Nov 15, 2023 - News

Prominent Colorado lawmaker calls Israel war "genocide"

State Rep. Iman Jodeh at the Capitol in 2023. Photo: RJ Sangosti/Denver Post via Getty Images

State Rep. Iman Jodeh at the Capitol in 2023. Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A prominent Colorado lawmaker is blasting Israel's role in the war in Gaza and the thousands of civilian deaths, saying "we can no longer deny that there's a genocide happening."

Driving the news: State Rep. Iman Jodeh (D-Aurora) told Axios Denver that the U.S. government is complicit in the death toll topping 10,000, and the Biden administration needs to be held accountable for the "massacre" in the Middle East.

  • She called on President Biden and congressional leaders to end their "unconditional support" for Israel.

What they're saying: "Women and kids and babies are being killed wholesale, and our tax dollars are making us complicit," she told John in an interview this week.

Why it matters: Jodeh is the first Palestinian-American and Muslim elected to state or federal office in Colorado, and she has become an outspoken counterforce to pro-Israel sentiment from leaders in her own political party.

The latest: Her remarks are her strongest to date about Israel's military operation against Hamas, and they come amid escalating global protests and a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

  • Earlier in the conflict, Jodeh — who has family in Palestine and owns property in the West Bank — said she felt the need to "temper" her public statements. But now she's speaking louder to "elevate the plight of the Palestinian people," she said.
  • "We as Coloradans, Americans, Arabs and supporters alike want to make sure our voice is heard, but right now, we very much feel like that's muffled."

The other side: The "genocide" remark drew an immediate rebuke from fellow Democratic state Sen. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, who was born in Tel Aviv and whose family still lives there.

  • "I am devastated by the rhetoric of genocide because I feel that is a slap in the face for survivors of genocide," she told us. "I, too, mourn the absolutely tragic amount of death that is happening in Israel and Palestine, but I don't blame Israel, I blame Hamas."

Yes, but: Jodeh said she "should be able to ask for Palestinian rights not to be controversial."

Of note: U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) made similar pro-Palestinian statements that led to vocal objections from other Democrats and her censure by the Republican-led U.S. House.

What to watch: Jodeh is calling on the state's congressional delegation to not support sending military and financial aid to Israel for the war effort.

  • U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Rep. Jason Crow, Democrats with key roles in national security and foreign affairs oversight, did not respond to our questions about the matter.

The bottom line: The domestic fallout from the Israel-Hamas war will continue to loom large in Colorado and potentially extend to the coming legislative session in January.

  • Two other state lawmakers have family in Israel on either side of the conflict, and Jared Polis is the state's first Jewish governor.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show Dafna Michaelson Jenet is a state senator, not representative.

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