Michigan congressman says he wasn’t advising nuclear war after telling Israel to approach Gaza ‘like Nagasaki and Hiroshima’


WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg released a statement saying he wasn’t calling for nuclear war after he came under fire for advising Israel to “get it over quick” with Hamas in Gaza, “like Nagasaki and Hiroshima,” the Japanese cities the United States hit with atomic bombs at the end of World War II.

“As a child who grew ups in the Cold War era, the last thing I’d advocate for would be the use of nuclear weapons,” Walberg, a Michigan Republican congressman, said in a statement published on Sunday. “I used a metaphor to convey the need for both Israel and Ukraine to win their wars as swiftly as possible, without putting American troops in harm’s way.”

A video of Walberg, 72, addressing a town hall in Dundee, Michigan on March 25 included an exchange with a constituent who was concerned that President Joe Biden’s plan to build a pier on Gaza’s shore to facilitate the entry of humanitarian assistance would endanger the U.S. troops who would build and secure the pier.

“We shouldn’t be spending a dime on humanitarian aid,” Walberg replied. “It should be like Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Get it over quick.”

The Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas invaded Israel, killing some 1,200 people and taking approximately 250 more hostage. In the nearly six months since then, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, more than 32,000 people have been killed. Israel estimates that mare than a third have been Hamas combatants. More than 250 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the invasion.

More than 100,000 people were killed in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only times nuclear weapons have been used in war. Walberg’s comment elicited criticism from both supporters and opponents of Israel.

Rep. Haley Stevens, a Michigan Democrat who is closely allied with the centrist pro-Israel community, said Walberg’s comments portended “hell on earth.”

“Threatening to use, suggesting the use of, or, God forbid actually using nuclear weapons, are unacceptable tactics of war in the 21st Century,” Stevens said on X, formerly Twitter.

Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York Democrat and an outspoken Israel supporter described Walberg’s remarks as “deranged and depraved,” his spokesman said in a text.

Rep, Susan Wild, a Jewish pro-Israel Democrat from Pennsylvania, called the statement “despicable” and told Axios, “I don’t care how much he tries to walk back the statement, it’s clear what he meant.”

She added, “No member of Congress should ever joke about a nuclear bomb, and it shows an utter disregard for the lives of the Palestinians, not to mention the proximity of Israel to Gaza.”

Former Congressman Justin Amash, the Palestinian-American Michigan Republican who is now running for Senate, mentioned in his criticism of Walberg that some of his own relatives were killed in Gaza when a church was hit in an Israeli bombing early in the war.

“For him to suggest that hundreds of thousands of innocent Palestinians should be obliterated, including my own relatives sheltering at an Orthodox Christian church, is reprehensible and indefensible,” Amash said on X.

Walberg’s statement insisted that he was calling to protect civilians. “My reasoning was the exact opposite of what is being reported,” it said. “The quicker these wars end, the fewer innocent lives will be caught in the crossfire.”

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