Little Jewish-centric talk from bris-phobic Yang


This is one of series articles on what eight of the Democratic presidential hopefuls have said or done regarding Israel and other Jewish concerns. It was assembled by the staff of the JTA before the latest debate and edited by The Jewish Star for space and style. Link here for the other candidates:  Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg

Andrew Yang, a former tech executive, has never held public office. But that hasn’t stopped him from running the most successful dark horse campaign of the election cycle.

His platform centers around creating a universal basic income — giving every American citizen over the age of 18 $1,000 per month. His “Freedom Dividend” proposal has ignited debate and made him a favorite among many, especially young people, looking to shake up the economic status quo.

Yang has no experience in government, which makes figuring out where he stands on Jewish issues more challenging. However, there is one Jewish issue Andrew Yang has made headlines for: 

Andrew Yang is against circumcision.

At one point he said he would “incorporate that view into public policy,” according to the Daily Beast. “It’s sort of pushed on parents in many situations,” Yang said, calling circumcision a “cultural onus.” 

“From what I’ve seen, the evidence on it being a positive health choice for the infant is quite shaky,” he added. This makes Yang an “intactivist” — one of those who advocate for keeping penises “intact,” as they like to say, or uncircumcised. 

An anti-circumcision policy would greatly impact the Jewish community which celebrates a bris on the eighth day after a baby boy is born, a sign of the child’s entering into the Jewish covenant. (Muslims also circumcise their boys, at various ages.)

After a backlash, Yang seemed to walk back his statements, tweeting that he would not pass a universal policy on circumcision.

“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 would end his anti-circumcision advocacy.

On anti-Semitism … and the UBI.

Yang is a bit of a “hit” with the “alt-right,” partly for his comments on circumcision, and the Verge reported in March that he has a following on forums on the site 4chan that are full of anti-Semitic memes.

Yang has strongly denounced this form of support, stating, “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.”

He tweeted support for Jews in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, but in that same Twitter thread he went on to push for universal basic income, saying that it would “decrease economic and social tensions” and potentially help to stop violent shootings.

“Economic stress adds to social polarization and violence,” he said. “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, with the help of UBI.

“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.”

What does Yang say about BDS?

He has not specifically addressed BDS. 

What are his relations with Jewish groups?

He hasn’t appeared with any, though he did submit a minute-long video message to J Street. 

There is also a “Jews for Andrew Yang” Twitter account which (at this writing) has just under 3,000 followers. 

Does he have a foreign policy with regard to Israel?

Not a very detailed one, but 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 the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Where does he stand on aid to Israel?

In March, Yang acknowledged to voters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that he did not know enough about aid generally to pronounce 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 his video to J Street’s 2019 conference, Yang said that under his administration, “aid to Israel and Gaza would continue, and also, aid to Palestinians under U.S. Aid would be restored.” 

Jewish fun fact

In Yang’s corner — or part of the “Yang Gang,” we should say — is Sam Altman, a Silicon Valley investor who last month threw a fundraiser for him.