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New Hampshire legislature leaders condemn antisemitism among state representatives

Statement comes after Democrat Rep. Maria Perez calls Israel an apartheid state and tweets ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’

The New Hampshire State House in Concord, Feb. 3, 2020. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images via JTA)
The New Hampshire State House in Concord, Feb. 3, 2020. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images via JTA)

JTA — Leaders of the New Hampshire House of Representatives released a statement last week condemning antisemitism after a lawmaker for the US state tweeted in support of Palestinians using a slogan many deem to be antisemitic.

Speaker of the House Sherman Packard, a Republican, and House Democratic leader Renny Cushing wrote in a joint statement Thursday that “any form of bigotry — anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry — has no place in our society” and “it is unacceptable that any member of this historic legislative body is involved in perpetuating hate in any form.”

The statement came after the third incident in the past year in which a member of the state’s House of Representatives was accused of sharing an antisemitic post to social media.

Less than one percent of New Hampshire’s residents are Jewish, according to a study conducted in 2019, and officials estimate that there are around 10,000 Jews in the state.

In December of last year, local leaders called for Republican Rep. Dawn Johnson of Laconia to resign after she shared a link to a Daily Stormer article on Twitter. The article included an antisemitic cartoon that Rabbi Dan Danson, a Reform rabbi in Laconia, New Hampshire, described as “literally a copy of the kind of art that was used in Nazi Germany in the 1930s.” Johnson later apologized and removed the post.

In January, Republican Rep. James Spillaine posted a meme to his official social media that depicted a mural that appeared in London in 2012 under text that read “IF WE ALL STAND UP, THEIR LITTLE GAME IS OVER.”

The mural, which showed a group of bankers seated around a Monopoly-like board held up by the backs of Black men, was removed after complaints that the depiction of the bankers was antisemitic.

New Hampshire’s Legislative Ethics Committee formally admonished Spillaine in September. The resolution includes an apology from Spillaine, in which he claims he did not know the meme he shared was depicting Jews.

Kalen Ockerman's mural 'The Enemy of Humanity' (photo credit: YouTube screen shot)
Kalen Ockerman’s mural ‘The Enemy of Humanity’ (photo credit: YouTube screen shot)

In the most recent incident in November that prompted the joint statement from the State House leaders, Rep. Maria Perez, a Democrat, tweeted the phrase “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The phrase refers to the Jordan River which separates the West Bank from Jordan, and the Mediterranean Sea, which borders Israel to the west. It is widely understood to constitute a call to eliminate Israel, and was included in a 2017 statement of principles by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which openly seeks Israel’s destruction.

While many believe the phrase to be antisemitic, it is also frequently used as a slogan by Palestinian activists. Perez also called Israel an apartheid state and later said that she supports a one-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians would share a binational state.

Some activists in New Hampshire criticized the House leaders for releasing their joint statement condemning antisemitism in response to the actions of a Democrat rather than in response to the previous incidents involving Republicans.

“So when did the NHGOP reach out to make a joint statement when members of their own party were making actual antisemitic statements? Just wondering,” Ronelle Tshiela, a Black Lives Matter organizer in New Hampshire, wrote on Twitter.

Cushing and Packard asked House members in their statement on Thursday to “act with dignity and respect on social media and in their daily actions with each other and their constituents.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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