HANOVER, NH – Rep. Dean Phillips is tackling a range of issues in his arduous, up-and-coming campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. But none arouses as much passion as the war between Israel and Hamas.
Public polls show Israel is dividing the Democratic Party. That sparked a protest outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters this week that ended with Capitol Police breaking up the demonstration. Members of the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives were divided and expressed critical statements against each other.
And in the uncontrolled environment of the New Hampshire campaign, where voters can come and go and ask questions as they please, Phillips keeps popping up.
As the Minnesota congressman left Lou’s Bakery near Dartmouth College, an employee stopped him and asked him for his opinion on the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I believe there is an urgent need to create a Palestinian state that can safely seize its opportunities,” Phillips said. “Hamas must be eliminated. The Palestinian Authority must be eliminated.”
And Phillips added: “The Israelis must elect a new government, they must end the settlements, we must end this nonsense.”
“Both sides are very important to me. Deep. Plain and simple,” Phillips continued. “And the fact that people are only taking one side or the other right now is exactly the problem, including a conversation I just had with someone over there. Only one page. And this is the problem. I think both deserve safety and security, and it’s disgusting what’s going on here.”
The staffer told him: “I think that’s a very good view – I personally am very pro-Palestinian.” After Phillips asked if she could be “for both,” she replied that she was more pro-Palestinian government is.
Phillips asked her if she was for Hamas, to which she replied, “Yes.”
“So hard – this is – I just have to be direct, this is really hard for me to hear,” Phillips said. “Because what they did, and you should watch the movies about what they did to people, my goodness,” he continued. referring to videos of the October 7 Hamas attacks.
Previously, in the same restaurant, he sat next to a Dartmouth graduate student who told him she was against colonization and Zionism. During a heated discussion, she said, “Regardless of my opinion on the Holocaust, I still wouldn’t support a colony.”
Phillips replied: “If you want to resolve this, please be understanding of both.” And as he left the conversation he said: “I speak for everyone, Palestinian and Israeli children.”
It’s not the first time that Phillips, who is Jewish, has faced tensions over Israel in the Democratic Party.
During his first official town hall meeting in New Hampshire in early November, a young voter asked Phillips why he hadn’t called for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Phillips responded by first asking her what she thought of the Israelis who were killed. He then told her that he was outraged at the loss of all innocent lives.
He tried to explain his view on the need to eradicate Hamas. He spoke about his Jewish faith and how he wants to work with his “Palestinian sister,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, on the issue.
At one point, the young voter shouted, “Demand a ceasefire.” Phillips then said, “I demand the elimination of a terrorist organization that…
He didn’t finish his sentence. The voter interrupted him and shouted, “At the cost of children’s lives!”
The voter who asked the question eventually cursed and left the room. At least three other people left the room in protest after the exchange.
In Washington, a group of two dozen Democrats in the House of Representatives are now calling for a ceasefire. The Democratic group wrote a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to support a ceasefire in Gaza.
The tension was also palpable Wednesday evening when members of the U.S. Capitol Police and a group of pro-Palestinian protesters calling for a ceasefire converged outside the DNC building near the Capitol.
The Capitol Police Posted on X that people are “protesting illegally and violently.”
IfNotNow, a group that describes itself as “American Jews organizing our community to end U.S. support for Israel’s apartheid system.” Posted on X He said: “We join arms, threaten no one and implore our politicians to support an end to the killing and suffering in Gaza. “I peacefully ask for a ceasefire.”
The general tension over this issue has also led to hatred against the party and its members. On Wednesday, the New Hampshire Democratic Party office in Belknap County was vandalized with anti-Semitic and white supremacist symbols, including a swastika.
Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, wrote in a statement: “We stand in unwavering solidarity with the Jewish community and all those affected by these heinous acts.” We will not be intimidated or deterred in our fight against bigotry. We call on every citizen to join us in ensuring New Hampshire remains a place where hate has no harbor.”