Video: Texas Synagogue Hostage Jeffrey Cohen Talks Anti-Semitism

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his food writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast.

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48 Responses

  1. veronica d says:

    Thank the stars they all escaped safely. They must have been a terrifying experience, but I’m so glad they all lived to carry on.Report

  2. One of these tropes, that may seem harmless, is that Jews are genetically smarter than other people. It isn’t.Report

  3. Saul Degraw says:

    Despite what Ben Shapiro and Bari Weiss state, I am not sure that things like this are more of a threat than Richard Spencer and home grown white supremacy.Report

    • Philip H in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Richard Spencer and home grown white supremacy are a threat to a larger swath of Americans, but no less pernicious. That homegrown white supremacy has also and always carried a healthy dose of anti-Semitism with it.Report

  4. Chip Daniels says:

    Many years ago, in the 90s, a Jewish coworker mentioned in conversation that “Jews can never trust a Gentile.” And he said it calmly, matter of factly, without anger or bitterness, just like he was explaining that water was wet or the sky was blue. He went on to say that no matter how wealthy or established or seemingly accepted a Jew might be, all it took was a spark, a financial crash, a pandemic, or anything really, and the Jew would suddenly have to grab everything and run for his life.

    At the time I thought he was just offering some unique and idosyncratic view and dismissed it.

    But over time, I’ve heard that same sentiment from black people, or women, where no matter how safe they seem to be, at any moment , a Rodney King trial might happen, or a seemingly safe gentleman could turn violent and predatory.

    And I’ve seen the truth of this. When I came of age in the 70s, it looked like civil rights was a settled matter, that feminism was won and it was all behind us.

    If a time traveler had told me in 1979 that forty years later, there would be a howling mob of torch carrying neo-nat-sees chanting “The Jews Will Not Replace Us!”- a mob of young men who had not yet even been born I would have scoffed in disbelief.

    But here we are., living in a world where the rights and dignity of half our population is still a hotly contested idea.Report

    • Philip H in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      But here we are., living in a world where the rights and dignity of half our population is still a hotly contested idea.


    • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

      Is there a solution for this problem? Like, I mean, a long-term one.

      I’d hate to think that the melting pot/salad bowl was a mistake.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

        “Is there a solution for people hating each other?”, he asked.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

          I suppose we could make two tribes of people: People who love and people who hate and kill all of the people who hate.

          I’m not sure that the people who survive would be the people that love, though.

          I imagine that that’s how they’d imagine themselves, though.

          Maybe that’s the most important thing.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Jaybird says:

        The solution to anti-Semitism is constant vigilance, and even that’s a solution that’s never worked long-term. Ten thousand years from now, the population of terraformed Titan will be arguing over air laws, science policy, and the Jews.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Pinky says:

          I’m just irritated how a guy from England gets on a plane, flies over here, takes hostages on behalf of a Muslim terrorist, and now I’m the guy getting a lecture about hate.

          Maybe we should be lecturing Britons.Report

          • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

            And you wonder why people, as you see it, ignore what you regard as the substance of what you have to say and, instead, talk about you. You make it about you. Exhibit 4237.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

              Well, what are you doing about antisemitism in your community, CJ?

              What are you doing to help? What steps have you taken to protect the Jewish people that you know, following this horrible event in Texas?Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                Did someone ask you what you, personally, were doing about antisemitism in your community? Did anyone “lecture” you about what you were or weren’t doing? Or about anything, for that matter?
                Unlike you, I’m not going to make this about me.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                Did you see the “we”s in Chip’s original comment?

                Do you see yourself as one of “us”?Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                I didn’t mean you personally..

                I’m sure you would have been nice to Jesus while the rest of us shouted “Crucify Him!”Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                If this is just one of those things where our grand declarations serve as nothing more than an opportunity to differentiate “the good ones like us” from “the bad ones like them”, then I’m sure it provides some short-term endorphins but I can’t help but notice that you’re just reshuffling the members of the dichotomy instead of making something more unified.Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yes, I did. Yes, I do. So I answered your questions. Now answer mine.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                I saw an implied call to action in Chip’s comment. How “we” needed to change despite all of the illusory progress he thought he saw back in the 70’s.

                If there was no call to action, then allow me to say “nobody”.

                Was there a call to action?

                Perhaps there wasn’t. Chip’s sarcastic question “is there a solution for people hating each other?” might imply a deep nihilism about what’s actually possible.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

                The question answers itself.

                The solution for people hating is…to stop hating.

                And implicitly to refuse to turn a blind eye to hate. And to rebuke those who do. And search for ways to encode this in our norms and laws.

                I mean, this isn’t new or novel, people have been talking about it for thousands of years.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Oh, is all we’re doing is refusing to turn a blind eye to it?

                Did the hostage-taker have any demands?
                What were they?

                Maybe we should communicate that whatever this hostage-taker wanted was unacceptable and how people who want this sort of thing need to be mocked, shunned, and otherwise dissuaded from their thought process.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Jaybird says:

                You seem to have trouble identifying trees and forests here, so let me help you out:

                Chip was mocking you for asking a question, that, frankly, doesn’t need to be asked if you actually care. OT – and many other sources – are brimming with the how of this. You’ve even suggested some of those ideas over the years (like decriminalizing marijuana). SO if you honestly, legitimatley don’t know how, then we can’t really help you at this point.

                And if you are asking the WHY of this – I made it clear in my response. Humans deserve to exist without threat of violence because they are human. The “easiest” way for you to ensure they exist that way is to choose to not meet them with violence because they aren’t you. Then you choose to fight back – in all the ways shown in the many, many HOWS – against anyone and everyone who would do other humans violence for their human characteristics.

                That’s as clear as any of us can make it. And frankly I’m disappointed that it has to be made that clear to you, because doing so requires me to lower my assessment of you as a person. I should you wouldn’t want that outcome, but I’ve been wrong around here before.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Philip H says:

                Well, one of the things that I keep noticing is that we aren’t really talking about the British guy who took the hostages.

                The seed crystal, if you will.

                What could we have done with regards to this British guy?

                Or am I focusing on the tree of this British guy instead of the forest of the US and its relationship to diversity?Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                I don’t know who this “we” is, but if you think you have something worth saying about the British guy who took the hostages, or even if you just want to talk about it, nobody’s stopping you. Have at it.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to CJColucci says:

                “I think it’d be reasonable to be afraid of people like that. Maybe even to take precautions against them.”Report

              • CJColucci in reply to Jaybird says:

                See how simple that was? Now if anyone wants to engage, they can.Report

          • Pinky in reply to Jaybird says:

            Is that because we don’t have anti-Semitism here, or because they don’t have internet access there?Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Pinky says:

              I know that we do, but I’m not sure that the Texas Synagogue Hostage situation is the best platform from which to discuss it and how to best address it.

              And *ESPECIALLY* if the takeaway from the Texas Synagogue Hostage situation is that “Jewish people never feel fully safe around white people and, more’s the point, they probably are right to never feel fully safe around them.”

              AND USING THAT LOGIC, I have follow up questions for all kinds of violence in the US and whether it would be right for members of group X to never feel fully safe around members of group Y.

              How much does this insight scale?

              What government policies follow from this insight?Report

              • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

                There is a category of thinking that I would describe as understandable in certain contexts, and maybe deserving of some empathy, but not the sort of thing we ought to encourage, institutionalize, or accept as inevitable.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to InMD says:

                Moving from “Is it understandable that they think this?” to something like “Should they stop thinking this?” gets hairy.

                If their thinking this puts an obligation on me (maybe it does!) then I’d like to know what that obligation is.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Jaybird says:

                That obligation is to defend the rights of your fellow humans to exist as and where they are, free from threat of violence (including death).

                Will that be hard? Yes. Might you be exposed to threat of violence for doing it? Yes. Are you willing to do it?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Philip H says:

                Does meeting this obligation look like what you’re doing right now?

                Or does it look like something else?

                Does it look like outsourcing this responsibility to others? Like, calling for more prosecutors or police?

                Does it look like buying a gun and making sure that I’m prepared if violence breaks out around me?

                Does it just look like posting a selfie in front of a BLM lawn sign?Report

              • Pinky in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’d love to be able to follow your thought on this thread but I’m having trouble. Are you worried that people are trying to score points due to this incident? That people are doing so while not trying to make this better? That people are doing so while making this or other things worse? Is there something about anti-Semitism that makes this different from a more general complaint on the topic? You mentioned the foreign origin: are you using that as evidence that we’re not properly addressing the problem?Report

              • Philip H in reply to Pinky says:

                As I keep being reminded – sometimes daily – you gain little by asking for clarity in Jaybird’s thinking.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Philip H says:

                You should try harder though. He’s one of the most interesting thinkers on the site.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Pinky says:

                I’m not particularly worried.

                I *AM* particularly noticing that our jumping off for a speech about the badness of Americans was a British guy flying to the US and taking hostages at a synagogue calling for the release of an alleged terrorist in custody.

                It strikes me as similar to me looking at the Texas Synagogue Hostage situation and saying “this drives home the point that we need to have Congress reschedule Marijuana.”

                I mean, there are a lot of problems and there is nowhere near enough justice but running, stampeding, to how this is Congress’s fault for not dealing with marijuana sooner would be more of an indicator of me and my thought processes than actually wrestling with what actually happened.

                Because wrestling with what actually happened might get us to explore the topic of “is it appropriate for members of this group to fear members of that group?”

                And then we might even want to look a little closer at the British guy. Maybe see if there’s something about British people that we could use as a red flag to tell us “hey, I’m not saying it’s *GOOD*, I’m just saying it’s *REASONABLE*”.

                And see if that scales.

                If we agree that that would be bad (not out of the question!), then we get to ask whether it being bad scales.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Jaybird says:

                do you agree that Jewish people deserve to be free from worry about threats of or the enaction of violence based on them simply being Jewish?

                Because that’s why they were attacked. Because they are Jewish. I believe that being free of threat for being Jewish (or Black, or a Woman) is not just reasonable, its critical. Its foundational. Its a moral foundation.

                And trying to see if the actions of a crazed British Muslim might be REASONABLE in this context suggest you don’t agree.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Philip H says:

                Come on, he’s at least clear enough that you shouldn’t be asking that. He’s saying that they were attacked because they were Jewish and the British Muslim was crazed, not either/or.Report

              • InMD in reply to Pinky says:

                Actually based on the reports I think that’s still not quite clear. Always tentative at this stage but they’re saying he was demanding the release of a Pakistani national in federal prison for attacking US military personnel in Afghanistan. I think that’s what the FBI spokesman was trying to get at in the interview Jaybird linked to when he said the attack was not specific to the interests of the Jewish community. Of course it was also kind of rambling and we should always be careful to draw too many conclusions before the facts emerge.

                Still I appreciate Jaybird’s call for rigor here. I don’t want to predict anything but I’m hearing echoes of that time attacks on Asians by often black, often homeless and/or mentally disabled people, plus a religious zealot with a sex addiction shooting up (apparently) brothels, was…. cause for a renewed and urgent discussion on latent white supremacy as a cause of anti-Asian violence?

                I always reserve judgment until we get all of the facts but we have gone places like that before, and recently too.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Philip H says:

                Oh, yeah. Jewish people totally deserve to be free from that worry.

                You bring up the point that he’s Muslim.

                Is it reasonable for us to have heightened awareness when it comes to Muslms or is that beyond the pale?

                Because it certainly seems that we’d much rather talk about Marijuana Legislation following this incident than what actually seems to have happened.

                Have you seen the early FBI reports?

                It looks like they don’t want to talk about what happened either.Report

              • InMD in reply to Jaybird says:

                I still adhere to the quaint notion that there is no they, at least when it comes to how to think, only individuals. In that regard it puts no obligation on you or anyone else.

                That said I do think as Americans we ought to broadly be against sectarian hatred and certainly never tolerate violence. The whole thing falls apart if the vast majority of us can’t get to a conclusion that such a thing is wrong.

                The good news is that federal SWAT team adhered to the principle without hesitation.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

            How to say you are a talk radio conservative/Fox News Republican without stating you are a talk radio/Fox News conservative Republican.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

            Why do see what you getting is a lecture? What is wrong with contemplation? Why is being asked to think about something inherently a lecture?Report

    • More than 100 years after Pasteur, a significant fraction of Americans are a hard No on vaccines. Progress is illusory.Report

  5. Audio of the call between the hostage-taker and his brother during the standoff.

    Some notable things:

    * He’s not ranting about Jews. He describes his location as “a synagogue” and the hostages as “four beautiful guys, Jewish guys”. No slurs, no accusations. His brother calls the hostages “innocents” and he doesn’t dispute it.

    * He’s ranting about the US. “Why does Afghanistan have to be a defensive war? Why can’t the sick Taliban bastards enter American and have a defensive war?”

    * He’s quite clear that he’s going to die and doesn’t expect his demands to be met. His goal is to take the war to the US and inspire other Muslims to do the same.

    “Maybe they’ll have compassion for f*cking Jews”. “They” is the US, and his complaint here is that the US has none for Muslims.

    Anti-semitic? Yes, he sought out a synagogue because he wanted Jews to take hostage. But not frothing, the way I was expecting.Report