Two Faces of Modern Nazism

Greetings from Fresno, California! The heroic Rabbi Goldstein of the Poway, CA congregation is a close and old friend of our Rabbi here at Chabad of the Central Valley. Last night we held a memorial service for Lori Gilbert Kaye, the sixty-year-old woman who dedicated much of her life to her congregation, and died defending it. Before the service we had a security meeting: it is important that every Jewish community in America be armed and ready to kill any future attacker. And after the El Malei Rachamim prayer, one family of our congregation hosted a wonderful Memuna dinner.

So far we know that the attacker in Poway had been on the dean’s list of the nursing program at a local branch of Cal State. His father is a sports coach at a high school in a very nice neighborhood. John T. Earnest had all the advantages: wealth, privilege, intelligence, good looks, bright future prospects. He wrote a rambling manifesto spewing anti-Semitic hatred and racial conspiracy theory drawn from internet chat rooms and going back ultimately to The Turner Diaries, Mein Kampf, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the rest of the degenerate heritage of the Nazis. We have yet to discover whether and how much he learned at home: the family of this terrorist criminal has a lot to answer for. In Israel, the army would have dynamited their house, and rightly so.

Earnest timed his assault for the six-month anniversary of the massacre at the synagogue in Pittsburgh. Just like the attacker there, he voiced his hatred for President Trump, who is neither an anti-Semite nor a white nationalist. And just like the others who burst into synagogues, churches, and mosques, this spoiled, pampered Southern California brat is also a coward. Shooting at unarmed elderly people, women, and children is not the mark of a hero or a warrior but of a pervert, a degenerate.

An armed, off-duty border patrol officer from the Poway congregation chased the fleeing Earnest and shot at his car. The Rabbi had asked him to come to synagogue armed; and President Trump called the Rabbi for a long chat and praised the officer. The Rabbi is a real man, with real toughness: he continued to finish his Torah sermon when his hands, that Earnest shot at, were covered with blood. Earnest hopes for a race war, he writes, in which he will be freed from jail to carry on trying to murder unarmed people. Those are his hopes for the future. I hope his future on this earth will be nasty, brutish, and short.

That is one face of Nazism in America. I hope to meet Rabbi Goldstein some day; and I wish I’d known Lori, a true woman of valor whom we should celebrate and not forget. Interesting people, profound and giving. Nazis? Boring.

Here is the other face of Nazism in America: The New York Times. A few days before the attack in Poway, the international edition of the Times published a cartoon that depicts President Trump in a little black yarmulke. Israel, in the person of its Prime Minister, is portrayed as a dog with a Star of David on its collar. Does one need to parse the strata of anti-Semitic tropes? Is there anyone out there who is really stupid enough to believe the editors of what once was “the paper of record” either misunderstood what they were printing, or were unaware of it? It is a cartoon that would have fit nicely into Heinrich Himmler’s Der StĂĽrmer. More to the point, it would have inspired and encouraged John T. Earnest to go through with his plan; and had he chosen an illustration for his manifesto, he could not have found anything more fitting.

It may be objected that the Nazis are right-wing; the “liberal” media, left-wing. These distinctions, when it comes to the virus of Jew-hatred, are specious and misleading. Anti-Semitism is the socialism of fools. It is the language of leftists like Ilhan Omar here and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. What is to be done? The Times has issued an arrogantly disingenuous apology: it takes no real responsibility. Its editors have not resigned in shame. The Poway shooter will rot in prison. But he is small fry. What can be done about the bigger fish that incite him and his ilk?

Unlike the apostles of political correctness, safe spaces, and so on, yours truly believes in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution— freedom of speech, freedom of the press. (I believe very, very strongly in the Second Amendment, too: the right to bear arms.) One cannot shut down the NY Times. But one can refuse to buy it or to patronize the businesses of those who advertise in it. And the State of Israel can and should revoke its accreditation, declare its correspondents persona non grata, and give then twenty-four hours to pack up and get out. And no official of the government of Israel should be permitted to grant the NY Times an interview. Not until its present editors and staff are replaced by decent human beings.

It is the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day. Nazism is not yet dead. Kill it.


About the Author
James R. Russell is Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard University (semi-retired), Distinguished Visiting Professor of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a part-time Lecturer in Jewish Studies and Biblical Hebrew at California State University, Fresno. He is on the Editorial Board of the journal Judaica Petropolitana, St. Petersburg State University, and a founding member of the International Association for Jewish Studies, chartered in the Russian Federation. His PhD is in Zoroastrian Studies, from the School of Oriental Studies of the University of London; and he taught Ancient Iranian languages and religions at Columbia University from 1982-1992.