Robert Bowers, the suspect in the Synagogue shooting that left 11 people dead, seemed to direct his online rage at the Jewish refugee agency Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS.) The Jewish-led group has helped to resettle refugees from different faiths and countries including Google co-founder Sergey Brin. It is a frequent target on alt-right social media. HIAS sued the Trump administration along with the Anti-Defamation League in 2017 over executive orders halting refugee resettlement.
- Should law enforcement have investigated hateful comments about HIAS previously?
- Should public figures address the idea of âwhite genocideâ directly?
- Is it invasion of privacy or free speech to investigate hateful comments online?
Just moments before the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left 11 people dead, the suspect is believed to have posted a final social media rant against a Jewish refugee settlement agency most people had never heard of, but which has increasingly become the target of right-wing rage and conspiracy theories.
“HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” Robert Gregory Bowers wrote on the platform Gab early Saturday. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
The group, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, was founded in 1881 in a Manhattan storefront to assist Jews persecuted in Russia and Eastern Europe. HIAS is now among nine groups that contract with the State Department to help refugees settle in the United States, and it has recently clashed with the Trump administration over policies that have throttled the flow of such newcomers.
Leaders of HIAS and the group’s Pittsburgh affiliate vowed to continue their work.