UPDATE 🔔 Where your congressional candidates stand on Israel, anti-Semitism

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UPDATE 1/24/24: Dr. Jirair Ratevosian, a candidate for CA-30 who did not participate in the Jewish Democratic Council of America forum, has called for a ceasefire in the war between Hamas and Israel. “Just like the ethnic cleansing that took place this past September in my homeland, Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh), the international community should never stand for the killing of innocent people — just because of who they are — or just because they happen to be in the line of fire,” Ratevosian said in a statement. “I am proud to be the first major candidate for Congress in the Los Angeles CA-30 race to call for a ceasefire. I’m also proud to have been endorsed by Peace Action and to receive the support of Democrats for Israel Los Angeles. I call on the Biden Administration to stop supporting an indiscriminate military campaign and seriously consider putting conditions on any future military aid related to this war. To be clear, I support continued targeted military operations to defeat Hamas, aligned with international humanitarian law to minimize civilian deaths. I also call for Hamas to release all the remaining hostages and for all parties to return to negotiating a diplomatic solution to bring enduring peace — and that starts with a two-state solution.”

 


 

Six of the candidates running to be West Hollywood’s representative in Congress in March took part in a forum this week held by the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) and its Southern California chapter. Former L.A. Councilmember and City Attorney Mike Feuer, Assemblymember Laura Friedman, LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin, State Sen. Anthony Portantino, Ben Savage and WeHo Councilmember Sepi Shyne answered a wide range of questions intended to gauge their support of values important to Jewish Democrats. All six candidates expressed support for a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, and all denounced the boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. 

What is your view of rising anti-Semitism in the United States and if elected to congress what measures would you take to combat anti-Semitism?

This is an issue that I have been discussing with my colleagues in the Jewish caucus literally every day. The amount of anti-Semitism that we are seeing across California and across the nation is reaching levels that I wouldn’t have dreamed we would have seen. This is something that has existed for a long time, obviously, it’s historic, but it’s been on the rise for a number of years. Certainly, during the Trump years, we saw that kind of open anti-Semitism from the far right normalized, and in some cases, openly espoused by Republican leaders. And now we’re seeing anti-Semitism really coming at us from all sides. But I’d say at the core, there are a couple of things. There’s extremism, which is something in any direction it’s coming from, we have to be very guarded and careful about. But clearly, the old anti-Semitic underpinnings are still alive. Anti-Semitism of the type that makes people believe that the media is controlled by the Jews, that it’s Jewish money that causes politicians to support Israel, that kind of classic anti-Semitism. We have got to do so much to combat it.

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I have actively opposed anti-Semitism and taken action throughout my career, and I want to bring that experience to Congress. I mentioned at the outset that our office won the Anti-Defamation League’s award when we shut down violent white supremacists. I brought Jewish community leaders together with law enforcement and others to assure religious institutions are protected here in Los Angeles. I’ve taken a range of steps to ensure anti-Semitism isn’t an issue anywhere, not just on campuses but anywhere. As a member of Congress, not only do we have to speak out aggressively and actively every time there’s an anti-Semitic incident, but we need to ensure there are resources to protect religious institutions from anti-Semitic actions. We need to be sure that the Justice Department has resources to prosecute anti-Semitic hate crimes. We need to be sure there’s Holocaust education in our schools so that our kids are brought up to understand the history that lies behind the virulent anti-Semitism pervading our country today. And we need to be encouraging universities to take strong action.

 I want to appreciate this group of candidates too who, even before October 7th, have been explicit in their intolerance for anti-Semitism, which, as the late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sachs often said, was the world’s oldest social disease. So, the anti-Semites and bigots have a couple of thousand years’ head start. But the question, Haley, was around what can you do in Congress, and I think there are a few things. One is, like my colleagues have said, use the bully pulpit to talk about this and show no tolerance. Two is to look at security for Jewish communities, security for Jewish groups, for synagogues. Three is to look at federal anti-Semitism and hate crime legislation, expand penalties. You know, we see that despite some folks saying anti-Semitism is not a form of bigotry, like in California, it’s the most supported hate crime nationally, religious hate crime in the country. We need to look at partnerships with other community groups, and most importantly, when it comes to education, like Mike was saying, Holocaust education, anti-Semitism education, starting as we do in elementary school grades and going all the way through college and universities, as we’ve seen.

 
I’m proud to be an ally to the Jewish community. Early on when I got on Council, I recognized and learned how high the hate crimes against the Jewish and Israeli community are, and I’ve stood with the community since. In the federal government, absolutely expanding education is important. Personally, I was born Muslim, and I am on a mission to make sure the Islamic regime is removed. They are the funders of terrorism, and that is taking away democracy in the world. We need to make sure universities expand their definition of anti-Semitism and protect Jewish and Israeli students against anti-Semitism because it’s essential. Talking to other Congress members and helping them understand the importance.
 

This is a critical issue facing our country, our state, our society. The rise in anti-Semitism is not new, but it’s never been this horrific. Listening last week, I was hearing a Hal student leader talk about how he’s been getting emails from prospective students considering that institution, wondering if they’d be safe on campus. No student should wonder whether they’re going to be safe on campus, and so we need to condemn anti-Semitism in all forms as vigorously as we can. I was proud that when legislation passed the State Assembly on ethnic studies, it came over to the state senate, and the Jewish Community reached out to me and said, “Hey, we’re concerned that this ethnic studies curriculum doesn’t have safeguards in it, that there’s an effort to subtly put anti-Semitism into the curriculum.” I put those amendments into the bill to safeguard against anti-Semitism in the curriculum, which was a political risk, but I took it because it was the right thing to do. We need leaders who are not afraid to look at other causes and stand firm against anti-Semitism, and I’ve done that. 

Anti-semitism is heartbreaking. Seeing what’s going on in our community, some of us are one or two generations removed from the Holocaust. I certainly had family lost in the Holocaust, and it’s a stunning reminder of how quickly things can turn for many immigrant communities, but particularly the Jewish community. The Jews make up, I think, less than 2% of the United States, and I think it’s over 60% of the hate crimes are taking place against the Jews. So, I would say that we have a lot of work to do. I want to see leaders that are strong and can use the bully pulpit, as Nick mentioned, in order to vigorously, strongly, and passionately defend the case not only for the Jewish community but for Israel. I think we need strong leaders who are willing to put themselves out there and stand up and say what is right. I think it starts with education in our country. It also starts with combating bad actors online, particularly post-October 7th. We saw numerous groups obviously using social media to spread illicit messages, so we need to combat that. 

Do you support US military assistance to Israel including the additional assistance pledged by President Biden and do you support Israel’s ongoing military operations in Gaza?

Well, first of all, I’d like to thank the Biden Administration, particularly Secretary Blinken, for his steadfast commitment to Israel. He’s been remarkable on this issue. I am in favor of what the Biden Administration is doing for Israel. Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East; it’s the only democracy, and they need our support, both militarily and technologically, and via cross-communication through medicine and other infrastructure. But I do support the Biden Administration, and I do support what Israel is doing. You need to get rid of Hamas; they are not a partner, they are not a trusted partner, and they’re not someone that we can work with going forward. We need to make sure that we focus on returning the hostages. There are six American hostages still being held by Gaza today, and I’m not hearing much about that. I’d like to see representatives in Congress who are fighting strongly to make sure that those hostages are brought home, as well as the other remaining Israeli hostages. We need them.

I don’t think that you’ll hear anyone on this Zoom who doubts that Israel has a right to exist, or that Israel has a right to defend itself. I think that’s probably something that’s shared by all of us. I expect, when the U.S. gives money to any country, that they ask them to operate within the confines of international law. The United States is absolutely right to make sure that Israel, or any other country they give aid to, operates within those parameters. I think, with this particular conflict, what I would love to see the U.S. explore with Israel is, number one, how can we better protect civilians? Because we certainly are seeing mass casualties in Gaza, and that is very problematic for a lot of people in the U.S. What is the game plan for Israel? What does success look like, and what happens next? Is there still room for a two-state solution? Of course, I want to see Hamas wiped out. They have clearly stated their design is to eradicate Israel; it’s not for peace. But what will replace Hamas? Who will replace Hamas? And how do we still have a two-state solution? That’s something the U.S. needs to diplomatically understand with Israel and its partners. Thank you.

When Hamas committed those horrible atrocities, the world was largely silent. And now, we are finding out more and more about the breadth of Hamas’s capacity, including hundreds of miles of tunnels and weapons caches, which not even Israel had a hint about before. I support Israel’s efforts to weaken and degrade Hamas so that it can never again pose a threat. If I were in Congress right now, I’d also be strongly supporting the Biden administration’s efforts to push Israel to scale back its efforts and to more precisely target Hamas leaders. We all mourn the hundreds of deaths in Israel resulting from Hamas’s atrocities, and we all mourn for the humanitarian crisis that exists in Gaza. I would strongly support coupling our efforts to get the hostages out with getting more humanitarian aid into Gaza. Moving forward, we need to be focusing on a two-state solution and pushing Israel towards that objective.

I am incredibly grateful for President Biden’s steadfast support of Israel. I was privileged to be invited to the White House Hanukkah party, where I got to hear him reiterate that support. Then, I talked personally to Secretary Blinken to thank him for his support. I was in Israel this summer. You know, it’s a very Israeli idea to have multiple truths coexist at the same time. One of those truths is that Hamas is evil and needs to be eradicated, not just demilitarized, but eradicated in the same way the Nazi threat was eradicated. But another truth is that the Israeli government needs reform. When I was there this summer, I was protesting in the streets with hundreds of thousands of Israelis against what is the most right-wing, corrupt government in the nation’s history. It’s also true that we need to think about tomorrow. As an educator, I’m always thinking about the kids who are going to grow up and have to rebuild this world, rebuild Gaza with new leadership, and rebuild what I hope, in my generation, will see as the two-state solution. So, I’m incredibly grateful for the president’s support. I think we’re wise to start thinking about the day after. Too few elected officials are thinking about the day after and how to build Israel to be strong and also to build a Palestinian state.

I was 2 (years old) in Iran when the revolution happened, and then the war, so I understand the impact of what war does. I also understand how it feels to have a terrorist regime, like the Islamic regime, take away everyone’s freedoms. I support Israel’s right to self-determination. I was proud to visit Israel twice in the past two years, most recently with the American Jewish Committee. I support the funding that we’ve given to our ally. As allies, our job also is to make sure that we sit down with the Israeli government and ensure that we move toward more humanitarian aid, more peace, but making sure the hostages are released is critical. We need to make sure the Islamic regime, long-term, is removed because they’re a threat to democracy everywhere.

I don’t know how anyone could not have been deeply affected. For me, as a dad, the 260 young people killed at a concert was devastating. I think the Biden Administration is doing the right thing by supporting aid and military aid to Israel. They are also right in encouraging more strategic uses of that aid to ensure that we target Hamas leaders. Hamas needs to be eradicated. There’s no question it is a terrorist organization bent on destroying Israel, and that is something that cannot happen. I think the administration is right to condemn anti-Semitism around the country, and it’s also important to get more humanitarian aid into Gaza, into the hands of those who need it. Then, I think we need to be well-positioned with the moral authority to manage the peace, whatever comes next. We need to be a player in that, to ensure that there is a true two-state solution that makes it safe for both the Palestinians and the Israelis. I think that’s what the Biden Administration is trying to do

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Sig
Sig
29 days ago

Three U.S. Service Members Killed in Drone Strike in JordanTwenty-five other soldiers were injured in what the Biden administration said was an attack by an Iran-backed militia. The deaths were the first American military fatalities from hostile fire in the aftermath of Israel’s war in Gaza.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

It’s entirely comical to read Ratevosian take all sides of the issue without committing to anything and simultaneously refer to himself as a “major” candidate for this office.

WeHo Resident
WeHo Resident
15 days ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

At least he has enough humanity to call for a cease fire. That is taking a clear position, and a brave one considering the politics involved. If anything, it’s the rest of the candidates that seem to be laughably but also sadly, talking out off all sides of their mouths. And Sepi Shyne has now resorted to attacking her own religion in an obvious attempt to pander to her donors. Pathetic. Neither Ratevosian not Shyne will go to Congress, but at least Ratevosian has a spine.

genocide forgiveness ig
genocide forgiveness ig
1 month ago

delete my last comment all you want! genocide is occuring on the hands of YOUR tax dollars and our only options for congressional representation proudly endorse this slaughter. disgusting

Keith
Keith
28 days ago

I agree with you 100%

Greater Exposure Needed
Greater Exposure Needed
1 month ago

How about substantive questions on vital subjects? How did we miss this and why was it not available to view?

Further Mike Feuer seems off and away the most capable candidate with a well proven track record

John
John
1 month ago

I’d like to know their plans for getting the state back on its feet.

resident
resident
1 month ago

Sepi Shyne is an Arab Muslim who has made many anti-Israel comments and statements. I understand why she needs to lie now, but I am so deeply offended by her.

Susie
Susie
1 month ago

Why have you excluded former State Department advisor Jirair Ratevosian who has a pro- ceasefire position? I believe there are others too.

Joshua88
Joshua88
1 month ago

I would have liked to watch the debate.

And – OMG – the establishment party platform lives on rather well with these people.
I cannot support any of them.

Antony Blinken has been uncleverly disingenuous, and rather pitiful.

How utterly disheartening,
Bunch of pussies. Afraid of DMFI/AIPAC.

At least Leader Jeffries supports Summer Lee.

Eric
Eric
1 month ago
Reply to  Joshua88

You seem disheartened that there isn’t a Hamas Jihadist running, I’m sorry.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago

The Los Angeles Times just endorsed Laura Friedman for Congress and took a couple of swings at her rival, Anthony Portantino. After the LAT’s endorsement of George Gascon, I guess I will voting for State Senator Portantino.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

An endorsement by The El Segundo Times is usually a good predictor of who not to vote for as I make my choices.

Eric
Eric
1 month ago

Strange, Sepis mentor is the repulsive demented Tlaib, so not quite sure that she can trusted here, sorry, silly me, not like she can be trusted anywhere.

Eric
Eric
1 month ago

Lets see where the progressives here stand, when they see their left of the horse shoe support dwindle.

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago

All six candidates expressed support for a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians”

Okay, but Netanyahu does not. So what now?

Eric
Eric
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

What a weak response. Netanyahu? For the last 75 years we have seen constant rejection from Palestine on all deals. Israel wants to live in peace side by side with Palestine, it’s Palestine that does not want the same. So what now Greeneyes?

Have you not noticed that Arab nations, one after another are accepting Israel, but Palestine leadership, wants to execute this river to the sea idea. There can be peace and coexistence, when Palestine choose this route. Don’t deflect with non sense bringing up someone whose days at the helm are numbered.

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric

Netanyahu said this yesterday:

“in any future arrangement, or in the absence of an arrangement,” he said, Israel must maintain “security control” of all territory west of the Jordan River — meaning, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. “That is a vital condition.”

The leader of Israel LITERALLY said there is no chance of a Palestinian state and said “the river to the sea”. How am I deflecting anything?

Eric
Eric
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Cause his days are numbered and as it stands today, there is nothing to suggest that Palestine will be able to operate peacefully and co exist. The atrocities that day speak for themselves, so guess security is an issue that Israel has to hold paramount. Oct 7th was a huge set back for peace, a huge set back for a two state solution. What happens next I don know, but you can bet your last dollar, Israel wants the hostages back and wont stop until they get them all back, wants to live in peace and with the exception of… Read more »

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric

I am proudly anti-zionist and proudly Jewish. How dare you even suggest the anti-zionism is anti-semitism. Shame on you.

October 7th was indeed horrible, but to ignore the decades of previous atrocities committed by Israel is either being willfully ignorant or just immoral.

Eric
Eric
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

How dare I? Shane on me? Sorry mate, you’re a full fledged anti semite or a very sadly uneducated Jew.

greeneyedguy
greeneyedguy
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric

Shame on you.

Keith
Keith
28 days ago
Reply to  Eric

This is what they do, attack & shame to control and shut us down. They call you an anti semite to shut down any reasonable conversation. Shame on you.

Keith
Keith
28 days ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

Bravo! Well said.

Question?
Question?
28 days ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

No one actually asks the question about precisely why is Israel always claiming security as their top priority?

Joshua88
Joshua88
1 month ago
Reply to  Eric

“Although some people describe Israel’s Camp David proposal as practically a return to the 1967 borders, it was far from that. Under the plan, Israel would have withdrawn completely from the small Gaza Strip. But it would annex strategically important and highly valuable sections of the West Bank—while retaining “security control” over other parts—that would have made it impossible for the Palestinians to travel or trade freely within their own state without the permission of the Israeli government (Political Science Quarterly, 6/22/01; New York Times, 7/26/01; Report on Israeli Settlement in the Occupied Territories, 9–10/00; Robert Malley, New York Review… Read more »

Keith
Keith
28 days ago
Reply to  Eric

You really need to educate yourself. Israel is already making plants for the land in Gaza. It’s what Netanyahu has always wanted. This is genocide!

resident
resident
1 month ago
Reply to  greeneyedguy

The Palestinians have rejected offers for land 6 or 7 times in the past 70 years. They’ve made themselves into a militarized society whose sole reason for being is to kill Jewlsh people. They are not acceptable as neighbors to anyone until they stop their hateful ways.

WeHo Resident
WeHo Resident
15 days ago
Reply to  resident

Maybe if the Israeli government and their state-approved settlers didn’t colonize, oppress, terrorize, continuously steal land, and murder their “neighbors,” they’d have more loving neighbors. I’m not an Arab or a Muslim, but seeing the unfettered bombing by Israel that has taken the lives of 25,000+ Palestinians, mostly defenseless women and children, has absolutely convinced me Israel is in the wrong and has been in the wrong for decades. Netanyahu is guilty of genocide, and I’m sickened that my American taxes are used to support his fascist agenda.

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