It has been a very scary autumn to be a Jewish person in our nation, and in our Bucks County community. According to preliminary data from the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, the number of anti-Jewish incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault increased by almost 400% in the last six weeks compared to the same period last year.
Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential candidate, used his platform to echo explicitly Nazi rhetoric. He proposed rounding up people in camps, and called his domestic political adversaries “vermin.” Using language that dehumanizes other Americans is designed to make people acquiesce or even cheer on cruelty. We Jews have seen this before. We know this playbook all too well.
Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, took to the social media platform he purchased to amplify to his 163 million followers what Forbes called “an explicitly antisemitic conspiracy theory.” I’d add that the content is blatantly racist as well. Musk has also fired most of the X (formerly Twitter) staff who addressed hate on the platform. In the ensuing months, as anyone might have predicted, antisemitism exploded on X.
And here in Bucks County, four masked men burst into a Jewish-owned restaurant in Upper Southampton. They vandalized the cafe, tearing down a flag and stomping on it in the parking lot, leaving terrified staff and customers in their wake. One local news outlet referred to it as a “brazen anti-Semitic attack.”
In this environment, one might expect a community leader who is explicitly tasked to address antisemitism to step up and take a principled stand. And we do have a community leader who is supposed to have taken on that task. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick proudly cites his position as co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism on his website and in press releases. So one might expect him to take some action to address the simmering hate in his community. In fact, to do so is his explicit responsibility.
But what we got from Fitzpatrick in the wake of these events is the same mix of silence, head-in-the-sand ignorance and right-wing talking points that close Congressional-watchers have come to expect from our representative.
Fitzpatrick has said nothing about Donald Trump’s Nazi-themed speech.
Fitzpatrick has said nothing about Elon Musk’s antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Fitzpatrick has said nothing about the antisemitic attack in Bucks County.
What Fitzpatrick did discuss — and promote on X — was the promulgation of Republican talking points about antisemitism on college campuses in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel and the ensuing war in Gaza.
Here’s the problem with Fitzpatrick reverting to the GOP playbook at this time: those students just don’t have the same influence on our national discourse as Donald Trump and Elon Musk.
College students on campuses aren’t spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories to 163 million followers. College students aren’t quoting Hitler to their cult-like political followers who have already demonstrated their willingness to commit violence against their fellow Americans. And college students aren’t terrorizing Jewish people in local businesses in Fitzpatrick’s own district.
Jews in Bucks County are scared, for good reason. And despite his explicit responsibility to address antisemitism, Fitzpatrick is more interested in posturing than doing his job. He needs to either step up and use his platform to address antisemitism, or step down as co-chair of the Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism and let someone serious about this issue fill that post.
Kierstyn P. Zolfo lives in Newtown Township.