Notable speech: Congressman Ted Deutch

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, March 14th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The latest in our occasional series, Notable Speeches, Past and Present.

EICHER: It’s an ugly reality that anti-Semitism is on the rise.

According to the most recent FBI data, 20 percent of all hate crimes were religious-based. And of those, 58 percent of offenses were against Jews and Jewish institutions. After a decade of decline, anti-Semitic incidents have risen three years in a row.  

And those numbers don’t include more recent events, such as in October, when a gunman stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue. He killed 11 people and injured seven.

REICHARD: On the political front, a newly elected House member has twice thrown Congress into chaos by Tweeting out anti-semitic tropes about Jews and support for Israel. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is a Democrat from Minnesota. She’s also one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress.

Speaking at an event two weeks ago, she doubled down on Israel. She asked why it’s—quote—“OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.”

EICHER: Democrats in control of the House of Representatives could not agree on a resolution condemning Omar—or even anti-Semitism by itself.

That’s when Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch —who is Jewish—took to the House floor to explain what’s at stake.

TED DEUTCH: Mr. Speaker, today should not be about politics. I didn’t rise to be political. This is personal.

A few years ago, I was invited to speak at the U.N. General Assembly special session on anti-Semitism. I told the representatives from the assembled countries that anti-Semitism is the canary in the coal mine, that if there is anti-Semitism in your country, there is hatred that will ultimately permeate throughout society if it is not checked. I never thought I would need to explain that to my colleagues.

This is not political. No one should make it political. The use of anti-Semitic language and images can never be tolerated. When a presidential campaign runs a commercial alleging a Jewish global conspiracy in an ad featuring George Soros, Janet Yellen, and Lloyd Blankfein, it is invoking classic anti-Semitic tropes and it must be condemned. When the same campaign tweets an image of their opponent featuring a Jewish star and piles of money, it does the same thing and it must be condemned.

When one of our colleagues accuses Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg of buying the election, it also invokes classic anti-Semitism. That must be condemned. And when one of our colleagues invokes the classic anti-Semitic tropes that Jews control the world, that Jews care only about money, and that Jews cannot be loyal Americans if they also support Israel, this, too, must be condemned.

We have the opportunity to condemn all of that, by all of them, intolerable as it all is, by passing a strong condemnation of anti-Semitism.

My colleagues, because of anti-Semitism over millennia, millions of Jews have been hated, targeted, and expelled from their countries, violently attacked, killed, and exterminated. Words lead to action and to death.

There is too much hatred, too many other people who are targeted, and we need to support all of them. But we are having this debate because of the language of one of our colleagues, language that suggests that Jews like me, who serve in the United States in Congress and whose father earned a Purple Heart fighting the Nazis in the Battle of the Bulge, that we are not loyal Americans.

Why are we unable to singularly condemn anti-Semitism? Why can’t we call out anti-Semitism and show that we have learned the lessons of history? It feels like we are only able to call the use of anti-Semitic language by a colleague of ours—any colleague of ours—if we are addressing all forms of hatred. And it feels like we can’t say it is anti-Semitism unless everyone agrees that it is anti-Semitism.

Who gets to define what counts as stereotypes or discrimination? Isn’t it the people who experience the bias? The people who have experienced that hatred for thousands of years?

If Jews whose families were persecuted or attacked or killed are talking about how anti-Semitic words can lead at their most hateful and violent extremes, then it is anti-Semitism. And take my word for it. If you don’t do that, then please understand that an anti-Semite will hear those words as a dog whistle.

What has been so difficult for so many people in my community is that people who are fearful when anti-Semitic tropes are used are being told that they are wrong. Jewish elected officials are saying that this history that we know well is invoked by referencing dual loyalty, and some of my colleagues are saying that it doesn’t matter what that history means to me. It is intensely personal because it is ongoing: in Europe, in Asia, in the Middle East, in South America, and in the United States.

Eleven people were killed less than 6 months ago in a synagogue because they were Jews. What is happening in our country should alarm us all. The attacks on our colleagues because they are Muslim or African-American or Hispanic or members of the LGBT community, any attack must be condemned when it is based on hatred. But when a colleague invokes classic anti-Semitic lies three times, then this body must condemn that anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is worthy of being taken seriously on its own. It is worthy of being singularly called out.

Jews control the world? Jews care only about money? Jews have dual loyalty and can’t be patriotic members of the country in which they live? Words matter. For generations, they have had dangerous consequences for me, for my family, and for my people. This shouldn’t be so hard.


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