New Left-leaning U.S. Website Targets anti-Semitic Rhetoric by Republicans

The GOP, the website’s Jewish organizers claim, has an anti-Semitism problem that needs to be acknowledged; ZOA’s Morton Klein calls initiative the ‘height of ludicrous political bias’

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Before and after: Screen grab of Donald Trump's tweets of an image of Hillary Clinton with the words "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever," first (R) on a Star of David-like form, then (L) on a circle. July 2, 2016.
Before and after: Screengrab of Trump's tweets of an image of Hillary Clinton with the words 'Most Corrupt Candidate Ever,' first (R) on a Star of David-like form, then (L) on a circle. July 2016Credit: Twitter

As manifestations of anti-Semitism continue to emerge during the coronavirus pandemic, a new online database compiled by left-leaning Jewish groups aims to “track the spread of anti-Semitism and conspiracies” coming specifically from far-right Republicans.

The groups behind the website say that although the GOP attempts to portray itself as pro-Jewish, it needs to acknowledge anti-Semitism by some in the party’s ranks.

The group Bend the Arc: Jewish Action launched the How to Fight Antisemitism website this week with the help of another organization, Jews Against White Nationalism. The website provides a chronology of anti-Semitic rhetoric that is presented as emerging from the Republican Party since the 2016 presidential campaign, when then-candidate Donald Trump tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton against a backdrop of cash and next to a Star of David. The pic labeled her the “most corrupt candidate ever.”

At the time, CNN reported that Trump rejected the Clinton campaign’s accusations that the tweet was anti-Semitic, calling them “false attacks” and adding that the star represented a sheriff’s badge.

The chronology on the new website extends to the present and incidents occurring during the coronavirus pandemic. The information from the current period includes Nazi imagery spotted at various protests in the United States urging the reopening of the economy and a halt to COVID-19 shutdowns.

Protesters carrying rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, April 15, 2020. Another protester holds a sign stating:"Heil Witmer," referring to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.Credit: Paul Sancya/AP

The website states that Republicans have praised the protests, although they have not praised the Nazi imagery. Similar imagery on a sign carried by protesters last month in Columbus, Ohio, prompted condemnation from Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine.

“All the racism and all the hatred that has existed in this country are being magnified by this crisis,” Sophie Ellman-Golan, an activist involved with Jews Against White Nationalism, told Haaretz, referring to the pandemic, “so it’s important for people to understand that there are many different ripple effects to what is happening and the role COVID-19 is playing in anti-Semitism and white nationalism.”

The online resource, Ellman-Golan said, has been in the works for almost a year, and seeks to help tip the scales for Jewish voters in November 2020.

“There are so many casual instances of anti-Semitism from leadership in the Republican Party that just never got the same coverage that people like Rep. Ilhan Omar got,” she claimed, referring to the tweet last year by the Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota that suggested support for Israel is “all about the Benjamins.” Omar quicked released a statement in which she “unequivocally” apologized for her comment. 

Omar was also at the center of another controversy when she made comments that some believed implied American Jews may have a foreign allegiance. Omar subsequently clarified that she never said American Jews have a foreign allegiance, nor does she believe that. 

Ellman-Golan said that Omar “got that [negative] coverage in part because there has been a dedicated campaign to make sure she gets that coverage.”

U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar during a news conference at the Minnesota State Capitol Building in St Paul, Minnesota, August 19, 2019.Credit: STRINGER/ REUTERS

She explained that she and her colleagues want to shed light not only on high-profile incidents, but what they claimed are other incidents involving members of the Republic Party that they claim get little attention.

Republican leaders, she said, are “engaging in anti-Semitic tropes and validating anti-Semitic tropes, and yet they are trying to sell a story that they are somehow the pro-Jewish party.

“The case that the Republican Party is trying to make to the American people is that Democrats are the party of socialists and anti-Semitism,” Ellman-Golan added. “They have to account for what they’ve done.”

Ellman-Golan added, however, that she is “not trying to claim by any means that anti-Semitism is restricted to the Republican Party.”

Surveys of Jewish voters

According to an online survey of Jewish voters conducted in September by Bend the Arc and released in early February, three-quarters of Jewish voters hold unfavorable opinions of President Trump and more than half of Jewish voters – 58 percent – believe Trump holds anti-Semitic views. In addition, some 76 percent believe Trump holds racist views.

Beyond that, the survey found that more than half of Jewish voters view Trump as representative of the Republican Party. Only 37 percent said he is not.

Results released last fall of polling of the U.S. Jewish community by the American Jewish Committee found that respondents placed more blame for anti-Semitism in the country on Republicans than Democrats.

“People have a vague understanding of the fact that the Republican Party has an anti-Semitism problem and that it’s probably more extreme than in the Democratic Party. But people don’t have a ton of examples to point to beyond Trump because no one has invested in aggregating this information and putting it in one place, where the full breadth and extent of it is seen,” Ellman-Golan said.

She stressed that, although the initiative is pointing the finger at Republicans alone, it is not as much about the party itself as about a pattern of anti-Semitism that her team said it has observed on that side of the political spectrum among people who sometimes deflect criticism by professing support for Israel and criticize anti-Semitism coming from people of color. The strategy, Ellman-Golan said, is almost exclusively within the Republican Party.

“It’s something that endangers Jews, it endangers Jewish people of color, it pits us against each other, it suggests that Jews and Israel are one and the same, and so that’s a real problem,” she said.

‘Ludicrous political bias’

In response to the allegations against the Republicans, Morton Klein, the right-leaning president of the Zionist Organization of America, told Haaretz: “It is the height of ludicrous political bias for extremist Bend the Arc to focus only on Republican anti-Semitism when the three most openly anti-Semitic and Israel-bashing Congress members are Democrats Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and when Republican President Donald Trump is the greatest friend the Jewish State of Israel ever had in the White House.

“Just as troubling, Democratic leaders [Nancy] Pelosi, [Steny] Hoyer and others not only refused to explicitly condemn their Democratic colleagues’ anti-Semitic statements, but even defended them,” he added.

Expressions of anti-Semitism have rapidly spread online since the coronavirus pandemic began in March.

Last week, the Anti-Defamation League said it has recorded a “significant increase” in anti-Semitic social media posts in recent months that have targeted Orthodox Jewish communities in New York and New Jersey, particularly in relation to COVID-19.

The organization’s analysis found that coronavirus-related anti-Semitic content often places generalized blame on the Orthodox community or suggests that Orthodox Jews should be forcibly separated from the rest of society, or refused medical treatment and that they be punished by law enforcement authorities.

ADL expressed particular concern that the hate-filled rhetoric has appeared on “mainstream community Facebook groups that purport to discuss public policy issues, but instead quickly morph into forums that enable Jew-hatred, both veiled and overt.” The ADL issued a statement on the issue in which it said: “We must not allow the COVID-19 crisis to be used as an excuse to fuel anti-Semitism and hate.”

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