Washington: Pro-Israel lobbyists in the US state of Oregon may oppose the candidacy of Indian-American Susheela Jayapal from the state’s 3rd Congressional District, a media report said.
The elder sister of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Susheela announced last month that she was looking to succeed Representative Earl Blumenauer from the District, which includes parts of Portland, and is a Democratic stronghold.
According to a Jewish Insider report, the Congressional candidacy of the former Multnomah county commissioner is “alarming Portland Jewish leaders”.
A major source of contention stems from a Multnomah county board meeting days after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel. During the meeting, Susheela Jayapal voted to reject a resolution seeking to show unified support for lighting a Portland bridge in blue and white — the colours of Israeli flag.
“I don’t think I can acknowledge (the) loss of one group when there are Palestinian lives being lost as well,” Susheela said of the resolution.
In addition, she drew heightened scrutiny from Jewish and pro-Israel leaders after she chose not to include her name on a joint statement condemning Hamas and standing with Israel as well as Portland’s Jewish community.
“We were disappointed that she didn’t sign on… I can only surmise that she didn’t feel like it was balanced,” Bob Horenstein, the director of community relations at the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland, had told Jewish Insider.
Sharon Meieran, the Jewish commissioner on Multnomah County’s board, alleged that Susheela Jayapal had also tried to remove a Holocaust reference from the draft statement.
Jayapal said in a statement to the Insider that it was “unequivocally false” that she had sought to excise the Holocaust reference. On the same day, she issued a statement saying: “My heart breaks for all those across Israel and Palestine who are living in a state of war and continued violence.”
Despite her opposition to the county board resolution, Susheela Jayapal told the Insider last week that she had been “clear and consistent” about her support for lighting the bridge.
Democratic Majority for Israel is “closely” following the Portland race but is still weighing where it will direct its resources, sources familiary with the matter told Insider. A spokesperson for American Israel Public Affairs Committe told the news outlet that the group is “in the process of evaluating congressional races” but has “made no decisions at this time”.
With six months to go until the May primary, a pro-Israel leader in Portland who opposes Susheela Jayapal, said the race is almost certain to draw more candidates, setting up a potential clash between “an anti-Israel progressive and a pro-Israel progressive”.
Susheela Jayapal said in her campaign that her top issues include abortion rights, gun safety and climate change. She said she is “committed to ensuring America lives up to its promise of opportunity for all, with no community left behind; and to the vision of a country that we can be proud to leave to our children and our grandchildren”.
Her sister Pramila — the most outspoken critics of Israel in the House — has endorsed her bid and called for grassroots donors to support her campaign.