Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) does not care about antisemitism. In the notorious congressional hearing in which she participated last week, she weaponized anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred in order to embarrass three university presidents with dishonest “have you stopped beating your spouse?” questions — pretending to do so in order to fight bigotry against Jews.
Stefanik implicitly characterized campus protests against the Israeli total war on Gaza and its reckless disregard for civilian life as a form of antisemitism, indeed as a call for genocide. Apparently the logic is that if Palestinians get their basic civil rights, then an Israeli ethnostate becomes difficult to maintain, and if Israel has to be a pluralist state rather than retaining solely sovereignty for Jews, that outbreak of equal rights equates to a genocide.
It is the same logic white nationalists use to argue that rights for African Americans equates to genocide against white people. That Stefanik is deploying Klan logic is no accident — see below.
Stefanik is supposedly a Roman Catholic. Here is what the head of her church said about brutalizing Israeli tactics in Gaza: “This is what wars do. But here, we have gone beyond wars. This is not war. This is terrorism.”
The Pope accused the Israeli army of terrorism against Palestinians. Would Stefanik let him come to the University of Pennsylvania and say that on campus? Or is she a cafeteria Catholic who likes the pro-life stance of the church regarding abortion but isn’t pro-life when it comes to war on Palestinians?
We can further tell that Stefanik is a hypocrite because she did not bother to criticize Donald J. Trump for saying that the Nazis who chanted “Jews will not replace us” at Charlottesville in 2017 were “very fine people.” (She did, in her earlier incarnation as a somewhat normal person, herself condemn the white nationalists at Charlottesville. But she never protested Trump’s characterization.)
When challenged on Trump’s association with Kanye West and other genuine antisemites, Stefanik lamely excused him on the grounds that he had recognized Israel’s illegal occupation of Syria’s Golan Heights. No wonder she can’t understand, like, college. She thinks breaking international law is a sign someone isn’t an antisemite.
It gets worse. In 2021, Stefanik began taking up the talking points of the Great Replacement Theory. It holds that wealthy Jewish businessmen are bringing in immigrants from the Global South to replace white workers, since the immigrants will work more cheaply. Stefanik perhaps did not utter the phrase, but she appealed to all the dog whistles of this odious theory.
Marianna Sotomayor noted last year at the Washington Post that Stefanik put out campaign ads saying, “Radical Democrats are planning their most aggressive move yet: a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION . . . Their plan to grant amnesty to 11 MILLION illegal immigrants will overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.” Guess who the “radical Democrats” might be, to which she refers? Could they possibly be people such as, oh, I don’t know, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and other Jewish American legislators who have worked for immigration reform?
Anti-immigrant hatred wrapped up with bigotry toward Jewish Americans has been responsible for mass shootings at Buffalo, NY and at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. It is perhaps the single most dangerous ideology in the United States.
Stefanik is up to her ears in it.
I wrote earlier about the origins of the Great Replacement Theory:
“The phrase, and the most extensive elaboration of the theory, originated with the French Nazi René Binet (1913-1957), who served during WW II in The Waffen Grenadier Brigade of the SS Charlemagne, which consisted of French collaborators. You don’t get more fascist than that– the Charlemagne Brigade were the last troops to defend Hitler’s bunker before his suicide, and staged a failed, desperate fight against the Soviet army’s advance into Berlin.
Binet fulminated after the war against “the invasion of Europe by Negroes and Mongols,” by which he meant Americans and Soviets. He saw Americans as an impure mestizo “race” (he was a biological racist). He also launched diatribes against unbridled capitalism and the ways in which Jews were using it to abet the replacement of civilized white Europeans.
So this supposedly far right American nationalist idea actually originated in hatred for Americans and a denigration of their supposed “whiteness” by the European Right, which did not see Russians as “white” either . . .
As defenders of illiberalism and implicitly of hatred of Jews, these useful idiots of the far right are symbolically still deployed around Hitler’s bunker, defending it from the approaching Allies.”
The fact is that Stefanik was not defending Jewish American students on US campuses but attempting to silence non-white and progressive students and ensure that their speech is criminalized.
During the intense Israeli bombardment of densely populated Gaza, which has killed over 17,000 people, 70% of them women and children, many American students have felt traumatized. The gory images coming out of Gaza and the grim determination on the part of Israeli and Biden administration officials to continue the carnage have shaken many in the younger generation. Some 46% of young people aged 18-29 disapprove or strongly disapprove of the Biden administration’s handling of the Israeli-Hamas conflict, whereas only 19% strongly approve.
In addition, Palestinian American, Arab American and Muslim American students, along will many other students of color and progressives, including members of Jewish Voices for Peace, have demanded not only an immediate ceasefire but an end to Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories and freedom for the stateless, oppressed Palestinians. They have chanted, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and called for a new uprising (in Arabic, intifadah.
Students (and professors) invested in chauvinist Israeli nationalism have charged that protesting against the Israeli assault on Gaza, or in favor of basic human rights for Palestinians, are forms of anti-Jewish bigotry. That charge is patently ridiculous. The issue is not discrimination against a minority but critique of the 18th most powerful military in the world and its shameful, blatant disregard for International Humanitarian Law.
Stefanik’s Democratic rival, Steven Holden, a veteran, replied to her stunt at Facebook, pointing out that she is implicitly assaulting the first amendment:
University Presidents should stop playing into the hands of wily sociopaths such as Stefanik, who is plotting to impose Trumpism and his promised dictatorship on all Americans, to take away a woman’s right to choose nationally, to ban Muslims, and to put the nail in the coffin of the Voting Rights Act. They should simply say that in this country we have a first amendment and we can criticize any government we like– Argentina’s, China’s, Hungary’s, or Israel’s. That isn’t racism, that is responsible world citizenship, and the right of free citizens of a democracy.