Senator Ed Markey faces backlash for urging de-escalation in Israel-Hamas conflict

Senator Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, was booed by a crowd of pro-Israel supporters at a rally in Boston Common on Monday after he called for a de-escalation of violence in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. Markey, who is known for his progressive stance on foreign policy, spoke alongside other state and local politicians who expressed solidarity with Israel and condemned the attacks by Hamas as “acts of terror”.

Markey started his speech by saying, “Israel’s people have the right to live in their rightful homeland free from fear, free from violence.” He denounced the “heinous attacks” and “vicious murders” committed by Hamas against innocent civilians, children, and soldiers and called for the release of hostages. But he also warned against antagonizing the militant organization.

Ed Markey

“Hamas wants continued instability, not normalization,” Markey said. “They are violent extremists, they gain support when there is a crisis. That is why the United States and the international community must keep pushing for diplomacy and the ending of civilian casualties on all sides.”

“There must be a de-escalation of the current violence,” he continued.

His remarks were met with loud boos and jeers from the audience, who drowned out his attempts to keep speaking for nearly a minute. Some people shouted “Shame on you!” and “You don’t speak for us!” while others waved Israeli flags and signs that read “Stand with Israel” and “Hamas = Terror”.

Markey’s position contrasts with other speakers

Markey’s call for de-escalation contrasted with the messages of other speakers at the rally, who expressed unequivocal support for Israel’s right to defend itself and criticized Hamas for its indiscriminate rocket attacks and use of human shields. Among them were Senator Elizabeth Warren, Attorney General Maura Healey, Governor Charlie Baker, and several members of Congress.

Warren said that she stands with Israel “in its fight against terrorism” and that “the United States will always be there to help our ally.” She also expressed sympathy for the Palestinian civilians who are suffering under Hamas’s rule and called for a two-state solution that respects the dignity and security of both peoples.

Healey said that she was “proud to stand with Israel” and that “there is no moral equivalence between a democratic nation defending itself and a terrorist organization that targets civilians.” She also urged the Biden administration to continue providing military aid and diplomatic support to Israel.

Baker said that he was “horrified by the images coming out of Israel” and that “the people of Massachusetts stand with our friends in Israel.” He also praised the Iron Dome system for intercepting most of the rockets fired by Hamas and saving lives.

Rep. David Auchincloss, who spoke after Markey, gave a very different address, which was met positively by the crowd. “De-escalation is not possible when they are taking hostages,” he said. “Israel did not ask America to de-escalate on Sept. 12, 2001. We stand with Israel.”

Markey faces criticism from pro-Israel groups

Markey’s speech at the rally was not the first time he faced criticism from pro-Israel groups for his position on the conflict. On Sunday, he issued a statement condemning the attack by Hamas on Israel and expressing sadness for the loss of civilian life. He also called for de-escalation, diplomacy, and avertion of bloodshed.

“I condemn this heinous attack on Israel, and am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of civilian life. We must do everything in our power to de-escalate violence, engage diplomacy, and avert bloodshed. A war between Israel and Palestine would be catastrophic,” he said.

His statement was denounced by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), which accused him of being “out of touch” with his constituents and “parroting” the talking points of Hamas. The RJC also launched an online petition calling on Markey to retract his statement and apologize to Israel.

“Senator Markey’s statement is disgraceful. He is out of touch with his constituents, who overwhelmingly support Israel’s right to self-defense. He is parroting the talking points of Hamas, which wants to portray itself as a victim while it launches thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians. He should retract his statement and apologize to Israel immediately,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks.

Markey has not responded to the RJC’s petition or the backlash he received at the rally. He has been a vocal advocate for human rights, environmental justice, and nuclear disarmament throughout his career. He co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 and supported the Iran nuclear deal in 2015.

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