AJC New England 2020 Candidate Survey: Question 6
Question 6: In recent years, advocates for anti-Israel and, at times, anti-Jewish political agendas have demonstrated growing success in their effort to coopt the movement for racial justice. For example, before and since the murder of George Floyd, some proponents of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement have circulated a false and tendentious narrative that holds Israel responsible for law enforcement tactics that brutalize people of color. These claims undermine the fight against the current manifestations of white supremacy (e.g. voter suppression, de facto segregation, over-policing, over-imprisonment and other measures that promote inequality). They also demonstrate how readily false and malicious claims about Jews and Jewish interests can take root and spread. Should you be elected to the United States Congress, how do you propose to ensure that the quest for racial justice remains strong and that those who would undermine it through false and malicious claims are marginalized?
First, as your Congressperson, I would take an active stand against BDS. I believe that this movement is ineffectual and cloaked in antisemitism (sometimes veiled, sometimes troublingly overt). I will also always remind my colleagues and constituents that in a Middle East region that is overwhelmingly hostile to social justice, Israel is our best partner and ally to uphold the liberal values we believe in as Americans. Finally, as your question alludes to, I will always make it clear that our focus should be on white supremacist violence, hatred, and antisemitism. Israeli scientists trying to cure complex diseases at research facilities are not responsible for white supremacist violence against people of color. We need to speak bluntly about this and keep our eye on the ball. What united Jews with people of color is our shared interest in fighting the regressive forces of racial supremacy, hatred and bigotry. That is the root of the problem, and we are all safer and better poised to make progress when we recognize that and work together.
I oppose the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is rooted in anti-Semitic sentiment, and I support Black Lives Matter, which is about confronting and ending the daily reality of systemic, pervasive racism against Black people. I will never tolerate any attempt to shift the blame for American racism, including police violence, onto Israel or anywhere other than where it belongs, which is on our country and society here in America. And I will call out anyone who seeks to poison and pervert the extraordinary movement happening now for racial and social justice in the United States with anti-Semitism and hate.
The quest for racial injustice will remain strong by continuing to be a strong proponent of American values - the right to live your own life, individual liberty, and equal justice under the law. I will also publicly speak out against those who make false and malicious claims and try to make them infamous. I am very concerned about the rise of anti-semitism on our college campuses and within the ranks of many Marxist inspired organizations in the United States. They need to be called out and condemned on a consistent basis, and if our justice system fails to have the tools to root racial injustice and other forms of bigotry that clearly defines our laws and Constitution, Congress should act decisively and strongly.
I draw my strength and inspiration from the singular example of Congressman John Lewis, who I was privileged to work with several times during the course of my tenure at City Year and after. And as I mourn his passing, I am especially mindful that Congressman Lewis’s passionate advocacy for racial justice was complemented by his fierce determination to combat antisemitism, wherever it reared its head. From bravely speaking out on behalf of Soviet Jewry, to refusing to normalize the bigotry and antisemitism emanating from Louis Farrakhan, Congressman Lewis understood that it is impossible to build a Beloved Community without fighting fervently against antisemitism.
And so too here. An intersectional coalition to fight for racial justice is doomed to fail if it is tainted by antisemitism, and -- like Congressman Lewis -- I will not hesitate to raise my voice and call out antisemitism. It is particularly important that those of us who are committed to the pursuit of social justice, equity, and antiracism stand up against antisemitism wherever and whenever it rears its ugly head. We must be vigilant not only to fight bigotry when it comes from the other side of the aisle, but to also hold ourselves accountable.
In addition to speaking out, we will also need to do the hard work of building trust between Americans and combating hatred through education. We need to invest in our nation’s teachers, provide increased and more equitable funding for public schools, and develop curriculums to educate students about antisemitism (and other forms of bigotry) through expanding programs such as Facing History and Ourselves. Building trust through compassion and education is our most effective weapon at our disposal against misinformation and hate. In addition, I would expect that the American Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission I’ve proposed would have leaders from all faiths on it and fighting Anti-Semitism would be included in its mandate.
This is a historic time for racial justice in America. If elected I intend to strongly support the quest for equity and justice for all. I disagree with the conflation of the BDS movement and protests following the murder of George Floyd. Many groups including white supremacists use disinformation and misinformation to target both Jewish people and people of color. To combat this in all its forms, we must be unafraid to be anti-racist and ensure social media companies have a responsibility to take action to prevent dangerous misinformation and hate from spreading on their platforms.
We must have strong moral leadership to fight back against hateful rhetoric in all forms, and particularly anti-Semitism. As leaders, we need to hold ourselves and others accountable to ensure we are all intentional and thoughtful about the language we use when discussing groups that have been targets of oppression. We must ensure that our allies are educated about long-standing tropes and stereotypes that have been used to advance hate. This is true across all forms of hatred but the unique nature of anti-Semitism forces us to be particularly vigilant in guarding against it.
Regarding inquiries 1-9, I plan to work with US Government Officials, Institutions and other subject matter experts to work towards addressing these important topics.
I intentionally released my full platforms for ending Racism and combating Anti-Semitism on the same day and am the only candidate in this race that has placed both as central tenets of my platform from the beginning. Growing up as a Latino and Jew I have experienced both, having been told “pick up that penny you spic” on occasion. The Friday before my announcement, I was told outside my synagogue that my grandmother should have died in the Holocaust by a gentleman. This is not new to me, I have spent my adult life building, connecting and strengthening the Jewish and Latino communities, and connecting those communities with other diverse communities. We cannot let these hateful and malicious claims interfere in the efforts to end systemic racism, but we also have to address these claims. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, with a record high number of reported cases in 2019, I believe education and engagement is the key to eliminating the underlying causes of hate and Anti-Semitism. No one is born a racist. No one is born a bigot. No one is born an Anti-Semite. This behavior is taught. We must double down on our investment to teach our youth at the earliest of ages that lies, prejudice and stereotypes can turn into hatred and racism and even worse, death. We must also truly commit ourselves to better educating and training our police, teachers, first responders, and political and civic leaders on cultural competency, diversity, equity & inclusion and explicit and implicit bias. We must also pass tougher Hate Crimes legislation and be tougher on prosecuting hate crimes. We also need to support the NO HATE Act. I will be a champion for combating and eliminating racism and Anti-Semitism in our country.
American Jewish Committee (AJC) is the leading organization dedicated to Jewish advocacy at home and around the world. Through a global network comprised of 24 domestic regional offices; 12 overseas posts in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East; and 37 partnerships with international Jewish communities, AJC engages with political, religious and civic leaders to combat antisemitism and bigotry, support Israel’s quest for peace and security, and advance democratic values at home and abroad.
AJC New England recently invited all 11 Republican and Democratic declared candidates for the Congressional seat from the 4th District of Massachusetts to participate in a survey on some matters of import to our community.
AJC is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan organization and does not endorse or support any candidate for elected office, whether or not they responded to the survey. We offer this survey to educate the electorate about the views of the candidates for this office.