On October 27th, a man opened fire at a Jewish Temple in the Square Hill area of Pittsburgh. 11 people died but a small Jewish community of 50,000 will forever live with the trauma.
The shooter, Robert Bowers, was an active member on Gab, a popular social media site among white supremacist. He had posted several anti-Jew posts touting the conspiracy that Jews controlled America. Just hours before the shooting, he posted ‘screw your optics, I’m going in’.
He had grievances with the Trump administration. Unlike most of us, his contention was that Trump was not far-right enough. Claiming that Jews controlled Trump, he said that draining the swamp was no longer possible and that there was no MAGA. A few of his posts also blamed Jews for the diminishing white majority in America by bringing in Muslim refugees.
He was not a Trump supporter and claimed that he did not vote for him. The voting registration for Robert Bowers also makes no mention of his party affiliation. But his ideology was certainly right wing. Jews faced the ire of his posts but among other things, he agreed with the now mainstream GOP views on immigration, tribalism, and guns.
For too long now, the mainstream has ignored people like Robert Bowers, who overwhelmingly tend to be on the right. No matter how innocuous their criticism of the state of Israel, it is the leftist politicians that usually face the baseless accusations of anti-semitism.
Right wingers like Steve King voice their support for Israel and then take trips to Europe to meet Austrian Neo-Nazis. The media do not pay as much attention to that as criticism by Jeremy Corbyn on the Israeli bombing of Palestinian civilians.
So despite harboring and propping up Neo-Nazism, right wing’s vociferous support for Israel shuts down any and all claims of anti-Semitism against them. But the left’s legitimate criticism of the policies of Israel is branded as anti-Semitic.
Right-wing talk show hosts such as Glenn Beck and Alex Jones, with largely Republican audiences, have been feeding these theories to people like Robert Bowers for years. Beck on his radio show a few years ago read out a list of the ‘intelligent minority’ that controlled the nation. 7 out of 8 of the people he mentioned were Jewish. How is that any different from what Robert Bowers believed?
Not only that, Beck from his days on Fox incited violence against the state and Democrats. The media did not pay 1/10th of attention to that as they did to Corbyn’s criticism of the Israeli state. Because Glenn Beck gives talks in front of pro-Israeli crowds and falsely claims that a star of David on the back of the dollar bill signifies the reason for America’s existence, his anti-Semitism is ignored.
By comparison, there is not one serious and respected leftist commentator that spews anti-Jewish venom as Beck and Jones do.
The mainstream media is not against anti-Semitism per se. It is the criticism of Israel that bothers them since it harms American interests in the Middle East. The non-interventionist rightists support Israel just so Jesus could return and condemn Jews to an eternity of suffering (except around 144,000).
Orthodox Jews who live by the Torah can feel alienated when the leftist leaders criticize Israel. But there is no basis to label criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. Part of the reason they feel alienated is that only recently the leaders have grown the spine to call a spade a spade.
The Palestinian state has now been reduced to cantons ruled by self-serving terrorist regimes. There is no moral reason to stay quiet about the atrocities anymore. As the plight of Palestinians gets highlighted by leaders like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, orthodox Jews will come to view Israel separate from its’ government.
Ever since the US and Iran fell out in 1979 following the toppling of the US-backed Shah regime, Iran has been demonized in the Western media. Iran is brutal and evil, there is no question about it but the danger their leaders pose is to the Iranian people, not the United States. Muslims do not feel alienated due to anti-Iran coverage, in part because they do not identify with the regimes they live under.
Following Saudi Arabia’s brutal war in Yemen, repression of their citizens, and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Muslims are taking a stance against Muhammad bin Salman. Doing so means they might never be allowed to visit the holiest sites in Islam. But they are taking a moral stance.
The vast majority of those Muslims do not feel any animosity toward the Saudi citizens but rather they sympathize with them. Over time, as the plight of Palestinians becomes more widely known, even orthodox Jews will feel a certain affinity for them due to their own history of living under repression.
We are already seeing this phenomenon in play through protests against Israel by the Jewish people including the Rabbis.
To tackle the ideology that feeds the hatred and bigotry in people like Robert Bowers, we need to stop letting the legitimate criticism of Israel overwhelm the rightist propaganda when talking about the threat of anti-Semitism.
Unequivocal support for Israeli government does not qualify as evidence against the claims of anti-Semitism. We should be able to criticize the state policies of Israel without being accused of maligning Jews everywhere just like we can criticize Saudi Arabia for Jamal Khashoggi’s death without maligning all Muslims.
While conflating the criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism serves the far-right government of Israel, it serves no one else.