Readers Write: Phillips panders to Jewish voters

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On Sept. 13, Democratic voters in New York’s 7th Senatorial District will decide if they want Brad Schwartz or Anna Kaplan to face off against Republican Elaine Phillips in this fall’s general election.

 Phillips, keenly aware that her next general-election opponent will be a member of the Jewish community, is doing backflips to convince Jewish voters (particularly right-leaning Jewish voters) that she is their one true advocate.

 One way she is doing this is by touting her supposed opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  Specifically, she introduced an anti-BDS bill that recently passed the Senate (S.2492).

In actuality, this is nothing but meaningless pandering, as anti-BDS laws are unconstitutional on their face and, thus, unenforceable. 

Nassau County had a similar law in place when musician Roger Waters, an outspoken BDS supporter, performed at the Nassau Coliseum last year.

 Although county officials initially threatened to take legal action if the company managing the venue allowed Waters to perform, they opted to do nothing in the end, convinced a legal fight to block Waters’ performance would be costly and futile. 

This would be no different on the state level.

Of course, merely blowing her own horn to celebrate a hollow victory wasn’t enough for Phillips. 

In an official Senate press release issued on May 16, she included a quote from Great Neck resident and right-wing bomb thrower Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, in which he called her “a genuine friend of the State of Israel and the Jewish people” and praised her “outright clarity on the anti-Semites who support and sponsor BDS activities.”

Additionally, over the past few weeks, Wiesenfeld has written several letters to Blank Slate Media (both before and after the May 16 press release was issued) encouraging readers to re-elect Phillips, accusing Kaplan of being insufficiently supportive of Israel and ranting generally about how “liberal Jews” and “leftists” were corrupting the Democratic Party.

Finally, a double-sided mailing, featuring a full-color image of Wiesenfeld alongside his May 16 quote, started hitting constituent mailboxes on or around June 18.  (Phillips used taxpayer funds to pay for this, of course.)

 I find Phillips’ treatment of Wiesenfeld as some kind of impeccable character witness abhorrent. 

Specifically, Wiesenfeld has made a career of accusing left-leaning Jews of tolerating anti-Semitism, while, at the same time, ignoring, excusing, defending or dismissing blatant acts of anti-Semitism committed by anyone on the right.

A recent example of Wiesenfeld’s hypocrisy was when former Pat Buchanan campaign staffer John O’Kelly submitted a virulently anti-Semitic letter to Blank Slate Media in December 2016.

Wiesenfeld wrote a response the following month, excoriating a local rabbi who denounced O’Kelly’s letter and stating that, while he generally found the author’s focus on Jews disturbing, he agreed with the letter’s political sentiments and stood with its author.

(According to a Blank Slate Media article published in April 2017, O’Kelly attended a meeting of the Town of North Hempstead to object to the town’s anti-BDS law and condemn the United States’ relationship with Israel. 

Knowing that, I wonder if Wiesenfeld still “stand[s] with John O’Kelly.”)

 It should be noted that Phillips, herself, benefited from and refused to take responsibility for an anonymous anti-Semitic Facebook meme, which featured her 2016 opponent, Adam Haber. 

Said meme pictured Haber dressed as a character from “Fiddler on the Roof.”

 Weeks after Election Day, Michael Fragin, a political consultant who worked on Phillips’ campaign, co-wrote a blog post on Medium.com, comparing Haber to a petulant teenager throwing a tantrum for focusing on the meme controversy.

 Fragin accused Haber of seeing anti-Semitism where there was none, even going so far as to suggest that, since the meme’s creator didn’t make Haber’s head look like that of an Hasidic Jew and “Fiddler on the Roof” portrayed Jews positively, it may not have been motivated by anti-Semitism at all.

 It is extraordinarily clear that Phillips has surrounded and will continue to surround herself with political allies who excuse anti-Semitism whenever it is politically convenient to do so.

Hopefully, enough voters of conscience will hold Phillips accountable for her dishonesty on Nov. 6.

Matthew Zeidman

New Hyde Park

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