Anti-Semitic tropes such as “Jews poison wells” or “They make their Passover matzos with the blood of Christian children” might seem so ridiculous as to be laughable. Who in their right mind would entertain such notions? But it is exactly this sort of Medieval blood libel and conspiracy theory lunacy that resulted in the tragic events in Poway, near San Diego, California.
These conspiracy theories are not a joke – they are dangerous and deadly.
A young man, addled with lies such as these, barged into a synagogue on the last day of Passover and opened fire. One brave woman, Lori Gilbert Kaye, took a bullet for the rabbi and saved his life, but lost her own in doing so. The rabbi went to grab the gun, and had two fingers shot off his hand. Several others were shot and wounded.
The Times of Israel reported that a neighbor, Donny Phonea, was just across the street from the synagogue when he heard gunshots and calls for the police. Speaking after the incident, he said, “I’m a little taken aback… I moved here because safety was a factor. Poway is very safe.”1
Shockingly, the shooter claimed to be a Christian, and thought that he was doing God a favour by killing Jewish people. He had absorbed a lot of poisonous lies, and believed them. Clearly, this young man was not in his right mind, but we are fooling ourselves if we think that such Anti-Semitism is simply a mental health issue. There has been an appalling amount of Anti-Semitic thinking throughout church history, some even continuing to this day. It might sound like a contradiction in terms, but if you don’t think those words are true, please investigate for yourself.
The shooter is alleged to have put up a “manifesto”, similar to the white nationalist responsible for the recent New Zealand shooting in a mosque. Only this time, it was not an atheist agenda, but purportedly a Christian one. The manifesto does not deserve to be disseminated, but contains several Anti-Semitic catchphrases, including descriptions of an “international Jewry” having control over the media and the economy. Lies such as these have even led people who call themselves Christians to kill Jews throughout the centuries, claiming that “the Jews killed Jesus”. The Poway attack was sadly just one example.
Wild accusations that Jewish people are plotting world domination, as found in the fictional book The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, have been responsible for much hatred against the Jewish people, and for murder. Even to this day, this book is in circulation along with many other fatuous claims, stoking the fires of Anti-Semitism, painting Jewish people as evil simply because they were born Jewish.
As believers we need to be well informed about the lies people are believing, and their sources, so that we can stand up against them with the truth. This kind of insanity is not going to go away.
“He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:8)
To read more about Anti-Semitism and how we can respond, click here
Photo by Carmine Savarese on Unsplash