Andrew Yang, a former tech executive, has never held public office and is campaigning on a platform of universal basic income, “a type of social security that guarantees a certain amount of money to every citizen.” In Yang’s proposed “Freedom Dividend” plan, that certain amount is $1,000 per month to all U.S. citizens over 18. He has no experience in government, which makes figuring out where he stands on Jewish issues more challenging. But we’ve done the best we can.
Obviously, we have to start with his most controversial Jewish issue…
What does Andrew Yang say about circumcision?
No other candidate in our 2020 guide has this question. Alas, Andrew Yang does. Because Andrew Yang is against circumcision. Yep, he is “against the practice” of circumcision. And, if elected, he would “incorporate that view into public policy,” according to The Daily Beast.
“It’s sort of pushed on parents in many situations,” Yang told The Daily Beast, calling circumcision a “cultural onus.” He continued, “From what I’ve seen, the evidence on it being a positive health choice for the infant is quite shaky.” (Fact check: incorrect. Circumcision is totally safe, and doctors say that benefits outweigh the risks.)
Yang also said: “I’m highly aligned with the intactivists. History will prove them even more correct.”
Do I want to know what “intactivists” are?
No, but we’re going to tell you anyway: activists who are for keeping penises “intact.”
Sorry, we had to read it, so you do, too.
This policy would impact the Jewish community; a bris, or brit milah, is the Jewish ritual of circumcision usually performed on the eighth day after a baby boy is born, and is a sign of entering into the Jewish covenant.
How have people responded to his views on circumcision?
After backlash — with many pointing out that this is kinda anti-Semitic, due to the Jewish tradition of circumcision — Yang seemed to walk back his statements, tweeting, “I support the freedom of parents to adopt circumcision for any religious or cultural ritual as desired. Actually have attended a brit milah myself and felt privileged to be there… Always up to parents.” Still, he never said he wouldn’t continue to advocate against circumcision.
Besides the circumcision controversy, has Yang waded into any other anti-Semitic controversies?
Well, we are glad you asked.
His followers’ memes can quickly become anti-Semitic, as The Verge reported in March 2019. Their investigation pointed out that on the forum where his supporters were gathering, there were many white supremacist memes. “One meme showed Yang redistributing wealth from a Jewish banker caricature, the kind of noxious anti-semitism that’s common on [the 4chan forum] /pol/.”
He’s also a “hit” with the alt-right; they applauded his comments on circumcision.
In a statement, Yang said, “I denounce and disavow hatred, bigotry, racism, white nationalism, anti-Semitism and the alt-right in all its many forms. Full stop. For anyone with this agenda, we do not want your support. We do not want your votes. You are not welcome in this campaign.”
Yes. And on another note, there is a “Jews for Andrew Yang” Twitter account. As of this writing, it has just under 3,000 followers.
Shall we get into real Jewish issues?
What else has Andrew Yang said about anti-Semitism?
“I know it’s true for everyone but I feel terrible and terrified for my Jewish friends. So many have lost family members to violence and anti-Semitism. It hits home for them like for very few others because of their history of persecution. Imagine having your worst fears realized,” Yang tweeted in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
Further along in that same thread, he went on to push for his universal basic income. Because that would “decrease economic and social tensions,” and… stop anti-Semitic attacks?
“Economic stress adds to social polarization and violence,” the thread continued. “If you’re walking around worried about how to survive month-to-month you are more likely to lash out and respond to hateful messages and ideas.”
On Yang’s blog, he expanded on his plan to fight anti-Semitism: “Would a Universal Basic Income have prevented the violence in Pittsburgh? Perhaps not — but I believe it would have a better chance of preventing the next one than just about anything else we could do. And yes, that includes thoughts and prayers.”
He hasn’t really said anything else substantive on anti-Semitism.
Alright. What does Andrew Yang say about BDS, the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel?
Yang has not specifically addressed BDS.
Is he affiliated with any Jewish groups?
Hasn’t appeared at any conferences, but he did submit a minute-long video message to J Street.
Okay, does he have a foreign policy plan with regard to Israel?
He has come out in favor of a two-state solution.
“The only acceptable end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict involves a two-state solution that allows both the Israeli and Palestinian people to have sovereign land and self-determination,” Yang told CFR.
“I don’t want to prescribe the specifics of a two-state solution, as the Israeli and Palestinian people both need to be leading any conversation, and I look forward to engaging with all stakeholders to come up with confidence-building measures, such as a ceasefire and an end to the expansion of settlements, as we look towards building a sustainable peace.”
Where does he stand on aid to Israel?
“In terms of the money we are giving to an ally like Israel, my first instinct would be like, why would we reduce it, you know?” Yang said, speaking off-the-cuff at a meeting in Plymouth, New Hampshire in April 2019.
In his video to J Street’s 2019 conference attendees, Yang said that under his administration, “aid to Israel and Gaza would continue, and also, aid to Palestinians under US Aid would be restored.”
What about his views on Netanyahu, or annexation, or settlements?
None that we can find.
Jewish fun fact?
We’re still not over the “intactivists” thing, sorry.
Image of Andrew Yang by Win McNamee/Getty Images; design by Grace Yagel.