The Florida Douglas High School Shooting Was an Anti-Semitic Hate Crime And Nobody’s Talking About It
Yesterday, February 14th 2018, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz took an Uber to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the institution he had been expelled from a year earlier, and, according to the police report released this morning, “began shooting students that he saw in the hallways and on school grounds.” 17 are confirmed dead and 14 injured. The Florida shooting seems to be all anyone is talking about. What people fail to mention, however, is that Douglas High School is more than 40% Jewish, Cruz believed that Jews were part of a conspiracy to unseat white people from power, and the shooting was potentially an anti-Semitic hate crime.
Personal accounts of students who attended high school with Cruz have pegged him as an anti-Semite. According to an individual who knew him*, he was actively hostile towards Jews, black people, and Muslims in particular throughout high school. In fact, multiple of the violent incidents he was expelled for were attacks against Jews.
*Since this article went viral, an individual has reached out to me with a personal account but wishes to remain anonymous to avoid backlash.
Not only did Nikolas Cruz actively and openly hate Jews, not only does he have a history of making threats and committing acts of violence against Jewish students, but he was part of a white supremacist organization called Republic of Florida Militia that self-identifies as a “white civil rights organization” that fights for the “ultimate creation of a white ethnostate.” Nikolas was a member of the ROF and participated in one or more of their “training drills” to prepare for the possibility of an attack by people of color and Jews against white people.
“We’re not a big fan of Jews,” Republic of Florida Militia leader Jordan Jerub stated in an interview with The Daily Beast. “I think there were a lot of Jews at the school that might have been messing with him.”
Jerub’s statement is very telling. Even if Cruz was not entirely motivated by anti-Semitism (there are certainly other factors as well, including but not limited to his expulsion from Douglas), his hatred of the Jews who attended his school undoubtedly played a major role in his motivations. While there is room to question Cruz’s exact motivations, I find it troubling that such a visible connection to anti-Semitism is being overlooked as irrelevant enough to entirely exclude it from many major news articles; if a white supremacist blatantly and frequently spoke about abhorrence for any other minority and then shot up a school- even one he used to attend- that consisted mostly of members of that ethnic group, people (people who care about social justice, that is) would at least be discussing the possibility that it was a hate crime. People are not having a discussion and not taking Cruz’s anti-Semitism seriously because common anti-Semitic tropes paint Jews as powerful and privileged, which leaves room for people to ignore the fact that our long history of oppression continues to this day.
While it makes sense that struggles of black communities, Muslim communities, and other frequently targeted groups, who have suffered at the hands of racism more than any other ethnic group in America, would be at the forefront of the social justice movement, it is important to not entirely ignore Jewish struggles, as is the alarming trend. It is vital for people on the left to understand that the fight against anti-Semitism is not at war with the fights against other forms of race-based oppression; we do not want to minimize the devastating effects of racism in America, but we do want to elevate anti-Semitism and start a discussion about the fight against anti-Semitism as a part of a much larger struggle to dismantle white supremacy.
Very few non-Jewish news sources have reported on the anti-Semitic connections to Cruz’s hate crimes at all, but news sources that have are inundated with anti-Semitic comments in Facebook groups. People are saying that “Jews want to be oppressed so badly.” People are saying we’re “appropriating struggles of people of color” simply by claiming that he killed Jewish kids because he’s a white supremacist. I’m sorry, why can’t we acknowledge that someone shot up a Jewish school because he was anti-Semitic without it taking away from the struggles of other minorities? Yes, white Jews are white and have systemic power over black people and many other racial groups (Jewish and non-Jewish POC alike). No, that does not mean we hold power because we are Jewish, nor does it mean we should be excluded from the conversation about the white supremacy that affects us due to our Judaism.
When Jews say we are oppressed, people often respond with “show me real hate crimes against Jews and then we’ll believe you when you say you’re discriminated against,” but then someone who talks about wanting Jews dead shoots up a school that’s largely Jewish and many people still refuse to acknowledge that it’s a real hate crime.
Regardless of Cruz’s motivations, the shooting has shaken the local Jewish community, which mourns the loss of 6 members. According to local Rabbi Shuey Biston, Parkland “is a small community where nearly half the population is Jewish, so everyone has been touched by what happened.” While town records state that only 1.6% of Parkland is Jewish, members of the Parkland Jewish community were quick to point out that the listed demographics only take into account religious Jews. According to Jews who live in Parkland, the majority of the Jewish population is secular, or ethnically and culturally Jewish but not religiously; in the census, these Jews were taken into account as atheist. Quite frankly, it is insulting, painful even, to watch people look for excuses to dismiss us completely while we mourn the losses of members of the Jewish community at the hands of someone who hated the victims for being Jewish.
The Jewish community is not a large one. I know people who knew some of those kids, who went to Jewish summer camp with them, whose parents were family friends. Fuck anti-Semites, fuck people who shoot children, and fuck people who refuse to acknowledge that people are targeted, assaulted, and even killed for being Jewish on a regular basis. According to the FBI, 1.7% of Americans are Jewish, but last year 54.2% of religiously motivated hate crimes were against Jews and 11.5% of overall hate crimes were against Jews.
If your intersectionality doesn’t include Jews, you’re doing social justice wrong.
Jerub, who previously claimed Cruz as a member of ROF, has backtracked and stated that his claims that he trained Cruz with ROF were a “misunderstanding” propelled by the “lying Jew media.” While many are taking his retraction at face value, I would like to point out that it is only common sense- and advice any lawyer would give- to deny training a school shooter in the art of gun violence with the explicit purpose of targeting people of color and Jews in the event that they rise up against white people. ABC News claims to have three sources who were classmates with Cruz and confirm his involvement with ROF, but ABC has not yet commented on how they verified their sources.
We do not know for certain whether or not Jerub’s original statement is true, but anyone would have retracted that statement regardless of truthfulness in an attempt to protect themselves from both the law and media backlash. The evidence behind this article may be marginally flimsier with rising developments, but the point still stands; there is enough evidence to warrant a discussion about the possibility of the Douglas High School shooting being an anti-Semitic hate crime, but this discussion is just not happening because people do not take anti-Semitism seriously.
In fact, to further contribute to my point, the vast majority of articles on Jerub’s retraction do not mention his accusation of the “lying Jew media” at all. Those that do not omit this statement only do so because they have provided a screenshot and do not discuss the blatant anti-Semitism they have so callously brushed past.
This is not an isolated incident either. At the Nazi-led Charlottesville march in August 2017, Nazis- a group that initially formed with the explicit purpose of targeting Jews- chanted “Jews will not replace us!” over and over again throughout the march as one of their primary mantras. Yet, the only articles that mentioned the chant in anything but passing- and even articles that mentioned it in passing were few and far between- were Jewish.
EVEN IF Jerub’s statements were completely and utterly discredited, the larger point of the article still stands. When there was overwhelming evidence pointing to Cruz as a member of a white nationalist organization (and to be clear- members of the Parkland community are still adamant that he openly despised Jews), nobody discussed the possibility of an anti-Semitic hate crime or even an anti-Semitic connection to the shooting. This article is about more than just this one incident. It is about the fact that nobody seems to fight for the Jews except the Jews themselves. It is about the larger context of a society full of enablers, people who ignore anti-Semitism and think that is okay even if they are not participating in it.
It is time we start including Jews in the social justice movement in the discussion about white supremacy. We do not want to kick anyone else out of a seat, we just want a seat at the table to discuss issues that heavily relate to us.