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Jewish House Democrats call for Biden to address antisemitism

Greg Nash

A group of Jewish House Democrats are calling on President Biden to take concrete steps to address antisemitism amid a sharp rise in attacks against Jews in the U.S. and abroad, which is occurring alongside the most recent conflict in the Middle East. 

In a letter sent Wednesday to the president, four lawmakers condemn rhetoric from both the Republican and Democratic parties and demand a “united, bipartisan, national-level commitment to confront and address the threat of antisemitism head-on.”

The letter was signed by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Kathy Manning (D-N.C.) and Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) — who are all Jewish — and addresses a surge in antisemitic attacks that have occurred alongside pro-Palestinian protests that are critical of Israel.

“It is undeniable that this increase in antisemitic incidents has coincided with recent conflict in the Middle East. It must be made clear that there is simply no excuse whatsoever for harassing or targeting people because they are Jewish,” the lawmakers wrote.

Preliminary data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recorded 193 reports of antisemitic incidences following the outbreak on May 10 of rocket fire from Hamas in the Gaza Strip into Israel and retaliatory Israeli strikes. The two reached a cease-fire agreement on May 21.  

The ADL also documented “disturbing antisemitism” on multiple social media platforms, with at least 17,000 tweets between May 7 and 14 using variations of the phrase “Hitler was right” and other antisemitic content that praised Hitler, promoted antisemitic tropes and demonized Jews. 

The ADL has further documented at pro-Palestinian demonstrations “some expressions of clear antisemitism” including signs that invoke antisemitic tropes that Jews are responsible for killing Jesus and Holocaust analogies that demonize Zionism, the Jewish national movement in support of Israel. 

“Blaming Jews for conflict in the Middle East or seeking to hold them collectively responsible for Israel’s government policies is antisemitic, and it is wrong,” the lawmakers wrote. 

They further called for the president to nominate an ambassador-at-large to monitor and combat anti-semitism. 

The Jewish lawmakers also condemned rhetoric used by GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), which the majority of her party has also condemned, comparing the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust to public health measures against COVID-19, such as wearing masks and vaccinations.

They also go further than the Democratic Party has in calling out progressive lawmakers like Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) for rhetoric they describe as “antisemitic at their core” and say contributes to a hostile climate for Jews. 

Tlaib, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez took to the House floor on May 13 with eight other progressive lawmakers criticizing U.S. policy toward Israel, with speeches that labeled Israel an “apartheid state” and accused it of carrying out “ethnic cleansing” against Palestinians.

Omar tweeted on May 10 accusing Israel of “terrorism” for launching air strikes on the Gaza Strip in retaliation for rocket fire from Hamas.

“We also reject comments from Members of Congress accusing Israel of being an ‘apartheid state’ and committing ‘act[s] of terrorism,’” wrote Gottheimer, Luria, Manning and Phillips.

“These statements are antisemitic at their core and contribute to a climate that is hostile to many Jews.”  

They continued, “We must never forget that less than eighty years ago, within the lifetime of our parents and grandparents, six million people were murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust because they were Jews. Israel has long provided the Jewish people with a homeland in which they can be safe after facing centuries of persecution.”

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Dean Phillips Elaine Luria Ilhan Omar Joe Biden Josh Gottheimer Marjorie Taylor Greene Rashida Tlaib

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