Nancy Santanello (PA): ‘It’s Not Anti-Semitic to Question Israel Policy’
Nancy Santanello (70), a Democrat from New Hope, PA, was raised Catholic and converted to Judaism when she married her Jewish husband. At Howard University, she was the only white woman in her medical school class. She spent most of her career at the pharmaceutical company Merck, where she led the Department of Epidemiology for 12 years. She is vocal about politics on Twitter. “Where else,” she says, “can you publicly tell President Trump that he’s a moron?”
We are providing the unfiltered opinions of voters interviewed for this project. Those views are based on their understanding and perception of facts and information from a range of sources. In some cases, that information may be misleading or incorrect.
How concerned are you about rising anti-Semitism in this country?
I’m very concerned. I worry about my daughter who lives in Washington, DC, and goes to a temple there. There’s so much hatred, and Jews are blamed for so many things. It’s just delusional.
What would you like the presidential candidates to say about fighting anti-Semitism?
They need to be really forceful in condemning it, but that alone won’t change anti-Semitic attitudes. Putting resources behind education is critical. A new Pew Research study found that nearly half of American adults don’t even know that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
What do you think is fueling the rise of anti-Semitism in this country?
Well, we have someone in the White House who believes right-wing conspiracies and tweets anti-Semitic tropes. A conservative website, TruNews, whose founder called Trump’s impeachment a “Jew coup” orchestrated by a “Jewish Cabal,” was credentialed by the Trump administration to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos. They were treated like a legitimate news site, but this is hate speech and should be condemned and not legitimized by the president.
Trump and his supporters say he is good for Israel and Jews. How do you respond to that?
Trump speaks from both sides of his mouth when it comes to Jews. He talks about how he’s done all these great things for Israel, like moving the embassy to Jerusalem and that Netanyahu is his best friend, but at the same time gives voice to ugly, anti-Semitic parts of our culture. He’s also taken money out of Homeland Security to fight domestic terrorism, and certainly fighting anti-Semitism is part of that.
Do you think the left is also to blame for growing anti-Semitism, particularly the BDS movement and statements made by members of the so-called squad in Congress?
There are problems with the extremes on both the left and the right. A lot of it is ignorance and buying into stereotypes about Jews. But with “the squad” and others on the left, I think much of it is against Israel and not Jews. I believe you can disagree with Israel’s policies and not be anti-Semitic. It’s like saying if you criticize this country you are unpatriotic. But criticism is really healthy. It doesn’t make me anti-Semitic if I question Israeli policy. And it doesn’t make me unpatriotic if I question U.S. policy.