FBI agents recently arrested a neo-Nazi terrorist accused of threatening to blow up Temple Emanuel, a synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the United States.
Richard Holzer, the 27-year-old suspect, is a skinhead and former member of the Ku Klux Klan. In messages posted on Facebook, he likened the shul and its Jewish congregants to a “cancer” in need of eradication and expressed regret that the Nazis did not murder every European Jew during the Holocaust.
Holzer’s arrest came a year after Robert Bowers, a white supremacist maniac in his mid-40s, attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, murdering 11 worshippers in the worst single violent antisemitic incident in American history.
Still more troubling, Holzer’s incarceration marked the 13th time in the past year that authorities have apprehended a person plotting attacks or making threats against the Jewish community, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
This is a most disturbing statistic, a clear indicator of unsettling times.
Since Bowers’ murderous rampage on October 27, 2018, American neo-Nazis have targeted Jewish institutions about 50 times and white supremacists have grown increasingly brazen, says the ADL.
Several days after the Tree of Life atrocity, a synagogue in California was defaced with obscene antisemitic slurs. Last November, a shul in New York City was vandalized with the phrase “Jews Better Be Ready.” Late last month, 75 headstones were toppled at the Temple Israel cemetery in Omaha, Nebraska, causing about $50,000 in damage.
White racists, meanwhile, have demonstrated outside the offices of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, and of Israeli consulates. And in one particularly jarring act of contempt, they disrupted a Holocaust remembrance event in Arkansas by waving swastika flags, holding aloft anti-Jewish posters and shouting antisemitic slogans such as “Six million more.”
More recently, several men posing as Jews and wearing white yarmulkes and fringed prayer shawls distributed antisemitic and Holocaust denial flyers at a mall Boulder, Colorado. They also posted index cards inside the mall claiming that “academia is dominated by Marxist Jews,” that the porn industry is run by Jews, and that Jewish traders “ran the Atlantic slave trade.”
Antisemitism has a long and ignoble pedigree in the United States, to be sure. But until a few years ago, antisemitic bigots were not as confident and intrusive as they are today. The rise of open, unabashed antisemitism, a throwback to the era before World War II when Jews were hobbled by discrimination, cannot be swept under the rug or played down as the mere rantings of a few lunatics and malcontents.
The emergence of right-wing populism, the formation of the alt-right movement and the election of Donald Trump have emboldened the antisemitic termites in the woodwork. Two-and-a-half years ago, in a sign of the times, antisemites attending a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, had the temerity to shout “Jews will not replace us” as they staged a torch-lit march in a local park.
Trump, very regrettably, failed to condemn these bigots unequivocally. Instead, he claimed there were very fine people on both sides of the barricades — the racists and the anti-racists. This outrageous comment doubtless encouraged the white supremacist crowd.
Jews have historically thrived and prospered in the United States, a melting pot of nationalities and religions from every corner of the globe. It would even be fair to say that no other country has treated Jews as fairly and generously as America. But there are tens of millions of reactionaries in the United States who do not respect its democratic norms and traditions and would like nothing better than to convert it into a racist dictatorship where only lily-white Christians of northern European descent are welcome.
Holzer, the despicable neo-Nazi who tried to destroy Temple Emanuel, is representative of that vein of odious and odiferous rabble in American society. People like him must be monitored very carefully and be made to pay dearly for the crimes they so callously commit.