As Israeli troops massed on the border of the Gaza Strip and carried out an intense bombing campaign in response to the Hamas attack on border towns over the weekend, Rep. Jake Auchincloss, D-Mass., called for more unchecked violence from the Israeli state.
Auchincloss’s Monday comments came in response to Sen. Edward Markey’s calls for deescalation during a rally in Boston. “The United States and the international community must keep pushing for diplomacy and the ending of civilian casualties on all sides,” Markey said. “There must be a deescalation of the current violence.” The audience erupted in boos, prompting Auchincloss to speak up.
“Now is not the time for equivocation,” Auchincloss said. “Hamas is an internationally recognized terrorist organization that is executing and raping civilians. Israel is a liberal democracy with the right and responsibility to defend itself and its citizens. … Deescalation is not possible when they are taking hostages. And Israel did not ask America to deescalate on September 12, 2001.”
Auchincloss participated in the U.S. military response to 9/11 as an officer in Afghanistan. That conflict ended in a bloody defeat for America after tens of thousands of civilian and military casualties. He is angling for a run to replace Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, the outgoing co-chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, a position that would put him on a path for a role in Democratic Party leadership.
During its attack on Saturday, Hamas took more than 100 hostages, some of them believed to be U.S. citizens. The group announced on Monday that it will begin executing hostages if the bombing of civilians in Gaza continues. Already, the Israeli Air Force and Navy have targeted hospitals, mosques, and U.N.-funded schools, leading to hundreds of civilian casualties. With the only border crossing, controlled by Egypt, disrupted by the bombing, Gaza residents’ options for exiting were further limited amid the ongoing bombardment and expected ground invasion.
Auchincloss’s spokesperson Matt Corridoni evaded The Intercept’s questions about whether the lawmaker is aware of the steep price American and Israeli civilians held hostage will pay to further the war in Israel, and whether he believes the U.S. response to 9/11 was a success.
“Congressman Auchincloss is well aware of the horrors of Hamas and the need for the United States to stand up for democracy at home and abroad,” Corridoni wrote in an email. “His comments reflect what the majority of Americans believe to be true: there is no ‘both sides’ to a terrorist organization dragging Jewish people from their homes and murdering them.”
Auchincloss’s apparent willingness to sacrifice American and Israeli lives to retaliate against Hamas mirrors statements made by Israeli far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, one of the extremist pro-settler parliamentarians with whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sharing power. Smotrich declared that Israel must “Hit Hamas brutally and not take the matter of the captives into significant consideration,” during a Cabinet meeting on Saturday. “In war you have to be brutal.”
Auchincloss’s position was echoed by other members of the House, including Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., who has similarly called for escalating violence against Gaza. “Hamas has announced it will begin murdering civilian hostages, one by one, and broadcasting its barbarity for the world to see. Let there be no confusion about the nature of the war between Israel and Hamas. It is: Good vs. Evil Civilization vs. Barbarism Self-Defense vs. Aggression If you murder civilians and children in cold blood, you do not get to claim the moral high ground. Neither do your enablers, with their endless excuse-making for terrorism,” Torres tweeted on Monday.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken called for a ceasefire over the weekend, later deleting his tweet amid a sea of backlash. On Sunday night, Blinken tweeted “Turkish Foreign Minister @HakanFidan and I spoke further on Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel, I encouraged Türkiye’s advocacy for a cease-fire and the release of all hostages held by Hamas immediately.” By Monday afternoon, the tweet was gone.
Few members of Congress have acknowledged the violence of Israel’s assault on Gaza. Among those who spoke out was Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who responded to the news of Israel’s imposition of a siege on Gaza in a thread of tweets. “We must learn from the mistakes of our own war on terror,” she wrote, adding that the United States ought to oppose any international law violations if it truly supports a rules-based international order. “Instead of continuing unconditional weapons sales and military aid to Israel, I urge the United States at long last to use its diplomatic might to push for peace.”
Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., shared similar sentiments on Saturday, mourning the hundreds of Israeli and Palestinians killed and thousands injured, calling for an “immediate ceasefire and de-escalation to prevent further loss of life.” Israel proceeded to escalate its attacks on Gaza that have since led to hundreds of deaths.
Markey did not respond to The Intercept’s request for comment.