Early this morning, as Jewish men gathered for their morning prayers, a lone gunman entered the Adat Yeshurun Valley synagogue in North Hollywood (or entered it’s parking lot) and, without saying a word, shot and wounded two men. The gunman, described as an African-American teenager wearing a hood, apparently fled. (By the next day, police claimed they were not certain if the shooter was African-American). At first, they arrested an African-American man who resembled the ostensible description of the shooter; they have since released him. The police are calling this a “hate crime” since no other motive appears to have been involved. (The police have subsequently said that they are not sure of the motive). Thankfully, the wounded men, Maor Ben-Nissan and Allen Lasry, were hospitalized and will recover. (Thank you Dymphna for posting their names here).
Yesterday there was a shootout in Detroit at a mosque largely peopled by African-American converts to Islam and led by the former Black Panther H. Rap Brown, who converted to Islam in jail while serving a life sentence. If a convert to Islam was involved in the LA synagogue shooting (and it is totally unclear whether this is the case), I would view this shooting as one lone individual’s version of “political” payback. Recently, in 2009, four African-American prison converts to Islam plotted to blow up two Riverdale synagogues and an American military base.
Blame the Jews, target the Jews—even when they are not involved, especially when they aren’t. Even when the Jews are not Israelis and are not necessarily “Zionists.” Even when the Jews may themselves be Arabs of many skin-colors. The Los Angeles synagogue is Sephardic and Orthodox. Its congregants are mainly Moroccan, Iranian, and North African Jews. A true anti-Semite makes no distinction between Jews and Zionists, and between Jews of color, who may speak Arabic and Persian, and Jews of European extraction who do not. Such fine distinctions are not made in the West or in the Arab world.
On the other hand, the LA shooting could, (were it not for eyewitness accounts to the contrary), be the work of the proverbial lone deranged man, perhaps a white supremacist like the aging Nazi-wannabee who shot a guard at the United States Holocaust Museum earlier this year. Indeed, in 1999, a white supremacist entered a Los Angeles Jewish center and opened fire with a semi-automatic, shooting five people. My God, the shooter could be a Jew. We have seen cases in which Jews have scrawled anti-Semitic graffiti on synagogue walls; in 2005, a jilted ex-boyfriend in Florida shot one of his ex-girlfriend’s employers during Rosh Hashanna prayers at a Chabad service.
The shooter could have been a hired hitman out to settle someone else’s personal or financial score.
Or, the lone Los Angeles shooter could be a Muslim—either a deranged one off his medication, easily influenced and empowered by hate propaganda, as the 2006 Seattle Jewish Center shooter was, or perhaps an angry, politicized loner as Sirhan Sirhan (the Palestinian who assassinated Robert Kennedy) was. I write about him in my book, The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It.
Palestinian terrorists made an art of attacking synagogues in Europe as a way of expressing their displeasure about Jewish Israel. In 1980, they bombed the Paris synagogue on Rue Copernic. The bomb, hidden in a motorcycle, killed four people and wounded twenty others. Nearly thirty years later, one of the perpetrators was arrested in Canada: Hassan Diab, a Lebanese-born lecturer in sociology. In 1998, a bomb exploded outside a synagogue in Riga, Latvia, nearly destroying the building. This attack was presumably caused by fascist extremists.
The Jews are an equal-opportunity target, hated by both right-wingers and left-wingers as well as by Islamist fundamentalists. And, Jews are attacked on every continent.
Who can forget the 1994 Hezbollah bombing of the Argentinian Jewish Center, (Associacion Mutual Israelita Argentina) which killed 85 people and injured hundreds? (Why is Mr. Goldstone not investigating this incident?) Or the bomb thrown into a synagogue (Beit Shmuel) in Caracas which thankfully only damaged property. No human life was lost.
Churches are routinely bombed and Christians are routinely tortured to death in the Islamic world. But so are Jews–always were, long before the advent of the state of Israel in 1948. For example, in 2002, two deadly bombings were carried out by Islamists against synagogues in Tunisia, on the island of Djerba. And, in 2003, two simultaneous car bomb attacks targeted Istanbul synagogues, killing at least 24 people and wounding more than 225.
The other day, in a long-planned action, Palestinian Arab men started throwing rocks down on peaceful Jewish worshippers at the Kotel (Western Wall). This is beneath contempt, outrageous, typical; but, one might argue, it is taking place in the context of a war against Jewish Israel which the Arab League, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Abbas’s men have declared.
What does it mean to attack synagogues outside of Israel? It means that those who choose to be religious Jews or who dare to visit a synagogue are under siege. The place where Jews gather together to greet the Divine, the place where Jews are at their most vulnerable, and holiest, is the very place which is under attack. Judaism itself is being targeted. This might explain why some Jews are the first to criticize both Judaism (especially Orthodox Judaism) and the Jewish state. They feel the heat, they fear it. They want to be excused from class, exempted from a common, tragic Jewish fate.
Alas, the Nazis did not ask Jews for their political views as they stood on line at Auschwitz.
But let’s not forget the harm that propaganda can do. Whether it’s the fiery anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, and anti-American sermons in the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s church when President Obama was a member and their consequent playbacks on television and the internet; or the hate rants in mosques on every continent, including North America; or the doctored anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish footage that is routinely and universally beamed up via satellite.
The fifth column of Jewish opportunists are only a small but sorrowful part of the problem. The larger issue is that of Jew hatred among non-Jews. Today, the Nobel prize for Jew-hatred goes to Muslim fundamentalists and to all those, both Muslim and infidel, who look the other way or who actively collaborate with Islamic racist, even genocidal schemes.