The dead have not all been buried. Yet, they have been used as cudgels for partisan political attacks. Immediately after the ghastly attack on worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the single most horrific anti-Semitic attack in US history.
I would like to make one simple request: Out of respect for the dead, please refrain from the temptation of using this tragedy as a club with which to bludgeon one’s political opponents.
No matter how passionately you might feel about the moral rectitude of your own personal political party over the other.
It is time to focus on healing. Focus on what we can do to heal a scarred, fractured nation, and a scared, fractured people.
We Jews felt we have finally come to a place we can call home, where we can plant our trees, nurture them and let them blossom on fertile soil. That it could never happen here.
And then it happened here. In ironically, The Tree of life Synagogue.
We are still recoiling from the fact that our sacred space has been invaded. The place we go to strengthen our collective identity, our history and our faith; where we turn to in times of personal crisis, sorrow and joy, has been invaded and turned into a killing field by this wretched imitation of a human being, Robert Bowers.
As soon as this odious event hit the news, the most frequent response I heard was “Donald Trump set the tone for this.”
By laying the blame on someone else’s door, it takes personal agency away from where it directly belongs, on the murderer himself, Robert Bowers, the heinous act and the heinous screed of Nazism which he represents.
This, despite the fact that President Trump’s response to this was immediate and unequivocal, calling it “devastating” and laying bare “the hatred in this country”.
This, despite the fact that President Trump, at an Illinois rally, called this an anti-Semitic act, and “an attack on all of us”, to rousing applause.
This, despite the fact that Robert Bowers, himself, said he did not vote for Donald Trump, or never, “owned, worn or even touched” a “Make America Great Again” hat.
Yes, there are repulsive anti-Semites within the fringes of both parties, lurking among the shadows of the internet. The simple fact remains that within the extremes of both tents, our people are not welcome.
A simple google search to the Southern Poverty Law Center website reveals the bone-chilling fact that there are a plethora of neo-Nazi groups in this country, and these are the classic, right wing anti-Semites, whom one might well suspect that, as individuals, probably feel more comfortable within the republican party.
Yet, the most recent Pew Poll of January 2018 says that an overwhelming majority of republicans as opposed to democrats, support Israel over the Palestinians. The hiatus is staggering, with 79 % of republicans supporting Israel over the Palestinians, and 27% of democrats.
That is Israel– the only explicitely Jewish state—home for more Jews, 6.5 million, than anywhere else on earth.
Within the current House races there are some ominous signs.
In Minnesota’s 5th Congressional district, a Somali born candidate, Ilham Omar is running on the democratic ticket. She recently said , “I am just someone who is a public servant working to create a better society who just happens to be a Muslim refuge”, yet , on November 16, 2012 she tweeted “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them to see the evil doings of Israel. #Gaza #Palestine #Israel”
In New York’s 14th Congressional District, democratic candidate Alexandria Occasio-Cortez has called Israel’s defensive actions on the border of Gaza, where Hamas terrorists are trying to infiltrate Israel with the expressed intent of murdering as many Israelis as possible, “a massacre”, and has asked “Where is the outrage?”, before admitting that “I am not an expert on the issue.”
Rashida Tlaib, the democratic candidate in Michigan’s 13th district, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, has vowed that she will “absolutely” vote against any military aid to Israel.
However, when one expresses legitimate concern over these statements, one is immediately and conveniently accused of being “Islamophobic”, the ultimate conversation stopper.
Unfortunately, according to the ADL anti-Semitism acts were up by 57% in 2017, over 2016. Most attacks are occurring on college campuses, with a 50% spike in K through 12 schools and on college campuses.
Anti-Semitism is a very virulent virus, for which there is no known antidote, and which has found a welcome home within the extremes of both political parties.
And the leaders of both political parties have a moral imperative to call it out when they see it taking root in their midst.
So please, spare me the sanctimonious, one-sided political lectures. The finger pointing must stop.
We need to find messages of unity, of solace and of hope.
We need to remember that the vast majority of Americans are people of good will who would never countenance any act of ant-Semitism, for one nanosecond, and who have sent my people thousands of compassionate messages of friendship, solidarity and support.
We need to remember that most Americans had ancestors who came to these shores in pursuit of the very same thing our fathers and grandfathers sought: religious freedom. And that religious liberty is one of the core principles upon which this great nation was founded.
Let’s try to use this time to concentrate on what unites us, as a people, which is far greater than what has ever divided us.
Sarah N. Stern is Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, DC.
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