By Yashwant Raj
U.S. prosecutors have brought 29 counts of federal crimes, including those related to hate crimes, against a virulently anti-Semitic white supremacist who gunned down 11 worshippers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in what has been called the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in America.
Robert Bowers, the 46-year-old gunman, was charged with 11 counts of obstructing exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death, 11 counts of using firearms to commit murder, four counts of obstructing officers and wounding them, and three of use and discharge of firearms. "The crimes of violence are based upon the federal civil rights laws prohibiting hate crimes," federal prosecutors said in a statement.
"All these Jews need to die," Bowers had yelled, according to police tapes, as he had shot into the congregation gathered for the regular Shabbat services and bris, a baby-naming ceremony. He had used an AR-15-style assault rifle and four handguns to kill 11 people and injure six, including four police officers.
"We believe this is the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States," said the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a group that has monitored and battled anti-Semitism in the United States for over a century. Anti-Semitism has been on the rise in the US, with related incidents and instances shooting up by 57% in 2017 over the previous year, the league has said in a recent report.
Bowers's social media postings showed him a virulent anti-Semite, who railed against Jewish people, using the vilest ethnic slurs, as he had yelled out during the attack.
On social media site Gab, a Facebook-like platform popular with right-wing extremists and conservatives, he said "Jews are the children of Satan", and had used well known Neo-Nazi symbols and codes on his background photos, according to news reports, His account was taken down by the site later.
And hours before launching the deadly attack Saturday, the gunman had posted this on a social media site: "HIAS (Hebrew Immigration Aid Society) likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."
Founded in 1881 in New York to help Jews fleeing persecution, HIAS has grown to work with refugees and victims of persecution around the world. Bowers had railed in some posts against HIAS accusing it of helping the caravans of asylum-seekers headed for the US from Latin America.
President Donald Trump has criticized the caravans as well, but Bowers was not a supporter like Cesar Sayoc, the Florida man who mailed pipe-bombs to Trump's critics including ormer presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former vice-president Joe Biden and former Obama administration officials Hillary Clinton, John Brennan and public figures such as actor Robert De Niro. The gunman had criticized the president, for one, for calling himself a "nationalist" saying the he was actually a "globalist".
The president, who had fielded some uncomfortable questions after Sayoc's arrest, was quick to point out that Bowers was not a supporter. "This was no supporter of mine. And his anti-Semitic tweets, people are seeing them, very anti-Semitic man and he, his thought process is sick."
While Trump has claimed he is the "least anti-Semitic" person around, he has been accused of not forcefully speaking against the rising wave of anti-Semitism. He had appeared to have defended white supremacists, for instance, who had marched in Charlottesville in 2017 shouting "Jews will not replace us".
(c)2018 the Hindustan Times (New Delhi)