Anti-Semitism in America and the World: Responding to the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting


in thinking about how to respond to
Pittsburgh one of the questions that I ask as a historian is how do we
interpret the significance of this event when we look back at Jewish history when
I teach my Jewish history classes a lot of times violence against Jews
anti-semitism our key dates and periods and how we define different periods in
Jewish history and anybody who’s taken a Jewish history class has probably
remembered the dates such as Kristallnacht in 1938 or the Kishinev pogroms
in 1903 these are days that are turning points and crucial moments in how we
understand the Jewish past interestingly there are other events especially those
events of anti-semitism and violence that are probably less well-known to
most American Jews and I think Americans more broadly I wonder how many people
here would know much about the Leo Frank lynching in 1915 and the 1958 bombing of
a temple in Atlanta so there are other incidents of anti-semitism and violence
against Jews in the United States and one thing that’s interesting from the
perspective of a Jewish historian is that when we tell the story of Jewish
history in Europe we often focus on some of the anti-semitism and violence as
trying to understand what the relationship was between Jews and their
host societies and the United States we tend to downplay some of those stories
of violence against Jews because the story of American Jewish life is often
one of American exceptionalism that the Jewish experience here in the United
States is fundamentally different than the experience in Europe and one big
question that I think this event raises at least for me the first sort of after
I got over some of the just personal and emotional responses to this was how how
does this incident how does this terrible act of violence against Jews
and the rising nature of anti-semitism more broadly in the country today how do
we understand that in the larger scope of Jewish history and thinking about
whether or not anti-semitism is exceptional where the United States is
exceptional or not visa vie anti that’s one question that I think our
panelists are going to think about tonight is how to how to understand this
event in the broader context of American Jewish history and how it relates to
European Jewish history and other Jewish histories and the second open question
for me that I hopefully our panelist will get to tonight in their responses
is how do we interpret the interpretations of this event one thing
that I think has already happened looking around is we see very different
ways of understanding what is the significance of this and a lot of it has
been across some of the major political divides that we see in our country today
and whether or not we understand this event as being incited by the right and
by the Trump presidency or those on the other side who argue that this is an
event that is really the continuation of anti-semitism in this country and isn’t
anything super exceptional and in fact the most dangerous anti-semitism remains
left-wing anti-semitism rather than right-wing anti-semitism so that’s also
something interesting to think about and hopefully our respondents will address
some of those questions tonight well thank you very much
Noam for convening us today and to my colleagues for participating and for all
of you for being here what I’d like to do is I want to frame my comments in
kind of a broader perspective to think about Pittsburgh and anti-semitism
specifically but also in connection to another kind of movement which it’s
inextricably linked which is that of white nationalism and to think about the
Pittsburgh murders in connection to the double murder of two African-Americans
in Louisville and two other recent incidents that are I think part of a
broader story that we’re seeing unfolding right now in the United States
and I would suggest that it’s a conceptual mistake to separate these
tragedies from each other and it’s also a mistake to not acknowledge the
specific role that anti-semitism has played in this larger phenomenon that
we’re seeing developing now. I mentioned the concept of American Jewish
exceptionalism and what I want to do in my couple of minutes is to sort of
address three kinds of interpretations or three
tropes that have emerged as a result and in the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting
and I’d like to suggest for me personally I was not so shocked I mean I
was devastated but it did not come so much as a shock to me to see this kind
of anti-jewish violence in this country and I think that’s because we have this
idea of American Jewish exceptionalism you know there’s this Spielberg’s film
you’ve probably seen it, the American Tail in which one of the characters says there
are no cats, the protagonist is a mouse, there are no cats in America. In other
words America is a place in which there is no anti-semitism anti-semitism is a
thing of the old world Jews are welcomed in the United States they prosper here
they contribute to society they synthesize their Jewishness and the
Americanists and the foundational proof texts of that idea of American Jewish
exceptionalism has been invoked repeatedly in the wake of the tragedy by
NPR The Washington Post the Boston Globe Tablet magazine the Jewish Journal in LA
and that is President George Washington’s famous letter to the Jews
of Newport Rhode Island in 1790 where he indicates that the United States
government gives to bigotry no sanction to persecution no assistance the United
States is a land of toleration where everyone will sit in safety under his
vine and fig tree but what is not commented upon is the irony of those
promises of toleration and safety which become clear once we recognize that
Washington owned slaves that the founder of the Torah synagogue in Newport Rhode
Island not only owned slaves but also traded slaves the United States was not
exactly a place where everyone depends on how we’re defining who counts as a
person here would sit in safety under his vine and fig tree that would be a
privilege reserved for white people whites who practice different faiths
Protestantism initially and now Judaism and also Catholicism is added they would
be tolerated and only they would be ostensibly guaranteed the exercise of
their natural rights that same year 1790 Congress passed the first
Naturalization Act which indicated that a foreigner need only one thing in order
to become an American citizen that mean meaning you needed to be a free white
person this was United States naturalization law essentially from 1790
to 1952 after the Civil War people of African descent are added but if you’re
not white or you’re not black you’re excluded from the prospect of
citizenship in this country and within this framework. Part of the implication
of Washington’s letter is that European Jews were going to be white. Their
whiteness was contingent however and in part upon their complicity in anti black
racism in anti indigeneity. America was thus exceptional for Jews because they
were not as in Europe the principle other but rather to the contrary they
participated in the oppression of the other and this is hard to accept because
we have a different kind of narrative. We have a very special narrative about Jews in the United States and I think it’s now time to come to terms with some of
the darker chapters of this history returning to Washington’s letter
it also belied a sense of Jews’ lingering difference and not only in terms of
religion indeed the scene was planted for the
possible revocation of their status as white and protected Washington refers
here to Jews as the children of the stock of Abraham and this language of
stock is about descent, it is about blood essentially it is about understanding
Jews as a particular race and this other angle the sense of Jews as a racial
community would be activated at various times over the course of American
history and especially in the 20th century with rising nativism a senator
right here nearby in Tacoma Albert Johnson was a member of the Klan, the KKK
and he initiated the immigration restriction Act of 1924. He was anti
black and anti Asian and also vociferously anti-semitic and he wanted
to keep Jews out whom he referred to as filthy
un-American and dangerous in their habits He saw immigration restriction as
a bulwark against alien blood and as a way to ensure as then President Coolidge
declared paraphrasing one of the Klan slogans that America must remain
American the idea of Jewish and exceptionalism in America was and is
perhaps fragile it’s been that way from the beginning the lingering sense of
Jewish difference also contained in the kernel of Jewish also contained the
kernel for Jewish activism and allyship for immigrant rights and civil
rights and other causes and may appear that those initiatives were undertaken
as privileged acts of altruism and social justice but they have also been
acts of Jewish self-defense this leads to the second idea that I wanted to
touch on the idea that this attack was against a community of faith or against
a religious group. Kellyanne Conway blamed the shooting on generalized anti
religiosity, Sessions characterized the massacre as an attack on all people of
faith and from a completely different perspective a survivor of the shooting
in the Jewish Federation here in Seattle back in 2006 described the Pittsburgh
victims as being targeted just for practicing their faith. Yes they were
attacked in a synagogue but it’s very important to recognize the framework
that the shooter brought to bear here He was not interested in faith he was not
interested in Judaism as a religion The perpetrator saw Jews as a race, a
biological community of shared blood and the mutable loyalty. He used racial slurs
in his social media posts and he subscribes the far-right conspiracy
theories such as Jews secretly organizing a war against the white race
that they’re orchestrating a term that is known as white genocide that’s been
popularized in recent years apparently by supporting refugees and the caravan
for example Muslims and Latinos the Jews are imagined as core
the demographic and cultural displacement of white Christians in
America that is why at the deadly unite the right rally in Charlottesville the
torchbearers were chanting of all the things they were chanting they were
chanting Jews will not replace us the Pittsburgh shooters vision of
anti-semitism should be understood as a form of racism the German writer who
coined the term anti-semitism in 1879 saw himself and like-minded people as
against Jews as a race what we understand from this is that
anti-semitism may not be system systemic in this country it is different from
other forms of phrases Mbeki shoes operate in the world as white but we
must also recognize that it does exist perhaps it never went away and rather
than being systemic it can have cataclysmic effects finally one of the
other claims made about the shooter is that he was a lone shooter or he was
crazy and I think it’s very important to recognize that we take a broader context
and a broader approach here he was seeing himself as part of a broader
movement he invoked the numbers 1488 which refer to the fourteen words I’m
sure if you’re familiar with this you can see it’s it’s in in that image right
there it’s 1488 it says we must secure the existence of our people and a future
for white children which was a phrase inspired by Hitler’s Mein Kampf the 2/8
referred to the eighth letter of the alphabet
H H Heil Hitler and these are the same numbers that were invoked by Dylan roof
the white man who murdered nine parishioners at the black church in
Charlottesville in 2005 and he brought 88 bullets with him the white man who
murdered four people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012 and 1488 has
also been invoked by people like Richard Spencer who popularized the term
alt-right and seeks to make it mainstream the terminological acrobatics
are a strategy of rebranding skinhead white supremacist white nationalists all
right race realists they all share in common and affection for
and an obsession with the Jews they are in many ways neo-nazis by other names
another cover journalist concluded after spending a lot of time with these groups
that anti-semitism is the main fuel that animates white nationalism only
liberation from Jews will achieve the racial utopia that white nationalists
anticipate and the president’s tweets and he is retweeted people advocating
and this idea of white genocide I suggest that they have embolden and
helped to mainstream perhaps mainstream again anti-semitism as a key ingredient
of white nationalism that people like the Pittsburgh shooter have interpreted
as authorization so I want to start with the Pittsburgh shooters comments online
where he says that Jews are waging a propaganda war against Western
civilization a war for the extinction of the white race
president Trump regularly refers to the press as the enemy of the people and I
want to take a provocative leap here and suggest that these two comments are
conceptually related they’re related because they both grow out of a very old
claim that was first lodged at the turn of the century around 1900 three in
Russia a very low claim that was articulated in a forged document a fake
document called the protocols of the Elders of Zion and in this document the
authors who were pros are wrists monarchists laid out a scenario a
nightmare scenario where that purported to be the secret minutes of a cabal of
Jewish leaders who were planning to gain control of the world by manipulating
governments by manipulating their finances by
unleashing radical discontent and by using their control of the press to manipulate
public opinion to confuse the gentiles about what was really happening in the
world various versions of this document the protocols are published in Europe in
1920 but they also come to the United States via Russian emigre anti-bolshevik
writers and they fall into the hands of one Henry Ford that great American Hero
the working man’s friend the producer of cheap automobiles that were available to
most people of the lower middle classes Henry Ford takes the protocols the plot
of the protocols and turns it into a series of articles 91 of them which
focus on the particular contributions of American Jews to the plot in Fords
articles the International Jew which were gathered together in four volumes
the plot is actually very advanced it’s almost complete all that’s left is the
crushing of Christianity and what’s distinctive about the protocols in
Ford’s hands is they focus on American Jewish leaders at the top the string
pullers the master manipulators the puppeteers who are in control of the
press, control of finance who are squeezing the United States from the top
while the working classes the Jewish immigrants Eastern Europe are pushing
from the bottom you know polluting the American labor movement for
revolutionary purposes what’s important to remember about Henry Ford and the
protocols that this is he strikes a match that will continue to
burn decade after decade and I want to just quickly talk about the various
iterations of the protocols and by the way the four volumes that Henry Ford’s
organization published were never copyrighted and they were republished in
16 languages at least 16 and they live today on the worldwide web so Henry Ford
claimed to know not to know what was going on in his organization but that
wasn’t true he knew very well what was going on so what happens to the
protocols in the 1930s they are of the Great Depression and the era in which
pro-nazi groups are very active in the United States groups like the German
American Bund groups like William Dudley Pelley silver shirts groups like the
Christian Front and the Christian mobilizers they take up the protocols
and they turn it into something even more sinister we’re not just talking
about Jews squeezing Gentiles through using the media we’re talking about the
the concept of Aryans Aryans who are going to peddle this garbage and here is
interestingly enough there were various bookstores across the United States
including this one the Aryan book store which publish these plot cards a
convenient little card that you could carry around in your pocket
the plot to enslave the race is the plot to destroy the race is the plot to
control world government world finances etc etc etc but the key issue for people
who believed in this plot was the media and here we have another iteration of
the plot this is the idea that Roosevelt himself is a Jew or a tool of the Jews
and that the government has been taken over by Jews and see the Star of David
here the red the red white house the red government is a manipulated by the Jews
and the New Deal is the do deal a Roosevelt was knighted too he was a
Protestant and here we have a very important trope of the protocols the
idea that Jews control the media we find this in Fords publications about the
International Jew the Jews controlled the media and here we have a very crude
and by the way the image in the middle I found it actually in Berlin at an
exhibit this idea that the death of civilisation is going to happen because
the Jews control Hollywood and through Hollywood movies they are going to
create all these lies and destroy American culture now here we have the
next iteration this is America first this is another great American hero
Charles Lindbergh who crossed the Atlantic in in an airplane in 1927 both
Lindbergh and Henry Ford were awarded special medals by Hitler so here we have
this very elite group of Americans we’re not talking about you know anti-semitic
rebel rousers we’re talking about elite wealthy Americans who belong to this
group called America first an isolationist group that was determined
to keep America out of the war in Europe and so Lindbergh gives this speech which
is now infamous where he says that the that the three most important groups
agitated for war are the Roosevelt administration the British and the
Jewish and he says instead of agitating for war Jews in this country should be
opposing in every way for there will be the first two fields consequences their
greatest danger lies to this country to the United States lies in their large
ownership and influence in our motion pictures our press our radio and our
government and by the way the Senate held hearings on Hollywood motion
pictures you know trying to figure out whether they were pushing the United
States into the war so let me just quickly mention a couple of things and
this relates to a Devin was saying in the 1950s hate groups neo-nazi hate
groups the KKK neo-nazi hate groups we’re accusing the Jews of being the
puppeteers behind the civil rights movement and that they were trying to
destroy American civilization through you know encouraging inbreeding between
the races and it wasn’t just the temple in Atlanta that was fun there’s a whole
series of synagogue bombings that took place between 1957 and 1958 so jump
ahead to this this is a poster for the audio version of the Turner Diaries the
Turner Diaries was written in 1976 and it is at Genesis it is a fantasy about
how Jews have taken over the world and used black people as they’re kind of
minions to confiscate weapons from all the two Americans and so what the Turner
Diaries does is envision this apocalyptic landscape where Earl Turner
and his secret underground Aryan army commit basically genocide against Jews
black people not only in the United States but all over the world and this
really and this relates in interesting ways to the migrant caravan narrative
because one of the things that the Turner Diaries envisions is the Jews are
promoting immigration of people you know darker people from all over the world to
come and pollute the United States Sasha is going to talk about the George Soros
mania which is kind of where this where this is right now this is a narrative so
I mean there are a number of historical contexts for the Pittsburgh shooting
Devin talked about you know here is one the gun legislation in this country
is very unique for a wealthy country and we have far more deaths by gun violence
a subset of these shootings are fire rate racist white nationalists acts of
political violence so devin talked about the louisville murders the charleston
murders in 2015 nine people and of course the tree of life killings
there’s a broader context of violence against Jewish institutions that
predates the stuff that I’m gonna really focus on that talk you know a lot of
people have been thinking about the 2006 shooting at the Seattle Jewish
Federation like many other examples so none of this is new and I think you can
pick that up from what my colleagues have said I’m gonna focus on something
that I think is is somewhat different and changing in this current moment and
that is a global realignment of electoral politics that’s happening in
this country as well as in a lot of other countries in Europe and elsewhere
and the rise of what I’m gonna call for lack of a better term the alternative
right or the new right okay so the this movement is anti-semitic although for
most it’s ants it’s most loudly anti-muslim and anti-immigration but
it’s also anti-semitic and you see anti-semitic being really weaponized in
politics by these various parties in ways that are certainly reminiscent of
what we’ve seen before but also in some there are somewhat unprecedented at
least in this historical period okay so I’m going to use the German case as an
example here’s one other this is some other stupid so in 2013 people who were
right of Center in Germany got a sense that there was open water on the right
side of the political spectrum they weren’t happy with the existing
conservative parties particularly with the with the party of Angela Merkel they
felt like they had moved too much to the center and they founded a new party
called the alternative for Germany there are a number of similar parties now in
other countries in Europe and they all have a general set of values in common
they are anti-immigration they are afraid of immigrants they are anti
Muslim and anti Islam there are favored have some kind of white Christian
nationalism I think you can see that the you know this is that’s subtle here but
I think present maybe not subtle there are mild to explicitly
authoritarianism varying from country to country so
Poland Hungary I think explicitly anti-democratic the alternative for
Germany is for example very suspicious of the Free Press but but more mild so
what political sciences are telling us is that in this moment the transitions
from democratic systems to authoritarian states aren’t often aren’t dramatic
they’re creeping rather and that can be difficult to perceive while they’re in
process so if you look at the example of Hungary where there’s a fire rate
anti-semitic party in power right now with Viktor Orban the Prime Minister you
can see examples of this there basically is no longer a free press in Hungary
it’s been gradually crushed out of existence by the government there have
been curtailments arguably of civil liberties and the independent court
system and a lot of the Soros stuff really has roots in Hungary right so the
current attack on the Central European University which looks like it’s going
to move to Vienna right is all coming out of Orban’s government and you know
anyway okay so Sasha hopefully will say more about that okay a similar
thing going on in Poland and Anne Applebaum who I think is a really astute
observer of this is that what defines the illiberal is in Poland right now is
that they’re conservatives who just don’t want to lose elections anymore
okay so these kinds of parties are also anti-semitic but again they are most
loud about their anti immigration and to Muslim views Germany I think is an
instructive case for this right so the this version that you see here really
does not include Jewish Germans but they certainly at first the alternative for
Germany was very quiet about ties that it had so far rate groups and it’s
gotten more and more openly semitic as it’s been more and more successful it
currently it’s the third largest party in the parliament and it gets about 13%
of the vote a lot of its public anti-semitism takes the form of of
almost dog whistles but it’s really creeping over into in explicit
statements so you know I could say way more about this but just to boil it down
things like I Germany has a glue has passed you know let’s stop talking
about the Nazis and talk more about Beethoven and the Nazis are really just
bird poop on what is otherwise a glorious past so that’s a really
profoundly anti-semitic thing to say in public and Germany for a political
leader and it did it sparked outrage from other politicians including
conservatives I’m paraphrasing one of the leaders of the party but what
they’re what they have found is that this is turning out the vote that this
anti-semitism turns out the base that it’s helping them anti-semitism is a
powerful political tool we have seen that over the you know since arguably it
was developed in the 1870s okay so here’s the these Flyers these fires went
out in the current congressional elections in a number of districts
around the country Philadelphia including the Washington eighth District
just south of here and candidates for Democrats who are Jewish or running you
know okay so we could my colleagues have given other examples of us right that
anti-semitism is being used as a political tool okay so what do you want
to say about this you know I would just add something about the history of
anti-semitism historically one of the reasons it’s so powerful is that it’s
this anti rational conspiracy theory that can really explain a lot of
different things especially economic problem so how Aaron’s argued that
anti-semitism was the answer to communism and the communist model if
you’ve got it bad in the economy little guy or little girl it’s because you’re
being exploited by the bourgeoisie anti-semitism no it’s not the problem
isn’t capitalism the problem is the Jews if we just get rid of the Jews
capitalism would work so and I think that’s what’s keeping in mind when you
think about how it’s being instrumentalized
you know conspiracy theories are incredible partly powerful as well okay
but moving on about what I want to say about those so the first thing is this
anti-semitism is part of this global trends the rise of a new right so to do
something about it we’ve got to think about it as part of this larger
reconstellation of politics unfortunately helping them it’s not hurting them it’s
helping them turn out the vote in these countries it’s helping them gain support
for authoritarianism and Hungary okay here’s some good news there are signs
that there are limits to how much this alternative right movement Carolee when
people over I hope so as much as the alternative for Germany has been
successful it’s it’s only the third largest party last night the Democrats
made big gains and suburban congressional districts that normally
vote Republicans so the the eighth district in Washington State is an
example of that okay and what should we do what should
we do okay so one thing is that I think it would be great if we could get back
to a normal conservative party and strengthen conservative party is not
just in this country but in other countries as well and there are people
who are really focused on this one of them is Jim Comey I know who’s out
canvassing yesterday for a Democratic candidate in Virginia and said this is
beyond Democrats or Republicans or independents this is about the values of
our country so Republicans take back your party I think is one of the best
hopes that we have here here are some other suggestions okay so
it’s never good idea to give up on a functioning democratic system it’s
really lizard user to visit here even if things don’t seem like they’re working
that well protect the motiveless off the executive in your country a for example
interferes in a functioning criminal investigation in a way that really
undermines the rule of law yes well peaceful street protests would
be a responsible response to that a general strike in an in a very extreme
situation a peaceful general strike can be a very powerful tactic a united
opposition right so what happened in 33 in Germany is the the people from
moderates to the far left cannot get behind some kind of a coalition response
to fascism that’s a problem and finally win elections okay so this is not going
to go away as long as it’s succeeding thank you so I guess I’m I’m I am to
speak about things that other people didn’t want to talk about and I’m also
here to represent the the land of the protocols of the Elders
of Zion as a Soviet emigres who comes from the country that gave the world the
protocols so that’s that’s enough for my for my jokes I wanted to I’m here also
as a literature scholar and the scholar of culture and also somebody who teaches
literature and culture and I’m here to kind of do what I teach my students to
do which is to kind of pause to think about a deeply complicated image or a
word or a sentence in a work of art that emerges in response to whatever it
emerges and responds to and after Pittsburgh I was looking for such an
image to think about and there’s one that I’ll talk about I’m this is in in
better times I used to teach a course called interaction Jewish culture where
I assign my students this museum assignment where I would give them an
object that would somehow be so complex and so particular to the specific moment
when we were living that they would have to contextualize it as though they were
writing a caption for the museum built in the future
right so menurkey this isn’t better times 2015 when Thanksgiving and
Hanukkah happen at the same time which of course in America produced all kinds
of nonsense like this but makes makes for a fantastic museum exhibit a
complicated object with a caption that needs to be written
we’re now in times like this this I looked at for today you can buy a mug a
set of dreidels for your Trump loving relatives Jewish
relatives I suppose online so this would be also in that museum and then finally
it brings me to thinking about how I was after Pittsburgh looking for such an
item that I could hold on to that I know will be defined will be the defining of
this moment in the future so I was looking to two cartoons as as a scholar
of culture this is one that could possibly do that we’re on the cusp of
the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht EFT this is by Rob Rogers the cartoonist
who was fired from the Pittsburgh post-gazette earlier this year because
of the takeover of the newspaper by a chump friendly owner so going back to
Lori’s comment of health’s the Free Press but that’s
not the image that I’m really thinking will stick and this is the the elephant
in the room so this is a cartoon I guess the caption went away the cartoon is by
Eli Valley who is a Jewish cartoonist who painted this my caption said on
October 29th 2018 a day after the Pittsburgh shooting and what I’m gonna
do now for the next five minutes is to walk us through this image and we’ll get
back to it in the end to show you what it is that Eli Valley does and why I
think this is a Jewish work of art that I’m going to be holding onto as as an
item that defines this moment so how did we get to here
so the Soros that others left to me to talk about is the Jewish Hungarian-born
Holocaust survivor investor who for decades now has been investing in open
society projects especially in Eastern Europe after the fall of Communism,
various democratizing projects and this is from last summer in Hungary where
there was a massive campaign against Soros accusing him of manipulating
politicians so here you have Soros as a you know puppet here next to an image
from Nazi Germany in the 1930s that I’m juxtaposing it with. There are direct
anti-Semitic references. What are they unhappy with Soros for? Soros was blamed
for sponsoring a version of the caravan that we’re talking about now, the Syrian
refugees that have been flooding into East European countries and Hungary is
one of these countries so the nationalist backlash in Hungary, so
these are also posters in Hungary at the time to stop this migration of people
that gets sort of defined as a project of Soros. These are posters around
Hungary in 2017 and the summer don’t let Soros laugh at the end,
suggesting he’s behind the refugee crisis 99% say no to illegal migration
new posters new poster campaign and Hungary in 2017
so this is the summer of 2017 when this is happening of course when you put a
nice clean poster up with a with a with a provocative message you then allow it
to exist in the public sphere in which case it gets defaced in ways
that amplify the message that it’s intending to give that’s kind of opening
up the space where this heat can really flourish so here of course defaced with
the word vampire so you add a little blood to his face and you turn Soros the
Jewish puppeteer into into this kind of puppet master so this is this year
during an election campaign and Hungary where Viktor Orban really weaponized
this connection to Soros we’re fighting an enemy that is different from us not
open but hiding not straightforward but crafty not honest but based not national
but international does not believe in working but speculates with money does
not have its own homeland but feels its own the whole world right these are not
just anti-semitic dog whistles this is straight-up anti-semitism note the
nationalism and internationalism globalism and nationalism that Trump
claimed is the priority for our country at the moment these are the exact same
words the Trump is saying in America now being said this isn’t Hungary during an
election campaign now back to that poster the image that I started with I’m
coming back to Eli Valley this is the elephant in the room one thing we have
to think about is that one of the people in the world today who is so aligned
with the right-wing regimes the traffic in anti-semitic stereotypes is Benjamin
Netanyahu the Prime Minister of Israel I’m not saying he is an anti-semite he is
using anti-semitic tropes in the very same way as Viktor Orban does in Hungary
as Trump does in the United States so this is Viktor Orban and Netanyahu
hosting urban in Jerusalem in July 2018 this is April 20 in Sein right when
urban gives his you know various campaign speech
the traffic and open anti-semitic discourse right so I’m gonna to drive
this pwned point home superimpose the text on this lovely play with a Rubik’s
Cube that’s you know has Hungarian color Flags flattened the color of the
Hungarian flags in it and think about how during the campaign of 2017 and 2018
Israel’s ambassador to Hungary had posted a Facebook message that called on
hungry to cease this anti Soros propaganda because it was so
anti-semitic Israel’s foreign ministry had commented on the words of its own
ambassador to say in no way was the statement from the Ambassador meant to
delegitimize criticism of George Soros who continuously undermines Israel
democratically elected governments by finding organizations that defame the
Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself
Soros supports like he does in other countries open society projects he
supports various groups like bits element breaking the silence that in
various ways support different balances on Israel’s right wing regime and the
occupation so here is Israel’s foreign ministry officially condemning its own
ambassador in the very same language that is is used in Hungary how do we
come to this country Russia is another important nexus point for anti Soros
mania has been for a long time Putin is dead set against Soros is somebody who
also supports all kinds of NGOs Putin made NGOs illegal in Russia where he
made the financials of supporting them illegal in the last few years this is
the cover image for the DC leaks website during the 2016 presidential campaign
which uses the images from Ferguson Missouri from protests after the killing
in Ferguson super imposes upon them the image of George Soros and claims to have
documents that tell the American audience how they’re being manipulated
this image gets retweeted by Steve King reelected last night to his
congressional sit in Iowa who writes that its sources plan to for America to
p.m. or bands view is deeply well-informed and reasoned right first
it’s retweeted by Orban Steve King was one of trumps co-chairs he’s an avowed
white nationalists in all by kind of confirming that name so we have that
connection and obviously Trump has done it so many times I don’t need to give
you all of the examples but this is one in early October 2018 dates are really
important where he blames caravan protesters as being supported by Soros
so how do I come back to just one one minute I’m really coming back to the the
this is the this is from the National Republican Congressional Committee ad in
the Minnesota first congressional race in late October of this year supporting
the Republican candidate right and what it does it has Soros sitting with a pile
of money right this is your anti-semitic image next to him you can really see
this Colin Kaepernick who has been the the black football player who has led
the protests against police violence and calling them connoisseur of calling him
connoisseurs of chaos and then I had the image to Devin or you showed us the
tweet of Robert Bowers before he went in to the synagogue to shoot
so how do we get here you like Valley October 29 2018
I’m gonna claim this is a Jewish work of art that takes a particularly Jewish
response to the current tragedy in Pittsburgh and tries to connect these
dots in ways that are really brilliant brutal honest and absolutely necessary
for us to take in he’s painting Benjamin Netanyahu in front of the poster of
George Soros is the evil demonic figure he is painting on it the words kike
soros because he has in effect used didn’t use those terms but he has used
his government has used anti-semitic propaganda against Soros in in his
support and to our brothers and sisters in America the State of Israel says
solidarity right this has been the response of the Israeli government to
the Pittsburgh shooting today in the pressure of the Trump gave he was asked
about the 5th 7% rise in the anti-semitic incidents
his answer was well they like me in Israel right I’m paraphrasing but that
was his answer that is immediately how the right right-wing Jewish right-wing
response to the tragedy in Pittsburgh it shifts the focus from focusing on white
nationalism and anti-semitism as a root of white nationalism or one of the causes
or reasons of white nationalism in this country and turns any criticism of the
Trump administration to their support of Israel right but as I hope I showed
right Israel is itself complicit in the kind of demonization of Soros in the
trafficking in anti-semitic stereotypes that have led us to the killing in
Pittsburgh and then I’ll conclude with this this is alive Eli wants to know to
let us know that at the bottom of the image it’s right here at the bottom
under the date he had written the words “Zahor” and he kind of zooms in on
that and this is his tweet explaining why he did it in the signature I added
the Hebrews a whore for remember we must remember those who were murdered in
Pittsburgh who must also remember what Netanyahu has wrought his demonization
of Soros his vilification of refugees and his celebration of anti-semitic
fascist movements around the world so I’ll conclude with this and looking
forward to Kathy finishing. as a sociologist of international migration
and refugees I want to focus my brief remarks on the role Jewish Americans are
currently playing in the humanitarian protection of immigrants and refugees
I’ll start by explaining what part HIAS the Hebrew immigrant Aid Society
and its support for immigrants asylum seekers and refugees of all faiths and
nationalities played in the shooting next I’ll explore the growth of the
Jewish American movement to protect immigrants and refugees and the benefits
of that mobilization and I’ll end with some recommendations as well but before
I even get started I need to confide in you some of my feelings over these past
horrible couple of weeks and it’s not over yet as an American
Jewish academic maybe they will confirm some of your feelings maybe not first
the shootings of the Tree of Life synagogue brought me back to those
childhood fears of where would I hide and who would would anyone and who would
protect me if it happened here though some of my best colleagues and friends
disagree with the need for a legal asylum system or an international legal
framework of refugee protection because it benefits only a privileged few I know
as an American Jewish scholar of immigrant and refugee studies that if
six million European Jews had not been denied entry to safe countries and thus
locked inside Europe they would not have been murdered there were not enough
righteous people of good conscience in Europe to save them so because I’m not a
mystery writer and there won’t be any surprise ending and no one will probably
shut me up before I’m done I’ll tell you now that HIAS’s wisdom
flexibility and farsightedness is absolutely essential to this moment in
history and I will also argue that it needs to be backed up with a humane and
functioning US and international system of asylum and refugees that embraces the
protection of everyone what we are witnessing now is a systematic plan to
narrow if not entirely dismantle US and international humanitarian policy and to
introduce a new era of asylum and refugee policy based on deterrence and
no entry I’m going to repeat that again no entry that is what we are headed for
that is what we are moving for and is no small aside it’s been mentioned briefly
a moment ago I respectfully suggest gun control – okay part one, what is the
significance of HIAS in the shootings at the Tree of Life? as you know and it
has been said by each person on the panel the gunman did not only shout “all
Jews must die” but he also wrote on social media “HIAS likes to bring
invaders in that kill our people” this clearly refers to HIAS’s most recent
public support of the caravan of Central American asylum seekers fleeing violence
who are slowly making their way north but it also refers to the mobilisation
of American Jews in early 2017 against the Muslim ban Central American Muslim
and Middle Eastern immigrants refugees and asylum seekers have been stereotyped
as violent criminals rather than a survivors of violence The Tree of Life
synagogue was one of more than 300 Jewish congregations in 33 states that
had celebrated national refugee Shabbat on October 20th HIAS was founded in 1881
to help Jews fleeing the violence of pogroms in Europe is now one of nine
voluntary organizations with contracts from the US State Department to help
administer resettlement services to refugees from all over the world up
these nine agencies HIAS is the only one with Jewish roots and that’s why I
think it specifically was attacked this time the International Rescue Committee
is the only one that is not faith-based the rest are based in Christianity at
the end of the war in Vietnam the State Department asked highest to help
resettle Southeast Asian refugees in the United States and that was really the
first time HIAS started resettling people that weren’t of Jewish background
in origin HIAS has helped more than 4.5 million people of all backgrounds
escape persecution and resettle now all of the nine
agencies administer resettlement services to refugees of all faiths and
nationalities but because there’s only nine agencies for the whole country
their services have been supplemented in different communities by small smaller
local community-based organizations so for an example in Seattle we have
Refugee Women’s Alliance or the East African Community Services and they
supplement the work of major organizations like highest in the
present political moment all these agencies are seeing very extreme
declines in the numbers of refugees admitted to the United States and
they’re concerned about keeping their doors open their staff and services
available so people are being laid off there are ongoing legal challenges
to president Trump’s executive actions to ban refugees from most Muslim
countries to lower the number of refugees so now we have a drop of from
about 85,000 to 30,000 and to revoke the temporary protection of people of many
nationalities at the same time there is a systemic slowdown in processing
applications of those permitted to apply only 1,500 refugees from all of Latin
America and the Caribbean are permitted entry to the United States that is the
ceiling that’s the maximum number allowable 1,500 but as of June 2018 only
a hundred and twenty-six refugees from that region have been admitted: a hundred
and twenty-six. frankly new executive actions are not really needed anymore to
break our Immigration and Refugee system they’re more for show to reality Trump’s
base its winding down through deliberate systematic bureaucratic slow down and
action I want to move on to talk about the mobilisation of Jewish Americans to
protect immigrants and refugees of all faiths and nationalities this topics of
recent research interest to me one I plan to explore a more
systematically but it first started to come to my awareness with the 1980s
sanctuary movement which primarily involved networks of churches protecting
the lives of Central Americans fleeing violence in their countries violence
that was triggered if not supported by u.s. foreign policy and especially
Guatemala and El Salvador Jewish Americans had a presence in that
movement but not like today in 1995 what is now the Union for Reform Judaism
produced a resolution on immigration which declared we support those efforts
that compassionately seek to regulate and to aid newcomers to this land but we
oppose those that will unduly restrict immigration or burden the lives of
illegal immigrants I really started to take notice with the Jewish movement to
end our for to end genocide in Darfur and to support the Darfur refugees in us
which started around 2004 by 2006 the Central Conference of American rabbis
adopted a resolution that included a legal path, a path to legality for
undocumented Americans by 2007 the new sanctuary movement was pressuring
President Obama to end his mass deportations of non criminals without
legal papers and to create DACA but this was nothing like what we saw in February
2017 that’s when President Trump issued what became widely known as the Muslim
ban the director of HIAS Mark Hatfield advised the agency supporters
to quit and I quote stand up and fight back bend the arc a Jewish organization
that works on domestic social justice issues mobilised its
members and urge them to attend emergency protest rallies around the
country and to flood Congress with calls the leader of the anti-defamation league
Jonathan Greenblatt called Trump’s executive order cruel and contrary to
the values of our country with reference to the Holocaust he said further Jewish
history and heritage compel us to take a stand the American Jewish Committee
stated that the terrorist threat attributed to refugees is a cruel
and distracting fiction and that the executive order is targeted primarily at
Muslims fleeing violence and oppression and reinforces anti-muslim stereotypes
the orthodox movement claimed discrimination against any group based
solely upon religion is wrong and anathema to the great traditions of
religious and personal freedoms upon which this country is founded Truah
an organization which seeks to place rabbis and cantors at the forefront of
the Jewish struggle for human rights and social justice condemned Trump’s
executive order if you google Truah if you google HIAS you will find two
guides to how to form a sanctuary movement in your community by June 2017
over 800 different faith communities including Jews had declared themselves
part of the new sanctuary movement now I want to move on to some recommendations
which have more to do with this slide yeah one thing that makes the shooting
at the Pittsburgh synagogue different than past acts of violent anti-semitism
is the supportive response of non-jews this has given me pause the massive
mobilization of Jewish Americans and Jewish organizations against the Muslim
ban was so important it was critical in fact to the North American Muslim
response to the shootings of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh the
outpouring of sympathy and support has been ah
inspiring a continent-wide crowdfunding campaign started in my hometown
Detroit called Muslims unite for Pittsburgh synagogue raised more than
two hundred thousand dollars in four days Muslim communities across the
country are performing solidarity circles literally standing around Jewish
congregations quote to show our support in numbers and stand in pursuit of
justice for this heinous crime against our human family after a deadly attack
on a mosque in Quebec Christians and Jews had formed human rings of peace
around mosques in Canada to help Muslim worshippers feel safer on their way in
this past weekend several hundred people arriving in bus loads from different
mosques did the same for six synagogues in Toronto to show their support for the
Jewish community in Pittsburgh and elsewhere so I like the number seven I
don’t know why here’s my seven recommendations they’re not necessarily
an order of importance first redouble efforts to build bridges and maintain
networks between diverse communities in the United States our immediate and
future safety and protection is in supporting each other that’s how we
build enough or more than enough people of good conscience when our communities
are threatened to don’t back down continue to lobby Congress to create a
humane and just asylum and refugee system that embraces everyone including
victims of domestic and gang violence when their countries of origin can’t or
won’t protect them three demand that Congress and we have
the house demand that Congress recommend refugee quotas that rise to the level of
the wealth and strength of this country there are 25 million refugees in the
world the u.s. should be a leader for the world and should use its standing to
pressure other countries to take responsibility for refugees and asylum
seekers according to their capacities for work to create or maintain community
organizations that protect immigrants and refugees five advocate for local
policy that those organizations and protect
sanctuary six advocate and provide practical support for specific
individuals and families and seven maybe this is my top one tonight seven most
people make up their minds about immigrants and refugees because of a
personal connection or experience or a close friend or relative has talked to
them of their own experience so talk to your friends relatives and neighbors
that’s how we change hearts and minds

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