Only ten days after the Pittsburg synagogue massacre, an avowed American Nazi, who won the Republican primary in a Chicago area district, garnered over 56,000 votes
on Election Day.
In California, GOP candidate John Fitzgerald — nominated with 23 percent of the vote in California’s June’s new “open primary” — lost overwhelmingly to Democratic Congressman Mark DeSaulnier. But 43,000+ fellow Californians, 28 percent of the voters, backed the Holocaust denier. Previously running unsuccessfully in Democratic primaries, Fitzgerald refused to debate this time, but appeared on neo-Nazi websites and radio programs, claiming that Israel was behind the Sept. 11 attacks, that the Holocaust was an “absolute fabricated lie,” and that Jews were behind “diluting races” in America.
Republican leaders in Illinois and California eventually denounced their anti-Semitic standard bearers, with a leading Republican urging Illinois voters to vote for Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski.
California state party chairman Jim Brulte said: “We reject John Fitzgerald’s campaign and encourage all voters to do the same. His views have no home in the Republican Party. California Republicans reject anti-Semitism, and all forms of religious bigotry, in the harshest terms possible.’’
Meanwhile Tyler Diep, who fled Communist persecution in Vietnam, employed campaign literature in Orange County depicting his Jewish challenger, Josh Lowenthal, clutching dollar bills and pursuing a “quick buck.” Diep’s campaign denied he was an anti-Semite because, “Tyler is Vietnamese and fled Communist persecution — he is highly sensitive to attempts at exploiting stereotypes to score political points.”
Diep’s campaign flier appears to be based on the recent political cartoon by Republican Connecticut state representative candidate Ed Charamut’s campaign, showing his Jewish Democratic opponent, Rep. Matthew Lesser, with a maniacal smile clutching $100 bills. It didn’t work. Lesser won.
Meanwhile, the very same imagery was also used by a Green Party candidate in Ohio, who ran with U.S. Communist Party support. And in Iowa, GOP Congressman Steve King has been re-elected, despite criticism for his bigoted, racist remarks from within his own party. All this in the shadow of the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre.
So is the issue of toxic Jew-hatred in America’s political bloodstream exclusively a GOP problem? No, the infection runs much deeper in our nation’s mainstream.
The Vietnamese-born politician asserts he is immune from charges of hate, because he had once had to flee religious persecution. Invoking this argument is reminiscent of those denying that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan — notorious for calling Hitler “a great man” and Judaism “a gutter religion” — is anti-Semite because, as an African American belonging to a minority group “lacking power,” he is incapable of being a racist.
Progressive leaders including Tamika Mallory, a co-chair of 2017’s Women's March on Washington, used this argument justifying her enthusiastic backing of Farrakhan. In this year’s election she supported victorious Democratic “progressive” candidates for Congress — Rashida Tlaib in Michigan, Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York. Tlaib and Omar, both Muslims, have embraced the extreme anti-peace and anti-Semitic, Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, while Ocasio-Cortez denounced recent Israeli military efforts to protect its international border with Gaza as “a massacre.”
Ilhan Omar is the most virulent in deploying new anti-Semitic, “anti-Zionist” tropes, claiming that Israel has “hypnotized the world” and saying she hoped Allah would awaken people to “the evil doings” of “the apartheid Israeli regime.” That was too much for many progressive Jews, and progressive J-Street withdrew its primary support of Omar.
Anti-Semitic tropes — both “old” and “new” — have gained new political life across America’s political spectrum during the 2018 campaign. The toxic afterlife of that hate cannot be contained by higher security measures at our houses of worship, community centers and schools. But we Jews know from bitter experience that the mainstreaming of such hate will further threaten our well-being and the strength of American democracy. We take heart that many non-Jews, starting with African American clergy in Chicago, stood with us against an American Nazi. But in the run-up to the 2020 elections it behooves both the RNC and DNC to get their collective houses in order.
Then there is this sage advice for each of us from a man who almost died in a Soviet gulag for seeking democracy and freedom.
Nathan Sharansky, the great human rights icon, said this: “It is not our responsibility to tell people how to vote or whether they should be conservatives or progressives. But it is the responsibility of conservatives to be the first to denounce anti-Semitism from within their ranks and for Progressive activists to do the same when anti-Jewish hate raises its ugly head from the Left.”
Let’s hope America is listening.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean, Director Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organization. Abraham Cooper has been a longtime activist for Jewish and human rights causes. His extensive involvement in Soviet Jewry included visiting refuseniks, helping to open Moscow’s first Jewish Cultural Center, and lecturing at the Soviet Academy of Sciences and the Sakharov Foundation. In 1977, he came to L.A. to help Rabbi Marvin Hier found the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and for three decades Rabbi Cooper has overseen the Wiesenthal Center’s international social action agenda including worldwide antisemitism and extremist groups, Nazi crimes, Interfaith Relations, the struggle to thwart the anti-Israel Divestment campaign, and worldwide promotion of tolerance education. Widely recognized as an international authority on issues related to digital hate and the Internet, Rabbi Cooper was listed in 2017 by Newsweek among the top most influential Rabbis in the United States. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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