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Pittsburgh synagogue shooter is dismayed not to have inspired more attacks on Jews, psychiatrist testifies

PITTSBURGH (JTA) — “If I have chance, will continue war,” appeared in a scrawl on a notepad, projected onto large TV screens in the courtroom.

The image showed a note taken by a psychiatrist in early June as he assessed Robert Bowers, the man who murdered 11 worshipers in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018.

The psychiatrist, George Corvin, was working for Bowers lawyers, in an attempt to demonstrate that the gunman is mentally ill and so should not receive the death penalty. His testimony is part of the final phase of Bowers’ trial, in which the gunman, who was convicted last month, will be sentenced either to death or to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Corvin is not the first to note during Bowers’ trial that the gunman has persisted in his deeply held antisemitic beliefs in the years since the massacre. But his testimony on Friday offered unsettling insights into what is going on in Bowers’ head as he sits impassively, watching the testimony of those whose lives he devastated.

Corvin, who met with Bowers 10 times in May and June, said Bowers saw the trial as getting out his message that Jews are a menace.

“Did he tell you he likes hearing the evidence?” U.S. Attorney Eric Olshan asked him.

“Yes,” Corvin said. “I think he likes hearing the evidence so he knows other people can hear the evidence.”

Olshan asked Corvin to explain another notation from the June 3 interview, “I’m upset I still have record of antisemitic act for five years.”

Bowers wanted others to emulate him, Corvin explained, and was disappointed that his mass killing still stands as the worst attack on Jews in U.S. history.

“He hoped the act would bring attention to what he, quote, ‘knows,’ so more people would be inspired to protect God’s kingdom,” Corvin said.

Bowers took some relief in the mass killing of dozens of Muslims at two mosques in New Zealand months after his own crime, Corvin said, by an Australian who shared his theories of a Jewish plot to “replace” whites. “That person gets it,” Corvin said, describing what Bowers said.

Mourners visit the memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue, Oct. 31, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, four days after 11 Jewish worshippers were killed during services there. The alleged shooter’s trial begins April 24, 2023. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

Bowers believes that Jews are the instrument of Satan, Corvin said, and that they are assisting in the entry of immigrants of color into the United States to kill white people, which will trigger the End of Days.

Corvin’s testimony Thursday and his cross-examination on Friday replayed an argument that has been core to his sentencing: Is his antisemitism a function of schizophrenic delusion, or is it simply one man’s manifestation of the conspiracy theories that have for millennia been deployed to justify the persecution of Jews?

The jury has rejected the idea that Bowers’ beliefs were rooted in illness twice, in the first phase of the trial establishing Bowers’ guilt, and in the second phase, to determine whether his crimes met the threshold to merit the death penalty. Now they are deciding whether Bowers deserves the death penalty.

The defense is arguing that what they say is Bowers’ mental illness should be a factor mitigating against the death penalty. If a single juror among the five men and seven women rejects the death penalty, Bowers, 51, will automatically be sentenced to life without parole.

Corvin, a Raleigh, North Carolina, psychiatrist who speaks with a thick Southern accent, has proven the most resilient defense expert in the face of the prosecution’s insistence that Bowers is not schizophrenic. He acknowledged that Bowers’ arguments about Jews are commonplace but said that they were underpinned by his delusional belief that God had chosen him to carry out the massacre.

“People on Gab who hate Jews came to the right conclusion but for the wrong reasons,” Corvin said, describing Bowers’ outlook, referring to the social media site that is a haven for extremism, and where Bowers posted his thoughts about Jews.

“If you hold all of this together,” he said of his cumulative interviews with Bowers, “this is the result of mental illness. He believes he is saving lives. He would do so again if God told him to do so.”

“If the walls” of his prison “will collapse and if God wants to him to die in the conflagration, he will do it,” Corvin said.

Corvin wrapped his jabs at the prosecution’s arguments in self-deprecation. When Olshan noted that Corvin had only three published articles on his resume, Corvin acknowledged the paucity of research, and even added that none of the three was of much consequence.

But he added that he would trust the testimony of a psychiatrist who was practiced in taking patients, as he is, than one who focused only on research, referring to the prosecution’s experts. He mocked a prosecution expert, Park Dietz, for talking too much in his sessions with Bowers.

“The best way to” find out why someone committed a crime “is to keep your mouth shut, gently redirect, probe for details and keep your mouth shut,” he said.

He also told Judy Clark, the lead defense lawyer, that Bowers admired the prosecution lawyers more than he did his own defense team.

“He is happier with what they are doing than honestly what you are doing,” he told Clark. “He knows they want him to die but what’s more important is that they are distributing his message, the ‘truth.’”

Bowers has betrayed nothing during the trial, which began on April 24, seated at the second seat on the left at the long table on the left side of the courtroom. Not through three weeks of jury selection, not through the two weeks of the trial to establish guilt, not at his June 16 conviction, not on July 13 when the jurors decided his crimes merited the death penalty, and not since then as they consider whether he deserves death.

Bowers was convicted on 63 counts in connection with the attack, 22 of them eligible for the death penalty. The victims were Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger. They worshiped at three congregations housed in the building at the time: Tree of Life, Dor Hadash and New Light.

Bowers, always clad in a dark sweater — sometimes navy blue, other times slate gray — and a collared light-blue shirt — never looks at the jury or the witnesses; the one exception was when he stood to receive his guilty verdict, and then it was for just a few seconds, heeding Judge Robert Colville’s instruction.

As he has with other defense experts, Olshan sought to undercut Corvin by questioning his expertise on antisemitism and extremism. Corvin knew his extremists — he said he has testified in Ku Klux Klan relate cases — but flubbed one reference, which Olshan, who is Jewish, seized upon.

The reference came during an interview when Corvin asked Bowers about his post on Gab, just prior to carrying out the massacre, “Screw the optics, I’m going in.”

“Forgot last line enjoy the Shoah,” the notation said. Olshan asked Corvin to explain. Corvin said Bowers regretted not adding the line to the Gab post.

What does “Shoah” mean? Olshan asked Corvin.

“It’s intended to be a derogatory slur against Jews,” Corvin said.

Shoah is the Hebrew word for catastrophe and is used as a synonym for the Holocaust, when the Nazis and their collaborators murdered 6 million Jews in Europe. “Do you know it’s a reference to the Holocaust?” Olshan said, sounding slightly stunned.

“I didn’t know that,” Corvin said.

Closing arguments are expected Tuesday and Wednesday, with a decision about Bowers’ fate coming soon after that.

The post Pittsburgh synagogue shooter is dismayed not to have inspired more attacks on Jews, psychiatrist testifies appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Argentina Court Blames Iran for Deadly 1994 Bombing of Jewish Center

People hold up pictures of the victims of the AMIA Jewish center bombing during a ceremony to mark the 22nd anniversary of the 1994 attack in Buenos Aires, Argentina, July 18, 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

A new ruling by Argentina‘s highest criminal court has blamed Iran for the fatal 1994 attack against the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, declaring it a “crime against humanity” in a decision that paves the way for victims to seek justice, according to court documents released late on Thursday.

The judges ruled that the bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) — the deadliest of its kind in the country’s history that killed 85 people and left hundreds injured — was carried out by the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah and responded “to a political and strategic design” by Iran. The Iranian regime is the main backer of Hezbollah, supplying it with weapons, funding, and political support.

Representatives from Argentina‘s Jewish community said the court ruling was “historic” and “unique” because it opened the door for the victims’ relatives to bring lawsuits against the Islamic Republic.

President Javier Milei celebrated the ruling, saying this was a “significant step” that put an end to decades of “delays and cover ups,” in an official statement.

Argentina‘s judiciary has long maintained Iran was behind the attack, but joint investigations and Interpol arrest warrants have led nowhere. Iran has refused to turn over citizens convicted in Argentina. Tehran has denied involvement.

Prosecutors in the report charged top Iranian officials and Hezbollah members with ordering the bombing as well as an attack in 1992 against the Israeli embassy in Argentina, which killed 22 people.

“The significance of these grave human rights violations for the international community as a whole invokes a state’s duty to provide judicial protection,” wrote Judge Mahiques who argued for legal reform.

In 2013, Argentina and Iran signed a memorandum of understanding that sought to create a truth commission to investigate the attack, but the agreement never came into force and gave rise to a case against then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, for an alleged cover-up operation.

Judge Mahiques highlighted the figure of former prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who was investigating the attack and was found dead at his home in January 2015 after fiercely criticizing Fernández de Kirchner for concealing Iran’s alleged responsibility in the attack.

“[Nisman] was very clear that all these circumstances were at the origin of the attack on the AMIA, which, taken to its ultimate consequences, could have had palpable results before this ruling,” Mahiques told local radio on Friday.

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European Parliament Denounces UNRWA Role in Inciting Violence and Antisemitism

A boy holds a placard as Palestinian Hamas supporters attend a rally against visits by Israelis to the Al-Aqsa mosque, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, May 26, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Antisemitic incitement and glorification of terrorism in Palestinian textbooks issued by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was a cause of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel, the European Parliament (EP) declared in a series of resolutions passed last week.

The resolutions mark the latest denouncement of the Palestinian education by the EP and some of the first to address strong evidence that over a dozen UNRWA staff aided Hamas’ raping and slaughtering of Israeli civilians. Together, they rued the possibility that European tax dollars were funneled into Hamas and called for a complete restructuring, as well as increased oversight, of the Palestinian education system to ensure that antisemitic themes are purged from curricula in the Palestinian territories so long as the institutions administering them receive European aid.

“Today the European Parliament condemned the problematic and hateful contents encouraging violence, spreading antisemitism and inciting hatred in Palestinian school textbooks,” German Member of European Parliament (MEP) Niclas Herbst  said in a statement praising the action. “The European Parliament reaffirmed in the context of despicable terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas on 7th October 2023 that education to hatred has direct and dramatic consequences on the security of Israelis, as well as the perspectives of a better future for young Palestinians. Therefore, the EP requests the Commission to closely scrutinize that no UNWRA funds are allocated to the use of such hateful materials.”

As The Algemeiner has previously reported, UNRWA textbooks are among the most antisemitic and inciting in the world. No discipline is untouched by the problem. From math to theology, to literature and science, their content promotes blistering hatred for Jews and Israel, indoctrinating students as young as six to commit their lives to “martyrdom” and inter-generational war. Compromise with Israelis is described as betraying Palestinian identity, suicide-bombings as intrinsic to it and a prerequisite for entry into heaven.

“In this bipartisan resolution, the European Parliament has rightly made the inevitable and tragic connection between the horrors of October 7 and the systematic indoctrination which has flourished for too long in Palestinian schools, the majority of which in Gaza are operated by UNRWA,” Marcus Sheff, chief executive officer of Israeli education watchdog Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (Impact-se), said in a press release on Thursday.

He added, “For years, we have warned that the textbooks taught to Palestinian children create the conditions for the barbarism we all witnessed. The EU Parliament is now saying, ‘Enough.’ We need a new Palestinian curriculum.”

Impact-se has been a leading critic of the role Palestinian curricula plays in stoking the embers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and fostering religious extremism. In March, the organization unveiled transcriptions of recordings confirming the roles of Yusef Zidan Sliman Al-Hawajri and Mamdouh Hussein Ahmad Al-Qek — both of whom were hired as educators by the organization — in Oct. 7, citing them as evidence that UNRWA has violated its mandate.

Its last report, published in March, revealed that textbooks issued by the Palestinian Authority teach girls that women are inferior to men and demands that they sacrifice their bodies and families for “jihad.”

“The characterization of women as inferior in Palestinian Authority textbooks reflects a broader and worrying narrative of bigotry in the curriculum, which is continuing to shape the outlook millions of Palestinian children,” Sheff said after the report was published. “Furthermore, it contradicts international treaties on gender equality that the PA itself has ratified. In particular, the emphasis on women’s participation in resistance activities as a warped form of gender equality sets a disturbing precedent.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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‘Does She Really Want to See America Die?’: Rashida Tlaib’s Refusal To Condemn ‘Death to America’ Chants Sparks Bipartisan Backlash

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) addresses attendees as she takes part in a protest calling for a ceasefire in Gaza outside the US Capitol, in Washington, DC, US, Oct. 18, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis

On Wednesday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) refused to condemn anti-Israel protesters who chanted “death to America” and “death to Israel” during a rally in her district, sparking bipartisan backlash.

At an “Al-Quds Day” rally in Dearborn, Michigan protesters chanted “death to America” and “death to Israel.” A speaker at the event also quoted Malcom X saying “We live in one of the rottenest countries that has ever existed on this earth.”

The speaker continued, explaining that “The chant ‘death to Israel’ has become the most logical chant shouted across the world today.”

Another speaker proclaimed “Israel is ISIS, they are Nazis, they are fascists, they are racists.”

Michigan’s 12th congressional district, which Rep. Tlaib represents, includes Dearborn.

At International Al-Quds Day Rally in Dearborn, Michigan Protesters Chant “Death to America!”; Speakers at the Rally: America Is One of the “Rottenest Countries” on Earth; Israel Is ISIS, Nazis, a Cancer

— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) April 7, 2024

The initial incident sparked condemnation from both sides of the political aisle. The mayor of Dearborn, Abdullah H. Hammoud, wrote on Twitter/X that, at the rally, people chanted “statements that were unacceptable and contrary to the heart of this city.” 

“We reject all inflammatory and violent statements made at the gathering. Dearborn is a city of proud Americans; the hateful rhetoric heard on Friday does not reflect the opinion of the members of this community,” he continued.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates told The Daily Caller that “The White House condemns these abhorrent and Antisemitic remarks in the strongest terms. As [US] President [Joe] Biden has said, America is the greatest nation on Earth and a beacon to the world.”

Rep. Tlaib was approached by a Fox News reporter on Wednesday, who asked if she condemned the chants. She replied, saying she did not speak to Fox News and that the reporter was engaging in Islamophobic tropes in asking her the question — likely because she perceived the reporter as questioning the patriotism and loyalty of Muslim Americans to the US.

WATCH – Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Gaza) refuses to condemn ‘Death to America!’ chants at a rally in her home

— The First (@TheFirstonTV) April 11, 2024

The Algemeiner reached out to Tlaib’s office for clarification of her statement, but it did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement to The Algemeiner, Democratic Majority for Israel — a group that supports Israel from within the Democratic Party — said “Chanting ‘Death to America’ incites violence and is patently anti-American. All political leaders should be able to join the White House & Dearborn’s Mayor in denouncing this slogan.”

“Congresswoman Tlaib’s refusal to condemn those words is sadly telling,” DMFI added, asking “Does she really want to see America die?”

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s national political director, Sam Markstein, had harsh words for Tlaib, telling The Algemeiner, “It’s no surprise that Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib would refuse to condemn anti-America and anti-Israel chants.”

He described Rep. Tlaib as “a disgrace” who “should not be representing the people of Michigan’s 12th district in Congress.”

He argued, “House Democratic leadership has coddled and enabled her vicious antisemitism and anti-Israel rhetoric for years – it’s long past time for them to hold her accountable.”

The CEO of The Jewish Democratic Council of America, Halie Soifer, pushed back on The Algemeiner’s request for comment, saying: “with all due respect, do you ever cover what Donald Trump says about Jews or Israel? It’s antisemitic and incessant — nearly daily at this point.”

Earlier this week, former US President Donald Trump told reporters that Biden “doesn’t know if he is supporting the Palestinians but he knows one thing: he is not supporting Israel. He has abandoned Israel and any Jewish person that votes for a Democrat or votes for Biden should have their head examined.”

Trump: “Any Jewish person that votes for a Democrat or votes for Biden should have their head examined.”

— Republican Voters Against Trump (@AccountableGOP) April 10, 2024

Trump’s comments come just a week after she would not give a direct answer when asked if he stands with Israel “100%,” raising questions about what his Middle East policy may look like in a potential second term. He also said a few days ago that American Jews who vote for Biden do “not love Israel” and “should be spoken to.”

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