Fault Lines

Viewers of Palestinian TV are regularly fed a message of incitement encouraging them to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis (read: Jews). They are promised that if they martyr themselves in the name of Allah, they will reap blissful rewards in the afterlife, be lionized by their people, and ensure financial security for their surviving family thanks to Abbas’s pay-to-slay policy.

So when a young Palestinian goes out and attempts to stab or shoot innocent Israelis, it is reasonable to assign some degree of blame to the producers and broadcasters of the inciting programming and the governing apparatus which funds it, although doing so does not mitigate the moral culpability of the attacker.

When a gun-crazy white supremacist charges into a synagogue and murders 11 Jews in cold blood while shouting “All Jews must die!” it is morally and factually baseless to blame the attack on President Trump.

When a bodybuilder-cum-pizza deliveryman in Florida sends mail bombs to CNN, Hillary Clinton, and other presidential nemeses, it is unreasonable to blame Trump – yes, the same Trump who has imprudently called the “fake news media” the “enemy of the people.”

Trump makes a lot of brash, ill-considered comments about people and institutions he doesn’t like, who are typically those who don’t like him either. He likes to pick fights on Twitter, and is prone to name-calling. You could say he puts the bully in bully pulpit.

But regardless of whether you approve of anything Trump says or does, even on his worst day the president does not get on TV and tell people to pick up a gun and go shoot someone. Or to blow up their local news station. Or to pick up a knife and stab black people or Jews or Muslims or illegal immigrants. Nor has he suggested harassing left-wing politicians and their families out of restaurants and shops – which is exactly what some so-far-left-they’ve-fallen-overboard Democratic lawmakers advocated doing to anyone associated with Trump.

When did Trump give the nod to anti-Semitism? What did he ever say that would remotely justify a heinous attack on innocent Sabbath-morning worshipers? If he brought a climate of violence to the country, then how do you explain the hundreds of mass killings that preceded his presidency? According to one study, between 2011 and 2014, the rate of mass shootings accelerated from one every 200 days to at least one every 64 days. Another study found 271 mass murder incidents with a total of 1,358 casualties from 2006 through 2017.

The Pittsburgh massacre may be the worst act of anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history, but it is only the latest in a tragic, endless stream of high-casualty gun violence across America. The profiles of the perpetrators vary, as do their twisted motives, but they have more in common with each other than with any specific political philosophy. They are sociopaths with an axe to grind and easy access to a gun, or in the case of Robert Bowers, a whole collection of them which he referred to as “my Glock family.”

These days, the clearest incitement I hear comes from Trump-haters, who throw around the “N” word (Nazi, that is) without batting an eyelid and refuse to share a room or conversation with anyone who doesn’t march in lockstep with their rudderless worldview. And while they’re busy casting blame, the American people are as vulnerable as ever to the next shooting rampage.

About the Author
Ziona Greenwald, J.D., is a contributing editor for The Jewish Press and recently published her first children's book, Kalman’s Big Questions (Targum Press). She feels grateful to be living with her husband and children in Jerusalem.
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