Most well-known Texas Reps have either encouraged the rhetoric that has led to the shooting in Pittsburgh or stayed silently complicit.
By Daniel J. Cohen
If we are to learn anything from the death of the eleven Jews murdered by a fascist here in the United States simply for attending synagogue in a mass shooting in Pittsburgh this week, we must acknowledge that this act of violence has been a long-time coming. The othering of Judaism and the slow bleed from division to violence has been perpetuated by every major politician in the State of Texas. Some have encouraged violence by staying completely silent in the face of a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism over the last two years. Others have encouraged the talking points of the White House through robotic, automated hatred. And many have been laying the groundwork, intentionally or unintentionally, for years.
First, some important facts. Jews are not a large percentage of the United States. We make up 1.4% of the US population. Because of multiple attempts at genocide across the world, the largest of which were in Europe, 40% of Jews live in the United States. 49% live in Israel. Vast stretches of the United States have few or no Jews. I went on a date with a woman from Ohio while I was in college; she had never met a Jew before attending school in DC.
In most of the US where there are no Jews, there are many, many Christians. And many significantly large churches preach the philosophy that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior and the only way to salvation. When push comes to shove, they believe others are going to Hell. And their preachers use that as a runway to preach such meanness in varying degrees to masses of churchgoers every Sunday mostly below the radar of their fellow Americans.
This belief is rarely challenged outside of pluralistic parts of the United States. While many Christian churches preach love and acceptance, the ones referenced here do not. When the hard-line churches of the United States, do receive the occasional unexpected challenge, I credit those Christians who respond thoughtfully not by simply “praying for us” but by coming to the realization that blood pumps through us. They are my siblings, and blood pumps through them, too.
Unfortunately, there is still a committed strain of anti-Jewish Christians in the United States who pursue a path of othering rather than acceptance. When challenged, a dependable rebuttal of biblical reference usually ensues, along with a distancing from the issue along the lines of “it is not we who think you are sick, but rather our Lord, and only he may judge”.
The groundwork of that philosophy dates back to early anti-Semitism that targeted Jews over the “death of Jesus”, but its manifestation is easy to spot today in general society. It is prevalent in the writings of David Duke, a man Trump claimed he never met when asked to denounce him. Jews went unmentioned in the White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. Sebastian Gorka, a man with ties to far-right anti-Semitic groups in Europe, was given keys to the Oval office. In Charlottesville, tiki-torch-carrying white supremacists chanted “Jews will not replace us”; the President blamed “both sides”. The Daily Stormer Style Guide’s guiding principle is to “transform all enemies into one enemy, the Jews.” The term “nationalism” continues to gain steam. “White” movements continue to gain steam. The President called himself a “nationalist” at a rally in Houston, buoying support among white supremacists. Anti-Jewish incidents have increased 57% in the first year of the Trump presidency, all alongside consistent demonization of anyone different than the white Christian voters of the Republican base. The President blood libeled Muslims in his rise to power, wildly claiming a random group of Muslims cheered for 9/11 on the rooftops of New Jersey. He likened Mexicans to rapists and murderers before attempting to leave himself a slimy and linguistically corrupt out in the form of a hedged “and some I assume are good people”. Jack-booted thugs across the Right have encouraged this environment through flag-waving, chest-beating, hyper-jingoism.
That ideology permeates an entire social fabric of mostly white right-center communities in the US, particularly here in the State of Texas. And our leaders have completely neglected to do anything to fight it.
Worse, they encourage it. The National Republican Campaign Committee, Judicial Watch, and other major Republican organizations intentionally use the Soros libel to rev their base. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, after signing the Sermon Protections Act alongside Governor Greg Abbott in a Church, stated: “America is divided not between Democrats and Republicans but between those who believe in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and those who were lost like I once was.” The Lt. Governor’s position apparently is that the greatest division is between me and my Christian neighbors.
Patrick has also joined in with others in using George Soros as a Semitic, two-minutes hate boogeyman. Governor Greg Abbott has directly and falsely claimed George Soros is trying to control elections in Harris County. Ted Cruz has claimed Soros is all in against him in the upcoming Senate race. The Texas Observer correctly warned- foreshadowed- in August of 2017 that the obsession with Soros is ”weird and kind of dangerous”. Outgoing Congressman Ted Poe denounced Soros in August by attacking the billionaire’s interest in Hungarian elections. Of note is Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, who called Soros “a final blow to Christian culture” last march. He continued: “They do not fight directly, but by stealth; they are not honorable, but unprincipled; they are not national, but international; they do not believe in work, but speculate with money; they have no homeland, but feel that the whole world is theirs. They are not generous, but vengeful, and always attack the heart – especially if it is red, white and green [the colors of the Hungarian flag].” As the Globe and Mail explained, Orban praises “Admiral Miklos Horthy, an ally of Hitler who actively collaborated in the deportation of some 500,000 Jews to Auschwitz in 1944. Last year, Mr. Orban called Horthy an “exceptional statesman,” prompting the U.S. Holocaust Museum to issue a rebuke. There are now statues to Horthy in many places.
The writing is on the wall: Soros is the target chosen, of all possible liberal billionaires, thanks to the ability for bigots to dislike him. And part of that resonance with these politicians’ base is part of the hate they created. Soros is Jewish. Soros has money. Soros is a Holocaust survivor. It’s easy for Republicans to point to Soros as a liberal Wizard of Oz because he’s Jewish.
Consciously anti-Semitic trolls largely embrace the Soros conspiracy. Find a Trump forum or anything remotely like it and you can spot a long list of individual users as well as pundits, faux comedians, and bloggers who push the Soros rumor. The Soros conspiracy has become a fixed network of bigots.
Most powerfully embracing the anti-Semitic Soros conspiracy here in Harris County is county clerk Stan Stanart. Stanart’s campaign website leads with a zoomed in picture of Soros in unflattering lighting with a long, vicious screed on Soros’ attempt to “control elections in Harris County”. Stanart has been endorsed by Ed Emmett this cycle, forgoing any statements denouncing the clear case of bigotry from one of his fellow Harris County officeholders. The deafening silence screeches alongside the booming wordlessness of Representative John Culberson. When constituents rushed to protest John Culberson outside of a country club meeting with the Village Women Republicans, the Harris County Republican Party emailed party members to warn them with hyper sensational fear mongering: “We have seen time and again these protest [sic], usually attended by paid protesters funded by liberal elites like George Soros, get hijacked by far left extremists and escalate to highly inappropriate behavior.”
It is no wonder that a pro-Trump man in Florida sent a bomb to Mr. Soros and Tom Steyer, and arranged for a bomb sent to Eric Holder to be “returned” to a third Jewish figure, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
1.4% of the population.
When tragedy strikes, politicians speak of their hearts. They hold candles. They call for unity. As many say, they offer “thoughts and prayers”.
But we don’t need that right now. Jews and many others under direct assault in the United States don’t need unity with these politicians unless that unity means solidarity in the fight against hatred. They cannot say they are standing with us while standing with those who created the environment in which we are murdered at a rising clip. Their candles melt in the face of their complicit silence with anti-Jewish attack and both-sidesism.
The Ted Cruz’ of the world will point out anti-Semitism on the left as an issue, but their argument is a red herring. Of course anti-Judaism exists on the left; I wrote at length about Women’s March organizer Tammika Mallory’s selfies at Saviour’s Day set across the backdrop of a Louis Farrakhan hate-preach worthy of Mein Kampf, and her subsequent tweets attacking “enemies of Jesus”, as well as the later outright refusal to apologize.
But something happened that undermines the case of the crony and donor class protecting anti-Jewish thugs: Farrakhan’s statements were retweeted by white supremacists. See, people (for the most part) see color. Race is a concept that walks among us. But rhetoric is transferred by more than just the skin you see. It percolates through audio, words, and memes. And the wrong message in the wrong hands demonizing portions of the population can expand, reach, and strain to hurt more people, with more virulent damage, than even originally dreamed.
The Pittsburgh shooter said he dislikes Trump, but the reason he dislikes him still traces the deed back to the likes of Trump and other Republican leadership. He called the President a “globalist” (Jewish dog whistle). But at the end of the day, his rhetoric is still encouraged and supported by hatred. His dedication to “caravan” conspiracies and treating anyone different as an “invader” echo the language of the Trumpian base. Again, rhetoric is strange that way. (For his part, Trump blamed gun control for the deaths of the Jews, then continued to his next political rally. His flack, Kellyanne Conway, argued that lack of religion in the public sphere was at fault).
As a backup defense, anti-Jewish rumor mongers may point to their support from Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and virulently nationalistic Jews among them. But we, as a people, know better. Netanyahu is not out for the wellbeing of Jews, but for himself. Bibi even went so far as to claim Hitler was not interested in attacking Jews, blaming instead Grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseinim, for performing inception on Hitler in a claim as sinister as it is ridiculous.
Fortunately, a Talmudic practice of healthy skepticism by Jews around the world insulates us from Netanyahu’s propaganda. Netahyahu’s attempt to divide us is married to Ted Cruz’s attempt to divide us and everything in-between. We know Hitler was our enemy. Most of us simply disbelieve extremists, and rightfully so.
Make no mistake: Leaders set the tone. And by refusing to directly denounce the dangers before us, the tone set by Texas Republican officeholders has set the stage for attacks on Jews.
To Trump, Ted Cruz, John Cornyn, Dan Patrick, Greg Abbott, John Culberson, Stan Stanart, and others covered in the blood of my people: I have no expectation you will back off of your hateful behavior. But if you wanted to, you could start by doing something you love to talk about but hate to do: take personal responsibility for your behavior. Apologize for encouraging anti-Semitism and fascist rhetoric in the form of the most demagogic president in the history of the United States. Apologize for stair-stepping to power on the backs of people you attack. Apologize for your incompetence, your cruelty, and your anti-Semitism.
Note that I have no interest in arguing with anti-Jewish advocates or those who say nothing while they do their worst. I do not argue with people who play loosely with language.
Sartre said it best in Anti-Semite and Jew:
“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”
To the political class big and small:
Do not attempt to admonish us for “politicizing a tragedy.”
You politicized it.
You weaponized it.
It’s on you.