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Column: Antisemitism is out of control, here and around the world

For the Valley News
Published: 7/27/2021 10:54:54 AM
Modified: 7/27/2021 10:54:54 AM

President Joe Biden released a statement in May addressing the recent increase in antisemitic attacks in the United States: “In the last weeks, our nation has seen a series of antisemitic attacks, targeting and terrorizing American Jews. ... (T)hese attacks are despicable, unconscionable, un-American — and they must stop. I will not allow our fellow Americans to be intimidated or attacked because of who they are or the faith they practice.”

Donna Brazile, the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “the perpetrators of these vile anti-Semitic attacks, in the U.S. and elsewhere, use the actions of Israel as an excuse to mount assaults against Jews.”

Antisemitism is nothing new.

In ancient times, during the Bar Kokhba revolt, the Romans killed 580,000 Jews and destroyed 985 villages. Jerusalem was sacked and Jews were prohibited from entering. Judea’s name was changed to Syria Palaestina. During the Crusades, thousands of Jews were killed, raped and tortured. The Spanish Inquisition resulted in the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Jews and the killing of many.

After the Russian Revolution, more than 500 Jewish communities in the Ukraine were wiped out in pogroms and about 60,000 Jewish men, women and children were murdered. The Nazis, in their attempt to eliminate Jews from Europe, killed 6 million, 1.5 million of whom were children.

Today’s despicable attacks on Jews come from the right and the left. At the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, in 2018, 11 Jews were slaughtered by an extreme rightist. On the left, it is leaders like Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, who during a 2015 panel discussion at Harvard Law School was applauded when she said it was time to end “the imperialist project that’s called Israel.” This is similar to language employed by the terrorist organization Hamas, and by neighboring Hezbollah and Iran, who call for the killing of Jews and the destruction of Israel.

It is Palestinian supporters in the U.S. waving Palestinian flags, along with supporters of Hamas, who cry “Kill the Jews” and carry signs saying “Death to Israel.”

In May, a man yelled antisemitic slurs at a rabbi outside a South Florida synagogue, telling the rabbi “Jews should die” according to Miami television station WSVN. He also dumped a bag of human feces in front of the building.

A slur was painted on the door of a Tucson synagogue, swastikas were scrawled on a bench at Georgetown University, white stickers with black swastikas were plastered on the door and windows of the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage, and Nazi symbols have appeared in dorms on college campuses across the country. U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., have uttered what many consider outrageous antisemitic slurs.

The antisemitism is not limited to verbal abuse or the painting of swastikas or the destruction of temples or Jewish-owned businesses. There have been numerous violent physical assaults — more than 400 were recorded worldwide in 2018, according to Tel Aviv University researchers, with more than 100 occurring in the U.S.

In May, Jewish diners were brutally beaten outside a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles. Jews were assaulted walking the streets in Brooklyn, in Las Vegas, at the University of New Mexico. Earlier this month, a rabbi was stabbed eight times outside a Jewish day school in Boston.

In Paris in 2017, a 65-year-old retired French Jewish school teacher was beaten and then thrown to her death from her apartment balcony by her Arab neighbor, who chanted verses from the Koran and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”), according to the BBC. The killer was not tried because he was “incapacitated” from smoking marijuana. Rather, he was held in a secure hospital. Two years earlier, four Jews were killed at a kosher supermarket in Paris. In May, Canada’s National Post reported that a motorcade of cars paraded through an area of North London with a large Jewish population broadcasting messages such as “f--- the Jews” and “rape their daughters.”

Many more examples are available on the Anti-Defamation League website (

In the Upper Valley, the lights on a menorah at Dartmouth College were shot out last December. In Norwich, antisemitic and anti-police graffiti has been spray-painted on Route 132. A swastika with profanity directed at Jews and the Norwich Police Department was painted on a large sign along Route 5. When the consulting firm Groundswell Change LLC held a public meeting — sponsored and paid for ($65,000) by School Administrative Unit 70 to promote diversity, equity and inclusion — the only minority group described negatively during the “difficult conversations” was Jews. Black people were “good athletes” and Italian and French people were “good lovers.” Jewish people were “greedy.”

It should come as no surprise that FBI statistics from 2019 show 60% of hate crimes in the U.S. are perpetrated against Jews, who make up 2% of the U.S. population.

The future of our country depends on stopping the hate and violence and punishing perpetrators, regardless of who the hate or assault is directed at. Recently, Asian Americans have been blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic and there have been numerous assaults against them. Violence is epidemic in many major cities, and is growing. The current crime wave in the U.S. — especially in places like Chicago, where there were more than 100 shootings over the Labor Day weekend — has got to stop.

Antisemitism, the oldest hatred, is out of control in the U.S. and worldwide. Diversity and inclusion efforts need to eliminate antisemitism as well as all the other hateful acts occurring in this country.

It’s time that American students learn about the Holocaust. A recent Pew Research Center survey of U.S. teens found fully 62% did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. A 50-state survey of adults under 40, commissioned by the nonprofit Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, found that over half of those surveyed thought the Holocaust death toll was fewer than 2 million, and that 22% of millennials have never even heard of the Holocaust. More than 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos were established during World War II, but the survey found that nearly half of U.S. respondents could not name a single one.

Is any of that a surprise, considering that only 18 states (including New Hampshire) currently require teaching about the Holocaust, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum?

Despite the remarks by President Biden and Donna Brazile, in all the conversations, concerns and mainstream media attention related to hate, you have to wonder why Jews and antisemitism are relegated to background news, if they are mentioned at all.

Stuart Richards lives in Norwich.

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