AJC Criticizes Seattle Leaders’ Handling of Anti-Semitism

November 26, 2019
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

American Jewish Committee (AJC) Seattle Regional Director Regina Sassoon Friedland criticizes political leaders in Seattle, Wash. over how they handle anti-Semitism in a Nov. 22 Seattle Times op-ed.

Friedland wrote about an instance in June, when then-City Council candidate Ari Hoffman – who ran on a platform opposing several of the city council’s progressive polices – received anti-Semitic death threats online. AJC urged Seattle Mayor Durkan to condemn those threats. 

“A full eight days later, the mayor issued an important statement on anti-Semitism, but it was sent only to me, not issued publicly,” Friedland wrote. “Our repeated requests for the mayor to share her statement on the city’s website, on the mayor’s page or in her weekly Friday newsletter so the general Seattle community could be made aware of the problem of anti-Semitism and the need to combat it were ignored.”

Durkan did issue a statement saying that she condemned “any anti-Semitic attacks and threats of violence on Mr. Hoffman and his family.” Hoffman criticized her for taking a week to provide such a statement.

Friedland also recounted how during Sukkot, “two visibly Jewish individuals were assaulted by an Antifa activist shouting anti-Semitic epithets as they erected a Sukkah in Westlake Park.” The man also shouted anti-Semitic slurs at people eating in the Sukkah days later and later followed a couple of them as they left synagogue the next day.

“One of the victims, a rabbi, shared with me his shock that anti-Semitism, including blatant threats of violence, does not incite outrage from our elected officials,” Sassoon wrote. “Indeed, Seattle leadership said nothing after the perpetrator was arrested and charged with a hate crime and criminal harassment.”

She posited that those in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States – which spans from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains – like to condemn anti-Semitism on the right but are more hesitant to condemn anti-Semitism when it comes from the left.

“This myopic approach is an affront to Jews and allows a threat to the wider community to grow unhindered,” Friedland wrote. “One can see a similar hesitancy to identify the individuals, obviously not white supremacists, who have carried out a rash of attacks on Jews in New York City. Americans would do well to view anti-Semitism with a trifocal lens.”

AJC CEO David Harris tweeted that Friedland’s op-ed is “a must-read on #antisemitism & how our leaders choose—or fail—to react. Courageous. Sobering. Painful. Why are Seattle’s leaders silent about anti-Semitism?”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center similarly tweeted, “Silence in face of #antiSemitism by political establishment in any democracy is extremely dangerous for Jews and erodes sacred values.”

Jason Rantz, a conservative radio host who is based in Seattle and is Jewish, tweeted, “This is an important article. It’s unclear why @MayorJenny refuses to publicly condemn anti-Semitism. But this city doesn’t really take Jewish concern seriously. We’re seen as privileged whites. Maybe that’s why she’s silent?”

Durkan’s office did not respond to the Journal’s request for comment.

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