After New Zealand, We Must Unite American Minorities
The mass murder of innocent Muslim worshipers in the idyllic country of New Zealand by a white supremacist Islamophobe is a grave challenge to religious and racial minorities throughout the Western world.
The shooter, Brenton Tarrant, is an Australian fascist “world traveler” who visited Europe, where he was influenced by far-right and populist political parties. (He also reportedly visited Israel.) He admired Dylann Roof, who killed nine African-Americans in a church in South Carolina, hoping to start a race riot.
Tarrant’s major heroes were Anders Behring Breivik — who killed 77 people, mostly teenagers, in a 2011 terror attack on a socialist summer camp in response to a flood of Muslim refugees into Norway; and Sir Oswald Mosley, whose fascist movement violently targeted London’s Jews in the early 20th century.
In his rambling manifesto, Tarrant wrote: “A jew [sic] living in israel is no enemy of mine, so long as they do not seek to subvert or harm my people.”
This is certain to be misconstrued. A proud “racial cleanser” who advocates removing the “invaders … from European soil, regardless of where they came from. Roma, African, Indian, Turkish, Semitic or other,” Tarrant is an enemy of Diaspora Jewry — just like the marchers in Charlottesville who chanted “Jews will not replace us,” and Robert Bowers, who killed innocent Jews at a Pittsburgh synagogue last year.
Tarrant’s kind of hate will never be directed solely at one minority group. Over time, it will spread to all others.
One thing should be clear: the very worst thing we can do is allow wrong-headed politicians to play minorities against each other. We saw this happen during the recent controversy regarding Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, where Muslims and Jews were pitted against each other. We can not let that happen here.
Jewish Americans and Muslim Americans share one over-riding reality in common: both are increasingly vulnerable minorities threatened by domestic terrorists who believe in racist white supremacy, and think that Christian identity politics leave no place in America for non-Christian Americans.
A recent study indicated that the FBI expends four times the resources investigating terrorist threats emanating from the Middle East than those originating here. That must change.
Prior to the shooting, Tarrant immersed himself in conversations with extreme rightists on 4chan and 8chan, two social media platforms, and then live-streamed his murderous rampage. This also cannot be allowed to repeat itself. The time for serious action on domestic terrorism has come.
Historian Harold Brackman is coauthor with Ephraim Isaac of From Abraham to Obama: A History of Jews, Africans, African Americans (Africa World Press. 2015).