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Shown: Martin Luther King Drive, Jersey City, after the 2019 massacre at a kosher market nearby. That attack by blacks is cited for the muted attention it received compared with antisemitic crimes by whites.

By Richard Bernstein, RealClearInvestigations
January 19, 2023

It was a common occurrence on the streets of one of New York City's Jewish neighborhoods: A man dressed in the long black coat and broad hat worn by Hasidic Jews was walking in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, his two young children in hand, when suddenly a black man ran up behind him and hit him hard on the back of the head. 

Incidents like that one last May unfold repeatedly in New York, several of them in December alone – an outdoor menorah in Coney Island vandalized; a father and son wearing yarmulkas shot with a BB gun on Staten Island; a group of visibly Jewish boys chased by a gang firing a taser and shouting “Jews run! Get out of here”; a Hasidic man beaten outside a bus stop in Crown Heights.   

Rationalizations for black antisemitism can be strained, as when the spewings of billionaire rapper Ye, the former Kanye West ...

Such attacks are part of a larger groundswell of antisemitism that has received wide notice across the country in recent years. But what has not gotten much attention is the reticence to even mention the ethnicity of antisemitic perpetrators unless they are white. It appears that discussion of this ancient hatred is being constrained by contemporary politics.  

In covering and condemning these acts, most major news outlets and politicians from President Biden on down have described antisemitism as almost entirely a sub-species of white supremacy or white nationalism, invoking the mob in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 shouting “Jews will not replace us,” or the murder of 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 by a white nationalist fanatic.   

... got a racial makeover from black activist Shaun King: "You don't have to be white to be a white supremacist."

This narrative obscures the complexity and diversity of the sources fueling the spike in antisemitism, some experts say. Right-wing hate groups are playing their usual part, but so too are blacks and members of other minority groups. The non-white antagonists are erased from the public discourse even though it’s generally understood that it's hard to address a societal problem when society is unwilling to discuss it openly and honestly.   

Rationalizations for this reluctance can be strained: When the billionaire black rap entrepreneur Ye, formerly Kanye West, started making a series of antisemitic statements last year, black activist Shaun King wrote in Newsweek, “you don’t have to be white to be a white supremacist,” adding, “Kanye West is now a full-blown white supremacist.” 

The antisemitism monitor Israel Bitton uses a new term to frame what is happening. “When anti-Jewish attacks are due to white supremacy, you get a clear condemnation,” said Bitton, executive director of Americans Against Antisemitism, a Washington-based research and advocacy group. “When it's committed by others, it's 'inconvenient antisemitism,' because it becomes difficult for some to understand that members of groups that are also victimized by hate crimes are no less capable of committing hate crimes.”   

Anthony Crider/Wikimedia
Charlottesville, 2017: This fits the "systemic racism" narrative. Black antisemitism does not.

Put another way, attention to hate crimes committed by minorities doesn’t conform to a simpler narrative that “systemic racism” is the dominant and overwhelming fact of American life – and certain, approved, minorities its victims.  

And so Jew-hatred bubbles ever more loudly as background noise. Verbal and physical assaults against Jews increased by 34% between 2021 and 2022, according to the Anti-Defamation League, the civil rights organization that keeps track of such things. In a new study just released, the ADL reports that the number of Americans “harboring extensive antisemitic prejudice” has reached “the highest level in decades.”    

This spike comes on top of the historical pattern documented by FBI statistics. While notably incomplete in cataloging perpetrators, they show that Jews, who make up 2.5% of the total U.S. population, are more often the targets of hate crimes than all other religious groups – Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, and others – combined.   

Data collected about antisemitic violence in New York, home to America’s largest Jewish population, shows clearly that when it comes to antisemitism, minorities are often, even disproportionately, perpetrators, not victims. Since 2018, according to New York Police Department crime reports, there have been 129 arrests of suspects in violent hate crimes against Jews; 92 of the suspects, or 72%, were members of minority groups. The crime reports don't do a further breakdown – what proportion of the minority perpetrators may be black, Hispanic, Muslim or something else – but the available evidence indicates that a substantial number of the attacks are being perpetrated by young black men.   

When antisemitic offenders are white supremacists, the outrage is louder, as when Nick Fuentes, above, dined at Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump.

When perpetrators are white supremacists, the outrage is louder than when they are “inconvenient antisemites.” When former President Trump hosted a dinner at Mar-a-Lago in November with West and Nick Fuentes, a well-known white supremacist who attended the 2017 demonstration in Charlottesville, the expressions of shock and condemnation, including by Jewish Republicans, were loud and clear.   

But as Americans Against Antisemitism found in a recent study, not only are attacks against Hasidic Jews largely ignored or downplayed, only a very small number of the perpetrators end up being prosecuted in court.   

Even horrific crimes committed by minority group members that are prosecuted tend to receive muted attention, at least compared with crimes committed by whites. Bitton cites two examples: One was the shooting deaths of five people, including the two assailants, at a kosher grocery in Jersey City at the end of 2019. One of the gunmen, David Anderson, had posted hundreds of anti-Jewish and anti-police hate messages on social media. He was an adherent of the Black Hebrew Israelites, a cult that believes African Americans are the true Jews and that the white people claiming to be Jews are, as one of Anderson's posts put it, “imposters who inhabited synagogues of Satan.”   

Another incident cited by Bitton took place during Hanukkah in December 2019, when a machete-wielding man broke into the home of a Hasidic rabbi in Monsey, N.Y., and wounded five men, one of whom later died. The perpetrator, Grafton E. Thomas, also an adherent of the Black Israelite philosophy, was found in possession of journals full of antisemitic statements, including pictures of swastikas and Jewish stars – prefiguring a Twitter post by Kanye West showing a swastika superimposed on a Star of David.  

“These stories, where the victims were Hasidic and the perpetrators black, didn't get the same national attention as the Tree of Life synagogue attack,” Bitton said. “There was no major press coverage, no White House consolation calls.”  

“The white supremacists do not typically walk the streets in search of random Jews to target,” Bitton continued. “They tend to plan out bigger attacks, spectacular acts to take back the country that they feel has been stolen from them. It's much easier to call this out because it's easy to see their naked hatred coming. But when other minorities commit anti-Jewish violence and evince a brand of Jew hatred mixed in with socio-economic grievances, it confounds many observers who find it difficult to offer the same full-throated condemnations of a violence no less hateful as a result.”   

Fox 11 Los Angeles
A banner showing that black antisemitism and white nationalism can make strange bedfellows.

Today's antisemites are a mixed group of strange bedfellows. Among them are the traditional white nationalist haters of Jews, like those who rioted in Charlottesville or other groups – for example, the one that, somewhat sarcastically, calls itself the Goyim Defense League (goyim being a Yiddish word for non-Jew), which distributed fliers in Beverly Hills last November saying, “Every single aspect of the Covid agenda is Jewish.” The flier then listed the names of some prominent figures in the medical field who are Jewish, such as the chief scientist at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, as if that proved the existence of some dark conspiracy to inflict the world with a deadly virus.    

Groups like the Goyim Defense League seem also to fit the white nationalist category, but with an Orwellian twist. One of the group's recent activities was to hang a banner over a highway in Los Angeles saying, “Kanye is right about Jews,” a reference to the rapper’s recent antisemitic rants, like calling for "death con 3 on Jewish people," suggesting that the black rap music star and a group of white nationalists are drawing from the same well of prejudice. At least one white supremacist group, the so-called Groypers, have shifted their support from Donald Trump to West as a presidential candidate.      

Among the strange bedfellows are elements of the leftist “woke” culture, though this is a complicated phenomenon, with sharp disagreement about whether some beliefs or statements – most notably condemnations of Israel and the movement to boycott it – are indeed antisemitic or merely expressions of opposition to Israeli policies.   

What is not in doubt is that the movement to declare Israel a pariah state has become the movement du jour on college campuses, which has made some Jewish students and faculty feel targeted.  

Last year, for example, nine student organizations at the University of California Law School adopted a bylaw, initially adopted by the group Students for Justice in Palestine, that banned supporters of Zionism from speaking at their events. That incident attracted widespread attention, but there have been dozens of similar incidents on campuses across the country that have drawn much less notice.   

Anti-Jewish campus harassment: An Instagram meme by a pro-Palestinian chapter at the University of Illinois, Chicago encouraged the shaming of Zionists, the ADL says.

According to an ADL report published in May last year, these anti-Israel gestures have included graffiti saying, “Free Palestine, From the River to the Sea,” or, more crudely, “Fuck Israel, Fuck Zionists.” Israeli flags have been burned during anti-Israel demonstrations. On several campuses there have been calls to boycott classes on Israel or classes taught by Israelis. Jewish students holding positions in student government have been pressured to resign. “I have been told that my support for Israel has made me complicit in racism and that, by association, I am a racist,” a student at the University of Southern California said after resigning her post in response to such a petition.   

At the University of Chicago last January, Students for Justice in Palestine called for a boycott of “classes on Israel or those taught by Israeli fellows,” because, as one supporter of the boycott put it in the Maroon, the campus newspaper, “certain classes promote colonial narratives and Zionist propaganda.”   

When the Maroon published an op-ed charging that the boycott was in effect a call to discriminate against individuals because of their national origin, the pro-Palestinian group demanded that the paper withdraw the column, citing some minor factual errors. Instead of correcting the presumed errors, the editors quickly caved in to the pro-Palestinian students' demand.   

Some criticism of Israel, much of which comes these days from Jews, including Israeli Jews, is clearly within the bounds of legitimate debate. Still, some commentators, Jewish and not, regard the negative focus on Israel as a new form of antisemitism being adopted by individuals and groups on the left who, like the Students for Justice in Palestine, vehemently deny that they are antisemites.   

But those who say they are essentially antisemitic give three main reasons for their accusation that the animosity toward Israel is disguised antisemitism: (1) It denies the right of the only Jewish state among the 190 countries of the world to even exist; and (2) Its fury over the alleged faults of the small state of Israel echoes many of the classic slanders that were for centuries aimed at the tiny minority of the world's population that was Jewish. (3) While Israel is condemned as a pariah, its moral failings pale beside those of much larger nations such as China, Iran, or, these days, Russia – not to mention dozens of other countries far more oppressive and undemocratic than Israel. The anti-Zionists call for boycotts of Israelis, but when, for example, the Taliban stones women for alleged adultery in Afghanistan, they are mostly silent.

The antisemitism in this double standard is also reflected even in the way Israel is discussed. While it is now de rigueur in many circles to contextualize discussion of African Americans in light of their history of oppression, debate about Jews and Israel are deliberately stripped of context, including the threats to Israel’s existence by, most notably today, Iran and its proxies and the very long history of murderous hatred of Jews in the diaspora.  

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia: The leftist obsession with Israel oddly aligns with the invention of new right-wing conspiracy theories -- like ones she has promoted.

It's in this environment, ADL data shows, that between 2022 and 2021 there was a 31% increase in instances of vandalism, threats, and slurs against Jews on campuses across the country. “The narrative on campus is that if you are a Zionist, if you in any way shape or form think that Israel has the right to exist, you are the same as those who support ethnic cleansing and genocide and you are so morally compromised that people shouldn't even engage with you,” a student at Berkeley Law, Charlotte Aaron, told the Wall Street Journal.  

The leftist obsession with Israel oddly aligns with the invention of new right-wing conspiracy theories that don't explicitly target Jews but rely on the belief in dark forces that exercise ultimate power behind the scenes and just happen to single out Jews as the people behind these dark forces. As New York Times columnist Bret Stephens put it in a recent column, “The ultimate conspiracy theory, the secret to the secret to the secret, is that the Jews did it.”  

Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, for example, has cited a Jewish banking family, the Rothschilds, as the nefarious force behind “the secret to the secret to the secret,” including the mainstay secret advanced by QAnon, which is that the government is in the grip of a ring of satanic pedophiles. In a 2017 YouTube video, Greene spoke of the likelihood that “Saudi Arabia, the Rothschilds, and [the liberal Jewish financier George] Soros are the puppet masters who fund this global evil.” Greene went on to express the hope that there will be a “great Awakening” in which all these evildoers will soon be arrested.  

It's hard to measure exactly how much such quackery feeds hatreds that have led to attacks like the one in Pittsburgh four years ago, but Greene was hardly ostracized by her constituents: instead she was reelected in November by a landslide. According to a study by the Public Opinion Research Institute some 16% percent of the general public believe the conspiracy theories propagated by QAnon. Of them, 58% are white, 20% are Hispanic, and 13% are black.   

Marion S. Trikosko/Wikimedia
Martin Luther King Jr.: He saw black antisemitism as rooted in ghetto resentment against Jewish store owners and landlords.

It's perhaps not surprising that the Jews most often the targets of actual physical assaults are those most easily identifiable as Jews, the Hasidim; however, it may seem surprising, given the historic support many Jews have shown for civil rights, that a disproportionate number of their attackers are black. But there is a long history of black animosity toward the Jews, and an equally long history of the mainstream press handling it gingerly. In a recent guest essay published in the New York Times, religious scholar Michael Eric Dyson cites Martin Luther King Jr. on some of the reasons for this. King saw black antisemitism as a northern ghetto phenomenon, where a Jew often owned “the store where he pays more for what he gets” and where the landlord charging “a color tax” is often Jewish.     

King was close to many Jews, whom he recognized among his most important white supporters in the civil rights movement – our "most consistent and trusted allies," as he put it. Still, the notion of Jews as slum landlords and economic exploiters of black people no doubt fuels some of the individual attacks against visible Jews being carried out by African Americans today.  

This violence, moreover, goes back at least to 1991 in New York when, after a car driven by a Hasidic Jew accidentally hit and killed a black child, there were several days of rioting during which dozens of Jews were attacked by angry blacks, and one of them killed. The attackers, already resentful against Jews, were led on by the false accusation that the killing of the child was not an accident but exemplified the alleged racism of the Hasidim.  

What is striking is that then, as now, the liberal press shied away from portraying the riot as antisemitic. Instead, it was portrayed as communal conflict in which people on both sides were assumed to be responsible. “Hasidim and blacks clashed in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn through the day and into the night yesterday,” was the lead sentence in a New York Times account of the clashes. But as Ari Goldman, one of the Times reporters covering the riots, wrote a few years later, “In all my reporting during the riots, I never saw – or heard of – any violence by Jews against blacks.”   

Louis Farrakhan: There are no prominent Jewish leaders publicly voicing bigotry comparable to his.

Similarly, Dyson concedes that “black antisemitism is real,” but he undermines that acknowledgement with this: “So is Jewish racism,” citing “the horrendous bigotry of white Jews against Black Jews” and “the profoundly anti-Black statements of David Horowitz,” the conservative commentator.    

While there are no doubt Jewish racists, Dyson's claim of moral equivalency is unsupported by recent or historic examples of Jewish violence against blacks, or the existence of any Jewish groups repeating anti-black racist cliches. There are no prominent Jewish leaders publicly spewing anti-black rhetoric anything like the antisemitism of Louis Farrakhan, the longtime head of the Nation of Islam, who has for decades made hatred of Jews central to his appeal, blaming them for the slave trade and the oppression of black people in general.      

Studies show that the vast majority of black people don't believe this nonsense. Nor do they harbor negative feelings about Jews or Israel. An ADL study in 2016 found that 23% of African Americans had “antisemitic propensities,” compared with 14% in the general population. (The study also found similar propensities among Hispanics not born in the United States, but not among those born in the country.) But the study also found that a large majority of blacks, 77%, held no such propensities. A recently released UMass/Amherst poll revealed that blacks tend to agree with derogatory statements about Jews about twice as often as whites. 

Thirty-one years ago, Henry Louis Gates Jr., the chair of Harvard University's African American Studies department, warned against antisemitic ideas that, however “crackpot,” were being invented and propagated by black intellectuals – from the standard notion that Jews bore “a monumental culpability in slavery” to the idea that they were responsible for the hole in the ozone layer.   

Gates argued: “Attention to black antisemitism is crucial, however discomfiting, in no small part because the moral credibility of our own struggle against racism hangs in the balance.” Those words seem as applicable today as they were in 1992 when Gates wrote them.     

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