Pro-Israel US Congressman Ritchie Torres leaves Progressive Caucus

Pro-Israel US Congressman Ritchie Torres leaves Progressive Caucus
The New York congressman's departure from the caucus marks the second split by a member of the group due to Israel since its war on Gaza began last October.
2 min read
Washington, DC
22 February, 2024
Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) speaks during 'March For Israel' at the National Mall on 14 November 2023 in Washington, DC. [Getty]

A US Democratic congressman who has been an outspoken supporter of Israel has left the Progressive Caucus, a group of House members who generally support progressive causes.

Representative Ritchie Torres of New York, who has consistently voiced support of Israel, had his name removed from the caucus's website sometime in the last three months, though it was only noticed and reported this week.

What would normally be a quiet move in Congress, where members join and leave a long list of caucuses on a daily basis, caught the attention of the media at a time when the Democratic Party is seeing a growing split between those who support Israel and those who voice criticism of the US ally.

"Torres' departure underscores the growing schism within the Democratic Party, particularly within its progressive wings, concerning Israel," Anwar Mhajne, assistant professor of political science at Stonehill College, told The New Arab.

Live Story

"This schism became evident when Torres and certain members of the CPC opted to censure Tlaib," she said, referring to the censuring of the Michigan representative over comments she made following the outbreak of the war in Gaza.

Around that time, Torres made repeated statements on social media telling people how they should and should not respond to the conflict. He has also voiced support for the US embassy relocation from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move instigated by former President Donald Trump's administration, which has been largely unpopular among the congressman's fellow Democrats.

The New York congressman's departure from the caucus marks the second such move since Israel's war in Gaza began following the surprise attack by Hamas on 7 October, killing around 1,200 Israelis.

In November, Representative Lois Frankel of Florida withdrew from the caucus, also reportedly over her support for Israel. 

Since the war began in October, Israel has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians in Gaza, wounded around 70,000 and destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes.

Live Story

The disproportionate death toll of Palestinians has animated the left wing of the Democratic Party, with around 70 members of Congress (from both chambers), to date all Democrats, calling for a ceasefire.

The CPC, despite what its name signals, is not exclusive to progressive Congress members. Its roster lists around 100 members, making it the largest Democratic caucus, and like most others, there are no formal requirements for entry.

"As we near the election, this divide is likely to intensify, reflecting the increasing disillusionment among liberals, particularly younger Democrats and minority voters, regarding the conflict," Mahajne predicts.