Stop the hate

Antisemitism – and all other hatreds – will always have some kind of presence and they are probably impossible to eradicate entirely, but it needs to be relegated to the fringes.

By
April 28, 2019 21:43
3 minute read.
A candlelight vigil is held at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church for victims of a shooti

A candlelight vigil is held at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church for victims of a shooting incident at the Congregation Chabad synagogue in Poway, north of San Diego, California. (photo credit: REUTERS/JOHN GASTALDO)

It was a banner weekend for antisemitism.

On Saturday, a 19-year-old college student who had allegedly written an antisemitic manifesto entered the Poway Chabad, a synagogue outside San Diego, shooting at worshipers on the last day of Passover, killing Lori Gilbert Kaye and wounding several others.

The manifesto attributed to the shooter, John Earnest, blamed Jews for murdering Jesus and claimed that “international Jewry” control the media and the economy, as well as US President Donald Trump.

On Thursday, the antisemitic trope of Jewish control found a place of honor in the pages of The International New York Times. As a later note from the Times described it, the cartoon in that day’s newspaper featured “the prime minister of Israel as a guide dog with a Star of David collar leading the president of the United States, shown wearing a skullcap.” Trump was portrayed as blind and subservient to Jewish interests, as symbolized by the kippah on his head and the Star of David on the dog version of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

These two events are obviously not equivalent, but anyone with a basic awareness of history should understand why the cartoon is still alarming and damaging.

“The image was offensive, and it was an error of judgment to publish it,” the Times editor’s note read. The Times deleted the cartoon from its website, but it did not use the words “sorry,” “apologize” or “regret” in its note.

Offensive and an error of judgment are understatements. After all, the shooting only two days after its publication showed how much potential the memes of Jew-hatred have for them to then be translated from the page into deadly action.

Unfortunately, the shooter need not have found a rare copy of Thursday’s The International New York Times available in the US to be exposed to these ideas, or to get the idea of Israel or Jews having an undue influence. Nor does one have to dig up texts from over a century ago, like the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

These ideas have unfortunately become more and more mainstream and do not only come from the right-wing extremist figures that seem to have inspired both the Poway attack and the one on the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh six months ago.

There were the tweets by freshman members of Congress Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib claiming their colleagues face pressure to dwarf their loyalty to the US to loyalty to Israel, or House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy who named three Jewish or part-Jewish billionaires as trying to “buy” the 2018 midterm elections. Rep. Matt Gaetz invited a Holocaust denier to be his guest at the State of the Union Address, which is a different form of antisemitism, but still an example of its mainstreaming. And then there was Trump himself who described some of those who marched with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville in 2017 as “very fine people.”

This trend must stop now.

Antisemitism – and all other hatreds – will always have some kind of presence and they are probably impossible to eradicate entirely, but it needs to be relegated to the fringes.

Publishers – whether social media like Twitter, where the Poway shooter’s manifesto could be found, or those with more direct oversight over content, like The New York Times – must be taken to task for spreading insidious and dangerous libels. Free speech is a supreme value in any free society, and this is not a call for any kind of legal censorship.

What this is, is a call for leaders across the political spectrum and of all religions to stand up against antisemitism and do all they can to combat it. This includes stopping the publication of hate-filled manifestos or allowing antisemitic cartoons to see the light of day. A watered-down statement by Democrats in Congress that essentially tried to equate antisemitism with hate of all kinds – like the one they made in response to tweets by Omar – is not enough in this time of mainstreaming antisemitism with dangerous real-world implications.

It’s time to turn this tide and put an end to the antisemitism creeping in from the fringes to the masses.


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