Yesterday, Bret Stephens – Jewish and conservative opinion writer for the New York Times – wrote about how Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric is partially responsible for creating a universe where a right wing terrorist like Robert Bowers was empowered to seek out and murder Jewish worshipers.
What bothered me most about the column is that Stephens defended his thesis by saying that one must use accurate, plain language and not euphemisms:
Maybe we should refer to Saturday’s massacre of 11 Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue, along with the campaign of mail bombs that preceded it, as “man-caused disasters.”
That was the euphemism then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano used in lieu of the word “terrorism” during congressional testimony in 2009. Conservatives like me never let her live it down. How can you address a problem if you won’t even call it by its proper name?
Conservatives objected again when President Obama went to great lengths to use the acronym ISIL or ISIS instead of Islamic State, lest there be any association between a religion and the barbaric deeds carried out in its name. And we objected a third time when liberals tried to suggest that personal derangement, not Islamist sympathies, explained acts like Omar Mateen’s 2016 rampage at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.
So conservatives should be just as clear about what we saw last week. There is no reason to think that Pittsburgh shooter Robert Bowers and alleged Florida mail bomber Cesar Sayoc are “deranged.” There is every reason to believe their acts are politically motivated. They are not “crazies” in the category of Gabrielle Giffords shooter Jared Lee Loughner. They are terrorists in the class of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, or Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter.
To call them anything else is to engage in the same evasive wordplay for which conservatives once scolded liberals. And it’s no less evasive to avoid drawing conclusions about the political basis of these acts.
I agree with everything but I’m not so certain about the last sentence.
If Stephens wants to call things as they are, then why does he take pains not to call this attack antisemitic, and instead apply its reasons to a rightist political viewpoint?
Let’s talk plainly: When one targets and kills Jews, it is because he hates Jews. It isn’t because of immigration or political power or controlling the banks or because Jews are Christ-killers. Those are excuses, and it is very dangerous to give credence to the excuses as if they are valid.
The murderer hated immigration, but he didn’t murder immigrants – he murdered elderly Jews at prayer.
Attacking Jews because they support immigration is like attacking Jews because they support Israel, or because they support capitalism, or because they support socialism, or because they act different, or because they try to integrate. Taking away the excuse won’t stop the hate.
The Jew haters are Jew-haters first and foremost. They twist that hatred into whatever is trendy to hate in the circles they already inhabit.
In my recent research of anti-Zionism in academic papers, the trend is so clear as to almost be comical. Anything that is considered evil by the leftist writers is assigned to Israel ex post facto no matter what the facts: colonialism, racism, misogyny, terrorism. In one paper I saw the author argue that Israel’s giving full citizenship to Palestinians is a way to oppress them. Others argue that the IDF not raping Arab women shows their racism. An award-winning book that argues that the IDF shooting not to kill proves how much it hates Arabs.
It isn’t liberalism or even leftism that causes such unhinged thinking – it is antisemitism, garbed as anti-Zionism, that leads the thinking, and the excuses come after the fact.
There is no fact that cannot be twisted against Jews, and nothing Jews can do to stop people from hating them. Which is why looking at the political affiliation of the haters is meaningless – there is no logic to hate, and by assigning categories we implicitly say that if the circumstances were different, they wouldn’t hate Jews so much.
Jew hatred precedes the reasons given, and the reasons given are mere excuses. If Jewish refugee organization HIAS didn’t exist, Bowers would have killed Jews anyway. Making these links is, in a small way, making it easier to “understand” the “motivations” of the shooter. That is wrongheaded.
When someone so consumed with hatred of Jews gives a “logical” reason for it, why do we give it any credence? No one would take seriously a KKK member who gives “reasons” to hate black people, because the idea that blacks should be treated differently than anyone else based on what they supposedly do or believe is prima facie absurd. No one would believe it if a racist says that his racism comes from black people dominating sports, but when people say they hate Jews for dominating the media their argument is given enough of a measure of respect that we spend time refuting it.
The real reason for anti-black racism is that they are perceived as being different from the haters. And that is the only reason people hate Jews and Israel. Everything else is window dressing.
Yet everyone treats the reasons for Jew-hatred as if they are semi-legitimate excuses that must be argued against. Pointing out that Marx was baptized and the Jews were victims of Communism will not suddenly enlighten Jew-haters who claim that Jews were responsible for the deaths of 60 million people in the Soviet Union.
Giving credence to Bowers’ claims that he hates Jews because of immigration elevates the excuse and minimizes the unhinged hate.
The whole Left/Right argument over antisemitism misses the point. Jew-hatred is completely independent of the “reasons” the haters give.
Are The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion a left-wing or a right-wing talking point? It is used by both, either in its original form or when respected academics write a book called “The Israel Lobby.” It is pure antisemitism and the “arguments” of hidden Jewish/Zionist control of the nexuses of power appeal to extremists and haters of all political wings.
We can learn about today’s antisemitism by looking at history.
Here is an excerpt from a popular antisemitic tract published in England in 1703 that argued that Jews should again be expelled from not only England but from all of Christiandom:
We can look at this 18th century antisemitism and recognize it now for the hate it was then. We can see the lies. It is obvious that the antisemites were making up and spreading calumnies to gain more haters to their cause.
That’s what is happening today as well. From all sides.
I do want to be clear: there is a responsibility by the people who create environments where Jew-hatred is considered acceptable. That is what is happening on the Left in academia with the bizarre anti-Zionist “research” that keeps trying to find more and more reasons to hate Israel, and it happens in the cesspools of the extremist Right websites. There is such a thing as incitement to hating Jews among the Left, the Right, among Christians and Muslims and even among some Jews themselves. There is no shortage of people who are more than willing to believe anything that can make them feel better about themselves by demonizing others. Weak-minded people do follow crowds, and in that sense we must of course fight the toxic environments that can foster such thinking.
But it isn’t politics or ideology that creates Jew-hatred. The hate is deep within the hater first and foremost, and the justifications happen afterwards. Don’t elevate the “reasons” given for the hatred because that gives the reasons legitimacy.
Hating Jews (or any other ethnic or racial group) is disgusting, full stop. Saying that Pittsburgh proves something about “the other side” waters down the horror of the reality. Antisemitism needs to be attacked directly, and its philosophy of hate must be treated contemptuously.
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