The social media star of the political right, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, issued a public apology on Monday after visiting the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. “There are words that I have said, remarks that I’ve made that I know are offensive, and for that I’d like to apologize,” she said. “So I should own it. I made a mistake.”
Her apology follows a series of tweets and interviews where she compared the pandemic-related mask requirements to the wearing of the yellow star during the Holocaust. “We can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany,” Greene said last month in an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network. “And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”
At the time, some of her Republican colleagues condemned her remarks as anti-Semitic at worst, and insensitive at least. “Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a statement. “The fact that this needs to be stated today is deeply troubling.” He did not call for any disciplinary measures, but noted that on the opposite side of the political spectrum the Democrats have been slow to condemn Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for their harsh comments concerning Israel and the United States.
Rep. Taylor Greene “owned up” to her words as a result of pressure from her colleagues and condemnations from mainstream Jewish advocacy organizations, but the decision to meet with Jewish activists outside of her district, social circles, and comfort zone was entirely hers and it reaches back to incidents when her past tweets and Facebook posts about “Jewish supremacists” and “space lasers” resulted in ridicule and her removal from the Budget panel and the Education and Labor Committee.
Shortly after her demotion, conservative activists Yechezkel Moskowitz and Nachman Mostofsky, outspoken supporters of former president Donald Trump, took Taylor Greene on a tour of Brooklyn’s Orthodox communities.
“Knowing the congresswoman for a bit now, she has been nothing but a friend and ally for our community,” Mostofsky told The Forward at the time. “From government interference, education, religious freedom, we share what is commonly called Judeo-Christian values.”
She also appeared in an interview with Ami Magazine, and spoke with the Coalition for Jewish Values, which strongly condemned her past tweets and remarks. They spoke of their shared political values and the importance of recognizing Jewish history in context, so that it is not misused in protest against pandemic restrictions. Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link, is the vice president of this organization.
Rep. Taylor Greene’s meetings, tours, and apology stand in contrast to the congressional “Squad” that stands firmly behind Rep. Omar, condemning anyone who calls her out as a racist, sexist, and Islamophobe.
On June 7, the Minnesota lawmaker tweeted an exchange she had with Secretary of State Tony Blinken, where she compared the military actions of democratic countries with those of terrorist groups. “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”
A dozen Jewish House Democrats issued a statement calling out her tweet as “offensive” and “misguided.”
“Ignoring the differences between democracies governed by the rule of law and contemptible organizations that engage in terrorism at best discredits one’s intended argument and at worst reflects deep-seated prejudice,” they wrote. Rather than an apology, they demanded a “clarification” from Omar.
Last week, Omar made her clarification. “To be clear: the conversation was about accountability for specific incidents regarding those ICC cases, not a moral comparison between Hamas and the Taliban and the US and Israel. I was in no way equating terrorist organizations with democratic countries with well-established judicial systems.”
She then followed up her clarification by accusing the 12 Jewish House Democrats of “Islamophobic tropes.”
A more forceful condemnation of Omar came from Rep. Tom Suozzi, a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, whose district covers northeast Queens and the north shore of Long Island. “She is wrong and must be called out. This is the latest in a series of wrongheaded and inflammatory statements she has made against Israel and the Jewish people, which I strongly disagree with. She does not represent my values,” he wrote. “Whether it is a Republican or a Democratic colleague, I will continue to call out and condemn statements of my colleagues that contribute to hateful and ignorant behavior.”
The test of leadership concerning anti-Semitism is seen in three points: how the colleagues react, how the individual responds, and how the individual acts. So far, Rep. Omar has met only with Jewish groups who share her views, disparaged her colleagues as racists, and followed up her clarification with more deflection.
In contrast, Rep. Taylor Greene appears to be undergoing a gradual learning process that demonstrates that the Q-Anon conspiracy theorist can become an ally of the Jewish community, based on her words and actions.
By Sergey Kadinsky