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Pelosi Wants FBI to Investigate Groups Pushing for Gaza Ceasefire

Critics blasted the call for more surveillance, pointing out more than two-thirds of Americans support a ceasefire.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi speaks during the anniversary of the Inflation Reduction Act at the White House in Washington, D.C., on August 16, 2023.

As The New York Times reported Sunday that more than 1,000 Black American pastors have joined the widespread call for a cease-fire in Gaza, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi suggested the demand was “Putin’s message” and said the FBI should investigate groups that are speaking out about Biden’s pro-Israel policies.

On CNN, the former House speaker, a California Democrat, told Dana Bash that the “call for a cease-fire is [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s message” and said she thinks some of the protests that have erupted across the U.S. since October to demand the U.S. push for an end to Israel’s killing of civilians in Gaza “are connected to Russia.”

“I think some financing should be investigated and I want to ask the FBI to investigate that,” Pelosi said.

A number of progressives pointed out that the demand for a cease-fire is hardly coming from the fringes of American society, but rather from more than two-thirds of Americans in a November poll by Reuters/Ipsos. Three-quarters of Democrats in the survey backed a cease-fire, along with half of Republicans.

The Times detailed calls from more than 1,000 Black pastors who represent hundreds of thousands of congregants across the U.S. and who have written open letters and spoken to White House officials at sit-down meetings in support of a cease-fire, warning that “it’s going to be very hard to persuade our people to go back to the polls and vote for Biden.”

The Intercept reporter Prem Thakker pointed to other groups supportive of the call, including the Democratic parties of Arizona and Texas; the United Auto Workers, which endorsed Biden last week; and Doctors Without Borders.

Writer and researcher Abdullah Shihipar denounced Pelosi’s comments as “stupid,” but was among those who cautioned against dismissing her plan to ask the FBI to “investigate” certain pro-Palestinian rights protesters and groups.

“She is calling for effectively more surveillance and potential criminalization of protestors by suggesting (falsely) that they have foreign links,” said Shihipar.

Pelosi’s “serious and dangerous policy suggestion,” added journalist Jeet Heer, “echoes LBJ/Nixon abuse of law enforcement.”

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the group was “deeply disturbed” by Pelosi’s “downright authoritarian” comments.

“Sadly, Rep. Pelosi’s comments echo a time in our nation when opponents of the Vietnam War were accused of being communist sympathizers and subjected to FBI harassment,” Awad said. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans, including many young people, progressive activists, and Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian, and Black Americans, have been protesting to call for a cease-fire in Gaza.”

“Instead of baselessly smearing those Americans as Russian collaborators, former House Speaker Pelosi and other political leaders should respect the will of the American people by calling for an end to the Netanyahu government’s genocidal war on the people of Gaza,” he added.

Pelosi’s comments came days after a poll by The Economist/YouGov showed a full 50% of Americans who supported Biden in 2020 believe that Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, which the U.S. has helped to fund and has vehemently defended for nearly four months, is a “genocide.”

On Friday, the International Court of Justice issued an interim ruling in South Africa’s case against Israel, saying it is “plausible” that Israel is committing genocidal acts in Gaza.

Instead of calling on the Biden administration to heed the preliminary ruling and stop aiding Israel — or even pushing the White House not to sacrifice crucial votes in the interest of backing genocidal violence — Democratic strategist Waleed Shahid said Pelosi was spreading “unacceptable disinformation… about the positions of the vast majority of Democratic Party voters.”

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