Grand old hypocrisy
The Grand Old Party knows antisemitism when it sees it and is swift in dealing with it.
That is why, on February 2, House Republicans voted to remove Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. No less than the Jew-ish New York Republican, George Santos, insisted on this:
“I urge the 118th Congress to now stand together, proudly upholding every single American, no matter race, pedigree, religion, nor creed, as any less American than their neighbor, that Jewish Americans are patriotic Americans, and that we all have a role in fighting bigotry and antisemitism in our country. We must make sure that the House of Representatives reflects such principles as a united body.” (Yes, Santos said “reflects” principles, although he is better known for deflecting them.)
The GOP House members also demonstrated that they know how to reward patriotism when they see it, which is why Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) now sits on the House Homeland Security Committee. After all, she asserted in a 2018 YouTube video that “there’s never [been] any evidence” to prove that “a so-called plane” slammed into the Pentagon on 9/11. Subsequently, she seconded a Facebook poster’s claim that our government was behind the horrific attacks. “That is all true,” Greene posted. Who better, then, to protect the security of our homeland than Marjorie Taylor Greene?
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In fairness, she has since walked back these idiotic statements. “The problem,” she explained in doing so, “is that our government lies to us so much…[that] it’s hard to sometimes know what is real and what is not.”
What truly is hard to know regarding what is real or not, though, is whether the GOP truly gives no quarter to antisemitism. Placing Greene on any committee, much less Homeland Security, suggests the opposite: It has no problem putting power into the hands of conspiracy-promoting Jew-haters, so long as they are Republicans.
To be sure, Omar’s past comments were antisemitic, her demurrals notwithstanding. As the Talmud teaches us, once a person commits a transgression and repeats it, it becomes something that person finds acceptable to repeat. (See the Babylonian Talmud tractate Sota 22a.) She has repeated that transgression too many times to take her apologies at face value.
The Democratic-led House, sadly only after much back-and-forth negotiations, condemned Omar for her antisemitic comments. The watered-down resolution passed by a 407-23 vote. Quite tellingly, all 23 who voted against condemning Omar’s comments were Republicans.
Greene, on the other hand, gets a free pass from the GOP despite being the poster politician when it comes to spewing antisemitic trash.
Greene is a diehard antisemite. Examples abound, including some downright ludicrous ones, such as her 535-word “speculation” on Facebook in November 2018 that a Jewish-led conspiracy caused a devastating northern California forest fire. It was triggered, she “speculated,” by a satellite-mounted laser shooting concentrated solar energy beams onto the site. Behind the space laser plot, among others, were Rothschild Inc.; Sen. Diane Feinstein and her husband, Richard Blum; and former Pacific Gas and Electric director Roger Kimmel, who is the vice chairman of Rothschild Inc. All are Jews. (Greene later claimed she did not know the Rothschilds were Jewish.)
Greene is also an avid supporter of the far-right conspiracy-theory-spouting QAnon, which pours out Jew-hatred with abandon.
She also has proudly posed for photographs with Chester Doles, a former Ku Klux Klan leader who heads a chapter of the racist skinhead Hammerskins Nation. Doles calls Greene a friend. The Anti-Defamation League calls Doles’ Hammerskins Nation “the most violent and best-organized neo-Nazi skinhead group in the United States,” and says it is “active and dangerous.”
In 2020, a spokesperson for the ADL’s Southern division noted that Greene “has a history of propagating antisemitic disinformation.”
Then there are her appearances at events hosted by Jew-hating groups, such as the America First Political Action Conference, headed by the Holocaust-denying white supremacist Nick Fuentes, “a Nazi who has built links to Republican politics,” according to political commentator Jonathan Chait. Former President Donald Trump, for example, dined with Fuentes at Mar-a-Lago in November.
After denying that she knew anything about Fuentes before appearing with him — Trump made a similar claim — Greene backtracked and attacked the “Pharisees” in the GOP for objecting to her “outreach” efforts. After all, according to one of her tweets, “Jesus was a friend to sinners.” (Greene has since disavowed Fuentes.)
Her comments also are often insensitive. She once compared Covid-19 vaccination rules to the yellow star Jews were made to wear in Nazi Germany. “Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazis forced Jewish people to wear a gold [sic] star,” she said.
Greene is not alone within the GOP’s House ranks when it comes to antisemitic comments. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) supports the far right’s preposterous so-called “great replacement theory,” which claims that Democrats, Jews especially, want to create a “liberal majority” by replacing white people on the voter rolls with immigrants. White supremacists chanted the “theory’s” popular slogan at Charlottesville, Va., in 2017: “Jews will not replace us.” Stefanik chairs the powerful House Republican Conference and ranks No. 3 in the GOP House leadership.
Minnesota Republican Rep. Tom Emmer has accused the philanthropists and social activists George Soros, Tom Steyer, and Michael Bloomberg of owning the Democratic Party.
In 2018, another representative told an interviewer that these are the “three individuals who are funding the Democratic Party.” This GOPer later tweeted: “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer and Bloomberg to BUY this election,” referring to that year’s midterms. That representative, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), is now Speaker of the House.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) once spelled Steyer’s name $teyer. (Steyer’s father was Jewish.) Jordan now chairs the House Judiciary Committee. After Kanye West’s anti-Semitic “death con 3” tweet, the committee’s Republican Twitter account — which Jordan controlled despite recent denials — posted this: “Kanye. Elon. Trump.” It was Jordan’s — and by extension, his committee colleagues’ — way of praising West, praising Trump for defending West, and also praising Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk. (Antisemitic posts have soared more since Musk took over ownership of Twitter. As Florida Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz recently told CNN, “Twitter has become a hate-filled playground for Nazis and antisemites.”)
That outrageous tweet disappeared only after West told the hate-mongering conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ InfoWars program, “I see good things about Hitler. I like Hitler.”
Until the heat got too much for him, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) was a strong defender of the vile Nick Fuentes. Gosar now serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability. He cheered Omar’s removal because, he said, “She regularly engages with racists, supports and condones racism, and champions anti-American sentiments.”
Gosar’s hypocrisy seems limitless. In addition to his now-suspended support for Fuentes and the racist political action group Fuentes heads, Gosar is an ardent follower of several other hate groups on his very active Twitter page. The Talking Points Memo website, for example, reported in 2019 that among the accounts Gosar followed that year were several that are “out-and-out white nationalists.” One of the accounts, @marktsword, referred to “the Jewish Bolshevik Communists” and ended with “ZOG [Zionist-occupied government] is real.” (Twitter eventually suspended @marktsword. Whether Musk restores it awaits to be seen.)
“Another account Gosar follows,” TPM reported, “has ‘88’ in its handle.” In the Jew-hating white supremacist world, the number 8 is a stand-in for the letter H, the eighth letter in the alphabet, so 88 is a stand-in for ‘HH,’ shorthand for ‘Heil Hitler.’”
To be sure, there are antisemites within the Democratic party, as well. The Democrats, however, moved quickly to condemn Omar in 2019. Neither McCarthy nor his party have done anything to punish the antisemites within their ranks. Instead, they award them with plush committee assignments and cover up their hypocrisy by ousting Omar from the Foreign Affairs Committee.
That is an example of putting a “stumbling block before the blind” (see Leviticus 19:14) that is intended to deceive us into supporting Republicans because they support us. Jewish law takes a strong stance against such hypocritical behavior, especially when it involves deceiving others out of self-interest. Such people are counted among the wicked. (See Sotah 21b-22a.)
The late 13th- early 14th-century ethicist Rabbi Asher ben Yechiel, the Rosh, offered this advice to his son: “Keep as far as possible from arrogance, flattery, lying and deception.” (See his Orchot Chaim L’HaRosh 1.1-3.)
That admonition applies to us all, of course, but it especially applies to politicians and their supporters, regardless of political affiliation.
“Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor,” Leviticus 19:17 commands. At a time when “huge numbers of Americans [50-plus million people] hold dangerous, false ideas about the Jewish people,” in the words of the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt, and antisemitic acts have been rising steadily in the last few years, we must not stand idly by now. We need to call out the leaders of the parties we support when they turn blind eyes to — and worse, even reward — the Jew-haters and other bigots in their midst.
Shammai Engelmayer is a rabbi-emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel of the Palisades and an adult education teacher in Bergen County. He is the author of eight books and the winner of 10 awards for his commentaries. His website is www.shammai.org.