For the past six months, Arizona State Senator Kelly Townsend has embodied the paradox of the modern Republican Party’s stance on Jewish issues – that somehow it is fashionable to #StandWithIsrael, but also fashionable to compare pandemic restrictions to the Holocaust.
It’s a battle she’s losing if a tweet deleted on Thursday morning shows any penance for her actions as the Lenten season begins.
Call it lightened religious empathy.
Casual internet browsers noted that Townsend must have Googled the phrase “Haredi Jews” before posting a promotional photo of the 2013 Netflix Israeli family drama Shtisel accompanied by the following tweet:
“The silver lining in the latest annoyance in the AZ Senate is that it flushes out the real anti-Semites.”
The tweet was quickly deleted and the same slogan was reposted instead with an image of the Israeli flag.
We wanted to ask Townsend if she thought this tweet and others, like the one with the Nazi flag comparing vaccination mandates to the Holocaust, made her seem out of touch.
She did not immediately respond to these questions of Phoenix New Times.
In his last tweet, Townsend alluded to the censorship of fellow state senator Wendy Rogers on Wednesday after Rogers called for lynchings and launched into a series of anti-Semitic tirades on social media.
Flagstaff Republican Rogers has been spreading conspiracy theories about billionaire George Soros and the Rothschild banking magnate’s family, who are frequent targets of anti-Semitism, just as the New York Police Department has investigated a week-long hate crime streak against the Jewish people.
Townsend, a Republican representing East Mesa and Apache Junction, must not imagine herself among the “true anti-Semites,” despite tweeting an image of a Nazi flag in September 2021 when she obliquely compared the mandates of coronavirus vaccine to the massacre of 6 million Jews during World War II.
Townsend’s hypocrisy is sure to spark heated conversation around the dining table as more than 100,000 Jewish residents of the Phoenix metro area break challah bread during Shabbat dinner Saturday night.
“Actions speak louder than performative words,” said Debra Stein, who serves on the Jewish Democratic Council of America and leads the Scottsdale-based Arizona chapter.
“Republicans simply don’t hold their own members accountable for blatant anti-Semitic remarks and affiliations,” she said.
The silver lining in the latest annoyance in the AZ Senate is that it flushes out the real anti-Semites. I am surprised, not surprised, by people on our side who cannot bring themselves to condemn such hate speech. #Israel #Selected #PrayForThePeaceOfJerusalem pic.twitter.com/3XI8JXkcu7
— Senator Kelly Townsend (@AZKellyT) March 3, 2022
US Representative Paul Gosar, a staunch Republican from Arizona, voted last week not to send US aid to Ukrainian Jewish President Volodymyr Zelensky. This, as Russian forces continue to rain missiles on the country’s Jewish population of 400,000 amid an unprovoked war.
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was cheered days later by his fellow Republicans when he called himself ‘the biggest racist in the country’ during a anti-Semite Nick Fuentes’ annual alt-right conference, which also featured Rogers.
Meanwhile, the confirmation of renowned Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt to become President Joe Biden’s special envoy to fight anti-Semitism has been locked. Republicans oppose her nomination because she once posted an unsavory tweet about Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson in which she claimed he was a white supremacist.
A study published this week by the Anti-Defamation League, a New York-based nonprofit that tracks hate crimes, found that white supremacist propaganda hit a fever pitch in 2021, particularly for anti-Semitic messages. The Anti-Defamation League previously condemned Townsend’s use of the Nazi flag on Twitter and called for its removal. The tweet has also since been deleted.
National anti-Semitic extremist group Folksfront posted hate propaganda, including images of swastikas and Adolf Hitler, at the Arizona Jewish Historical Society in Phoenix last month.
“Holocaust and anti-Semitic remarks are used as punchlines,” Stein said. “It terrifies me.”
For Townsend, the state’s longtime lawmaker, inflammatory words and actions are normal. Townsend publicly sympathized with the rioters who stormed the US Capitol on January 6 last year. She even promised her supporters to withdraw funding from the Arizona Attorney General’s Election Integrity Unit, which she helped create.
Sometimes his critics are misogynistic.
In 2018, Townsend suggested that women who dress provocatively have “no defense” in the event of rape.
And don’t forget when she hopped on the #FursuitFriday trend overnight after stumbling across furry Twitter, which refers to people who enjoy having sex while donning animal costumes.
Townsend’s gaffe stemmed from not knowing that the costumes were fetish-related.
“Education is what separates blatant anti-Semitism from ignorance,” Stein said.
And from the Jewish lawyer’s point of view, the Arizona legislature is overrun by him.
It all comes down to the odd double standard within the Republican Party that worships Nazi symbolism over the fate of liberating a US ally in Israel, a state born out of mounting anti-Semitic persecution, Stein said.
“Republicans try to portray Democrats as anti-Israel,” Stein said. “It’s like a Jedi spirit thing.”