Rep. Gaines says defining antisemitism only good if reading bill in a ‘vacuum’

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Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines (D-Des Moines) was also one of the Democrats who spoke against the legislation providing a definition of antisemitism. Here are her full remarks:

“I’ve lived long enough to have learned that change, positive change, the kind of change we’re trying to make in this legislature is very, very difficult. I know this. Change takes time, change is challenging, change takes strength of character, and, above all, change takes trust. Trust in the people you are working with.

“This bill is deceiving. When you first read it, if you read it in a vacuum, you think, ‘ah, this is great because we are speaking up against antisemitism and we are doing the right thing for our Jewish people in this state.’ Those of us who have walked to the beat of a different drummer, those of us who have spent our lives trying to explain who we are and what we’ve suffered and how it’s happened to us don’t look at things in a vacuum. We look at bills, pieces of legislation, and we study it. We study how it’s going to be harmful to certain constituents in our state. This is one of those pieces of legislation that is harmful because it really really says Jews who have been discriminated against are religiously different, better, superior to those others of you who have faced discrimination because of your religion.

“No, that’s not the intent. I know it’s not. And some of you are probably thinking where is she getting that. But the reason why you have to think where is she getting that from, why is she saying that, is your lack of experience. Your lack of involvement with diversity. Your lack of listening. Your lack of working harder to understand.

“I am here at the legislature because leaders before me went through this type of thing called change. It was hard on them, it took time, it demanded trust. And this is what I hope we can all do as leaders, continue to improve who we are. Knowing our constituents, knowing what they’ve experienced, listening and becoming better leaders so that when we get bills that look like they’re going to be good legislation for all of us, we have the experience, the knowledge and the trust not only of our constituents but of our colleagues to take a second look and to dig deeper and to see the harm that the bill could be causing some of the people in this state.

“We don’t want antisemitism, of course, we don’t. But we also don’t want other groups that have been discriminated against religiously to think that what they’ve experienced is a different kind of pain, a lesser pain, a pain that is not as important. We as legislators want to be inclusive, and that is what we’re saying tonight. This bill is exclusive and I will not be voting for it.”

Author: Jacob Hall