Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice President and Arthur Stark, Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
(photo credit: AVI HAYUN)
The chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Arthur Stark, has described recent contentious comments made by two freshmen Democratic members of congress as a “wake up call” for the Jewish-American establishment.
Speaking at a press briefing for the 45th leadership mission of the Conference of Presidents, Stark and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein said that comments and positions adopted by Democratic representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) were worrying and needed to be addressed, but also insisted that the majority of the US political establishment was still strongly pro-Israel.
Omar made accusations in tweets last week that Jews control Congress through financial contributions to political campaigns. She and Tlaib have supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
“It raises the sense that this is a whole new strain of antisemitism than what we’ve seen before in the halls of power,” said Stark.
“We do believe that by and large US political leaders are very strongly behind Israel, but it is critical that they take it very seriously. We have taken upon ourselves to raise the alarm with them and to ensure that they censure this behavior.”
Hoenlein said that the comments and policies espoused by Omar and Tlaib could represent “a cancer that metastasizes,” and noted that they are attracting large followings of young Americans on social media.
He said that the Conference of Presidents has been working hard to deal with the threat, meeting with senior Democratic Party officials and others who he said are concerned over the issue, and see it as harming the party.
“There has to be a declared policy of zero tolerance for this type of thing as there would be for any other form of bigotry or racism,” said Hoenlein, who also questioned the sincerity of Omar’s subsequent apology. He noted that Omar has used President Donald Trump’s criticism of her comments to fundraise.
However, Hoenlein said that the issue should be put in proportion and insisted that these kind of views were a fringe element in Congress.
He pointed out that the House of Representatives voted 424 to 0 last week on a motion to combat antisemitism and BDS.
“This Congress is more pro Israel than the last one was,” said Hoenlein. “More people will speak out on this and more importantly will act on it, and we will do everything to reinforce the positive trends in Congress.”
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