Anti-Semitic gunman suspect Robert Bowers accused Jews of "committing genocide to his people"

The suspect accused of shooting up a Pittsburgh synagogue used the "genocide" libel against Jews

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published October 28, 2018 11:00AM (EDT)


Robert Bowers, the suspected gunman who is believed to have murdered 11 people in a shooting spree at a Pittsburgh synagogue, is reported to have used the white genocide libel against the Jews when explaining his motives to authorities.

Bowers is reported to have told a SWAT officer while receiving medical care that Jews "were committing genocide to his people," according to CNN. He also reportedly told police during his shootout with law enforcement officers that "they're committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews."

The alleged gunman made his anti-Semitic views as well known as he could on social media outlets, particularly the social media platform Gab. His views included complaining that President Donald Trump was surrounded by too many Jewish advisers, that Jews were responsible for the caravan of Central American migrants heading toward the US-Mexico border and, shortly before allegedly perpetrating the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, that "I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."

In May, Alternet's Jacob Sugarman spoke with New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman about the subject of white genocide conspiracy theories among anti-Semites.

"When white nationalists talk about so-called white genocide, they imagine that white human beings, specifically white men, are being supplanted and driven out by brown people: African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims and immigrants more generally," Weisman told Sugarman. "But their mythology also tells them that these brown people are inferior beings, so they summon the Jews as the cause of their demise, the answer to the question, 'How could this be happening to us?' It's the Jews, they believe, who are the puppet masters, pulling the strings of the ethnic hordes. You can't separate one group from another, we're all in this together."

He added, "The American Jewish community also has a certain amount of power and resources to bear in this fight. If a Jew stands up and screams, 'Anti-Semitism,' the response is often, 'You're just being parochial. There are other people who have it far worse than you. What are you doing?' That's why it's so essential we form alliances with Muslim Americans, immigrants, Latinos and African Americans to denounce all forms of bigotry."

The New York Times provided additional details about Bowers' biography:

Mr. Bowers took to Gab, a social network that bills itself as a being dedicated to free speech and which is increasingly popular among alt-right activists and white nationalists. After opening an account on it in January, he had shared a stream of anti-Jewish slurs and conspiracy theories. It was on Gab where he found a like-minded community, reposting messages from Nazi supporters.

“Jews are the children of Satan,” read Mr. Bowers’s biography.

In response to Bowers' alleged shooting, President Donald Trump told reporters at Joint Base Andrews that "it’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country and frankly all over the world, and something has to be done." He added that "the results are very devastating" but claimed that if there had been armed protection outside the synagogue, the violent shooting may not have happened or could have had its effects lessened.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Anti-semitism Jews Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Synagogue Attack