Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt

ADL Steps Up Reporting on Anti-Semitic Incidents


After recording a “massive surge of anti-Semitic incidents” in the last two months of 2016, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has taken the unprecedented step of releasing a midyear audit — and found a 67 percent increase in physical assaults, vandalism and other attacks on Jewish people and institutions compared with the same period last year, according to its CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt.

Released Nov. 2 and covering the first three quarters of 2017, it was ADL’s first midyear report on anti-Semitic incidents since it began releasing a yearly audit in 1979. The previous report, in April, noted a 34 percent increase in incidents in the United States in 2016.

“I didn’t want to be in a situation where we were waiting 12 months to understand the state of play,” Greenblatt told the Journal. “In order to educate and engage policymakers and political figures and the general public, we needed to take a snapshot right now.”

The new survey — available online at adl.org — found 1,299 incidents recorded by ADL so far in 2017, already exceeding the total of 1,266 incidents in all of 2016.

The report presented a particularly sobering picture for Californians. In the first nine months of 2017, anti-Semitic incidents in the state increased by nearly half, to 197 from 135. In Southern California, that included Nazi graffiti at a Hollywood coffee shop and white supremacist symbols spray-painted on a garage at ADL’s Century City office.

Hours before releasing its survey, ADL’s local staff participated in a “State of Hate” forum in Los Angeles convened by California Assemblymember Richard Bloom, a Jewish Democrat whose 50th District stretches from West Hollywood to Malibu.

“California is at times ground zero for a lot of the hate ADL is tracking nationwide,” ADL senior investigative researcher Joanna Mendelson told the audience of law enforcement officers, community leaders and clergy at the Nov. 1 event. Mendelson said California leads the country in its racist skinhead population.

“While these groups are a small percentage of the overall population, they’re not insignificant and are becoming increasingly sophisticated and organized,” Bloom said. “This is cause for concern.”

Greenblatt echoed Bloom’s concern during a phone call the next day. The Charlottesville, Va., white supremacist rallies of Aug. 11-12 “veered into the national consciousness unlike any white supremacist gathering we have seen in recent memory,” he said.

The ADL audit noted an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents after the Charlottesville rally. Of the 306 incidents that occurred in the third quarter of 2017, 211 took place after Aug. 11, more than two-thirds.

Greenblatt said this increase could not definitely be linked to Charlottesville, but he said President Donald Trump’s failure to unambiguously condemn the rallies encouraged white supremacist elements.

“It’s undeniable that the president’s equivocation created an environment in which the extremists felt emboldened. How do I know this? I know this because they said so,” Greenblatt said, referring to ADL’s monitoring of extremist groups at gatherings and on the web.

The State of Hate forum, held in an auditorium at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, sought to give law enforcement and other community leaders knowledge and tactics to address this rise in hate. It took place the morning after a suspected terrorist mowed down pedestrians and bikers in a rented pickup truck in Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring 12.

“California is at times ground zero for a lot of the hate ADL is tracking nationwide.” – Joanna Mendelson

The attack made the forum “particularly relevant and timely,” said Dan Schnur, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles region, who moderated the event.

“Unfortunately, in 21st-century America, there’s never a bad time to have a discussion like this, and yesterday’s atrocities were just the latest reminders of the challenges we face,” he said.

Besides Mendelson, the other speakers were Robin Toma, executive director of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission; political science and Chicana/Chicano studies professor Fernando Guerra of Loyola Marymount University (LMU); and FBI Supervisory Special Agent Matthew Coit, who heads the FBI’s Civil Rights Unit in L.A.

Speaking last, Guerra gave Angelenos reason to be hopeful. Citing an LMU survey of 1,203 city residents in January, he said Angelenos tend to view race relations positively, with 77 percent saying that racial and ethnic groups in the city get along. Guerra said the nationwide number is 48 percent, drawing on a similar Pew Research Center poll.

President Donald Trump on Sept. 14. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump again blames both sides for deadly Charlottesville violence


President Donald Trump once again said both sides — white supremacists and those who opposed them — were responsible for the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last month, an equivalence that has outraged Jewish groups, Jews in his Cabinet and lawmakers from both parties.

Trump, speaking Thursday on Air Force One as he returned from Florida, where he was meeting with victims of Hurricane Irma, described his meeting a day earlier with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., an African American Republican who has been critical of Trump on race-related matters.

“I think especially in light of the advent of Antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you know, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also,” he said when asked what he told Scott regarding the deadly Aug. 12 violence in Charlottesville. Antifa is a loose coalition of leftists ostensibly organized to protect protesters but which has lashed out violently at times at its perceived enemies.

“And essentially that’s what I said,” Trump said. “Now because of what’s happened since then, with Antifa, you look at, you know, really what’s happened since Charlottesville.” he said, apparently referring to clashes between Antifa and right-wing protesters in Berkeley, California on Aug. 27. “A lot of people are saying — in fact a lot of people have actually written, ‘gee Trump might have a point.’ I said, you got some very bad people on the other side also, which is true.”

Antifa represented a small minority of the mostly peaceful counterprotesters in Charlottesville. There were limited skirmishes between its members and white supremacists who were protesting the planned removal of a statue honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Among the 500 or so white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan, many were armed and some sought out counterprotesters to attack. Some carried Nazi flags and shouted racist and anti-Semitic slogans. An alleged white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring at least 20 people.

Trump at the time blamed “many sides” for the violence and said there were “very fine people” on both sides. That caused consternation among his Jewish advisers, including reportedly his daughter Ivanka Trump, his top economic adviser Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and David Shulkin, the secretary of veteran affairs. It also earned widespread condemnation from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and from Jewish groups.

Trump later seemed to withdraw from that posture and his spokeswoman said this week he looked forward to signing a congressional resolution squarely blaming the white supremacists for the Charlottesville violence.

President Donald Trump on Sept. 7. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Senate resolution forces Trump to sign off on threat of white supremacists


The Senate has advanced a bipartisan resolution post-Charlottesville calling on President Donald Trump to reject white supremacists and, in a rare move, requiring his signature.

The resolution was placed Thursday on the calendar, which means it has cleared procedural hurdles and will soon come up for a vote. That’s unusually fast for Senate legislation for a resolution introduced the previous day.

Its sponsors — Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats of Virginia, and Republican Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Johnny Isakson of Georgia — used a mechanism that mandates the president’s signature on the resolution. Most nonbinding resolutions simply require majority votes, as they stop short of being law, and express the sense of a body. This would commit Trump to the resolution’s sentiments.

The resolution “rejects white nationalism, white supremacy and neo-Nazism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.” It also urges the president and his administration “to speak out against hate groups that espouse racism, extremism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy, and use all resources available to the president and the president’s Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”

The resolution assiduously avoids blaming any other parties for the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month, when white supremacists sought to protect Confederate monuments. An alleged white supremacist rammed his car into a group of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who is named and honored in the resolution.

Trump on the day of the attack and in subsequent days earned opprobrium from leading Democratic and Republican figures for saying “many sides” were to blame for the violence and that there were “very fine people” on both sides.

The resolution also calls on the attorney general and the Department of Homeland Security to “investigate thoroughly all acts of violence, intimidation and domestic terrorism by white supremacists.” Trump recently shut down funding for just such a Homeland Security task force.

Protesters and counterprotesters clashing at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

What you need to know about antifa, the group that fought white supremacists in Charlottesville


Is it OK to punch a Nazi in the face?

That’s the question animating much of the discussion of Saturday’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which quickly devolved into a brawl between rally-goers and a contingent of anti-fascist counterprotesters known as antifa. Following the clashes, a white supremacist rammed his car into the counterprotest, killing Heather Heyer, 32.

Leaders and activists across the spectrum — except President Donald Trump — have unequivocally condemned the racist, anti-Semitic rally. But they are divided on whether physically attacking white supremacists is justified simply because they are white supremacists.

Some have celebrated the antifa activists for standing up to hate. But others have condemned them alongside neo-Nazis for engaging in violence. And on Tuesday, Trump appeared to equate them with the rabble of white supremacists, branding antifa the “alt-left” and saying “there’s blame on both sides.”

Here’s what you need to know about antifa, the loose network that fights fascists on the streets.

Antifa was born from groups that fought the original fascists.

In 1934, Milwaukee police arrested three leftists who infiltrated a pro-Nazi meeting and began scuffling with supporters of Hitler. The leftists were part of a group of several hundred anti-fascists who entered the meeting, broke it up and pelted the keynote speaker with rotten eggs. The melee ended only after 100 police arrived to restore order.

Today’s antifa (an abbreviation of “anti-fascist action”) sees itself as the ideological descendant of activists like these. Anti-fascist brawlers — many of them communists, socialists or anarchists — began organizing in the 1920s and ’30s to oppose the rising dictatorships in Italy, Germany and Spain through demonstrations and street fights. The groups re-emerged in Europe in the ’70s and ’80s to combat white supremacists and skinheads, and the idea migrated to America, where groups were originally known as “Anti-Racist Action.”

While it’s hard to pin down numbers on antifa in the United States, members and experts say the movement has boomed since Trump’s election. Mark Bray, a lecturer on human rights and politics at Dartmouth College, estimates that there are a couple hundred antifa chapters of varying sizes and levels of activity across the country.

“The threat posed by the ‘alt-right’ in the context of empowerment through Trump made a lot of people concerned about fascist, neo-Nazi, white supremacist violence,” said Bray, author of the forthcoming book “Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook.” “They turned to the Antifa model as one option to resist it. The option of physically confronting these groups has spread among the left and been normalized.”

It has no formal organization or leadership structure.

Like the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter, antifa has no institutional structure or unified plan of action. Much of its activism comes through informal collaboration around certain cities or regions, and individual members taking initiative. Separate Facebook pages exist, for example, for New York antifa, New York City antifa and Western New York antifa.

Long before antifa gets to physical altercations with the far right, members will attempt to prevent white supremacists from assembling or spreading their message. Bray said some antifa members will pressure white supremacists’ employers to fire them.

Daniel Sieradski, a Jewish antifa member who became involved following the presidential election in November, said he and other activists try to pressure venues to cancel white supremacist events, and only show up to counterprotest once that fails. (Sieradski formerly worked at JTA as the director of digital media.)

“I’ve always identified with the spirit of the movement, which is to challenge racists when they come into your community and try to incite hatred and violence,” Sieradski said. “Every effort is made to prevent the Nazis from showing up in the first place. Once they manage to do so, the demonstrations do not get violent until confrontations are provoked.”

Antifa tends to align with the left — and some members are anti-Zionists.

Because antifa is so loosely constructed, it has no formal ideological agenda beyond opposing fascism. But the movement has roots in left-wing movements like socialism or anarchism. Bray said that members may be part of other left-wing activist groups, like the Occupy movement, and subscribe to ideas popular in progressive circles.

The Torch Network, a group of antifa chapters, includes in its “points of unity” opposition to “all forms of oppression and exploitation.” That includes fighting “against racism, sexism, nativism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination against the disabled, the oldest, the youngest, and the most oppressed people.” The group is also pro-choice. Unlike the Black Lives Matter platform, it does not single out Israel or Zionism.

Bray said that while anti-Zionism is not a focus of antifa, many members tend to be anti-Zionist as part of their far-left activism. Anti-Racist Action groups, he said, had taken part in anti-Zionist events in the past.

Sieradski said, however, that Jews play a significant role in the movement because “we’re fighting Nazis and anti-Semitism is the prime ideological viewpoint of Nazis.”

Antifa has no problem with fighting Nazis …

Antifa has no qualms about scuffling with white supremacists. The group gained publicity in February when it physically fought alt-righters at the University of California, Berkeley, during a speech by alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Tussles with the far right have followed at other events.

Sieradski said violence is a “last resort,” but added there is nothing wrong with responding to anti-Semitic or racist rhetoric with a punch. Those who are advocating ethnic cleansing deserve to be beaten up, he said, and showing white supremacists that their rallies will end with them being hurt will deter them from assembling.

“When Nazis are screaming epithets in our faces, should we just smile?” Sieradski asked. “They come into our towns and yell at us and threaten us and say they want to kill us. Should we take that sitting down because fascists deserve free speech, too? When someone is threatening you with an existential threat, you fight back. You don’t stand there and take it.”

Antifa members also reject the notion that the movement instigated the violence in Charlottesville or is as guilty as its white supremacist foes. Spencer Sunshine, who counterprotested at the Charlottesville rally and witnessed the deadly car ramming, said there certainly were fights, but there is no comparing antifa with the far right.

“Any equivalence between antifa and fascists is a complete lie,” he said. “We were not armed the way the fascists were, and certainly did not drive a car into crowds. It was a total Nazi rally.”

… but has been criticized for its violent tactics.

Antifa has garnered its share of liberal critics who say nothing — even neo-Nazism — justifies violence and the suppression of free speech. Critics also say that antifa’s violence draws attention to the far right and allows white supremacists to claim they are acting in self-defense.

“They’re troubling tactically because conservatives use antifa’s violence to justify — or at least distract from — the violence of white supremacists, as Trump did in his press conference,” the liberal Jewish essayist Peter Beinart wrote Wednesday in The Atlantic. “They’re troubling strategically because they allow white supremacists to depict themselves as victims being denied the right to freely assemble. And they’re troubling morally because antifa activists really do infringe upon that right.”

Following Saturday’s rally, Anti-Defamation League National Director Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted “Whether by #AltRight or #Antifa, no excuses for violence and, keep in mind, this is exactly the response that the bigots seek to provoke.”

Mark Pitcavage, an ADL senior researcher, said his group cannot condemn one side’s violence and condone the other. He added that the attention Charlottesville gained is also energizing the “alt-right” to hold more rallies.

“I don’t know how you can put together a calculus of violence where some sort of act of violence is unacceptable if one group does it but if another group commits it, that’s acceptable,” he said. “We’d just rather not see violence.”

But Pitcavage added that right-wing violence has been far more destructive than antifa’s, which to his knowledge has not led to any deaths. According to a 25-year study by the Cato Institute, nationalist and right-wing terrorists have killed about 10 times as many people since 1992 as left-wing terrorists, which may or may not include those who identify with antifa.

“That doesn’t mean that the sides are equal, the causes are equal,” he said. “It’s important to realize that their violence does in no way compare in numbers or severity to the far-rightist violence in the United States.”

President Donald Trump delivers remarks following a meeting on infrastructure at Trump Tower, August 15, 2017 in New York City. Standing alongside him from L to R, Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. He fielded questions from reporters about his comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia and white supremacists. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Our president just asked us to be fair to white supremacists


There was a moment in his “neo-Nazi, neo-Shmazi” news conference where you might have found yourself thinking, maybe President Trump is right.

On the narrow question of who was responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, a prosecutor might note that punches were thrown by white supremacists and left-wing activists, neo-Nazis and members of the Antifa resistance.

“I think there’s blame on both sides,” is how Trump put it in his news conference Tuesday in New York.

It’s the right answer if this is the question: “Who threw punches in Charlottesville?” But it is the wrong answer to every other question raised by the awful events of the past three days. Such as, “What is expected of an American president when hundreds of people representing a stew of racist and anti-Semitic ideologies gather in a public park in an American city?” And, “What do we expect of the leader of our government when young men in 2017 wave Nazi flags and chant ‘Jews will not replace us’ while one of their number kills a counterprotester using his car as a weapon?”

And one more: “When given the choice between a mob that defends segregation, slavery and the ideology of genocide, and a crowd that stands opposed to these things, which side do you choose?”

Trump stunned his critics not because he was waiting (uncharacteristically, one might add) for all the “facts” to make a statement, as he said at the news conference, but because he ignored the essential fact: Neo-Nazis, Klansman and other far-right ghouls had called for a rally, under the banner of “Unite the Right,” in an attempt to resurrect ideas that the United States had declared — on the battlefield, in the courtroom and in the court of public opinion — morally bankrupt and grotesquely un-American.

And the president of those United States declared that while such people were bad, they were perhaps no worse than those who came to oppose them. In fact, he was careful to point out, “You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.” But if there were “very fine people” who showed up in Charlottesville to “quietly” protest the removal of a Confederate statue, as Trump put it, they knew exactly what they were getting into. You can’t show up at an orgy and say you’re there just for the snacks. As the satirical newspaper The Onion put it in a headline that barely seemed satirical, “Trump Blasts Critics Who Judge Neo-Nazi Groups By Most Extreme Members.”

Trump may occasionally and reluctantly disavow them, but figures on the lunatic fringe appreciated the bone that they had been thrown.

“Really proud of him,” the white supremacist Richard Spencer said in a tweet. “He bucked the narrative of Alt-Right violence, and made a statement that is fair and down to earth.”

“Donald Trump: He Was Fair to White Supremacists” is quite the epitaph.

On Saturday morning, after the torchlight vigil, after the speech by David Duke and the anti-Semitic chants and the killing of a 32-year-old woman, no one outside of the “alt-right” was looking for fairness. They were seeking moral clarity — and they didn’t get it from the White House.

Some very fine people, including some Jews, are not convinced. They think Trump got it about right in noting that “many sides” are responsible for what happened in Charlottesville. They think it was important to point out that there were “vicious, hate-filled extremists,” as one Jewish leader put it, on both sides — that is, the neo-Nazi side and the protesters’ side, the Klan’s side and the anti-fascist side.

It is as if the lesson of Jewish history is moderation in the face of hatred, restraint when confronted by those who would kill us.

In his 2003 book “Nazis in Newark,” the historian Warren Grover recalled how a loose group calling themselves the Minutemen organized in order to crush the pro-Hitler activity proliferating in their backyard.

“Throughout the 1930s, the Minutemen consistently and effectively opposed Nazi activities in Newark and Northern New Jersey,” Grover wrote. “The fighting force included criminals and boxers who used fists, clubs, and baseball bats to counter the Nazi threat. Often just a rumor that the Minutemen had been sighted was enough to deter Newark’s Nazis from holding events.”

Plenty of Jews who remember the Minutemen consider them heroes — and even revere the memory of the gangster Abner “Longy” Zwillman, who aided them. Maybe we live in more rarefied times. Maybe today we’d call the anti-Nazi gangs “thugs” and “terrorists.” Maybe there’s a difference between standing up to neo-Nazis and actual Nazis. And maybe, to our credit, we understand that nonviolent resistance is the most principled and effective response to hatred and intolerance.

But if the Minutemen lacked a certain gentility, two things they didn’t lack: moral clarity and the courage of their convictions.

Trump was asked Tuesday whether white supremacists and their counterprotesters belong “on the same moral plane.”

“I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane,” our president said.

White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. August 11, 2017. Picture taken August 11, 2017. Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/News2Share via REUTERS.

Donald Trump’s third strike


I spent last Saturday night — the night of the neo-Nazi rally and the tragic murder — at the Pacific Resident Theatre in Venice, watching a fine performance of Eugene Ionesco’s  “Rhinoceros.” The play takes place in a French village, where the drunkard Berenger is witness to something bizarre: slowly, the townsfolk are turning into rhinos. Ionesco, whose mother was from a Sephardic Jewish family, wrote the play based on his experiences in Romania in the 1930s, when, one by one, his social circle turned on him and embraced fascist leaders and their ideologies.

I was still reeling from the astonishing fact that President Donald Trump had just equated white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK with the people who took to the streets to stop them. Earlier that day, Trump refused to name and shame these people even after one of them allegedly rammed his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.

What was happening onstage paralleled the world outside.

Onstage, the protagonist Berenger explains to his girlfriend, Daisy, one way the rhinos multiply.

“Sometimes one does harm without meaning to,” he says, “or rather one allows it to go unchecked.”

And when Berenger’s co-worker dismisses accounts that the streets are now filled with citizens-turned-rhinos, Berenger shows him the morning headlines.

“I never believe journalists,” Botard says. “They’re all liars. I don’t need them to tell me what to think; I believe what I see with my own eyes.”

The audience didn’t know whether to clap, laugh or groan — I heard all three.

By the end of the play, all the townsfolk but Berenger become rhinos. Some because that’s what they want. Some because the radio is broadcasting nothing but rhino messages. Some because everyone else is. What appeared grotesque in Act 1 seems perfectly normal by Act 3.

“We must adapt ourselves and try and get on with them,” Daisy says when only she and Berenger are left unchanged.  “After all, perhaps it is we who need saving. Perhaps we are the abnormal ones.”

It was no accident the PRT chose to mount Ionesco’s 1959 classic. In his recent treatise “On Tyranny,” historian Timothy Snyder uses the play as his proof text of how democratic societies go dark.

“Ionesco’s aim was to help us see just how bizarre propaganda actually is, but how normal it seems to those who yield to it,” Snyder writes. “By using the absurd image of the rhinoceros, Ionesco was trying to shock people into noticing the strangeness of what was actually happening. The Rhinoceri are roaming through our neurological savannahs. … And now, as then, many people confused faith in a hugely flawed leader with the truth about the world we all share. Post-truth is pre-fascism.”

When the play originally came out, it was a sensation in Israel — a country whose populace was still reeling from a European outbreak of “rhinoceritis.” Soon, there was even a Hebrew word, hitcarnfut, from the root for “horn,” to describe someone who falls under the spell of any beastly ism. The Jews figured there needed to be a word for it, since what are the odds it wouldn’t happen again?

After the cast took a much-deserved curtain call, I went home and stared at the images of the neo-Nazis who marched and killed in Charlottesville. It made what the president said – and kept saying— even less excusable.

It was a march organized by a nationwide group of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, America Firsters and Confederate throwbacks that spurred the violence in the first place.  They converged on Charlottesville sporting swastikas and swaddled in Confederate flags, emblazoned with the latest in 1930s Fascist emblems. They carried semi-automatic weapons and sported militia costumes. Their ostensible cause was to protest the long-planned transfer of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a town square to a town park.

The marchers alternated chants of, “You will not replace us!” with “Jews will not replace us!” They intimidated Jewish reporters and chanted the Nazi straight-outta-Nuremberg slogan “Blood and Soil!”  One of the flyers that brought out the crowds featured a “Unite the Right!” slogan and a Star of David.

When counterprotesters came out to thwart them, things got ugly. Maybe it would have been cleaner had the counterprotesters stood by and waited for the wannabes to pass, but Jews tried that in the 1930s and it didn’t work out so well. That fact alone gave the president a perfect opportunity to pick sides: either the guys with swastikas and Nazi slogans and guns, or the people standing up to them.

In the immediate aftermath, Trump refused to choose.

After waiting far too long, he made a statement. He condemned violence “on many sides.” If it wasn’t clear that he was apportioning blame equally between the people who marched in support of slavery and killing Jews and those who opposed them, he repeated that phrase, “on many sides.”

Trump — the father and grandfather and father-in-law of Jews — refused to blame the neo-Nazis.

“I’m here to spread ideas, talk, in the hopes that someone more capable will come along,” rally co-organizer Christopher Cantwell told VICE News, “somebody like Donald Trump who does not give his daughter to a Jew…. I don’t think you can feel about race the way I do, and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl.”

These were the people Donald Trump, best friend of the Jews,  refused to hold accountable. Refused to threaten them with anywhere near the fire and fury he uses to lash out at North Korea, James Comey, Sen. Mitch McConnell, CNN or The New York Times.

 

It was no less than a betrayal.

I’ve disagreed with other presidents, Democrats and Republicans. I’ve protested their policies. But I never felt that any of them betrayed me. This wasn’t a close call. It was lob across home plate, which in this case stands for human decency and patriotism.

But Trump couldn’t do it.

Instead of slapping back the instigators of all this violence, my president gave them cover to go on. The protestors were able to tell themselves, “We’re no worse than them — even the president said so.” In one statement after another, Trump leveled the playing field between good and evil.

It was a missed opportunity. The movement, such as it is, is still miniscule. There weren’t that many of them — maybe 1,000? The amount of media attention they sucked up was far out of proportion to their importance or danger.  That same weekend, nine people were killed and 30 others were wounded in shootings across Chicago. Zero national coverage.

But that even made the president’s task more important.  Calm the country, call out these miscreants for what they are, and focus our attention on more pressing matters. This was the time to brush them back, to rally the better angels before things get out of hand.

The reaction to Trump’s shameful statement was swift and bipartisan.

Republican Sen. John McCain tweeted, “White supremacists aren’t patriots, they’re traitors — Americans must unite against hatred & bigotry.”  Republican Sen. Ted Cruz called for a federal hate crime prosecution.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, whose founder Rabbi Marvin Hier gave a benediction at Trump’s inauguration, said in a statement, “We call upon all American leaders, whatever their political affiliations, led by President Trump, to specifically condemn the extreme alt-right and white nationalists who sow seeds of hate, distrust and violence.”

“”When I was a kid,” the actor Joshua Malina tweeted, “the Nazis were the bad guys.”

For years, Trump and his supporters accused President Barack Obama of refusing to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” Although Obama repeatedly condemned the terrorists — and put a bullet through the head of their leader, Osama bin Laden — he opened himself to the entirely valid criticism that by not naming the problem, you avoid the problem.

But here Trump was doing the exact same thing, refusing to name and condemn the terrorists in his own backyard.

Forty-eight hours after his first statement, Trump read off his second. The headline in The New York Times — two full days after Charlottesville — read, “Trump, Bowing to Pressure, Rebukes White Supremacists.”

I read it twice. It’s 2017. And everything you need to know about what’s sideways about America is between those two commas: “Bowing to pressure.

What does it say about the president of the United States of America that getting him to name and shame white supremacists is like getting him to say “uncle?”

“Racism is evil,” President Trump read from his TelePrompTer from the White House, “and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and other hate groups who are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

It was better, like any do-over. But the white supremacists on the internet said he was doing it just to calm the critics or to kowtow to them.

“He said EVERYONE INVOLVED will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. that includes Antifa and BLM,” one pro-Trump Reddit user wrote, referring to anti-fascists and Back Lives Matter.

“By ‘other hate groups,’ ” wrote someone on the neo-Nazi Stormfront site, “he means the real hate groups in America, the Anti-White ones.”

This was something the neo-Nazis and the rest of humanity agreed upon: Trump’s second statement was for show, the first for real.

John Podhoretz, writing in Commentary, ventured a guess as to why. These same protesters, he said, represented the solid core or Trump’s supporters, the people who gave him the initial oomph in his race for president.

And that core, Podhoretz wrote, “is governed by rage, hatred, a sense of being wronged, and the loathing of others due to race and national origin. They are numerically insignificant to a man who secured 63 million votes in November 2016. But he … seems to feel they are necessary to the constitution of his core. And he basically let them off with a mild warning.”

They are young — the murder suspect himself was just 20 years old. Their world is a digital echo chamber. On Facebook and Reddit, their posts and comments are a Freudian playground of thwarted desire and sexual insecurity. Everyone not them is “gay” or a “faggot” or “cuck,” the alt-right put-down meaning cuckold. In their sexual obsession, their need for belonging and their delusions of Jewish dominance, these young men are not so different from the lost, horny and hate-filled ISIS fighters they must despise.

And why the Jews? How did we get dragged into a dispute over Robert E. Lee? Yes, Charlotteville Mayor Michael Signer, who stood up to the mob and showed the president what leadership looks like, happens to be Jewish. But that’s a coincidence; the obsession predates him. In fact, it’s astonishing that no matter how the leaders of the alt-right try to pretty up the movement, its true, ugly credo wills out.   It’s the Jews’ fault.

A day after the violence, far-right talk radio lunatic Alex Jones claimed that the right-wing protesters who caused the violence were actually “Jewish actors,” who infiltrated the ranks to make the movement look bad.

“Nothing against Jews in general,” Jones said, “ but there are leftist Jews that want to create this clash and they go dress up as Nazis. I have footage in Austin … where it literally looks like the cast of ‘Seinfeld’ or like Howard Stern in a Nazi outfit… it’s all just meant to create the clash.”

These were the voices Trump bowed to on Tuesday, Aug. 15, when he took to the microphone again – to double down on his original equivocation.

“You had very fine people in both groups,” he said at a press conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

When reporters repeatedly pressed him on whether he was equating neo-Nazis and the counter-protesters, the President made it clear: he was.

“What about the alt-left that came charging at ’em – excuse me,” he said.

Was Trump on to something?  No. According to an Anti-Defamation League study, of at least 372 murders that were committed by domestic extremists between 2007 and 2016, 74 percent were committed by right-wing extremists and 24 percent by Muslim extremists. Left-wing extremists? 2 percent.

Later, Trump compared Robert E. Lee, a traitor who fought to tear apart the United States that Trump is president of, with George Washington, who fought to liberate and create the country.

When it was over, KKK leader David Duke couldn’t have been happier.

“Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa,” he tweeted.

There’s no real way to explain this lunacy other than to look back. A not especially creative crowd can’t invent a new enemy, so it steals an old one.

“The rats are still down there in the sewers, brooding,” says Jean Tarrou in Albert Camus’ “The Plague,” “and the Plague is still down there with them, and that Plague will one day again send up its rats to die once more on the streets of a free city … ”

You don’t get rid of hate; you just have to be prepared, always, to fight it. It appears we now have to do battle with a feckless president. Will he ever develop a spine? Will he ever stand for the values of his party, much less America?

Or will he continue to equivocate as the plague spreads to engulf us all? Who knows? As Ionesco himself once said, “You can only predict things after they have happened.”

Andrew Anglin runs the anti-Semitic Daily Stormer website. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer site, forced offline by Google, heads to the dark web


The neo-Nazi and white supremacist site The Daily Stormer has moved its domain to the dark web after Google and GoDaddy forced it offline.

Google booted the site, known as one of the internet’s most prominent anti-Semitic outlets, from its domain name service on Monday for running an article smearing Heather Heyer, the victim of the car ramming at the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. The GoDaddy domain platform, which Daily Stormer had been using since 2013, had done the same on Sunday. Both said the site violated their terms of service.

On Tuesday, Motherboard reported that some Twitter users were sharing links to a dark web version of the site.

“The dark web site seems to function in much the same way as the original, with posts on recent events and other content,” Joseph Cox reported.

Users may have to download Tor software, which gives access to certain anonymous sites on the dark web — the collection of networks that use the internet but function outside the realm of normal domain name providers — to find The Daily Stormer in its current form.

The Daily Stormer’s article on Heyer, 32, drew waves of criticism for calling her a “fat,” “childless” “slut.”

Andrew Anglin, the site’s founder, has not publicly commented on his plans for the site, which played a role in organizing Saturday’s protests.

On August 13, Daily Stormer was supposedly hacked by Anonymous, a collective of worldwide hackers who gained national attention in 2008 when they hacked the Church of Scientology website. The Daily Stormer hacking job was made public with a post, which read:

HACKERS OF THE WORLD HAVE UNITED IN DEFENSE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
YOU SHOULD HAVE EXPECTED US

A few hours later, Daily Stormer founder Andrew Anglin posted a follow-up:

Anglin Here. I’ve Retaken Control of the Site. The Daily Stormer Never Dies.

Since the fiasco, Anonymous has taken to Twitter to rebuke the claims of an alleged hack. “Seriously, suck less,” they tweeted to Daily Stormer in response.

The Independent was the first to note that the “hacking job” came after the neo-Nazi website was notified by its server GoDaddy that it would be shut down in 24 hours after violating their terms of service.

On August 13, Daily Stormer posted a hateful article about Heather Heyer, a victim of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, titled: Heather Heyer: Woman Killed in Road Rage Incident was a Fat, Childless 32-Year-Old Slut.

 

A white supremacist grabs a counter protesters' sign during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S., August 12, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/REUTERS.

A guide to the far-right groups that protested in Charlottesville


They believe the “white race” is in danger. They believe the United States was built by and for white people and must now embrace fascism. They believe minorities are taking over the country. And they believe an international Jewish conspiracy is behind the threat.

These are the people who were rallying in Charlottesville.

The “Unite the Right” rally Saturday saw hundreds of people on America’s racist fringe converge in defense of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and brawl with counterprotesters. The rally ended after a white supremacist, James Fields, rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman and injuring at least 19. Two police officers also died when their helicopter crashed while monitoring the rally.

The rally was the largest white supremacist gathering in a decade, according to the Anti-Defamation League, but it wasn’t the work of one extremist group or coalition. Spearheaded by a local far-right activist named Jason Kessler, the rally saw several racist, anti-Semitic and fascist groups, new and old, come together.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, the rally included “a broad spectrum of far-right extremist groups – from immigration foes to anti-Semitic bigots, neo-Confederates, Proud Boys, Patriot and militia types, outlaw bikers, swastika-wearing neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Ku Klux Klan members.”

Many of the attendees, says the ADL’s Oren Segal, were young men who became radicalized on the internet and were not affiliated with any particular group. While some protesters belonged to the “alt-right,” a loose movement of racists, anti-Semites and nativists, others were part of older white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

At the rally, protesters were seen carrying Nazi and Confederate flags, as well as signs with racist and anti-Semitic slogans. They chanted “Sieg heil,” gave Nazi salutes and shouted the N-word at passers-by.

“They really believe they have to save the white race, and to do that, they have to achieve some sort of white ethno-state,” Segal said. “They tend to be young, more frenetic in terms of their use of social media, while older more traditional groups like the Klan are in decline. Regardless of differences, it’s all the same hate.”

Here’s a guide to a few of the most prominent hate groups who showed up in Charlottesville.

Vanguard America

James Fields joined this relatively new fascist white supremacist group at the rally. On the homepage of its website, Vanguard America declares that “Our people are subjugated while an endless tide of incompatible foreigners floods this nation.”

The group trumpets the concept of “blood and soil,” an idea championed by the Nazis claiming that the inherent features of a people are the land it lives on and its “blood,” or race. In addition to opposing multiculturalism and feminism, Vanguard America’s manifesto calls for a country “free from the influence of international corporations, led by a rootless group of international Jews, which place profit beyond the interests of our people, or any people.”

According to the ADL, the group has posted dozens of fliers on campuses in at least 10 states. Its posters bear slogans like “Beware the International Jew” and “Fascism: The next step for America.” This year, the group defaced a New Jersey Holocaust memorial with a banner reading “(((Heebs will not divide us))).” Its signs at Saturday’s rally bore the fasces, a traditional fascist symbol depicting a bundle of sticks with a protruding axe blade.

Ku Klux Klan

One of the country’s oldest and most infamous hate groups, the Klan has primarily targeted black people, along with Jews, Catholics and other minorities. The KKK throughout its history has been responsible for lynchings, bombings, beatings and other racist acts of murder and abuse.

Group members have historically worn white hoods, to hide their identities and to mimic ghosts. Its leaders, including white supremacist activist David Duke, take on bizarre titles such as grand wizard and exalted cyclops.

The KKK was founded by Confederate veterans following the Civil War to harass black people, and at its height in the 1920s it had some 4 million members, according to the SPLC. An ADL report this year said the Klan has shrunk to about 3,000 total members spread across 40 groups in 33 states, mostly in the South and East.

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back,” Duke said in a video at the rally Saturday. “We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back, and that’s what we got to do.”

Identity Evropa

A new group that affiliates with the alt-right, Identity Evropa seeks to promote “white American culture,” and also has posted fliers on college campuses. The group, which works with white supremacist pseudo-intellectual Richard Spencer, claims there are inherent differences among races and that white people are more intelligent than others. Identity Evropa sees itself as “identitarian,” a far-right European ideology seeking to reassert white identity.

The group supports a policy of “remigration” of immigrants out of the United States. Some of its posters bear the slogan “You will not replace us,” a chant that Charlottesville protesters paired with “Jews will not replace us.” Identity Evropa does not allow Jews as members.

League of the South

If the rally’s proximate goal was to preserve the statue of Lee in Charlottesville, the most obvious participants were the League of the South, a neo-Confederate group. The organization supports southern secession from the United States and “believes that Southern culture is distinct from, and in opposition to, the corrupt mainstream American culture.”

The group envisions a Christian theocratic government that enforces strict gender norms. It opposes immigration as well as Islam. League of the South defines the “Southern people” as being of “European descent,” calls itself “pro-white” and states that it “has neither been the will of God Almighty nor within the power of human legislation to make any two men mechanically equal.” Duke gave the keynote address at one of the organization’s gatherings this year.

According to the SPLC, the group founded a paramilitary unit in 2014.

National Socialist Movement

This one is pretty self-explanatory — America’s version of the Nazi Party. It is a white supremacist organization that would either deport “non-whites” — including Jews — or strip them of citizenship and subject them to a discriminatory regime (the group’s manifesto proposes both). The group is also anti-feminist and homophobic.

The National Socialist Movement idolizes Adolf Hitler, whom it says “loved and cared deeply for the average person.” Until about a decade ago, the group would protest in full Nazi regalia, which it has swapped out for black uniforms. Its crest features a swastika superimposed on an altered version of the Stars and Stripes.

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses during a statement on the deadly protests in Charlottesville, at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 14, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS.

Trump names KKK, white supremacists, neo-Nazis in condemnation


Two days after the death of a 32-year-old woman during a white supremacists’ rally in Charlottesville, Va., and amidst a furor over his delay in condemning the rally in specific terms, President Donald Trump condemned the “racist violence” and declared that “racism is evil.”

“Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, and other hate groups who are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said Monday in a statement he delivered at the White House.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred and violence. It has no place in America,” Trump said. He also said the Department of Justice had opened up a civil rights investigation into the attack, and honored by name Heather Heyer, who was killed Saturday after a car driven by a 20-year-old who has espoused neo-Nazi views plowed into counterprotesters.

Trump had been under pressure since Saturday to forcefully condemn the white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. His initial statement, condemning “hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides, on many sides” angered Democrats and Republicans alike for seeming to draw a moral  equivalence between the white supremacists and the counterprotesters. In a subsequent tweet he had expressed condolences to “the family of the young woman killed today” but did not name Heyer.

Jewish leaders also noted the widespread expressions of anti-Semitism of the rally, which included demonstrators carrying signs reading “Jews are Satan’s children,” Nazi flags and chants of “Jews will not replace us.”

In a statement Saturday, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said: “This is a moment that demands moral leadership. President Trump should acknowledge that this is not a matter of equivalence between two sides with similar gripes. There is no rationalizing white supremacy and no room for this vile bigotry. It is un-American and it needs to be condemned without hesitation.”

On Sunday the White House put out a statement, attributed to an unnamed  spokesperson, saying, “The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, K.K.K., neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”

That statement still failed to satisfy many critics who noted that some white supremacist groups who were encouraged that  Trump had not himself singled them out. On Monday, David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, called on Trump to “make clear that our nation does not countenance the warped views of bigots, as was on display in Charlottesville.” He also urged the president “to send a strong message to these extremist groups that their endorsement is not welcome.”

Members of the Virginia National Guard on the pedestrian mall in Charlottesville, Va., following violence at the Unite the Right rally, Aug. 12, 2017. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Charlottesville Jewish community hires security


The Jewish community of Charlottesville, Virginia, hired security guards for the first time in its history ahead of a far-right event that ended with a deadly attack on protesters against racism.

Rabbi Tom Gutherz of Congregation Beth Israel told Haaretz on Sunday that the move was deemed necessary ahead of the “alt-right” rally planned for the city the day before. On Saturday, a 20-year-old white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer, and wounding 20 others.

“We had to hire the service of security guards because of the events,” Gutherz told Haaretz. “We’re sad but we had no choice.”

The synagogue held its scheduled activities on Saturday, Gutherz said.

“It was clear we wouldn’t let this intimidate us, these people can’t keep us away from our synagogue,” he said of the far-right activists.

On Sunday, Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer, who is Jewish, blamed President Donald Trump for some of the hatred on display in his city, where thousands of marchers chanted racist slogans, including about Jews and blacks.

“Look at the campaign he ran,” Signer told CNN about Trump. “Look at the intentional courting, on one hand, of all these white supremacists, white nationalists … and look on the other hand at the repeated failure to step up, condemn, denounce, silence, put to bed all of these different efforts, just like we saw yesterday. This isn’t hard.”

On Saturday, Trump condemned hatred and violence “on many sides” in his remarks, but did not directly single out the white supremacists, whose rally in Charlottesville resulted in the governor, Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, calling a state of emergency.

Trump has come under bipartisan criticism for failing to explicitly condemn white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other hate groups in brief remarks he gave Saturday from his golf club in New Jersey.

Vice President Mike Pence did issue such a condemnation while speaking to reporters in Cartagena, Colombia.

“We have no tolerance for hate and violence, white supremacists or neo-Nazis or the KKK,” he said.

People gather for a vigil in response to the death of a counter-demonstrator at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, outside the White House in Washington, U.S. August 13, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS.

Donald Trump, Betrayer-in-Chief


On Saturday, the President betrayed the Jews.

Some 500 white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, VA. They chanted, “The Jewish media is going down!” and hurled the n-word at counter-protestors. Violence broke out. A car plowed into a group of peaceful counter-protesters walking away from the rally, killing one of them.

After waiting far too long, President Donald Trump made a statement. He condemned violence “on many sides.” If it wasn’t clear that he was apportioning blame equally between the people who marched in support of slavery and killing Jews and those who opposed them, he repeated that phrase, “on many sides.”

And that was the moment Donald Trump betrayed the Jews.

Would it have been so hard to say racism and anti-Semitism have no place in the United States of America? The marchers, out to protest the removal of a stature of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, alternated chants of, “You will not replace us!” with “Jews will not replace us!” But Trump– the father and grandfather and father-in-law of Jews– refused to blame them. Refused to hold them accountable. Refused to threaten them with anywhere near the fire and fury he uses to lash out at Sen. Mitch McConnell or CNN or the New York Times.

This is not Republican. Right after the violence broke out, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Republican, tweeted, “’White supremacy’ crap is worst kind of racism—it’s EVIL and a perversion of God’s truth to ever think our Creator values some above others.”

Republican Sen. John McCain tweeted, “White supremacists aren’t patriots, they’re traitors – Americans must unite against hatred & bigotry.”

But Trump couldn’t do it.

And instead of slapping the instigators of all this violence back, it gives them cover to go on. They can tell themselves, We’re no worse than them – even the President said so. Trump just leveled the playing field between good and evil.

For years Trump and his supporters accused President Barack Obama of refusing to use the phrase, “radical Islamic terrorism” – something President George W. Bush also refused to do.

But here he is refusing to name and condemn the terrorists in his own backyard.

And the cowardice or complicity was echoed by Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In his statement, Sessions condemns hate and intolerance and violence. He doesn’t name white supremacists or the Klan. Those people can read his statement and be perfectly justifiable it applies to the people who came out to oppose them.

The reaction to Trump’s shameful statement has been swift and bipartisan. He may, as he has in the past, come out with a lame, too-late correction.

But the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville today will say he’s just doing it to calm the critics, that he doesn’t really mean it.

And that is one thing those racist losers and I agree on.

 

 

White supremacists rally in Charlottesville Va. on August 12 2017. Photo by Ron Kampeas.

One dead as car plows through anti-white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville Va.


A car traveling at a high speed plowed through a crowd during protests against a white supremacist gathering, killing one person and injuring at least five.

At least one of the injured was in critical condition, sources close to law enforcement told JTA on Saturday. A JTA reporter counted at least eight injured, although several of these suffered minor wounds and were treated at the scene. Security sources said a man was in custody and that the FBI was sending agents to the city, although a motive was not yet clear.

Some 500 white supremacists, believed to be the largest gathering in recent history, gathered in Emancipation Park on Saturday in the university town’s center to protest plans by the city, a liberal enclave in central Virginia, to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. (The park was previously known as Lee Park.)

Protesters and counterprotesters started throwing things at one another, including plastic bottles and gas bombs, and at one point the two groups charged one another and there were tussles. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and police asked the white supremacists to move. The organizers of the supremacists group were unclear about where to go and dispersed to different parts of the city.

The counterprotesters remained in the center and were peacefully marching down Water Street, a main thoroughfare, when a car tore down 4th Street at its intersection with Water Street, witnesses said, and rammed through protesters and into two cars that were waiting for the march to pass. The car backed up over injured protesters.

Clergy pray at the scene where a car ran into counterprotesters in Charlottesville Va. who were protesting white supremacists gathered in the city on August 12 2017. Photo by Ron Kampeas.

Although the focus of the white supremacists ostensibly was on preserving symbols of the confederacy, there were overt expressions of Nazi sympathy, including swastika flags, and signs that said “The Jewish media is going down.”

Protesters and counterprotesters arrived on Friday and there were tensions throughout the weekend, with chanting by the white supremacists at times targeting Jews and naming the town’s Jewish mayor, Mike Signer.

President Donald Trump condemned the violence, but appeared to blame all sides. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of bigotry hatred and violence on many sides,” he said at an impromptu press conference.

White Supremacists march in Charlottesville Va. on August 12 2017. Photo by Ron Kampeas.

A crowd of counterprotesters gathered in a Charlottesville cafe fell silent to listen to the president, but erupted into shouts of anger when he said “on many sides” and failed to name white supremacists.

Trump has made a point of naming Islamic radicals as responsible for terrorist attacks even before the full details are known.

Letters to the editor: Baca, BDS, Women in the Torah and more


Gratitude for Baca 

I want to respond to Michael Rubinstein’s letter regarding political cronyism (June 10). I suppose Mr. Rubinstein did not learn the Jewish concept of hakaras hatov. The Jewish community will eternally be grateful to former Sheriff Lee Baca for all that he has done for us. I am personally aware of his involvement in saving a kollel member when lost in the mountains, and without Baca’s help he would not have survived. Likewise, under his administration, the sheriff’s department guaranteed every Jewish inmate the right to practice his/her religion. Lastly, Baca and numerous Israeli police chiefs fully cooperated in fighting terrorism to save Jewish lives.

More than 250 Jews, Christians and Muslims gave Baca a standing ovation as he accepted the well-deserved honor at Congregation Bais Naftoli. Former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz, L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Congresswoman Diane Watson and many more federal, state, county and local officials should be commended for their participation. By the way, the sheriff never pleaded to any corruption whatsoever.

Andrew Friedman, Congregation Bais Naftoli president 

No Palestine, No Peace

David Suissa’s argument that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is best fought by exposing the lack of concern of Palestinian leaders for their people is fatally flawed (“Fight BDS with a Pro-Palestinian Narrative,” June 10). The argument has validity only on the assumption that an independent Palestinian state exists. It does not exist, and in fact Suissa’s underlying assumption seems to be that it should not be allowed to exist. Until it does, responsibility for the Palestinian people is shared by the Israeli government and Palestinian leaders.

Suissa also says that exposing BDS harmfulness to Palestinians may “if we get lucky … even be good for peace.” I have no idea what peace he is talking about, but I am convinced that peace can and should never depend on luck.

Barry H. Steiner, CSU Long Beach professor of political science

David Suissa responds: Mr. Steiner ignored my key point: Palestinian leaders have repeatedly refused Israeli offers of a Palestinian state because they put their own interests above that of their people. The day that changes, we will all be lucky, indeed.

A Lot to Like in the Journal

Seems every time I go for some good barbecue, there you and your people are, transforming what I had intended to be a simple mindless hour off into a mind-opening, perspective-stretching afternoon. Great Jewish Journal issue today (June 10)! 

Danielle Berrin’s piece captured a powerful message about the next steps in female power (“The Torah of Female Power”). Eitan Arom’s article helped me comprehend the echo chamber in ways that escaped me when reading other articles (“(((The Emboldening)))”). David Suissa’s words (“Fight BDS with a Pro-Palestinian Narrative”) pushed me to reconsider how I want to relate to the anti-BDS movements and, like a good wine, paired nicely with the other BDS pieces 

Shmuel Rosner, Michelle K. Wolf, Jeffrey Salkin and Daniel Sokatch each enlightened and informed. Loved loved Rabbi Adam Greenwald’s dvar Torah, as it addressed a problem that I saw and couldn’t reconcile. 

Your articles, as you often do, put into words what I was struggling to grasp. You leave me all bothered. Now I gotta figure out how to deal with this unease. Thanks (said both in truth and with sarcasm simultaneously). 

Wait long enough and I’ll find something to kvetch about. That’s what we do. But not today. Because I loved, loved, loved this week’s issue. Bravo to your team. 

Rabbi Paul Kipnes, Congregation Or Ami, Calabasas

Thank you for continuing to explore topics and authors with diverse, even controversial opinions. For example, this week’s Journal has an article by Dennis Prager on the nature of atheism (“Two Questions for Atheists,” June 10).  Normally, I find Mr. Prager a bit right wing in his opinions, but this article was touching and really got to the core of his seemingly rigid opinions — the meaning of DEATH. I feel I had the opportunity to look underneath the Pedantic Prager and see a little of the humanity inside. Thank you for the opportunity.

Then, lo and behold, I flipped the page and saw the article by Danielle Berrin. “The Torah of Female Power” lifts us higher in our desire to make the world a better place, by reminding us that “freedom from and freedom to” is what the Torah is all about. If we become free and don’t ensure that others who are enslaved become free, then we have ignored our inner “shared responsibility for the well-being of the world.”

Two pages, two great articles about faith — kudos to the Jewish Journal again.

Denise Neumark-Reimer via email

CORRECTION: A column about The Miracle Project (“Anti-Bullying: The Musical,” June 10) misidentified the award won by a documentary on HBO about the project. It was an Emmy Award. 

Will Donald Trump make America hate again?


For decades, it seemed that the visuals of Nazi propaganda — replete with hunch-backed, leering, long-nosed Chasidic Jews — had vanished. Then came the internet.

Virulently anti-Semitic imagery has made its way into the presidential campaign, materializing, for instance, in Julia Ioffe’s inbox and social media feeds after the Jewish reporter wrote a profile in GQ of Melania Trump, who found the article unflattering.

Now, members of the Jewish world who pay close attention to hate speech — anti-Semitic and otherwise — are posing an unsettling question: Will Donald Trump make America hate again? For some, the answer is that he already has.

“Trump’s rhetoric resonates with white supremacists,” said Joanna Mendelson, an investigative researcher with the Center on Extremism, a branch of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“They’ve been essentially energized about Trump’s candidacy, and they’ve been very vocal about their support of Trump and his policies on immigration and globalism,” Mendelson said.

In February, the ADL published a list of 10 prominent white supremacists who actively support Trump. Then, in April, it urged the candidate to drop the phrase “America First” as a campaign slogan, pointing out it had been used by Charles Lindbergh, a prominent Nazi sympathizer, in the 1940s.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, another prominent Jewish organization monitoring hate speech, has stopped short of calling out Trump by name. 

But in an emailed statement to the Jewish Journal, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s founder and dean, wrote, “No political candidate for high office of any sort should allow hate groups and bigots to pollute their campaign by peddling their hatred.”  

Trump’s tough stance on immigrants, paired with his anti-establishment ethos, seems to have made him the most palatable candidate in decades for white supremacists, who otherwise have been slowly fading into the country’s political fringe.

William Johnson, who was named on the ADL list, explained that Trump’s promise to put American interests first speaks to the concerns of white nationalists (he rejects the term “white supremacist,” calling it “the worst swear word out there”).

As the chairman of the anti-immigrant American Freedom Party, Johnson favors the creation of a white ethno-state.

A corporate lawyer in downtown Los Angeles, Johnson became entangled in the Trump campaign last month when he applied to become a California delegate to the Republican convention, and his name was accidentally included in the list of Trump convention delegates sent to the California secretary of state.

“Virtually all of the white nationalist movement is behind Donald Trump,” Johnson said in an interview with the Journal at the time.

In a second interview with the Journal, Johnson said the support stems from the fact that every other major presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan has promoted a globalist agenda of open borders and multiculturalism.

“They’re all promoting the globalist platform that Donald Trump is now tearing apart,” he said.

He added that many members of his community are also tacitly rooting for Bernie Sanders because of his anti-establishment stance.

In the interview, Johnson drew a line between white nationalists who see Jews as benign, saying Ashkenazis “would probably be considered white,” and those who see them as problematic non-whites. Johnson said he belongs to the first camp.

On the other side of that split is David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader.

Last month, Duke praised Trump on his radio show for exposing “Jewish supremacists who control our country.”

“Many people are upset with the Zionist elite,” Duke wrote in an email to the Journal, describing himself as “a Gentile who loves his own people as much as Jews love their own people.” 

Duke declined to comment further.

Mendelson, the ADL researcher, questioned the existence of a clean divide between white supremacists who hate Jews and those who don’t.

“I look at many of those folks as ecumenical haters,” she said. “You can’t parse out their hatred for Jews, because really their hatred extends across the spectrum.”

While some haters are willing to speak out in public, she said, many “might not do so boldly in their workplace or on the street corner or at that rally.” Instead, they take to the internet.

“I’ve talked with many who agree with my opinions on Jewish influence, but it’s a very tricky subject to talk about in public,” a 22-year-old engineer from Houston, who declined to be named for this story, wrote in a private message on Twitter.

Posting under the handle @NationalismRise, the engineer has described a target of his ire as a “filthy kike,” tweeted pictures of swastikas and referred to The New York Times as the “Jew York Times.” He describes himself as a Trump supporter and a member of the alt-right movement, a fringe group of ultra-nationalist ideologies that challenges mainstream conservatism.

Asked why he believes Trump will stand up to Jewish political interests, he said, “The proof is in the pudding.”

“The amount of hate & vitriol aimed at Trump from Jewish members of the media & high finance has been constant for the last year,” he wrote.

He echoed Johnson’s sentiment that Trump would do away with the pervasive globalism of America’s foreign policy: “I believe his America First foreign policy and criticism of the neoconservative movement implies he will be much less likely to carry water for Israel.”

While Ioffe may have been the first high-profile case of a journalist finding herself on the business end of a stream of Trump-inspired, anti-Semitic Twitter invective, she is not the last.

After retweeting a Washington Post essay that called Trump “perilous to the republic,” New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman saw his feed flooded with Jew-bashing messages and images, including a cartoon of Weisman in a gas chamber with a yellow star on his lapel and a Nazified Donald Trump standing guard.

In a Times op-ed, Weisman castigated Trump for failing to rein in his supporters. He also took aim at the Republican Jewish Coalition for failing to single out Trump in a May 24 statement condemning anti-Semitic attacks on journalists, “whether it be from Sanders, Clinton or Trump supporters.”

“In Mr. Trump, many in the alt-right have found an imperfect vessel for their cause, but they have poured their rage into his campaign without impediment,” Weisman wrote. “Mr. Trump apparently takes all comers.”

Donald Trump cites Jewish groups in bizarre explanation for not disavowing KKK


Donald Trump, entering the fifth day of defending himself against his equivocal response on CNN to an endorsement by David Duke, said the former Ku Klux Klan head was a “bad man.”

The characterization Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” is about as direct as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination has been so far in disavowing the white supremacist who expressed support for him.

But Trump had to add a wrinkle. Having previously blamed a faulty earpiece for failing to condemn Duke, he this time said he couldn’t just come out and condemn groups generically because — what if they were Jewish?

 

“And the one question that was asked of me on CNN — he’s having a great time — he talked about ‘groups of people.’ And I don’t like to disavow groups if I don’t know who they are. I mean, you could have the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in ‘groups,’” he said.

 

 

The thing is, though, in the original encounter on CNN Sunday, Trump clearly understood that interviewer Jake Tapper was not referring to just any groups, but to white supremacist groups in particular. How do we know this? Because Trump said so.

“Well just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay, I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know, I don’t know. Did he endorse me, or what’s going on, because, you know I know nothing about David Duke, I know nothing about white supremacists. So you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about,” he said.

Tapper pushed back, saying, “But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is, even if you don’t know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say, unequivocally, that you condemn them and you don’t want their support?”

Trump again demurred. “Well, I have to look at the group. I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of groups, I will do research on them, and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. But you may have groups in there that are totally fine and that would be unfair, so give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know,” he said.

Even in the unlikely event Trump had never heard the term “white supremacist,'” “white” coupled with “supremacist” is kind of self-explanatory. Now, Trump is making it even weirder by suggesting that when Tapper said “white supremacist,” the candidate heard “Jewish philanthropy.”

Donald Trump has a white supremacist problem


Donald Trump has a white supremacist problem. The only question is whether he will ignore it, deny it or do something about it.

Trump has changed a lot of the rules in the campaign game, but one law he hasn’t broken is this: When you say divisive, nasty things, you empower divisive, nasty people.

Organizations that track hate crimes against Jews and others have been following what we can call the Trump Effect for the past year, and have compelling evidence that it is real.

White nationalist leaders including Jared Taylor and former Klansman David Duke have endorsed Trump. On Vanguard News Network, the largest white supremacist website, Trump is regularly referred to as “Glorious Leader.” Bloggers compare him to Hitler, treating him like the Second Coming of the Third Reich. In January, William Johnson, leader of the white supremacist American Freedom Party, paid for a series of robocalls in Iowa in support of Trump. Johnson convened a 2015 white power political event in Bakersfield at which Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Youth Network gave a speech blaming Jews for destroying the white race.

“Donald Trump’s demonizing statements about Latinos and Muslims have electrified the radical right,” Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote in his group’s 2015 report.

Instead of distancing himself from such supporters, Trump has retweeted their hate posts — then denied knowing he did so. He has used neo-Nazi statistics on black-on-white hate crime as his own, and has cited bogus polls by anti-Muslim hate groups, like ACT for America, claiming that a quarter of American Muslims support violent jihadists.

Jonathan Greenblatt, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League, put it to me as judiciously as possible.

“It’s very worrisome to see the convergence of that crowd and a mainstream candidate,” he said. 

Yes, of course, Trump’s popularity extends far beyond the fringe. He has support among great numbers of fairly mainstream Tea Party types — something that is no less frightening. And there are plenty of people who disagree with his hateful statements but love his non-P.C. approach, or just find him entertaining. They don’t care whether Trump has the answers, they just care that he has the attitude. 

All that is scary enough, but understandable in the context of an electorate on both the left and right that is fed up with politics as usual.

But what’s beyond the pale are the truly sick, dangerous forces Trump has unleashed, the poison he has uncorked.

“His platform’s great and just the right mix, this is the will of the majority,” wrote a frequent blogger on Vanguard News Network who goes by the name Joe Smith. “And that’s why ALL the Jews are boycotting him (Univision, Comcast/NBC, Macy’s, all owned by Jews). Jews’ attack dogs are also getting into the fray making their masters happy.”

There have always been right-wing voices that veer toward outright racism and feed the anti-Semitic fantasies of sad, white men. The ’80s brought us Pat Buchanan, for instance.

But two things set Trump far apart from his predecessors: the rise of talk radio and social media, which provide an unlimited echo chamber for hate, and Trump himself, who with his money and marketing genius, has now all but run away with the nomination.

Meanwhile, the revitalized network of white supremacists, anti-Semites and neo-Nazis that Trump inspires poses as big if not bigger threa to the average American than ISIS. Over the past two decades, these hate groups have planned and/or perpetrated dozens of attacks, killings and plots against the Jewish community, among others. According to a report in The New York Times, Islam-inspired terror attacks accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 1/2 years. Meanwhile, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, with 254 fatalities.  While some sources dispute how these numbers are tallied, a survey of 372 police and sheriff's departments nationwide found that 74 percent of the law officers view antigovernment violence as the greatest source of  violent extremism, while 39 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence.

Nearly all media outlets have given Trump a pass for helping to stoke these fires. Not one debate moderator has confronted Trump about it. 

So, who will hold Trump accountable?

It won’t be the Republican establishment, which for seven fat years was more than happy to let Trump build his political brand and undermine the Democrats by stoking racist theories about President Barack Obama’s nationality. It won’t be Jewish Republican donors, now moving on from Jeb Bush. Most of those won’t have anything to do with Trump, and in any case, he doesn’t need anyone’s money or advice. And it won’t be the Democrats, whose worries will just be dismissed as partisan.

That leaves only one possible source of hope.

Trump’s grandchildren.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism before marrying real estate scion Jared Kushner in 2009, so she and her two children, Arabella, who is 4, and Joseph, who is 2, are Jewish.

Does Trump understand he is inspiring the very people who want to see his grandchildren dead? Does he remember the 2014 attack on a Jewish Community Center in Kansas that left three people dead, perpetrated by a devoted contributor to the Vanguard News Network, the same network that refers to Trump as its “Glorious Leader”? Why is Trump not publicly rejecting them? Why is he not backtracking on the divisive racial comments he’s made, the ones that bring these lowlifes and rejects firmly into his camp?

Call me naive, but I still believe in the power of a grandchild to melt a grandparent’s heart. I believe that one day soon, Trump will look into Arabella’s and Joseph’s eyes and see what a dangerous path he’s on. We’re counting on you, kids. Good luck. 

What 5 Questions Should reporters ask Donald Trump?  Click here.

Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @foodaism.

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This entry was edited on Feb 26, 2016 to reflect the fact that experts dispute the exact numbers of right- and left-wing versus Islamic extremist-inspired violence in the United States. 

Were Las Vegas suicide pact couple Neo-Nazis?


Law enforcement officials are looking into whether a man and woman who killed two Las Vegas police officers and a third person before killing themselves Sunday had links to the white supremacy movement, according to a report on Monday.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, citing city law enforcement sources, said investigators discovered paraphernalia associated with white supremacists, including swastika symbols, but it was not clear where the items was found.

The newspaper’s report also said the shooters covered the officers’ bodies with something featuring the Revolutionary War-era Gadsden flag. The yellow flag, which contains an image of a coiled snake and the words “Don’t tread on me,” is associated with the conservative Tea Party political movement.

Representatives for the Las Vegas Police Department said they could not confirm the report. A morning news conference is planned later on Monday.

The armed man and woman shouted about a “revolution” before opening fire and killing the two uniformed patrol officers, Alyn Beck, 41, and Igor Soldo, 31, who were eating lunch in a CiCi’s pizza parlor, police said on Sunday.

One of the two officers managed to return gunfire before the suspects fled to an adjacent Wal-Mart, where they killed a bystander inside the front door, then exchanged gunfire with police who pursued them further into the store, Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie said.

Moments later, the female suspect shot her accomplice to death, then took her own life, Gillespie told reporters on Sunday.

Beck had worked in the police department since August 2001 and was married, with three children. Soldo had been on the force since April 2006 and was married, with a baby.

 
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