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House Select Committee on Restoring Law & Order Takes Shape

The violent crime plaguing Philadelphia appears to be spreading beyond the city limits. Now Pennsylvania House Republicans are taking action in response.

In Upper Darby, two men died of gunshot wounds while riding in a funeral procession when someone in another car opened fire. In Caln Township in Chester County, a drive-by shooter fired at a 20-year-old man, hitting him six times. And in Philadelphia, a group of teenagers beat a 73-year-old man to death with a traffic cone, a crime that made national headlines.

On Monday, House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) named the members of a newly-established Select Committee on Restoring Law and Order. It will investigate the crime crisis. According to a statement, the committee will investigate whether local prosecutors are appropriately performing their duties in prosecuting violent crime and offenses, including illegal possession of firearms.

“This bipartisan group of lawmakers understands that what residents and visitors of Philadelphia are currently experiencing must change,” Cutler said. “I am confident these members will work together to find solutions and hold those in power accountable for allowing crime in Philadelphia to reach the levels they have today.”

Legislators from the Delaware Valley make up most of the committee’s members.

Cutler named these members to the Select Committee: Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester/Lancaster), chairman; Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks); Rep. Torren Ecker (R-Adams/Cumberland); Rep. Amen Brown (D-Philadelphia); Rep. Danilo Burgos (D-Philadelphia).

“A bipartisan majority of the House has charged the select committee with a serious responsibility. As chairman, I do not enter this work with any predetermined outcome in mind. The committee will review the facts and follow them wherever they lead,” said Lawrence.

House Resolution 216, adopted with bipartisan support, calls on the committee to investigate rising crime rates, enforcement and prosecution practices in the city, and the use of public funds to prosecute and benefit victims of crime.

The same committee is also eyeing the possibility of impeaching Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner over mishandling the city’s rising crime rates. Last year there were 562 homicide victims in Philadelphia. So far this year, there have been 283, down 3 percent from 2021.

Reps. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) and Josh Kail (R-Beaver/Washington) are glad that members were appointed so the committee can begin its investigations.

“The people of Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs have suffered from the prosecutorial negligence of a district attorney who refuses to fully prosecute crime,” White said. “Philadelphia is on track to surpass last year’s record homicide rate. The city is in crisis, and the crime is leaching into the suburbs and throughout the state. I have complete faith in those chosen to serve on this committee. They will listen to those who testify and let the facts take us to the truth.”

“We cannot forget that many lives have been lost and families crushed as a result of inaction and willful dereliction of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner,” said Kail, who introduced legislation to form the committee. “I believe those chosen to serve will take their jobs seriously and weigh the information they gather fairly.”

Some fear the new committee may be a lot of talk but little action.

“Any attempt to shine a spotlight on the violence and disorder in Philadelphia is a good thing.  Unfortunately, a House committee has no authority to fix anything in Philadelphia. The problems of Philadelphia were created in Philadelphia by Philadelphia, and the solutions must come from Philadelphia. This is strictly an issue of local governance (and incompetence),” said Tom Hogan, former Chester County district attorney.

Crime is certainly front of mind for voters in the Philadelphia area. Could this committee have an impact on November’s elections?

Berwood Yost, director of the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, said most voters are thinking of their pocketbooks.

“At the moment, voters are most concerned about economic matters, particularly inflation, although I think the issue of crime can be an effective tool for Republicans to use to paint a general picture that the current administration isn’t doing a good job and to feed the narrative that things are going badly in the state and nation,” said Yost. “I also wonder whether the recent Supreme Court decision limiting the ability of states to regulate guns might actually create a problem for Republicans on this issue given the large number of suburban voters who support more gun regulation.”

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ZOA Report Highlights Incidents of Antisemitism in Philadelphia in 2021

On the eve of the Jewish holiday of Purim, the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) released a 27-page report on incidents of antisemitism involving public officials and institutions in 2021.

Purim—a holiday commemorating Queen Esther saving the Jews in ancient Persia from a government official’s plot to kill them — is the perfect time to highlight the problem.

“We wanted to show people how bad it is,” said Steve Feldman, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia ZOA. “It’s not just minor nuisances. It’s pretty bad.”

The Delaware Valley Journal previously reported about two of the incidents. In one, anti-Israel content was posted on the website of the Free Library of Philadelphia, including a video of a library employee telling children “Zionism looks a lot like racism.”  Although the library’s director promised to end those antisemitic programs, they continued, the report said.

In another major incident, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney issued an official proclamation in support of a pro-Palestinian Liberation Organization event on the first day of Hanukkah. The Israeli consulate in New York sent Kenney a letter asking him not to attend.

Other elected officials attended that Nov. 29 event, including three members of the city council, two state representatives, and one state senator—all Democrats, except one council member who belongs to the Working Families Party.

Kenney “did not include any Palestinian Jews in the event…It was the Jewish people who lived in the land in pre-state Israel for generations who were commonly known as ‘the Palestinians’…Through its actions, Kenney and the city erased this history, as well—even though there are Palestinian-Jews living in our region today,” the report said.

Also, Kenney and the other officials spoke in front of Palestinian Liberation Organization flags, even though the PLO has murdered and maimed thousands of Jews and hundreds of Americans.

Other incidents in the new report include the School District of Philadelphia allowing a student organization, the Muslim Students Association, with a decidedly anti-Israel/anti-Jewish record to have chapters in two high schools, Northeast and William W. Bodine. It also works closely with a cultural organization that has erased Israel from its maps of the Middle East and takes anti-Israel/anti-Zionist positions. The Black Lives Matter organization is a regular influence within the school system, according to the ZOA.  And BLM demonstrators have vandalized synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses, the report said.

A statement from the Philadelphia School District said, “The School District of Philadelphia is a culturally rich district with a diverse population of students and families. In our statement on anti-racism, we believe in, and will continue to cultivate, a system that addresses all forms of inequity. The School District of Philadelphia is committed to providing safe, healthy, inclusive environments that are free from all forms of discrimination and foster learning

“The school district recognizes that the discussion of certain topics can be highly charged. The district also recognizes that such discussions can help students learn to identify important issues, explore fully and fairly all sides of an issue, weigh carefully the values and factors involved, and develop skills for formulating and evaluating positions.​ ​However, such discussions should always be free of coercion or bias. The district further has a policy for investigating allegations of bias and discrimination, neither of which have any place in our schools.”

Also, a city-sponsored soccer tournament, the Unity Cup, designates “Palestine” as a country on a city website, although it is not a nation, the report noted.

And a city agency that helps newly-released prison inmates displayed on its website a Marxist organization’s article which attacked the Jewish state in an anti-Zionist screed laced with false allegations about Jews. After ZOA objected, the article was removed.

A city-owned Israeli flag was set ablaze, and the incident was recorded on video. One of the vandals was apprehended but was released without being charged. The Israeli flag has been vandalized two other times, in 2018 and 2016, the report said.

The report calls on the city to take steps to remedy and “counter Jew-hatred,” including at the library. It also calls for Kenney and other officials who took part in the pro-PLO event to apologize.

“Today, every synagogue, Jewish school, and Jewish community center must have sophisticated security systems to protect people, and most and perhaps all have armed security guards at all times or when there is an event or worship service. Jews have been murdered in synagogues, in Jewish businesses, and at holiday celebrations, and recently a rabbi and two congregants were held hostage in a synagogue.”

“There is no telling who in the community-at-large could be triggered by false accusations about the Jewish state and the Jewish people,” the report said.

A spokesperson for the City of Philadelphia did not respond to requests for comment.


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