(NEW YORK) — With Election Day around the corner, some national Jewish advocacy organizations are calling on the Republican Party to take a harder line on condemning antisemitism from several GOP candidates or their supporters.
Their calls come on the heels of several high-profile controversies over remarks made by celebrities and political candidates vying to win their midterm races.
Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, for example, has made headlines with his statements about his Jewish opponent, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
He accused Shapiro in September of having “disdain for people like us,” because Shapiro attended and sent his children to a “privileged, exclusive, elite” Jewish institution. His comments have been widely condemned as evoking common antisemitic tropes.
At a campaign event last month, Mastriano doubled down on his statements.
“Apparently now it’s some kind of racist thing if I talk about the school,” he said reiterating that “it’s a very expensive, elite school.”
Mastriano’s campaign did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
Ohio GOP Senate candidate J.D. Vance has also been accused of echoing antisemitic tropes after suggesting in January that if Ohio prohibited abortion, “then every day, George Soros sends a 747 to Columbus to load up disproportionately Black women to get them to go have abortions in California.”
“Hopefully we get to a point where Ohio bans abortion and California and the Soroses of the world respect it,” he continued.
The Anti-Defamation League has reported that references to Soros — a Hungarian Jewish billionaire, philanthropist and Holocaust survivor known for funding progressive causes — have become a right-wing dog whistle for conspiracy theories about wealthy Jewish people controlling and manipulating societies to further their own interests.
Vance’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
GOP party leaders have strongly condemned antisemitism in several cases.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke out against Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who attended the America First Political Action Conference in March, run by Nick Fuentes, a prominent white nationalist, saying, “There’s no place in the Republican Party for white supremacists or antisemitism.”
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel has also previously spoken out against antisemitism, stating that “white supremacy, neo-Nazism, hate speech and bigotry are disgusting and do not have a home in the Republican Party.”
Politicians need to respond like businesses to antisemitism, some say
But some Jewish organization leaders say statements are not enough.
Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, said candidates must also face material repercussions for their comments, arguing the party should go as far as cutting off their support and funding.
“They need to make sure that these [candidates] are not accepted and not given good assignments, are not supported financially,” Rosen told ABC News.
As a model, he cited the example of Adidas severing ties with Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after he made a slew of incendiary comments attacking Jewish people in recent weeks, including a tweet threatening he would go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.”
“We’ve learned that when a powerful force like the business community comes out and stops doing business with you and boycotts your lines, that does have an impact,” Rosen said.
Jacob Isaacson, the American Jewish Committee’s chief policy and political affairs officer, said the party and its candidates also have a responsibility to repudiate supporters and associates who have expressed antisemitic sentiments.
Mastriano came under fire after paying $5,000 for campaign consulting to the far-right site Gab — where a man allegedly made antisemitic posts before killing 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.
Gab chief executive Andrew Torba said both he and Mastriano have a policy of speaking only to Christian journalists, the Jerusalem Post reported.
After significant public pressure, Mastriano put out a statement saying Torba does not “speak for me or my campaign” and that “I reject antisemitism in any form.” But in July, Mastriano still accepted a $500 donation from Torba, according to a September campaign finance report.
In Georgia, Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker has also faced criticism for not publicly refusing a show of support from Ye on Instagram.
“What I would like to see is the rejection of endorsement from blatant antisemites and that needs to be kind of a universal principle,” Isaacson told ABC News.
Walker’s campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.
Economic uncertainty, culture wars give rise to antisemitic conspiracies
With the issue of inflation driving many voters this midterm election, several Jewish organization leaders said Americans’ economic anxieties have also provided a platform for antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the scapegoating of Jewish people has historically peaked during periods of economic stress, such as the country’s current “recessionary environment.”
“When systems fail, when markets fail, when policy fails, people look for someone to blame,” he told ABC News.
For example, the ADL reported a spike in antisemitic internet activity during the Great Recession in 2008, including articles and posts blaming Jewish people for the financial crisis.
Some candidates have also used antisemitic tropes to appeal to voters’ concerns about ongoing culture wars over abortion, critical race theory and LGBTQ rights, for example.
Arizona GOP House candidate Eli Crane has said repeatedly that he would fight critical race theory, alleging its roots in “Cultural Marxism,” which has been described as a baseless conspiracy theory with antisemitic origins.
Crane’s campaign did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
Antisemitism reaches all-time high in U.S.
Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said the alleged normalization and amplification of antisemitic rhetoric within the Republican Party has emboldened its supporters, including white supremacist and right-wing extremist groups, to perpetrate violence against Jewish people.
The ADL reported that antisemitic incidents in the U.S. reached an all-time high in the U.S. in 2021.
Soifer said the upsurge of white nationalism during the Trump administration remains a problem in the midterms.
“We saw this during Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016, throughout his presidency, and in 2020, when he echoed antisemitic conspiracy theory and other hateful views shared by white supremacists and refused to condemn white supremacy,” Soifer told ABC News. “Now it has proliferated, and it is viewed as accepted among candidates, and some of them may even get elected in a week.”
As recently as last month, Trump shared a post on his Truth social media platform telling American Jews to “get their act together” by expressing more support for Israel.
Some Democratic candidates and lawmakers have also faced allegations of antisemitism, primarily for their comments criticizing Israel and promoting the boycott, divest, sanctions movement.
Responding to a request for comment, an RNC spokesperson referred ABC News to several of these statements — for example, Rep. Ilhan Omar’s 2012 tweet saying Israel “has hypnotized the world,” which was widely denounced as antisemitic.
Omar has since expressed regret for the comment but maintains it was directed at the country’s government and military action, not “people of a particular faith.”
Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., have also been consistently criticized, often by Republicans, for their support of the BDS movement.
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