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US attorney general invokes Jewish ancestry, Holocaust in testimony

“The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous—so absurd!” Merrick Garland said on Sept. 20.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 20, 2023. Source: CBS/YouTube.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 20, 2023. Source: CBS/YouTube.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is facing criticism following his testimony for a Judiciary Committee hearing on Sept. 20 titled “Oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice” during which he was visibly emotional on several occasions.

The committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), sought in the hearing to examine how the U.S. Justice Department “has become politicized and weaponized under the leadership of Attorney General Merrick Garland.”

Garland noted his Jewish ancestry in his opening statement. “My family fled religious persecution in Eastern Europe at the start of the 20th century. My grandmother, who was one of five children born in what is now Belarus, made it to the United States, as did two of her siblings,” he said. “The other two did not. Those two were killed in the Holocaust.”

“There is little doubt that, but for America, the same thing would have happened to my grandmother,” he added. His grandmother was safe in the United States, Garland said. “That protection is what distinguishes this country from so many others. The protection of law—the rule of law—is the foundation of our system of government.”

Later in the hearing, Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) asked Garland if he agreed, as an FBI memo indicated, that traditional Catholics are violent extremists. Visibly emotional, the attorney general said: “The idea that someone with my family background would discriminate against any religion is so outrageous—so absurd!”

The exchange “reflected his growing frustration with relentless attacks on his department from the right,” The New York Times reported of Garland. “While some of the questions hurled at him Wednesday were an attempt to pry free information, many were overtly partisan or based on distortion, insinuation and misinformation.”

The Daily Mail added that Garland “got choked up and tears came to his eyes when discussing his ancestry.”

Others, including those in the hearing, saw Garland’s responses differently. Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), who was born in the former Soviet Union, told Garland that he “had a very moving statement about your grandparents coming here from Belarus to live in the country without fear of prosecution.”

“I grew up in [a] very similar country—Ukraine now—and when I came here as a young person, I believed in the value as an American not to be afraid of my government,” she said. “But I wanted to tell you, and I want to share with you and get your thoughts on that: Are you aware that a lot of Americans are now afraid of being prosecuted by your department?”

Closeup of the sign outside the Robert F. Kennedy Building, the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in Washington, D.C. Credit: Tada Images/Shutterstock.

‘One has nothing to do with the other’

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also criticized the attorney general on social media and on his podcast. “He will not give a straight answer to anything,” Cruz said. “He is the legal equivalent of Anthony Fauci. Fauci says, ‘I am the science.’ Merrick Garland’s response is essentially, ‘I am the law.’ And they’re both wrong.”

“Fine words from Merrick Garland about his commitment to the rule of law based on his family’s persecution in the Holocaust,” the journalist Miranda Devine wrote. “But they ring hollow in light of the actions of his DOJ.”

Bryan Leib, executive director of CASEPAC, told JNS that his grandfather’s wife and three children were killed in the Holocaust.

“I am the end result of my grandfather starting over and coming to the United States to start a new life,” he said. “I was appalled to watch Garland invoke the Holocaust during a hearing about the weaponization of the Department of Justice. One has nothing to do with the other.”

Leib noted Spartz’s comment that many Americans fear the federal government.

“That is unacceptable. When parents speak out at school board meetings to protest the content being taught to their children, they should not be labeled as domestic terrorists,” he told JNS. “They should be celebrated for taking a stand, but that’s not what is happening.”

If Garland “is so keen to invoke his Jew card, what is he doing to use federal resources to shut down the Goyim Defense League that is prevalent here in my home state of Florida?” Leib added. “What is he doing to utilize federal resources to crack down on the sharp rise of antisemitism over the last couple of years?”

Leib questioned whether Garland has ever publicly addressed antisemitism or the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, or has visited Israel as the U.S. attorney general.

If Garland “wants to invoke the memory of the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, perhaps he should be taking some tangible steps to improve the American people’s trust in our federal government with transparency and showing some actual support for the Jewish community in America by taking a strong and public stance about antisemitism in America,” Leib said.

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