News & Politics

Rabbis: Democrats' Double Standard on Anti-Semitism Puts Jewish Community 'at Greater Risk'

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File

On Thursday, just after the House of Representatives voted to strip Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) of her committee assignments over past statements Greene has since said she regretted, a coalition of 1,500 Orthodox Jewish rabbis condemned the Democrats’ blatant double standard on anti-Semitism. While some of Greene’s statements were anti-Semitic, the rabbis faulted the House for targeting Greene while ignoring heinous anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party.

“Had the House operated by a fair and neutral standard,” Rabbi Yaakov Menken, Managing Director of the Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV) said in a statement, “Rep. Greene would not be the only Member of Congress losing her committee assignments. Let there be no mistake: the American Jewish community is at greater risk today, because partisans chose to ‘virtue signal’ instead of taking real action to fight Antisemitism and hatred.”

CJV sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), urging the House to adopt a “neutral standard” on anti-Semitism that would involve condemning statements from Democrats that came in the past few weeks as well as statements that Greene made two years ago.

The letter noted that Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Minn.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Marie Newman (D-Ill.), and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) falsely accused the Jewish State of Israel of refusing to vaccinate Palestinians when the Palestinian government has vociferously refused the Israeli vaccine and even repeatedly refused COVID-19 medical aid from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because the UAE had been working toward normalization with Israel. Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan condemned Tlaib’s accusation as a “modern-day blood libel.”

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“We applaud you for condemning Antisemitic statements attributed to new Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, and made in videos she promoted,” the rabbis wrote in the letter. “We strongly encourage you to establish a neutral and bipartisan approach, utilizing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of Antisemitism. The House of Representatives must ensure that Antisemitism is not allowed to flourish on one side by condemning it only on the other.”

“On January 19, Representative Rashida Tlaib stated that Israel was denying access to COVID vaccines to citizens of the Palestinian Authority (PA), including her own grandmother,” the rabbis explained. “The IHRA definition [of anti-Semitism] includes ‘applying double standards [against Israel] by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.'”

The rabbis noted that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has sole jurisdiction over health care according to the Oslo Accords, and the PA rejected Israel’s overtures on the vaccine, preferring to obtain the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia, instead. “All Israeli Arab Muslim citizens and residents over age 60 — like Israeli Jews, Christians, Baha’i and all other citizens — were offered the vaccine by mid-January,” they added.

Yet Tlaib accused Israel of carrying out an “apartheid” policy in denying the vaccine to Palestinians like her grandmother.

“They don’t believe that she’s an equal human being that deserves to live, deserves to be able to be protected by this global pandemic,” Tlaib said. “It’s really hard to watch as this apartheid state continues to deny their own neighbors, the people that breathe the same air they breathe, that live in the same communities.”

Bowman, an ally of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) “Squad” (of which Tlaib is a member), tweeted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “must ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians have access to the Covid vaccine.” To his credit, Bowman later deleted this tweet.

“I commend Israel for leading the world on vaccinating its people, but I’m disappointed and concerned by their government’s exclusion of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation from these vaccination efforts, despite making COVID vaccines available to Israeli settlers in the West Bank,” Castro said.

Newman claimed that “the Netanyahu administration has a moral and humanitarian obligation to ensure that both Israelis & Palestinians have access to vaccines.”

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While Bowman deleted his tweet, neither Tlaib nor Castro nor Newman have retracted or apologized.

The rabbis noted that Erdan “rightly called this accusation a modern-day blood libel. This is almost correct. In the Middle Ages, the accusers did not first reject Jewish medical assistance before falsely accusing the Jews of causing their deaths.”

“Representative Greene promoted a video referring to ‘Zionist supremacists,’ and Representative Tlaib referred to Israel as racist. The sentiment is precisely the same. No one can deny that this is a bipartisan problem,” the rabbis wrote.

“Working from a neutral standard will help prevent Antisemitism from being relegated to a political weapon. That would place American and global Jewry at greater risk, by claiming to fight hate while permitting it to fester,” the Coalition for Jewish Values warned.

The rabbis focused on a few recent anti-Semitic claims, but many Democrats have long histories of spouting anti-Semitism without censure from their party. Greene has expressed regret and explicitly disavowed many of her previous claims, and she has strongly supported the State of Israel. Those moves do not erase her misdeeds, but they demonstrate far more remorse than Tlaib or Castro have expressed over their statements from earlier this year.

Like the rabbis, I am glad that both Republicans and Democrats condemned Greene’s former comments, although I fear the precedent that Democrats (and 11 Republicans) set by voting to strip Greene of her committee assignments on Thursday.

Given Thursday’s vote, if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants to apply an even standard against anti-Semitism, she must hold votes to strip Tlaib, Bowman, Castro, and Newman of their committee assignments — even if these members express regret over their anti-Semitic statements. Otherwise, the rabbis’ warning is correct — Pelosi has cheapened the fight against anti-Semitism by wielding it as a political weapon, which will worsen the threat of anti-Jewish hatred.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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