,000 to Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in 2020 and $5,800 to Rep. Don Beyer (DVa.) in 2021.Soltan’s daughter, Hanaa, gave $47,000 to Biden’s campaign and $18,600 to the Democratic National Committee in 2020, according to campaign finance records.