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Youngkin’s Commission to Combat Antisemitism Releases Report

This one's a mixed bag...

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See below for a press release from Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office on his Commission to Combat Antisemitism’s report, which is available here.  As the report correctly asserts, “Combatting antisemitism in all of its manifestations, and increasing tolerance and understanding, are essential aspects,” and that it is “surprising and disturbing that incidents of such hatred and bigotry have been increasing both nationally and in Virginia.” Of course, what’s behind that increase, and what to do about it, are the big questions. And here’s where we start running into problems with the report, namely that:

  • There’s discussion of the rise of anti-Semitism on college campuses, “among college administrators,” and also among white supremacists, but there’s no mention of Trump other than the oblique statement, “Even a former president recently met with two notorious antisemites.” There’s also no mention of TrumpISM (far-right “populism” and even facsism)’s connection to the rise in anti-Semitism the past few years.
  • The report also tends to conflate anti-Israel or anti-Zionist sentiments, including the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” movement, with anti-Semitism. Now, there certainly could be anti-Semites out there who use anti-Zionism as a cover/smokescreen for their anti-Semitism, and there undoubtedly are people who are BOTH anti-Semitic AND anti-Israel. But there are presumably also people who are anti-Israel but NOT anti-Semitic, and probably others who are anti-Semitic but not anti-Israel (or even very pro-Israel, for religious or other reasons). So…equating anti-Israel/anti-Zionist sentiments with anti-Semitism is tricky and probably should be avoided or put into separate categories or something. Because, to make what you’d think would be an obvious point, being anti-Israel and being anti-Semitic are not the exact same things.
  • The report asserts that “public officials from both political parties have made a variety of antisemitic assertions,” and while that’s presumably the case, the report simply leaves it at that, implying an equivalence between Democrats and Republicans on this, even as former President Trump – who remains the most likely Republican presidential nominee for 2024 – literally just met with two noxious, virulent extremists, white supremacists and anti-Semites (with very few Republicans clearly condemning Trump for doing so…including mostly crickets from Virginia Republicans).
  • As for the Commission’s recommendations, there are several that seem reasonable, including “require hate crime training for new law enforcement officers”; “the Virginia Department of Education in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General  establish a reporting system and publicly available database regarding acts of antisemitism in K-12 schools and higher education”; “Expand Holocaust Standards of Learning”; “Include Study of Judaism in World History”; “the Virginia Department of Education should establish annual recognition and provide curricula for International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27) and Jewish American Heritage Month (May)”; ” the Virginia Department of Education cooperate with the following organizations to make instructional materials on antisemitism available to educators”; ” the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) encourage law schools to establish courses devoted to the intersection of antisemitism and the law”; “Virginia public schools be required to recognize Jewish religious holidays, and to ensure that no students are penalized for missing days or assignments during the Jewish high holy days”; etc.
  • Unfortunately, the Commission lapses into right-wing talking points for its item, “Prohibit Indoctrination in Public Education.” What “indoctrination in public education” are they referring to exactly? No evidence is presented to support his assertion. Also, the report claims that “political advocacy in the classroom has been associated with subsequent antisemitic actions,” but has any of that actually occurred in Virginia public schools? Again, there are no specific examples or data cited in this report to back up these assertions…

The bottom line is that anti-Semitism is a growing problem in America, unfortunately, and it’s good that people – including the Youngkin administration – are looking at its causes and at ways to combat it. But if you’re going to do that, you really shouldn’t make it a partisan thing, you really should support whatever you’re talking about with facts and evidence, you really should talk about Trump and Trumpism, etc. This report, sad to say, doesn’t do those things, at least not sufficiently or clearly enough, and thus is far weaker than it could and should have been.

Commission to Combat Antisemitism Releases Report on Antisemitism in Virginia

RICHMOND, VA – The Commission to Combat Antisemitism today released their report on antisemitism in Virginia. The Commission, which was established by Governor Youngkin’s Executive Order 8 on his first day in office, reaffirms Virginia’s commitment to stand against hatred and intolerance and develop an actionable plan to combat antisemitism in the Commonwealth.

The Commission was established following a disturbing increase in antisemitic incidents nationally and in Virginia. In 2021, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. reached an all-time high with 2,717 separate incidents reported. In 2022 thus far, Virginia alone has seen nearly 350 reports of antisemitic acts.

“Hatred, intolerance, and antisemitism have no place in Virginia and I appreciate the committee’s hard work to highlight and grapple with these matters,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “We have challenges in Virginia and we must work together to address them. For Virginia to be the best place to live, work, and raise a family, the Commonwealth must welcome people of all faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds with open arms.”

The Commission is tasked with analyzing trends in antisemitism nationally and in Virginia, examining the root causes of antisemitism, and proposing solutions to hold hate crime perpetrators accountable, support victims, and stop antisemitism before it starts. To this end, the Commission formed the following four subcommittees to discuss specific issues related to antisemitism and propose policy recommendations to combat antisemitism in Virginia and improve the resilience to antisemitism in state and local government:

  • Definition and Scope of Antisemitism
  • Educational Responses to Antisemitism
  • Law Enforcement and Security Responses to Antisemitism
  • Trade, Laws, and Legislation to Combat Antisemitism

The Commission’s recommendations include efforts to bolster K-12 education on the Holocaust and Judaism, increase hate crime reporting and data collection, and prevent state agencies from contracting with companies that have taken antisemitic positions.

“During Governor Youngkin’s first year in office, I have respected his desire to oppose divisiveness in varied forms and instead find moments to bring people together to make Virginia a better place,” said Commission Chairman Jeffrey Rosen. “This is one of those moments, and it is my hope that the work of our 15-member Commission speaks through this report. The recommendations of the Commission to Combat Antisemitism represent a timely and comprehensive way for Virginia to fight this form of hatred and bigotry head-on.”

“Rising antisemitism in America and Virginia must not be tolerated. To this end, the Commission’s work will provide valuable tools to combat hate and achieve the vision of freedom from persecution set out by our Founding Fathers,” said Commission Vice-Chairman Arthur Sandler. “It has been an honor to serve the Commonwealth on the Commission and I look forward to working with Governor Youngkin to combat antisemitism and hate in all forms.”

Read the Commission to Combat Antisemitism Report here.

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