Jewish Community Relations Councilof San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties

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Condemning Anti-Semitism in Halls of Power

March 8, 2019
Posted by: Jeremy Russell, Director of Marketing and Communications

JCRC is deeply concerned about anti-Semitism in halls of power and among influential elected leaders. Whether from the political left or right, anti-Semitism must not be tolerated. History has taught us not to ignore anti-Semitic rhetoric, because it can lead to systemic discrimination and violence against Jews.

We applaud Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) for the strong leadership she showed by censuring anti-Semitism in her party. Locally, JCRC is working with elected officials on similar measures. At a time when FBI statistics show a significant rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes, we remain grateful for the leadership of so many elected officals, including San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani who recently passed a resolution “Declaring Support for the Tree of Life Synagogue and the Global Jewish Community.”

House Bill Passes

Following complaints by caucus progressives, House Democrats revised their resolution condemning anti-Semitism to include other forms of bigotry. “I thought the resolution should enlarge the issue to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy,” Speaker Pelosi explained. Nor did the final resolution name Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5), who caused the firestorm of criticism that led to the resolution with her claim that she is under pressure to pledge “allegiance” to Israel.

However, in the end, the House voted 407-23 to approve its revised resolution. Every Democrat that voted approved of the measure and 23 Republicans voted against it. The decisive final vote belied what was an emotional and impactful debate filled with powerful, passionate speeches.

We applaud in particular the speech given by Representative Elaine Luria (D-VA-2), who spoke about her military service and how galling charges of disloyalty are given her support of Israel.

"Am I to look back on my military career and the sacrifices it meant for my family and remain silent in the face of people questioning my loyalty to my country?" she asked. "I believe that I speak clearly for all fellow Jewish veterans that this echoes language which has been used to marginalize and persecute the Jewish people for centuries. The recent accusations of dual loyalty call into question the equal footing of Jewish members in elected office and by extension all Jews living in America. I'm proud to vote on this resolution in condemnation of this rhetoric."

We encourage you to watch her entire speech:

 

JCRC is particularly proud of Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL-22) who, while voting for the resolution, said individual acts of bigotry should be called out individually, not only as part of a larger condemnation of hatred generally. "The use of anti-Semitic language and images can never be tolerated." He also reminded legislators that "eleven people were killed less then six months ago in a synagogue because they were Jews. What's happening in our country should alarm us all."

 

The Larger Issue

These issues at the legislative level are a reflection of how anti-Semitism is playing out in society at large. "Anti-Semitism is hitting American Jews from the left and the right," wrote Pamela S. Nadell, the Patrick Clendenen Chair in women’s and gender history at American University and author of America's Jewish Women. In her Washington Post Op-Ed on the House action, she concludes that such a discussion about anti-Semitism in America has been long overdue:

When Americans think of anti-Semitism, they think of the Holocaust. ... This focus on the Holocaust gets Americans off the hook. Anti-Semitism is something that happened over there, in Europe — an Old World problem, not an American, New World problem. But anti-Semitism is an American problem. Its history is not simply about offensive tropes but also policies, attitudes and actions that have resulted in discrimination and violence. It is this history, which is rarely conveyed in classrooms or monuments, that we need to confront as a nation."

 

PHOTO: Rep. Nancy Pelosi Weekly Briefing March 7, 2019