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Tipsheet

A Radical Group Tried to Disrupt 'Record' Fundraiser Headlined by Ron DeSantis

AP Photo/Phil Sears

On Friday night, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) was the keynote speaker at the Amos Tuck fundraising dinner in Manchester, New Hampshire. Not only were claims from the media that DeSantis was having fundraising issues "totally fake news" according to NH GOP Chairman Chris Ager, but the popular governor brought in a "record" amount of money. Not all were happy with DeSantis' appearance, though, as a group known as If Not Now tried to disrupt his speech. 

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DeSantis was talking about previous governors' races when two women came up to the stage. "Yeah, thank you," the governor said as security removed them. The young women yelled out "Jews against DeSantis!" while they were hauled off, as the audience booed the brief interruption.

The governor took it in stride, though. "You gotta have a little spice in the speech, right? I mean you gotta have a little fun," he said as the audience applauded the removal of the women. "Why you'd want to pay the ticket to get in just to do that, I don't know, but different strokes for different folks," DeSantis said as he then continued on.

The activists have taken their radical tactics elsewhere, which have been carried out in even more egregious ways. And, to say that they are anti-Israel would be an understatement with all the accusations they hurl at the only democracy in the Middle East with claims about an "occupation," bringing them in line with the anti-Israel squad members in Congress. 

A glowing profile of the group in New York magazine from 2018 discusses how they also have disrupted Birthright trips, sought to impart their views onto counselors at Jewish summer camps to be taught to campers, and as one of them even did at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel, "drew parallels between Nazi genocide and the plight of the Palestinians."

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"American Jews organizing our community to end U.S. support for Israel's apartheid system and demand equality, justice, and a thriving future for all," their Twitter bio reads. 

The group's pinned tweet is a thread which contains another angle of the interruption, which claims they are "making clear that DeSantis is an antisemite whose actions and policies both support Israeli apartheid and put Jews in danger."

Also targeted in the thread is American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a political action committee which emphasizes it's bipartisan, pro-Israel ties. 

Earlier on Friday, the same day that the fundraiser occurred, the group retweeted Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), who along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), led members in a letter to President Joe Biden and Secretary Antony Blinken regarding their concerns with the new Israeli government. The tweet is noteworthy in that it claims Israel as an "increasingly authoritarian regime."

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DeSantis' record shows that this group doesn't speak for Florida Jews, though. The popular sitting governor was not only reelected last November by nearly 20 points, he did so with a significant portion of the Jewish vote, a demographic which doesn't typically vote Republican.

Last December, The Jewish Chronicle published an article raising questions about DeSantis' political future, also discussing his record as it applies to Jews and Israel:

Days after his stunning 19-point win, DeSantis was the star of the show at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual con-flab where he wowed conservatives with his Florida “blueprint for success” – an apparently electorally potent formula which stands in stark to the party’s underwhelmingly mid-terms’ performance.

A Catholic, DeSantis has long been keen to present himself as a strong friend of Jews and a staunch ally of Israel.

“We won the highest share of the Jewish vote for any Republican candidate in Florida history,” the governor boasted. “I will say if you look at our record on issues related to Israel and supporting the Jewish community it is second to none.”


DeSantis, who pledged when he ran for a first term in 2018 that he would be the “nation’s most pro-Israel governor”, tickled his conservative hosts by referring to the West Bank as “Judea and Samaria” and denying it was occupied. “We understand history. We know those are thousands of years of connection to the Jewish people,” he suggested. “I don’t care what the State Department says. They are not occupied territory, it is disputed territory.”

DeSantis’ record on the Jewish state certainly isn’t all talk. He took his whole cabinet to Israel in 2019; used Florida’s anti-BDS legislation to take on Ben & Jerry’s and Airbnb; and increased collaboration between Israel and the state’s aerospace industry.

The governor also cheer-led a series of Trump-era policies such as moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem and recognising Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Unsurprisingly, he’s not a fan of what he terms the “Biden-Khamenei nuclear deal”.

DeSantis has also enacted other measures to crack down on antisemitism in Florida’s public schools and boost Holocaust education and better security at Jewish day schools.

No wonder Jewish conservatives are swooning. “A remarkable Jewish renaissance is under way in Florida,” wrote Bush administration alumni Elliott Abrams and his co-chair of the Jewish Leadership Conference, Eric Cohen, earlier this year. “Jewish schools and synagogues are rapidly expanding. Jews from the Northeast and Midwest, as well as Latin America and Israel, are migrating to the Sunshine State in significant numbers, making the Jewish communities there lively and varied.”

In a state which is home to over 650,000 Jews – America’s third largest Jewish electorate – there is naturally a strong political imperative to woo the “kosher vote”. Four years ago, the governor’s Democrat opponent, left-winger Andrew Gillum, learned that to his cost. Gillum lost the gubernatorial race by 30,000 votes after DeSantis repeatedly attacked him for being insufficiently supportive of Israel, suggesting that his positions were more appropriate to “running for mayor of the Gaza Strip”. (Gillum denied that he supported BDS and said he’d enforce the state’s 2016 anti-boycotts legislation).

And while he didn’t win a majority of Jewish voters – Republicans put his score at 45 percent – DeSantis’ overall victory margin was no doubt padded by this impressive performance. Indeed, Florida’s growing ultra-Orthodox population – who largely back the Republicans – is thought to have been key to DeSantis’ inroads into the Democrats’ hold on the Jewish vote.

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The Jerusalem Post shared shortly after the election last year that exit polling shows Jews are increasingly voting Republican, with the 33 percent figure from 2022 up from 30 percent in 2020. Sam Markstein, of the Republican Jewish Coalition, is quoted as saying that the 2022 election saw "a record-smashing level of support in Florida, at 45% of the Jewish vote."

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