Last week was the horrific tragedy in Pittsburgh, PA. A gunman, a self-described white supremist, walked into a large synagogue and opened fire. Eleven people were killed, six people were wounded.
It is human nature to want to ascribe blame in order to have a target for our anger. This helps us vent and get some vindication, and acts as a catharsis. The most evident target is the President.
People were quick to associate this action with the President’s remarks last year in response to marches by white supremists marching in West Virginia. These people were out in the open, chanting the anti-Semitic slogan “Jews will not replace us.” People felt that the President’s lackadaisical attitude and remarks that there were some fine people and there’s blame on both sides gave license to these people to display their bigotry publicly, rather than remain in the shadows as a fringe element.
Anti-Semitic incidents, according the Anti-Defamation League, is up 57% this year. People point to the President and his remarks and alleged acceptance of any one or group that supports him. They claim that his narcissistic attitude makes him accept even bigots as long as they like him, and thus he downplays their attitudes…which has the effect of making these groups more mainstream. Now they feel emboldened to display their negative attitudes in the open.
Having said that, let’s revisit the ideas that there’s blame on both sides. Consider main news sources like the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and Agence France-Presse, considered to be progressive or liberal. They have reported on Israel and the conflicts with Gaza and seem to always put the onus on Israel as using excessive force.
They consistently open their stories with headlines about how many people are killed and injured by Israeli army gunfire. You have to read well into the article before they talk about how Palestinians are massing at the border sending over incendiary devices that have burned much arable land in Israel that has ruined a lot of businesses. They also downplay that the Gazans are the antogonists.
A recent article ran a headline about how three Palestinian youths were laid to rest after being shot by Israeli forces overnight. They said that while it looked like they were setting up explosives, none were found. They also mentioned that these were kids were 13 and 14. There was no discussion as to why these kids were out at night in a war zone and why the parents were not monitoring them. And by the way, this article appeared in the Pittsburgh Gazette, the same town where the gunman killed eleven Jews.
These media serve to vilify and demonize Israel and by extension and association, Jews in general.
Consider that there are organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine and BDS. While proclaiming to be peaceful, they often disrupt speakers who are either Israeli, Jewish or pro-Israel. They are very active on college campuses proclaiming how Israel has oppressed their people and taken their land. They don’t mention how Israel was created by UN proclamation, nor do they talk about their own people attacking and killing Israelis without provocation.
Consider some groups such as BlackLivesMatter and the Gay Rights Organizations. In their manifestos is verbiage about not accepting oppressive regimes, a veiled reference to—you guessed it—Israel. Consider that leaders of the MeToo movement, which seeks to get equality and justice for abused women, are women who have openly attacked Jews and Israel.
Many vigils have occurred all over the country for those slain. Even the Foreign Minister of Iran sent his condolences. in Hollywood, where is the outcry and outrage? Where are statements from George Clooney, Matt Damon, Ellen Degeneres and Oprah Winfrey about this tragedy? Where are statements from Billy Crystal, Rob Reiner and Bette Midler? To date, the only celebrity that seems to be speaking out is Donna Pescow who has been very active on Facebook. Twitter? Barely a peep, and this topic isn’t even trending.
Politicians. Anybody heard from Bernie Sanders? Chuck Schumer? Nancy Pelosi? We heard from Mike Pence, the Vice President, who brought in a Messianic—let’s call him a—Minister, something we Jews don’t accept. Not appropriate.
A lot of people in Pittsburgh, upon hearing that President Trump was going to visit, protested and said they didn’t want him to come. They said that his acceptance of the “alt right” was why this happened and along with other, misanthropic policies, have led to this animosity. This is the wrong tact. To the contrary, he should come and be welcomed. People should take him on a tour of the site of the attack and show him the carnage. They should explain how nervous they are now and implore him to act. They should educate him.
This attack wasn’t the result of a single person’s policies; it was a whole culture of anti-Semitism. But guess what? We’ve been there before. We’ve survived because we’ve supported each other and lived our heritage. We are strong in our commitment to G-d and I would say His commitment to us. We’ve survived because we value morality and integrity and that is our strength.
Nevertheless, we’ll probably be there again. Or maybe not. Maybe we can use this tragedy to wake people up. Maybe we can use this to show people what happens when they denigrate and vilify and demonize a people over and over again.
Our strength is our humanity. Our acceptance of everyone. When this killer was wounded and brought to the hospital, who were the doctors that healed him? Jews. When the daughter of a Hamas leader needed crucial surgery where did he take her? To a hospital is Israel that successfully healed her.