‘Despicable’: Homeland Security chief, Senator trade barbs over pro-Hamas employee

After calling into question a DHS employee’s antisemitic post and her status in the department, both the Senator and DHS chief got into a heated debate.

By Andrew Bernard, The Algemeiner

US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and US Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) accused each other of being “despicable” during an exchange over a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employee who made pro-Hamas social media posts celebrating the Palestinian terrorist group’s Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

Speaking during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on threats to the United States, Hawley asked Mayorkas about the posts from a DHS officer named Nejwa Ali, 36, who in the days after Oct 7. posted a video with the caption “F—k Israel and any Jew that supports Israel.” She also posted an AI-generated image of Hamas terrorists in paragliders over Jerusalem with the caption “free PALESTINE.” Hamas supporters have used the terrorist group’s use of paragliders to carry out their invasion of Israel on Oct. 7 to slaughter civilians as a symbol of Palestinian “resistance.”

“This person works for you,” Hawley said to Mayorkas. “Mr. Secretary, what’s going on here? Is this typical of people who work at DHS? This is an asylum and immigration officer who is posting these, frankly, pro-genocidal slogans and images on the day that Israelis are being slaughtered in their beds. What have you done about this?”

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Mayorkas responded that it was “despicable” of Hawley to suggest that Ali’s posts were emblematic of DHS employees. Hawley shot back citing the surge in antisemitism and ongoing threats to Jews in the United States, including a widely shared incident of Jewish students at Cooper Union who had to barricade themselves in a library while anti-Israel protesters banged on the doors outside.

“Don’t come to this hearing room when Israel has been invaded and Jewish students are barricaded in libraries in this country and cannot be escorted out because they are threatened for their lives,” Hawley said. “You have employees who are celebrating genocide and you are saying it’s despicable for me to ask the question. Has she been fired?”

Mayorkas said that she had been placed on administrative leave, but for procedural reasons said he could not answer further questions from Hawley about Ali’s status or whether as an immigration officer, she had handled any asylum claims from Jews or Israelis during her tenure.

“You come here unwilling to answer and suggest that it is wrong of me to ask you the question,” Hawley said. “Quite frankly, Mr. Secretary, I think that your performance is despicable.”

After Hawley’s time had expired, Mayorkas said that Hawley’s entire line of questioning was an insult to Mayorkas’ Jewish heritage.

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“Senator Hawley takes an adversarial approach to me in this question, and perhaps he doesn’t know my own background,” Mayorkas said. “Perhaps he does not know that I am the child of a Holocaust survivor. Perhaps he does not know that my mother lost almost all her family at the hands of the Nazis, and so I find his adversarial tone to be entirely misplaced. I find it to be disrespectful of me and my heritage. And I do not expect an apology, but I did want to say what I just articulated.”

Also speaking at Tuesday’s hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, the United States faces some of the gravest homegrown and foreign terrorist threats since the rise of ISIS in 2014.

“The ongoing war in the Middle East has raised the threat of an attack against Americans in the United States to a whole other level,” Wray said. “We assess that the actions of Hamas and its allies will serve as an inspiration [to terrorists] the likes of which we haven’t seen since ISIS launched its so-called caliphate several years ago.”

“In just the past few weeks,” Wray continued, “multiple foreign terrorist organizations have called for attacks against Americans and the West. Al Qaeda issued its most specific call to attack the United States in the last five years. ISIS urged its followers to target Jewish communities in the United States and Europe … We also cannot and do not discount the possibility that Hamas or another foreign terrorist organization may exploit the current conflict to conduct attacks here on our own soil.”