Several DFL senators rebuke party colleague over remarks about Palestinian youth

A man speaks into a mic, an Israeli flag is held in the background
State Sen. Ron Latz voices his opposition to calling for divestment and sanctions of Israeli companies during a press conference in St. Paul on Wednesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Posted: Nov. 30, 3:17 p.m. | Updated: Dec. 1, 4:30 a.m.

Several DFL state senators condemned remarks a fellow Democratic legislator made about Palestinian children as reckless and irresponsible.

The sharp public rebuke Thursday illustrates tensions within the caucus over bloodshed in the Middle East.

The comments from Sen. Ron Latz of St. Louis Park came at a Wednesday news conference where he rebutted calls to rid Minnesota’s pension funds of all Israeli-connected investments. Pro-Palestinian groups want a state board to divest as a response to Israel’s military actions in Gaza, which followed the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel that killed hundreds.

At that Capitol event, Latz, who is Jewish, went on at length and in graphic terms about ways he says Palestinian youth have been taught to target Jewish people with violence. Similar claims have appeared in pro-Israel publications. 

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!

Thirteen of his DFL colleagues released a joint statement Thursday calling the comments dehumanizing, inflammatory and unbecoming of an elected official. 

“It is unacceptable for people in positions of leadership — particularly those with large public platforms — to use dehumanizing, degrading language to describe entire populations of people,” the letter signed by mostly urban and suburban legislators but also those from Duluth and Rochester. “The language we use, especially at this moment, matters.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations also criticized Latz, saying it fears Muslim youth could be endangered by the stereotypes.

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin issued a statement urging politicians to tamp down rhetoric and “avoid applying broad generalizations to entire groups of people.”

Martin didn’t name Latz specifically.

Latz on X, formerly Twitter, said the remark was taken out of context. He issued a written statement late Thursday voicing disappointment about how his comment was used by DFL colleagues, who focused on one sentence in extended remarks.

“What is even worse is their choice to assign awful intent to the misrepresented information. The one sentence that they are criticizing with such vigor and accusation does not stand alone,” Latz said in the written statement. “It is preceded by information that makes it clear that I am not referring to ‘all’ Palestinian youth.” 

Latz chairs the Senate's Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. He is in his sixth term.