WASHINGTON — Former US House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday that she thinks some protests in the United States demanding a ceasefire in Gaza could be linked to Russia, and that the FBI should conduct a probe into their funding.
Her comments were dismissed as “unsubstantiated smears” by some rights advocates, who said such remarks amounted to dehumanization of the Palestinian people.
Pelosi, who made the remarks in a CNN interview, provided no evidence for her claims. She was asked whether opposition to President Joe Biden’s policy in the war in Gaza could hurt the Democrats in November’s presidential election.
“For them to call for a ceasefire is Mr. Putin’s message. Make no mistake, this is directly connected to what [Russian President Vladimir Putin] would like to see,” Pelosi told CNN.
“I think some of these protesters are spontaneous, and organic and sincere. Some I think are connected to Russia,” she said. “Some financing should be investigated and I want to ask the FBI to investigate that.”
Pelosi’s comments marked the first time a prominent US lawmaker has accused Russia’s leader of backing US protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The Russian embassy in Washington was not immediately available to comment.
Protests demanding a ceasefire in Gaza have recently occurred across the US, including near airports and bridges in New York City and Los Angeles, vigils outside the White House, and marches in Washington. Demonstrators have also interrupted Biden’s speeches and events.
The protests have been organized by a range of human rights, Jewish and anti-war activist groups.
“It is unconscionable that an individual with such influence in this nation would spread unsubstantiated smears targeting those who seek an end to the slaughter of civilians in Gaza and a just resolution to that conflict. Her comments once again show the negative impact of decades of dehumanization of the Palestinian people,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Democratic US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Sunday that opposition by many to the war in Gaza was based on “the indiscriminate loss of life” in the region.
“I think what we are seeing right now throughout the country is that young people are appalled at the violence and the indiscriminate loss of life,” she told NBC News when asked about the protests against Biden’s policy in Gaza.
The UN has demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, but Washington has vetoed resolutions for such calls in the United Nations Security Council, saying it would let the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which governs Gaza, regroup and rebuild.
Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel on October 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking another 253 hostage in Gaza. Israel’s subsequent campaign in Gaza has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza, an unverified figure which includes close to 10,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in fighting, as well as people killed by Hamas’s own misfired rockets.