Our Silence Leads to Bloodshed

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Our Silence Leads to Bloodshed

Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland. The sign reads,

Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland. The sign reads, "Work sets you free."


Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland. The sign reads, "Work sets you free."



Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland. The sign reads, "Work sets you free."

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On October 27, 2018, a man opened fire in Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He killed 11 people and injured seven more.

Why would someone feel the urge to kill innocent people who are simply worshipping their God?

The answer to this question is more simple than one might think: Blind prejudice towards Jewish people.

Many people may point to mental illness as the main reason for this massacre, but I don’t buy it.

Mental illness definitely is at play here, as it is in nearly every killing or mass killing. No sane person would kill a person (or people) for no reason.

The reason why I believe that anti-Semitism is the main reason why the killer committed his crime is simple: If he didn’t go into his crime with the intention of killing Jewish people, specifically, why would he open fire in a synagogue?

Anti-Semitism led to this crime. There is no other reason why someone would target a synagogue over any other place.

Now, you may ask, “How could this happen?”

Yet again, there is a simple answer to this question: Complicity in the eyes of blind prejudice.

“Never again.”

We love to turn to that phrase every time we hear the words “anti-Semitism” or “Holocaust.” But do we really mean it?

Sometimes. It would be preposterous to assume that people have bad intentions every time they say “never again.”

However, if we meant that phrase every time we said it, incidents like the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue would not occur. There would not be countless incidents of Jewish graves, community centers, or synagogues, being vandalized.

We would always speak up when we hear about anti-Semitic incidents.  

The truth is that our society does not punish anti-Semitism as severely as it should. In politics, culture, and everyday life, anti-Semites often get away with anti-Semitic behavior.

For instance, Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, organizers for the Women’s March, showed their support for the Nation of Islam (NOI), which is lead by infamous anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan.

Even though Sarsour and Mallory’s support for NOI and Farrakhan has been public knowledge for a very long time, the Women’s March drew millions of marchers around the world in 2017 and 2018.

Alyssa Milano, long-time Women’s March supporter, explained this month that she would not be willing to speak at next year’s March as long as its leaders defend “bigotry or anti-Semitism.”

Although I am glad that Milano is now calling out the anti-Semitic behavior of the Women’s March, this should have been done much earlier.  

Sarsour and Mallory’s anti-Semitic tendencies have been out in the open for quite some time.

The failure of Women’s March supporters and celebrity speakers to explicitly call out the bigotry of Sarsour and Mallory (until now, at least) shows that we often ignore anti-Semitism.

If we did not ignore it, there would not be such large numbers of people who attended the Women’s March despite the anti-Semitic behavior of its leaders.

It is true that many Women’s March supporters may not have known about Sarsour and Mallory’s anti-Semitism. But fact makes one more thing evident: there is not enough outrage when public figures are anti-Semitic. Their anti-Semitism should be public knowledge.

Anti-Semites or those who refuse to condemn it should be condemned themselves, yet our society often fails to do this.

This can also be seen in our treatment towards politicians who have anti-Semitic tendencies or do not condemn anti-Semitism.

Last year, a white-supremacist ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, took place. Neo-Nazis took to the streets to march against the removal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. They also lead many racist chants, including the Nazi slogan “blood and soil.”

The rally resulted in fights between white-nationalist neo-Nazis and extreme leftist groups.

One of the neo-Nazis made the decision to run into a large group of people with his car; This resulted in the death of a young woman and multiple injuries.

Following the deadly rally, President Donald Trump made a statement condemning violence on “many sides.”

This comment, although condemning general violence, should have been specifically made about the neo-Nazis. They were the ones responsible for the death of a young woman. They were the ones chanting Nazi slogans and spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Yes, the far-left protesters were in the wrong; They should have been specifically condemned for their violence, as well.

But they were not screaming “blood and soil.” They did not plan a rally which encouraged white supremacy and neo-Nazism — that act deserves special condemnation.

Trump failed to condemn anti-Semites, specifically. Instead, he ignored the problem and decided to take the approach of just blaming everyone. When he made the decision to condemn many sides, rather than simply calling out neo-Nazis, he did a disservice to the Jewish community, as well, as people of color (since these people were white-supremacists).

Even with the outrage from many Americans and politicians that followed Trump’s statements, he was let off easy because the outrage (at least from politicians and his supporters) went away fairly quickly.

His statement was a huge mistake and an excusal of anti-Semitism — it should not have been excused even months later.

One bad comment does not necessarily make him anti-Semite; Everyone makes mistakes. But Trump’s comment does show that our politicians have a problem with pointing out blatant anti-Semitism or condemning it, even if it is right in front of their face.

As soon as people endorse anti-Semitism or refuse to explicitly condemn it, there should be immediate outrage. Those people should be condemned by our society because anti-Semitic behavior and silence in response to it leads to bad things.

If we really mean it when we say “never again” we need to speak out when we see anti-Semitism.

As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once said, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

We can not stay silent out of fear because our silence in the face of anti-Semitism is immediate support in favor of it.

Complicity is what leads to acts like the Tree of Life synagogue shooting and it is also what leads to a Holocaust.

Some may say that the statement I just made is dramatic, but it certainly is not.

Adolf Hitler is known as the largest anti-Semite in history.

Hitler spread lies about Jewish people, dehumanized them, and was the main mind behind the Holocaust.

But Hitler never killed a Jewish person. He got other people to do it for him.

The only way the Holocaust was able to lead to the deaths of six million Jews was because Hitler convinced ordinary people, like you and me, to do his dirty work for him.

As much as our society likes to look at the Nazis as non-human, the truth is grim.

The Nazis under Hitler were the same species as us and most of them were not professional killers at first — most of them were just like us.

The Nazis were not animals, they were humans.

The Nazis were doctors, teachers, and engineers. They were your brother, your best friend, and your neighbor.

The only thing that made many of those ordinary people killers was their silence when face-to-face with anti-Semitism.

Their silence led to mass slaughter.

Six million Jews (and five million non-Jews) died because the world remained silent as they were persecuted. We can not make the same mistake again.

Speak up when you witness hatred — it is the least we could do for those eleven million people who we let down in the 20th century.

Header credit: Max Pixel