The day after the murder of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh by anti-Semite Robert Bowers Oct. 27, Osborne Hart, the Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, went there to condemn the killings. He called on working people and the entire labor movement to “speak out against this attack and offer solidarity with the Jewish community.” Every anti-Semitic attack must be opposed, he said.
“Jew-hatred, and its murderous consequences, rises to the surface in times of crisis under capitalism, as class tensions sharpen,” he said. “The scapegoating of Jews for economic and social problems is a deadly threat to the working class.”
In the wake of the killings many working people wonder where Jew-hatred comes from and how it can be combated. The New York Times and other liberal media and groups have asserted that there has been a significant rise in anti-Semitic acts in the U.S., especially in the last two years. They blame this on the election of Donald Trump as president and what they call his “hate speech” and alleged defense of “white supremacy,” which they claim is on the upswing within the working class.
But this isn’t true. Trump often uses ugly rhetoric, but his election wasn’t built on reactionary views, bigotry and Jew-hatred spreading throughout the working class. Support he won from workers came from their anger at the spreading carnage from the crisis of capitalism impacting them, their families and communities, and the sense that politicians in Washington had only disdain for their problems. Hillary Clinton and other Democrats dismissed them as “deplorables.”
Working people were transformed by the impact of the Black-led fight that overthrew Jim Crow segregation, the fight against the Vietnam War, for women’s equality, and years of working and living alongside millions of immigrant co-workers.
As Hart said in his statement, “There is less racism, less anti-immigrant sentiment among working people today than at any time in U.S. history.”
And there is no rise of Jew-hatred among workers today.
What are the facts?
To buttress their anti-working-class assertions, the editors of the Times rely on a report issued several months ago by the Anti-Defamation League, which claims a 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 compared to the previous year.
But the report’s “actual findings” don’t show a rise, David Bernstein writes in Tablet, an online magazine of “Jewish news, ideas and culture.”
Actual physical assaults, a key indicator of the extent of Jew-hatred, in fact declined in the last year by 47 percent, the ADL admits.
The study boosts its figures by counting as separate incidents 163 bomb threats made by two individuals to Jewish institutions. And, Bernstein points out, before the study was released it was shown that the two callers weren’t motivated by anti-Semitism.
Bernstein says, “The ADL report itself acknowledges that some of the rise may simply be due to better reporting.”
Deadly attacks on Jews in the U.S. aren’t new or increasing. Over the last decade, he writes, there was the 1999 shooting of five people at a Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles; the murder of two people at an El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport in 2002; the 2006 killing of one woman and wounding of five others at the Seattle Jewish Federation offices in 2006; the 2009 killing of a security guard at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; and the 2014 murder of three people at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City and at a Jewish retirement home nearby.
The anti-Semitic attack in Pittsburgh had a particularly high death toll, Bernstein says, but “any of the other shooters would have been happy to kill as many or more.”
Jew-hatred is a permanent feature of capitalist rule. Its goal is to divert workers and others to see a Jewish conspiracy as responsible for the problems they face, not the exploitation and oppression of capitalist rule.
“I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews,” Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro said in a 2010 interview in The Atlantic magazine. “They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything.”
As long as capitalism exists, there will be Jew-hatred. But, as a resolution on the Jewish question adopted at the founding convention of the Socialist Workers Party in 1938 said, the wealthy rulers only turn to financing fascist thugs and Jew-hatred when the crisis becomes so deep that millions of working people are mobilizing and threatening capitalist rule. By blaming Jews, the rulers hope to draw in sections of the working class and crushed middle-class layers and use them as shock troops against the working-class vanguard.
“There is no broad expansion of rightist or fascist currents in the United States today,” Hart said in his statement. “The owners of industry and finance don’t feel the need to turn to the goons and thugs of fascist gangs to preserve their class rule. They continue to rely on their Democratic and Republican parties, and their two-party shell game, to keep workers and others picking the ‘lesser evil.’”
Jew-hatred on the left
Bernstein notes that the ADL reports “college campuses saw a total of 204 incidents in 2017, compared to 108 in 2016.” But, he asks, how many of these are from ultra-rightists and how many from “leftist/pro-Palestinian sources?”
There has been a rise of anti-Semitism, and attacks on political rights, among the middle-class left — under the guise of supporting Palestinians and the campaign to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel.
This is prevalent in Britain as well, where some leaders of the Labour Party claim that Jews control the media, were the “chief financiers of the slave trade” or are agents of the Israeli government. The Norton West Branch of the Labour Party voted down a motion condemning the attack in Pittsburgh, after some members claimed there is too much focus on “anti-Semitism this, anti-Semitism that.”
Working people were appalled at the killing of Jews in Pittsburgh. That bodes well for building a movement that will put an end to the poison of Jew-hatred forever by fighting to replace the rule of the capitalist class with a government of workers and farmers.