Pittsburgh, Trump and the End of an Era: Angela Merkel’s Stepping Down will lead to more Antisemitism around the world

On Saturday, October 27, 2018, the worst antisemitic attack ever in the US took place, when a 46year-old American neo-Nazi massacred 11 Jews in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. He screamed, “All Jews have to die”. Nazism was always part of American extremist circles, but it never before resulted in such an antisemitic massacre. Now it did. Because of the current American presidency.

Trump said after Charlottesville, where colleagues of the Pittsburgh killer chanted, “Jews will not replace us,” that there were “very fine people among them”. In Charlottesville, one antifascist protester was killed by a neo-Nazi, who directed his car into a crowd of antifascists.

Last week, just days before the shocking Pittsburgh event, another American neo-Nazi sent over a dozen pipe bombs to former US President Barack Obama, to Hillary Clinton, actor Robert de Niro, former Vice-President Joe Biden, CNN and other people or institutions Trump had been defaming on an almost daily basis in the last two and a half years, ever since this monster decided to run for the presidency. This terrorist had a van with windows pasted up full of pictures of Trump and the GOP and insults for CNN etc.

Trump himself agitates against George Soros, the Jewish billionaire. The antisemitic conspiracy goes like this: Soros supposedly finances left-wing NGOs to support or motivate millions of refugees and Muslims to emigrate to Europe and the Western world. Trump, Hungary’s President Viktor Orbán or pro-Israel groups such as Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) share this antisemitic conspiracy ideology against George Soros, without framing it as such, of course. Soros is perhaps the most hated Jew in the world today, thanks to Orbán, Trump and countless neo-Nazi and far right groups around the globe, but also thanks to many self-declared pro-Israel groups.

In the Washington Post, Julia Joffe points out that those saying the Pittsburgh neo-Nazi was in a way “anti-Trump”, while using Trump’s language of evil “globalists,” are wrong. Joffe analyzes the deep antisemitic ideology of Trump himself:

In the 2½ years that followed, Trump’s tune has become a deafening roar. The closing ad of his campaign reprised the kind of anti-Semitic tropes that populated “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”: “It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities,” Trump’s voice said, as pictures appeared of then-Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen (a Jew), billionaire progressive donor George Soros (a Jew) and then-Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein (also a Jew). The ad was called “Donald Trump’s Argument for America.

Neo-Nazis such as the Pittsburgh killer exactly understand Trump’s tone. They understand that violence is fine, when Trump most recently at a rally imitated a GOP candidate who body-slammed a Jewish journalist from the British Guardian last year. Trump set the horrific tone against “globalism”, a neo-Nazi dog whistle for “the Jews run the world” such as was trumpeted by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion from the early 1900s.

The same happened with HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, founded in 1881 to help Jews fleeing pogroms in Tsarist Russia, when Trump agitates against that very organization because they support a tiny caravan of some 5000 Latin American refugees and other immigrants. Many activists, authors and NGOs praise Trump for his supposedly pro-Israel activities, like his exit from the Iran treaty, his decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem or his peace plan for the Middle East. Every single move of Trump was early on based on his unbelievable anti-Western endorsement of violence against women, Muslims, immigrants, the free press, the LGBTQ community, Latinos and the Left. After Pittsburgh, though, every single pro-Trump statement by the self-declared pro-Israel camp drips with the blood of the Jewish people killed in Pittsburgh.

To make bad matters worse, Trump immediately congratulated the new fascist president of Brazil, Bolsonaro, a man known for his rally gesture to wipe out his enemies with a machine gun. We know of much violence supported by the US in recent decades, in particular in Latin America – but such an endorsement in 2018 is still unbelievable.

Finally, the end of the Western world is near, and this is not an exaggeration: Angela Merkel has just declared that she will not run for reelection as head of her Christian Democratic Party in December at the party convention in Hamburg. She also said, that she will for sure end her political career in 2021, when her term as German chancellor ends (it might even end much earlier). As a left-winger, I was of course never an ally of a Christian conservative such as Merkel. However, she had one historical moment not many people will ever have in their lifetime: she opened the German border (more correctly: did not close it) for the hundreds of thousands refugees from Syria, Iraq, the Middle East and other parts of the world, including Afghanistan and both North and Sub-Sahara Africa.

Merkel was the most hated German politician ever since 1949, when the Federal Republic of Germany was founded (FRG), because she was not a racist. The neo-Nazi Alternative for Germany’s (AfD) MP Alexander Gauland “embraces German history” and compared the killing of six millions Jews to the mud of a bird. AfD MP Markus Frohnmaier recently employed as co-worker neo-Nazi Manuel Ochsenreiter, who is an ally of the Islamist regime in Iran and agitates against the “Zionist lobby”. Racism and antisemitism are the core elements of the AfD and their violent agitation against Merkel over the last three years.

After Merkel, German conservativism is likely to become as nationalist and racist as it was during the long rule of Helmut Kohl in the 1980s and 1990s, and it will probably become much worse, as today we also have the right-wing extremist AfD in all state parliaments and in Germany’s  federal parliament (the Bundestag).

Many conservatives share antisemitism via Hungarian President Orbáns agitation against Soros. They include Jens Spahn, currently minister of health under Merkel, who now aspires to become the new head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Merkel’s successor. He is known for far right statements and right-wing extremist allies or fans.

The antisemitic massacre in Pittsburgh comes at a time, when right-wing extremism, even fascism raises is antisemitic, racist, antidemocratic head again – be it in Germany, the US, Brazil, Hungary, Austria or Italy and many other parts of the world.

The world might face the worst time ever since the defeat of German National Socialism in 1945.

The antisemitic massacre of Pittsburgh might be seen by historians as America’s 1938.

About the Author
Dr Clemens Heni is director of The Berlin International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (BICSA)
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