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Anti-Semitic violence and the curious lack of public outrage

Bari Weiss is a fairly prominent opinion writer and her piece was published in one of the country’s most prominent papers. Still, she argues pretty persuasively that the rise of anti-Semitism around the world has been largely ignored. It’s not that the incidents don’t make the news here and there, its that the media and public officials don’t seem terribly interested in connecting the dots into a bigger picture. Her story begins with a murder in France:

Two years ago, a 27-year-old man named Kobili Traoré walked into the Paris apartment of a 65-year-old kindergarten teacher named Sarah Halimi. Mr. Traoré beat Ms. Halimi and stabbed her. According to witnesses, he called her a demon and a dirty Jew. He shouted, “Allahu akbar,” then threw Ms. Halimi’s battered body out of her third-story apartment window.

This is what Mr. Traoré told prosecutors: “I felt persecuted. When I saw the Torah and a chandelier in her home I felt oppressed. I saw her face transforming.”

One would think that this would be an open-and-shut hate crime. It was the coldblooded murder of a woman in her own home for the sin of being a Jew. But French prosecutors decided to drop murder charges against Mr. Traoré because he … had smoked cannabis.

As crazy as that sounds, it really is what happened in this case. Here’s the Independent’s story on the case which notes that lawyers agreed Traore did not have a mental problem but he was still viewed as not responsible for his actions because he had smoked 15 joints a day. Next, Weiss turns to the anti-Semitism scandal of the Labour party in the UK:

According to Britain’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, there are 130 cases of outstanding complaints of anti-Semitism against Labour Party members. Ninety-three percent of British Jews say they won’t vote for Labour. Forty-seven percent say they will “seriously consider” emigrating if Labour wins. And yet the latest polling shows Labour rallying.

Other issues, Jews are told, are more important than their own safety. Sometimes their fears are dismissed as “hysteria.” The socialist filmmaker Ken Loach has called it a “witch hunt.” The powerful union leader Len McCluskey has accused the Jewish community of “intransigent hostility.”

Finally, here at home there have been local reports of frequent anti-Semitic attacks on the streets:

Should I tell you about the swastikas found at Sixth & I, a synagogue and a hub of Jewish cultural and intellectual life in Washington? Or the ones painted in red on a statue of the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem in Ukraine?

Or that on Monday morning in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a Jewish subway rider reported that another woman yelled slurs and threatened to throw her onto the tracks? And that the following day, also in Crown Heights, three teenagers hurled rocks at a Jewish elementary school bus, breaking a window.

All of that (and there’s much more in her piece) leads her to the conclusion that there is a surge of anti-Semitism but little interest in covering it from the media:

There is a theme here. The theme is that Jew-hatred is surging and yet Jewish victimhood does not command attention or inspire popular outrage. That unless Jews are murdered by neo-Nazis, the one group everyone of conscience recognizes as evil, Jews’ inconvenient murders, their beatings, their discrimination, the singling out of their state for demonization will be explained away.

In fact, there are already NY Times readers eager to explain away the long list of anti-Semitic incidents she offers. Someone named Mike Jordan said her argument lacked statistics:

You speak as if these anecdotes were connected with a clear statistical rise in mortal or near-mortal killings. What are the statistics? If you have them to hand, why not include them. Only statistics can make the case that you seem to know. Tell us, please.

He must not have clicked on the very first link in Weiss’ piece. It goes to this piece at Tablet which offers some statistics on the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in France:

In Paris, where Kobili Traoré’s trial took place last week, anti-Semitism has been dramatically increasing, prompting an exodus of French Jews. Anti-Semitic incidents rose by 74% in one year, reaching 541 crimes in 2018, from 311 in 2017, according to the French Interior Ministry. In July 2018 The New York Times found that despite Jews making up less than 1% of the French population “nearly 40 percent of violent acts classified as racially or religiously motivated were committed against Jews in 2017.”

That sounds like a real problem to me, not just a handful of anecdotes. And that’s really the point of this piece. No matter how you present this to people, there seems to be an innate resistance to seeing the big picture. Why is that? In closing, I’ll remind readers once again of a story that appeared in the NY Times last year:

Contrary to what are surely the prevailing assumptions, anti-Semitic incidents have constituted half of all hate crimes in New York this year, according to the Police Department. To put that figure in context, there have been four times as many crimes motivated by bias against Jews — 142 in all — as there have against blacks. Hate crimes against Jews have outnumbered hate crimes targeted at transgender people by a factor of 20…

If anti-Semitism bypasses consideration as a serious problem in New York, it is to some extent because it refuses to conform to an easy narrative with a single ideological enemy. During the past 22 months, not one person caught or identified as the aggressor in an anti-Semitic hate crime has been associated with a far right-wing group, Mark Molinari, commanding officer of the police department’s Hate Crimes Task Force, told me.

“I almost wish it was sometimes more clear cut,’’ he said. “It’s every identity targeting every identity.”

This is a real problem but talking about it would create a narrative the identity politics left would not like, so it mostly remains in the background.

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