The armed man who entered a Pittsburgh synagogue on a Sabbath morning to massacre Jewish worshippers was infected by a disease of hatred that customarily lurks in dark corners.
Anti-Semitism should have been eradicated centuries ago. But it endures in this country as a small, sick idea that defies logic. Of course it defies logic. How are Jews different from any other group of Americans with unique religious and cultural traditions? Yet anti-Semitism exists, and there is no easy cure. There is only vigilance against outbursts.
On Saturday, a villain in Pittsburgh killed 11 people and wounded several others, including four police officers. “I just want to kill Jews,” said the captured shooting suspect, Robert Bowers. That same day, early voting was underway in Illinois. On the ballot in the 3rd Congressional District as the Republican nominee is Arthur J. Jones of Lyons. He is an anti-Semite, Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi.
Jones is an ugly character, a lurker who managed to snooker — his word — the Republican Party by running for Congress in a heavily Democratic Chicago-area district. The GOP knew it wouldn’t take the seat, so party officials weren’t paying attention when Jones entered the race. He won the Republican primary because he was unopposed. Now Jones faces incumbent Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski of Western Springs. We hope every 3rd District voter tells Jones where to go by supporting Lipinski. Vigilance, please.
The Pittsburgh shooter acted on his hatred by killing. For Jones, anti-Semitism is a form of political branding. He told Politico he’s running to counter a “two-party, Jew-party, queer-party system.” He says the Nazi extermination of Jews didn’t happen; the Holocaust is “an international extortion racket.” The Anti-Defamation League, which combats anti-Semitism and monitors extremism, says Jones has a long history of involvement in neo-Nazi activities.
Millions of Jewish Americans are assimilated contributors to society. Yet owing to their surnames, their places and patterns of worship and their prominence in many professions, they’re also a conspicuous and thus vulnerable minority. Fair to say many Jewish people know the feeling of being seen as outsiders. Institutional discrimination — no Jews hired by this company, no Jews allowed in that country club — is mostly gone, but as Pittsburgh proves, virulent anti-Semitism remains. Many Jews who didn’t feel uneasy a week ago surely do today.
While Jews represent 2 percent of the U.S. population, they account for more than half of the victims of religious hate crimes, according to FBI data from 2016. The ADL reported a 57 percent rise in anti-Jewish incidents last year. Among them was a series of desecrations of Jewish cemeteries. White nationalists who marched and rioted in Charlottesville, Va., chanted anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans.
President Donald Trump failed to condemn those marchers, but he used direct language after the Pittsburgh massacre: “It will require all of us working together to extract the hateful poison of anti-Semitism.” That welcome statement isn’t enough to end discrimination or correct Trump’s track record. His coddling of white supremacists and personal attacks on foes appear as approval of hate speech for those seeking a cue.
The president isn’t an anti-Semite, but as he said, everyone needs to do more to combat anti-Semitism. It is a disease that lurks in corners. In Pittsburgh, it turned murderous. In the 3rd District U.S. House race, it gained a spot on the ballot.
Anti-Semitism survives in America. When you see it, when you hear it and when you vote, reject it.
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