When an Israeli military strike in Gaza killed seven aid workers with the nonprofit World Central Kitchen (WCK), many Americans viewed it as the sort of horrific tragedy that happens amid the chaos of war. They compared it to the U.S. mistakenly killing 10 innocent people in Kabul during the 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan.

But some anti-Israel activists and pro-voices, including WCK founder Jose’ Andres, say it was intentional, a crime committed by the Jewish state to discourage charities from serving the starving population of Gaza.

On Thursday, local radio host Chris Ryan asked Rep. Chris Pappas what he thought.

“I think Israel has every right to defend itself, but obviously, no nation should be targeting civilians,” Pappas replied, suggesting he believed it was possible America’s most loyal ally in the Middle East could be guilty of murder.

Unlike the Biden administration after a U.S. missile killed an aid worker and seven children in Kabul, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF leadership have never denied the attack occurred. Instead, they promptly acknowledged the “mistake that followed a misidentification,” took responsibility, and launched an investigation.

But Ryan dismissed those efforts (“We have not heard good justification from Israel”) during his conversation with Pappas, making it clear to the congressman that he believes the Israeli military targeted the aid workers on purpose.

“Is there concern about continuing to support Israel’s military efforts given the targeting of civilians?” Ryan asked.

“And you mentioned the World Central Kitchen, some of the biggest heroes in the world, right?” Ryan added. “When folks are in starvation situations, they come in and provide aid. So this is elevated in terms of the targeting of not just civilians but an entity that does God’s work?”

Rather than push back on the accusation, Pappas said it was up to America to pressure Israel into better behavior.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re pushing Israel to heighten its deconfliction measures to make sure that they’re accommodating for the work that humanitarian organizations like World Central Kitchen need to continue to do for the Palestinian people.”

And, Pappas added, “I think Israel has every right to defend itself, but obviously, no nation should be targeting civilians. And we’ll look at the report and what’s produced on this particular incident.”

Supporters of Israel and some in the Jewish community are outraged by the suggestion that the IDF “targets” civilians or that Israel needs to be “pushed” to avoid civilian casualties. John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary Magazine, calls the accusation a “blood libel,” a smear against Jews as having a disregard for the lives of others.

The Republicans hoping to replace Pappas in November lashed out at Pappas’ comments.

“If Chris Pappas weren’t afraid of his anti-Israel party bosses, he would’ve told Chris Ryan that the claim that Israel is targeting civilians is wrong,” said GOP congressional candidate Hollie Noveletsky. “A congressman shouldn’t allow that kind of misinformation to spread.

“We need a full report on this tragic accident that occurred, but Israel is not targeting innocent civilians. Hamas started this war, is hiding behind civilians, and is stealing aid. They are the ones who must be held ultimately accountable,” Noveletsky said.

Former Executive Councilor Russell Prescott also believes Pappas was pandering to anti-Israel elements in his party.

“Election-year pressure and protests from the extreme, antisemitic activists in the Democratic Party’s base are clearly having an impact on Chris Pappas,” Prescott said.

“Unlike the incumbent congressman who is trying to play politics, let me be crystal clear: Hamas is evil. Hamas attacked Israel, and Israel has every right to defend itself. Hamas has the ability to end this conflict immediately, but they continue to use their own civilians as shields to try and turn American sentiment against Israel.

“The onus is on Hamas to end this. Not Israel,” Prescott said.

Accusing Israel of conducting the war “in ways that …are counter to our values,” Ryan asked Pappas if he might oppose more aid to Israel if the violence continues.

“At what point do you look at this and say, ‘You know, maybe we shouldn’t be funding Israel doing this?'” Ryan asked. “Do you consider voting against providing aid moving forward if they don’t change their tactics?”

While Pappas didn’t answer directly, he did say he believed “the United States has to provide that sort of moral leadership in the world. And I think the president is working to do that and has had tough conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu.”

Later on Thursday, President Joe Biden and Netanyahu spoke via phone. According to reports, Biden demanded an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. After the call, Secretary of State Blinken said, “If Israel doesn’t change its policy, we will change our policy toward Israel.”

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, former President Donald Trump said Israel “is losing the PR war. They’re losing it big.” But he offered his support for its efforts in Gaza, saying it had no other options but to destroy Hamas.

“You have to have a victory,” Trump said.