Pritzker calls Illinois’ support for Israel ‘unequivocal’ after weekend’s Hamas attacks

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Gov. JB Pritzker speaks in suburban Glencoe Tuesday at a solidarity gathering on behalf of Israel. The Jewish United Fund coordinated the Israel solidarity event days after a series of coordinated attacks by the militant group Hamas killed more than 900 people over the weekend. (Credit: Illinois.gov)

Gov. JB Pritzker on Tuesday condemned the deadly attacks on Israel over the weekend by the militant group Hamas, telling those gathered outside a synagogue in Chicago’s north suburb of Glencoe that Illinois “unequivocally stands” with the people of Israel.

The governor, who himself is Jewish, was one of a handful of elected officials and faith leaders who spoke at the gathering. Pritzker acknowledged the militant group isn’t representative of all Palestinians – including those who live in Gaza under the de facto rule of Hamas. 

“There are many peace-loving Palestinians, and we must honor them,” Pritzker said. “But Hamas – Hamas is a terrorist organization. An army of murderers backed by Iran.”

More than 900 people were killed by Hamas’ coordinated attacks on Saturday as many in Israel celebrated a Jewish holiday, with thousands more injured and some taken hostage. Among them may be a mother-daughter pair of Evanston residents, according to reporting from the Lake County News-Sun.

Israel’s consul general to the Midwest, Yinam Cohen, told the crowd gathered outside of North Shore Congregation Israel that many in the Chicago area are still “waiting for news regarding their loved ones in Israel.”

Israel quickly declared war and launched counterattacks on Gaza, which has been under Hamas’ control since 2007. Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 800 and wounded more than 4,000 Palestinians in the days following the initial attack.

Pritzker’s address included a message of support for the Israeli military.

“We pray today for the strength and safety of the men and women of the Israeli Defense Forces as they embark on this most difficult and important mission,” the governor said. “Each step of the way they should know, and the people of Israel should know, that America and Illinois unequivocally stands with them in their battle to end the ongoing Hamas attacks. We stand with Israel.”

Pritzker also said he’d directed the Illinois State Police to be on alert for any security threats to synagogues and other Jewish gathering places, but he assured the crowd “there is no immediate threat.”

Also at Tuesday morning’s gathering was Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, who told the crowd he was scheduled to be in Israel this week for a conference on relations between Israel and surrounding Arab nations.

“We were supposed to be celebrating the idea…that Jews and Arabs belong to the land, and the idea that by embracing each other, Jews and Arabs can live together in peace,” Schneider said. “That is not the vision of Hamas. That is the vision of people who believe in peace. Hamas believes Israel should be eliminated and Jews should be murdered.”

Schneider, who is a member of the Congressional Jewish Caucus, called on the federal government to provide Israel with military support, and he said a bipartisan coalition of House members had already introduced a resolution to condemn Hamas.

“It is on us to make sure Israel has everything she needs to win this war, to protect her citizens and to make sure Jews in Israel can live in peace,” Schneider said, equivocating the weekend’s attacks to Sept. 11, 2001.

Meanwhile, other Illinois elected officials have weighed in on the conflict, including Attorney General Kwame Raoul and a bipartisan group of a dozen other attorneys general. In a statement Tuesday, the coalition said it was “aghast and outraged at the wanton, calculated attacks on civilians going about their daily lives.”

Over the weekend, Illinois’ Legislative Jewish Caucus issued a statement condemning the “deprivation of innocent life.”

“We stand with the State of Israel just as she stood with the United States during our most horrific moments,” the group said.

A small group of progressive state lawmakers issued their own statement on Sunday, calling for “de-escalation and peace” in the conflict and urging people to consider the toll on Palestinians, including those who’ve been killed in counterstrikes. 

“We will not be able to achieve peace when millions of Palestinians are denied basic human rights,” the statement said.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.  

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