I know that the Jewish community in New Jersey — and across the world — is suffering unfathomable pain, sorrow, and fear after the horrific atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists on October 7. I’ve heard the anguish when I mourned the innocent lives we lost and prayed for the hostages at Temple B’nai Jeshurun the day after the attack, I’ve heard it from parents whose hearts ache with worry for their children on college campuses, and I’ve heard it directly from rabbis who have shared their concerns about keeping congregations safe from violent acts of antisemitic hate.
I’ve worked for years to increase the security of Israel. It has been my committee, the House Armed Services Committee, that year after year has initiated the legislation to fully fund the security assistance in the Memorandum of Understanding and has replenished the Iron Dome after the terror attacks of May 2021. I’ve been a member of the House Bipartisan Task Force on Combating Antisemitism, where we’ve worked across party lines to address the spread of antisemitism at home and abroad.
Following Hamas’s attack on October 7, I voted for a resolution to stand with Israel in defending itself against Hamas, voted for a resolution to condemn antisemitism on college campuses, voted for a resolution calling for the release of all hostages held by Hamas, and most recently voted for a resolution reaffirming Israel’s right to exist. I’ve consistently spoken out against antisemitism, including on college campuses. After hearing the disturbing and woefully inadequate congressional testimony of some university presidents, I reached out to all of the presidents of colleges and universities here in New Jersey urging them to take concrete action to protect students — and asking for their specific plans.
My efforts to combat antisemitism in this country date back before the attacks of October 7. During my first term in office, I led bipartisan legislation to establish a study abroad program for American high school students to learn the lessons of WWII and the Holocaust by visiting educational sites of historic importance during the Operation Overlord campaign. I held a roundtable with rabbis, community members, and college students to hear direct feedback on how Congress can better address rising antisemitism. I’ve worked with the ADL in the aftermath of terrible hate crimes such as the attack on a rabbi in Jersey City. Whether it’s a violent act, hateful rhetoric, or sickening graffiti, I’ve spoken out against the antisemitism we’ve seen in towns across our state. My record as a supporter of Israel, our key democratic ally in the Middle East, is strong and clear. I hold dear my deep relationships in the New Jersey Jewish community, have built lasting friendships, and I have found immense value and wisdom in my engagements there, especially in the wake of October 7.
That’s why I was shocked to read a recent column in this newspaper that, to put it charitably, mischaracterized my support for Israel. The column (“What does genocide mean?” December 15) recycled a social media post that misquoted me — which is yet another reminder that one cannot trust everything posted on social media. So to be clear: When asked if Israel was committing genocide in Gaza, I answered no.
The author has also accused me of being anti-Israel for criticizing Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel’s current military strategy. Under the leadership of PM Netanyahu, Israel’s security was breached by Hamas terrorists and led to the worst Jewish loss of life since the Holocaust. The military incursion has so far failed to free all of the hostages — in fact, three hostages carrying white flags were tragically killed by IDF forces. PM Netanyahu’s leadership is not making Israel more secure; the current trajectory threatens Israel’s democratic international coalition of support.
There is an important distinction to be made here. I have always stood for Israel’s right to exist, to defend itself, to forge new relationships in the region, to decide its own future. Yet criticism of Israel’s government is and must be distinct from criticism of Israel itself. It is my responsibility — as a veteran of the War on Terror and as a member of Congress with a role in shaping our country’s foreign policy — to raise concerns about the actions of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the extremists in his government. This is no different from opposing Donald Trump’s dangerous actions when he was president, yet still loving America. These are not conflicting ideas; in fact, my concerns about Netanyahu — who is now facing historic levels of disapproval within Israel — stem from my deep and abiding support for a vision of security and peace for the state of Israel and its people.
I have long been a friend to the New Jersey Jewish community and will continue to lead the fight against antisemitism here and across the country. While we may disagree on occasion, we should not hastily question each other’s motives, or use Israel as a wedge issue to divide each other. The challenges we face at home and abroad are far too great for politics as usual.
Representative Mikie Sherrill has represented New Jersey’s 11th congressional district since 2019.