Anchorage Assemblyman and mayoral candidate Forrest Dunbar joined the chorus of voices denouncing a pair of anti-Semitic license plates reading 3REICH and FUHRER that fellow Assemblywoman Jamie Allard defended as harmless foreign language.
Dunbar, who is Jewish, also addressed “a series of explicitly anti-Semitic attacks on his campaign” that includes social media comments, direct mail and sign vandalism. Dunbar has been a vocal critic of Nazi imagery and anti-Semitic language spotted in recent conservative protests in Anchorage.
“Hate has no place in Anchorage. The words in question are undeniably associated with unfounded prejudice and hostility. Our community cannot recover, and we cannot get Anchorage back to where we want to be if we allow hate to take hold here,” he said. “My grandmother and great-grandmother came to the United States from Germany after my great-grandfather died in a Nazi transportation camp. Their example, and the Jewish principle of Tikkun Olam, informs the work I do today. As a member of the Anchorage Assembly and during my campaign for Mayor we have repeatedly been a target of anti-Semitic attacks, including social media comments and hate mail sent to our campaign. Additionally, APD officers informed us they have never seen the level of targeted sign vandalism that we continue to experience.”
His campaign provided examples of what’s been aimed at his campaign, including a message reading “Fuck you. We don’t need another liberal Jew, career politician for mayor.”
The treatment isn’t new for Dunbar, who grew up in Cordova and ran for U.S. Congress in 2014, according to an interview with the Anchorage Press last summer.
“There aren’t a lot of Jews in Cordova; it felt like it was just my family. In junior high and high school, I was called names, and people would make fun of me for being Jewish. I got called ‘Jew boy,’ ‘kike,’ that kind of thing,” Dunbar said. “It’s funny though, it was only specific people. You have to be smart enough to know what a Jew is to make those kinds of jokes. I think that really did have an impact on me when I was young. Feeling like I was apart and feeling like I was an outsider.”
He told the Press, though, that things have changed since then.
“The funny thing is, the people that did that, that called me (pejoratively) ‘Jew’ or whatever, I am friends with them now,” he said. “As you grow up, and as you mature, those guys would never say something like that these days. It was just growing up as a teenager in Cordova in the early 2000’s. We have come a long way on a lot of issues in the past 20 years.”
Filings for the Anchorage mayoral race opened on Jan. 15 and will close this Friday at 5 p.m. It’s a crowded field that also includes far-right candidate Dave Bronson, who’s been advertising on the right-wing Must Read Alaska blog that also came to the defense of the pro-Nazi license plates in several posts.
Allard was removed from her position on the Alaska Commission for Human Rights on Tuesday by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, whose spokesman said Allard’s comments “regarding the license plate controversy have become a distraction for the Human Rights Commission and its mission to ensure equality and fair treatment of all Alaskans.”
Fellow Anchorage Assemblywoman Meg Zalatel said she was “disappointed” in Allard’s defense of the words, writing that “These words have a history of hurting, attacking and killing people. Etymology doesn’t change the racist and dangerous history in which the words Fuhrer and 3rd Reich came into popular English usage.”
When Allard accused Zalatel of inciting “hate towards me over the freedom of speech,” Zalatel responded “No, I am not inciting hate. I am calling out an elected official who in that capacity defended unequivocal Nazi language. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of consequences. If you defend Nazis you’re going to get called out.”