Nation & World: Anti-Semitism seen in Capitol insurrection raises alarms
photo by: AP File Photo
WASHINGTON (AP) — As a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol last week clamoring to overturn the result of November’s presidential election, photographs captured a man in the crowd wearing a shirt emblazoned with “Camp Auschwitz,” a reference to the Nazi concentration camp.
Two white nationalists known for racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric livestreamed to their online followers after breaking into the Capitol during the deadly insurrection. And video circulated on social media showed a man harassing an Israeli journalist who was trying to do a live report outside the building.
The presence of anti-Semitic symbols and sentiment at the Capitol riot raised alarms among Jewish Americans and experts who track discrimination and see it as part of an ongoing, disturbing trend. As the threat of further chaos lingers over Washington and state capitals ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, they called for more forceful rejection of the conspiracy- and falsehood-driven worldviews on display among the mob.
The insurrection was “not so much a tipping point” for anti-Semitism but rather “the latest explicit example of how (it) is part of what animates the narratives of extremists in this country,” said Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
“People are going to have to ask themselves, were they clear enough in condemning the hatreds that coalesced on Jan. 6?” he added.
On Tuesday, the Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and the Network Contagion Research Institute released a report that identified at least half a dozen neo-Nazi or white supremacist groups involved in the insurrection.
Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. hit a four-decade high in 2019, according to the ADL’s internal tracking.
Although some high-profile recent anti-Semitic attacks were not linked to far-right groups — such as the 2019 assault on a New York rabbi’s Hanukkah party — several others were, most prominently the deadly 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va.. Three-quarters of extremist-related murders in the U.S. over the past 10 years were committed by right-wing extremists, Segal said, citing ADL data.
Eric Ward, executive director of the progressive anti-discrimination group Western States Center, linked the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon, adherents of which were at the forefront of the insurrection, to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the infamous 20th-century screed that falsely claimed Jews were colluding to take over the world.
QAnon’s unfounded assertion of a shadowy cabal “mirrors exactly the anti-Semitic track, the false narrative, of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” Ward said. “That is the real danger of the anti-Semitism in this moment.” QAnon believers also allege a false conspiracy to harm children, paralleling another anti-Semitic trope, he noted.
“It is no stretch to say there were visible signs of anti-Semitism in the makeup” of the riot, Ward said, “but the real power of anti-Semitism in the events on Wednesday is actually buried within the narrative.”
The man photographed wearing the Auschwitz shirt was arrested in Virginia Wednesday. Robert Keith Packer, 56, was arrested in Newport News, charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority.
Despite anti-Semitic elements, at least one Jewish participant was drawn to take part in the assault on the Capitol: Federal agents on Tuesday arrested Aaron Mostofsky, the son of a New York judge, who was part of the crowd that broke in. Mostofsky, who was seen sitting in the building clad in furs and a police vest, told the New York Post he believed the baseless claim that the election was stolen from Trump.
Ward called Mostofsky’s involvement a sign of the patchwork nature of the far-right coalition and noted broadly that “authoritarianism and anti-democratic tendencies are not merely the terrain of white people.”
David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, said not everyone who came to the Trump-promoted rally that preceded the assault on Congress was “stoked” by extremist and hate-fueled ideologies.
But he urged those people to ask themselves, “‘Who am I enabling, however unintentionally, and how do I channel my own protest without being coopted by the lunatic fringe?'”
During the rise of Nazism, Harris added, “it was the soft-core group, not the hard-core group, that allowed itself to be coopted.”
Segal of ADL agreed: “One of the dangers of anti-Semitism and extremism is it wraps people up,” he said, “and takes them into situations that now have serious consequences.”
Many Jewish Americans were dismayed by what they saw broadcast from the Capitol halls, such as one rioter strolling through its halls carrying a Confederate flag.
Rabbi Jay Kornsgold of Beth El Synagogue in New Jersey, who serves as treasurer for the Rabbinical Assembly, said his Holocaust-survivor parents taught their children they should do everything possible to make sure discrimination against Jews doesn’t return to the fore.
“When you see it in the nation’s capital, right in front of your face, it pierces the heart,” Kornsgold said.
In the wake of the insurrection, which left five people dead including a Capitol Police officer, two online stores that had permitted the creation and sale of “Camp Auschwitz” shirts removed them from their sites.
Looking ahead, Harris of AJC urged Jewish leaders to do their part in combatting the rise of QAnon.
“It seems to me even as a matter of education, Jewish organizations and Jewish clergy have a responsibility to alert members of the Jewish community to the menace of QAnon and its ilk,” he said.
Fed survey finds economy slowing in some areas of country
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Federal Reserve survey of U.S. business conditions has found modest economic gains at the start of the year, although some parts of the country saw slowdowns stemming from a renewed surge of COVID-19 cases.
The Fed report released Wednesday said that the bulk of the Fed’s 12 regions reported modest gains in economic activity in recent weeks.
But three districts — New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland — said that activity had weakened. Two districts — St. Louis and Kansas City — said activity was generally unchanged since the last Fed meeting in mid-December.
U.S. budget deficit up 60.7% in first 3 months of budget year
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government’s deficit in the first three months of the budget year was a record-breaking $572.9 billion, 60.7% higher than the same period a year ago, as spending to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic surged while revenue declined.
The Treasury Department reported Wednesday that three months into the budget year, the deficit was $216.3 billion higher than the same October-December period a year ago.
The deficit reflects an 18.3% jump in outlays to $1.38 trillion, a record for the period, while revenues fell 0.4% to $803.37 billion. The red ink results from the difference between revenue collections and outlays.
For just the month of December, the deficit totaled a record $143.6 billion.
Rare Tintin comic book art set to sell for millions in Paris
PARIS (AP) — Not even the coronavirus can get in the way of intrepid Belgian reporter and comic book legend Tintin.
Comic book lovers and tourists alike can catch a socially distanced glimpse of a Tintin drawing by Herge in Paris before it goes under the hammer today, estimated to sell between 2 and 3 million euros and possibly break the record for the most expensive comic book art in history.
The 1936 work in Chinese ink, gouache and watercolor, was destined as a cover for The Blue Lotus, the fifth volume of the Belgian journalist’s adventures. But it never sat on any book store shelves because it was rejected for being too expensive to reproduce on a wide scale – a victim of its own rare craftsmanship.
Twitter CEO defends Trump ban, warns of precedent
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey broke his silence with a Twitter thread defending his company’s ban of President Donald Trump as the right decision, although he warned that it could set a dangerous precedent.
When Twitter called out Trump’s incitement to violence, Dorsey said the company faced an “extraordinary and untenable circumstance” with respect to public safety. “I believe this was the right decision for Twitter,” Dorsey wrote.
But banning the president, he said, revealed Twitter’s “failure” to create an open and healthy space for what Dorsey calls the “global public conversation.”
Divers resume sea search for crashed plane’s 2nd black box
JAKARTA, INDONESIA (AP) — An aerial search for victims and wreckage of a crashed Indonesian plane expanded Thursday as divers continued combing the debris-littered seabed looking for the cockpit voice recorder from the lost Sriwijaya Air jet.
The National Search and Rescue Agency had temporarily suspended the search for the second black box Wednesday due to bad weather and waves up to 16 feet high. The divers returned to the water several hours later.
The Boeing 737-500 disappeared Saturday minutes after taking off from Jakarta with 62 people aboard. The other black box containing flight data was recovered Tuesday, and the hundreds of search personnel have also recovered plane parts and human remains from the Java Sea.
Olympian Keller charged with taking part in U.S. Capitol riot
Five-time Olympic swimming medalist Klete Keller was charged Wednesday with participating in a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol after video emerged that appeared to show him among those storming the building last week.
An FBI complaint filed in U.S. District Court, citing screenshots from the video, requested a warrant charging Keller with knowingly entering a restricted building to impede an official government function, disorderly conduct, and obstructing law officers during the frightening ordeal.
It wasn’t clear if he had been taken into custody.
Calls to reopen classrooms grow as teachers get vaccinated
State leaders around the U.S. are increasingly pushing for schools to reopen this winter — pressuring them, even — as teachers begin to gain access to the vaccine against the raging pandemic.
Ohio’s governor offered to give vaccinations to teachers at the start of February, provided their school districts agree to resume at least some in-person instruction by March 1. In Arizona, where teachers began receiving shots this week, the governor warned schools that he expects students back in the classroom despite objections from top education officials and the highest COVID-19 diagnosis rate in the nation over the past week.
Biden forgoing Amtrak trip to Washington over security fears
WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Joe Biden will no longer be taking an Amtrak train to Washington for his inauguration because of security concerns, a person briefed on the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The president-elect’s decision reflects growing worries over potential threats in the Capitol and across the U.S. in the lead-up to Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
Security in Washington has ramped up considerably in preparation for the inauguration after the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump, and the FBI warned over the weekend of plans for armed protests at all 50 state capitals and in Washington, D.C., in the days leading up to the event.
The person briefed on Biden’s decision spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. The news was first reported by CNN.