To what extent do the verbal and written statements of people in positions of power and influence incite physical violence? Is it fair to make the connection in every instance, in only some instances, or not at all? To put it in basic terms: do words really matter? If the answer to that last question is yes, then is it not time for the legacy media to acknowledge a link between their own condemnations of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians – along with the incendiary anti-Israel rhetoric of certain elected Democrats – and the recent surge in threats and violent attacks against Jews in America?
For many years now, it has not been uncommon for Democratic Party politicians and their media flunkies to eagerly draw connections between the words of elected Republicans or prominent conservatives and various acts or threats of violence – both real and imagined. Former President Donald Trump was even impeached for supposedly inciting a violent insurrection in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 6. The case against him was largely based upon the fact that he addressed a crowd of supporters, that day, in the nation’s capital and told them: “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Similarly, Republican politicians – Trump himself not least among them – and even many ordinary American conservatives have been accused of fomenting violence against Asian-Americans simply for using terms such as “the China virus” or “the Wuhan flu.”
Perhaps everybody caught up in the finger-pointing over words allegedly leading to violence should take a deep breath and ask themselves what kind of person would physically assault a stranger who looks Asian because they heard someone say “China virus.” Such an individual almost certainly struggles with psychological issues and might have been inspired to violence by any number of outside influences. Rational people do not create such disparate links in their own minds and then carry out physical assaults, inspired by those links. That is not a matter of opinion; it is a fact. If it were not so, then the entire human race would long ago have descended into a Hell of indiscriminate carnage.
Back to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the attacks against American Jews. If one supports the argument that referring to COVID-19 as “the China virus” inspires physical violence against Asian-Americans, then one cannot deny that portraying Israel as an “apartheid” state or saying that “there must be a full accounting” of Israel’s actions during the recent military escalation might lead to physical acts of “retribution” against Jews.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) recently tweeted, in reference to Israel: “Apartheid states aren’t democracies.” On May 10, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) described Israeli airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip as an “act of terrorism.” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has said: “there must be a full accounting of actions that have led to civilian deaths and destruction of media outlets.” For context, the Senator was not referring to both sides in the conflict. He had asserted that he was “deeply troubled by reports of Israeli military actions that resulted in the death of innocent civilians in Gaza as well as Israeli targeting of buildings housing international media outlets.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), in a recent statement, accused the US government of acting as “apologists” for the Israeli government’s “undemocratic and racist behavior.” Reporting of the conflict in the US media – or, at least, in the left-leaning legacy media – has focused largely on the destruction caused by Israeli military action. Very little attention has been given to the bombardment of Israel by the terrorist organization Hamas.
There has been a disturbingly frequent pattern of antisemitic and/or pro-Nazi comments from individuals connected to the left-wing media surfacing, only to be ignored, swept aside, and covered up. As just one example, a longtime CNN freelancer was recently busted for tweeting: “The world today needs a Hitler.”
Since all of this rhetoric has coincided neatly with a sudden spate of threats, harassment, and physical assaults targeting Jews, is it not reasonable to conclude that there is a connection? The well-rehearsed defense, of course, is that criticizing Israel is not the same thing as antisemitism. That is irrelevant since the outcome is the same; rhetoric leads to violence, so the left believes, and so its anti-Israel rhetoric must be fueling the persecution of American Jews. By the left’s own standard that is how these things go.
Certainly, it would not be fair to omit the fact that, while the political left in America harbors deep animosity toward Israel, there are Democrats who do not. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schulz (D-FL) reminded the House that “Hamas and Islamic Jihad are single-handedly responsible for the escalation that has led to the bloodshed of Israelis and Palestinians.” Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) called Hamas a “terrorist organization” and railed against those members of his party who are openly sympathizing with the extremist Palestinian group: “No one here should make excuses for a terrorist organization. Who is the next target of their sympathy? ISIS? al-Qaeda? Hezbollah?”
Making the Connection
The Devil’s advocate might ask how criticizing the state of Israel could be blamed for violence against Jews on American streets. A fair question – as fair as asking how pointing out that COVID-19 originated in China – which it did – could lead to assaults upon Asian-Americans. There is a direct equivalency, here: in both cases, the connecting threads between words and action are thin indeed but cannot be discounted, if one is dealing with people who are weak-minded or mentally unstable enough to consider such rhetoric a call to action.
News media organizations such as CNN, MSNBC, and especially The New York Times – which has been on an anti-Israeli propaganda trip for several days now – could salvage what little credibility they retain by publicly making some definitive editorial decisions: is all speech that could possibly inspire hatred and violence to be condemned?
If that is the case, then should not the rhetoric coming from any political side be called out for the danger it poses? Or, more rationally, should it not be recognized that unstable people will be inspired to commit terrible acts by even the most innocuous comments, be those comments truthful or not? Blaming the speaker for the choices made by those who heard the speech is not constructive in any way. There is a well-known adage among gun-rights advocates: guns don’t kill people – people kill people. The same is true of words. Those who disagree would do well to spend a little time reflecting upon the words that come out of their own minds and mouths.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.