Events of the past week demonstrated that words matter. The Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) immediately condemned Representative Ilhan Omar’s tweet for what it was – an anti-Semitic trope. We followed-up with a statement, denouncing Rep. Omar’s tweet because it represented a form of anti-Semitism that has historically been used to target Jews. We expressed deep concern that a member of Congress would express such incendiary views, and asserted that her constituents and the American people deserved better.
Within 24 hours, House Democratic leadership, as well as dozens of Democratic members of Congress, condemned Rep. Omar’s statement and expressed similar concerns. Facing immense pressure, Rep. Omar “unequivocally” apologized for her tweet. JDCA responded by welcoming Rep. Omar’s recognition that her words were offensive and her willingness to learn. We expressed hope that this would be last time she repeats dangerous stereotypes targeting Jews and said we look forward to engaging with her to voice our deep concerns. We also expressed concern that her apology was in fact equivocal because it repeated some of the same references she had originally tweeted about. JDCA is committed to ensuring that all members of Congress understand the gravity of these issues and calling out anti-Semitism wherever we see it.
JDCA has spoken out against Rep. Omar and other Democrats with whom we disagree before, and we will continue to speak out against anyone who engages in anti-Semitism irrespective of their party affiliation. Speaking truth to power, even within your own party, is consistent with our values. Words matter. But hypocrisy matters too.
That is why JDCA will continue to call out the hypocrisy of Republicans who are quick to criticize anti-Semitism when it’s politically expedient, but refuse to denounce anti-Semitism in their own ranks and at the highest levels of power.
There is no question that insinuations of Jewish money controlling American politics is an anti-Semitic canard. So where was the Republican outrage when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy insinuated just four months ago that Jews were attempting to buy the midterm election? In the last election, Republican state parties and candidates ran attack ads in six states featuring Jews clutching cash. Where was the outrage over the GOP’s widespread use of this anti-Semitic trope? Unfortunately, it wasn’t there. Instead, we have seen Republicans selectively condemn anti-Semitism when it suits their political interests but remain silent when it comes from the highest ranks of power.
Republicans were silent as Donald Trump ran a presidential campaign in which he frequently used anti-Semitic tropes. His final campaign ad – which was explicitly condemned by at least five Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – referred to the same anti-Semitic trope Rep. Omar invoked this week. But that wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last. In 2015, Trump told a crowd of Jews that “you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.” More recently, he promoted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory on Twitter. And we will never forget that the President of the United States publicly created a moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and those protesting them in Charlottesville.
Again, where is the Republican outrage? There has been none. Just silence.
Republicans have been quick to point to their recent condemnation of Rep. Steve King for his alignment with white supremacy, but as Speaker Nancy Pelosi reminded us on Wednesday, Republicans’ decision to finally take action against King – who has long been known to hold anti-Semitic views – took Republicans 13 years.
Even this past week, 177 House Republicans voted against a bill containing language condemning anti-Semitism. All Democrats – including Rep. Omar – voted for it, but Republicans chose party over principle, and nearly all of them voted “no.” JDCA spoke out after this vote, affirming that it was “blatant hypocrisy on the part of Republicans, plain and simple, and we condemn them for it in the strongest possible terms.”
This hypocrisy is simply unacceptable.
We’ve had enough. Anti-Semitism cannot be tolerated, and we must uniformly hold elected officials to the highest standards. If you are committed to calling out anti-Semitism only when it’s politically expedient, then you are just dedicated to partisanship not principles. That’s why we’re encouraging the GOP to commit to calling out anti-Semitism whenever and wherever it emerges. As JDCA stated on Wednesday in a message to Republicans – “enough of the willful blindness, hypocrisy, and double standards.”
Words matter, but hypocrisy matters too, and if you agree with the work JDCA is doing, please consider supporting our efforts today. Please also check out more of JDCA’s work from this past week on our website, including our response to the breaking news of President Trump’s emergency declaration at our border, an op-ed by Executive Director Halie Soifer published in the Times of Israel, and a letter to the editor published in the Jewish Journal by JDCA Board Member Ada Horwich and Halie Soifer.
Chair, Jewish Democratic Council of America
Executive Director, Jewish Democratic Council of America