Roxbury State Senator Says Jews Have ‘Amassed A Lot of Political and Financial Power’

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By Colin A. Young
State House News Service

Massachusetts Senate leaders who are Jewish say they’re disappointed and saddened by a colleague’s remarks on the Israel-Hamas conflict that they say seemed to invoke anti-Semitic tropes.

State Senator Liz Miranda (D-Roxbury), who did not sign onto Senate resolutions condemning Hamas’s attack on Israel in October, accused the Israeli Defense Forces of historically going too far and seeking revenge during a radio interview this week.

The Boston Democrat, who said she’s “against anti-Semitism,” noted that Jewish people have “amassed a lot of political and financial power” while also enduring the Holocaust and being constantly marginalized in the United States. Miranda, in a written statement to State House News Service on Thursday, December 14, sought to clarify her comments, saying that “intention and impact are two very different things.”

“I feel very sad. Statements of stereotypes are really anti-Semitic,” said state Senator Cindy Cream (D-Newton), the Senate majority leader, who sponsored the Israel resolutions, told State House News Service following the State House menorah lighting Wednesday, December 13. “And that’s exactly what all through the ages it’s been like.”

“Those statements, which I read, you know those are sentiments that have through the years stereotyped people and made it seem anti-Semitic, and sort of ethnic slurs, and I’m just sad and disappointed to have read that,” Creem added as she reflected on Miranda’s interview on the The Urban Heat radio program Tuesday morning, December 12.

Generalizations that mention “political and financial power” spread historic stereotypes, which can then lead to anti-Semitic sentiments, added Rachel Guerra, an aide to the Newton Democrat.

Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) said she also read Miranda’s comments but had yet to reach out to the senator, who co-chairs the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights, and Inclusion.

“I was a bit shocked, disappointed, and saddened,” the Ashland Democrat told State House News Service Wednesday. “I have not had an opportunity yet to speak with her about them. I’m hoping that we all are misunderstanding.”

Miranda on Thursday reiterated her condemnation of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and racism, among “all forms of oppression.”

“I stand unequivocally against antisemitism, islamophobia, racism, and all forms of oppression and uniquely understand the ways in which systems of oppression reinforce each other – our destinies are tied,” Miranda said. “I’d like to rectify any undue harm that lack of context may have imparted on anyone – I should have been more clear in explaining my opinion in denouncing a stereotype that anyone who cites financial or political power as a justification for antisemitic rhetoric or violence is unequivocally wrong and it should never be spoken into existence – I believe this permeated stereotype is a harmful sentiment, and I was conveying a message that is rooted in calling out injustice in all forms. My lived experience and lifelong commitment to justice centers the humanity of all people.”

In October, Miranda was one of eight senators who did not sign onto the resolution backing Israel in the aftermath of Hamas’s terrorist attack, in which 1,200 Israelis were killed and about 240 people were taken hostage into Gaza. In recent weeks, Israel’s campaign to root out Hamas in Gaza has killed thousands of civilians there.

The resolutions, which the Senate adopted on a voice vote, stated the “Israeli people have an inalienable right to defend themselves against acts of terrorism” and that “the commonwealth must strongly condemn these heinous terrorist actions by Hamas in Israel.” The Senate had also called “on the United States government to continue to stand with the people of Israel in their time of need, support the victims of the recent terrorist attack against the state of Israel, and work towards the safe return of those who are being held hostage.”

In the radio interview Tuesday, Miranda explained she took issue with the resolutions’ suggestion that the “IDF and Israeli government could do whatever they want to defend themselves.”‘

Noting her district is home to a large concentration of Muslim and Arab people, Miranda denounced further violence and “ethnic cleansing.” She also discussed the contentious Congressional hearing on Tuesday, December 5 in which leaders of three elite universities equivocated on whether calls for genocide violated their institutions’ codes of conduct.

“There was this one line where I guess a student group or student called for the genocide of the Jewish people. That is absolutely wrong,” Miranda said. “A people like that, that have gone through the Holocaust and have always been marginalized in this country, they have amassed a lot of political and financial power. But that still doesn’t want, you know, you still don’t want to, you know, bring that up or call that into existence. I just want other people to know that we’ve also gone through the transatlantic slave trade for Black people, and that’s why I filed a bill on reparations.” 

Creem lamented deep-rooted anti-Semitism before she helped kindle the menorah alongside Governor Maura Healey and Jewish leaders. The Hanukkah story revolves around fighting for religious freedom, Creem said.

“It’s hard to believe, but we’re still doing that. In 200 BCE, the small group of Maccabees fought for their religious freedom in Palestine, which is Israel,” Creem said, referring to the acronym “Before Common Era,” referring to the time before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. “And this year, when we see the strong, the great growth of antisemitism, one can only be saddened by the fact that when will this ever end? When will we see the end of hate, and bigotry, and name calling, and stereotypes?”

The House has not adopted similar resolutions, though the branch held a moment of silence during a session on October 11 as a tribute to victims killed in “this weekend’s terrorist attack in Israel.”

Speaking on behalf of House Speaker Ron Mariano at the menorah lighting, state Representative Aaron Michlewitz (D-North End) reflected on the importance of fostering diversity, across race and religious backgrounds, in the commonwealth.

“I want to say the House of Representatives stands with the Jewish people in every which way, shape, or form we can,” Michlewitz said.


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