LISTEN: How far will anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on Trump’s impeachment go?
People of the Pod'This could inspire someone to do something crazy'

LISTEN: How far will anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on Trump’s impeachment go?

Episode #16: ToI’s Eric Cortellessa on rumors that Jews are trying to oust the president * ACJ’s David Levy talks post-shooting NJ * ToI’s Jacob Magid explains ICC Israel inquiry

Yaakov Schwartz is The Times of Israel's deputy Jewish World editor.

This week, People of the Pod speaks with Times of Israel Washington correspondent Eric Cortellessa about a spreading anti-Semitic theory that a Jewish conspiracy is behind the impeachment of US President Donald Trump. On December 18, Trump was charged with abusing his office and obstructing Congress, becoming just the third US president in history to be impeached by the House.

Weekly podcast People of the Pod is produced in partnership between the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and The Times of Israel to analyze global affairs through a Jewish lens.

Speaking with co-host Manya Brachear Pashman, Cortellessa says that American Jews “are deeply involved in the impeachment process at a range of levels,” and include such senior figures as House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler.

As the impeachment process has ramped up, anti-Semites on the fringes have propagated a conspiracy theory that a cabal of Jews are behind an effort to oust the duly elected president, Cortellessa says. This concerns Jewish leaders, he says, because we are already in the midst of a period when anti-Semitic incidents – especially violent ones – are on the rise.

“I think the concern is, what’s going to happen as the impeachment process moves forward,” says Cortellessa. “The worst possible scenario – and I don’t want to sound overheated – is that it could inspire someone to do something crazy.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, speaks during a vote on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, December 18, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Next, co-host Seffi Kogen speaks with AJC New Jersey regional director Rabbi David Levy about the continued fight against anti-Semitism in the wake of yet another anti-Semitic shooting. On December 10, shooters opened fire at a cemetery and a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, killing four innocent people.

Kogen says he believes this shooting has received less media attention than similar violent anti-Semitic incidents in the US in recent years, and asks whether this may be attributed to preconceived notions about both the victims and the perpetrators. In this case neither fit the standard mold, as the targeted Jews were members of the lesser-known ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community, and the killers were African-American rather than the far-right nationalists generally associated with such attacks, Kogen says.

Orthodox Jewish women mourn during the funeral service of Leah Mindel Ferencz who was killed in a kosher market that was the site of a gun battle in Jersey City, New Jersey, December 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

“Certainly there’s a piece of this that involves the fact that the ultra-Orthodox community can be seen as somewhat insular and so people don’t feel as naturally connected,” Levy says. “Certainly the fact that we’ve come to expect violent anti-Semitism to come from white supremacists made this incident maybe not fit the story that people have in their heads.”

“But I would add another piece from some of the things I’ve heard,” he continues. “Many people are wondering if maybe we’re becoming a little inured to this, going back to the shootings in Pittsburgh, and the fact that [there] it was 11 people killed in a synagogue, during worship. Following that, we had Poway, which again was in a sanctuary, and again felt shattering. We had Christchurch [New Zealand], which hit the Muslim community. And some are wondering if maybe we are getting a little too used to hate crimes.”

Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, center, and Deputy Prosecutor James Stewart, right, attend the first audience with the chief of Central African Republic’s soccer federation Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands on January 25, 2019. (Koen Van Well/Pool photo via AP)

Pashman then speaks to Times of Israel settlements correspondent Jacob Magid, who explains the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) inquiry into alleged crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians in the West Bank. On December 20, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said there is a “reasonable basis” to proceed with an investigation into war crimes committed by Israel, including during the 2014 Gaza war.

There was also “reasonable basis to believe that members of Hamas and Palestinian armed groups committed… war crimes” by targeting civilians and torturing individuals during those hostilities, she said.

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