Members of Netanyahu’s Likud Blame Victims of Pittsburgh Pogrom and Echo the Killer’s Rhetoric

As Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett sets out to Pittsburgh, prominent members of the governing Likud Party have blamed the Jewish victims of the neo-Nazi massacre “for causing anti-Semitism.”

By Max Blumenthal

Israeli Minister of Education Naftali Bennett has embarked on a visit to Pittsburgh “to be with our sisters and brothers in their darkest hour,” he said, after an avowed anti-Semite massacred eleven Jewish worshippers at the city’s Tree of Life Synagogue.

Robert Bowers, the right-wing terrorist, targeted the progressive congregation on the basis of its partnership with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, or HIAS, a Jewish non-profit that helps refugees from conflict-torn regions obtain asylum in the US.

“HIAS likes to bring in invaders that kill our people,” Bowers stated in a social media manifesto explaining his motives.

As Bennett departs for Pittsburgh, some members of Israel’s governing Likud Party have issued talking points and statements blaming the victims of the anti-Jewish mass murderer for inspiring the attack. One especially prominent Likud member has even echoed Bowers’ hate manifesto.

Likud talking points blame the victims

Hours after the massacre in Pittsburgh, a Likud Party email listserv pumped out talking points addressed to “ambassadors of the Likud” that claimed the anti-Jewish shooter “drew inspiration from a left-wing Jewish group that promoted immigration to the U.S. & worked against Trump.”

Within moments, Likud party activists like @guyshapira took to Twitter to repeat the talking points word for word. (Shapira followed up by promoting a tweet by the American Jewish alt-right personality Laura Loomer likening the killer to Ilhan Omar, a Democratic candidate for Congress who happens to be Muslim.)

Israeli journalist Attila Somfalvi said senior Likud officials he spoke to confirmed the talking points as “real.”

The listserv comments were hardly an outlier within the Likud Party’s digital fever swamps.

“The murderer was fed up with people like you”

In a Facebook post, Yoav Eliasi, aka The Shadow — a prominent Israeli hate rapper and Likud Party member in good standing — portrayed the massacre as a legitimate response to HIAC’s progressive agenda.

According to Eliasi, Bowers “was a man fed up with subversive progressive Jewish leftists injecting their sick agendas” into his country. Explicitly echoing the neo-Nazi’s manifesto, Eliasi added that “HIAS brings in infiltrators that destroy every country. The murderer was fed up with people like you. Jews like you brought the holocaust and now you’re causing antisemitism. Stop bringing in hate money from Soros.”

Israel’s Chief Rabbi slights terror-stricken synagogue

While grassroots Likud leaders appeared to justify the massacre, Israel’s state-funded Chief Rabbi, David Lau refused to recognize Pittsburgh’s Tree Of Life as a synagogue. Rejecting the terror-stricken congregation on the basis of its alignment with Conservative Judaism, which the Orthodox Jewish establishment regards as illegitimate, Lau referred to the synagogue as “a place with a prominent Jewish mark.”

Back in 2015, Lau slammed Naftali Bennett for visiting a Conservative Jewish school in the U.S., calling his meeting “unacceptable.”

White supremacist inspiration from Israel

In recent years, racist anti-refugee politics have overwhelmed Israeli society. In our mini-documentary, “Israel’s New Racism,” Israeli journalist David Sheen and I documented the role of xenophobic vigilantes in influencing the agenda of the country’s right-wing governing coalition. In an article earlier this year, Sheen explained how the anti-refugee policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were “inspiring white supremacists all over the world to advocate adopting these policies as their own.”

Back in 2012, Naftali Bennett published an anti-refugee manifesto that advanced many of the same concepts as Bowers’ social media rant against HIAS. “There is a plague of illegal infiltrators in the State of Israel,” Bennett wrote on Facebook. He went on to blame the New Israel Fund, a liberal non-profit, for “bringing horror & crime to Tel Aviv” by defending asylum seekers against deportation.

With Bennett on his way to Pittsburgh, his right-wing Jewish Home party has delayed hearings in the Knesset on an “anti-infiltration” bill authorizing the government to jail and deport all asylum seekers in Israel.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of books including best-selling Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, The Fifty One Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza, and The Management of Savagery, which will be published later this year by Verso. He has also produced numerous print articles for an array of publications, many video reports and several documentaries including Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie and the forthcoming Killing Gaza. Blumenthal founded the Grayzone Project in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.