A Boston city councilor is being slammed for making “antisemitic” statements that perpetuate a “dangerous myth” about “excessive Jewish power and influence” in global affairs, two Jewish groups say.
The Anti-Defamation League of New England and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston both released statements Thursday criticizing the “troubling” remarks made by Tania Fernandes Anderson at this week’s City Council meeting.
“Drawing on the oldest tropes about Jewish power and influence to make a political statement is not just unacceptable, it is antisemitic,” Rabbi Dr. Jonah Steinberg, ADL New England regional director, said in a statement.
“Excessive Jewish power and influence controlling global affairs is a dangerous myth where Jews are cast as manipulative schemers who use money and influence to advance an evil agenda,” he added.
“Words matter,” Steinberg said, saying that while the ADL welcomes a conversation, the “community deserves an apology” from the councilor.
When introducing a resolution calling for de-escalation and a ceasefire in Israel and “occupied Palestine,” Fernandes Anderson made remarks insinuating that the violence against Israeli people was garnering more attention because of their “money and influence.”
“Nobody wants people to die,” Fernandes Anderson said. “The Holocaust was horrific. The African holocaust was horrific. The Australian holocaust of the Aborigines was horrific. But when we start talking, we only talk about people with money and influence.”
She added, “We never talk about Black people. We never talk about people suffering. We never talk about brown people. So if you’re Indian and you’re Palestinian, nobody gets up and supports any of this stuff.”
Her resolution was filed in response to one put forward earlier in the week by Councilor Michael Flaherty, who wanted to condemn “Hamas and their brutal terrorist acts against Israel.”
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In it, Fernandes Anderson refers to the Hamas terrorist organization as a “militant group” and characterizes the Oct. 7 attack that killed over 1,400 Israelis, among them women, children and babies, as a “massive military operation,” language that sparked outrage from some of her colleagues.
The resolution further states that Israel’s policies and actions toward the Palestinian people have been recognized by international human rights groups as “apartheid,” and Israel’s recent actions to cut electricity, fuel and water sources from Gaza constitute “war crimes.”
“At a time when our community should be attuned to the risks and challenges of antisemitism in all its forms, we, and our member organizations, representing a multiplicity of Jewish perspectives, found Boston City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson’s recent comments troubling,” Jeremy Burton, JCRC executive director, said in a statement.
He added, “In civic debate, there should be no place for perpetuating long-persistent antisemitic tropes, such as Jewish individuals as wealthy and powerful, ignoring the historical underpinnings of antisemitism as a term literally created to frame hatred of the Jewish community in a precise way, and obfuscating the historic origins of the Jewish people in the region that is now called Israel.”
While his organization’s preference is dialogue, it could not leave her public comments unaddressed “at a time when the emotional and physical safety of the Jewish community in the U.S. and beyond is at risk,” Burton said.