The largest massacre of Jews in American history just took place. The graves have cooled and national attention is moving on. The absences in Squirrel Hill are frozen in the minds of their community. So are the absences in Louisville and Tallahassee.
As the bodies of assassins are identified or tried, the true culprit is at large, as it has been for the entire history of the United States. Far from being the inspiration of an isolated “maniac,” it thrives on collective responsibility and inflicts violence in insidious and dispersed ways.
Locating anti-Semitism is critical, and the midterms have not allayed it. Tens of thousands voted for neo-Nazi Arthur Jones, Steve King will remain in Congress, and Mark Harris, an unequivocal anti-Semite and Islamophobe, won his contest in my home state of North Carolina. For King and Harris, who saw competitive races, there was not a peep from the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Beyond what tools we have at our disposal to defend ourselves, we must confront most impactful forms of anti-Semitism and the structures that maintain them. We must recognize how anti-Semites hide themselves in the woodwork, which requires challenging political cynicism in our own communities.
Many in our ranks, such as the RJC, participate in the most cynical of tradeoffs: Politicians make a token of genuine support for Israel and prominent Jewish figures look the other way.
We have relatives who made this pact with the devil, giving Trump their vote for his pro-Netanyahu stance (25 percent of Jews voted thus). The Adelsons made a maximum donation to Mark Harris’ campaign, despite his wish that all Jews receive Christ. In part, I think the more naive think themselves protected by euphemisms such as “globalist,” as Jared Kushner did when he defended Trump’s Hippler-reminiscent final campaign ad.
In general, the entire Christian support for Israel is predicated on an anti-Semitic belief that Jews must control biblical Israel in order to fight for Christ. The tolerance of the biggest pro-Israel lobbying movement is a cynical toleration of those whose hatred for Jews is only surpassed by a hatred for Muslims and Satan.
And there is no one who gets it more than evangelical wunderkind Charlie Kirk, who proudly lectured a rabbi on Judaism and proceeded to defend this blatant anti-Semitism by proclaiming support for Israel. This cynicism is profound, and is a self-justifying part of the global shift to xenophobic politics. Look no further than Ben Shapiro’s vindication of notorious racist and anti-Semite Ann Coulter, all for her pro-Israel stance.
Now, Ben Shapiro is a bit of an absurdist clown: He believes Jews without contemporary pro-Israel politics, or simply liberal leanings, aren’t Jews at all. But he is indicative of a devil’s bargain whose contract requires a more profound sin than simply tolerating anti-Semitism. Shapiro’s vindication of Coulter, and more importantly Steve King, is one of many cases of strange bedfellows in the current “anti-globalist” climate.
Most Jews don’t have short memories, and it is for that which we paid the price in Pittsburgh. Jews can see their silhouette in the cyclical disgust for immigrants and it is no coincidence the victimized synagogue worked with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. George Soros, a Holocaust survivor, has such a functional memory and for that he is the target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories tolerated by Netanyahu and propagated by his son’s predilection for neo-Nazi memes.
As we point out the seldom-challenged forms of anti-Semitism in the US, we must reply to the whataboutisms of Farrakhan. Farrakhan doesn't scare me, but I will defer to the pens of James Baldwin and Adam Serwer.
We must punish the sleights of hand of the GOP. As if on cue, Sarah Huckabee Sanders waved the typical defense against Trump’s culpability in fanning the flames of anti-Semitism. As Mike Pence and losing candidate Lena Epstein did by inviting a Messianic Jew to eulogize people he believes are damned for hell. As the Metropolitan GOP club did for celebrating a political assassination with an alt-right gang (and earlier hosting Ann Coulter).
We must also decry the bipartisan cynicism of Israeli politicians who exploited the Pittsburgh martyrs for political gain. As the opposition leader did to pressure Jews to make Aliyah. As the Likud diasporic minister did when he schmoozed in the wake of the shooting and defended Trump.
It is also telling where the priorities of pro-Israel voices in the United States are. Right-wing rabbi Shmuley Boteach wasted no time in connecting the Pittsburgh massacre with criticism of Israel. The Israeli ambassador to the United States did the same to sully domestic advocates for Palestine. As Forward reports, on the heels of the shooting Cory Booker and various organizations began to drum up support for the Israel Anti-Boycott Act.
Given well-documented limits to policing’s ability to fight anti-Semitism, it’s up to us to keep each other safe. Without discussing the merits of armed community self-defense, there are ways to fight back the threat of white extremism. The main democratic institutions in monitoring the far-right are Philly Antifa (they outed the neo-Nazi who lived within blocks of the Hillel), the One People’s Project, the ADL, the SPLC, and ProPublica (which exposed the group linked to the murder of our own Blaze Bernstein).
Jews straddle the eroded precipice of whiteness, with one hand reaching into its abyss. It is necessary to name the system of white supremacy of which anti-Semitism is one face. When we leave the crosshairs, someone else takes our place. It is this straddling that subjects us to international crossfire. We know the soul of the stranger, having been strangers in Egypt for so long. And no cynicism or bargains or bullets should make us compromise the convictions of our memory.
CARL-EMMANUEL FULGHIERI is a College senior from Carrboro, N.C. studying economics and philosophy. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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