An observant Christian friend of mine asked me recently why there have been so many anti-Semitic acts recently. I could have asked him why there were so many anti-Christian acts though those are really occurring more in Middle East and African countries. Having been on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council (USHMC), he likely supposed my thinking would come with a certain imprimatur.
I told him I had been reading everything around about the recent escalation to understand what others think is at the root of the current rash of attacks. I then spoke with my close friend, Fred Zeidman, formerly the Chair of the USHMC. We shared our thoughts and he told me he had a column coming out that he authored with Steve Israel, a former congressman. Fred encouraged me to write a column. I told him it had to abide by my number one rule about my columns – it could not just be a “Me Too” column that reiterates what others had already written. I don’t think you need to read anything from the amen chorus. Here is a different view of what is going on.
It is hard to say that anti-Semitic actions have a unique flavor to them since they have been going on just about as long as there have been Jews. There certainly have been very famous ones that are well-known to the world that cost too many Jewish lives. There has also been a significant increase of recent acts in Europe largely caused by the influx of Muslim immigrants, but we are not supposed to say that; are we?
Then there is America where Jews have been more successful as a group than in any other country in history other than in Israel. Jews are usually applauded in America. This increase in anti-Semitism started ratcheting up during the Obama years and has continued during the Trump years. The people at fault basically break down into two groups.
The first group are the plain crazy people. After the nutcase entered the Tree of Life Synagogue and shot up the place, people wanted to analyze him. Some wanted to read into his political philosophy or that guns were to blame. No, it had nothing to do with any of that. In less formal circles you could refer to the man as certified wacko. He was nuts. Walking into a house of prayer, a school, a shopping center or anywhere else and starting to murder strangers in my book is the definition of crazy. We don’t need Freud here. And if you cannot accept that concept then maybe you need to see one of Freud’s disciples.
When the attorney for the machete man who attacked people at a Hanukkah party came out and said his client had a few loose screws, the obvious reaction can only be “really”? Remember that old saying: “put him away and throw away the key”? If you don’t want to execute these people, they should never again be near humanity. If they wrote that they did not like Jews or joined some Jew-hating group on the internet, that does not much matter to me. They are no different than the nutcases who attempt mass murder anywhere. The problem is so many don’t want to throw away the key.
The group that we need to focus on are the ones that are not certified crazies. People that seem to be functioning members of society is where we are seeing a significant increase in activity. My thinking ties into a book I recently read, Punishment Without Crime by Alexandra Natapoff.
Natapoff argues that the huge amount of misdemeanor crimes is causing people to become false criminals. For many the only way out of the charges which they might not be guilty of is to plead guilty. Thus, we must remove these people from the criminal system. Her arguments tie into the current move to eliminate bail for many crimes. This is a national movement being voiced by many of the Democrats running for president. There are certainly valid points in the book and problems with the bail system. It is often amazing how certain people fall into chanting the current mantra without full consideration of the ramifications of their proposals.
I have written about Singapore many times and the lack of crime. That is because there is sure and swift punishment. We should be moving closer to their model, but we are moving further away. We are creating laws that are eliminating penalties for actions that were criminal and we have been releasing people who are not held to answer for their actions. We are telling people their actions have no consequences.
This does not mean that the rash of low-level assaults occurring are not caused by people who have taken a negative view of Jews. There will always be people who do not favor Jews. They may not favor Puerto Ricans either. We cannot stop that. With an estimated 330 million people in the U.S., there are bound to be people who don’t like others. America actually has an amazing record of blending peoples of different backgrounds.
But people cannot act out on their negative thoughts. We have freedom of speech, but we do not have freedom of assault. Yet some people believe we have free assault rules now in some major cities because of lenient leaders and lackadaisical laws. Why else would two Black women start yelling at and chasing and threatening an Orthodox Jew in broad daylight in a public area? If they knew that would land them in prison for two years, they might rethink their actions. They correctly thought there would be no consequences – and, indeed, one was let go. The other was charged with assault, but my guess is she will serve no time.
Other attacks are similar. Many of these were Black people but the press refused to so identify them. If the attacks were by whites, you know they would be chastised. If they were Jews acting out, then that would be clear, and Jews would be protesting against the criminals. Black groups or preachers cannot even call out these people because the authorities and press are afraid to identify their racial backgrounds. How are Jews supposed to attempt to solve the growing anti-Semitism in the Black community when the press and elected officials live in denial of it occurring? An alcoholic has to admit she is an alcoholic before repairing the problem. Her friends do her no favors by not acknowledging the problem.
People should know there are consequences, they should be guided by their community, by their family or their God to refrain from these despicable acts. We have New York’s Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio decrying anti-Semitic acts, but you don’t hear them calling for revising the public policies they have created. They did beef up policing and are calling for more education. They think people need to be educated in order to know you can’t commit assaults against other humans? Where are the leaders calling for these people to be locked up and telling their constituents that if they do the same thing, they will be cooling their heels in state prison for a long, long time?
The only common thread of the recent attacks except for machete man is all these people think they can get away with it. There will always be some people who dislike Jews. I have never figured it out. Jews should be appreciated not hated. They have done great good in the world.
When we have confused leaders who have a mission of tolerance, the bad actors will act out. Otherwise. good people do bad things. Unless these dysfunctional policies are changed matters will get worse, not better.