Democratic Rep. Ritchie Torres on Friday called far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir “a despicable disgusting dangerous demagogue,” in a highly rare criticism of a senior member of the Israeli government by one of Congress’s most ardent advocates for the Jewish state.
Torres made the swipe during a spat on X with left-wing political commentator Peter Beinart.
The freshman lawmaker representing the South Bronx of New York City had tweeted a condemnation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who claimed earlier this week that Hitler had Jews slaughtered because of their “social role” as moneylenders, not because of enmity toward Judaism.
Beinart responded by asking Torres whether he supports allowing Palestinians to hold elections, ostensibly predicting that the Democratic lawmaker would not because it could well lead to gains for Abbas’s rival, Hamas.
“Do you think Israelis can choose their leaders (including reprehensible ones) but Palestinians can’t?” Beinart asked.
Torres retorted that Hamas has no democratic legitimacy since it is a terror organization and blasted Beinart for suggesting as much.
Peter: No lectures? You are quick to lecture others, so I find it striking that the pot is suddenly calling the kettle black.
The fact that you are ascribing “democratic legitimacy” to the very terrorist organization, Hamas, that murdered your friend makes your comments more… https://t.co/U2q3XZyIuR
— Ritchie Torres (@RitchieTorres) September 8, 2023
Beinart claimed Torres was evading his question and pressed again: “If Palestinians don’t have the right to vote for Hamas, why do Israelis have the right to vote for Ben-Gvir?”
Torres replied that Ben Gvir is not morally equivalent to Hamas since the latter indiscriminately fires rockets at Israel.
“Do I think Ben Gvir is a despicable disgusting dangerous demagogue who has no business being anywhere near public office? Yes,” Torres clarified. “Ben Gvir is a racist who despises people who look like me (not like you), so I do not need a holier-than-thou lecture on racism from the sainted Peter Beinart.”
“So Israelis should be allowed to vote for Ben-Gvir because he’s not as bad. But why is enforcing apartheid (as attested by B’Tselem, Yesh Din, former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo, former Shin Bet head Ami Ayalon etc) better than Hamas’ cruelty to its own people and attacks on civilians?” Beinart shot back. Torres did not respond.
Last month, Ben Gvir claimed that his family’s right to travel in the West Bank “is more important than the right to movement for Arabs.” He later clarified that what he meant was that Israelis’ right to life is more important than Palestinians’ freedom of movement.
Prior to entering politics, Ben Gvir proudly hung a picture in his living room of Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish terrorist who gunned down 29 Palestinians at Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994. Ben Gvir says he has moderated his views in recent years.