Candidate who smeared Jewish journalist has anti-Palestinian record

Man speaks with upraised arms with Trump flags behind him

Heshy Tischler claims he’s fighting for his community, but he’s playing chicken with COVID-19 and has engaged in anti-Palestinian and anti-Black racism. He’s also endangered a Jewish journalist.

Ron Adar SIPA USA

Harold “Heshy” Tischler, a New York City council candidate and local radio host, is a racist and a misogynist.

He was taken into custody last weekend by New York City police and arraigned Monday with inciting to riot, unlawful imprisonment, menacing and harassment in connection to an alleged assault on Jewish Insider journalist Jacob Kornbluh in Brooklyn on 7 October. Tischler and supporters waving Trump flags have protested in recent days against COVID-19 restrictions that Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor, has announced for areas seeing an increase in COVID-19.

Tischler has a history of anti-Palestinian racism and incitement.

Last year, he attended a counter-demonstration in support of New York City Councilman Kelman Yeger, a Democrat, who sparked protests for claiming, “Palestine does not exist.” Tischler, a repeatedly bigoted provocateur, spoke to a Palestinian mother about her daughter, asking, “She doesn’t have any bombs on her to blow us up, do you?”

At that time, even Dov Hikind, for all his connections to the violently anti-Palestinian Jewish Defense League, denounced Tischler’s role at the counter-demonstration. Hikind asserted that Tischler had said “terrible things” but, in the paraphrasing of The New York Times, “did not represent the majority of counterprotesters.”

“You are my soldiers”

Eighteen months later, Tischler is referring to fellow Borough Park demonstrators against COVID-19 restrictions as his soldiers. “You are my soldiers! We are at war!” he has said.

He fancies himself to be a leader, but is in fact playing a dangerous game of chicken with COVID-19 and with the health of people in his community.

Tischler allegedly egged on his supporters to assault Kornbluh. He also made a video from a cemetery attacking Kornbluh as “a rat and a kapo and a moyser” shortly before the assault.

Moyser is a Yiddish term meaning a snitch against one’s own community; a kapo was a Nazi concentration camp prisoner provided privileges in exchange for overseeing other prisoners, often brutally. Following the Holocaust, these terms are especially powerful and demeaning.

The crowd assailing Kornbluh later the same day derided him as a “Nazi” and a moyser.

Kornbluh has been concerned that Orthodox members of the Jewish community are likely to be sickened or killed by COVID-19 if greater social distancing and masking precautions are not taken.

Tischler, on the other hand, interrupted a news conference about COVID-19 last month to argue that government officials are bringing in “violent, Nazi stormtroopers.”

This sort of uncontrolled rhetoric is a grotesque twisting of reality. Tischler’s insistence on rejecting social distancing and masking is certain to imperil members of the very community he claims to represent.

Where Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio must tread carefully, however, is in making certain that there is not a double standard in which religious gatherings, schools and businesses are unfairly targeted due to COVID-19. If there is anti-Jewish discrimination that must be addressed and rectified.

Tischler’s effort to open playgrounds over the summer surely resonates with many parents and quite probably was safer for children than many indoor activities.

That said, Tischler’s more recent involvement and rhetoric have only complicated matters as the mayor and governor battle over turf. He has attempted to incite de Blasio by referring to his wife, Chirlane McCray, as a “retard woman” and kurva, a Yiddish word for whore.

There is clear racism coursing through Tischler’s comments about McCray, who is a Black woman.

Formerly imprisoned for his role in an immigration fraud involving fake job opportunities, Tischler appears to exclude others in claiming that New York is his city.

President Donald Trump’s efforts to exploit the tensions once again serve as a reminder that he cares less about the lives of constituents than their votes. He is conveying misinformation about COVID-19 and yet is more trusted by a long persecuted group than are local health officials, the mayor and governor.

Perhaps the most surprising development in the midst of the New York City tension was the joint statement from the Jewish Democratic Council of America and the Republican Jewish Coalition “condemning” the attack on Kornbluh.

Both groups, however, remain united in pursuing policies enabling Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

Tischler is scheduled back in court on 27 April. He was ordered to stay away from Kornbluh.

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Comments

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At a time when orthodox Jews in New York City face a severe challenge from Covid-19, along comes this bloviating ignoramus telling them there's no cause for concern. And the spectacle of Tischler telling a Jew to go back where he came from is pretty rich, particularly when the call is voiced by a principal figure in one of the most extensive immigration fraud schemes in US history.

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What a mud patch the arena of claims and counter-claims of racism is. The Zionist abuse of the Nazi genocide leaves people knee deep in a sludge of confusion; on the other hand, plainly racist figures like Trump and Tischler are not simply tolerated but adulated by masses. Interestingly, there's a nice distinction persistently upheld between the racism of Zionism and Judaism. Yet, Flapan, in the conclusion of his famous book writes: "There is no intrinsic connection between Judaism and democracy. There always was an orthodox, fundamentalist current in Judaism, characterised by racial prejudice toward non-Jews in general and Arabs in particular." Flapan sees it as no more than a "current", perhaps a small, peripheral one, yet he asserts it has "always" been there. That Judaism gave rise to Zionism suggests that the former might have contained the seeds of the latter, and that Zionism is racially prejudiced is hardly controversial. Of course, many Jews reject and campaign against racism. Nevertheless, if Flapan is right, and his judgement is based on both his Jewishness and his scholarship, there is reason to believe the leaders of Judaism have a task to fulfil in expunging this embedded stain. Given the alacrity with which certain Jews hurl accusations of racism at anyone who questions either Zionism or the actions of the State of Israel, perhaps there are grounds for promoting Flapan's view. The hypocrisy of the Zionists is evident, but more subtle is the hypocrisy of a tradition which fails to acknowledge its own residual racism while lashing out fiercely and often on the flimsiest of evidence at whoever it chooses to label anti-Semitic. Opposition to all racism, however, insidious must be the stance of all who believe in democracy and equality. In western propaganda, Israel is assumed to be a democracy surround by Arab tyrannies. Yet Flapan is surely astute: Israel is a Jewish State, but there is no necessary link between Judaism and democracy.

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Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, TheNation.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.