WASHINGTON – U.S. Congressman-elect Ritchie Torres, who has described himself as a “pro-Israel progressive,” said Monday he won’t align himself with the four Democratic representatives known as “the Squad” due to their criticism of Israel.
“I came to observe that there are activists who have a visceral hatred for Israel as though it were the root of all evil,” Torres, one of two openly gay Black candidates elected to Congress last month, told the New York Post. “The act of singling out Israel as BDS has done is the definition of discrimination,” he added, referring to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
Torres also told the Post about two formative trips he took to Israel in 2015 and 2017 while serving on New York City Council. “I remember meeting a family in Sderot [close to the Gaza border]. And I had no concept of what it was like to live in a city that lives under the fear of rocket fire. I’m going to make the case that the progressive position is a two-state solution and promoting dignity for both the Israelis and the Palestinians,” he said.
Torres, 32, represents New York’s 15th district, which includes the South Bronx, and his comments are his latest attempt to distance himself from the progressive camp that includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley.
In August, he tweeted that “the leadership of the [Democratic Socialists of America] declines to affirm that the State of Israel should exist. ‘Insane’ is the word that comes to mind.”
That tweet echoed comments he made during a Jewish Insider interview last year, where he stated that he doesn’t see himself in lockstep with much of the progressive movement. “I am from the Bronx, I’m Afro-Latino, I’m Puerto Rican, I’m a millennial – but I’m also pro-Israel,” he said. “The notion that you cannot be both progressive and pro-Israel is a vicious lie, because I am the embodiment of a pro-Israel progressive.”
Also last August, following the Israel-United Arab Emirates peace accord, Torres said: “I never imagined living in a world where the Sunni Arab world is friendlier to Israel than some elements of progressive politics.”
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Torres has previously termed the BDS movement “an insidious form of antisemitism.” He has built up close ties with Israeli diplomats in the United States over the past several years. Dani Dayan, former consul general of Israel in New York, previously told Haaretz that they developed a close friendship over the years and described Torres’ love and support for Israel as “heartwarming.”
Torres also joined Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer’s virtual event in honor of LGBTQ Pride Month last June.