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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The rise of anti-Semitism


A perspective in the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting

It is tough to put a tragedy in context. The nature of tragedies is they are so cruel, and in the case of Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, so evil that it is tough to even wrap one’s head around them.

When talking about Pittsburgh, we should talk about how the killer owned his guns legally and how the unhealthy political rhetoric generally contributed to this particular moment. That being said, we cannot neglect mentioning what this was on the most basic level. It was not an indiscriminate killing. It was an anti-Semitic hate crime against Jewish people.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise in the streets and online. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there was a historic sixty percent jump in anti-Semitic attacks in the United States between 2016 and 2017.

The ADL has also found that, “the online public sphere—now a primary arena for communication about American politics—has become progressively inhospitable [sic] for Jewish Americans.”

The Pittsburgh killer was right at home in anti-Semitic online spaces. On the expansively uncensored online platform, the killer published anti-Semitic screeds. While he was a far-right extremist, he was so far to the political fringe he thought all major American political figures, including President Donald Trump, were puppets in a Jewish conspiracy.

This form of anti-Semitism where Jews are international puppet masters, controlling governments and money is hundreds of years old. It is an insidious form of populism that has been played up by political figures time and time again. It is not a stretch to see it even now.

A boogeyman on the American right has become George Soros who, after escaping the Holocaust as a young Hungarian Jew, made a fortune for himself investing in the United States. He is now a large donor to left-of-center political causes in Europe and the United States.

George Soros donates a lot of money  to causes and candidates that people on the American political right detest. The Koch brothers donate a lot of money  to causes and candidates that people on the American left detest. Both sides have their rival donors, but both sides’ donors did not get a bomb in the mail last month.

Republicans and their allies have found a politically convenient target in Soros. He has been prominently featured in midterm ads, and President Trump himself said Democratic activist protesters at the Kavanaugh hearing were “Paid for by Soros and others” in an Oct. 5 tweet.

Branding Soros as a “globalist” immigrant, who is using money and influence behind the scenes might be a convenient electoral strategy, but it is completely irresponsible, playing on and stoking anti-Semitism.

This problem is not just on the right. Anti-Semitism has been and continues to be a left-wing and right-wing problem. One needs to look no further than the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, whose leader Jeremy Corbyn is slow to root out anti-Semitism in his own party. His own track record is dubious. If Corbyn is not an anti-Semite, he sure likes spending a lot of time with them.

A certain brand of political leftism, that breeds hatred of capitalism and animosity towards the state of Israel’s existence, can be quite hospitable to conspiracy mongering and anti-Semitism. It would be foolish to think that sort of leftism does not exist in the United States.

Correlation does not equal causation, but the fading of collective memory of the horrors of the Holocaust and the rise of anti-Semitic hate crimes seem inextricable. Anti-Semitism is less taboo, but it cannot be.

We do not live in the end of history. Racism, homophobia and misogyny are still very real and need to be rejected in the public square and in our own subcultures. So too must anti-Semitism.

Democrats and Republicans alike in America have the responsibility to root out and not accept anti-Semitism in their big tents. Words like “globalists” and other dog whistles need to be called out and not used by candidates and activists groups. Anti-Semitism cannot be exploited for electoral gain.

In George Washington’s letter to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island in 1790, he wrote that the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”

At  Tree of Life Synagogue on the day of the shooting, they were celebrating a bris, a sacred ceremony for Jewish boys and a celebration of new life. The shooter killed 11 people, the oldest of them being  97 years old, Rose Mallinger. This was an attack on young and old, and an attack on life itself.

It is the responsibility of all Americans, that America is a safe place for Jews, where a fully American and fully Jewish identity can be realized in safety and community. There are many more bris ceremonies that are to happen in America.

It should be every person’s solemn conviction that Jewish people born into these United States find no sanction for bigotry.

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