Nevada conservative attorney general candidate takes a hard look at her Israelite
WASHINGTON (JTA) – Sigal Chattah reached for my phone over the breakfast table.
“Let me show you some Israeli ingenuity,” she said.
She took out a card-shaped device. Within seconds, mine was reading an advertisement for his campaign to become Nevada attorney general.
“I am Sigal Chattah, an Israeli-born lawyer and candidate for the post of number one conservative attorney general of the United States,” she said in the advertisement.
I later figured out that she was using a smart card, called OneTapConnect. But as a tech-ignorant boomer, I’m easily impressed. Chattah smiles. “Israeli ingenuity! She said again.
I didn’t understand right away. “Is the device Israeli?” “
No, the device is American, she said. “But I call it Israeli ingenuity.”
What is Israeli in this exchange is not the device, but the brand of Chattah: a tech-savvy immigrant from the Start-Up Nation, ready to fight for the rights of “all Nevadans,” as its website says.
Chattah is well known in Nevada for her prominence as a lawyer in a series of actions against the state’s anti-COVID restrictions. Most notably, in the 9th Circuit, the most liberal federal appeals court, she helped overturn the state’s ban on assembling more than 50 people in places of worship.
She’s running with virtually no opposition to the GOP nomination to topple outgoing Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford in November 2022. Nevada, which US President Joe Biden narrowly won in the 2020 election, has turned purple so reliable, and there are no polls on the Attorney General race.
She is part of an emerging class of Republicans whose members do not categorically reject former U.S. President Donald Trump, which would alienate her many supporters, but also not completely embrace her. His campaign photo gallery includes a photo with Trump, but also with one of his enemies, Anthony Scaramucci, the former spokesperson for Trump. She will not support Trump’s claim that he won the election in his state.
Chattah also leans heavily on his Israelite. She likes to tell people that she is the first American Israeli to run for a statewide office, in any state. (She’s not.) The ad, calling her “born in Israel,” has gone viral. He doesn’t mention his big 9th Circuit victory, but he targets Ilhan Omar, the US Democratic representative from Minnesota who is among Israel’s fiercest critics in Congress.
It’s not just about branding. An hour with Chattah in the breakfast room of the Mayflower Hotel in Washington is like an hour in a Tel Aviv cafe with an Israeli politician: easy transitions from politics to family and vice- versa, strewn with unguarded revelations. He’s not your standard, lame media-wary Republican candidate.
There are other dissonances: she arrived here at 14 and talks about closing the borders. She is a conservative of the small government and a warrior against COVID restrictions who fiercely defends Israel but pokes fun at its anti-virus shutdowns and does not understand why her family there are so happily dependent on the government.
She’s a Mizrahi – or Middle Eastern Jewish – immigrant who attends a Federalist Society conference dedicated to preserving in amber the reflections of a cohort of white Christian men.
The contradictions become clear when Chattah explains how she decided to run for attorney general, citing her activism against anti-COVID restrictions.
“COVID cases are all constitutional cases,” she said. “I am an Israeli immigrant. The point is to come to this country and everything is fine, and the Constitution is what protects us. If the Constitution doesn’t protect us, if America is no longer the land of opportunity, we might as well go home.
If the Constitution does not protect us, if America is no longer the land of opportunity, we might as well go home
Wait: what’s wrong with Israel? We had just spent half an hour discussing Israeli identity and Chattah’s enthusiasm for it.
In response, Chattah vented his frustrations about an American Jewish community that does not embrace the resolve of Israeli-American groups to fight the anti-Israel boycott. (Chattah is active in the Israel American Council and chairs the Israel American Civic Action Network. She is also a board member of Gold BaMidbar, a Sephardic synagogue in Las Vegas.)
She recounted in horror a conversation with a (non-Israeli) rabbi who told her that his followers were not interested in supporting Israeli-American initiatives because “they don’t come to our synagogues, they don’t assimilate. not “.
So what’s wrong with going back?
“My dad has a saying, it’s terrible but it’s true: ‘The best thing about Israel is outside of Israel,’” she said in Hebrew.
My dad has a saying it’s terrible but it’s true: the best thing about Israel is outside of Israel
Her compatriots, those who have returned to Israel at least, confuse her. “The people of Israel, my friends, they see the whole vaccine debate, they don’t understand – ‘[the government] said get vaccinated, we’ve all been vaccinated, ”they say,” Chattah shrugged. “They are conditioned like that. They are also conditioned to pay 40% income tax.
Her fellow Israeli Americans here confuse her to some extent as well. Chattah admits that she immediately immersed herself in an American identity when she arrived at age 14, with her parents seeking greater economic opportunities. The family had first landed in New York, but found daily life there too difficult, so they returned to Israel, before returning to the United States to Las Vegas.
Now she is a little despairing of the inability of other American Israelis to organize. And she is furious at American Israelis in Arizona for going after State Representative Alma Hernandez for compromising a Holocaust education bill this year, removing the definition of anti-Semitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance of the bill. A number of Hernandez’s Democratic colleagues felt the IHRA’s definition was too broad. (Most controversially, the IHRA’s definition includes certain forms of anti-Israel expression.)
“The Israelis are going up against the wall, they don’t understand, you can’t explain to them,” Chattah said. The way American Israelis treated Hernandez, one of the most vocal pro-Israel Democrats at the state level, “was horrible,” Chattah said.
Chattah is above all alliances: she made the Association for the Protection of the Police participate in an initiative against anti-Israel boycotts. Seeking to create a museum on the Holocaust and the genocide, she allied herself with the American Armenians. She also helped lead the lobbying for passage this year of Nevada’s own bill making Holocaust education mandatory.
“I have been active in the community since I arrived in 1989,” she said. “You know someone who knows someone who knows someone.”
When she talks about her family, the Israeli walks in – the single mom appalled at the choices her daughter was making in Las Vegas. She ended up sending her daughter to Pennsylvania to attend a Jewish school.
“She mingled with the wrong crowd,” said Chattah. “The problem with Vegas is, because it’s small, it’s so easy to get corrupted.”
Israelis are a relatively recent migration, and like other recent arrivals, the attraction between their old and new countries manifests itself in different ways. I tell Chattah about another Israeli statewide candidate, Merav Ben-David during last year’s Wyoming race, and how Ben-David told me she obsessively followed the anti-Netanyahu movement in Israel.
Ben-David won the Democratic nomination for the US Senate, but lost the election. Disillusioned with the claim that she was the first American-Israeli to run for a state-wide post, Chattah exclaimed, “Did she run as a Democrat?
Chattah said that American Israelis “are aggressive, they are social, they are recent immigrants, they have not assimilated”.
I asked her how she identified herself, as an American Jewish or an American Israeli. “I would say I identify as an American Israeli.” She waited a moment. “Absoutely.”