‘Dog Whistle’ political ad draws reactions on partisan, religious lines

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By Kara Burnett and Christopher Cameron

An online advertisement criticizing state senate candidate Adam Haber on economic policy has drawn criticism and outrage from Democrats and members of the Jewish community on Long Island for being antisemitic, and invoking ‘dog-whistle’ politics.

The image depicts Adam Haber, a two-time state senate candidate, as the Jewish protagonist of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, with a caption warning that Haber will ‘fiddle’ with the cap on property tax in New York. Haber called on his Republican opponent, Elaine Phillips, to denounce the ad and apologize to the Jewish community.

But Chris McKenna, A Phillips campaign spokesperson, questioned any association with the Adam Haber ad.

“That was not an ad that was produced or authorized by this campaign,” McKenna said. “We had nothing to do with that ad and Mr. Haber is well aware of that fact. In fact, he said that repeatedly. The only person spreading that ad is Mr. Haber himself.”

The ad was seen as a sponsored post on Instagram, according to a press release from Haber’s campaign office. The image was apparently published by “The Real Adam Haber”, a Facebook page that has targeted Haber with similarly designed criticisms on his voting record.

The Instagram account and official website associated with the page have since been taken down.

While investigation on the origins and veracity of the ad remain inconclusive, the attack may likely backfire if it was intended to swing the race for the Republicans, Lawrence Levy, a professor of political science at Hofstra University, said.

The 7th district also has a majority of democrats and a heavy concentration of Jewish voters, Levy added.

“If this ad was meant as a so-called dog whistle to subtly call attention to Haber’s Jewish heritage, it is likely to cause his opponent more harm than good,” Levy said.

Jewish voters are more likely to vote on religious lines, and are dependable voters overall, Mike Dawidziak, President of Strategic Planning Systems Inc, said.

“I don’t know how smart it is to do anything that might be misconstrued as anti-semitic because this senate district is over 12 percent Jewish,” Dawidziak said. “Jewish voters tend to vote more religiously and tend to be more dependable voters.”

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish NGO that fights against antisemitism, said in a provided statement that they would not outright condemn the ad, but understands why some would take offense to the image.

“Clearly we’re concerned and we weren’t happy when we saw it,  anytime when someone tries to perpetuate age-old stereotypes about jews and money it’s troubling,”  Evan Bernstein, New York Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League said.

A representative of the American Jewish Committee said that it’s terrible that such a Jewish stereotypical image is being used to promote a political message

“Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem, antisemitism is a societal problem because it’s just the first line in battle against western values,” Robert Socolof, Director of American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Long Island Region Office, said.

Senate Republican Campaign Committee spokesman Scott Reif would not say whether the post is theirs, according to Newsday. While public filings for the committee show several payments to Facebook to promote advertising, it is unclear where or how this money was spent.

Haber had previously come under fire himself for invoking ethnic stereotypes during his run for Nassau County Executive in 2013. The candidate pulled an ad that critics said depicted his primary opponent, Tom Suozzi, as a mobster in an Italian restaurant.