Sunday, October 28, 2018

American anti-Semitism Is Getting Worse

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Most white Americans are clueless when it comes to know what it is like to be a member of a targeted minority.  They are rarely targeted for violence or murder simply because of who they are and do not grasp the latent fear that can linger in the back of one's mind. Blacks, Hispanics, gays and Jews know only too well the dangers they face in Trump's America almost daily.  When an attack does happen, any false sense of security one may develop quickly evaporates.  The Pulse massacre in Orlando hit me and many in the LGBT community hard since it reminded us all to well that many hate us for merely existing.  Yesterday's horrific mass shooting in a synagogue  reminded American Jews that they are deemed "other" and/or a threat by white Christian extremists - even those who rarely attend church services. In the growing atmosphere of hate being generated by the White House, Republicans at many levels of government and propaganda outlets like Fox News, the likelihood that rhetoric will urn to violence is growing as made all too clear yesterday.  A column by a conservative  - and former Republican - columnist looks at the growing anti-Semiticism in America which goes hand in hand with the right's normalizing of the reprehensible.  Here are highlights:

Mass murder at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Shabbat appears to be an especially horrific hate crime. Yet we should not think this is an isolated incident, unrelated to other events in the country. The United States is among the least anti-Semitic countries in the Diaspora, a far cry from much of Western Europe and the Middle East. But anti-Semitism is on the rise in the United States, as we know from statistical and anecdotal evidence.
In February, the Anti-Defamation League released its annual report, finding that “the number of anti-Semitic incidents was nearly 60 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking incident data in the 1970s.” The report continued: “The sharp rise, reported in ADL’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row.” The ADL tabulated “1,015 incidents of harassment, including 163 bomb threats against Jewish institutions, up 41 percent from 2016; 952 incidents of vandalism, up 86 percent from 2016; and 19 physical assaults, down 47 percent from 2016.”
In Fairfax County, Va., where I reside, the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia was vandalized this month by 19 swastikas painted on the building. It was the second such incident in less than two years.
Social media has become a cesspool of anti-Semitic messages and symbols. I can say from personal experience that social media companies are less than responsive in addressing complaints and disabling accounts that traffic in such material.
Neo-Nazis marched in 2017 in Charlottesville, chanting, “Jews will not replace them.” The synagogue in Charlottesville was forced to remove its Torah scrolls for safekeeping as neo-Nazis shouted slogans across the street.
For several years now, alt-right and neo-Nazi groups have targeted college campuses to spread their hateful ideologies and recruit young people for their movements. The ADL found that white supremacist propaganda on college campuses nearly doubled in the 2017-18 school year from the year prior.”
There is, however, one particular way in which anti-Semitism is being mainstreamed in the United States and in Europe: the propagation of “blood and soil” right-wing nationalism that by definition excludes Jews (whom many nationalists do not consider white). A country defined as white and Christian, one in which foreigners and different ethnic groups are seen as “infesting” the country and diluting its true heritage, by definition casts Jews as a fifth column, as outsiders, as “the other.” Right-wing nationalism in Europe goes hand in hand with overt anti-Semitism.
Defining Jews out of the body politic — by defining “real” citizens in racial, ethnic and/or religious terms — is perhaps the most common tactic.
The Pittsburgh gunman reportedly focused his ire on the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), accusing it of funding the Central American caravan of refugees, which he dubbed “invaders.” Recently, Trump supporters and Fox News programming, following the president’s lead, have obsessed with escalating hysteria over the caravan — which is hundreds of miles from our southern border — and Trumpites have even claimed it is funded by Soros, whose name figures prominently in their conspiratorial rhetoric.
So when American politicians blame Soros for opposition to the administration, or celebrate “nationalism,” or declare the United States is a “Christian nation” (as opposed to a country in which a majority of people are Christian), they are consciously or unconsciously channeling and amplifying anti-Semitism.
No one other than the shooter is responsible for the mass murder in Pittsburgh, but there are many people — including those in public office and in digital media — contributing to the rise of the anti-Semitic sentiments the shooter allegedly shouted. If you think words — especially [Trump's] an American president’s words — don’t matter, think again.
O course, the other role the GOP played in yesterday's massacre was the continued blocking of meaningful gun controls. Statements of "thoughts and prayers" are utter bullshit.  Comprehensive gun control legislation is what would really make a difference.

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