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The Canary in the Coal Mine

Yesterday, Richard Holzer, a 27-year-old white nationalist former KKK member who now identifies as a skinhead was arrested for plotting to blow up Temple Emanuel, a 119-year-old synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado. This is the THIRTEENTH time (in this country) since the mass shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last October that a white supremacist has been arrested for violent threats against Jewish institutions.

Here are just some of the things Holzer said about why he wanted to bomb a synagogue--with a tiny membership of 35 families--in Pueblo:

“I want something that tells them they are not welcome in this town. Better get the fuck out, otherwise, people will die.”

He referred to Jews and synagogues as a ‘cancer’ to the community.

He repeatedly expressed his hatred of Jewish people and his support for a 'racial holy war.'

“I wish the Holocaust really did happen...they need to die.” (ironically, though he buys into the conspiracy that the Holocaust didn't happen, he also brought Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' with him to a meeting).

After undercover agents sent him photos of fake pipe bombs, Holzer said, 'I’m honored to be a part of history, and more importantly, the future of our folk. Heil."

In addition to attempting to blow up the synagogue, Holzer also considered poisoning its water system with arsenic.

According to the ADL, anti-Semitic incidents in Colorado remain at near-historic levels, with the past three years having seen the highest total of incidents in more than 12 years, ranging from Swastikas scrawled on sidewalks to rental homes being vandalized.

So what am I saying to us, here in Evanston?

The fact is that anti-Semitism is the canary in the coal mine: where it is present, so is all manner of racial, ethnic, immigrant, LGBTQ hatred from right wing, white nationalist, KKK, skinhead, white supremacist hate groups.

While Jews in the U.S. have benefited significantly from white privilege (well, those who are white--many Jews are not) and anti-Semitism is frequently ignored or excluded from the intersectionality of social and racial justice movements, Jews are also NOT considered white by many, and are frequently blamed for the presence of--or growing power of--Black, brown, and other "undesirable," "less-than-human," "otherized" groups within our society.

Before Robert Bowers shot and killed 11 people praying at the Tree of Life synagogue last year, he said in a social media post that he believed killing Jews would help prevent non-white immigrants from entering the country and prevent them from joining Jews in "replacing" the white race.

According to an article written by Ben Lorber and Tina Vasquez for the online publication "Yes," Greg Johnson, publisher of the white nationalist magazine Counter-Currents, recently wrote, “The organized Jewish community is the principal enemy—not the sole enemy, but the principal enemy—of every attempt to halt and reverse white extinction.”

Let's also remember that the main white-nationalist chants at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017 were "Blood and Soil," (the English translation of the Nazi German slogan, "blut und boden") and “Jews will not replace us.” Attendees displayed giant swastikas and wore shirts emblazoned with quotes from Adolf Hitler. One banner read, “Jews are Satan’s children.”

If activists and community organizers--white, Black, and people of color--are going to work to ensure that our community is safe, supportive, anti-racist, and welcoming for everyone, we have to interrupt Jew-hatred and learn about anti-Semitism with as much fervor as we do other forms of bigotry, racism, and hate.

It's crucial that we understand how anti-Semitism, racism, and anti-immigrant rhetoric work together in the ideology of hate.

Because anti-Semitism is the canary in the coal mine.

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