Tolerance of intolerance breeds hate and violence - opinion

The continued legality of neo-Nazi organizations is just as hard to understand, and contemporary efforts to delegitimize them and their ideologies seem insufficient, if not futile.

An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of US President Donald Trump gather in front of the US Capitol Building in Washington, US, January 6, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of US President Donald Trump gather in front of the US Capitol Building in Washington, US, January 6, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/LEAH MILLIS)
As indicated in “Capitol rioter in ‘Camp Auschwitz’ sweatshirt identified as Virginia man” (JPost.com, January 11, 2021), it is clear that antisemitic and racist mobs have been incited by Donald J. Trump. The outgoing president’s ability to attract and steer certain unfortunate groups of uneducated, desperate and gullible followers is steeped in American social history, and its symptoms have had a direct influence on misguided foreign policy.
As politicians iron out the possible ramifications of impeaching the president for an unprecedented second time, long-term issues complicating the rehabilitation of trust in the democratic process will be examined for decades to come, and solutions will not be easily implemented. It will be difficult to subdue the white supremacist and insurrectionist mentalities that arose in response to federal efforts during Reconstruction after the Civil War and have persisted until today.
The continued legality of neo-Nazi organizations is just as hard to understand, and contemporary efforts to delegitimize them and their ideologies seem insufficient, if not futile. Social media removed whatever barriers there were between agitators and their followers. The recent riots in Washington, DC, are being examined in every major world capital. Unfortunately, different lessons will be being learned by those whom Trump once referred to as “very fine people on both sides.”
The Middle East is just one arena in which US diplomatic pressures exhibited naivety regarding negotiating with hard-line extremists. This problem is a result of US foreign policy reflecting the internal reluctance of American civil society to publicly tackle America’s own tarnished legacies. Those include the endurance of post-Civil War “Southern pride” and the legal acceptance of Nazis into the country after the Second World War.
Both inadequacies have only exasperated the determination and abrasiveness of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and fascist “militias.” Post-war Germany and Japan were forced to address their Nazi and imperial pasts, reexamine their social and economic structures, and denounce their former leaders. This process included reorientation of their educational systems and the reaffirmation of mainstream political thought. Despite immediate short-term efforts, the United States never underwent as comprehensive a transformation after the Civil War in its reunification with the rebellious South.
In recent years we have indeed been witnessing accelerating change within the public sphere in, for example, the dismantling of Confederate symbols and the growing critique of history textbooks. Such activities have almost always stemmed from grassroots initiatives, pushed on by changing demographics and economic landscapes, rather than be caused by the insurrectionist behavior of self-proclaimed “patriots.”
Although the forceful imposition of the US on Japan and Germany brought forth decades of relative calm and prosperity to those countries, America’s lack of introspection regarding its own past has reflected poorly in the post-Cold War era. This is especially true in light of America’s renewed rivalry with Russia and an ever-rising China, and in relation to the Middle East after the so-called “Arab Spring.”
TO HER CREDIT, former Republican secretary of state Condoleezza Rice has condemned the storming of the US Capitol, describing it as “a flagrant violation of the rule of law and an assault on the democratic process that was underway.” The US, she added, “has long been an example to countries around the world for our commitment to democracy and the peaceful transfer of power.”
There is no doubt that Rice has been a good friend to Israel and to the Jewish community at large. Her contributions to academia and global politics are unquestioned. And her efforts during the administration of president George W. Bush in trying to facilitate peace between Israel and the Palestinians were substantial. Nonetheless, it is striking how Rice, an Alabama native raised in the racially segregated South, would later express surprise at the Hamas victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections.
This process was sanctioned by the Americans and Europeans alike, with the explicit hope, however naive, of assisting Hamas adopt moderate policies and contributing to the administration of civil institutions, despite Israeli warnings about Hamas being unwilling to lay down its arms. In other words, the inability to minimize extremism in the US in the second half of the 20th century allowed separatists in other regions to flourish in the 21st.
Freedom of speech is a basic human right. However, the tolerance of intolerance breeds hate and violence toward the very institutions that protect that right.
Regarding a 2018 attempt by Hamas rioters to infiltrate Israel on the Gaza border, Prof. Alan Dershowitz wrote, “The border attack and attempted invasion of Israel by Hamas was anything but a peaceful protest. It was a lynch mob.... Many in the public seem all too eager to be deceived because Hamas has succeeded in portraying themselves as the civil rights demonstrators protesting against the Israeli Ku Klux Klan. But in reality, the roles are reversed. Hamas is the Ku Klux Klan, violently rioting to break down the protective barrier so they can lynch innocent Jewish children and other civilians, the way the Klan lynched innocent black citizens.”
Let’s hope that Dershowitz will refrain from using his legal prowess and intellectual capabilities to defend those who incited the mobs and KKK sympathizers who claimed to be peaceful protesters and disenfranchised victims of a “stolen election.”
Like Hamas rioters on the Gaza border, the “Make America Great Again” insurrectionists trampled barriers to express their frustration. Less innocent, however, was the clear intention of invading the Capitol to lynch Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and other democratically elected officials.
American foreign influence is not only a result of official policy, it is dependent on the reputation of the country’s strength and character. As these words are being written, security forces are re-examining the physical safety of government buildings and official residences. More frightening is whether the foundations of democratic procedures and institutions are being bolstered or undermined.