Before he murdered 11 innocent people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last week, Robert Gregory Bowers shouted: “All Jews must die!”
The shooting is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in United States history, demonstrating a need for the nation — especially young people — to band together against anti-Semitic attacks.
Closer to USC, the Beth Jacob temple in Irvine was vandalized last Wednesday. The vandals, who have yet to be apprehended, spray painted the words “Fuck Jews” on the side of the temple, just days after the Pittsburgh attack.
Anti-Semitic crimes are all too common across the United States and take up far too many pages of our history books.
According to the FBI, Jewish people make up less than 3 percent of the total United States population, but of all religiously motivated hate crimes, over half are committed against the Jewish community.
The slaughter of Jews during the Christian Crusades, the burning of Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms against Jews in 19th and 20th century Russia and the genocide of six million Jews at the hands of the Nazi Party are just some of the many instances of anti-Semitism that stain the pages of human history.
In 2018, anti-Semitism has once again reared its ugly head.
People cannot simply stand by and watch their Jewish brothers and sisters once again become victims of those who subscribe to this ancient and vile form of bigotry.
To defend these people of around 15 million, it is crucial to be honest about why this tiny ethno-religious community has been consistently and virulently met with violence and persecution.
Religion, particularly stemming from Judaism’s daughter religions Christianity and Islam, is largely to blame for the piles of dead bodies left behind because of anti-Semitic movements throughout human history.
The man who committed the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh last week was an avid social media user. Bowers frequented the social media website Gab, which is popular among those on the far right. His Gab account description read “Jews are the children of Satan (John 8:44). The Lord Jesus Christ [has] come in the flesh.”
Many Christian scholars have denounced Bowers’ interpretation of the verse, but his use of scripture as justification for committing an atrocity against the Jewish people is just one of many examples. One of the Nazi Party’s favorite biblical passages was Matthew 27:25, which reads: “All the [Jews] answered, ‘[Jesus’s] blood is on us and on our children!’” This passage echoes the long-held belief among Catholic clergy members that the Jews were collectively guilty of “killing Jesus.”
In Islam, anti-Semitic propaganda is produced daily and justified by their holy books. Quran 2:61 states that the Jews “disbelieved in the signs of Allah and killed the prophets without right. That was because they disobeyed and were [habitually] transgressing.”
Many Islamic political factions in the Middle East are also blatantly anti-Semitic. For example, Hamas is an Islamofascist political party that is currently in control of the Gaza Strip. The group is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and is an explicitly Islamic organization. Hamas says in Article 7 of its charter that “‘The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight Jews and kill them.”
The problem with anti-Semitism is vast and deeply complex. To blame any single factor for such a large issue would be extremely reductionist and ignorant. That said, however, not recognizing the huge role religious belief plays in anti-Semitism would be equally ignorant.
Religious dogma has led to the deaths of an unimaginable number of men, women and children, and anti-Semitism is largely rooted in it.
If society is to end anti-Semitism for good it must destroy its root and stem. Generation Z must be the one to reject religious dogma as a societal norm and embrace the values of the Enlightenment and humanism. Religious ideology should be treated with suspicion and criticism, and all people should be treated with empathy and dignity.
The tragedy at the Pittsburgh synagogue last week prematurely ended the lives of 11 individuals for the “crime” of being Jewish.
It’s high time to stop spilling blood over dogmas rooted in century-old myths, and Generation Z ought to lead the charge against it.