By Aaron Keyak, Press Secretary of the National Jewish Democratic Council
Dissent may be patriotic; hate and racism aren’t. The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) has been keeping track of the vile Holocaust/Nazi/fascist/treasonous/anti-Semitic/racist rhetorical comparisons leveled against President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders; I feel dirty just overseeing the collection of this data. While some in the Republican Party claim to have distanced themselves from this hate speech, it is incumbent on the party opposing the President to unequivocally disown this sort of rhetoric and completely abandon these ugly bedfellows. In fact, we’ve called on GOP leadership to “tell their base once and for all to cut out this despicable pattern of Holocaust imagery and rhetoric.” NJDC’s CEO, Ira N. Forman, went as far as to remind Republicans of the cost of leaving this very serious issue unresolved:
If appeals to conscience are not enough then we are making an appeal to their political self-interests: if these GOP congressional leaders don’t call out this behavior now and in the future, the NJDC promises to “stick it in your ear” in the coming electoral cycle. We will take GOP Holocaust comparisons and anti-Semitic statements to the Jewish electorate and to other fair-minded American voters and paint you as the party of bigotry and insensitivity toward the Holocaust. You can count on it.
Our fight to hold these leaders accountable was recently augmented by a letter from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)—our nation’s watchdog against anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry - to GOP leaders decrying the “‘failure of Republican leadership’ on Holocaust imagery.” What was the response to ADL’s letter? The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), the “representative of the Jewish community to Republican elected officials and party leaders,” tweeted that they “respectfully disagree” with the ADL. A full letter from the ADL deserves more than tweets in response and it is incumbent on RJC to state where exactly they “disagree.” This is especially true since this is a letter where the ADL’s National Director, Abe Foxman, wrote, “we believe that the use [of] Nazi symbols and pictures of Nazi victims to advance a political agenda under any circumstance is inappropriate and profoundly offensive.” I imagine RJC doesn’t disagree with that statement, right? Or did the RJC disagree when Foxman urged Republican leaders “to use your stature and platform as a national political leader to reject and condemn the use of Holocaust imagery for political purposes, and to urge your supporters to find other ways to communicate their views?” I can’t see how the RJC would be able to “disagree” with that statement either, but we don’t know since they haven’t given the full attention or response that this letter deserves. The Republican response to this hatred would be comical if it weren’t so damaging. The ADL’s documentation of this hate went beyond the length of a letter. This week the ADL released an entire report that outlines the “toxic atmosphere” created by this sort of anti-Obama hatred:
This hostile wave of anti-Obama anger and paranoid anti-government conspiracy theories goes well beyond mere transgressions of civil political discourse. Anti-government agitators launch many attacks that do not merely disagree with government policies or positions, but rather attempt to delegitimize the government itself. ... These growing beliefs threaten to create a large pool of people more susceptible to extreme anti-government conspiracy theories and even calls to resistance….”
And on Nazi analogies specifically:
By comparing Obama to Hitler, a man widely perceived as the epitome of evil in the modern world, people who use such comparisons demonize Obama and make even the most extreme conspiracy theories about his ultimate intentions more plausible. In these Nazi analogies, Obama and his supporters are being cast as opponents to be destroyed rather than fellow citizens with whom dialogue, debate, and compromise are possible.
As one leading Jewish commentator, The Jewish Week’s Jim Besser, remarked, this is “scary stuff.” Indeed it is. Nonetheless, the right wing wasted no time deriding the report’s findings. However, these responses do more to prove the ADL’s findings than rebut them in any way, with headlines such as: “Purging The Undesirables: ADL Attempts To Pin A Yellow Star On Grass Roots America.” Others give a harsh warning that the ADL “stepped over a line.” That’s right ADL: don’t you know your place? Regardless of partisan affiliation, this sort of language and imagery is unacceptable - it is outside the mainstream of political discourse. This is not an issue where one can seriously “respectfully disagree.” It’s past time for the GOP to stop downplaying their own anti-Obama activists who insist on using this sort of hateful rhetoric when attacking the President. Simply put, the use of swastikas, photos of dead Holocaust victims, and anti-Semitic epithets should have no place in any event or venue sponsored or promoted on either side of the partisan divide.