Politicizing the Massacre of Eleven Pittsburgh Jews Must Stop
This past Saturday, the Jewish day of rest, a middle-aged man burst into a baby-naming service at a Pittsburgh synagogue. What followed was the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history. Eleven men and women, who had come only to celebrate and pray, were gunned down, their blood pooling around their scattered prayer books. A heroic team of local police officers charged the Shul under heavy fire. Though many sustained severe injuries, the massacre was finally brought to an end. The gunman was captured and should, in my opinion, face the death penalty.
In the days since the attack, President Trump has unequivocally condemned the slaughter as an “antisemitic act of pure evil.” The president declared “the widespread persecution of Jews” to be “one of the ugliest and darkest features of human history,” and one that he vowed to fight. “It will take all of us working together to extract the poison of antisemitism from our world,” the president went on, asking Americans to “unite to conquer hate.”
The shooter, 46-year-old Robert Bowers, announced his arrival at the synagogue by screaming “all Jews must die.” He allegedly later told police officers that Jews were committing “genocide against his people.” Pretty ironic that. A racist Jew-hater claiming the Jews are guilty of genocide just one week before the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
On social media, Bowers had frequently attacked not only Jews but President Trump for his closeness to Jews, to whom he referred in the most grotesque terms. “Trump is surrounded by k****,” the rancid killer lamented, “there is no #MAGA as long as there is a k*** infestation.”
Despite these facts, however, many people have come close to blaming Trump for the shooting. Joe Biden, widely expected to run for the presidency in 2020, seemed to do so when he tweeted, apparently to the president, that “words matter” and “silence is complicity.” Famed economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman suggested that Trump was to blame, at least in part. Speaking sarcastically, Krugman tweeted a link to the story with the caption, “but none of the white supremacist terrorism has anything to do with Trump, oh no.” The Washington Post, also, featured an op-ed on its homepage titled “How Culpable is Trump for the Shooting?” The author of that piece, GQ’s Julia Ioffe, tweeted “a word to [her] fellow American Jews: This president makes this possible. Here. Where you live. I hope the embassy move over there, where you don’t live was worth it.”
To politicize the murder of 11 Jews — let alone the worst antisemitic attack on American soil in our nation’s history — is lamentable. Antisemitism and its tragic incarnation in this devastating attack are caused by those who actually hate Jews and call for violence against them. Sadly, there has never been a monopoly on antisemitism. It stems from both the extreme left and the extreme right.
It was the hard left that first accused the Jewish state of genocide and the IDF of being the Gestapo, and they have for years depicted Israel and the Jews within it as oppressors and murderers who deserve the waves of terror that they are repeatedly forced to endure. Witness Jew-haters like Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who just last week employed the worst Nazi verbiage by calling Jews “termites,” directly implying the need for their extermination.
We dare not forget Students for Justice in Palestine, who hold tributes to terrorist “martyrs,” such as Dalal Mughrabi, who carried out the greatest antisemitic attack in Israel’s history, murdering 38 Israelis, seven of whom were under the age of six.
Then we could point to the extreme right and the growing number of neo-Nazi filth who marched in Charlottesville to the chant of “Jews will not replace us.” We could certainly blame the festering scourge of white-supremacist scum, who have increasingly turned to violence to express their hate-riddled thoughts.
Both extreme left and extreme right have shown horrible strains of antisemitism.
We must also blame nations like Iran that openly call for and fund violence against Jews across the world. We must also point to those who’ve offered them support. I will not politicize the murder of 11 Jews, so I will not point fingers or name parties. But dare not forget that the Iran nuclear agreement was negotiated by the United States all while the mullahs threatened Israel with complete annihilation. Will those who negotiated it expect us to overlook their agreement with Iran, despite the nation’s funding and execution of arguably the deadliest antisemitic attack in modern history at the AMIA Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, which left 85 dead and hundreds more wounded? Do the parties who were in power then assume we will forget that it insisted on forking over billions of dollars in cash to this international standard-bearer for antisemitism, while never once condemning those mullahs for their unspeakable sins in both word and action?
As a Jew I am extremely grateful to President Trump for the unparalleled support he has shown Israel in the Oval Office. But that did not stop me from publicly and strongly criticizing the president for his failure to insufficiently condemn the white supremacists in Charlottesville. There was nothing but evil on the neo-Nazi side.
But if we are to criticize serious failure, as we must, then we must similarly laud significant success.
In defending Israel, Trump has exceeded our expectations.
He and his soon-departing Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley brought the fight for Israel at the UN to the highest bar yet. He moved the American embassy to the Jewish people’s eternal capital in Jerusalem, which neither Bush nor Obama did, despite the latter’s promises to do so in 2008.
President Trump has already made the decision to remove our nation from the disastrous nuclear agreement signed with Iran, which he called out as a “rogue state.” As we speak, his administration continues its work to reenact sanctions and clear a way out of the Iran deal, not only for our own nation but for our allies in Europe and across the world.
President Trump also signed into law the Taylor Force Act, which finally sought to put an end to the Palestinian Authority’s sadistic practice of handing out actual monetary rewards to those who have killed Jews. Believe it or not, throughout the Obama administration, the Palestinian Authority was giving out enormous sums to those serving prison sentences for murdering or attempting to murder Jews in Israel. In the last year, the Palestinian Authority allocated over $315 million — or eight percent of its entire overall budget — to their outrageous system of terrorist welfare. All this from the hundreds of millions of dollars the PA receives annually from the United States in foreign aid — or received, considering Trump has finally begun to cut it.
In fact, if Robert Bowers had been a Palestinian and his eleven victims Jews living in Israel, he and his family would have been collecting their terror-pension for the rest of their lives. And until the passing of the Taylor Force Act, would have thanked us for the cash.
Ultimately, though, what makes the accusations of antisemitism against Trump especially unfair is the fact that beyond just having Jewish friends and associates, he is the first president of the United States to have Jewish children and grandchildren.
Even Trump’s worst enemies would admit that he loves and deeply cherishes his daughter Ivanka, who is herself an Orthodox Jew. He supported her decision to join the Jewish people through the strictest processes of conversion, before throwing her a kosher wedding. Through his daughter, Trump now has three Jewish grandchildren who attend Jewish schools. His son-in-law Jared Kushner and Ivanka regularly attend synagogue themselves.
For Trump, the looming threats facing Jewish community centers have become, if anything, entirely personal.
As yet more Jewish blood is absorbed into the earth, we cannot allow these events to be sharpened into spears to be hurled against political opponents. That would only deepen the divides within a nation that desperately needs to heal. We must instead take a moment to reflect upon who are the ones truly spreading hateful gospels against the Jewish people, and do everything in our power to ensure that they are weakened, silenced, and eventually brought down.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is founder of the World Values Network, a leading organization defending Israel and the Jewish people in global media. His most recent book is The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley