Photo Credit: Courtesy (Via JNS)
An anti-Jewish, anti-Israel graphic circulating in the United States, spring 2024

Anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hatred have reached a fever pitch in the United States as attacks become increasingly aggressive and openly violent. Hatred and bigotry are moving out of the shadows and into the daylight with more overt attacks against Jews and vandalism of property. The right to free speech is one of America’s most irrefutable and cherished values, but when it oversteps into blatant acts of hatred that target individuals and minority groups, it crosses a line that must not to be tolerated.

“Raise your hand if you’re a Zionist … this is your chance to get out … .” — pro-Hamas protester on the New York City subway, June 10, 2024


The threatening and intimidating demand was called out aboard a New York City subway car as part of a call-and-response chant led by a young group of pro-Palestinian protesters. The leader, with a Palestinian keffiyeh covering his head and face, ordered all passengers to repeat after him as he called for anyone who was a Zionist to raise their hand and leave the train car. The rest of the protesters in the group echoed his words. The incident took place on June 10 at the bustling 14th Street-Union Square subway station while the train was stopped with the car’s doors open. When no one responded, the anti-Israel protester announced, “OK, no Zionists, we’re good.” Police were called to the scene, and protesters clashed with officers in the subway station.

“Threatening New Yorkers based on their beliefs is not only vile, it’s illegal and will not be tolerated,” City Hall spokeswoman Kayla Mamelak told the New York Post. “Mayor [Eric] Adams has been clear: New York City will always protect the right to free speech, but we will never allow our city to descend into lawlessness. Anyone with information about those responsible for this illegal conduct should contact the NYPD immediately.”

Chuck Schumer at Nova Exhibit in New York City
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) views a commemorative wall of photos showing those murdered at the Nova music festival in southern Israel by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, 2023, at a traveling exhibit in New York City, June 11, 2024. Source: X/Chuck Schumer.

Another alarming episode of blatant antisemitism and anti-Zionism was committed just above the subway, where pro-Hamas protesters took to the streets right outside of the Nova Music Festival Exhibition honoring the murdered victims of the festival on Oct. 7. A chaotic demonstration erupted where anti-Israel protesters held banners declaring “Long Live October 7!” along with flags of the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups. One pro-Palestinian activist, Nerdeen Kiswani, proclaimed the Nova festival was “a rave next to a concentration camp” and called the exhibit “propaganda used to justify the genocide in Palestine.” Demonstrators shouted, “Long live the intifada,” a reference to times of historical Palestinian violence and suicide bombing against Jews. They also set off smoke bombs and flares into the sky, leaving a hazy red and green fog lingering in the air—the colors of the Palestinian flag.

Adams told the media: “I thought it was despicable. It was disgusting what we saw. And you cannot call for peace while you are celebrating what happened on Oct. 7 … that’s like you are desecrating the graves.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a vocal critic of Israel, even blasted the protest: “The callousness, dehumanization and targeting of Jews on display at last night’s protest outside the Nova Festival exhibit was atrocious antisemitism—plain and simple,” she wrote on X.

Adding a new layer to their grief, Nova victims’ families are grappling with understanding the public’s support for the terrorists who killed their loved ones. One parent, Manny Manzuri, said “I cannot find the words for how I felt when somebody shouting and supporting the people who murder your daughters,” he said. “It was like they killed me again and again and again.”

The Nova exhibit is titled “October 7th 06:29 AM: The Moment Music Stood Still,” which was on display in Tel Aviv for 10 weeks before traveling to New York City. It was created to commemorate those massacred while striving to help heal the dance community. The “We Will Dance Again” initiative has become a resounding anthem since Oct. 7 and a universal call to bring hope and healing to the survivors.

Red Paint Vandalism at Home of Brooklyn Museum Board Member
Pro-Hamas, anti-Israel vandals targeted the home of Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak in New York City, June 12, 2024. Source: X/Mayor Eric Adams.

The next day, in a different New York borough, the homes of Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak and other Jewish board members were vandalized in a blatant act of antisemitism, each targeted simply for being Jews. In the early hours of the morning, anti-Israel extremists brazenly smeared and splattered red paint across the front of the director’s home along with a symbol—a red upside-down triangle—used in Hamas propaganda videos to mark Israeli targets. Pasternak was labeled a “white supremacist Zionist” after weeks of protests against the museum. The banner was also stamped with handprints in red paint, with the term “Funds Genocide” repeated across the bottom of the banner. On the ground, “Blood on Your Hands” was painted in large block letters in front of her home.

Leader of Within Our Lifetime and pro-Hamas activist, Nerdeen Kiswani, who also targeted the Nova festival exhibit, defended the act of overt vandalism in a series of posts on X, saying the museum, ironically known for its more progressive exhibits, was “supporting genocide.” She also said that “claiming this is about antisemitism is stupid and cheap.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged: “We stand with the Jewish community in the face of hate and will continue to fight antisemitism wherever it rears its ugly head.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated on the Senate floor: “Every single American needs to see this. This is the face of hatred. Jewish Americans made to feel unsafe in their own home—just because they are Jewish.”

He added, “This is not even close to free speech. This is intimidation. It is scapegoating. It is dehumanization. Invasive attacks loaded with the threat of looming violence. It is vile. It is nasty. It is un-American.”

Other acts of vandalism from the past week using red paint might be connected to the incident at the Jewish museum director’s home and are currently being investigated. Antisemitic incidents in the United States reached a record high last year, up 140% from 2022 and 350% since Oct. 7, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The New York City Police Department reports that there were 55 antisemitic incidents in May 2024, the highest in six months. The post-Oct. 7 spike in antisemitic events has not slowed, and Jews remain the most targeted group for hate crimes nearly every month. 

German writer and Nobel Prize winner, Herta Muller, wrote an open letter about a “madness” that has gripped parts of Western society since Hamas attacked Israel. The letter is a bold wake-up call to the West:

“Is it right to think of the Nazi massacres on October 7? I think it is right to do so, because Hamas itself wanted to evoke the memory of the Shoah.” Another reminder of the Nazis: the red triangle from the Palestinian flag that marks targets to be attacked.

“I am appalled that young people, students in the West, are so confused that they are no longer aware of their freedom. I also wonder whether the students at many American universities know what they are doing when they chant at the demonstrations: ‘We are Hamas’ or even ‘Beloved Hamas, bomb Tel Aviv!’ or ‘Back to 1948.’ Is that still innocent or already moronic?”

Points to consider:

  1. Zionist is a code word that hatred against Jews hides behind.

When anti-Jewish bigots need a way to hide their hate in more socially acceptable ways, they choose words or names just far enough removed to provide a cover. Hamas propaganda specializes in this strategy. “Zionist” is frequently used as a thinly veiled substitute for “Jew.” Zionism is the belief in the right of Jews to live in peace and security in their ancestral homeland. Hamas supporters wield the word Zionist as a weapon to demonize Jews and delegitimize Israel’s existence. This linguistic sleight-of-hand allows individuals to mask their hatred of Jews. Anti-Jewish bigots don’t want to be called out for targeting Jews but believe they can get away with criticizing Israel and Zionists.

  1. Hatred towards Jews should receive equal outrage of any other group.

If any other minority group is singled out, vilified, targeted or assaulted, public outcry quickly follows. But when a Jew is the target of a hate crime—when calls for death to Israel and Zionists are being chanted on the streets, and Jewish students feel terrified to walk across their own campus—all too many go quiet. Silence becomes complicity and Jews, a mere 0.2% of the world population, are left alone to defend themselves. No religious or ethnic group should be villainized and left alone to fight that battle. Friends and supporters of Jews and Israel must stand in solidarity and end the silence.

  1. It’s 2024, but for Jews, it has the horrifying echo of 1939.

Jews being excluded from public spaces and being the targets of blame for the world’s woes is inciting fear for Jews worldwide. History’s haunting echoes from the 1930s and the Holocaust are creeping up in the collective Jewish memory. This historic trauma adds extra layers of sensitivity to a people with a battered past. Now, in cities across Europe and North America, Jewish facilities, organizations and synagogues require either police or military guards outside and constant surveillance. In many places, Jews are afraid to wear identifiable clothing or jewelry or draw public attention to their Jewishness. The painful, collective memory unifies Jews and civilized society, but also serves as an early warning system when we see history’s patterns begin to repeat themselves.

  1. Anti-Zionism = Antisemitism.

“When Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism. And that is unacceptable.” — The U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism was adopted by more than 40 countries, high-profile universities and institutions, and is used by all U.S. executive departments and agencies that enforce Title VI civil-rights protections. The definition explains what constitutes antisemitism. It is common for opponents of Zionism to say that they are merely criticizing Israeli policies when they are actually opposed to the existence of Israel in any form. Anti-Jewish hatred has often been cloaked in anti-Zionist rhetoric, using it as a smokescreen to perpetuate harmful stereotypes, deny historical facts and delegitimize Israel’s existence.

  1. Zionism is an integral part of Jewish identity for most American Jews, not a political stance.

More than 80% of American Jews state that Israel is an essential or important part of what being Jewish means to them. Passover and Yom Kippur both conclude with the phrase: “Next year in Jerusalem.” Israel encompasses a deep connection to Jewish history, religion, culture and the aspiration for a homeland. Recognizing Israel’s significance as a safe haven in the aftermath of persecutions, pogroms, expulsions and the Holocaust, Zionism serves as a unifying force that binds Jewish communities across the Diaspora. It goes beyond policy debates, embodying the resilience of a people who have endured centuries of adversity. Dismissing Zionism as mere politics overlooks its profound cultural and spiritual relevance.

The Focus Project is a consensus initiative of major American Jewish organizations that provides crucial news, talking points and background content about issues affecting Israel and the Jewish people, including antisemitism, anti-Zionism and relevant events in the Middle East.

{Reposted from JNS}

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