Hate kills. Racists, bigots, anti-Semites, you and I kill.
We may not put our fingers on the trigger, but we must shoulder some responsibility for these killings. Until we do, they will continue, just like clockwork.
The names and ages of the most recent victims, killed within days of each other, are circulating on social media. #WeWillNeverForget
But we will forget; most of us with no connection to the victims will not be able to remember their names this time next year.
Gregory Alan Bush
Maurice E. Stallard (69) and Vickie Lee Jones (67) were both killed in Jeffersontown, Kentucky on Wednesday (October 24). Gregory A. Bush (51) has been arrested and the crime is being investigated as a hate crime. The innocent victims are black, the perp is white.
On Saturday (October 27), while praying in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Joyce Fienberg (75), Richard Gottfried (65), Rose Mallinger (97), Jerry Rabinowitz (66), Cecil Rosenthal (59), David Rosenthal (54), Sylvan Simon (86), Bernice Simon (84), Daniel Stein (71), Melvin Wax (88) and Irving Younger (69) were shot and killed. Robert Bowers (46) faces 29 federal charges involving hate crimes punishable by death. He made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting and targeted Jews on social media, according to a federal law enforcement official. (Watch CNN videos here.) The victims are innocent Jews, the perp is white.
The following day, Sunday (October 28), while playing near the fence that separates the Gaza Strip from Israel, an Israeli airstrike killed three young Palestinian teenage boys. Khaled Bassam Mahmoud Abu Saeed (14), Abdul Hameed Mohammed Abdul Aziz Abu Zaher (13), and Mohammed Ibrahim Abdullah al-Sutari (13) “were apparently involved in placing an improvised explosive device” near the fence, the Israeli military said. Their parents deny that the boys were involved with any militant activities.
Succumbing to the “he said, she said” arguments about what these boys were doing on the Gaza side of the fence on Sunday distracts from the fact that an extrajudicial killing took the lives of three young teenage boys who posed no danger to the Israeli military monitoring the fence. The victims were innocent young Palestinians, the perp was likely a white Jewish member of the Israel Defense Force perhaps acting on orders from other white Jewish members of the IDF. Since I can’t show you a picture of the perp, I’ll share a photo of the victims in Gaza.
These killings on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday have much in common, although Americans might not understand the similarities after watching the mainstream media.
Let me explain.
- All of the perps are filled with irrational hate and fear of the “other”.
- All of the victims are innocents caught up in a larger hate-filled narrative.
Most thoughtful Americans will easily acknowledge that the perps who killed the two Blacks in Kentucky and eleven Jews in Pennsylvania are deranged madmen — White Nationalists consumed with hatred and fear of the “other”. Clearly, Robert Bowers is an anti-Semite. Some may not be able to draw the connection between all three massacres because (1) the US mainstream media portrays the victims in Gaza differently from the victims in the US, and (2) feeling empathy for the “others” in Palestine may be more difficult than feeling empathy for Americans.
“But that Israeli fighter pilot wasn’t acting out of rage or hatred,” you might say. “Presumably he was carrying out orders from above.”
Hatred and fear of the “other” is not limited to the individual who pulls the trigger, it can rear its ugly head at the highest levels of government. Call it Trickle Down Hatred (TDH).
Eleven Jewish community leaders have said that Donald Trump is not welcome in Pittsburgh until he decides to “fully denounce white nationalism”, following a shooting in a synagogue on Saturday.
The group are all affiliated with the Pittsburgh branch of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership, a liberal movement made up of “tens of thousands” of progressive Jewish members across the US, according to its website.
“For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement,” the leaders said in an open letter to Mr Trump. See here.
Americans have been watching in horror as Trump’s hate-filled nationalistic rhetoric eggs on his base. The same has been occurring at the highest levels of government in the State of Israel. For many years, Israeli leaders have openly expressed their fear and hatred of Palestinians. They regularly talk about the perceived demographic threat where Palestinians outnumber Israelis, and condone actions designed to dehumanize the Palestinians on a daily basis, and even openly call for the death of Palestinians (eg. an Israeli minister calling for the death of Palestinian mothers who give birth to little snakes).
Most recently, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s far right wing Minister of Diaspora Affairs, drew a parallel on Sunday evening between the Pittsburgh synagogue gunman and Hamas. (See here.) Without any hesitation, Bennett casts Palestinians (ALL PALESTINIANS) as the “other,” a certain death sentence if a child is playing too near the fence.
“Unequivocally I say that just as in Lebanon and Syria, those who cross the fence are shot. They are not 12-year-old children — they are terrorists. Those who launch balloons from Gaza must be shot . If we do not shoot them, they will multiply. We must put an end to it.” (See here.)
The victims, whether Blacks and Jews in America or Palestinians in Gaza, represent the “other” that threatens the dominant narrative and must be eliminated. It makes absolutely no difference that a lone madman was the perp in two cases and the government of Israel sanctioned the perp’s airstrike in the third case. The same fear and hatred of the “other” motivated each of these killings.
“But how,” you might ask, “am I responsible for these hate-filled killings?”
“I don’t hate Blacks or Jews, and I don’t have any feelings about those people in the Middle East.”
What is the opposite of hate?
Many will say it’s love, but I suggest that it’s really empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. And without empathy, we each run the risk of being complicit in the actions of those filled with hatred.
It takes real courage to empathize with another. I’m not Jewish, I’m not Black, I’m not a Palestinian. So at one level, I might think the hatred and violence perpetrated against them doesn’t touch me. Can I move beyond the superficial feelings of sympathy for these victims, and pull empathy from deep within my core? What does it take to fully and sincerely empathize with another?
- Vulnerability — I must be honest with myself and recognize my prejudices, biases and blind-spots. I’m not the epitome of acceptance, love and understanding that I might wish to cloak myself in. This may be the hardest part of nurturing an empathetic soul.
- Inquisitiveness — I must be willing to question myself and others, to learn from others, to pay attention, and to continually reassess what I think I know about the “other”.
- Stepping into the shoes of the other — I will never be Black or Jewish or a Palestinian, but making the attempt to understand and experience the world in their shoes is important and a necessary step for building the empathetic soul. At a minimum, it requires respect for the other.
I believe the atrocities we are witnessing in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Gaza and elsewhere can be directly linked to mankind’s undeveloped empathy for the “other.” We may know how to put a man on the moon, but we haven’t evolved sufficiently to put ourselves in the place of the “other.”
And if you believe that the connections I’ve drawn between the victims in the three tragedies described above, are somehow a false equivalency, then I suggest you go back to step one and make yourself vulnerable to learn about the Palestinians and the horrific events occurring there daily with our tax dollars.
“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands
speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.”
― Mahatma Gandhi