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Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein speaks at a news conference at the Chabad of Poway synagogue on Sunday in Poway, Calif.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein speaks at a news conference at the Chabad of Poway synagogue on Sunday in Poway, Calif. (Photo: AP)

Hatred of One, Hatred of All: The Undeniable Link Between Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

The alleged shooter in this attack offers an object lesson in the intersection of white nationalist and racist violence

Juan Cole

 by Informed Comment

One person is dead and other victims are wounded after a shooting at a synagogue in San Diego on Saturday, which the mayor has branded a “hate crime.”

The attack came a day after an Iraq War veteran was arraigned in Sunnyvale, Ca. in the north of the state for running over 8 persons, some of whom he incorrectly believed to be Muslims.

Back to Saturday: a nineteen-year-old community college nursing student in the San Diego area turned himself into the police after confessing to shooting up the Chabad of Poway synagogue as the congregation was commemorating Passover and preparing to observe Holocaust Remembrance Day (haYom haShoah) on May 1.

The alleged shooter, John T. Earnest, had an AR-style semi-automatic rifle in his vehicle when police came to get him after he called them. After a shooter at two mosques in New Zealand killed 50 persons and wounded 50 others with a semi-automatic rifle, the New Zealand government banned these military-style weapons. The National Rifle Association lobby, which has been promoted by the Russian government of Vladimir Putin in order to divide Americans, and the Republican Party, have prevented sensible gun safety laws in the United States.

Earnest claimed in a manifesto also to have attempted to set fire to the Islamic Center of Escondido (Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque) last month. Someone did pour gasoline and start a fire, but congregants were on site and put it out. He also left graffiti referring to the New Zealand massacre of Muslims in Christchurch. This behavior is further proof that promoting hatred toward any religious minority in the United States will spill over onto all of them.

The Islamophobia network who try to promote loathing of Muslims among white people are creating an atmosphere in which, inevitably, Jews will also be attacked. We have already seen in the case of Dylann Roof how Islamophobia bled over into hatred of African-American Christians, since Roof saw both as a threat to the purity of the “white” body politic.

Earnest attended the fundamentalist Orthodox Presbyterian Church in the area, the pastor of which expressed his horror that a member of the congregation allegedly could commit this heinous crime.

Earnest had put up a manifesto on line at 8chan (likely the forum where he was radicalized) full of hateful and false allegations against Jews, of being Christ killers, controlling the media, and having plotted genocide against the “European race.” He had bought into the vicious falsehood that Jewish businessmen are behind immigration by “non-white” workers into the United States in a bid to replace those of European heritage with cheaper brown and black labor. This conspiracy theory lies behind the slogan chanted by Neo-Nazis in Charlottesville in 2017 that “Jews will not replace us.” These were the marchers Trump called “very fine people.”

The manifesto said, “Every Jew young and old has contributed to these. For these crimes they deserve nothing but hell. I will send them there.” He said he expected to be sprung from jail and hoped his murderous act would inspire copy cats. In this he adopted ISIL-type terrorist plotting, doing demonstration attacks to encourage other unbalanced or chronically angry persons to follow suit, a phenomenon some have called “stochastic” or random terrorism.

Despicable people on the US Right have attempted to blame the synagogue shooting on Human Rights Watch and other groups that critique Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians.

But Earnest is a man of the political Right, a fundamentalist Christian of the sort that the Israel lobbies and the Republican Party cultivate (though most are not violent people). He is not a leftist and his manifesto did not blame the Jews he allegedly shot for the wretched Israeli government treatment of Palestinians. Nor would it have made any sense to shoot up an American synagogue if you were actually concerned with more human rights for everyone, as the Left is, rather than concerned to keep minorities down, as the Right often is.

These odious acts of violence against Americans probably cannot be halted merely by leadership from the White House. But in the absence of that leadership and, on the contrary, with clear signals like the Muslim ban, targeting of George Soros for conspiracy theories, and coddling of bigots as “very fine people,” Trump’s political style de facto encourages hate groups.

The alleged shooter Earnest is an object lesson in the intersection of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, and those powerful voices on the Likudnik far right such as Adam Milstein, Pamela Gellar and Daniel Pipes should rethink whether it is a good idea for them to promote hatred of a religious minority among American white people.


© 2021 Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His newest book, "Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires" was published in 2020. He is also the author of  "The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East" (2015) and "Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East" (2008).  He has appeared widely on television, radio, and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. 

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