“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” — Martin Luther King Jr.
On December 17, one week after the terrible anti-Semitic attack on the JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City, an African-American woman on the subway in New York City, physically attacked an Israeli woman named Lihi Aharon. Ms. Aharon was attacked, because she refused to be silent, while this same woman verbally and viciously harassed an elderly (and visibly Jewish) man. The video of Ms. Aharon describing the attack, as well as the actual footage of the attacker and her heinous anti-Semitic statements can be found here.
Sadly, the attack on Ms. Aharon was not an anomaly. Attacks on Jews in New York City are an all too common occurrence. From 2018 to 2019, anti-Semitic hate crimes are up 63%. In a city where Jews account for less than 15% of the population, over 50% of the hate crimes target Jews. In Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, physical attacks on the visibly Jewish are an almost weekly occurrence.
Yet, right after the terrible shooting in Jersey City, after two Black Supremacist members of the Black Hebrew Israelite (BHI) cult deliberately targeted a kosher supermarket and a Jewish school for a murderous rampage, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio incredibly tweeted: “This tragically confirms that a growing pattern of violent anti-Semitism has now turned into a crisis for our nation. And now this threat has reached the doorstep of New York City.”
The “doorstep”? For over a year there has been a virtual epidemic of violent assaults targeting Jews in Brooklyn, and de Blasio claims that violent anti-Semitism has only just “reached the doorstep of New York City”? Adding to his apparent obfuscation and cognitive dissonance, despite practically every known violent attack on Jews in New York over the past 2 years being perpetrated by members of other minority groups in the city; back in June of 2019, de Blasio incredibly asserted that anti-Semitism is distinctly a “right wing movement.”
In addition to Mayor de Blasio’s “head in the sand” approach, we are seeing many other people – when the perpetrators of raw anti-Semitic violence – are not clear white Supremacists, also trying to obfuscate, dissemble and even excuse the hatred.
J Street Rabbi Jill Jacobs recently asserted in a Tweet that when African-Americans direct the violence at Jews then, it is not due to anti-Semitism, and it “likely relates to long term tensions.”
The New Yorker magazine, ran a story with the headline “Untangling the Hate at Heart of the Mass Shooting in Jersey City” in which the reporter discussed the local residents of the neighborhood in Jersey City chafing at the impact the “insular Hasidic Jews” had on the local real estate market.
Notably, this story did not contain any reporting on the virulent anti-Semitic comments, recorded on video right after the shooting (see and hear them here); where many of the local residents expressly said the Jews deserved to be shot and did not belong in their neighborhood. One person said: “My children are stuck at school because of Jew shenanigans. They are the problem. Because if they ain’t come to Jersey City this s*** would never go on. Take that s*** somewhere else. I blame the Jews” … while another said, right next to the dead bodies of their Jewish neighbors: “Get them damn Jews the f**k out of here. Get these f***ing Jews. Get the Jews out of Jersey City.”
Can anyone imagine – in the immediate aftermath of a violent massacre of Jews by white Supremacists – either Jill Jacobs or The New Yorker waxing philosophical on what caused a group of white Christians to violently hate or murder Jews?
Can anyone imagine the media frenzy if there had been white Christian neighbors – following an attack on Jews by a white Supremacist group – recorded on video saying that the Jews deserved to be shot and “didn’t belong” in their neighborhood?
Can anyone imagine any attempt to “untangle” the motives of any white Christian killers who posted blatantly anti-Semitic screeds about Jews before they attacked a Jewish school or market? Or, trying to rationalize why white Christians in that neighborhood, without shame, could speak of Jews as an undesirable “other” that does not belong and deserves to be shot?
There is nothing here to “untangle.” This is the same anti-Semitism. Whether the anti-Semite is a white Supremacist, black Supremacist or Islamist Supremacist. The hatred is the same. Even much of their rhetoric and crazy conspiracy theories about Jews is the same. It is why, if you are reading their statements about Jews, it is often difficult to tell the difference between David Duke and Louis Farrakhan.
Which brings me back to this subway attack and the video posted by this brave Israeli girl, Lihi Aharon. When you watch the video – which you should – it is notable how much of the attacker’s vile rhetoric comes straight from the Louis Farrakhan playbook. It is also similar to the mendacious anti-Semitic tropes expressed by the BHI killers who attacked the Jersey City kosher supermarket.
The Jill Jacobs and New Yorker Magazines of the world have no problem recognizing that the vile white Supremacist ideology and rhetoric motivated and incited the attacks on the Tree of Life Shul in Pittsburgh and on the Chabad Shul in Poway. However, when it comes to attacks against Jews by other types of supremacists, then suddenly – for them – it becomes a complicated issue needs to be “untangled.”
Enough. Jewish lives matter. No matter who tries to kill us or attack us for being Jewish.
The motivations for these attacks on Jews are also just as straightforward. As is the cause. Raw, virulent anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and hate promoted by hate-mongers like David Duke, Louis Farrakhan, and many of their intentional and unintentional allies and enablers. People like Ilhan Omar, Linda Sarsour, and Tamika Mallory. People who traffic in anti-Semitic canards and regularly demonize the Jewish people and the only Jewish state. Their allies and close supporters, such as the highly inaptly named Jewish Voices for Peace – with their libelous and inflammatory “deadly exchange” program, which falsely, dangerously and incredibly blames police shootings of African Americans in the USA on Jews in Israel.
It is the equivocation and refusal to treat this hatred and conspiracy theorizing directed at Jews with the same disdain as white Supremacist anti-Semitism that has enabled this dangerous Jew-hatred to grow and metastasize. All one needs to do is look at the comments by an African American member of the Jersey City Board of Education shortly after the kosher supermarket attack to see how deep this anti-Semitism can take root when ignored or excused. In a December 15 Facebook diatribe, Joan Terrell-Paige, referred to Jews as “brutes” with “bags of money” and asked people to think about the “message” the BHI shooters’ “were sending” [with their attempt to mass murder Jews] and asked people if they “were brave enough to explore the answer to their message.” She also accused rabbis in New Jersey of “selling body parts.” If her references to “black people” were replaced with “white people” it could easily be mistaken for a Neo-Nazi rant. Yet, people like Jill Jacobs want to claim this hatred is not “based on antisemitism.”
Kudos again to Ms. Aharon for standing up to the anti-Semite who was shamelessly harassing an elderly Jewish man on a subway. On the opposite end of the spectrum, shame on all of the people who just watched this bigot harass and attack Jews and did nothing.
Just as those who did nothing on that subway, should be ashamed of themselves, so should anyone else who tries to obfuscate and hide the cause of violent Jew-hatred simply because it comes from politically inconvenient perpetrators. History has taught us that anti-Semitic hatred and incitement – particularly the kind promoted by white Supremacists, Farrakhan’s NOI and the BHI – of “evil so-called Jews” who are to blame for all of your problems … or even for bad police shootings – often leads to violence and murder, even mass murder.
None of us should allow people to get away with trying to hide that basic truth or be silent in the face of those who try to rationalize obvious Jew-hatred and incitement. Dayenu. Enough.
“Let us remember: what hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander.” — Eli Weisel
Micha Danzig is a practicing attorney in San Diego and an advisory board member and local chairperson for StandWithUs.