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August 26, 2015 0

Holocaust Analogies Continue To Taint Discourse On Wide Range Of Issues

The charged polit­i­cal debates over issues rang­ing from Iran to abor­tion con­tinue to be tainted by inap­pro­pri­ate invo­ca­tions of Hitler, Nazis, and gen­eral Holo­caust imagery.huckabee-israel-holocaust-oven-tweet-twitter

These mis­placed and offen­sive com­par­isons, made by politi­cians, pun­dits, and oth­er pub­lic fig­ures,  triv­i­al­ize this unique tragedy in human his­tory.  They not only rely on his­tor­i­cally incor­rect premises and exag­ger­a­tions, but also deflect atten­tion away from impor­tant national discussions.

For exam­ple, U.S. Sen­a­tor and Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ted Cruz recently sent let­ters to pas­tors through­out the U.S. to encour­age them to speak out against Planned Par­ent­hood, claim­ing that abor­tion rep­re­sents an “ongo­ing holo­caust.” Of course, invok­ing the Holo­caust in the dis­cus­sions on abor­tion is noth­ing new.

The Iran deal is also an area where offen­sive Holo­caust analo­gies have been increas­ingly crop­ping up. On July 26, for exam­ple, Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mike Huck­abee stated in an inter­view that Pres­i­dent Obama’s poli­cies on Iran will “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.” Huckabee’s cam­paign also high­lighted this inap­pro­pri­ate com­par­i­son in a graphic on Twitter.

The analo­gies are not only used by politi­cians.  In a sign of how our pub­lic dis­course has coars­ened, crit­ics of pub­lic offi­cials also invoke Nazi analo­gies.  When New York Con­gress­man Jer­rold Nadler pub­licly sup­ported the pro­posed agree­ment on Iran, he report­edly was swamped with hate­ful mes­sages on social media.  One com­men­ta­tor referred to him as a “kappo,” a ref­er­ence to Jews who worked for the Nazis in con­cen­tra­tion camps.  curt-schilling-muslims-hitler-tweet-twitter

The Holo­caust com­par­isons are not lim­ited to the polit­i­cal world either. On August 25, ESPN “Sun­day Night Base­ball” ana­lyst and for­mer major league pitcher Curt Schilling shared a post on Twit­ter that com­pared extrem­ist Mus­lims to Nazis. The tweet sug­gested that a sim­i­lar per­cent­age of Mus­lims are extrem­ists as Ger­mans were Nazis. It also included an image of Hitler.

Such inap­pro­pri­ate Holo­caust ref­er­ences seem to sur­face around almost any con­tro­ver­sial issue. For exam­ple, dur­ing the charged polit­i­cal debate over gun con­trol in the after­math of the Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary School shoot­ing, there was a flurry of inap­pro­pri­ate invo­ca­tions of Hitler, Nazis, and gen­eral Holo­caust imagery by pub­lic fig­ures.  Oppo­si­tion to Pres­i­dent Obama’s Afford­able Care Act engen­dered sim­i­larly offen­sive comparisons.

Pub­lic dis­course today is seri­ously lack­ing in civil­ity and respect for dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on impor­tant issues.  One unfor­tu­nate exam­ple of this lack of civil­ity is repeated inap­pro­pri­ate ref­er­ences to the Holo­caust.  It is long past time for pub­lic offi­cials and pub­lic offi­cials to stop invok­ing the Holo­caust in an effort to score polit­i­cal points.

* As a 501(c )(3) non-profit orga­ni­za­tion, the Anti-Defamation League does not sup­port or oppose can­di­dates for polit­i­cal office.

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July 30, 2015 0

Mezuzah Is Fair Housing Decision’s Overlooked Beneficiary

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 25th favor­able fair hous­ing deci­sion was a big win for the civil rights of all Amer­i­cans, includ­ing Jew­ish con­do­minium own­ers and renters who are pro­hib­ited from plac­ing Mezuzahs on their outer door posts.

A mezuzah is a small, unob­tru­sive object – typ­i­cally less than six inches long and an inch wide – which for mil­len­nia has been placed on the outer door­posts of Jew­ish homes in ful­fill­ment of reli­gious oblig­a­tions.  It is not a dec­o­ra­tive choice for Jews, or a choice of any kind.  Rather, an obser­vant Jew­ish per­son can­not buy, rent or reside in a res­i­dence where place­ment of a mezuzah on the outer door­post is prohibited.

Mezuzah-RS Many con­do­mini­ums, devel­op­ments and rental com­mu­ni­ties are sub­ject to gen­er­ally applic­a­ble aes­thetic or other restric­tions which pro­hibit the dis­play of all reli­gious or sec­u­lar sym­bols on outer door­posts and doors, includ­ing the mezuzah.  In the vast major­ity of these sit­u­a­tions, home­owner asso­ci­a­tions or land­lords accom­mo­date Jew­ish res­i­dents by allow­ing them to post their mezuzahs with­out issue.

How­ever, in the minor­ity of cases where asso­ci­a­tions or land­lords refuse to allow the mezuzah, the Court’s deci­sion is a valu­able legal tool.  In Texas Dept. of Hous­ing v. The Inclu­sive Com­mu­ni­ties Project, Inc., the Court rec­og­nized “dis­parate impact” the­ory under the fed­eral Fair Hous­ing Act.  As a result, gen­er­ally applic­a­ble hous­ing rules or prac­tices that have the effect of unin­ten­tion­ally dis­crim­i­nat­ing on the basis of race, color, reli­gion, sex, famil­ial sta­tus or national ori­gin, includ­ing restric­tions bar­ring dis­play of the mezuzah, vio­late the Act.

In light of the Court’s rul­ing, ADL has issued a new pub­li­ca­tion enti­tled, “Reli­gious Accom­mo­da­tion for the Mezuzah: Your Rights Under Fair Hous­ing Laws,” which in addi­tion to dis­cussing accom­mo­da­tions under fed­eral law cov­ers the four state laws (Con­necti­cut, Florida, Illi­nois and Texas) that specif­i­cally pro­hibit rules bar­ring dis­plays of the mezuzah and other reli­gious sym­bols in outer door areas.

Pro­vid­ing reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions for the mezuzah is a prin­ci­pled and wor­thy prac­tice.   Now that the Court has ruled in favor of dis­parate impact under the Fair Hous­ing Act, home­owner asso­ci­a­tions and land­lords should be on notice that pro­vid­ing such accom­mo­da­tions is not only the right thing to do, but legally required in most instances.

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July 15, 2015 1

The Voting Rights Advancement Act: Necessary to Ensure Voting Rights for All

Almost fifty years ago, on August 6, 1965, Pres­i­dent Lyn­don B. John­son signed the his­toric Vot­ing Rights Act (VRA), one of the most impor­tant and effec­tive pieces of civil rights leg­is­la­tion ever passed.   In the almost half cen­tury since its pas­sage, the VRA has secured and safe­guarded the right to vote for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans. Its suc­cess in elim­i­nat­ing dis­crim­i­na­tory bar­ri­ers to full civic par­tic­i­pa­tion and in advanc­ing equal polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment is unde­ni­able. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has sup­ported pas­sage of the VRA and every reau­tho­riza­tion since 1965, filed ami­cus briefs urg­ing the Supreme Court to uphold the law, pro­moted aware­ness about the impor­tance of the VRA, and encour­aged the Depart­ment of Jus­tice to use the VRA to pro­tect vot­ing rights for all.

VRA interns for web

The last time Con­gress extended the VRA, it did so after an exhaus­tive exam­i­na­tion of vot­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion and the impact of the VRA – days of hear­ings and thou­sands of pages of doc­u­men­ta­tion. The leg­is­la­tion passed over­whelm­ing: 390 to 33 in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and 98–0 in the Senate.

Notwith­stand­ing this over­whelm­ing sup­port and exhaustively-documented leg­isla­tive his­tory – and the unde­ni­ably extra­or­di­nary impact of the VRA–a bit­terly divided 5–4 major­ity of the U.S. Supreme Court struck down §4(b) of the VRA (the for­mula to deter­mine which states and polit­i­cal sub­di­vi­sions would have to pre­clear all vot­ing changes) in Shelby County v. Holder , essen­tially gut­ting the heart of the legislation.

Almost imme­di­ately after the deci­sion, states that had been sub­ject to pre­clear­ance over­sight for vot­ing changes began enact­ing laws that threaten to dis­pro­por­tion­ately dis­en­fran­chise minor­ity, young, poor, and elderly vot­ers. Texas, for exam­ple, enacted a strict plan that fed­eral courts had pre­vi­ously rejected, find­ing that there was “more evi­dence of dis­crim­i­na­tory intent than we have space, or need, to address here….Simply put, many His­pan­ics and African Amer­i­cans who voted in the last elec­tions will, because of the bur­dens imposed by SB 14 , likely be unable to vote.”

Texas was not alone in quickly mov­ing to enact unwar­ranted voter ID laws and restric­tions on voter reg­is­tra­tion and early vot­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties. In fact, the efforts over the last few years to restrict vot­ing rights around the coun­try are unprece­dented in mod­ern Amer­ica. The United States has not seen such a major leg­isla­tive push to limit vot­ing rights since right after Reconstruction

In Shelby County, the Court invited Con­gress to craft a new for­mula based on its guid­ance. This leg­is­la­tion, the Vot­ing Rights Advance­ment Act, has now been intro­duced in both the House and the Sen­ate. The mea­sure would update the cov­er­age for­mula, put in place addi­tional safe­guards for vot­ing, and help ensure that all Amer­i­cans can have their say in our democracy.

As we cel­e­brate the anniver­sary of the VRA, it’s time to leg­is­late, not just commemorate.

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