The horrors of the Hamas invasion of Israel, including the reported deaths of 11 Americans, are taking place thousands of miles from Concord, N.H. But the issue of Israel, the Jews, and American foreign policy has made multiple appearances in New Hampshire politics.
While most of the antisemitic incidents and anti-Israel sentiment involve Granite State Democrats, particularly from that party’s progressive wing, there have been incidents on both sides of the aisle that highlight the ongoing — and sometimes ugly — debate over America’s relationship with the nation of Israel and its Jewish population.
Here is a recap:
SEPTEMBER 2023: “Israel is an apartheid state,” according to a social media post from 2020 U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Fenton, who is state co-chair of the Vivek Ramaswamy presidential campaign. “Yes, this bothers people. I’m sorry, but it is true. Despite U.S. politicians sending billions of U.S. taxpayer worker wages to Israel, an already rich country, and despite the massively powerful AIPAC and other lobbies, most Americans have no clue what the conflict is about.
“The land we now call Israel was very recently called Palestine and, contrary to propaganda, was not a ‘land without a people,’” Fenton posted on social media.
When called out on his comments, Fenton doubled down. “Of course, it’s an apartheid state. How is it not?”
MARCH 2022: Progressive Democrat-turned-independent Rep. Tony Labranche of Amherst. Labranche took to the state House floor during a debate over a resolution expressing support for the Jewish State. He declared Israel had “long illegally occupied Palestinian lands.” And he also called Israel “an apartheid state.”
In the final vote on the resolution supporting Israel, 160 Republicans voted yes, while 107 Democrats voted no. Fifteen Democrats crossed the aisle to show their support for Israel.
NOVEMBER 2021: Progressive Democrat Rep. Maria Perez (D-Milford) took to social media to declare, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a call for the total destruction of the nation of Israel. She also declared Israel “an apartheid state.”
Facing condemnation from leading Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and the New Hampshire Jewish Federation, she withdrew her “river to the sea” comment but declined to apologize for her “apartheid state” remarks. She has since left the Democratic Party and registered as unaffiliated.
DECEMBER 2020: Republican state Rep. Dawn Johnson posted an antisemitic image from the neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer. Johnson apologized, claiming the image had been shared with her by others and she wasn’t aware of the source. She did not apologize for the content.
FEBRUARY 2022: During an intraparty conflict last year between progressive and traditional Democrats in the New Hampshire House, progressives were accused of using antisemitic rhetoric in their attacks. State Rep. Alissandra Murray (D-Manchester) described the conflict with Jewish House members as “we kicked the termite nest,” echoing a phrase used by notorious antisemite Louis Farrakhan to describe Jews.
MARCH 2020: U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas voted to kill an anti-BDS bill in the House. The BDS– or Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions — movement is an effort backed by a coalition of both opponents of America’s policy toward Israel and openly anti-antisitic activists. Its goal is to pressure public officials and private organizations to stop engaging with the Jewish state. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the BDS movement “rejects Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, [and] is the most prominent effort to undermine Israel’s existence.”
OCTOBER 2021: The N.H. House Ethics Committee reprimanded state Rep. James Spillane (R-Deerfield) for
posting an image featuring antisemitic tropes on his social media account. Spillane issued a written apology, claiming he didn’t realize the image was antisemitic. In 2023, he was an outspoken advocate for the anti-BDS executive order signed by Gov. Chris Sununu and attended the signing.
DECEMBER 2019: A New Hampshire Young Democrats event in Manchester featured keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), whose “vile, antisemitic slurs” and aggressively anti-Israel rhetoric had already been denounced by members of her own party. New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley declined to respond to multiple questions about why Omar was featured at a state party event.
JULY 2019: When congressional Democrats were considering a resolution to condemn the global boycott movement against Israel, Kuster (D-N.H.) went to House leadership to urge the resolution not be brought to the House floor. Kuster is a longtime ally of Omar.