Jewish groups are outraged by remarks made by an activist who once organized a fundraiser for Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., and the congresswoman has yet to address them.
Neeven Ayesh, who describes herself as a political strategist in her Twitter bio, was said to have used the social media platform to make a number of inflammatory remarks against Israel and Jews over the years, including a blatant endorsement of violence. The since-deleted posts were captured by Canary Mission, an organization that works to expose hatred of the U.S., Israel, and Jews and Ayesh has admitted to posting them.
“I want to set Israel on fire with my own hands & watch it burn to ashes along with every Israeli in it,” Ayesh tweeted in February 2014. “Once again I want to personally set Israel & all the Israelis in it on fire & watch them burn to ashes. Burn you bastards #IHateYou,” she posted in March of that year. A few years earlier, in January 2011, she posted, “#crimesworthyoftherope being a Jew.”
Ayesh has addressed the tweets posted by Canary Mission in a thread posted on July 13. She acknowledged posting the tweets but claimed that she has changed since then.
“First and foremost, I want to take ownership and acknowledge how horrendous the context of those tweets actually are. I was young, dumb, & said horrible things that I never acted on, that I never would act on, because I am not that person,” Ayesh tweeted on July 13. She went on to explain that her words came from a place of “pain & anger,” she had spent time in the Palestinian territories and that during that period, “the only interaction I ever had with a Jewish person was through the IDF.”
She then defended herself by noting the timing of the messages.
“If you look at the dates/years they were sent out, it was always, always after chaos occurred back home. Chaos that resulted in a lot of blood shed & loss,” she said.
While Ayesh’s more recent tweets about Israel and Jews have not expressly endorsed violence, she continues to put forward messages against Israel and Jews, such as one from July 14, in which she posted a meme denigrating “White zionists” from New York.
Now, Jewish groups are questioning Bush over Ayesh’s comments, and the congresswoman herself has also expressed an anti-Israel view, accusing the Jewish state of having an “apartheid system.”
“What part of this anti-Semitic activist did Rep. Bush not know about? Her wish to see Israel and the world’s largest Jewish community burn and be reduced to ashes? Her support for Hamas terrorism?” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, asked according to Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom. “Do these sentiments reflect Cori Bush’s worldview? If not, say so and return the money!”
Liora Rez, the executive editor of watchdog site StopAntisemitism.org, noted that Bush’s newly-redrawn district now includes a significant Jewish community.
“How can her constituents trust her to represent them when she profits off of someone who wants to ‘watch Israel burn to ashes, along with every Israeli in it?’” she asked.
So far, Bush, a member of the group of left-wing House members known as the “Squad,” has not weighed in on this.
Bush is up for reelection this November. Her Democratic primary opponent, Missouri State Senator Steve Roberts, posted an open letter earlier this month addressing the situation. “It has now been reported that my opponent, Cori Bush, has the ongoing financial and electoral support of Neveen Ayesh and other activists who openly call for antisemitic terrorism and violence against Jews and the State of Israel,” Roberts said, adding that “Cori Bush is being paid by hate and she knows it.”
In a twist, Roberts has his own history with Ayesh. She told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she dated him and that the two lived together for nearly two years. Roberts acknowledged the relationship in his open letter, but downplayed it by saying that they “briefly dated” years ago, “before I knew of her extreme political beliefs.”
Ayesh responded to the letter by tweeting that she will be “seeing him in court.”