The recent acts of violence against worshipers in a Pittsburgh synagogue have further stifled debate and are paving the way for more extremism.
By Philip Giraldi
Ever since the killing of 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, I have been waiting to see how the Israeli government would cynically take advantage of the tragedy to support its own agenda. It didn’t take long, even though the gunman Robert Bowers was open in his hatred of Jews largely due to immigration issues, while having no particular animus against Israel. In fact, ironically, Israel does not even accept that Tree of Life is an acceptable part of the Jewish religion, as Israel’s Orthodox chief rabbi does not consider it to be a legitimate synagogue because it is too progressive.
Most American Jews are politically liberal and vote consistently Democratic, 79% having done so in the latest election. That in turn means that a majority of them are turned off by President Donald Trump’s words and ideology, so much so that there is some speculation that the opposition to Trump is largely Jewish. The Israeli government and the small but disproportionately powerful percentage of right-wing American Jews are, however, in love with Trump because of his uncritical support of Israel’s actions vis-à-vis its neighbors.
This has meant that some in the Tree of Life congregation have blamed Trump’s incendiary language as a contributing element in the hate-filled culture that they perceive as being behind the shooting rampage. Some congregants were opposed to Trump’s visiting the synagogue a few days after the incident, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government quickly intervened to defend Trump against all charges.
Trump encountered protesters as he entered the synagogue, where he was not greeted at the door by one of the rabbis or a congregant. Instead, as he entered, he shook the hand of the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.
Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, described the bizarre encounter: “The fact that the person who officially greeted the president of the United States at an American city at an American synagogue was the ambassador of another country was stunning.”
Dermer had, in fact, been working together with Israeli Minister for Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett to counter any criticism of Trump. “I think blaming President Trump for this horrific massacre is unfair; it’s flatly wrong,” said Bennett before adroitly shifting his comments to what the president has done for Israel: “The president moved the embassy to Jerusalem. The president is fighting Israel’s biggest enemy, which is a terrible regime in Iran. And so, the president is no anti-Semite.”
The hypocritical Israeli response to the massacre in Pittsburgh was hardly overflowing with concern for the victims. Bennett took the opportunity to hit out at other targets deemed to be hostile to Israel that could plausibly be linked to the incident, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan who had likened Jews to termites. And the Israeli Consul General in New York City Dani Dayan even became involved in the impending midterm elections, slamming Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar running for Congress for once having said that Israel is “hypnotizing the world.”
Netanyahu also changed the subject from Pittsburgh on the day before the midterms, praising Trump’s courage in increasing sanctions on Iran, saying, “I would like to thank President Donald Trump again for a courageous, determined, and important decision. I think that this contributes to stability, security, and peace. . . . This is a great day for the state of Israel. This is a great day for the people of Israel. This is a great day for the future of Israel.”
Dermer also implicated Israel’s preferred bête noir, attacking the role of what he chose to describe as the “radical left.” The expression is preferred usage by the Israeli government and its allies in the United States to describe supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS). Dermer elaborated: “One of the big forces in college campuses today is anti-Semitism. And those anti-Semites are usually not neo-Nazis, on college campuses. They’re coming from the radical left. We have to stand against anti-Semitism whether it comes from the right or whether it comes from the left.”
So we can expect the Pittsburgh tragedy to be heavily exploited by Israel and its friends. It will be parlayed into all kinds of mischief on behalf of the Jewish state, with the non-violent BDS movement being particularly targeted. BDS has already been attacked through legislation in 23 states with job applicants or recipients of benefits in some jurisdictions having to sign documents confirming that they do not support any boycott of Israel. There are also a number of federal-level bills seeking to define criticism of Israel as a hate crime with legal penalties attached, a direct attack on the First Amendment. Now that the Democrats are in power in the House, it will get worse, believe it or not.
Five key committee chairmanships will be going to Jewish congressmen, all of whom are ardent Zionists. Two of them will be in key positions to further distort U.S. policy in favor of Israel. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) will become head of the House Intelligence Committee and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) will be chairman of the House Foreign Relations committee.
Engel is a dream-come-true for Netanyahu, just as Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is in the Senate. He opposed Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran while strongly supporting Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. He has attacked the United Nations, the World Court, and the European Union for raising concerns over Israeli violations of international humanitarian law, and he insists that Israel bears no responsibility for thousands of civilian deaths from its bombing of crowded urban areas in Gaza, declaring that Israel is simply exercising its “right to self-defense” and that Israel “goes to extraordinary lengths to target only terrorist actors.” He calls recognizing Palestinian statehood “preposterous,” opposes any United Nations involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and supports using U.S. vetoes to halt any UN resolutions critical of Israel.
There are far too many Engels in Congress, and far too many in the Trump administration. David Friedman, a former bankruptcy lawyer who is Trump’s U.S. ambassador to Israel, recently made a speech in Tel Aviv in which he described the U.S. as his “country of citizenship” while Israel is the country that he “loves so much.” Excuse me, but this buffoon is paid a great deal of taxpayer money to represent the United States not to pander to his coreligionists. It is a travesty that he should be an ambassador anywhere and one more example of how none of the rules apply to Israel. Friedman is by his own admission not loyal to the United States. He should be removed from office, and it should be suggested that he turn in his U.S. passport and go to live in the country that he “loves so much.”
Philip Giraldi is a former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer and a columnist and television commentator. He is also the executive director of the Council for the National Interest. Other articles by Giraldi can be found on the website of the Unz Review.