On Monday members from the House of Representatives announced the establishment of the Congressional Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations, which was created to combat the rising tide of white nationalism. However, the group includes New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, the GOP congressman who has made headlines for his connections to the alt-right and his repeated attacks on Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar on Twitter.
The caucus was launched at the American Jewish Committee Global Forum, an annual event held in Washington D.C. In addition to Zeldin, its current members are Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI). “The African-American and Jewish communities have a history of standing together for the promotion of social justice and civil rights,” Lawrence said at the forum, “To encourage and nurture this unique partnership, I have formed the Congressional Caucus on Black-Jewish Relations with the hopes of strengthening the trust and advancing our issues in a collective manner.”
Lee Zeldin has represented New York’s 1st district since 2015 and has been directly connected to anti-Muslim and white nationalist controversies throughout his political career. Shortly after arriving in congress he met with the Long Island chapter of The Oath Keepers, a far-right extremist group whose website refers to former President Obama as a “Muslim/Extremist” and last June, one of his campaign rallies was headlined by former Trump official Sebastian Gorka, a noted Islamophobe with ties to Nazi groups. In February, Zeldin went on a Twitter tirade against Muslim Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) after learning that she had become a member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. That same month, he attacked the congresswoman for drawing attention to the political influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After Omar apologized to those who might have perceived her tweet as antisemitic, Zeldin dismissed her apology as inauthentic. “The apology was obviously forced,” he said, “this is not something that she did on her own initiative and I don’t believe it’s going to be enough to stop the problematic behavior.”
In response to the establishment of the caucus, the Muslim activist Linda Sarsour called out the hypocrisy of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz who refused to participate in January’s Women’s March over its alleged failure to adequately condemn antisemitism. “Ah I see [Schultz] didn’t want to march with the Women’s March citing bigotry’ but has no problem aligning & partnering with [Zeldin], a notorious anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, anti-Muslim bigot who also targeted a Black Muslim Congresswoman. We know the truth. This is a joke.”
“Lee Zeldin is a white nationalist who had Steve Bannon headline a fundraiser for him and regularly weaponizes antisemitism to undermine Rashida and Ilhan,” tweeted Yonah Lieberman, a Jewish activist and leader of the anti-occupation group IfNotNow, “Disappointing that [Lawrence] and [Lewis] would work with someone like him on something as important as this.”
Zeldin is the only Jewish Republican in congress and one of its most vociferous pro-Israel voices.In 2017, he co-sponsored a piece of congressional legislation that would have made boycotting the state illegal.