Synagogue Murders are a Sinister Sign of Our Times: Gregg Roman, The Hill, Oct. 28, 2018 — Paris. Tel Aviv. Toulouse. Mumbai. Brussels. Djerba. Copenhagen. Jerusalem. Kansas City — and now, Pittsburgh.
The Futile Search for Meaning in Antisemitic Crimes: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Oct. 28, 2018— When something terrible happens, we demand explanations.
The U.S. Nears its Boiling Point: Niall Ferguson, Globe and Mail, Oct. 29, 2018— At the very beginning of the Cold War, Martyl Langsdorf, an artist who was married to the physicist Alexander Langsdorf, came up with the image of the Doomsday Clock.
Anti-Semitism: An Abhorrent Aberration in the USA: Yoram Ettinger, Algemeiner, Oct. 29, 2018— The October 27, 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue, in Pittsburgh, PA, was an egregious reminder that since the early 17th century, antisemitism has been a systematic feature of — yet an abhorrent aberration in — the US.
On Topic Links
The Lives Lost in the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting: Washington Post, Oct. 28, 2018
Before Pittsburgh: The Nine Worst Global Attacks on Jewish Sites: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 29, 2018
ANALYSIS: How Should Trump ‘Extract the Poison of Antisemitism?’: Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 28, 2018
Synagogue Shooting Shows Americans of all Faiths and Political Persuasions Must Unite Against Hate: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Fox News, Oct. 28, 2018
SYNAGOGUE MURDERS ARE A SINISTER SIGN OF OUR TIMES Gregg Roman
The Hill, Oct. 28, 2018
Paris. Tel Aviv. Toulouse. Mumbai. Brussels. Djerba. Copenhagen. Jerusalem. Kansas City — and now, Pittsburgh. An anti-Semitic massacre in a sacred space. As Jeff Finkelstein, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, said yesterday, “This should not be happening in a synagogue. This should not be happening, period.” Jews, synagogues, Jewish institutions and Jewish collectivity have been attacked across the world over the past 10 years, and this list is far from complete.
Every accusation and its opposite have been thrown at the Jewish people to justify these attacks. Jews are too left-wing, Jews are too right-wing. Jews assimilate too much, Jews don’t mix enough with others. Jews are behind capitalism; “Remember Rothschild,” they say. Others say Jews are behind socialism and communism; “Remember Marx,” they insist.
For 2,000 years, Jews were enslaved, oppressed, expelled, burned and gassed, all the while being told to go back to where they came from. Today, those who hate Jews tell those who returned to their ancestral and indigenous homeland to leave. Jews are frequently told that we are white — almost always as an accusation — yet no other people in the history of man have been targeted for so long, and in such numbers, by those who stand for white supremacy.
Anti-Semitism knows no logic. It knows no rules and appears to affect seeming foes on the political and ideological spectrum. Only a few days before accused shooter Robert Bowers mowed down 11 innocent souls at Tree of Life Synagogue because he believed “all Jews should die” for helping immigrants at the U.S. border, hate preacher Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, compared Jews to termites and called them Satanic in a dehumanizing manner reminiscent of Nazi incitement and propaganda. Bowers and Farrakhan probably agreed about little else except for their hatred of the Jewish people.
No other hatred unites and rallies such disparate voices, using the same classic motifs of hate. In Europe, they have seen how the extremes on the political spectrum share their hatred of Jews. Far-left politicians in the British Labour Party retweet neo-Nazis, and French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, who began on the anti-racist, far-left, now counts former Marxist and current right-wing radical Alain Soral and Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the racist far-right National Front, as friends and allies, to give two such examples. Their common ground is only their Holocaust denial and their hatred of all things Jewish.
However, this pincer movement that has engulfed the Jews of Europe and elsewhere should not be allowed to take root in the United States. We must condemn and shun Louis Farrakhan with the same vehemence as we do white supremacist Richard Spencer, or else the attacks against Jews will continue to rise. In its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, the Anti-Defamation League chronicled a 57 percent rise in incidents in 2017 over the previous year. That included everything from bomb threats and assaults, to vandalism, desecration of cemeteries and the flooding of college campuses with anti-Semitic posters and graffiti.
According to FBI statistics adjusted to population size, Jews are more likely to be the target of hate crimes than any other minority in the U.S. A very recent Brandeis University survey showed that 84 percent of the Pittsburgh Jewish community were concerned about anti-Semitism, and 16 percent personally experienced anti-Semitism in the past year. “The perception of anti-Semitism in the community may be worse than the reality,” the study noted. Unfortunately, on Saturday, the reality was far worse than even the most worrying perception. As the former director of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, I rarely have come across a community so optimistic, united and committed to the wider world. Upon his installation as rabbi of Tree of Life in June 2018, Jeffrey Myers said: “I will endeavor to continue to steer a course for us into a bright and bold future, but that cannot be accomplished alone.”
Pittsburgh was a Jewish community that strove for inclusion, diversity and pluralism. Whereas some communities have been wracked with political or ideological differences, all voices, from J Street to the ZOA, sat around the same table to try and focus on what united them rather than that which divided them. It is a Jewish community deeply committed to universal values and helping all people regardless of race, religion or identity. They followed the dictum in Ethics of the Fathers, “Do not separate yourself from the community.”
Saturday’s suspect, Bowers, reportedly shouted that “all Jews must die” during his massacre, because he hated the fact that Jewish groups like HIAS, an American non-profit organization providing humanitarian aid and assistance to refugees all over the world, was treating and assisting the dreamers who seek a better life in the United States.
Nevertheless, the Jewish people will, despite the incessant attacks, continue to grasp the kernel of hope for a better world. Even in its darkest hours, members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community are holding rallies against hate — all hate. However, as Rabbi Myers said, this course cannot be achieved alone. We need allies and those who are ready to fight all hate regardless of its origin. There are rules for hatred against Jews, which some will always try to justify, and there are rules for all others. Antisemitism, it could be argued, is a prejudice that is made unique among all other hatreds. It is long past time that we grapple with this issue, because it has been ignored for too long. Antisemitism in the United States is very real, and deadly.
THE FUTILE SEARCH FOR MEANING IN ANTISEMITIC CRIMES Jonathan S. Tobin JNS, Oct. 28, 2018
When something terrible happens, we demand explanations. Awful and irrational events spawn conspiracy theories because it’s part of the human condition to need to make sense of the world, even when the world makes no sense.
That is all the more true when an atrocity such as the shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue occurs. The wholesale slaughter at a house of worship on the Sabbath is the sort of act that, almost by definition, defies explanation. What sane person would seek to murder total strangers at prayer? What possible end could be served by the spilling of innocent blood in this manner?
Our sole concern should be to comfort the families of the slain, to honor their memories and to heal a community torn by sorrow. Yet it is almost instinctual to seek explanations that place the incomprehensible in a context we can accept more easily. Doing so enables us to avoid the truth that we live in a world in which irrational prejudice can strike anytime, anywhere, in ways that shake us to our very core. If the real villain is a familiar target of our anger, rather than age-old hatred of Jews or the deranged ravings of an extremist, it helps us channel our rage and sorrow in a direction that seems productive, even if it is nothing of the kind.
So it is hardly surprising that the slaughter at a synagogue in a quiet, leafy neighborhood would provoke reactions that tell us more about the sickening divisions within our society than anything else. For some, the only real culprit here is US President Donald Trump. In particular, his demagoguery about illegal immigrants is seen as a green light for an attack on a synagogue and a community that is generally supportive of asylum-seekers, such as those in a caravan from Honduras that Trump has denounced as an oncoming threat.
That has led some, like former New Republic editor Franklin Foer, to assert in The Atlantic that the only way to assure Jewish security after Pittsburgh is to ostracize all Jews who support Trump, since in his words “they have placed their community in danger.” Following the same theme, journalist Julia Ioffe also claimed that the fault for Pittsburgh belongs to those in the pro-Israel community who supported Trump’s move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In a Twitter take of breathtaking obtuseness, Ioffe quipped that “I hope the embassy move over there, where you don’t live, was worth it.” She was soon appearing on CNN to double down on her spewing of such bile.
Over at the Forward, writer Peter Beinart had a more general condemnation for any Jew who agreed with Trump about illegal immigration. According to him, “Trumpism”—or at least that portion of the administration’s policies that concern enforcing existing immigration laws or expressing worry about the spread of Islamism—and those Jews who share such legitimate concerns are betraying “Jewish ethics and Jewish lives.”
But while Trump can be blamed for the coarsening of our political culture—and while his statements about immigration are often inaccurate and inflammatory—the blithe assertion that the president is an antisemite or the smear that his supporters are allies and enablers of accused Pittsburgh shooter Robert Bowers is wrong on two counts. The first and most obvious is that Bowers was a critic of Trump, specifically because of his sympathy with Jews, the presence of many Jews in key administration posts and his support for Israel, which exceeds that of all of his recent predecessors. He viewed Trump as an ally of Jews—not someone who had encouraged him to attack them.
The second is that the attempt to shoehorn Pittsburgh into the “resistance” narrative, in which Trump is seen as unleashing a wave of persecution against Jews and other minorities in America, misunderstands the nature of the antisemitism that Bowers espoused. While Bowers may have seen the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and a synagogue whose members sought to aid immigrants and asylum-seekers as justifying his attack, this does no more to explain his rage than any of the other excuses that antisemites have deployed over the ages.
While some have always sought to blame Jews for the hate that was directed against them—a trend that continues today with those who believe support for Israel is a red flag that invites attacks—antisemitism is always about the antisemites, not the Jews. It is, as scholar Ruth Wisse wrote, the most successful ideology of the 20th century—a virus that morphed from fascism to Nazism to communism and then Islamism. The continuation of this trend in the 21st century has nothing to do with Trump, and everything to do with the fact that Jews remain a convenient scapegoat for extremists of all political and religious stripes.
There is much to lament in our current political culture, in which the tribes of true believers rule on both ends of the spectrum, and in which neither side is prepared to acknowledge the way they have sought to delegitimize their political opponents. But what happened in Pittsburgh is a product of a deeper malady—one that, at present, has no political cure. A world in which we can’t neatly place the blame for Pittsburgh on a political foe who many Jews despise is less frightening than the complex reality. Trump is both a friend of the Jews and Israel, as well as a symptom of a destructive political trend that has helped loosen the bonds of community that is driving us further apart. Still, he is not responsible for the actions of an unhinged extremist.
If we acknowledge that despite his flaws, Trump is neither an antisemite nor the reason for antisemitic violence here—or anywhere else in a world in which a rising tide of Jew hatred continues to surge—then we are forced to confront the same frustrating truth about this virus that previous generations struggled with. It’s easy to see why putting this in a political context is of some comfort, but those who do so in the course of a futile search for meaning in antisemitic hate crimes do neither the Jews nor the cause of civilization any service.
THE U.S. NEARS ITS BOILING POINT Niall Ferguson
Globe and Mail, Oct. 29, 2018
At the very beginning of the Cold War, Martyl Langsdorf, an artist who was married to the physicist Alexander Langsdorf, came up with the image of the Doomsday Clock. It appeared in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to illustrate the fear of many physicists – including some who had been involved in the creation of the atomic bomb – that a “technology-induced catastrophe” might be terrifyingly close. Midnight on the Doomsday Clock meant nuclear Armageddon.
I have no doubt that somewhere in academia someone is busy devising a civil war Doomsday Clock. Any day now they’ll publish it under the headline: “Two minutes to Fort Sumter.” But just how close is the United States to the kind of internecine slaughter that began in April 1861? There is a kind of cultural civil war already being fought on social-media platforms. With the mid-term elections just over a week away, that culture war gets more febrile by the day.
Of course, the culture war is no more a real war than the trade war U.S. President Donald Trump has launched against China. Nevertheless, the news last week that amateurish pipe bombs had been mailed to a dozen of Mr. Trump’s best-known critics – including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, the hedge fund billionaire George Soros and the actor Robert De Niro – provided the cue for new prophecies of a second U.S. Civil War.
The arrest on Friday of Cesar Sayoc was immediately greeted with cries of “Gotcha!” from the usual quarters. His van was covered in pro-Trump stickers including one reading “CNN Sucks.” Ha! “Trump owns this,” declared a normally sober Washington correspondent. I wonder. I don’t much like Mr. Trump’s regular criticisms of the mainstream media and occasional glorification of body-slamming. But a direct causal relationship to a nut posting a bunch of homemade bombs?
Saturday’s massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh makes matters much worse. Mr. Trump is no anti-Semite, but some alt-right elements routinely abuse Jews. But then again, the hard left has its anti-Semites too. That people on both sides of the political divide are using intemperate language is undeniable, even if the left will always insist that the other side is worse. That there is a potential for an increase in political violence in the United States seems clear. By European standards, there are terrifying numbers of lethal weapons in private hands. But civil war? Some of the people who make this argument can be dismissed as scaremongers. When a Canadian novelist fantasizes about Mr. Trump being assassinated, the United States tearing itself apart, and all the nice Americans moving to Canada, it’s better to avert your gaze. Same drill when a marine turned talk-show host calls for red states to secede if a future Democratic administration comes for their guns, or when a New York progressive with fishy Russian connections argues for Californian secession.
But when my colleague at the Hoover Institution, historian Victor Davis Hanson, warns that we are “at the brink of a veritable civil war,” we all need to pay attention. I also take seriously the work of Peter Turchin, who has been arguing for some time that several leading indicators of political instability (notably inequality) are set to peak around 2020, making the United States “particularly vulnerable to violent upheaval.” Mr. Hanson’s argument is that the tensions arising from globalization, the internet, campus leftism and illegal immigration have led to an ideological split that is also geographical. The current toxic atmosphere puts him in mind not only of the 1850s, but also of the 5th century BC, when “stasis” (meaning internal strife) tore apart the ancient Greek city states…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
ANTI-SEMITISM: AN ABHORRENT ABERRATION IN THE USA
Algemeiner, Oct. 29, 2018
The October 27, 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue, in Pittsburgh, PA, was an egregious reminder that since the early 17th century, antisemitism has been a systematic feature of — yet an abhorrent aberration in — the US. At the same time, American society has demonstrated 400 years of respect for Judaism, Judeo-Christian values, and the Jewish state.
For instance, Peter Stuyvesant, the first Dutch Governor of New York/New Netherlands (1647-1664), failed in his attempt to block the immigration of Jews to the colony, but prohibited them from constructing a synagogue and serving in the local militia. Moreover, he confiscated Jewish property and levied a special tax solely on Jews, claiming that they were “deceitful and enemies of Jesus Christ.”
The state of the Jewish community improved in the aftermath of the 1664 British conquest of New York and the introduction of a series of civil covenants in the various colonies (e.g., the 1641 Massachusetts Body of Liberties). It was further improved as a result of the 1789 ratification of the US Constitution, which enhanced civil liberties — in a drastic departure from the state of mind of the European churches and monarchies — partially inspired by the Five Books of Moses, and especially by the concept of the Jubilee (Leviticus 25:10).
Still, European-imported antisemitism established itself in the US, although as a significantly lower profile in the newly-created society and governance. The latter has expanded liberty over and beyond the European standards, while severely restricting the playing field of potential antisemitism. For example, in December 1862, General Ulysses Grant issued the infamous General Order No. 11, ordering the expulsion of all Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi, stating: “The Jews, as a class, violate every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department.” However, in January 1863, President Lincoln — known for his deep respect for Judaism — ordered Grant to revoke the order. Moreover, in the aftermath of the Civil War, General Grant contended that he signed the order without studying it.
In the early 1920s, Henry Ford — the only American mentioned favorably in Hitler’s Mein Kampf and praised by Heinrich Himmler — wrote: “If fans wish to know the trouble with American baseball, they have it in three words — too much Jew.” However, in January 1921, 119 distinguished Americans, such as President Woodrow Wilson, former President William Howard Taft, and the poet Robert Frost, signed a petition denouncing Ford’s antisemitism, including his dissemination of the 1903 antisemitic Russian-fabricated The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In 1927, Ford apologized for his antisemitic conduct.
During the 1920s and the 1930s, Father Charles Coughlin leveraged his weekly antisemitic radio program to praise Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Japan’s Emperor Hirohito. However, upon the 1939 outbreak of the Second World War, he lost most of his listeners and followers.
An accurate depiction of most Americans’ stance on antisemitism was exposed, in December 1993, by the reaction of most of the 80,000 residents of Billings, Montana to a paving stone hurled by a white supremacist through a window of a Jewish home displaying a Chanukah candelabra and a Star of David. The hate crime was followed by the Billings Gazette’s full-page color image of a Chanukah candelabra, along with the recommendation to display it on home windows in solidarity with the Jewish community. In addition, some residents took to the street holding Chanukah candelabras, demonstrating a city-wide determination to stand up against the bullying tactics of white supremacists. Furthermore, solidarity with the Jewish community has become almost an annual event attended by top Billings and Montana officials.
While the destructive and lethal potential of antisemitism must not be underestimated, countries should not be judged by the eruption of such an abomination, but by the way they prosecute it. The 400-year-old Judeo-Christian foundations — and track record — of the USA assure that antisemitism shall be constrained, prosecuted, and punished most decisively.
On Topic Links
The Lives Lost in the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting: Washington Post, Oct. 28, 2018 —They were the synagogue’s most faithful.
Before Pittsburgh: The Nine Worst Global Attacks on Jewish Sites: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 29, 2018—The largest targeted murder of Jews in US history in Pittsburgh is one of many attacks over the last decades which have targeted Jews in synagogues and community centers throughout the world.
ANALYSIS: How Should Trump ‘Extract the Poison of Antisemitism?’: Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 28, 2018—
Synagogue Shooting Shows Americans of all Faiths and Political Persuasions Must Unite Against Hate: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Fox News, Oct. 28, 2018—I learned about Saturday’s mass murder of 11 congregants at a Pittsburgh synagogue while traveling in Austria with a group of 150 Jews from around the world.