By Ray Hanania
When news broke of the terrible tragedy that a gunman had murdered 11 Jews praying at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, I immediately became concerned.
I was afraid the suspect, who also wounded six others, including four police officers, was an “Arab” or a “Muslim,” and that would result in another wave of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred that would sweep across America, as has happened several times before.
Instead, the suspect taken into custody, Robert Bowers, 46, is a white American who told police he hates Jews, and also hates President Donald Trump, Arabs, Muslims, and immigrants.
Although the focus did not turn to “Arab terrorism” or “Islamic terrorism,” as is often the case when a violent act is committed by an Arab or a Muslim, the tragedy was still exploited by many for political purposes.
Critics of Trump blamed the attack on an “environment of hate” they claim he has created with his repeated attacks against mainstream American news media bias. Of course, these critics didn’t take note of the fact that Bowers also stated that he hates Trump.
Trump has attacked certain mainstream news media outlets often, accusing them, accurately in my opinion, of twisting facts to minimize criticism against liberals while exaggerating facts to make criticism against conservatives harsher. I sympathize with the president. During the past 42 years I have spent as a journalist and writer, I have witnessed first-hand how parts of the media twist facts to demonize Arabs and especially Palestinians, while minimizing criticism of Israel.
Media bias is a fact. It is worse today as many media outlets take sides in American politics, rather than doing their jobs to report the facts accurately, fairly and with balance. Arabs and Muslims continue to be libeled by bias in much of the mainstream American news media.
Yet, regardless of this racist pattern of media judgment that confronts Arabs and Muslims in America every day, nearly every Arab and Muslim American organization issued a statement denouncing Bowers’ violence and expressing sympathy for the Jewish victims, the survivors and the families of those killed in the massacre.
The Washington-based Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) said: “Once again, we are reminded of the terrible consequences of hate and prejudice… We at CMEP join with others in assuring our Jewish sisters and brothers of our solidarity with them, and our condemnation of those who exercise their hate by seeking to diminish others, even unto death.”
The Palestinian-run American Human Rights Council (AHRC) in Dearborn, Michigan, said: “The American Human Rights Council strongly condemns the shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue… This heinous attack is another painful reminder of the threat of mass violence. AHRC reaffirms that acts of hate, violence and/or domestic terror are never justified and the responsibility is squarely that of the perpetrator or perpetrators… AHRC expresses its sincere condolences to all families of the victims for the loss of their loved ones and wishes all the injured a speedy recovery.”
The Islamic Networks Group in California said: “Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families, the Tree of Life synagogue congregation, and all those impacted by this heinous attack… As Americans, we stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters to say, we will not tolerate these acts of bigotry, hate, and violence. As Muslims, we know too well how it feels to be afraid in our own houses of worship.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) stated through its national and Pittsburgh leadership: “We condemn this heinous and cowardly attack on a house of worship, offer heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of all those who were killed or injured and express our solidarity with the Jewish community during this time of shock and grief… This barbaric attack on our neighbors, with whom we share our city and have visited and dialogued multiple times, is deeply disturbing and horrifying. Such an act of terror affects all of us.”
Muslim organizations, which have shown a powerful ability to raise funds for their religious concerns, were able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the Synagogue victims.
All of this makes me proud. It makes me proud that — despite the tensions that exist between Israelis and Arabs because of the Israeli government’s atrocities, war crimes and human rights abuses against Palestinians — leaders of the Arab, Muslim and Palestinian communities all stood up for what is right.
It shows me that, despite violence from Israel and the one-sided pro-Israel worldwide debate it has sparked, the Arab, Palestinian and Muslim community has strong moral foundations.