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Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre Tops Wiesenthal Center List of 2018’s Worst Antisemitic Outrages

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Analysis

A man prays at a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Oct. 31, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Cathal McNaughton.

2018 will be remembered as the year when the word “antisemitism” became a constant feature of the global news cycle, with reports of outrages against Jewish communities around the world, many of them violent, on a near-daily basis.

Fittingly, the annual list of the top 10 anti-Jewish incidents released on Tuesday by the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) — the Los Angeles-based Jewish human rights organization — was a disturbing mix of deadly new challenges alongside the re-appearance of several well-known offenders.

Unsurprisingly, the SWC placed the Oct. 27 massacre of 11 Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue at the top of its 2018 list. The most lethal attack on Jews in the history of the US was carried out by a neo-Nazi gunman, Robert Bowers, who entered the city’s Tree of Life synagogue brandishing an assault rifle and three handguns while screaming “All Jews must die!”

Addressing the national sense of bewilderment that American Jews would be the target of an unprecedented atrocity like the one in Pittsburgh, the SWC asked: “Why now?”

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The group continued: “With hate crimes on the rise in the U.S., including a 57 percent rise in antisemitic incidents, the shooting in Pittsburgh illustrates the dangers of a society in which openly espousing hatred and intolerance on social media — and in the real world — are no longer taboo.”

In a further acknowledgement of rising antisemitism in America, the veteran Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan — who last made the SWC’s top-10 list in 2012 — came in at number two this year, while the spate of swastikas appearing on US college campuses appeared at number three.

Charging the 85-year-old Farrakhan with “deploying Nazi propaganda,” the SWC highlighted the NoI chief’s “slanderous attack” in an October speech comparing Jews with “termites.”

“Throughout the 1930s, before the Holocaust, Nazi propaganda serially demonized Jews as vermin and rats, seeking to dehumanize German Jews in the eyes of their neighbors,” the SWC said. “In May, Farrakhan lost his Twitter account status after ranting about ‘satanic Jews’ during a three-hour speech. Despite all this and Farrakhan’s screaming ‘Death to America’ during a visit to Iran, he received a seat of honor in August at the funeral of Aretha Franklin, near former President Bill Clinton. The vile Farrakhan continues to draw accolades from the founders of the Women’s March on Washington, many elected officials and members of the entertainment community.”

British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn — who is fast becoming a fixture of the SWC’s annual list, having first appeared in 2015 — came in at number four. Corbyn was accused of being “directly responsible” for the wave of antisemitism that has enveloped his party in the three years since he was elected leader.

“In July, Britain’s three leading Jewish newspapers published a joint article warning of ‘the existential threat to Jewish life in this country that would be posed by a Corbyn government,'” the SWC stated. “A poll conducted at the end of summer concluded that 40% of the Jewish community would consider leaving the UK if Labour took the election.” That outcome looks increasingly possible in 2019, as the UK teeters on the edge of a disastrous exit from the European Union with no deal with Brussels in place.

Antisemitism fused with hatred of Israel was another strong theme in 2018’s list. UNRWA — the UN refugee agency dedicated to the descendants of the Palestinian refugees of Israel’s 1948 War of Independence — came in at number five, denounced by the SWC as a “de facto enabler of Hamas’ terrorist fiefdom in Gaza.” The international accommodation agency Airbnb, which enables travelers to rent short-term apartments and houses around the world, came in at number six, over its decision in November to ban listings in Israeli communities in the West Bank.

“The Wiesenthal Center is urging its 400,000 members to book their travel elsewhere,” the SWC said.

At number seven was Germany’s Bank für Sozialwirtschaft (“Bank for Social Economy”) for its continuing provision of banking services to groups supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israel. “The prominent German LGBT organization, Magnus Hirschfeld, named after a victim of the Holocaust, cancelled its account with the bank to protest the bank’s pro-BDS business,” the SWC reported. “Protests from the leadership of German Jewry have fallen on deaf ears, while two pro-Israel organizations in Germany, Keren haYesod and the Jewish National Fund, have canceled and closed accounts linked to the bank.”

Episcopalian Bishop Gayle Harris of Massachusetts was listed at number eight, after she falsely claimed last July that she had personally witnessed Israeli soldiers arresting a three-year-old Palestinian child and shooting a Palestinian teenager in the back. Harris admitted that she fabricated the incidents after being pressed by the SWC, saying that she had been “ill-advised to repeat the stories without verification.”

Sweden’s prestigious Karolinska Institute, which announces the annual Nobel Prize in Medicine, made the SWC list in 2018 at number nine for far less edifying reasons.

“The head of neurosurgery has systematically discriminated against three Jewish doctors, blocking them from helping their patients and even hindering continued research at the Institute,” the SWC said. “Two of the doctors left the hospital, fed up with the intimidation and discrimination. But when the neurosurgery department head posted blatant antisemitism on his Facebook page, the Wiesenthal Center was asked to intervene.”

The SWC added that despite a meeting between Rabbi Abraham Cooper, its associate dean, and the hospital’s CEO, “the scandal remains unresolved after 11 months.”

Coming at number ten was another familiar figure — the former Pink Floyd bassist and vocalist Roger Waters, arguably the most well-known musician promoting the BDS campaign.

“Waters, whose signature pig (adorned with a Star of David) floats above his concerts across Europe, was confronted by protesters in Latin and South America,” the SWC stated. “He continues to pressure fellow entertainers to boycott the Jewish state.”

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