Jewish leaders urge GOP candidates to drop anti-Semitic comments

Jewish leaders urge GOP candidates to drop anti-Semitic comments


Jewish leaders raised the alarm Monday about anti-Semitism they say is becoming more normalized in American politics after a series of bigoted comments from associates or supporters of GOP candidates and growing calls to reject such rhetoric.

In Nevada, GOP Senate candidate Adam Laxalt’s campaign on Monday condemned anti-Semitic tweets linked to a recently fired official who said Jews were part of a “cult,” not a religion. But in Georgia, Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker has not publicly rejected a show of support for Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, who has made a series of comments attacking Jews in recent weeks, including a tweet threatening to go “death vs. 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE .”

Democratic-leaning Jewish groups also criticized Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz on Monday for planning to appear at a rally this weekend with GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastrian. Mastriano has upset Jewish Democrats and Republicans with his extremist ties and comments about his Jewish opponent, Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The Republican nominee’s wife said over the weekend that she and her husband “probably love Israel more than many Jews.”

Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), a former U.S. senator and the nation’s first Jewish candidate, said he is confident that most Americans reject anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry. “But if leaders are not explicit and directly confront it, it can grow.” He said Walker should reject Ye’s endorsement given his “explicit and vile anti-Semitism”.

Lieberman, now an independent, said things have gotten worse since he made history in 2000 as Al Gore’s running mate. He partly blamed a degraded political discourse where bigoted people “can feel confident coming out of their holes in the ground.”

Jack Rosen, president of the advocacy group American Jewish Congress, said the seeming rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric in politics “disturbing all of us” and asserted that “on the right … we don’t see the kind of leadership that is going to take to stop the growth of this kind of anti-Semitic hatred.”

His nonpartisan group recently criticized former President Donald Trump for saying that American Jews need to “come together” and appreciate Trump’s work for Israel more. While Trump was a “true friend of Israel,” the American Jewish Congress he saidsuch statements “contribute to the growing anti-Semitism that many Jews have to face.”

“We’re at a certain time in our country where bigotry like anti-Semitism is normalized, where people can make statements and there’s no real repercussions in the political sphere,” said Marilyn Mayo, senior researcher at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

In Arizona, the GOP candidate in the primary race, Eli Crane, invited the crowd to watch an anti-Semitic sermon at a recent campaign rally. Speaking last month in Casa Grande, Crane said he was motivated to run because of the “radical ideologies that are destroying this country” and that he was most concerned about the “cultural Marxism” of the Southern Poverty Law Center. described as an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory gaining popularity on the American right.

He encouraged the audience to watch a speech by a right-wing pastor who blamed cultural change on a group of German-Jewish philosophers and condemned Barack Obama for a “homosexual agenda.”

“If we don’t wake up,” Crane said, “if we don’t study what they’re doing, and if we don’t put people in positions of influence who understand what this war is, what they’re trying to do and have and have the courage to declare it, we’re going to lose this Earth.”

The Crane campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Republicans, including GOP Jewish leaders, have defended their candidates and leaders’ responses to anti-Semitic comments and said many Democrats have failed to condemn troubling remarks within their own ranks. A spokesman for the Republican National Committee pointed to comments by Democratic lawmakers using language widely condemned as anti-Semitic, such as a 2012 tweet by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) that said Israel had “hypnotized the world.” Omar defended the comments aimed at the country’s military action.

Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said Walker, Laxalt and Oz “have all been very clear in terms of their strong opposition and condemnation of anti-Semitism.” He said he was “absolutely not” concerned about the layoffs for Laxalt, who joined the RJC at an event this fall to emphasize his support for Israel.

As for Trump’s anti-Jewish tirade in the United States, Brooks called it a “Rorschach test” that offended critics, but for Trump’s supporters they expressed something “absolutely true” — that the Jewish community needs to take a stronger stance on issues like security Israel.

The RJC, however, refused to support Mastrian, who was under fire this summer for paying $5,000 in campaign consulting to the far-right site Gab — where the gunman posted anti-Semitic rants before killing 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue four years ago. Gab CEO Andrew Torba said he has a policy of only talking to Christian journalists and said Mastriano does too. Mastriano issued a statement distancing himself from Torba, saying, “I reject anti-Semitism in any form.”

In Pa. governor’s race, Shapiro emphasizes Jewish faith while warning against Mastrian’s extremism

Mastriano also came under fire after he told supporters that his Democratic opponent, Shapiro, had “contempt for people like us” because he attended and sent his children to a “privileged, exclusive, elite” school, a Jewish institution. An Israeli journalist asked Mastrian over the weekend about those comments, which have been widely condemned as promoting anti-Semitic tropes, as well as his association with Gab.

Rebbie Mastriano, the candidate’s wife, jumped in and said, “We probably love Israel more than a lot of Jews.”

Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, noted that the words echoed Trump’s social media post touting his relationship with Israel and said others in the GOP should have criticized Trump. “For a former president to direct that kind of animus toward Jews, two weeks ago … of course other Republicans are going to do it again,” she said.

Democratic candidates turned their attention to GOP candidates’ responses to anti-Semitic remarks. The campaign of Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) on Monday took aim at Walker’s silence on Ye’s social media post praising Walker as “PRO LIFE,” saying in a news release that Walker “should tell Georgians: Does he accept Kanye West’s endorsement despite his divisive, racist and anti-Semitic comments?”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee had no comment on the endorsement of Ye, whose the business empire is in shambles after Adidas and other companies cut ties over his repeated anti-Semitic comments.

In Nevada, Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and Jacky Rosen (D), who is Jewish, joined Jewish leaders Monday in condemning anti-Semitism, including firstly comments by former Laxalto staff Jewish Insider reported on Sunday.

Laxalto spokesman Brian Freimuth initially told Jewish Insider only that the person was fired in August and was not associated with the campaign. On Monday, he issued a fuller statement, saying the “factory opinions” attributed to the former field representative did not reflect Laxalt’s views. He did not elaborate on the circumstances of the firing and said that Laxalt’s “public and private life demonstrate that he believes there should be zero tolerance for anti-Semitism in any form and that any suggestion otherwise is a politically motivated lie.”

A Twitter user with the handle “LaxaltStan,” who at one point identified himself as a GOP political operative named Michael Pecjak, described Jews as part of a “cult”; retweeted a picture of the words “hate” and “Jews”; and suggested they were unhappy with a Breitbart editor’s comment that the right-wing website was “pro-Jewish with a reputation for treating women and minorities well.”

“I don’t know if I like Breitbart more,” LaxaltStan wrote in early October.

Jewish Insider reports that other now-deleted tweets stated that “guns should have more rights than women” and that gay rights supporters are “going to hell.” LaxaltStan’s account disappeared after the publication tried to contact him for comment last week. Pecjak did not respond to requests for comment.

Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, president of the New York-based Center for Jewish History, warned that mass hate speech could lead to violence.

“I think the overheated rhetoric is getting worse and I think people are realizing that the election is only a week away and control of the House and Senate is at stake … people are not seeing these statements as just a flash in the pan,” Rosenfeld said. “They see them as potentially mobilized for nefarious political purposes.”

Sabrina Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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