Rep. Jeffries Blasts Socialist Group for Targeting Him With ‘Racist Trope’

DSA defends imagery, saying 'Watermelons, grown commonly in Palestine, have the same colors as the Palestinian flag.'
Rep. Jeffries Blasts Socialist Group for Targeting Him With ‘Racist Trope’
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) speaks at the march for Israel in Washington on Nov. 14, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Samantha Flom

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) has castigated the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) for using the “racially inflammatory” imagery of a watermelon slice to promote a pro-Palestinian protest outside the black congressman’s New York office.

The DSA used the image in a Nov. 15 social media post advertising a protest against Mr. Jeffries for his support of Israel amid the nation’s ongoing conflict with the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas.
“The watermelon has long been deployed as a dehumanizing racist trope by white supremacists in America,” wrote Andy Eichar, the minority leader’s New York communications director, in a statement.

Mr. Eichar added that the group’s use of the racially charged symbol “should come as no surprise given the role NYC-DSA and other gentrifiers have played in aggressively attacking black elected officials.”

Despite the backlash, the DSA defended its choice of imagery, explaining in another X post that the watermelon has become a symbol for the Palestinian flag amid a crackdown in Israel on hoisting the banner in public.
“Watermelons, grown commonly in Palestine, have the same colors at [sic] the Palestinian flag—red, green, and black,” the group noted.

United Front

Mr. Jeffries, often associated with members of the far-left “Squad,” drew the DSA's ire after speaking at the “March for Israel” rally in Washington on Nov. 14.

Addressing the tens-of-thousands-strong crowd on the National Mall, he vowed that Congress would support Israel’s right to exist “always and forever.”

“Hamas brutally attacked Israel on Oct. 7 because Hamas wants to wipe Israel off the face of the earth,” he said. “So, let me be clear: We will never let that happen.”

Mr. Jeffries also spoke out against the “cancer of anti-Semitism.” Noting that Jewish people have experienced repeated persecution throughout history, he stressed that Israel must remain a safe haven for Jews.

“We must stand with Israel in its effort to decisively defeat Hamas and make sure that this brutal terrorist regime can never rise again," he said. "We must make sure that every single hostage is returned home safely.

"And then we must stand together to secure a just and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.”

Other congressional leaders who participated in the pro-Israel rally included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.).

“There are few issues in Washington that could so easily bring together members of both parties and both chambers, but the survival of the state of Israel and her people unites us together, and it unites all Americans,” Mr. Johnson said.

Recalling Hamas’s brutal assault on Israel on Oct. 7, he added that calls by pro-Palestinian demonstrators for a ceasefire “are outrageous.”

“Hamas terrorists waged the bloodiest assault on Jewish lives since the Holocaust, and there are hundreds of hostages, many of them Americans, still stuck inside Gaza,” he said. “Israel will cease their counteroffensive when Hamas ceases to be a threat to the Jewish state.”

The DSA and other pro-Palestine organizations have accused Israel of committing “genocide” and “apartheid” in Gaza and the West Bank.

However, lawmakers on both the left and right have rejected such claims.  On Nov. 7, nearly two dozen Democrats joined with House Republicans to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), a DSA member, for her assertion that Hamas’s attack was “resistance” for “apartheid,” among other comments.

Other members of the "Squad" have been criticized for similar statements about Israel’s response to the attack. For instance, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), another DSA member, drew backlash in October for alleging that Israel had committed “war crimes” in its retaliation against Hamas.

While Mr. Jeffries is also often associated with the "Squad," his stance on Israel would appear to mark a departure from the rest of the group.

Jackson Richman contributed to this report.

Samantha Flom is a reporter for The Epoch Times covering U.S. politics and news. A graduate of Syracuse University, she has a background in journalism and nonprofit communications. Contact her at [email protected].