Our VoiceNews & Politics

Holocaust Museum Shooting: The Rising Tide of Racism and Anti-Semitism

Rev. David L. Ostendorf • Jun 10, 2009

James Von Brunn

James W. Von Brunn is a cold-blooded anti-Semite and white supremacist, and nothing less than a domestic terrorist. His assault on people in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. today is yet another incident in the rising tide of deadly attacks across the nation by those who hate peoples of color, Jews, immigrants, and “others.”

For years Von Brunn has had deep roots in the nation’s white supremacist movement. His relationship to Willis Carto, the vile anti-Semite founder of the Liberty Lobby and The Spotlight newspaper is long-standing, as revealed in his rambling 2004 diatribe against Jews, the Federal Reserve, and African Americans (“Federal Reserve Caper and Precedents”). He is not—as some are attempting to describe him—simply an old man, mentally unstable, or suicidal. He is a hardcore racist and anti-Semite.

That he chose to shoot up the Holocaust Museum is, of course, no coincidence. His act has and will continue to reap national attention, given the place and setting.

The real problem here, once again, is the notion that this was “an isolated incident,” not aligned with any organized group, at least that we know of at this time. Every week in the U.S., you see, there are these so-called “isolated incidents” that continue to take a deadly toll on African Americans, Jews, immigrants, and “others.” One by one they generate little attention; yet, one by one people are hurt and killed. Domestic terrorism is alive and well, and for months white nationalists have been stoking its flames.

There are countless stories of communities and leaders who have responded passively to the “small incidents” that belittle victims of bigotry and hatred. “The swastika was spray painted by a group of kids who didn’t even know what it symbolized,” they say. “The noose was hung as a joke,” they assert. “They only meant to scare him,” they contend of the attackers who assaulted the immigrant worker.

Silence seems most opportune when it comes to anti-Semitism. Globally, on the political right or left it seems to be OK to portray Jews or Israel as the singular or collective culprit for all things evil. It has been that way so long across so many cultures and countries that it’s not even given thought any more. The level of anti-Semitic assaults across the world is staggering. Now comes Von Brunn with his hatred unleashed in the Holocaust Museum.

If we cannot and will not stand up to the hatred behind the “small” or “isolated” incidents that daily impact our neighbors, their lives and families, we will not prevent the growing incidents of hate violence aimed at “the other” or stop the slow march of white nationalism that seethes below the surface of our common lot.

Silence is not an option. Not when it comes to people’s lives and to fundamental threats to democracy itself.

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