“Representative Kuster had a chance to have the back of her constituents who love Israel and are Jewish. And she did not support us.”
That was the reaction from Jewish Federation of New Hampshire Board Chair Tracy Richmond to Rep. Annie Kuster’s vote against censuring Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) over her antisemitic rhetoric.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan resolution condemning Tlaib’s repeated calls from the floor of the House that “from the river to the sea, Palestine must be free” passed by a 234-188 margin. Rep. Chris Pappas was one of 22 Democrats who joined nearly every Republican in supporting the measure.
Kuster was not.
The six-term congresswoman also refused to join a statement signed by some 70 House Democrats (including Pappas) that condemned the phrase “used by many — including Hamas — as a rallying cry for the destruction of the State of Israel and genocide of the Jewish people.”
As Florida Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, one of the signatories, put it, “This phrase means eradicating Israel and Jews. Period. Dressing it up in a new PR ploy won’t change that.”
Asked about Kuster’s vote by WFEA radio’s Drew Cline Wednesday morning, Richmond said the Democrat failed her Jewish constituents.
“Yesterday, when our Congresspeople had an opportunity to tell [Tlaib] it is not okay to spew negativity towards Israel and towards the Jewish people, one of our local representatives, Rep. Kuster, did not think that was a worthy vote. She voted against censuring this bully,” Richmond said. “And I want to thank Rep. Pappas for voting to censure her because it’s people like that spewing this hate all over our country that is the exact reason for the rise in antisemitism.
“Rep. Kuster had a chance to have the back of her constituents who love Israel and are Jewish. And she did not support us right there,” Richmond said.
Kuster declined to answer questions about Richmond’s statement or her refusal to condemn the “from the river to the sea” language.
Richmond was asked what response she got from Kuster or her staff when she asked about her votes.
“What they’re saying to me personally is, yes, she voted [against the resolution], but she agrees that what happened on Oct. 7th was terrible. Well, it’s very easy to say a terror attack is terrible. That’s easy. We can all agree that terror… Well, not everyone, I guess,” Richmond added with a grim laugh.
State Rep. Judy Aron (R-Acworth), a Jewish member of the House, says she “totally agrees” with Richmond.
“The fact that Rep. Kuster would not sign a statement or vote to condemn the genocidal hate speech that Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and some other people in her caucus, regularly spew is just disgraceful. One has to wonder if Rep. Kuster simply does not have the intellect to understand the seriousness and intent of the phrase, ‘from the river to the sea,’ or if she openly supports that kind of genocidal hate speech.
“Either way, her actions are a true slap in the face to every person of the Jewish faith, every person who supports Israel, and every Israeli, including non-Jews. I’m quite frankly disgusted and embarrassed to have her as my representative in Washington, as we can do so much better.”
Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed dismay at the anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric being heard in the halls of Congress and on the nation’s elite campuses. There has also been a surge in violence, including an Indiana woman who drove her car into what she believed was a Jewish institution (it was actually an antisemitic group that used the Star of David symbol on its building).
On Monday, a Jewish man died during an alleged clash between pro-Palestine and pro-Israel protesters in California after he was hit in the mouth with a megaphone and then fell and hit his head, according to witnesses.
Richmond said the current climate is dangerous for Jews, and actions like Tlaib’s — and Kuster’s — aren’t helping.
“If you live in Israel and you carry an Israeli passport, you cannot feel safe going to any other country in the world right now,” Richmond said. “And let me remind everyone: Israel is at war. And it’s [still] safer than anywhere else for the people who live in Israel. Yet chanting ‘from the river to the sea,’ which means ‘eliminate Israel’ is okay?”
Polls show support for Israel in its struggle with Hamas and its supporters is significantly lower among Democrats than it is among Republicans. And nearly all of the opposition to supporting Israel in its war against Hamas is found on the Democrats’ side of the aisle, let by outspoken progressives like Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a close ally of Kuster’s.
The Jewish state has also been targeted by Democrats in the New Hampshire legislature, who overwhelmingly voted against a House resolution supporting Israel last year. The resolution expressed “our strong support for the Jewish people and our truest ally in the Middle East, the Nation of Israel; the recognition of the current and historical capitol [sic] of Israel being in Jerusalem; and the location of the embassy of the United States now finally in Jerusalem where it should have been and where it should remain.”
The final vote was 175 to 107 in favor, with just 15 Democrats joining the Republicans’ unanimous support.
And Gov. Chris Sununu was forced to enact an anti-BDS (Boycott/Divest/Sanction) proposal via executive order due to a lack of support in the House. Asked why there is so much anti-Israel animus in New Hampshire politics, Richmond said the problem is a lack of accurate information about Israel, “even among our elected officials.”
“We need people who are doing their own research to really understand what is going on over there,” Richmond said.
Richmond lamented the fact that Jews have to worry about wearing symbols of their faith, like yarmulkes or kippahs, in public in some American cities.
“I never imagined I’d be living in a country where I would see that,” Richmond said.