Secretary Julián Castro was the youngest member of President Obama’s cabinet and is the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas. He’s the only Latino candidate in the race and has worked to bring together Latino and Jewish leaders in the past. As he explained to Hadassah Magazine in 2013, “Both communities know about crossing borders, about struggle.”
And, just for fun, we feel like you should know he has an identical twin brother currently serving in the House of Representatives: Rep. Joaquin Castro. Castro (the candidate) made his brother (the representative) grow a beard during the campaign so reporters would stop confusing the two. (Here’s a TikTok from the Washington Post of the Castro twins that we genuinely cannot stop watching.)
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into where Castro stands on Jewish issues.
What has Julián Castro said about anti-Semitism?
On his campaign website, Castro lays out his “People First Plan to Disarm Hate: Combating White Nationalism and the Gun Violence Epidemic.” While the plan does not explicitly name anti-Semitism, it names Pittsburgh and discusses how he will combat white supremacist violence. He writes, “White supremacy is not only an ideology of America’s past, it is one that persists today. Building a more inclusive society must start with condemning white supremacy.”
@JulianCastro has tweeted about anti-Semitism multiple times — in response to the Yom Kippur attack in Halle, Germany, the Chabad of Poway attack, and the anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.
Where does Castro say about BDS, the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel?
“I don’t agree with BDS, I don’t support BDS, but I also do not support cracking down on political speech. People should be able to express themselves,” he said in October 2019.
What about his relationship with Jewish groups?
He spoke at J Street in 2019.
What about Julián Castro’s relationship with Shimon Peres?
He doesn’t exactly have a relationship with Shimon Peres, the former Israeli Prime Minister and President, but they did have a very memorable meeting in 2011.
Tell me everything!
In 2011, Castro led a San Antonio delegation to Israel to sign a “friendship-city agreement” with Tel Aviv. While there, Castro met President Shimon Peres. As My San Antonio reported, they “hit it off”; Castro and Peres talked for over an hour, nearly double the time that had been planned, until “aides to Peres finally reminded the president he had another meeting.”
Rabbi Barry Block, a San Antonian rabbi who was part of the delegation, told the Jewish News Syndicate three years later, “It really was extraordinary. I mean when you’re talking about a president who at that time was near 90 and the mayor in his thirties, and I think that we can see that President Peres saw a little bit of his younger self in Mayor Castro.” (You can read Rabbi Block’s full take on his visit here.)
Castro said of Peres, “He told me never to lie, but to be daring. Those were the two main things. He told me to always be prudent of the public’s money and to stay focused on my priorities. It was overwhelmingly positive and inspiring.”
After Peres’s death in September 2016, Castro said he was “saddened” to hear the news — he was a “peacemaker, true statesman and great man.”
Saddened to hear of the passing of Shimon Peres. Visited with him years ago in Israel. A peacemaker, true statesman and a great man.
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) September 28, 2016
Concrete actions also came out of the trip. As he explained to Hadassah Magazine in 2013, “Our San Antonio water system struck up a memo of understanding with [its counterpart] in Eilat… They have done amazing things in preserving water, and their creativity and resourcefulness have helped San Antonio better understand its own course at a time when our state is experiencing one of our worst drought crises ever.”
“It has been a really productive trip to Israel,” Castro also said. “We have learned that Israel and San Antonio have a lot in common. Both of our communities realize that we must focus our industries on the brainpower of our citizens. We both have strong commitments to the life-science and high-tech industries, and we both value the contributions that immigration has made to our societies.”
Neat. So where does Castro stand on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
“A two-state solution is the only acceptable outcome of a peace process between Israelis and Palestinians,” Castro told the Council on Foreign Relations in November 2019.
“I believe that only a two-state solution can serve as the foundation of a long-term peace while protecting the dignity, security, and freedom of both the Israeli and Palestinian people. In a global context of rising anti-Semitism, ensuring the Jewish people have a safe and democratic home is more important than ever. I will continue the United States’ policy to defend Israel’s security and its right to exist, which I believe can only be secured through a two-state solution.”
In a conversation at South by Southwest in March 2019, Castro said, “More and more, Israel is going to have a hard time being both a democratic state and a Jewish state. I think the two-state solution is best for that reason. Support Israel, remain strong allies, but recognize the value of Palestinians and that they should be treated in a way that we can support on behalf of the country.” He echoed this in his Q&A with the New York Times: “Israel has to choose. It’s gonna be a Jewish state, or a democratic state. That’s why I believe a two-state solution is the best solution for Israel.”
So what does Castro think about withholding/leveraging aid to Israel?
Castro won’t take it off the table, but said he hopes it won’t be necessary, telling J Street in October 2019, “I hope we can avoid that. Netanyahu has been counterproductive for many years. I hope we can have a more productive government in Israel.”
Castro is also against continued settlement expansion and unilateral annexation of the West Bank, also telling the J Street audience, “I support doing everything we can to pressure Israel not to move forward with unilateral annexation or continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and my hope is that there’s gonna be a new opportunity with a new American president in January of 2021, and a new administration shortly in Israel to get this relationship back on track and to work toward a two-state solution and stop any kind of effort to unilaterally annex the West Bank. I would not take off the table the option of conditioning our aid on Israel not annexing the West Bank, but that wouldn’t be my first focus.”
And how does he feel about Netanyahu?
In response to Netanyahu’s campaign promise in April 2019 that he would begin annexing the West Bank, Castro tweeted, “In abandoning our position as a good faith partner in the Middle East peace process, the Trump admin has enabled reckless actions like this from Netanyahu. US support for a two-state solution is on the line in November 2020.”
Tl;dr Castro thinks Netanyahu’s actions are reckless.
Jewish fun fact?
Go read the Shimon Peres section again!
Image of Julián Castro by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; design by Grace Yagel