California synagogue shooting leaves one dead, three wounded

Police say gunman opened fire on crowded Poway, California synagogue on the last day of Passover.

Two people hug as another talks to a San Diego County Sheriff''s deputy outside of the Chabad of Poway synagogue [Denis Poroy/AP Photo]
Two people hug as another talks to a San Diego County Sheriff”s deputy outside of the Chabad of Poway synagogue

A gunman walked into a southern California synagogue crowded with Sabbath worshippers on Saturday and opened fire with an assault-style rifle, killing one woman inside and wounding three others in a hate crime carried out on the last day of Passover, authorities said.

The suspect, 19-year-old John Earnest, fled the scene by car and was arrested a short time later when he pulled over and surrendered to police, authorities said.

There were indications that an AR-type assault weapon might have malfunctioned after Earnest fired numerous rounds inside the Congregation Chabad synagogue in the town of Poway, California, about 23 miles (37km) north of downtown San Diego, Sheriff William Gore said.

US President Donald Trump and other elected officials decried what they called an anti-Semitic attack exactly six months since 11 people were killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue in the deadliest assault on Jews in US history.

2018 saw most killings linked to US far right since 1995: ADL

Gore told reporters that four people were struck by gunfire and taken to Palomar Medical Center, where one of the victims, an “older woman”, died. The three other patients – “two adult males” and a “female juvenile” – were listed in stable condition, Gore said. The identities of the victims were not given.

Hate crime

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, speaking from a police command centre, characterised Saturday’s shooting as a “hate crime“, saying his assessment was based on statements uttered by the gunman when he entered the synagogue.

Nothing else was disclosed about a possible motive. But Gore said investigators were reviewing the suspect’s social media posts and “his open letter”.

Earnest has no criminal record, but investigators were looking into a claim he made in an online manifesto about setting a fire at a mosque in nearby Escondido last month, Gore said. There was damage but no injuries.

Speaking with reporters at the White House, Trump said: “My deepest sympathies go to the people that were affected.” He added that “it looks like a hate crime” and that authorities will “get to the bottom of it”.

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, left, walks past the Chabad of Poway Synagogue

The attack occurred shortly before 11:30am local time (18:30GMT) in Poway, a suburb of about 50,000 residents, when the suspect walked into the synagogue and started shooting, Gore said. As he was making his getaway, an off-duty US Border Patrol agent opened fire on the suspect, striking the vehicle but apparently missing the suspect, according to Gore.

The gunman was arrested a short time later when he peacefully surrendered to police.

US: Synagogue massacre suspect pleads not guilty to new charges

A San Diego officer was en route to the shooting scene when he overheard a California Highway Patrol (CHP) radio dispatch “of a suspect who had called into CHP to report that he was just involved in this shooting and his location,” San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit recounted.

“The officer was actually on the freeway and he clearly saw the suspect in his vehicle. The suspect pulled over and jumped out of his car with his hands up and was immediately taken into custody,” Nisleit said.

He said the assault-style rifle believed to be the murder weapon was found on the front passenger seat of the car.

‘You can’t break us’

Local television channel KGTV 10News said the synagogue was hosting a holiday celebration beginning at 11 am local time and due to culminate in a final Passover meal at 7pm . Authorities said about 100 people were inside the temple, where Saturday services marking the Jewish Sabbath would have been under way or have just concluded.

San Diego television station KGTV reported a woman whose husband was still inside the synagogue as saying the rabbi was among those shot.

US activists confront Republican Party over white nationalism

Minoo Anvari, an Iranian refugee who said her husband was attending services inside when gunshots rang out, told KUSI-TV the wounded included a female friend and the rabbi, who was shot in the hand. “We are united. You can’t break us.,” Anvari told KUSI.

Cantor Caitlin Bromberg of Ner Tamid Synagogue, down the street from the shooting scene, said her congregation learned of the shooting at the end of their Passover services and that they were heading to Chabad of Poway to show support and help.

“We are horrified and upset, and we want them to know we are thinking of them,” Bromberg told The Los Angeles Times, adding that she has not heard from Chabad of Poway leadership because they would not normally use the phone during the Sabbath.

“They would only do that on emergency basis, if they do it at all,” Bromberg told the newspaper.

Trump to End Program Fighting Hate Groups

NOV 02, 2018

H3 white supremacists

This comes as NBC News is reporting the Trump administration is ending a program that provides grants to groups fighting domestic terrorism. The Countering Violent Extremism grant program is run by the Department of Homeland Security and was established during the Obama administration. It supports organizations fighting hate groups, including white supremacist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and racist groups.

Why Israel does not mind Trump’s anti-Semitic supporters

It is in the interest of Israel for Jewish Americans and Jewish Europeans to feel unsafe.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visit a memorial outside Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 30, 2018 [AP Photo/Matt Rourke]
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump visit a memorial outside Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 30, 2018

The massacre of Jewish worshippers on Saturday by an avowed anti-Semite in Pittsburgh reveals a clear, straight line between Trump’s sustained dog-whistles – against Jews, black people, Muslims, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community– to the violence carried out by right-wing white nationalists.

Robert Bowers, apprehended after a shooting spree that killed 11 people, explained he wanted “all Jews to die” and described immigrants and asylum-seekers as “invaders” of the United States. Instead of condemning far-right nationalism, Trump reinforced this hysteria, tweeting on Monday that a caravan of asylum-seekers coming from Honduras should be considered as an “invasion” and that the US military “would be waiting” for them. Last week, Trump proudly embraced the “nationalist” term.

Bowers had consumed and regurgitated the lethal rhetoric of far-right extremists who want to rid the US of non-white, non-Christian people, and of a government which constantly incites hatred and vilification of all marginalized groups.

Three days earlier, a white supremacist in Kentucky set out to kill black people. He eventually murdered Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Lee Jones, 67, in a grocery store.

There is no question that these killers were motivated by the white nationalist extremism the Trump administrations has adopted and encouraged.

After Saturday’s synagogue massacre, curiously, Israeli leaders offered their condolences but refused to address Trump’s responsibility for fuelling such anti-Semitic violence.

Instead, they scrambled to provide cover for the US president while Israel advocates attempted to blame the rise in anti-Semitism on left-wing, anti-racist and anti-fascist activists who campaign for Palestinian rights.

Why would they do this, especially when American Jewish support for Trump isoverwhelmingly low, and while Israel claims to be the protector of all Jewish people? To whom – or to what – were they speaking?

The unwillingness by Israeli leaders to confront such modern-day Nazism and the political forces pushing state-sponsored bigotry and hatred exposes that state’s unsettling alliance with Trump and his agenda.

For Israel, Trump has been the ideal partner in its efforts to crush Palestinian resistance and deny rights to African asylum-seekers while entrenching apartheid and systematic, unchecked violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Trump has, in turn, looked to Israel to model his policies of intensified militarisation of the US-Mexico border, his authoritarian threats against asylum-seekers and immigrants, and his open embrace of nationalist figures and right-wing legislators.

Notorious white supremacist Richard Spencer, speaking about his dream to make the US a European ethno-nationalist state, for example, has said he sees Israel as the ideal model.

Spencer has even dubbed his project for an Aryan state “white Zionism.”

Brazil’s president-elect, Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right extremist who has promised to treat social movements as terrorist organisations and wage a war on poor and indigenous communities, has also embraced Israel and says he will – like Trump – move his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Israeli flags were prominently waved during rallies celebrating Bolsonaro’s win on Sunday, a chilling symbol of Israel’s popularity in fascist political movements.

But there is another reason Israel is embracing today’s white nationalists.

Right-wing extremists openly yearn to push Jewish people out of the US and Europe – a fantasy shared by Israel’s top leadership. The appeal to Jews to leave their homes and settle in Israel – on Palestinian land – is a main tenet of Zionism, Israel’s state ideology.

But only a tiny number of ideologically motivated Jews are prepared to leave the safety, prosperity and comfort they enjoy in their home countries in North America and Europe for a hard life in Israel. Meanwhile, many Israeli Jews, especially the young and most educated, are leaving – a drain Israel is hard pressed to stop.

So unable to attract Jews from abroad, Israeli leaders must convince Jewish people that they are unsafe and unwanted everywhere – everywhere except for Israel. Just like Trump, Israel’s main weapon is fear.

Israeli politicians like opposition leader Avy Gabbay – who on Sunday urged American Jews, in grief and traumatised by the Pittsburgh massacre, to emigrate to Israel – seek to deliberately weaken the safety and diversity of communities in which Jewish people around the world are rooted.

Israel’s education minister Naftali Bennett, an extreme right-wing supporter of Israel’s settler population who has bragged about killing Arabs, used the massacre of Jewish worshippers to dehumanise Palestinians.

The efforts of Bennett and Gabbay did nothing to assuage the Jewish community’s fears, but they did exploit anti-Semitism for Israel’s gain – and they gave Trump yet another tacit endorsement of his policies.

Instead of fighting to make the world a safer place for Jews – for everyone – wherever they live, wherever they make their home, Israel’s leaders and their supporters align openly with Trump’s agenda even when it means siding with white nationalist movements who espouse deep anti-Semitism.

It’s a horrifying and stark reality and one that Israeli leaders can only try to cover up byfalsely deflecting the blame for the lethal anti-Semitism that visited the Tree of Life synagogue onto anti-racist activists and even left-wing Jewish groups.

Israel and its lobby have spent millions of dollars in recent years on campaigns to conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, especially on US college campuses. They are trying to suppress the nonviolent, anti-racist boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights by smearing it as anti-Semitic, while giving actual cover to anti-Semitism across the US.

Israel’s hardline advocates show deep contempt for American Jews who stand with the marginalised and oppressed, who reject Israel’s unmitigated violence against Palestinians, who remain grounded in our communities fighting against systemic racism and injustice propagated by Trump and his authoritarian allies in Israel.

When Trump announced he would be visiting Pittsburgh, members of the progressive Jewish community there immediately stated that he was not welcome until he denounces white nationalism that targets Jews, migrant families, people of colour, Muslims, people with disabilities and LGBTQ people. He went anyway.

Jewish communities in the US are drawing a line: as we refuse to accept Trump’s right-wing nationalism that fomented the massacre in Pittsburgh, we also refuse to advocate for Israel as it embodies and sharpens that nationalist fantasy.

Instead, we fight for a broad-based, inclusive and just future for us all.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance, or, of course, that of the Holistic Recovery Project.

Pittsburgh shooting: Trump visits synagogue amid protests – “We didn’t invite you here.”

BBC, 31 October 2018

More than 70,000 people signed an open letter from Pittsburgh-based Jewish leaders saying that President Trump was “not welcome” in the city unless he “fully denounces white nationalism”.

Mr Trump and the first lady spent time looking at tributes to the victims

US President Donald Trump has offered condolences at the Pennsylvania synagogue where 11 Jewish worshippers were shot dead at the weekend.

He was joined by First Lady Melania Trump, his daughter and son-in-law at the Tree of Life temple in Pittsburgh.

Hundreds of protesters gathered on the street chanting slogans against the president.

The visit came as mourners attended the first funerals for victims of the massacre.

The Trumps were greeted on Tuesday by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who led them inside the temple, where the worst anti-Semitic attack in US history unfolded on Saturday.

At a memorial outside, Mrs Trump placed a flower and the president laid a small stone on a marker for each of the victims.

Jews from Mr Trump's administration, including Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Steven Mnuchin, accompanied Mr Trump on the tripKushner, Ivanka Trump and Steven Mnuchin accompanied Mr Trump on the trip

Who accompanied the Trumps?

Mr Trump was joined by his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is Jewish, and his daughter Ivanka, who converted to Judaism when she married Mr Kushner. Both are White House advisers.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is Jewish, also joined the president.

Before his visit, the president condemned anti-Semitism. The alleged gunman was not a Trump supporter.

anti-Trump protestAnti-Trump protest has drawn more than 1,000 people

Why are there protests?

Critics accuse Mr Trump of fomenting a surge in white nationalist and neo-Nazi activity through divisive rhetoric which has seen him criticise immigrants and Muslims in particular.

Some Jewish figures and Pittsburgh’s Democratic Mayor Bill Peduto opposed the presidential visit.

More than 70,000 people signed an open letter from Pittsburgh-based Jewish leaders saying that President Trump was “not welcome” in the city unless he “fully denounces white nationalism”.

The top four Republican and Democratic congressional leaders declined a White House invitation to join Mr Trump in Pennsylvania.

The White House has rejected any blame over the attack.

Star of David memorials are lined with flowers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 29 October 2018Eleven people were killed in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue

Members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community were among about 2,000 demonstrators who held a protest, according to Reuters news agency.

As the president was driven through Pittsburgh, some bystanders made obscene gestures to his motorcade and thumbs-down gestures, reports AP news agency.

As Mr Trump arrived at the synagogue, demonstrators chanted “President Hate, leave our state” and “Words have meaning”.

Marchers make their way towards the Tree of Life synagogue three days after a mass shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 30 October 2018Protesters marched to the Tree of Life synagogue during President Trump’s visit

They held signs with such slogans as “We build bridges not walls”; “Trump, Renounce White Nationalism Now”; and “Trump’s lies kill”.

During the presidential visit, one protester holding a baby was seen by reporters calling out: “We didn’t invite you here.”

Whose funerals were held on Tuesday?

Earlier on Tuesday, mourners paid their respects to four victims of the massacre.

Brothers David and Cecil Rosenthal, who were aged 54 and 59, were among the first to be buried. They were the youngest victims of the shooting.

During a packed prayer service for the siblings, Rabbi Myers said: “They could illustrate a dictionary definition for ‘pure souls’.”

Daniel Stein, 71, and Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, were also laid to rest.

Mourners tear up and hold each other while waiting to pay respectsThe Rosenthal brothers, the first to be buried, were the youngest victims of the synagogue shooting

Mr Rabinowitz was a doctor, known for his work with gay men diagnosed with HIV. On Saturday, he was shot and killed after he rushed to help the wounded, his nephew Avishai Ostrin said in an emotional Facebook post.

Support for the community has been pouring in from across the country.

A GoFundMe page created by an Iranian refugee studying in Washington DC, who has no connection to the Pittsburgh community, has already accumulated $900,000 (£700,000) to help rebuild the synagogue and support victims’ families.

Another fund set up by Muslim-American groups to help pay for funeral costs has raised $200,000.

What of the suspected gunman?

Robert Bowers, 46, is now in the custody of US marshals and faces 29 criminal charges.

He was discharged from hospital on Monday after being treated for multiple gunshot wounds.

During his first court appearance on Monday, Bowers waived his detention hearing and requested a public defender, US media reported.

A further hearing has been scheduled for 1 November.

How White Supremacist Ideology & Conspiracies Have Fueled U.S. Domestic Terror & Hateful Violence

STORYOCTOBER 30, 2018

Domestic terror swept the country last week, when a white gunman stormed a peaceful synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 peaceful worshipers in what has been described as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. The attack came a day after an avid Trump supporter in Florida was arrested and charged with mailing bombs to more than a dozen of the president’s prominent critics, and three days after a white gunman fatally shot two African Americans at a grocery store shortly after trying and failing to enter a black church. We speak with Lois Beckett, a senior reporter for The Guardian covering gun policy, criminal justice and the far right in the United States. “The shooter in Pittsburgh was not just anti-Semitic,” Beckett says. “He had been radicalized by white supremacist ideology.”

In Texas, Trump speech takes far-right turn: ‘I’m a nationalist.’

In Texas, Trump speech takes far-right turn: 'I'm a nationalist.'

Washington, DC – From the outset of Monday’s campaign rally for US Senator Ted Cruz, US President Donald Trump received a warm welcome from thousands of mostly red-clad Republicans gathered in Houston’s Toyota Center.

The audience had applauded throughout the speech delivered by Cruz, who is facing off against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke in a closely-watched race in the November 6 midterm elections.

But when Trump took the podium and his speech took an even sharper rightward turn, the crowd erupted in boisterous applause and chants of “USA!”

On Monday, after addressing unemployment and taxes, among other topics, Trump declared himself “nationalist” who is fending off “corrupt, power-hungry globalists”.

“We’re putting America first… it hasn’t happened in a lot of decades,” he declared, adding: “We’re taking care of ourselves for a change, folks.”

He continued by accusing Democrats of being “globalists” who want “the globe to do well [by] frankly not caring about our country so much”.

“You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist,” he continued. “And I say really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I am a nationalist. Use that word.”

Trump used the term, nationalist, again on Tuesday, defending the recently agreed-upon trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

With midterm elections less than two weeks away, Monday’s rally was the latest in a pattern of Trump and Republican candidates nationwide employing increasingly aggressive campaign rhetoric.

In races from California to New Jersey, Republican candidates, campaign ads and mailers have accused Democratic opponents of advocating “open borders” and supporting “terrorism”.

Conspiracy theory

In North America and Europe, far-right and ultra-nationalist groups have routinely disparaged their political opponents as “globalists”, a term that researchers and experts describe as a dog-whistle with thinly-veiled anti-Semitic undertones.

While some right-wing politicians and commentators use globalism interchangeably with globalisation, the term now refers more commonly to a far-right conspiracy theory that alleges that the world is controlled by a shadowy group of economic elites.

Monday was not the first time Trump employed the phrase. In March, the president prompted a tide of criticism when he referred to his outgoing top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, as a “globalist”.

“He may be a globalist, but I still like him,” Trump said at Cohn’s final cabinet meeting, continuing, “He’s seriously a globalist. There’s no question.”

“Never underestimate the power of anti-Semitism in this,” Shane Burley, author of Fascism Today, told Al Jazeera. “I don’t think Trump is making an open reference to Jews, but the logic of anti-Semitism is informing rhetoric.”

The alt-right, a loosely knit coalition of neo-Nazis and white nationalists, surged during Trump’s presidential campaign and following his victory in November 2016.

But alt-right groups found themselves marginalised after differing with many of the president’s policies and facing public backlash after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in August 2017.

Burley said the movement’s lasting influence can be seen in the Republican Party’s open embrace of far-right talking points, including globalism and conspiracy theories blaming Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros for everything from migration to anti-Trump protests.

“If we think about parts of the Trump base, that rhetoric works very well with them,” Burley said.

Escalation

In recent weeks, Trump has intensified accusations that Democrats are “radical” leftists who incite “mobs”, claimed protesters are “paid” and repeatedly attacked a US-bound caravan of migrants.

Some Republican incumbents and hopefuls across the country have followed suit, and right-wing Super PACS have aired a slew of televised campaign ads attempting to link their Democratic opponents to “terrorism”.

Others have ostensibly targeted non-white candidates for their heritage, such as Republican congressman Duncan Hunter’s attack ad claiming that his Palestinian-Mexican-American opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, is a “national security threat”.

Although the 29-year-old Campa-Najjar is a Christian, Hunter’s ad alleged that the progressive House hopeful was trying to “infiltrate” Congress and is supported by the Muslim Brotherhood.

And in New York, another attack ad targeted African American Democratic House candidate Antonio Delgado for his former career as a rapper. Paid for by the Congressional Leadership Fund, the ad accused Delgado of “lacing his raps with extremist attacks on American values”.

On Monday, the civil rights group Muslim Advocates published a pre-election reportdocumenting a sharp uptick in anti-Muslim sentiment among political candidates in 2017 and 2018.

Heidi Beirich, the head of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, explained that Trump has been “escalating pretty egregiously” the tenor of midterm election rhetoric.

“You’d have to be a fool not to know that Trump is trying to use race as a way to gin up his supporters,” she told Al Jazeera.

“There are large sections of this election marked by racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant efforts. In some ways, Trump’s win in 2016 unleashed this kind of extremism into our system.”

 

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS