The rise of anti-Semitism in New Hampshire has become increasingly troublesome. In light of several recent anti-Semitic and racist social media postings by New Hampshire state representatives, a group of Jewish House legislators felt it imperative that the speaker of the House take strong and unambiguous action to sanction the authors of these posts. The letter below was sent to Speaker Sherman Packard.
Dear Speaker Packard,
It is with considerable sadness that we address this letter to you. We are a number of Jewish state representatives who are compelled to respond to your remarks in the recent InDepthNH article. Specifically, our concerns involve the reasons you give for lack of meaningful action on your part relating to Rep. Johnson and Rep. Spillane.
The Jewish population of New Hampshire is quite small, as is the Jewish membership in the N.H. House. Yet the incidents of hate speech and anti-Semitic acts against Jews in the United States and in New Hampshire are significant and increasing. This is true also in the N.H. House. When a flag with Nazi symbols was unfurled in a committee room not that long ago, it perhaps could have been seen as an isolated incident. No longer. Now state reps brazenly put forth anti-Semitic (and racist) propaganda with little concern about consequences. And they are encouraged not only by other state reps, but by indifference from elected leadership. And, as the U.S. Supreme Court has noted, these expressions of hate inevitably lead to acts of violence and destruction. It came as no surprise to many in the Jewish community that the dissemination of Nazi propaganda by Rep. Johnson was followed in short order by the desecration of a menorah at Dartmouth College and an anti-Semitic post by Rep. Spillane.
You have suggested that you have taken no action against Rep. Johnson because she has “apologized numerous times.” We have followed her comments closely. She has NOT apologized for the content of her post; only for the source thereof. She has never directly addressed those she harmed. She has consistently demeaned and attacked those who were the victims of her post.
When Rep. Horn published a defense of slavery on social media, the governor, as well as the majority and minority leaders all called on him to resign. There was no parsing of his sourcing; simply what he wrote was unacceptable and brought disrepute upon the House. What Rep. Johnson posted was just as reprehensible and has brought similar disrepute upon the House. Apologizing for the source only is no apology.
As to Rep. Spillane, it is hard to understand why you claim it was not anti-Semitic. It is a well-known picture; so well known that there is a Wikipedia entry on it. The fact that Rep. Spillane put it on Parler — a discredited hate site that has been removed from the Internet because of its anti-Semitism (and other hate postings) shows that Rep. Spillane knew exactly how hateful his post was. The painter of the mural said he was portraying Jewish bankers. Complete with hooked noses, bags of money, resting on human bodies. The prime minister of England condemned the mural as anti-Semitism.
We also remind you that these posts have been condemned by people of good faith throughout New Hampshire. Communities of faith have condemned the acts of Rep. Johnson and Rep. Spillane, as have statewide and national organizations. Citizens of the Granite State have no trouble recognizing anti-Semitism when they see it.
We are asking that you forthwith — in the clearest and most unambiguous terms — impose significant sanctions against Rep. Johnson and Rep. Spillane. We often refer to the N.H. House as “family.” We have a problem in our family and we have a duty to deal with it, because history teaches us that to leave it festering will only make the problem worse.
May we hear from you at your earliest convenience?
Thank you for your consideration.
I talked with him a short time later. While the conversation was respectful, the speaker did not offer any solutions or indicate that he would take any action. Therefore, we have decided to release the letter to the public and urge all people of good will to communicate with the speaker’s office to urge him to act in a forceful and effective manner. Silence from our elected leaders is not acceptable.