During the past few days, the media and political candidates have been were busy using, for their own political purposes, the El Paso, Texas, shooter’s “manifesto” and attack on Aug. 3 that left 22 people dead.
For instance, Time magazine falsely claimed that U.S. President Donald Trump called the white supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville, Va., in the summer of 2017 “very fine people,” and thus the shooter’s manifesto revealed that the shooter had a “mind meld” with the president. In fact, both of Trump’s Charlottesville speeches (Aug. 14 and Aug. 15, 2017) specifically condemned neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The president made it clear that racists were not “fine people,” saying: “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists—because they should be condemned totally.”
The president has often repeated his condemnation of racism, bigotry and white supremacy, including during the president’s speech on Monday. Yet virtually all of the president’s opponents jumped on the “blame Trump” bandwagon.
Other people pointed out that the El Paso manifesto supported radical socialist policies, including Universal Basic Income (UBI) and eco-Fascism, slammed corporations, and expressed distain for both U.S. political parties; and pointed out that the Dayton, Ohio, terrorist was a leftist who supported Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Meanwhile, almost no one (except President Trump) paid attention to a different, alarming statement in the El Paso shooter’s missive.
The shooter wrote: “Remember: it is not cowardly to pick low hanging fruit. AKA Don’t attack heavily guarded areas … Attack low security targets. … ” and “I am honored to head the fight to reclaim my country from destruction.”
In other words, the shooter believed that murdering innocent civilians is an “honor” and is “not cowardly.”
Why was this so important? Because, as Trump stated on Monday, “the glorification of violence in our society” is one of the root problems that we face, and that we must stop.
We’ve repeatedly witnessed the evils stemming from associating “honor” and “glory” with murdering innocent people.
The Hitler Youth slogan was “blood and honor.” Some neo-Nazis today use the same slogan.
The anti-religious white supremacist who perpetrated the 2015 Umpqua, Oregon Community College shooting (nine dead; eight wounded) issued a manifesto calling mass shooters (including himself, Elliot Rodger, Vester Flanagan, the Columbine kids, Adam Lanza and Seung Cho) “people who are elite, people who stand with the gods.” He added “Elliot [Rodger] is a god.”
Elliot Rodger, who murdered six people and injured 14 others near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus in 2014, left a manifesto titled “My Twisted World,” complaining about his life, and saying that killing and inflicting pain on everyone “will show the world my true worth.”
ISIS and Al-Qaeda terrorists, such as the perpetrator of the truck rampage in New York City (eight dead) and U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan (who massacred 13 and injured 28 people at Fort Hood) yelled the Arabic phrase glorifying Allah, “Allahu Akbar,” while murdering innocent people.
Palestinian-Arab terror attacks on innocent Israelis stem from the same twisted mindset: The Palestinian Authority (glorifies and honors Arab murderers with laudatory posters and television specials, places terrorists’ names on public buildings and squares, and gives Arab terrorists and their families enormous cash “martyr” awards for killing Jews and Americans. P.A. dictator Mahmoud Abbas also promises Palestinian Arabs “Allah’s rewards” for spilling blood to stop Jews’ and Christians’ “filthy feet” from “defiling” Jerusalem.
Trump’s speech at the 2017 Arab-Islamic American summit in Saudi Arabia astutely emphasized the need to spread the basic tenet that killing innocents is not heroic. He stated:
“[T]here is still much work to do. That means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires. And it means standing together against the murder of innocent Muslims, the oppression of women, the persecution of Jews and the slaughter of Christians.”
“Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory; piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your soul will be condemned.”
“And political leaders must speak out to affirm the same idea: Heroes don’t kill innocents; they save them.”
Violence is, of course, justified in circumstances of strict self-defense to save lives in imminent danger.
But honoring or justifying murder or violence against innocents—and against those with whom we simply disagree—is an inexcusable evil. Thus, we must go beyond solely looking at whether a shooter’s ideology is on the left or on the right, or is a contradictory hodge-podge of “-isms” contained in a rambling manifesto. We need to examine, condemn and figure out how to stop the glorification of violent means.
Our public figures must be especially careful not to extol violence.
Thus, all of us should be horrified by and condemn New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s attempt to justify and elevate violence against Jews last week. AOC asserted that Palestinian Arabs “have no choice but to riot” against Israelis.
We should be alarmed that former Vice President Joe Biden and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker used physically threatening language against the president. Biden, who claims that his campaign seeks to restore civility, stated: “If we were in high school, I’d take him [Trump] behind the gym and beat the hell out of him [Trump],” and “I’d smack him [Trump] in the mouth.” Booker said: “My testosterone sometimes makes me want to feel like punching” Trump.
We must ask, what else can we do to spread the basic moral message that ends do not justify means? How do we inculcate Hillel’s dictum: “Do not do unto others that which is distasteful to you?” Do our movies that glorify violence need to include public service warnings? What role should our schools and religious institutions play?
We can no longer afford to glorify or justify violence and threats towards one another. As Trump stated, we “must make this absolutely clear: Barbarism will deliver you no glory. … Heroes don’t kill innocents.”
Morton A. Klein is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America. Elizabeth A. Berney is ZOA’s director of special projects.