After the militant group Hamas killed approximately 1,200 people in Israel and kidnapped about 250 more on Oct. 7, the members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation weighed in to condemn that violence and express their support for Israel. In some cases, delegation members also suggested that Israel should use restraint in responding, but such calls weren't necessarily welcome: when Sen. Ed Markey urged Israel to proceed with caution during a pro-Israel rally on Boston Common, he was booed by the crowd.
But now, nearly four months into an Israeli military response that has claimed the lives of an estimated 25,000-plus Palestinians in Gaza, the tone and texture of the delegation's responses has shifted somewhat.
The most striking example is Rep. Stephen Lynch. Immediately after the Oct. 7 attacks, he focused on their brutality and the need for unequivocal U.S. support for Israel. But on Jan. 19, Lynch added his name to the list of congressional members calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, posting on X: "While I respect and support the right of Israel to protect its citizens ... the military operation against Hamas in Gaza has now reached a stage whose primary object appears to be wreaking vengeance against innocent Palestinian civilians, mostly children." The solution, Lynch wrote, is a "humanitarian ceasefire" and "renewed push for a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Lynch isn't the only member of the delegation who's issued such a call.
When the city councils of Somerville and Cambridge passed pro-ceasefire resolutions late last month, they were cheered on by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, who'd previously hosted a pro-ceasefire vigil in downtown Boston and has been pushing for a long-term ceasefire since just after the conflict began.
"As we continue pushing federally for an indefinite, lasting ceasefire to save lives, release all hostages, and ensure the swift delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, I am so proud to see municipalities in the Massachusetts 7th leading the way locally," Pressley wrote in a release.
Public statements supporting a ceasefire have also been made by Rep. Jim McGovern, who weighed in prior to the negotiated ceasefire that actually took place in late November, and by Sen. Markey, who called for a resumption of that ceasefire in a sharply worded Jan. 16 release that also condemned the Netanyahu government's conduct of the war. In addition, Markey's statement warned of the conflict's possible escalation and stressed that a two-state solution is necessary for a lasting peace in the region.
As these examples illustrate, though, there are subtle nuances when it comes to exactly how calls for a ceasefire are framed by Massachusetts politicians and others. For example, calls for a ceasefire can be presented as demands for something new and permanent, or as advocacy for the resumption of something that has already occurred and might not last indefinitely if reinstated.
That explains why some on the left have voiced frustration with Markey's colleague Elizabeth Warren, even though she's become one of the most vocal critics of the Biden administration's ongoing support for Israel's handling of the war. In recent weeks, for example, Warren has publicly called on the administration to pressure Netanyahu's government to accept a two-state solution and joined McGovern in pushing for congressional oversight of military aid to Israel. But while Warren backed the temporary ceasefire in November and called for its extension, she's been criticized by some activists for not demanding a ceasefire that's immediate, unconditional, and indefinite.
Other delegation members have struck a more cautious tone when the topic of a possible ceasefire is broached. Rep. Katherine Clark, who as House Whip is the second-ranking Democrat in that body, avoided the term "ceasefire" in a statement provided to GBH News, saying instead: “I am working every day for a permanent bilateral end of hostilities and release of all hostages. Since the horrendous October 7th attack, unfathomable trauma, pain, and loss of life have been inflicted on the Israeli and Palestinian people.
"The United States must continue to insist that all parties in this conflict abide by international law, avoid civilian casualties, and provide humanitarian and medical aid," Clark added. "We must also remain committed to a permanent two state solution and lasting peace in the region.”
Rep. Seth Moulton also stopped short of backing a ceasefire, though a spokesperson told GBH News Moulton believes it's "critical" that Israel work to avoid civilian casualties in Gaza.
"No matter how you approach this conflict, Congressman Moulton believes we should all agree on these three core principles," the spokesperson said. "Hamas must be defeated, Israeli must stop killing innocent Palestinians, and a two-state solution that both peoples can support and believe."
Rep. Lori Trahan took a similar tack, saying through a spokesperson that she "supports a negotiated end to the conflict in Gaza, including the immediate release of Israeli hostages still being held by Hamas, as well as an increase in desperately needed humanitarian assistance for Palestinians and a return to the hard work of achieving a viable two-state solution."
Rep. Jake Auchincloss remains the most unequivocally pro-Israel member of the delegation when it comes to how the Gaza war is being conducted. In late January, speaking at the Young Israel of Sharon synagogue, he stressed his support for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, but also condemned Hamas' reported rejection of Israel's offer of a two-month cessation of hostilities during which all hostages would be returned.
"The offer's rejection by Hamas is another example of that terrorist organization's barbarity and the necessity of destroying its leadership and excluding it from governance," Auchincloss wrote afterward.