The other day I asked one of my American friends, who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, whether he thought the US president was in any way responsible for the murder of 11 Jews in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“Of course not”, he replied. “Trump is not an antisemite, and besides, Robert Bowers [the killer] does not support Trump, and is connected to the antisemitic Louis Farrakhan, who is one of Obama’s mentors.”
I checked. True, Bowers does not support Trump, because Trump, who in his opinion is not sufficiently right-wing, is not a true anti-globalist, and has too many Jews around him. The only connection of Bower, who hates blacks as much as he hates Jews, to Farrakhan is that both believe the Jews are the sons of Satan. As to Obama’s connection to Farrakhan, they both attended a Black Caucus meeting in the US Senate back in 2005, and Farrakhan supported Obama’s candidacy for president later on, but on various occasions Obama – as a true liberal – publicly condemned Farrakhan’s virulent antisemitism. What the two have in common is the color of their skin.
Incidentally, it was Ambassador Ron Dermer who decided to mix Farrakhan’s name with the Pittsburgh massacre, apparently as a tactical ploy to divert attention from the true culprits in this affair – extreme right-wingers.
This reminds me of the current attempts by the extreme Israeli Right to clean itself from any blame for the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, yesterday 23 years ago. A Martian landing on earth and viewing TV Channel 20 these days would get the clear impression that there was no connection between the man responsible for the assassination and the extreme religious Right – especially a few rabbis who claimed that din rodef applied to Rabin, who was consequently a legitimate target for a bullet in his back – and did not enjoy a tailwind from the inciting rhetoric that came from right-wing demonstrations, including ones organized by the Likud, in which Rabin was called a traitor who should be banished.
According to Channel 20 the main culprit in Rabin’s assassination was one Avishai Raviv, who was employed by the Jewish Department in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) as a provocateur and informer, who had allegedly been seen distributing posters depicting Rabin dressed in an SS uniform at the infamous Zion Square demonstration (an allegation that TV presenter Rina Mazliah from Channel 13, who reported from that demonstration exactly one month before the assassination, totally denies). Whatever one might think of Raviv and his likes, his only responsibility for Rabin’s assassination was that he failed to inform the Shin Bet about Yigal Amir, to whose rhetoric he had been exposed. In fact, Raviv plays the same role in the case of Rabin as Farrakhan does in the case of the Pittsburgh massacre – that of a red herring.
As I said above, Trump cannot be described as an antisemite, even though a past saying of his – quoted in a 1991 book on him (in connection with the badmouthing of a black accountant employed in one of his casinos), that “the only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes” – smacks of benevolent antisemitism.
The problem is not whether Trump is or is not an antisemite, or what sort of Jews he likes, but the fact that much of his rhetoric – and toward the midterm elections this rhetoric has intensified – attacks liberal causes that the majority of American Jews are identified with, and to which they are committed at least partially as a result of Jewish history, such as refugees, gay rights, globalization, global warming etc. Bowers specifically mentioned support of refugees as one of the Jewish sins for which they deserve to die. Thus, one might say that through his rhetoric Trump gives the antisemites some very serious tailwind.
THE ISRAELI extreme Right – as demonstrated by Channel 20 and various right-winger spokesmen on other media channels – has started accusing the Left of incitement against Netanyahu that is much worse, according to them, than whatever incitement might have taken place against Rabin back in 1995.
As one of those whose writings frequently condemn Netanyahu’s allegedly unethical and possibly criminal personal conduct; his dictatorial inclination; his policy vis-à-vis the African asylum-seekers; his trucking with some of the most unwholesome and nastiest regimes in the world today; his steady sowing of seeds of disunity in society – I should like to answer this scandalous accusation.
First of all, neither I nor all the other left-wing, liberal publicists call Netanyahu a traitor, nor suggest that he should be physically harmed. At worst we call on the attorney-general to at long last decide whether there is sufficient evidence to indict him.
We do not deny that Netanyahu was legally and legitimately elected, and has a right to determine which policies Israel’s elected government follows, as long as he is prime minister. What we are doing is merely fulfilling our democratic right and duty to warn against the highly damaging, long-term consequences of Netanyahu’s continued rule.
Furthermore, there are no left-wing, liberal Yigal Amirs waiting on the sidelines for an opportunity to squeeze the trigger, nor left-wing, liberal spiritual and/or intellectual leaders saying that all the accusations we hurl at Netanyahu justify his assassination. Left-wing liberals do not advocate or implement political homicide, and they even object to death sentences against heinous criminals and terrorists (Nazi war criminals excepted).
A FINAL comment regarding Israel’s official reaction to the Pittsburgh massacre. We have already mentioned Ambassador Dermer’s deliberate attempt to divert attention from President Trump’s past or present neo-Nazi supporters to other antisemites who are in no way associated with Trump, but have nothing whatsoever to do with the current tragic event.
But there are several other disturbing official reactions to the massacre. No one publicly condemned Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau, who refused to refer to the Tree of Life synagogue as a synagogue, even though for millions of Jews in the US it is viewed as such, while the rabbi is now viewed by them as just another obscure, discriminating Orthodox rabbi. Can one imagine the pope refusing to refer to a Protestant church in which a massacre has taken place as a church, just because it is not Catholic?
And as to the decision to send Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett to the Jewish community in Pittsburgh to comfort the bereaved and represent Israel – the same Naftali Bennett who stayed away from the annual meeting of the Jewish Federations of North America which took place in Tel Aviv a week before the massacre, and which dealt with the crisis in relations between Israel and the Diaspora, and who refuses to grant official status to the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel – this was the epitome of Israeli chutzpah and insensitivity. The 11 victims of the massacre in Pittsburgh were all members of the Conservative Tree of Life Congregation, whose rabbis cannot perform weddings in Israel, and whose conversions are not recognized here. They are also not considered worthy of having an independent area for prayer at the Western Wall.
I think it would have been much more befitting and much less hypocritical for Israel at this time to be represented in Pittsburgh by a more uniting and less divisive figure, like President Reuven Rivlin.
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