Summer Lee Faces Momentous Challenge Ahead of Tuesday Primary Following Vocal Criticism of Israel

by Xara Aziz

Nearly two years after Jewish voters backed Congresswoman Summer Lee, despite hesitations they had about her views on Israel, the Democratic member of the House now faces tumult heading into Tuesday’s Democratic primary, after calling for an unconditional cease-fire in Gaza less than two weeks after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack against Israel.  

On Saturday, Lee was among 57 other House members who voted against a long-stalled bill providing aid to Israel, while she supported a bill for aid to Ukraine. Lee, among other progressive House Democrats, faces primary races partly due to their criticism of Israel.

This reflects the growing divide within the Democratic Party, exacerbated by the conflict in Gaza. The recent Hamas attack and the surge of antisemitism in the U.S. have heightened the significance of this debate, particularly in Pittsburgh. The city was shaken by the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue, the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history.

Rebecca Elhassid, a Pittsburg resident who previously supported Lee, believes that Lee’s voting record reflects an extreme minority position, more focused on national status than representing constituents, she told the Wall Street Journal. Elhassid, among others, is now backing Lee’s opponent, citing Lee’s absence at a local rally supporting Israel as evidence of her disconnect from the district’s Jewish community.

In March, Shine My Crown reported that over 40 Jewish leaders signed a letter voicing displeasure over comments Lee made about the Israel-Hamas war. In the letter, rabbis and cantors accused the congresswoman of imploring “divisive rhetoric” that “has [been] perceived as openly antisemitic.”

“Last fall we wrote to you with concerns about your rhetoric and votes in relation to the events of October 7 in Israel, the subsequent war and the rise in antisemitism in America,” the letter, obtained by Jewish Insider, reads. “You graciously agreed to meet with us, and in that meeting you promised us that you would call out antisemitism and temper your own language.”

The signatories added: “Sadly, three months later, you have not followed through on those commitments.”

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