VA-10 candidates voice varying views on Gaza war, U.S. support in Jewish community events

Del. Dan Helmer expressed concern about cases where the Biden administration may have ‘allowed disagreements between allies to become opening for enemies’

Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Dan Helmer participates in a candidates forum at Battlefield High School on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, in Haymarket, DC.

Speaking at a pair of forums with Jewish community groups on Wednesday, candidates running in Virginia’s 10th Congressional District expressed a range of views on the U.S.-Israel relationship and domestic antisemitism.

Del. Dan Helmer, speaking at an online forum hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said, “I believe in most cases that the Biden administration has done well by supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship. Where I have disagreements, it’s where we have allowed disagreements between allies to potentially become openings for enemies.” 

Helmer was the only candidate to suggest the administration may, in some cases, have been insufficiently supportive of Israel.

He said he “believe[s] strongly in continued aid, and that the best way to ensure the release of hostages is “to continue maximum pressure on Hamas to ensure that they understand that until they let the hostages go, Israel will continue its fight.”

Helmer also called for “restor[ing] just peace that recognizes the aspirations of both peoples.”

Former House of Delegates Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn said she’s been “really pleased with how President Biden has been so incredibly supportive of Israel, its right to self determination, its right to defend itself in light of the atrocities” committed by Hamas.

Filler-Corn laid out several goals going forward: continuing to support Israel, ensuring humanitarian aid, ending the war with a return of the hostages and beginning to consider who will control Gaza after Hamas is defeated.

She condemned Hamas for using human shields, saying that Palestinians in Gaza “have suffered under the barbaric rule of Hamas for far too long.” 

State Sen. Suhas Subramanyam reiterated views that he’s laid out in other recent events, supporting an “enduring defeat of Hamas,” humanitarian assistance and a two-state solution, emphasizing “Hamas can’t be one of the states.”

He said he supports humanitarian assistance for Gaza as well as, broadly, funding for Israel, without offering specifics. Subramanyam added that he was particularly affected by the attack on Kibbutz Kfar Aza, which he visited in 2022, and with whose residents he had stayed in contact.

Helmer, Filler-Corn and Subramanyam are generally seen as the top three contenders in a wide field of candidates, and they were joined on the JDCA call by a handful of other candidates.

During the JDCA event, the candidates also addressed efforts to combat antisemitism.

Subramanyam highlighted a bill he introduced to add ethnicity to protected classes in hate crimes laws, “to make sure, among other things, if there’s antisemitic hate crimes, those are classified as hate crimes.”

He also mentioned an interfaith vigil to combat antisemitism following a vandalism incident in a local shopping center, and said that he traveled to Israel in part to learn more about antisemitism and what he could do to help combat it.

Helmer said he’d work to make “sure we have a national platform to combat [antisemitism] and we take it seriously,” highlighting hate crimes legislation he passed at the state level, antisemitic vandalism in his children’s schools and antisemitic campaign attacks targeting him in past races.

Filler-Corn emphasized the need for bipartisan coalition-building, highlighting her efforts to pass a bill codifying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. She called that bill “the defining issue” for her last year.

Helmer voted against that bill because he said some of its sponsors had backed the antisemitic campaign attacks.

Filler-Corn also said that she’d repeatedly been the target of antisemitic threats, including an assassination plot by white supremacists.

Helmer and other candidates also spoke on Wednesday at a forum hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, co-sponsored by the JCRC, Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation and Congregation Sh’are Shalom, where several candidates said they would have opposed additional funding for Israel or demanded conditions. Subramanyam and Filler-Corn did not attend.

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