As New Hampshire’s Republican National Committeeman, Bill O’Brien’s role is to remain neutral in GOP primaries, including the First in the Nation presidential contest. But after seeing statements about Israel from Vivek Ramaswamy’s Granite State co-chair, O’Brien told NHJournal he had to respond.
“I was horrified,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien, who previously served as New Hampshire’s Speaker of the House, is reacting to public statements from Bruce Fenton, Ramaswamy’s state co-chair. Fenton has repeatedly declared Israel an “apartheid state” and declared the creation of the Jewish state a “bad idea.”
Fenton has also spread conspiracy theories about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but Ramaswamy said Tuesday he’s keeping Fenton in his honorary position.
O’Brien says he had to speak out.
“Labeling Israel as an apartheid state reveals not just a profound misunderstanding of history. It also dangerously flirts with antisemitism, a persistent plague that has brought forth the most unimaginable horrors,” O’Brien said. “Antisemitism is a hateful, damaging ideology. Those who remain silent, indifferent, or ambivalent even to the possibility of antisemitism when they can correct it are not just weak but complicit.”
New Hampshire Republicans have generally been more supportive of Israel, while the state’s Democrats have been plagued by antisemitism among their ranks. In July, GOP Gov. Chris Sununu signed an executive order banning the state from doing business with companies participating in the Boycott/Divest/Sanction movement against Israel. The only public opposition to his order came from Democrats, several of whom have also repeated the “apartheid state” rhetoric.
Last year, 107 House Democrats voted against a resolution expressing support for the state of Israel.
On Tuesday, Fenton reiterated his previous statements about Israel, originally posted on July 27.
“Israel is an apartheid state. Yes, this bothers people, I’m sorry but it is true. For years Palestinians have faced abuse, been removed from their own family homes and have had movement restricted as Israel has expanded its authoritarian hold,” Fenton wrote.
“This would not be possible without the backing of big brother America, who sadly is made up of people who are not just uninformed but misinformed about the nature of the conflict.”
Ramaswamy downplayed Fenton’s role in his campaign, calling him a “volunteer,” and said that he strongly disagrees with Fenton’s view of Israel.
“Bruce Fenton is right on Fed policy, Bitcoin, individual liberty, and dismantling the administrative state. Turns out he’s dead wrong on calling Israel an ‘apartheid state.’ It’s a wildly wrong thing to say about the only pluralistic, thriving democracy in the Middle East. But you know what? He’s entitled to that view.”
And he’s entitled to express that view and remain Ramaswamy’s state co-chair.
O’Brien condemned this statement.
“We cannot accommodate antisemitic rhetoric in the public arena as if it reflects nothing more important than discussing differences in tax policy,” O’Brien said. “Those who would so trivialize it surely need to stop everything, go to Dachau, or Auschwitz, or any of the other more than a thousand Nazi concentration camps, walk the paths between barracks until they arrive at the crematoriums, and try to imagine remaining silent or acquiesce if it was their parents or their siblings or their children who were killed for being Jewish.”