On Wednesday and Thursday last week, two Jewish men in Los Angeles were shot shortly after leaving their synagogues following morning prayers. A man has been arrested, and police are investigating the shootings as hate crimes.
There are no “isms” as persistent and persistently ignorant as anti-Semitism. For about two thousand years, gentiles have looked to the Jewish community for scapegoats to blame for their ills and personal shortcomings.
Basically, they have looked for any excuse to attack Jews – mostly with impunity. Pogroms and expulsions blot European history from long before the genocidal intentions of Hitler and his nazis.
And anti-Semitism persists. Those “fine folks” Donald Trump praised at Charlottesville were white nationalist klanazis, whose anti-Jewish sentiment remains a cornerstone of their ignorance. Aside from grifting self-aggrandizement, racism of every variety has been the most dominant of Trump’s divisive doctrines.
The results were predictable. Shortly after he left office, Ian Reifowitz reported in Daily Kos, “…that when Trump emerged as the Republican nominee in 2016, the number of anti-Semitic incidents shot up, ending a fourteen-year period of decline that had begun in 2001….The numbers climbed each year through 2019, and have remained at those high levels since.”
Thus, with a president’s stochastic blessing, we get regular news stories along the line of:
• Texas synagogues cancel services after threat to Jewish community – KFOR-TV
• The Kyrie Irving/Kanye West episodes of blatant anti-Semitism last fall – with Trump inviting Ye and another anti-Semite to dine with him
• What the FBI called a “broad threat” to New Jersey synagogues – ABC News
• “two men, one with nazi armband, accused of making threats to attack New York synagogue” – CNN
• “63-year-old hurt in anti-Semitic attack in Central Park” – ABC News
• ”Hanukkah has become a ‘frightening time’ for many Jews in a polarized U.S.” –NPR
• “Dozens of Atlanta residents in mostly Jewish neighborhoods woke up to anti-Semitic fliers Sunday” – Daily Kos
Unfortunately, much of the anti-Semitism polluting this country comes from alleged Christians – seldom as blatant as klanazis, more often with subtle, exclusionary dog whistles. (Nudge/nudge; wink/wink.)
On election night Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt prated:
“Father, we just claim Oklahoma for You. Every square inch, we claim it for You in the name of Jesus….[With] the authority that I have as governor, and the spiritual authority and the physical authority that You give me, I claim Oklahoma for You, and we will be a light to our country and to the world, right here.”
Stitt and others, including Oklahoma’s anti-education School Supt. Ryan Walters, embrace the big lie of Christian nationalism that this country was founded on fundamentalist Christian beliefs – by those same deistic leaders branded as atheists in their own time.
Full disclosure: my ancestry DNA test revealed a one percent admixture Eastern European Jewishness. Talk about disappointed. If that trace had been Sephardic instead of Ashkenazi, I could have claimed a closer kinship with Benedict Spinoza, whose Nature/God equivalency was at the heart of the United States’ deistic founders’ beliefs.
The religio-fascist bigotry among Christian nationalists makes second-class citizens (ala Stitt’s proclamation) of all who disagree with their beliefs. And it offers legitimacy to anti-Semites everywhere.
When former Trump acolyte Nikki Haley announced her run for the presidency, the invocation at the event was offered by John Hagee, who claims, as Huffington Post points out, “that a God-sent Adolf Hitler was tasked with hunting Jewish people as part of a divine plan to send them to Israel.”
This daughter of Indian immigrants said she wants to be like Hagee when she “grows up,” obviously aware that anti-Semitism and all racism is part of Trumpista GOP dogma these days – and just as oblivious as to where her darker ancestry puts her in klanazi rolls.
Jesus was a synagogue-attending, temple-attending, Passover-observing, born Jew whose followers called him “rabbi.”
That professed Christians embrace Un-American religious bigotry (Christian nationalism is neither) reveals not only their deliberate ignorance concerning Jesus, but their perverted view of our history, whose first president, that deist George Washington, wrote to the Jewish congregation in Newport, R.I., in 1790 to assure them, “of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which 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….
“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
Can I have an “Amen?”
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)