October 11, 2023

Chairman Aguilar: House Democrats are committed to the safety, security and prosperity of the State of Israel

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar and Vice Chair Ted Lieu held a press conference alongside House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gregory W. Meeks and Vice Ranking Member Kathy Manning to reiterate House Democrats’ commitment to Israel and ending the Extreme MAGA Republican chaos.

CHAIRMAN AGUILAR: Good morning. It was a productive but somber, bipartisan Member briefing this morning, followed by the Democratic Caucus meeting, all of us grappling with the horrific terrorist violence unleashed on the Israeli people. Every hour, we're learning more details of the atrocities perpetrated by the Hamas terrorists. We mourn the loss of life, including the many American citizens who have been killed. May the memories of all the innocent victims be a blessing. 

I'm pleased this morning to be joined by the House Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Gregory Meeks, and the Vice Ranking Member of Foreign Affairs Kathy Manning. Our caucus is committed to the safety, security and prosperity of the State of Israel. 

This week, we hope our Republican colleagues will put an end to the self-inflicted chaos so that we can begin to govern on behalf of the American people, which includes Congressional action to support Israel in their time of need. 

Leader Hakeem Jeffries has offered an enlightened vision for a bipartisan governing coalition to pull the House back from the brink. We can pass meaningful legislation that meets the needs of the American people by lowering costs, creating jobs and building safer communities while fulfilling our responsibilities like helping our allies abroad and meeting the needs of our national security. That's what leaders do, and that's exactly why the House Democratic Caucus unanimously voted to nominate Hakeem Jeffries for Speaker of the House yesterday. Now I’d like to introduce Vice Chair Ted Lieu.

VICE CHAIR LIEU: Thank you, Chairman Aguilar. I strongly condemn the brutal invasion by Hamas in Israel, and the barbaric acts committed against Israelis, American citizens and citizens of other nations. There are no words strong enough in the English language to describe the unspeakable evil perpetrated by Hamas. Last Saturday was the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the end of the Holocaust. 

Let me now just state the obvious. Hamas is not interested in peace. Hamas is a genocidal, homicidal, religiously fanatical terrorist organization. It has two goals, to slaughter Jews and to annihilate the State of Israel. Its founding charter tells its members to kill Jews and to destroy Israel. Hamas beheads babies, murders the elderly and wipes out entire families. The world has seen the many of evil that Hamas uses to inflict maximum terror and maximum suffering. There can be no path towards peace until Hamas is dismantled. 

Israel not only has a right to defend itself, Israel has a right to make sure these atrocities never ever happen again. The American people have stood with Israel, and will continue to stand with Israel for as long as it takes to dismantle and destroy Hamas. Now it's my great pleasure to introduce one of the smartest people I know in [the House Committee on] Foreign Affairs, the Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Greg Meeks.

RANKING MEMBER MEEKS: Thank you, Mr. Vice Chair, Mr. Chair. First, let me just say that after receiving the confirmation of the killing and beheading of children, toddlers, infants, it shows that when you talk about Hamas, they are really ISIS. The same kind of killing, horrendous, inhumane actions. This attack is truly unprecedented. When you consider the size of Israel's population, proportionally, it would be like 30,000 people dying in my home city of New York on 9/11. The dead are women, children, the elderly, Holocaust survivors, civilians, soldiers and now confirmed babies were beheaded. Women were raped, people shot, stabbed and blown up with grenades. One thing that every human being on this planet must acknowledge is that Hamas exists for one reason, and one reason only, to destroy Israel. You can't have peace in a region if someone’s existence is to say that you can't exist, that you should not exist. We were moving and continue to move to use diplomacy to try to get other states. This is why the Abraham Accords are so important. Because for the first time you're getting other nations to say Israel has the right to exist, and we're going to figure out how to work together. That's never Hamas. I believe Hamas has seen this coming and know that their existence would be wiped out and they caused this thinking that they can destroy Israel. That's not going to happen.

Second, I want to acknowledge that there are innocent Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank that hope to just live normal and free lives. They want nothing to do with Hamas. Hamas is their enemy too. Because what the cowardly people of Hamas does is use them as human shields to try to hide the weapons, the strategy and the things that they are doing. So, I just want to make sure that we cannot lose sight of this. We must keep these Palestinian people and their safety and livelihoods in mind as we crush Hamas.

And finally, one of my deepest concerns is that there's a chance that this war can expand beyond its current scope. And I know that our administration and our allies are working around the clock to send messages and warnings to Iran and Hezbollah to stay out. I hope also that until we know more, we are all cautious about how we speak about Iran's role in public. We don’t want a widening conflict. We are living in a very dangerous time. We want to get the facts and we want to act accordingly, staying by our true values. But there's one thing that I think is absolutely clear, it was clear in the classified session, it was clear in our Democratic Caucus, we are going to stand by Israel and make sure that we defend and give them what they need to defend themselves until this is won. And the last thing, I just say this because in the spirit of what Leader Jeffries has talked about trying to govern in a bipartisan way. In that same spirit, I reached out and worked and talked to Chairman McCaul and we've come up with, and we came out with a joint statement, and we've worked out a joint resolution. The problem is the dysfunction on that side of the aisle that we cannot do anything until they decide what they're going to do with reference to a Speaker. But I think it's significant and important, and we're working collectively together to try to make sure that whenever that dysfunction ends, and they can come up with the Speaker, that one of the first thing that can be voted is a joint resolution from Congress saying that we stand with our friend. Now it's my pleasure to call up the Vice Ranking Member of our distinguished committee, Kathy Manning.

VICE RANKING MEMBER MANNING: Thank you, Ranking Member Meeks, thank you to my colleagues. I‘m Kathy Manning, I'm the Vice Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. This has been a shocking and horrifying time for our democratic ally Israel and for the American Jewish community. 

None of us could have imagined the horrific barbarism of the Hamas terrorists who invaded a sovereign nation and democracy and literally went door to door slaughtering families in their homes, beheading babies, committing a massacre of young people at an outdoor concert, taking civilians hostage, babies, the elderly, all ages in between. Now they have stated that they will execute these hostages one by one on video and share these gruesome videos with the world. 

I want to thank President Biden for his strong statement yesterday and his unequivocal support of Israel. We in the U.S. Congress will do everything in our power to stand with Israel and make sure they have everything they need to win this war against the Hamas terrorists. 

Let me remind the press that this is not a time for false moral equivalencies. Hamas terrorists are just that. They are not militants. They are not freedom fighters. They are terrorists, just as ISIS fighters and Al-Qaeda fighters are terrorists. Hamas terrorizes and misuses its own people, the people it is supposed to govern in Gaza. And we have seen the true face of Hamas, their horrific acts toward everyday people, Israeli Americans, other nationalities last Saturday. I urge patience as Israel does what it must to dismantle the Hamas terrorist entity, to stop the aggressions of Hezbollah and Lebanon, to protect the Israeli people. Israel will win this war and the United States will stand by Israel's side in this fight for democracy and humanity.

Video of the full press conference and Q&A can be viewed here.