It is a rare occasion when Southwest Washington’s state and federal representatives, senators and governor agree.
Rarer, still, is the occasion that led to their agreement this week. According to the Associated Press, an Oct.7 attack on Israel by Hamas has killed “more than 1,300 people in Israel, including 247 soldiers — a toll unseen in Israel for decades.”
The unexpected strike against mostly civilian Israelis prompted a counter-attack that, the AP reported Thursday, has killed more than 1,530 people in Gaza and roughly 1,500 Hamas militants inside Israel, according to Israeli authorities. Israeli troops entered Gaza on Friday after advising civilians to flee.
Hamas is a militant group that has ruled Gaza, Palestine’s largest city, since the years following the Israeli occupation of the area, which ended in 2005.
With last weekend’s events and a still-growing death toll, state, federal and local lawmakers were united in their solidarity with Israel.
Washington Senate Minority Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, and Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, sent a joint letter on Wednesday urging Gov. Jay Inslee to fly an Israeli flag at the state Capitol and to lower state flags to half-mast.
“The surprise attack by Hamas on Saturday, Oct. 7 resulted in the largest loss of Jewish lives in a single day since the Holocaust. News sources report that more than a dozen Americans are among the dead. Hamas has abducted men, women, children and elderly people,” wrote Billig and Braun in the letter, later adding, “It is critical for governments around the world to stand with the Israeli people and for peace in the region. There is no moral equivalence between self-defense in war and the murder of innocent civilians.”
The governor flew an Israeli flag in Olympia the next day. Inslee, in a statement, said he hoped the action would show solidarity with the injured, honor the lives lost and call for the safe release of hostages.
State senators’ and representatives’ offices are not permitted to spend resources on things without a “legislative nexus,” according to Washington Senate Republican Communications Director Kimberly Wirtz. Still, legislators are welcome to make statements on their own time.
Braun, in an interview, said he wasn’t sure yet how the Israel and Hamas conflict would impact Washington, but noted a rise of “antisemitism in recent years in our state and our country” and warned citizens should “be on guard against this” to prevent future violence.
“It should be unacceptable,” Braun said.
State Rep. Peter Abbarno, R-Centralia, provided a similar statement.
“The attacks launched against Israel and innocent civilians should be condemned by all. I stand strongly with Israel’s right to defend itself, secure the return of hostages and prevent future attacks,” Abbarno wrote in a message. “We sadly watched the horrifying and inhumane killing by Hamas of women and children and the United States and state of Washington should boldly rebuke any attempts by radical groups and individuals to justify the actions of Hamas or any of their partners or allies.”
At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Washougal, who represents Southwest Washington, joined two other Democratic representatives on the “Blue Dog Coalition” in a call for the U.S. to freeze Iranian assets.
The coalition, chaired by Gluesenkamp Perez and Reps. Jared Golden, D-Maine, and Mary Sattler Peltola, D-Alaska, is a Democratic Congressional caucus “dedicated to pursuing fiscally responsible policies, ensuring a strong national defense and transcending party lines,” according to its website.
Reuters reported Thursday an anonymous U.S. intelligence official said Iran was “likely aware” of the Palestinian militant group’s plans to attack Israel, but that Washington D.C. has no evidence Iran directed or orchestrated the devastating attack. The country has openly expressed its support for Hamas and Saturday’s attack.
“We cannot tolerate, excuse or forget these attacks and we must stand with the people of Israel as they stood with us after the attacks of September 11,” wrote Gluesenkamp Perez, Golden and Sattler Peltola on Thursday. “The United States needs to hold on to our options for holding Iran accountable for any assistance it may have provided the perpetrators of these atrocities. To that end, we should immediately freeze the $6 billion in Iranian assets currently under scrutiny and consider the full range of financial responses available to us. Money is fungible, and there is a well-documented history of Iran funding Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations opposed to the existence of Israel.”
Avoiding the possibility of “financing of future acts of terrorism,” the coalition chairs wrote, “is the least we can do to ensure our ally Israel can defend itself.”
U.S. Sens. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, and Maria Cantwell, D-Seattle, both followed suit.
Murray affirmed “unwavering support” for Israel in a statement, writing that Hamas is a terrorist organization that “makes no secret of its plainly antisemitic mission to wipe Jews off the face of the earth.”
She called for a “crystal clear” definition of the moment as a tragedy and Hamas as a terrorist group, saying the actions of Oct. 7 were “genocidal” and had “nothing to do with Palestinian liberation or the will of the Palestinian people. … (Hamas) carried out this brutal attack with full knowledge that it would put innocent Palestinians in harm’s way.”
The Jewish community in Washington is aching after the weekend, Murray wrote.
“For Jews here at home and around the world, this attack feels intensely personal, deeply terrifying, and recalls centuries of antisemitic abuse, trauma and expulsion embedded in their own family histories,” she said.
Cantwell spoke at the Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle on Wednesday for a vigil honoring those in Israel. Her press secretary also provided a statement the Senator initially released on Oct. 7.
“We must stand in solidarity with Israel in repelling this brutal attack on civilians and their towns,” Cantwell said. “My heart goes out to the victims of these terrorist attacks and I am praying for civilians caught up in the fighting. We must ensure full U.S. support for Israel to defend itself and work to avoid further escalation and a wider war.”
A recording of the Wednesday vigil is available at facebook.com/templedehirschsinai.