The Tree of Life massacre

This statement from FSOI about the Pittsburgh massacre has been issued in the light of Baroness Jenny Tonge’s reaction to the shootings at the Tree of Life Synagogue and her resignation as patron of the PSC

Tree of Life Synagogue stained glass windowThe massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday 27 October in Pittsburgh was the worst hate crime against Jews in US history.

The killer, Robert Bowers, was inspired by hatred of Jews as Jews. Bowers’ antisemitic expressions of a Jewish conspiracy and his hatred of Muslims, refugees and migrants, festered in the climate of hate, antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism promoted by President Donald Trump and his administration. Such a recognition was evident in the response of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh.

Antisemitic references to Jews have been a feature of the Trump administration campaign since the presidential primaries in 2016. Only the week before the Pittsburgh massacre, Kevin McCarthy, the second Republican leader in the House of Representatives, tweeted that three wealthy Jews, including George Soros, were attempting to “buy” the mid-term elections.

Trump’s demonisation of the migrant “caravan” provided the fuel for Bowers’ claim of a Jewish conspiracy to attack (white) Americans. Trump has nonetheless escalated his hateful rhetoric since the Pittsburgh massacre.

We have seen the consequences of the rise of the far right hate in the US, from  Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston to Charlottesville to Pittsburgh. However, Trump has also boosted the rise of the far right globally, in Latin America, Europe and here in the UK.  In Europe we have seen the rise of antisemitism alongside Islamophobia, racism and other forms of prejudice.

The Pittsburgh shootings had nothing to do with Palestine or Israel. Not being able to make the distinction between reactions to Israel’s policies or its treatment of Palestinians and right-wing antisemitism is itself a sign of antisemitism and of holding Jews, as Jews, to be responsible for Israel’s actions. Worse, it tends to suggest that the actions of the shooter, while wrong, are in some way, understandable.

Free Speech on Israel has consistently maintained that opposition to, or support for, the State of Israel is no test, in itself, of antisemitism. This has underpinned our position in regard to debates over the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Antisemites can and do profess support for Israel or pose as supporters of Palestinians. Antisemitism is a reactionary ideology that must be challenged in whatever context it arises and from whichever source.

Free Speech on Israel sends its condolence to all those bereaved and injured in this hate attack.

Pittsburgh is a warning to us all.

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