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December 27, 2018

The Pittsburgh killings and the hypocrisy of Israeli government

Just a few days after the horrific mass shooting at the Tree of life-Or L’Simcha synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during which eleven members of the community were killed and seven were wounded-  an incident deemed the most fatal attack on Jews ever in the American history- the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, dismissed claims that the rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. are linked to the ideologies of President Donald Trump. “What is happening”, Dermer said, “is the rise of anti-Semitism over the last couple of decades. What you had was about a half-century after the Holocaust, where it was politically incorrect to attack Jews. And I think what you’ve seen happen over the last two decades is that it’s once again become fashionable to attack Jews. And it’s no longer politically incorrect to go after Jews."

“Now most of the attacks actually hide themselves behind a mask of hatred toward Israel, to the one and only Jewish state, “ the ambassador continued, “But the singling out of Israel is very much like they used to single out the Jews for special treatment. So I think you’ve seen this on the rise. It’s not just in America. It’s all around the world.”

In another interview, Dermer maintained this position, stating that, “I see a lot of people on both sides who attack Jews … To simply say that this is because of one person, only comes on one side, is to not understand the history of anti-Semitism or the reality of anti-Semitism.”

Dermer went on to say that, “One of the big forces in college campuses today is anti-Semitism. And those anti-Semites are usually not neo-Nazis, […] they’re coming from the radical left. We have to stand against anti-Semitism whether it comes from the right or whether it comes from the left.”

There is no other way to describe these statements by the Israeli ambassador  than misleading . Left-wing activists in the U.S and Western Europe do not tend to physically attack Jewish people, let alone to shoot them, and, above all, the Pittsburgh killer’s motives had nothing to do with the State of Israel. But the Pavlovian responses of Israel’s far-right leaders isn’t a new thing, and comes as no surprise.

When the Hungarian government launched a smear campaign against the Jewish left-wing billionaire and philanthropist George Soros with unmissable and cliched  anti-Semitic vitriol , all that coinciding with an official visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli authorities remained silent.

After the devastating incident in Charlottesville at the far-right Unite the Right rally, which claimed the life of the anti-fascist activist Heather Heyer, Netanyahu was probably one of the last world leaders to condemn the attack.  Even then, his delayed condemnation was vague, and made no reference to Trump’s claims that there were “some fine people” amongst the far-right activists there. At the same time, Netanyahu’s infamous son, Yair, was much clearer in his views of the Charlottesville incident. Yair posted the following statement of Facebook: To put things in perspective. I'm a Jew, I'm an Israeli, the neo Nazis scums in Virginia hate me and my country. But they belong to the past. Their breed is dying out. However, the thugs of Antifa and BLM who hate my country (and America too in my view) just as much are getting stronger and stronger and becoming super dominant in American universities and public life”. The fact that the victim of the far-right activists at that rally advocated for Antifa and Black Lives Matters had left no impression on young Netanyahu. And why should it? His father’s government has long allied itself with nationalist, far-right governments and has Anti Semitic leaders, such as  Hungary’s Victor Orban, Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki (who stated that during the Holocaust “there were Jewish perpetrators[…], not only German perpetrators"), and the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte (who proudly likened himself to Hitler).

Furthermore, let’s not forget that Yair Netanyahu, the above quoted son of Israel’s premier engaged in  yet another shameful scandal on the Internet only a month later after the incident in Charlottesville, when he posted a Jew-hating caricature of Soros-which he copied from a white supremacist website. Among a number of outcries in response from various sources was the highly renowned Jewish Anti-Defamation-League, founded after World War II to battle anti semitism worldwide. The hate-mongering caricature was removed within a week, enough time to earn appraisals by David Duke, the former so-called Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and the American Neo-Nazi platform The Stormer.

The examples above all point to the upsetting fact  that, at the end of the day, the policies of the current Israeli government are closer to the ones of the Pittsburgh gunman Robert Bowers than to the politics of his elderly Jewish victims, all of whom were followers of a progressive and liberal branch of Judaism, which is not officially recognized by the Israeli rabbinate, but is closely affiliated with the HIAD, The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. The latter was founded more than half a century ago to help Jewish refugees, but due to recent developments now supports non-Jewish refugees all over the world. Sadly enough, the victims in  Pittsburgh were murdered for their support of a humanitarian agenda that is harshly defied by nationalistic and xenophobic governments, resembling the one of Israel.

Image credit: Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty