Lee Zeldin claims he’s never experienced antisemitism from the GOP

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) defended the Republican Party against allegations of antisemitism in its ranks during a web event Monday held in conjunction with the Republican National Convention, which kicked off today in Charlotte, N.C.

“I, personally, haven’t encountered any antisemitism within the Republican Party,” Zeldin, who is one of two Jewish Republican members of Congress, said. “From a personal perspective, I can tell you — from kindergarten through 12th grade, college, law school and four years of active duty, I never once experienced antisemitism at all.”

The New York congressman said during Monday’s call, which was hosted by the American Jewish Committee, that he’s only faced antisemitism in recent years, something he attributes to the current political atmosphere. He estimated “several thousand” instances of being called a Nazi or a Nazi sympathizer but added, “I’m not aware of any of it coming from within the Republican Party.” 

Zeldin instead assigned blame to the Democratic Party, pointing in particular to comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in 2019. ”I spent four years in the New York State Senate, and through my first four years in the U.S. House of Representatives, I didn’t experience it inside the actual chamber until the beginning of 2019,” Zeldin said. “That became an issue within the House Democratic Caucus in the first half of 2019.” He recalled that the House of Representatives passed a watered-down resolution against hate following Omar’s comments regarding AIPAC and lawmakers’ support for Israel. Zeldin noted that a few months earlier, in January 2019, the House voted in near unanimous fashion on a resolution to condemn Rep. Steve King (R-IA) following comments from the congressman that appeared to defend white nationalists and white supremacists. Republicans “named names, there was a resolution that passed, that member lost his committee assignments,” said Zeldin. “We shouldn’t have double standards, we shouldn’t have moral equivalencies.” 

Zeldin suggested that if Omar’s statements had been made by a Republican legislator, “I guarantee you that we would have passed a resolution that singularly, emphatically and forcefully condemned antisemitism. There would have been no moral equivalencies, that member would have been removed from her committee assignments, and it would have been basically a unanimous effort in doing so.”

A number of Republican candidates have faced criticism this cycle for promoting antisemitic stereotypes. Georgia Senator David Purdue, who is facing a tough reelection challenge from Jon Ossoff, came under fire last month for a campaign advertisement that appeared to enlarge Ossoff’s nose. In the state’s 14th congressional district, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has made claims about George Soros and the Rothschilds, won her party’s runoff and is all but guaranteed a seat in the next Congress.

Zeldin also suggested that the reason there’s not a major shift in support for President Donald Trump among Jewish voters is because Israel is “not popping at the top of their list” of priorities. “I’ll talk to a Jewish voter, and it’s possible that if I ask them for their top 15 issues, they might just not mention Israel,” he explained. 

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