- The former Multnomah County Commissioner is the elder sister of Progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash), one of the most outspoken critics of Israel.
The candidacy of Susheela Jayapal for the U.S. House of Representatives from Oregon’s 3rd District is alarming Portland Jewish leaders, according to a report in the Jewish Insider. She is the elder sister of Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus and is among the most outspoken critics of Israel in the U.S. Congress.
According to Jewish Insider, the concern stems from her action at an Oct. 12 county board meeting where she “declined to sign onto a statement condemning Hamas and standing with Israel.” This action has “fueled among local pro-Israel advocates who have yet to coalesce behind a viable candidate,” the publication added.
The report clarifies that until the meeting, the elder Jayapal “had no discernible history of public engagement” on the Middle East policy. However, now, “her approach to the war between Israel and Hamas suggests there is little distance between the two siblings on such matters.”
Susheela Jayapal was elected to represent District 2 on the county board in 2019, making her the first Indian American to win an elected county office in Oregon. She won a reelection campaign last year. Before joining the board, she worked as a corporate lawyer, most recently working as the general counsel for Adidas America.
On Oct. 12, Susheela Jayapal “voted to reject a resolution seeking to show unified support for lighting a Portland bridge in blue and white,” Jewish Insider reported, detailing the incidents at the county board meeting. “I don’t think I can acknowledge [the] loss of one group when there are Palestinian lives being lost as well,” Jayapal said, according to the report.
Susheela Jayapal’s remarks 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. It was signed by two commissioners and the county chair.
Amid the backlash, she issued a statement on the county website condemning “the Hamas’s appalling terror attack on Israel.” She pledged her support “to lighting the Morrison Bridge as a symbol of our absolute condemnation of violence in all its forms, and of our solidarity with the people of Israel in this moment of their grief.” She said her “heart breaks for all those across Israel and Palestine who are living in a state of war and continued violence; and for the loss and fear that all their families and friends here in Multnomah County are experiencing.” Noting that “no single statement can capture the complexities of the region’s history and current situation,” she emphasized that “all people deserve to live in peace, safety, and freedom.”
In a separate statement to Jewish Insider on Dec. 3, she said it was “unequivocally false” that she had sought to excise the Holocaust reference. “In fact, I had suggested the language that was ultimately used (‘the deadliest day for Jewish people since the Holocaust’) as an alternative to the original language, which I feel made an equivalency with the Holocaust, which is a singularly horrific event on an incomparable scale.”
Last week, she told the publication that had been “clear and consistent” about her support for lighting the bridge. “I said so from the dais in the public meeting, I said so in my statement afterwards, and I said so in local news interviews.”
Susheela Jayapal, who announced her candidacy on Nov. 1 said it is “more important than ever that we have an unwavering progressive voice in Congress. She cited community health and safety, abortion rights, climate change, and “standing up to election deniers” as her signature issues. She stepped down as Multnomah County Commissioner, a post she held since 2019, to enter the race after longtime Congressman Earl Blumenauer announced his retirement.
She told Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) that she “truly” believes this is a pivotal time for the district, for the state, for the country in so many different ways.” She continued: “We came through the pandemic, and where we have landed is in a place where there is more divisiveness than before. At the same time, we’ve got these challenges here locally where we need federal action and federal help.”