Current, former members of Congress discuss rise of anti-Semitism

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor speaks at an event on anti-Semitism at the law school last week.

A former congressman, a current congresswoman and a professor discussed the rise of anti-Semitic violence at the law school last week.

The discussion featured former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.; Rep. Susan Wild, D-Penn.; and Samuel Goldman, an assistant professor of political science. The event was co-sponsored by law school Dean Blake Morant and the Jewish Law Student Association and co-moderated by JLSA leaders Arielle Stephenson and Daniel Gordon.

The event follows recent anti-Semitic incidents nationally and on campus – especially in the law school. Last October, the Student Bar Association passed a resolution urging the president of the organization to resign for allegedly referring to members of JLSA as someone’s “Jew friends.” On a national scale, a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue the same month left 11 people dead.

Cantor, the former House majority leader, cited a study by the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that monitors anti-Semitism around the world, that reported a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2017. Cantor said the recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents could be fueled by socioeconomic inequities among Americans.

“We do have a time in which there is much economic dislocation – we certainly have disparate outcomes in terms of wealth and income,” he said. “A lot of times, people are looking for some group or someone to blame.”

Cantor said leaders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a global campaign that aims to apply economic pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories, have called for a free Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. He said the movement is “really bent on not recognizing the right of a Jewish state of Israel.”

“It singles out Israel because Israel is a Jewish state,” Cantor said. “It leaves all of the states that go commit these horrific human rights crimes and never ever says anything about them.”

Wild, the congresswoman from Pennsylvania, discussed comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., on Twitter last month that were condemned as anti-Semitic. Wild said Omar’s apology for implying that American support for Israel was linked to funding from a pro-Israel lobbying group was “sufficient.”

Wild said the same trope Omar used – assuming Jewish “dual loyalty” to Israel and the United States – is also leveled at Muslims, who are accused of adhering to Sharia law instead of the U.S. Constitution and American laws.

“One of the reasons I was really so affected by Ilhan’s comments is because, of course, she’s Muslim,” Wild said. “We know that Islamophobia is alive and well in this country.”

Wild said she appreciates the support of Muslim constituents and praised Muslim groups for raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Jewish victims after the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue last October.

“That kind of watching out for others is really what I want to see more of, and really, from our leaders,” Wild said.

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