WASHINGTON – First-term Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has drawn widespread criticism from Democratic and GOP lawmakers alike for trafficking in antisemitic conspiracy theories since rising to national prominence last year, but her latest remarks have proven a bridge too far.
“You know, we can look back in a time and history where people were told to wear a gold star. And they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany,” Greene said on a recent appearance on conservative podcast “The Water Cooler with David Brody.”
She later tweeted a news story about a grocery-store chain that will allow vaccinated, maskless employees to identify themselves via a logo on their name tags. “Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazis forced Jewish people to wear a gold star,” Greene remarked.
Rep. Brad Schneider announced earlier this week that he is drafting a resolution to censure the Georgia congresswoman over her remarks. This is a very rare procedure in which the House votes to express formal disapproval of a lawmaker’s conduct; the move has only been undertaken 23 times in U.S. history, most recently in 2010.
Schneider tells Haaretz that while Greene’s rhetoric has been repeatedly hateful, bigoted and antisemitic, her latest “disrespectful and reprehensible” comparisons mark a new, unacceptable low that dishonors the House and the memory of those murdered in the Shoah.
“Comparing the United States’ effort in addressing the pandemic to the Holocaust, making references to what she calls ‘gold stars’ and to trains [and] the gas chambers – she is diminishing the memory of 6 million victims and dishonoring survivors and families, as well as all those American soldiers who risked their lives and gave their lives to fight Nazi Germany and protect our democracy,” he says.
The Democratic congressman from Illinois is particularly offended by her inability to admit wrongdoing. “It’s not that she’s saying ‘I misspoke, let me correct the record.’ She doubles down and says it again, and says it the third time,” he notes. “She is now not only dishonoring the memory of those murdered in the Holocaust and perverting history, she’s dishonoring the House, and that’s why we need to sanction her.”
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One of 25 Jewish Democrats in the House, Schneider is at pains to explain why Greene’s latest remarks are particularly offensive and dangerous. “The Holocaust is a singular event in world history, certainly for Jews,” he says. “The genocide of 6 million Jews, the impact it had on the global Jewish community and still does to this day, for anyone – but in particular a member of Congress – to minimize that and to compare the effort to murder and wipe out an entire race of people to the effort to fight the pandemic to save lives – it’s just not acceptable,” he says. “We have to call that out, and the failure to do so is allowing perspectives like Marjorie Taylor Greene’s to spread.”
Schneider, however, does not limit his concern to Greene’s illogical comparison. “We are seeing increasing incidents of antisemitism around the United States and the world: threats to Jews everywhere. People are concerned about wearing yarmulkes or anything that would identify them as Jews, and we need to stand up and call that out everywhere we’ve seen it,” he says.
“That’s true whether it’s happening on the right, like what we saw [at the white supremacist rally] in Charlottesville in 2017, or what we’re seeing over the last few weeks where there have been attacks from people condemning Israel and Zionism and attacking Jews,” Schneider continues. “Wherever and whenever we see antisemitism, we have to stand up, condemn it and call it out for what it is.”
Schneider, 59, first served as a congressman for Illinois’ 10th Congressional District between 2013 and 2015, retaking the seat in 2017. He says he was fighting antisemitism long before his career in politics began, though, He previously told Jewish News Syndicate about his year on a post-college program in Israel in the early 1980s when he “studied Hebrew and worked in a kibbutz wiring factory as an industrial engineer.”
He has also spoken out about “antisemitic statements” made by members of his own party, including Rep. Ilhan Omar’s suggestion in 2019 that supporters of Israel “push for allegiance to a foreign country.” He co-wrote an op-ed for CNN on the matter with fellow Jewish Democrats Elaine Luria and Josh Gottheimer. “Not only did I call it out publicly, but I put it in writing. We will call [antisemitism] out wherever it is,” he says, while stressing that Greene’s Holocaust comparisons “are something entirely different.”
Greene’s remarks have received near-universal condemnation, including from senior Republican lawmakers who have previously been hesitant to criticize her due to her popularity among the Republican base and her allegiance to former U.S. President Donald Trump.
“Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling,” House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said in a statement on Tuesday. “The fact that this needs to be stated today is deeply troubling.”
Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking Republican House lawmaker, added that “equating mask wearing and vaccines to the Holocaust belittles the most significant human atrocities ever committed.”
Schneider says he is pleased with the bipartisan condemnations, though urges his colleagues to take the next step by censuring her on the House floor, “hopefully as soon as possible.”
“We’ve seen criticism from both parties and both chambers because she’s dishonored the House of Representatives, and we have to put that on the record and on the floor,” he says, noting that he will continue to work to build support for the measure.
“From the response from my constituents, on both sides of the aisle, there’s a desire to see the House take action. My hope is that my colleagues will listen to their constituents, do what’s right and follow their conscience,” he says.