U.S. House Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., has never supported Hamas terrorists despite false accusations Republican Gov. Tate Reeves hurled at the State’s only Black congressman over the weekend. Hamas is the ruling political organization in Gaza that launched a bloody terrorist attack on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,400 in Israel as militants took at least 199 people hostage.
In social media posts on Friday, Oct. 13, Reeves called on Brandon Presley, his Democratic opponent in the Nov. 7 election for governor, “to return the money that Bennie Thompson raised for him at their DC fundraisers” because “Presley should not accept funds from those who oppose Israel and side with terrorists.”
But Thompson, the Democratic ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, spent much of last week publicly condemning Hamas and vowing to support Israel in interviews on MSNBC, Mississippi Public Broadcasting and on Twitter.
While speaking with MSNBC host Katie Phang on Oct. 8, the congressman warned that unless U.S. House Republicans choose a new speaker of the House soon, “Israel is at risk” because Congress will not be able to pass funds to help. On Oct. 10, Thompson, who represents Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district, tweeted that the U.S. “is in total solidarity with Israel and we condemn the actions on Hamas.”
Reeves’ accusation did not stem from anything the Democratic congressman did or said but was based on the fact that Thompson was among 13 Democrats who did not cosponsor a House resolution condemning Hamas and vowing to support Israel. Failing to cosponsor a resolution does not indicate whether a member will vote for or against it, but the bill will not come up for a vote until Republicans select a speaker. Thompson’s office did not respond to a request for comment by press time this morning.
On Oct. 12, the day before the Republican governor falsely accused the representative of supporting Hamas, Thompson told MPB that “we have to support Israel and help them defend themselves against these kinds of situations.”
But that did not stop Reeves.
“Today, everyone in congress except 13 Democrats including AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Mississippi’s own Bennie Thompson signed a bipartisan proclamation supporting Israel,” Reeves tweeted on Oct. 13, also singling out Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat of Puerto Rican descent who represents New York, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Somalia-born Muslim-American Democrat who represents Minnesota.
“It is disgusting to see a Mississippian standing with Hamas against Israel! He is the top backer of my opponent for governor Brandon Presley,” the governor said. But like Rep. Thompson, Presley expressed support for Israel on Oct. 8.
Thompson responded to the false attack several hours later, quote-tweeting his own post from Oct. 10.
“I announced my support for Israel on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. I am eager to get back to work in Congress, and I call on @tatereeves to rally the Republican party to elect a speaker so we can vote to help the people of Israel,” the congressman wrote.
It is true, however, that Thompson held a fundraiser for Presley in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 5; a number of other notable Mississippians attended the event, including actor Morgan Freeman and author John Grisham.
You can see a timeline of Thompson and Reeves’ comments on the attacks in a timeline at the bottom of this story.
‘We Cannot Lose Sight of the Humanity In Each Other’
Neither Rep. Thompson nor any other Democratic House members, including those Reeves singled out, have ever expressed support for Hamas. A handful of House Democrats have, however, expressed concern for Palestinian civilians in Gaza and harshly criticized Israel’s response to the attacks.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat whose parents are Palestinian immigrants, has been one of Congress’ fiercest critics of Israel’s government, though she has never endorsed Hamas. She has long described the Israeli government’s relationship with Palestinians as one of “apartheid” and called for the country to respect the human rights of Palestinians.
“I grieve the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost yesterday, today, and every day,” she said in a statement on Oct. 8. “I am determined as ever to fight for a just future where everyone can live in peace, without fear and with true freedom, equal rights, and human dignity. … The failure to recognize the violent reality of living under siege, occupation, and apartheid makes no one safer. No person, no child anywhere should have to suffer or live in fear of violence. We cannot ignore the humanity in each other. As long as our country provides billions in unconditional funding to support the apartheid government, this heartbreaking cycle of violence will continue.”
In another statement on Oct. 13, Tlaib accused the Biden administration of “failing in its duty to protect all civilian and American lives in Gaza.”
“I cannot believe I have to beg our country to value every human life, no matter their faith or ethnicity. We cannot lose sight of the humanity in each other,” the Michigan congresswoman said.
Few Democrats have echoed Tlaib’s views, however, and Thompson is not among them; instead, she and Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., have faced criticism from fellow Democrats for their views on funding Israel’s military activities. On the day of the attack, Bush said in a statement that “violations of human rights do not justify more violation of human rights” and urged fellow Americans to “stop this violence and trauma by ending U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid.”
“U.S. aid to Israel is and should be unconditional, and never more so than in this moment of critical need,” Rep. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., told Jewish Insider, calling Tlaib and Bush’s remarks “reprehensible and repulsive.” Thompson has not commented on their views.
As of Oct. 14, figures from the Palestinian Ministry of Health showed that Israeli military operations had killed 2,215 Palestinians, including 724 children, since the conflict began on Oct. 7, CNN reported. The Israeli government cut off supplies to Gaza—including food, water and electricity. Half of the more than two million people living in Gaza are children. Israel has told more than a million Palestinians to flee their homes as military operations in Gaza ramp up.
“We must not lose sight of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians had nothing to do with Hamas’s appalling attacks, and are suffering as a result of them,” President Biden said in an Oct. 15 tweet.
Timeline: Rep. Thompson on Israel
Oct. 7, 2023
Hamas launches a terrorist attack on Israel, killing over 1,400 and taking at least 199 hostage.
Oct. 8, 2023
Rep. Bennie Thompson warns in an interview with MSNBC that U.S. House Republicans must select a speaker of the House soon so Congress can provide funding for Israel.
“If we can’t in short order elect a speaker then it’s impossible to help our friends around the world. There are both Democratic and Republican supporters of Israel in the House, but if we can’t get our house in order and elect a speaker, then Israel is at risk. … My Republican colleagues need to get their act together, they’re the majority party,” he said.
Oct. 10, 2023
Rep. Bennie Thompson tweets: “It is disheartening to see the senseless attacks presented on the Israeli civilians. The United States is in total solidarity with Israel and we condemn the actions of Hamas.”
Oct. 12, 2023
Rep. Bennie Thompson describes his views on Israel and Palestine in an interview with MPB and calls Hamas “terrorists,” differentiating them from Palestinians.
“The only thing I can say is I am for a two-state solution. I think the Palestinians, as well as the Israelis, ought to be able to peacefully coexist,” he says. “I’ve encouraged that ever since I’ve been here. Hamas is a totally different situation—they are terrorists sworn to do all they can to defeat Israel. That’s not where the Palestinians are. They differ and they’ve had differences, but not to the extent that the Hamas are in this situation. So my support is for those individuals who are willing to talk and debate peace, and I encourage that to occur. But what has occurred this past weekend is totally unacceptable and we have to support Israel and help them defend themselves against these kinds of situations.”
Oct. 13, 2023
Gov. Tate Reeves falsely accuses Rep. Thompson and other Democrats of supporting Hamas in a tweet.
“Today, everyone in Congress except 13 Democrats including AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Mississippi’s own Bennie Thompson signed a bipartisan proclamation supporting Israel. It is disgusting to see a Mississippian standing with Hamas against Israel! He is the top backer of my opponent for governor Brandon Presley,” he writes. “Today, I am calling on Presley to return the money that Bennie Thompson raised for him at their DC fundraisers with other radical democrats last week. Presley should not accept funds from those who oppose Israel and side with terrorists.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson responds with a tweet of his own. “I announced my support for Israel on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. I am eager to get back to work in Congress, and I call on @tatereeves to rally the Republican party to elect a speaker so we can vote to help the people of Israel,” he writes.