Stefanik’s politically-motivated antisemitism fight

In recent public statements, Rep. Elise Stefanik condemned university heads and criticized President Joe Biden’s decisions regarding U.S. foreign policy on Israel, claiming antisemitism. To anyone who has followed Stefanik’s support of Trump and other MAGA figures, the irony is astounding.

The congresswoman pointed to concerning incidents of antisemitism during campus protests and excoriated school administrators during congressional hearings when they failed to immediately indicate that such speech violates institutional policies. Stefanik asserted that this equivocation is proof that these school leaders are antisemitic.

She has never held members of her own party to the same standard. Stefanik endorsed Carl Paladino in his GOP candidacy for Congress even after he referred to Hitler as “the kind of leader we need today.” She has remained loyal to Trump after the “Unite the Right” rally held in Charlottesville in 2017. Though Trump denounced white supremacists and neo-Nazis at one point during a press conference, he undermined this assertion in the same breath by then characterizing those marching for their cause as potentially “very fine people.” Trump also hosted Kanye West at Mar-a-Lago after West had publicly let loose a string of antisemitic remarks. It appears that Stefanik’s condemnation of antisemitism is context sensitive and depends not upon the content of the speech, but the identity of the speaker.

For anyone in the MAGA movement to claim to be a defender of any marginalized group is laughable. The history of Trump and his adherents putting down others based upon race, ethnicity, or religion is so extensive one would have to have been in a coma the past decade to be unaware of it. From a campaign that stoked conspiracy theories regarding the citizenship of America’s first black president, to referring to African countries using a vulgarity, to questioning the impartiality of a judge based upon his Hispanic heritage, Trump has made demeaning others based upon their various backgrounds a longstanding staple of his campaign rhetoric.

The war in Gaza has claimed the lives of many predominantly Muslim Palestinian civilians, both through bombing campaigns and a lack of humanitarian aid. Any person who is sincerely compassionate for marginalized groups does not limit their compassion. That person would not only be horrified by the murders and kidnappings of Oct. 7, condemn Hamas as a genocidal organization, and recognize the need for Israel to respond to this kind of violence, but also acknowledge that Palestinian civilians to do not deserve to die for the actions of extremists, and seriously entertain concerns regarding the conduct of the leaders of the Israeli government when its actions could result in the death and suffering of innocent civilians.

Trump and the MAGA movement isn’t defined by love or who it defends, but by hate and who it degrades. Stefanik’s purported mission against antisemitism is nothing more than a rebranding of Trump’s disdain towards Muslims, a group for whom he directed some of his most vile vitriol when he proposed to ban them from entering the country.

Stefanik has now described all demonstrators, members of President Biden’s party, and generally anyone who raises concerns regarding the well-being of the Palestinian people as being “pro-Hamas.” This is not a distortion born of ignorance, but rather a deliberate and calculated misrepresentation to denigrate MAGA critics and continue the Trump tradition of disdain for marginalized groups. MAGA acolytes attempting to dress this up as some sort of crusade against antisemitism makes it all the more offensive, and its insincerity is manifested by the hypocrisy of its own antisemitic speech going unpunished.

For Stefanik, fighting prejudice isn’t a principle, but little more than an argumentative cudgel to be employed when convenient and casually disregarded when not. Her latest undertaking is little more than a crass and cynical exercise in public relations: Just more MAGA invective, this time masquerading as a battle against prejudice, devoid of any goodwill.

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Aaron Richard Edwards lives in Watertown.


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