Tree of Life Synagogue Murders Are Acts of Terrorism

Tree of Life Synagogue Murders Are Acts of Terrorism October 31, 2018

Last night I was at our neighborhood synagogue honoring the eleven innocent people of Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill near Pittsburgh during Shabbat service last week. One of the Rabbis said “they died only because they were Jewish”. The emotions ranged from sadness, anger, and compassion, and yes fear was expressed about our vulnerability. President Trump visited the Tree of life synagogue yesterday, but has not called this an act of terrorism yet. How is this not an act of terrorism?

There has been an outpouring of support for the  Tree of Life synagogue and all Jewish communities. #CelebrateMercy, a Muslim-led non-profit organization raised $150,000 in just 2 days! There is a silver lining to this tragedy- the terror attack did the opposite to what the culprit might have intended- it brought people closer together-in support of their Jewish neighbors. Its not surprising why there is so much support from the Muslim communities. Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are the  two symptoms of the same disease. Moreover, Muslims feel its their religious duties to support their Jewish cousins, and in particular the synagogues. The Qur’an calls for protecting the churches, synagogues, mosques and any other house of God.

Those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause except that they say: Our Lord is Allah. And had there not been Allah’s repelling some people by others, certainly there would have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which Allah’s name is much remembered; and surely Allah will help him who helps His cause; most surely Allah is Strong, Mighty. The Qur’an 22:40

One may get into the legalities but from my perspective this act brought fear into the local communities. How do you think the congregation going to feel at the next Shabbat service? There is outpouring of community support and calls for staying strong but it will be impossible not to look over your shoulder rather than staying focused on praying.

There is a pattern here.

President Trump did not call the 2017 Charlottesville incidence terrorism when a white racist rammed her car into a protesting crowd. Apparently it is not an act of terrorism if a white supremacist commits an act of terrorism against those who were protesting anti-Semitism and racism.

President Trump’s initial statement had read:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides.

Many openly questioned as to why he did not clearly condemn the white supremacists, KKK and white nationalists who were marching at the rally, who have clearly supported Trump candidacy. After his initial statement, he later issued a statement calling out white supremacists and Neo-Nazi groups that resulted horrible violence, many injuries and the death of Heather Heyer. The next day he called out the “alt-Left” and again blaming “both sides.” He stated that he waited to call out the white supremacists because he wanted to “wait for the facts”.

Wait for the facts? Are you kidding me? When did he wait for the facts before tweeting almost impulsively?

Also to be fair, the threat from right wing extremists has been rising even before the election campaign and when President Trump took office. Charles Kurzman and David Schanzer had reported this in an op-ed in NY Times on June 16, 2015 titled, “The Growing Right-Wing Terror Threat”, when they remarked[1]:

But headlines can mislead. The main terrorist threat in the United States is not from violent Muslim extremists, but from right-wing extremists. Just ask the police.

In a survey we conducted with the Police Executive Research Forum last year of 382 law enforcement agencies, 74 percent reported anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction; 39 percent listed extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations. And only 3 percent identified the threat from Muslim extremists as severe, compared with 7 percent for anti-government and other forms of extremism.

Last year, a mosque in #Bloomington, MN was fire-bombed. Governor Dayton immediately called it an act of terrorism. There was silence from the Trump tweet world. When the word eventually did come out of the White House, it was not called terrorism.

He wanted to wait for the investigations to be complete. He did not call this an act of terrorism.

The White House wanted to take a “wait and see approach”

Again last year, a white supremacist terror attack occurred in Portland, Oregon. Jeremy Christian, a 35-year-old white man, was on a local train spewing anti-Muslim and other racist remarks. When three good Samaritans stood up to Christian’s hateful comments, he stabbed them, killing Nakai Meche and Ricky John Best. Jeremy Christian’s anti-Semitic and racist views were well documented in media reports and his facebook activities.

How did President Trump respond?

He waited three full days to tweet- from his presidential account.

The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.

He wanted to wait for the investigations to be complete. He did not call this an act of terrorism.

Compare his lack of willingness to call these acts of terrorism committed by white supremacists, to when similar acts were committed by Muslims.

On June 3, 2017 a van ran into the pedestrian on London Bridge. Eventually eight innocents people were killed in the terror attack. Within hours, President Trump tweeted:

At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is “no reason to be alarmed!”4:31 AM – Jun 4, 2017

Note the time of the tweet. He did not wait for America to wake up!

He did not wait for the investigation to be complete (or even for America to wake up). He called this an act of terrorism.

In July 2016, a truck plowed into a crowd in Nice, France that was celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 innocent people in a terror attack. President Trump called a war on ISIS as the news came out.

He did not wait for the investigation to be complete. 

Lets admit it. Our country is deeply divided. There is a need for bringing people together. It is clear this is not going to come from the White House.

Let the healing begin. But let’s identify the disease before we can start the process of healing- the disease being hate and bigotry. In this case neo-Nazism, anti-Semitism and racism(white supremacy).

We must unite against anti-Semitism and racism. We must be united against hate. We are United States of America, NOT United Hates of America.

The healing needs to start from within us. It starts from me- the individual I have the most control over.



Portions of this post were adapted from a prior post from August 13, 2017.

UPDATE: How President Trump Is Redefining Terrorism and Terrorists


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