Friday, November 18, 2011

Local Hate Crimes Underscore Recent Surge in Anti-Semitism (November 18, 2011)

   When anti-Semitism resurfaces, it strikes a chord that reminds Jews of the ongoing bigotry that has existed for centuries; since Pharaoh drove the Jews from Egypt, as described in the Old Testament; from attacks in the Dark Ages when Christians believed Jews were responsible for killing Jesus Christ; from the pogroms across Eastern Europe in the 19th century to the horrors of the 20th century Holocaust to violent and non-violent attacks that crop up every now and then.
Sadly, in Brooklyn, the “now” has taken place with a slew of episodes in recent weeks.
After earlier incidents in the Midwood community, the NYPD began an investigation yet a third alleged hate crime on Tuesday in Williamsburg after swastikas were found scratched into an elevator.
Before that, an anti-Semitic incident took place on the platform at the Avenue J station of the Q train where a bigot defaced the Avenue J sign with spray paint by adding an “E” and a “W” to read “Avenue Jew.”
After the Avenue J incident, Brooklyn City Councilman Lew Fidler issued the following statement: “Coming as quickly as it does on the heels of last week’s horrible acts, it is particularly chilling. We cannot and will not stand by and watch haters and hooligans demonize the entire Jewish community with impunity… and must be met with an immediate outcry.”
On November 11, in the most serious of the episodes, three cars were set ablaze and more than a dozen swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti were spray-painted on a van and scrawled across four park benches and on a sidewalk in a heavily-populated Jewish neighborhood.
In addition to the NYPD announcing it would increase its presence in Midwood, the Hate Crimes Unit was putting all of its resources into finding the vandals. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said more than two dozen beer bottles found near the scene would be examined for fingerprints and DNA.
Meanwhile, residents from the Jewish enclave marched alongside elected officials and religious and community leaders past the vandalized area, where the graffiti had already been eradicated, to send the message: Don’t repeat the kind of attacks that once led to the Holocaust.
Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind pointed out that Midwood and the nearby Borough Park neighborhood have the largest concentrations of Holocaust survivors outside of Israel.
Following the November 11 event, Mayor Michael Bloomberg brought up what some believe may have been the underlying motive: “The fact that (this) attack came on the heels of the 73rd anniversary of Kristallnacht may or may not be a coincidence.”
Kristallnacht took place in Germany as Nazi-supported mobs attacked Jewish people and destroyed their property on November 9 and 10, 1938.
Last winter, the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood experienced a hate crime when bigoted vandals not only desecrated religious artifacts at the Avenue Z Jewish Center but also stole two hundred dollars after breaking into to the synagogue.
Hate crimes are defined as criminal acts committed against those who belong to certain social, religious, ethnic or other group.
That secular discrimination seems to be on the rise once more. When I wrote about the subject in 2002, prompted by no less than a half dozen acts of anti-Semitic vandalism at synagogues and parks in Canarsie, the Anti-Defamation League reported that after a 10-year decline, anti-Semitism was on the rise.
The ADL reported an increase in anti-Semitic incidents across the U.S. last year. New York City had more than 150, with about one-third occurring in Brooklyn.
Catching and convicting hate crime suspects may not be a sufficient deterrent. Perhaps, as a part of the punishment for such crimes, some sort of extracurricular education should be mandated. In the case of anti-Semitism, those found guilty should – at their own expense – be forced to visit and tour the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, to get a glimpse of what resulted from widespread prejudice against Jews in Europe 75 years ago.  Actually, a journey to the memorial sites across Poland and Germany, where millions of Jews were exterminated, might also carry great weight in judgments for those convicted of anti-Semitic hate crimes. It’s hard to imagine that even the most insensitive individuals would not be moved by such outings.
The recent surge of anti-Semitism is a clear indication that bigotry and intolerance have neither boundaries nor time limits.
Above all, we must remember that throughout history it has been demonstrated time and again that the outcome of ignoring evil commonly results in terrible consequences.

Widespread Anti-Semitism Rears Its Ugly Head (August 1, 2002)

In the last year there has been an astonishing resurgence of anti-Semitism at a level that hasn’t been seen since the Nazis plotted the annihilation of every Jew on the planet. It was no doubt triggered by the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict. Yet, most of the incidents have taken place outside of Israel.
In a recent survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), it was reported that 17 percent of Americans possess "hard-core" anti-Semitic views. The group also said the trend was a reversal of what had been a 10-year decline.
You don’t have to be Jewish to be appalled and disgusted by that finding. In fact, the survey also revealed that a majority of Americans harbor some kind of prejudice.
Here in Canarsie during that same period there have been no less than half a dozen periodic incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism in parks and directed at local synagogues. To date, no one has been charged with these bias attacks.
According to the ADL, from September 2000, at the start of the current Muslim infitada, through last fall, there were literally hundreds of episodes of anti-Semitism just in France, with most in and around Paris. In addition to scores of firebombing of French synagogues, just before last Rosh Hashanah, 200 Arabs attacked Jews on the Champs Elysees. The pace subsequently picked up.
Last December, a Paris cinema refused to allow Jewish children on a Hanukkah outing to attend a movie showing because of French-Palestinian threats. It was one incident in an eventful month when synagogues continued to be firebombed and a Jewish kindergarten was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti and set ablaze.
French anti-Semitism is nothing new. It’s almost as common to that nation as eating cheese and drinking wine. The French love their traditions. And, when it comes to hating Jews, the French people have a lengthy, legendary tradition.
Israel is at war, but what is not being recognized is that anti-Semitism is not a war against Israel as propagandists advocate, it is a war against each and every individual - Israeli or not, religious or not, right, left or center - who identifies himself or herself as Jewish.
History has taught Jews, perhaps more than any other oppressed group, that waiting for compassion only leads to more attacks, more burned synagogues and more vandalism.
In the aftermath, there’s sure to be grim-faced dignitaries and world leaders crying "never again," while dedicating another memorial or museum.
There’s got to be more that Jews and those who loathe prejudice can do, besides merely expressing revulsion.
Whether you are a fellow Jew, a friend, or simply a person with the capacity to distinguish decency from depravity, don’t be deluded into believing this isn’t your fight. Prejudice knows no boundaries.
•Boycott France and French products. Only Arab nations are more anti-Semitic and, unlike them, France exports more than just oil and hatred. Boycott their wines and perfumes. Boycott their designer clothes and their rich foodstuffs. Boycott the movies. And definitely boycott their shores. Economic boycotts can exert amazing pressure as evidenced by how one transformed South Africa.
•Remind non-Jewish friends that France may not care much for them either. According to the ADL, a recent best-selling book in France "September 11: The Frightening Fraud," claimed no aircraft ever hit the Pentagon.
The only strength is the strength of community and there can be no community without communication. Remember how American patriotism escalated after the terrorist attacks?
I abhor anti-Semitism, not only because of my Jewish heritage, but because I have certain standards of civility and integrity. I realized long ago that people should be judged on the basis of whom they are, not what they are or what they believe in. I revile any form of prejudice, regardless of race, religion or sexual preference.
While some may scoff at the recent surge in anti-Semitism, it is nevertheless a distinct indication that man’s inhumanity to man is infinite.
Above all, we must remember that throughout history, most notably in this nation’s recent past, it has been demonstrated that the consequences of ignoring evil can bring terrible consequences.