17:24 GMT25 January 2020
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    On Saturday, Robert Bowers allegedly murdered 11 people and injured another six in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with an AR-15 assault rifle. He indicated during police interrogation that he held neo-Nazi views that demonized Jews as “replacing” white people.

    Bowers, 46, was arraigned on Monday and faces 29 felony charges, including 11 counts of murder with a hate crime enhancement, and prosecutors have indicated they will seek the federal death penalty. US Attorney Scott Brady noted that Bowers told officers when he was arrested, "They're committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews."

    Bowers' comments reflect a common belief among white nationalists and neo-Nazis. For example, at the August 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which featured a Who's Who of alt-right, fascist and white supremacist groups, attendees chanted, "Jews will not replace us."

    The shooting comes only days after a bomb was found by the US Postal Service addressed to George Soros, a Jewish billionaire businessman, investor and philanthropist who lives in New York. Numerous allegations have been levied against Soros for his political contributions, including that he pays demonstrators to protest in what are colloquially known as "astroturf" movements, or artificial movements that mimic grassroots struggles borne out of community self-organization.

    Radio Sputnik's Loud and Clear spoke with Mindy Isser, a labor organizer and member of the Jewish community in the Philadelphia area, about the type of anti-Semitism seen in the past week and its increasing prominence in American society.

    ​"People hate Jews. And the same people who hate Jews, they also hate black people, they hate Muslims, they hate anyone who is not white and male, and I think something about anti-Semitism that functions, in some ways, differently than other oppressions is that it sort of diverts blame from the ruling class onto Jews, especially individual Jews. So maybe this guy has had a hard life and is economically oppressed… but if anything has gone wrong in his personal life, instead of looking at the system that we all live in, that's oppressive and exploitative, he's taught to look at Jews as the root of his problem. That's how anti-Semitism functions. So it makes sense that people are feeling emboldened, empowered to attack Jews these days."

    Isser, who has been a union organizer for five years, said she "has worked on different campaigns with different kinds of workers in different industries, and one thing I found that's a constant and really interesting is [that] many different members of our class talk about the Rothschilds, talk about the Illuminati and all of these conspiracies that kind of put Jewish people at the forefront, as the cause of why they're poor and why they're oppressed, and blame this mysterious Jewish group for all of their problems. I think it's really difficult to have those conversations with people because, on the one hand, yes it's true there is a group that is the cause of all of our problems, so that part is true. But it's not the Jews, it's the capitalists, and trying to have that conversation can be really painful and really difficult as a Jewish person. But I think more and more now — obviously anti-Semitism has been around forever — but with Trump in the White House and white nationalists running for office unapologetically, it's easy for people to be open about hating Jews and blaming Jews for their problems."

    Isser told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou that she was recently sending text messages in support of a ballot initiative in Maine, and one response she received was "stop sending me this George Soros socialism stuff, I don't wanna hear it, long live President Trump."

    "That's the reality of the world we're living in," Isser said.

    While noting that she agreed with an assessment by the Anti-Defamation League that "anti-Semitism has become mainstream" in American society, such as with the prevalence of conspiracy theories about Soros, Isser distanced herself from the ADL because she said it violates one of her primary maxims as a labor organizer — "an injury to one is an injury to all" — by being "anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian, and I don't want to be aligned with that."

    Isser said that "the right is blaming any kind of left or even liberal protesting or demonstrating or organizing on George Soros, as if he is just this very rich — which he is, of course — Jewish man with magical powers and is paying all of us and controlling all of us and making all of us get out in the streets, as if we wouldn't be doing it without his existence."

    Becker noted that, while it's true that Soros is very closely aligned with the Democratic Party establishment and donates large amounts of money to organizations that encourage certain pro-Democratic types of political action, "95 or more percent of the demonstrations in this country against Trump's policies" are not orchestrated by Soros; the idea of Soros as a puppeteering mastermind is "false; that's actually ‘fake news.'"

    Isser said, "I feel like the right-wing has been using calls of anti-Semitism really cynically for a long time around people like me who support the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel] movement, and now when there's actual anti-Semitism happening, they're silent. And that's its own kind of anti-Semitism: this kind of deep obsession with Jews returning to Israel because they're just evangelicals, [but] who actually hate us and want to see us destroyed. So I think that's important to raise up… I don't believe in ethno-states; no one asked me if I wanted my own state. I don't believe in oppressing people on the basis of their religion or ethnicity, and the state of Israel goes against everything I was taught to think about Judaism and know about Judaism."

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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