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Don’t let the deniers succeed

Right after the synagogue massacre, lies about its cause began to spread.

A woman stands at a memorial outside the

A woman stands at a memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 people were fatally shot on Saturday. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI

Generations of Jews long saw the United States as a safe haven, a place to get away from the horrors of anti-Semitism.

But anti-Semitism has skyrocketed in the United States, with 1,986 incidents in 2017, a 57 percent increase in the last year, the biggest one-year jump since the Anti-Defamation League started tracking data in 1979.

We’ve seen the swastikas and heard the speeches. Recently, billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, became the center of a conspiracy theory accusing him of funding the caravan moving through Central America toward the United States.

What were once dog whistles have become screams from the rooftops.

Those voices turned deadly when 11 Jews praying on a Sabbath morning were gunned down in their Pittsburgh synagogue, allegedly by Robert Bowers, who spread anti-Semitic vitriol on social media. It was likely the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, according to the ADL.

Enter the “false flag” claims.

Very shortly after reports of the shooting, those on the far-right began to claim the tragedy was an effort by deep state Democrats to wreak havoc before the midterm elections to hurt President Donald Trump. As some of the same people did with last week’s mail bombs, they questioned whether the shooting happened. If it did, they said, it was an engineered event, perhaps in which Jews killed fellow Jews.

It’s today’s version of Holocaust denial. I use that phrase purposefully.

Academics and other experts warn against comparing anything to the Holocaust because it was so horrific that it’s in its own category. And that’s true. But the flip side is that if people don’t compare anything to the Holocaust, they might not see the similarities until the damage is done.

During the Holocaust, there were those in America who doubted the details of what was happening in Nazi Germany and beyond. In the decades since, there has been an active cohort who believe the Holocaust never happened. They used to be given little credence or attention. But now, those voices are more distinct than before.

That means the rest of us must fight not only against the more-prevalent strain of anti-Semitism, but also the disgusting false flags and claims of fake news that accompany it.

Let’s be clear. Anti-Semitism and hate led to the deaths of 11 Jews on Saturday. For them, we must speak the truth, combat any effort to deny it and refuse to repeat past mistakes.

Randi F. Marshall is a member of amNewYork’s editorial board.


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