Thursday, June 11, 2009

Shooting at Holocaust Museum

Brian Beutler, on Talking Points Memo, asks whether the "Holocaust Museum Shooting Vindicates the DHS Report." This is the report that was issued in April warning about the rise of right-wing extremist groups. He writes,
Let's take stock of what's happened in the months since President Obama was elected just over six months ago, and in the weeks since the DHS story broke. In November, the New York Times reported that "gun owning" Americans - responding to rumors that the incoming administration would confiscate their weapons - had embarked on a shopping binge and were hoarding guns and ammunition. By the time Obama was inaugurated, the climate of fear on the far right had grown hotter. In February, MSN's moneyblog noted that the surge in sales had led, unsurprisingly, to a surge in gun stock prices.

Then on Sunday May 31 of this year, George Tiller - a Witchita doctor who provided late term abortions - was murdered while attending church services, allegedly by a right wing anti-abortion zealot named Scott Roeder.

And today, a white supremacist, Obama birth certificate conspiracy theorist - and World War II veteran -named James W. von Brunn entered the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with a shotgun and opened fire, killing one guard.

Of course, the plural of anecdote isn't data--but this is just the sort of violent extremism the DHS report warned about.

And these two murders are not the only ones motivated by violent right-wing extremism. David Neiwert and Sara Robinson of Orcinus have followed many stories very closely since before Obama's election about right-wing violence and attempted violence against African-Americans and other racial minorities, Jews, liberals (remember the shooting at a Unitarian-Universalist church last summer?), and police ("Two months ago, Richard Poplawski, a right-wing extremist, allegedly gunned down three police officers in Pittsburgh, in part because he feared the non-existent "Obama gun ban"). See Neiwert's post today on Crooks and Liars about the killing at the Holocaust Museum.

Jeffrey Goldberg has a whole series of posts from today about the shooting. (And for an extra-added dollop of anti-semitism, see the comment by Jeremiah Wright on whether he'll be speaking to President Obama anytime soon - "Them Jews aren't going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter, that he'll talk to me in five years when he's a lame duck, or in eight years when he's out of office." Or never, one hopes).

David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, comments today in the Washington Post:
This represents something else that is perhaps distinct to Jews in America compared to other groups. Other religious targets may be subject to vandalism or even discriminatory acts, but there are few other religious institutions that day in and day out must be concerned about acts of terrorism in the form of bombs, gun attacks, etc. On many levels Jews have been and remain the quintessential victims of religious intolerance and hatred in western civilization.

I say that knowing that today Muslim mosques have been targeted for vandalism. We just had a murder take place against a doctor in a church this past week and others are subject to acts of prejudice, but the notion of an entire community being concerned that their house of worship, their institutions might be targets of violent acts anywhere in the country still haunts American Jewry today with all of the successes that America's freedoms have brought to us.

He's correct. It's worthwhile to look at the FBI's hate crime report every year, as I have commented before. Jews are the most targeted of all religious groups in the United States - and Jews are about 2% of the U.S. population. (The group that is most targeted of all in the U.S. is African Americans). In 2007 (the most recent year for which there is a report), 69.2% of the victims of an anti-religious hate crime were Jews.
Of the 1,628 victims of an anti-religious hate crime:
  • 69.2 percent were victims of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias.
  • 8.7 percent were victims of an anti-Islamic bias.
  • 4.3 percent were victims of an anti-Catholic bias.
  • 4.1 percent were victims of an anti-Protestant bias.
  • 0.5 percent were victims of an anti-Atheist/Agnostic bias.
  • 9.1 percent were victims of a bias against other religions (anti-other religion).
  • 4.1 percent were victims of a bias against groups of individuals of varying religions (anti-multiple religions, group).

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