It didn’t take long.
First, before we even knew the name of the suspect, there were many people in America blaming Trump for the massacre of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. And while I did not vote for Trump and find much of his rhetoric distasteful, blaming Trump, for a dyed-in-the-wool White Supremacist going on a murderous rampage targeting Jews, makes almost as much sense as blaming Barack Obama for the murderous rampage of the White Supremacist who murdered 3 people, and tried to murder many more, at the Overland Park JCC in Kansas.
While President Obama certainly traded in some questionable rhetoric regarding the “Jewish lobby” when he was president, and Trump certainly has made questionable and regrettable comments about undocumented immigrants, the notion that two odious and obdurate White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis who virtually swam in a cesspool of racist and antisemitic propaganda were influenced to engage in mass murder by 2 politicians they: (a) hated, and (b) thought were tools of the very people they hate the most, seems to be quite a partisan stretch. For more on why such a claim is highly suspect I commend the recent article by Jonathan Tobin on the subject.
But shortly following the almost knee jerk need to blame a highly controversial political figure for the Tree of Life Massacre, came a far worse response. Blaming the Jews themselves. A mere few hours after news of the massacre broke, one of the biggest Israel-haters in British politics (which is saying a lot given how the British Labour party is rife with anti-Semitism), the Baroness Jenny Tonge, claimed that Israel’s actions are to blame for the Tree of Life massacre.
On Facebook, Tonge posted: “Absolutely appalling and a criminal act, but does it ever occur to Bibi and the present Israeli government that it’s [sic] actions against Palestinians may be reigniting anti-Semitism?”
Of course, people like Jenny Tonge, or their abettors in the demonization of Israel, will never look in the mirror and recognize the role their mendacious lies about Israel – really modern day “blood libels” – spread about Israeli Jews and the Jewish state, contribute to anti-Semitism and to irrational Jew-hatred on both the far-right and the far-left.
These wanton libels, however, deeply contribute to the atmosphere of hate against Jews all over North America and Europe and are often stoked not only by far-right lunatics like David Duke, but by numerous darlings of the far-left. Sadly, while Duke and ilk are correctly reviled by nearly all (if not all) of the mainstream, most far-left antisemites are almost never called to task by any prominent person left of Bill Clinton (who recently/disgustingly shared a stage with Louis “Jews are termites” Farrakhan), for either their gross lies about Israel and/or their horrid caricatures of evil Jews in Israel.
Lies and blood libels by people like Jeremy Corbyn, Linda Sarsour (who recently claimed Jews in Israel should not even be humanized), and Tamika Mallory. Lies and dehumanizing insults by Sarsour’s and Mallory’s favorite minister Louis Farrakhan, or lies by actual Members of the U.S. Congress like Betty McCollum and Danny “Farrakhan is an outstanding human being” Davis. And lies by horrid British politicians like Jenny Tonge and George Galloway, who among his many blood libels and baseless claims about Israel, accused Israel of providing Al Qaeda with chemical weapons.
Tonge’s rhetorical question was not only absurd because antisemitism (and the hate and violence it animates) plagued the Jewish people for many centuries while we were still dreaming and praying for the reconstitution of our state in our indigenous homeland. It’s also absurd because it is a remarkable demonstration of how obtuse Tonge may be about the role she and people like her play in encouraging violent antisemitism. After all, Tonge has spouted many of the same anti-Semitic lies about Israel and Israeli Jews that animated the White Supremacist who murdered 11 of our Jewish brothers and sisters at the Tree of Life synagogue.
Among her many anti-Semitic claims about Israel, in 2006, Tonge said “the pro-Israeli lobby has its grips on the Western World, its financial grip.” In 2010, Tonge accused Israeli medical teams – who unlike any of Israel’s enemies – were actually on the ground in Haiti to provide life-saving assistance after the terrible earthquake there, of “harvesting” the organs of Haitians for use with Jews. And in 2016, Tonge shared an article written by another anti-Semite, which asserted that the “Jewish Lobby and media are openly silencing criticism of Israel and Jewish power.”
These mendacious lies, which are regularly spread by many left wing politicians and activists (like Tonge) about Israel and Israeli Jews, are particularly insidious and dangerous to all Jews; because they are a method of spreading Jew-hatred while pretending to “only” be attacking the Jewish state. Yet these lies affect and further poison people on both the far-right and far-left. Among other common antisemitic canards, both types of extremists (whether their hero is Louis Farrakhan or David Duke), use terms like ZOG (Zionist Occupied Government), and refer to the purported insidious Jewish control of the media and of Western governments in a virtually indistinguishable manner.
The politicians and activists on both the far-right and left who employ and deploy these blood libels about Israel and who demonize Israel are certainly culpable for the growing anti-Semitism in both Europe and North America over the last ten plus years. When you demonize and libel the world’s only Jewish State; you repeatedly libel and label almost half of the Jews in the world as people who are “committing genocide” or “harvesting organs;” or you promote mendacious conspiracy theories about Israel “controlling western governments and media,” then you are contributing to Jew-hatred everywhere, not just in Israel and not just against Israelis. You are encouraging and fomenting the kind of raw, vicious Jew-hatred that motivates people like the vile White Supremacists who attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue, the Los Angeles JCC, and the Overland Park JCC, as well as the Jihadist extremist who shot 6 women at the Jewish Federation Building in Seattle or the ones who planned in 2011 to blow up a synagogue in Manhattan.
It is certainly unrealistic to expect antisemitic politicians and activists like Jenny Tonge or Linda Sarsour to recognize the role their lies about, and hatred towards, Israel plays in increasing both antisemitism and the likelihood of antisemitic violence. But that does not excuse the rest of us. It is long past time for good people on both sides of the political divide to say enough is enough to these liars and their lies, and to demand that these people are held to account for their anti-Semitic hate-mongering. For while Linda Sarsour may feel it is wrong to “humanize” certain people, we have seen way too often throughout Jewish history, what can be the result of dehumanizing and demonizing a people. And we must fight to stop it. We owe that to our children. We owe it to those we have already lost to antisemitic violence. We owe it to ourselves.