On the L’Simcha Massacre: Another Dark Chapter in the History of American Anti-Semitism


The aftermath of the Tree of Life massacre, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

It has been just over a week since a neo-Nazi walked into a synagogue and opened fired on the congregants of the L’Simcha who were there celebrating the ancient rite of the bris; a ritual that Jewish men have gone through for centuries. Since then there have been a multitude of responses from the Jewish community within the U.S., the Trump Administration, and the nation at large.

Some gun stores are offering free arms for Rabbinim wanting to protect their congregants and Jewish holy spaces. Predictably, Trump responded to the massacre by taking to Twitter, announcing that his government would combat anti-Semitism and that America as a nation needed to come together to “stop the hate.” The murderer, Robert Bowers, age 46, has pleaded “not guilty” to the crimes he committed.

The response from the Jewish community has been a quick mobilization against white nationalism and anti-Semitism, and groups have used this momentum to push forward with other campaigns such as support for the refugees seeking to enter the U.S. in the coming weeks. But within the context of all of this, most of the discussion has been about how such violence could happen in the first place, and whom is truly responsible.

The media has been quick to dub Bowers as a “disturbed lone wolf” and proceeded with their usual protocol of stripping right-wing terrorists of all politics and social convictions. But if this were the case, it naturally begs the question: “why is this continuing to happen?” Such acts of violent anti-Semitism are not new – it was only four years ago on April 13th, 2014, during the Obama era, that the former leader of the White Patriot Party (formerly Carolina Knights of the KKK), Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., 73, walked into Overland Park Jewish Community Centre armed with a Remington shotgun and pistol and opened fire, killing a 14-year-old child, his 69-year-old grandfather, and a 53-year-old occupational therapist who worked at the facility.

On January 10th, 2018, the body of 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein was found in a shallow makeshift grave with over 20 stab wounds. It would later be revealed that he had been lured to his death by a member of the Atomwaffen Division – a Nazi terrorist organization – who was caught by the FBI for trying to obtain uranium for the purposes of making “dirty bombs” and who was responsible for 5 murders in eight months between 2017 and 2018.

Only a month later, a Nazi with a swastika carved on his rifle entered Stoneman Douglas High School, a the predominately Jewish school in a Jewish community, and opened fire, killing 17 students and faculty members while injuring 17 more. After this massacre at Parkland, it was revealed that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, then 19, was an active neo-Nazi whose social media pages were littered with anti-Semitic ramblings and conspiracy theories, some of which involved George Soros.

In yet another incident of violent anti-Semitism, a week before the L’Simcha massacre, 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc mailed pipe bombs to George Soros, several prominent Democratic politicians, and vocal critics of Trump. Known as “the MAGA bomber,” Sayoc was primarily motivated by the conspiracy theories about Soros which originated on the political right, and have since become endorsed by prominent Republicans, including Trump himself.

Since taking office, not only has Trump officially endorsed the Sorosian conspiracy theory within the last two weeks, but it was also revealed in 2017 that Trump had suggested that Jews in the U.S. were creating “false flag” scenarios to frame members of the political right-wing. This was seen again when Trump originally claimed that the “MAGA bomber” was a hoax, and a false flag designed to botch Republican efforts to hold on to political gains in the mid-term elections.

In Illinois we saw a real actual Nazi, Arthur Jones, former leader of the American Nazi Party, run on the GOP ticket, win a primary, and obtain 20,000 votes. Likewise we have seen numerous anti-Semites, white nationalists, and Nazis run under the Republican Party with varying levels of success. Milquetoast rebukes from the Republican establishment notwithstanding, the party itself has not lifted a finger to halt this phenomenon. Several Republicans, both politicians and rank-and-file members, have even defended Nazis, fascists, neo-Confederates, and other reactionaries that have staged widespread demonstrations of violence and intimidation where the police often worked with the so called “alt-right” against anti-racist/fascist counter-demonstrators. In Seattle earlier this year, the police fired live explosives into a dense crowd of anti-racist/fascist counterprotesters, one of which nearly killed a counterprotester who was lucky enough to have been wearing a helmet at the time and had to be hospitalized afterward. Doctors remarked they were fortunate to be alive.

Notably, a Republican candidate for state senator in Connecticut, Ed Charamut, was distributing propaganda which portrays his Democratic opposition, Mike Lesser, (who is Jewish), as the “money grubbing Jew” trope, holding wads of money with a crazed look in his eyes.

Similarly, the U.S. government’s international broadcasting agency, U.S. Agency for Global Media, is currently under internal investigation after one of its stations, Radio Television Martí (which describes itself as “promoting American ideals, and values” via its broadcasts to Cuba), aired a 15-minute piece detailing the conspiracy theories surrounding George Soros, referring to him explicitly as the “millionaire Jew.” This means the American government under Trump is directly responsible for American government agencies airing anti-Semitic propaganda.

The hyper-fixation on Jewish business and political dealings is nothing new; it has been a constant feature in American political discourse throughout the country’s history. Jews have been blamed by the political right for a whole variety of things, whether it be the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, desegregation, the rise of Communism and militant labor politics.

Likewise, outside of its narrative manifestations, structural anti-Semitism has been observed several times throughout American history, such as the General Order No. 11 issued by Ulysses S. Grant, which demanded that all Jews under his military jurisdictions in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi be expelled from these areas under the unfounded conspiracy theory that Jewish merchants were working with the Confederacy.

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries leading up to the 1960s, American colleges such as Harvard had formal “Jewish quotas” which limited the number of students admitted to the school. Yale for example accepted only 76 Jewish applicants out of a pool of 501 in 1935. The celebrated physicist and Nobel laureate Richard P. Feynman ended up attending MIT as a result of being turned away from Columbia College in the 1930s.

We have also seen American news outlets such as the New York Times play a direct ideological role in the history of American anti-Semitism. During its coverage of the 1902 Kosher Meat Boycott, where the price of kosher meats was driven up so high by meat industry monopolies during the ‘Gilded Age’ that Jewish consumers, most of whom were working class, couldn’t afford kosher meat products, the price of kosher meat went from ¢12 to ¢18 per pound. Jewish butchers then organized boycotts in an attempt to try to drive down the price of meats.

On May 15th, 1902, mass demonstrations were held, primarily being led by Jewish women, which the press reported as numbering 20,000. This was met with swift state repression by the police. 85 Jewish protesters were arrested, 70 of whom were Jewish women. When covering this, the New York Times did nothing but further fan the flames of violent anti-Semitism by labeling the protesters, and in particular the women leading the demonstrations as a “dangerous class.”

In 1913, factory superintendent Leo Max Frank was wrongfully convicted of the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan in what would prove to be a show trial. In 1915, Leo Frank was allegedly “kidnapped” from prison by an armed group of “anonymous” men who later lynched him after the governor of Georgia, John Slack, commuted Frank’s sentence from the death penalty to life in prison. Later it was found that the architects of his murder included former governors, lawyers, mayors, and so on, who carefully selected 28 men to perform specific functions related to their vocations with the murder plot. These included car mechanics, electricians, a lay preacher, telephone man, locksmith, medic, and an executioner.

Even in one of America’s proudest moments, the victory of the Allied powers in World War II, Jews were again subject to structural anti-Semitism by the U.S. military who continued the brutalizations and debasement of Jewish Holocaust victims during the Allied occupation of the liberated territories, as detailed in Robert L Hillard’s work Surviving the Americans. Interestingly enough, IBM’s involvement in materially aiding the Nazis during the Holocaust, Henry Ford’s close relationship with Hitler, and other such histories aren’t present in a lot of schoolhouse textbooks either.

In the historical record, the many dark chapters of American anti-Semitism are laid bare. Objectively, examining the history of Jews within the United States, one can only conclude the American anti-Semitism is part and parcel to American ideology as reflected in its own history and, also, in its current state as we speak. It is the institutional power structures and cultural norms within American society which made this history and present possible. Much in the same way that the latent anti-Semitism of Weimar Germany made the atrocities of the Nazis possible.

More broadly, within the first few years of the Trump presidency we have already seen a sharp increase in anti-Semitic violence. Studies have shown that there was a 60% increase in anti-Semitic violence in 2018 compared to 2017. Any student of history knows that anti-Semitism is an inherent fixture of fascism; so as we begin to observe America’s hard pivot rightward under the aspiring fascist President Trump, it is clear that we can only expect more and greater instances of violence in the years to come. Also given history, it is clear that Jewish liberation can only be achieved through the liberation of all people’s through socialist revolution. Now more than ever we must increase our efforts to organize our communities, to revive the militant left of Jewish labor, and to push forward to revolution – the Holocaust that killed 60-70% of our people within Europe is a reminder of what will happen should we fail. We have stood at the precipice of annihilation for centuries, but we must never forget, we have outlived them. We will outlive them.

Categories: Anti-Fascism, U.S. News

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