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January 21, 2021 2:47 pm
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Republican Legislators in New Hampshire Under Fire Over Antisemitic Social Media Postings

avatar by Ben Cohen

Kalen Ockerman’s antisemitic mural is seen prior to its removal from a wall in east London. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Republican speaker of the New Hampshire legislature is under fire for allegedly shielding two GOP representatives accused of spreading antisemitic propaganda, while harshly disciplining a Democratic representative over a post on social media concerning the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill by militant supporters of former President Donald Trump.

In an oped for the Concord Monitor published on Thursday, Claudia Damon — a Concord resident whose father’s family escaped from Nazi persecution in Germany — charged that Speaker Sherm Packard “either doesn’t know what antisemitism is or he refuses to acknowledge its existence.”

Damon accused Packard of refusing to “hold accountable” the two legislators who shared viciously antisemitic memes on social media.

In the most recent incident, in early January, Deerfield Rep. Jim Spillane shared an image on Facebook of a notorious antisemitic mural that was on display in London before it was removed following a raft of complaints.

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The mural — by Los Angeles-based artist Mear One, also known as Kalen Ockerman — showed a group of Jewish bankers playing the board game Monopoly, with their tabletop resting on the bowed naked backs of several workers.

Spillane added the caption: “Truth. Agree.”

The offending mural was one of several scandals around antisemitism to rock the opposition British Labour Party under its former far left leader, Jeremy Corbyn. When the mural was removed from a wall in the East End of London in 2012, Corbyn voiced his backing for the Ockerman’s work in a post on his Facebook page. Corbyn subsequently admitted that he “did not look more closely at the image I was commenting on, the contents of which are deeply disturbing and antisemitic.”

Images of the mural continue to be shared on social media by extremists on left and right, however. Last September, Louisiana GOP State Rep. Danny McCormick was roundly condemned for sharing the image on Twitter with the accompanying slogan, “All we have to do is stand up.”

In the interim, Rep. Spillane — who previously caused controversy with a post commenting that people should feel free “to loot and burn” homes displaying Black Lives Matter signs — has doggedly denied that the mural traffics in antisemitic images.

“As far as I know none of those people are Jewish,” he told local news outlet Sea Coast Online before hanging up the phone on Thursday.

The row over Spillane follows protests in December over another New Hampshire GOP Representative — Dawn Johnson of Laconia — who posted a link to the violently antisemitic neo-Nazi site, The Daily Stormer.

Both Spillane and Johnson have refused to resign from the New Hampshire legislature, with Speaker Packard accused of protecting both of them. On Thursday, Democratic Leader Renny Cushing called on Spillane to resign for posting “a disgusting and dangerous antisemitic photo online.”

“This hateful behavior has no place in the New Hampshire House,” Cushing stated.

At the same time, Packard did take action against Democratic Rep. Rosemarie Rung of Merrimack for a social media post about the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot, in which she called for the ousting of David Ellis, the police chief in the town of Troy, because of his participation in the demonstration. Packard responded by removing Rung from her post on the House Resources Recreation and Development Committee.

Rung told Packard that she had been left “wondering why you are singling me out when there has been no reported consequence for serious racial and antisemitic postings by other Representatives.”

In her oped, Damon argued that in the cases of Spillane and Johnson, “Packard displayed a lack of judgment and awareness that he now needs to address.”

“His continued failure to act is emboldening antisemites,” she wrote.

At least one Jewish leader in New Hampshire agreed with Damon’s assessment.

“Yes, we think that New Hampshire has an anti-Semitism problem,” Dina Michael Chaitowitz — a member of the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire’s board — said on Thursday.

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