The strikingly different treatment of elected officials charged with racism and sexism on the one hand and anti-Semitism on the other should concern all of us in the Jewish community. The problem is surely with us now and it will get worse in the run up to the 2020 elections, as Democrat presidential aspirants pay homage to their party’s growing hard leftist base.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa has had a long history of saying disgusting things about immigrants during House debates on illegal immigration and border security and become the unofficial voice of sorts for the alt-right in the House of Representatives. But in a recent interview with the New York Times he went way beyond anything he had said before, going overboard about the virtues of “white nationalism.”
Although his antics had several times before drawn some relatively muted criticism from Republican House leaders, he was largely ignored as somewhat of a “kook” and as on the periphery. This time, however, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy relieved King of all of his committee assignments.
Contrast this with how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dealt with two members of the House of Representatives who went public with some anti-Semitic references in recent weeks. Michigan’s newly elected Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib criticized those Senators who went on record supporting a bill that would bar those companies that comply with boycotts of Israel or its citizens from doing business with the federal government. Tlaib tweeted that those who are supporting the measure “forgot what country they represent.”
This dual loyalty charge, of course, is a notorious anti-Semitic trope, harking back to the claim in the infamous “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” of the existence of an international Jewish conspiracy to control the world and manipulate host countries to act against their own interests. So anyone who shows support for a Jewish state is necessarily part of an evil Jewish conspiracy rather than a reflection of common values and national interests.
Tlaib was called out on her shocking comment by several commentators but that seems to be it. We found nothing from Democratic House leaders. And Tlaib was not stripped of her seat on the enormously powerful Financial Services Committee, which oversees banks, the insurance industry, housing and urban development. Nor did she pull back any of her comments.
And then there was the matter of newly minted Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. She had said that American support for Israel is driven by money from the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC. This time the entire House Democratic leadership issued a condemnatory statement – that her accusations about Jewish money were “deeply offensive” – and she promptly “unequivocally” apologized. She added, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”
OK, we guess – after all she is a member of Congress, not some freshman high school student. Moreover, she had earlier been appointed to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which will have a leading role in US foreign affairs, including Middle East policy.
Either way, anti-Semitism didn’t seem to matter enough to trigger some discipline. To be sure, the committee chairman, Rep. Eliot Engel – one of the staunchest supporters of Israel in the Congress – put her on notice that the sort of comments she had made would not be tolerated. However, only speaker Pelosi can reassign Omar.
Consider as well the controversy swirling in Virginia over allegations against its three top officials. Governor Ralph Northam is said to be one of the persons appearing on his page in his medical school yearbook that features one person in blackface and another in Ku Klux Klan robes. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is facing claims of sexual assault and rape. And Attorney General Mark Herring has acknowledged wearing “brown makeup” to a party when he was 19.
Despite adamant denials by Northam and Fairfax and the lack of any definitive determinations, they along with Herring having been called upon by leading Democrats elected to resign.
It’s time we realized that anti-Semitism no longer evokes the same concerns it used to here in America. But it ought to, and the Democratic Party ought to put a lid on anti-Semitic behavior in its own party now before it festers.