podcast playback

Gottheimer: Biden admin ‘needs to act faster’ to address antisemitism on campus

The New Jersey legislator joined JI’s podcast for a wide-ranging discussion including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Morningstar and antisemitism

The office of Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ)

On this week’s episode of Jewish Insider’s  podcast, co-hosts Rich Goldberg and Jarrod Bernstein are joined by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) for a discussion on Iran, Saudi Arabia, Morningstar and antisemitism on college campuses.

Below are excerpts of the conversation.

Views on Iran: “Broadly speaking, what’s proven out consistently, for those of us who are opposed to the original JCPOA and have had concerns since, is that the government of Iran has proven to be liars and cheats every step of the way. And so, most recently with their involvement with Russia and the Chinese in Ukraine, we’ve seen just the lengths they’re willing to go to, to inflict harm, and especially vis-a-vis the West and us and against our allies, either, again, through their proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian [Islamic] Jihad, or directly now through IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] attacking our bases, attacking Americans, attacking our allies. And so, whenever Iran is involved, the government of Iran, you know, I sleep with one eye open, because I think that’s the best posture toward them, both on the nuclear front and of course on the terror front, which has always been a huge part of my broader concern about the Iranians. And if you look at their enrichment strategy, which initially was, ‘Hey, we’re only going to reach the 3%, because it’s for nuclear power, don’t worry, nothing to see here,’ and now we know where they are in terms of their enrichment levels as they speed toward, potentially, having a fully capable nuclear weapon.”

On Saudi Arabia’s recent interactions with China: “Generally, I’m very circumspect to what the Chinese are doing, as I believe our No. 1 adversary, and their aggression and involvement in the region, especially partnering with Russia and Iran, always concerns me, especially look at their behavior the last year in terms of what they’re supplying and who they’re talking to and who they’re sitting down with. Now, maybe they want to suddenly become this grand diplomat as a way of pushing us out and making us exit stage, but I’m not sure I accept that premise. I also think, with the Saudis, you saw [U.S. Secretary of State Tony] Blinken sitting down [with them] last week, that’s all very positive. I believe, when it comes to the [Abraham] Accords, I subscribe to [the view that] the Saudis will be ultimately included in the Accords as part of it, which I think would be a very good development for the region, both, of course, economically, militarily stabilizing the region, not putting a lot of pressure on the PA [Palestinian Authority] and the Palestinians, but I do believe that the Saudis are not stupid, and they’re going to use whatever they can to leverage the best agreement they can get out of the Israelis or us. And again, it’s not something I know from any kind of classified setting, that’s just my theory of why the Saudis could be sitting down with the folks they’ve been sitting down with over the last couple of months.”

On the White House’s recent National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism: “I think this is what we should be doing more of in this country, especially given the huge spike in antisemitic attacks in recent years, which are alarming to say the least. What’s going on in college campuses, BDS growing… I just spoke against CUNY [Law School], if you followed that, of those, you know, just shockingly outrageously antisemitic comments that were made at a school that has a BDS problem to begin with and an administration that’s weak, at best; I think they should clean house in my opinion over there. But that’s why I welcome the strategy. It’s a first, it’s historic, it’s a whole-of-government approach, you know, to fight antisemitism. My concerns are the ones that have been expressed elsewhere, which I think are the right concerns. On the definition [the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism], why is it not fully codified? Why would they list other definitions, which I believe are certainly questionable and shaky.”

On antisemitism within the CUNY system and on college campuses across the country: “I believe, which is why I’m working on legislation and have spoken out, that if you have a campus that’s enabling this antisemitic hate speech, you should lose federal funding. That should just be the cost. Why are we federally funding places that are allowing this hate-driven antisemitism? By the way, hate against any community, why are we letting that continue? We should not allow it, and the federal government should not fund it. Listen, I talked to the secretary of education for civil rights about this exact issue. What’s going on with a lot of these cases? You look at places like Berkeley and GW and Michigan and other places where they have cases that are still up and open. Even Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus, you know, we’ve had cases that have been open for a very long time that have never been closed that have never been addressed. We had the part-time faculty at Rutgers literally vote for a BDS measure and then encourage the school to stop having any involvement with Israel when it comes to the funding side. The part-time faculty. Imagine being a student in those classrooms with those faculty, right? We can’t allow this behavior to go on these campuses as these antisemitic tropes are furthered, these lies are told about apartheid and occupation. So in my opinion, we should be very strongly standing up to it, the Office of Civil Rights should, the states should in all instances, and frankly, the Biden administration needs to act faster, in my opinion, to take action here, and if they don’t want to, we should stop federally funding these colleges that allow this sort of hate.”

Bonus lightning round: Favorite Yiddish word or phrase?Mishpacha.” [Bruce] Springsteen or Bon Jovi? “I mean, that’s not really close, Springsteen.” Favorite Jewish food? “I think kasha varnishkes. I think by far. I think kasha, favorite Jewish food.”

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