‘Dripping with poison of antisemitism’: the demonization of George Soros

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/24/george-soros-antisemitism-bomb-attacks

The billionaire was the first target in a series of mail bombs sent this week, an attack that comes as vilification of Soros has reached new heights

Fri 26 Oct 2018

As investigators seek answers in the case of mail bombs sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and others, there will be no shortage of evidence regarding the first target, the billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

The bomb maker’s motivations remain unknown. What is clear is that the attempted attack comes as the demonization of Soros in the US, previously limited to fringe groups on the far right, has reached new heights. More recently it has been taken up by the most senior Republican politicians in the country, up to and including the president.

Experts worry it is a sign that taboos on public antisemitism have all but disappeared. Indeed Soros’s son, Alexander Soros, said in an op-ed on Wednesday that many attacks on his father over the years have been “dripping with the poison of anti-semitism”.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump repeated the familiar accusation that Soros pays for protesters, when he said that the “elevator screamers”– protesters who were confronting senators over their votes for Brett Kavanaugh, the then-nominee to the supreme court – had their signs “paid for by Soros and others”.

And in Minnesota last week, a TV ad in support of the Republican congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn described Soros as a “connoisseur of chaos” and a “funder of the left”. It implied that Hagedorn’s Democratic opponent, Dan Feehan, a combat veteran, was “owned” by Soros due to his employment by a centrist foreign policy thinktank, the Center for a New American Security.

The condemnation of Soros – a Hungarian-born Jew whose very open and public giving favors progressive causes – has been a constant drumbeat in countries where he works. This is particularly true of former Soviet bloc states like Russia, Hungary and Poland, where Soros initiatives have been banned and politically attacked. It surfaced in US rightwing media during the Bush administration, when Soros became more active in opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

From the racist white nationalist site the Daily Stormer to major conservative media stars, the right has been increasingly united over the last decade in seeing the hidden hand of Soros, whom they frequently describe as a “globalist”, in all manner of events.

He has been falsely accused by the right of orchestrating alleged violence from so-called “antifa” groups, manipulating the world economy, being a wartime Nazi collaborator and sponsoring the entirely fictional project of “white genocide”.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/oct/24/george-soros-antisemitism-bomb-attacks

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If the Mail Bomber Had Worn an ISIS Hat

From The Atlantic:  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/mail-bomber-cesar-sayoc-wasnt-charged-terrorism/574147/

The government rarely charges domestic extremists as terrorists.

Oct 27, 2018

Cesar Sayoc Jr., a registered Republican with a long criminal history, was arrested on Friday in connection with more than 10 mail bombs sent to prominent Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump. He was charged with five federal crimes, including threats against former presidents, but he was not charged with terrorism. And it’s a safe bet that unless it turns out that Sayoc was inspired by a foreign terrorist organization as opposed to domestic politics—which appears to be the case—terrorism won’t be added to the bill.

A perpetrator’s ideology should not dictate the nature of justice that he or she receives, but that is precisely what happens under today’s laws.

Although the secretary of state has designated almost 70 foreign terrorist organizations, the federal government does not officially designate domestic terrorist organizations or individuals. The U.S. legal code does define domestic terrorism: acts meant to intimidate a civilian population or influence government policy through coercion. It does not, however, identify penalties associated with it. As a result, individuals responsible for attacks that federal law enforcement would consider domestic terrorism often are not charged as terrorists.

The Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was convicted of murder, and the Charleston church shooter, Dylann Roof, was convicted of federal hate crimes, despite the fact that both men’s actions clearly met the U.S. definition of terrorism. Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. the Unabomber—one of the most famous American terrorists, who earned his sobriquet sending bombs through the mail—pleaded guilty to illegally transporting, mailing, and using bombs, and to three counts of murder, but not to terrorism. And now the suspect responsible for the recent spate of mail bombs is unlikely to be charged with terrorism. But if he’d waved an ISIS flag instead of a MAGA hat, the story would be quite different.

The same violent crime is labeled and tried differently depending on what inspired it. This may seem like semantics, and thus inconsequential, but the terrorism label matters in part because it carries a powerful stigma. Describing domestic terrorists as terrorists can help to discredit them among potential supporters and isolate them from the wider public.

The United States has devoted immense resources to combating jihadist ideology over the past 17 years. Soon after 9/11, the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia pressed the government there to rein in the religious establishment from promoting the radical Wahhabi doctrine that inspires many jihadists. “What you teach in your schools and preach in your mosques now is not an internal matter,” the ambassador told his Saudi counterparts. “It affects our national security.” Many homegrown terrorists are inspired by foreign jihadist ideology, but others are inspired by U.S. extremist movements. The government has not made a similar effort to hold this latter set of actors accountable.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/mail-bomber-cesar-sayoc-wasnt-charged-terrorism/574147/

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Hate Is on the Ballot Next Week

From The New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/opinion/hate-is-on-the-ballot-next-week.html

Don’t let the whataboutists and bothsiders tell you it isn’t.

By Paul Krugman
Oct. 29, 2018

In America 2018, whataboutism is the last refuge of scoundrels, and bothsidesism is the last refuge of cowards.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the midst of a wave of hate crimes. Just in the past few days, bombs were mailed to a number of prominent Democrats, plus CNN. Then, a gunman massacred 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Meanwhile, another gunman killed two African-Americans at a Louisville supermarket, after first trying unsuccessfully to break into a black church — if he had gotten there an hour earlier, we would probably have had another mass murder.

All of these hate crimes seem clearly linked to the climate of paranoia and racism deliberately fostered by Donald Trump and his allies in Congress and the media.

Killing black people is an old American tradition, but it is experiencing a revival in the Trump era.

When the bombs were discovered, many on the right immediately claimed that they were fake news or a false flag operation by liberals. But the F.B.I. quickly tracked down the apparent source of the explosive devices: A fanatical Trump supporter, whom many are already calling the MAGABomber. His targets were people and a news organization Trump has attacked in many speeches. (Since the bombings, Trump has continued to attack the news media as the “enemy of the people.”)

The man arrested at the Tree of Life synagogue has been critical of Trump, who he apparently believes isn’t anti-Semitic enough. But his rage seems to have been fueled by a conspiracy theory being systematically spread by Trump supporters — the claim that Jewish financiers are bringing brown people into America to displace whites.

This conspiracy theory is, it turns out, a staple of neo-Nazis in Europe. It’s what our own neo-Nazis — whom Trump calls “very fine people” — were talking about in Charlottesville last year, when they chanted, “Jews will not replace us.”

It’s also the barely veiled subtext of the manufactured hysteria over the caravan of would-be migrants from Central America. The fearmongers aren’t just portraying a small group of frightened, hungry people still far from the United States border as a looming invasion. They have also been systematically implying that Jews are somehow behind the whole thing. There’s a straight line from Fox News coverage of the caravan to the Tree of Life massacre.

So how are Trump apologists dealing with this ugly picture? Partly through denial, pretending not to see any link between hateful rhetoric and hate crimes. But also through attempts to spread the blame by claiming that Democrats are just as bad if not worse. Trump supporters try to kill his critics? Well, some Trump opponents have yelled at politicians in restaurants!

This whataboutism doesn’t stop with equating protests with violence. It also relies on outright lying.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/opinion/hate-is-on-the-ballot-next-week.html

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The ADL warned of antisemitic harassment. Then Pittsburgh happened

From The Guardian UK:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/27/antisemitism-far-right-terrorism-hate-crimes

The far right has entered the mainstream but when it attacks and people die, the media still won’t use the word ‘terrorism’

Sun 28 Oct 2018

On Saturday morning, I woke up to an article about a new report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which concludes that “far-right extremists have ramped up an intimidating wave of anti-Semitic harassment against Jewish journalists, political candidates and others ahead of next month’s US midterm elections”.

The ADL had found a vast number of antisemitic messages on Twitter. About a third were from bots but the most “worrisome and harmful” were from accounts of “real-life humans”, including leaders of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.

This should come as no surprise to anyone with even a casual knowledge of contemporary US politics. Obviously, the first amendment protects antisemitic messages, as it should. But this does not take away from the fact that the recent spike in open and virulent far-right rhetoric will inevitably have real-world consequences.

In just one week, no less than three far-right terrorist attacks have made the news. I won’t name the various suspected terrorists, as this only increases their importance and could encourage copycats. But on Friday, the man suspected of sending more than a dozen pipe bombs to prominent critics of Donald Trump was arrested in Florida. The suspect had been driving around in a “Maga van” for months, the vehicle plastered with pictures of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, with the faces of some of their critics, including George Soros, in crosshairs.

Two days earlier, a white man had shot two black people in a Kroger grocery store in Kentucky. You probably haven’t even heard of this attack, which is being investigated as a possible hate crime. The man first tried to enter the First Baptist church of Jeffersontown, a predominantly African American church, police said, but was thankfully unsuccessful because the church was locked down. According to a witness, after he succeeded in shooting black people the gunman told a white bystander: “Whites don’t kill whites.”

And then, on Saturday, another white man wreaked havoc in a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 people and injuring six, including four police officers. According to law enforcement agents, he shouted antisemitic abuse during the attack. The suspect was taken into custody.

Responses to the three attacks have been predictable. Far-right pundits and websites claimed the pipe bombings were a “false flag” operation, continuing to spread bizarre conspiracy theories even after the suspect was arrested. Conservatives pulled out their usual “crazy person” defense, calling attack after attack an “incident”. Trump functioned, as always, as the amplifier-in-chief, initially suggesting a false flag operation with regard to the pipe bomber and calling the Pittsburgh shooter “a maniac”, before using the tragedy to call upon houses of worship to arm themselves and to openly muse about the importance of reinstating the death penalty – nationwide, I assume.

Continue reading at:  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/oct/27/antisemitism-far-right-terrorism-hate-crimes


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Jews Must Support The Trans Community

From The Forward:  https://forward.com/opinion/412547/jews-must-support-the-trans-community-our-lives-depend-on-it/

Becky Silverstein
October 23, 2018

The Facebook messages usually start with a shy “Hi, Rabbi Becky,” though sometimes it is more direct: “Can I ask you a question?”

They almost always come from the transgender and gender-nonconforming young people I know through my work with Keshet’s LGBTQ and Ally Teen Shabbatonim.

On any day, I am balancing conversations about coming out to parents, changing one’s name and/or pronoun, issues at school or other parts of life as a trans youth, plus a few conversations with colleagues about how to work with transgender conversion students or what ritual I would use to celebrate a name change.

Each message provides me the opportunity to affirm the place of transgender people in our communities, and each conversation provides me an opportunity to counter the harmful messages that transgender people receive each day: We don’t have the right to exist. We are not imbued with inherent dignity and worth.

Our Jewish textual tradition has always had a place for those who do not fit neatly into binary boxes of sex and gender. From the creation of the first person in Genesis 1, we learn that humanity is created in God’s image, and that “male and female God created them.”

The ancient rabbis of the Talmudic and Midrashic eras understand this verse to mean a variety of images, including that God created one person with a male side and a female side, or that God created a golem that spanned the earth.

“My gender is golem,” a trans young person joked when we studied this text recently.

A joke, yes, and also an assertion that this young person has existed since the beginning of humanity.

The rabbis of the Talmud explore what it means for a person to be one of six sexes, four of them beyond the simplistic male and female.

Both Rebekah and Joseph can be read as being gender non-conforming.

As a transgender rabbi, I know well the obligation to live out this Torah, the obligation to both honor the sacred texts that speak specifically about gender and to live into those texts that speak of compassion and community, which remind us that as Jews, we must act in such a way that honors our own history of oppression.

In Pirkei Avot 2:4, Hillel teaches al tifrosh min hatzibur, do not separate yourself from the community. I understand this to mean both that I must not separate myself from the community and that the community must not create conditions that push me out.

Continue reading at: https://forward.com/opinion/412547/jews-must-support-the-trans-community-our-lives-depend-on-it/

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Men Are Socialized to ‘Act Inhumanely’

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