NEW YORK – Though the conflict in Gaza has cooled, in its wake the world has been left with a cold reality: Anti-Semitism is alive and well, even in the United States, where recently, two separate acts of vandalism in south Florida have concerned the Anti-Defamation League.
Since early July when hostilities began, instances of anti-Semitism have been on the rise around the world. In Europe, notably France, Germany and the UK, reports of vandalism and acts of violence against Jews seem to be more intense than at any time since the Holocaust.
Director of ADL’s Center on Extremism, Oren Segal, attributes the world’s faster and more extreme response to this round of fighting between Palestine and Israel to social media, which has played an increasing role in global politics and social upheaval, particularly since the Arab Spring in 2011.
“I think people are taking their cues from what they’re seeing online,” Segal said.
Awareness of the presumed day-to-day realities of the fighting is far greater this time around than ever before. With the help of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, individuals in both Israel and Gaza are having their stories heard. But the court of public opinion is, by its very nature, unrestrained. And unquestionably anti-Semitic hashtags like #HitlerWasRight and #HitlerDidNothing- Wrong have gained traction.
From Argentina to Paris, and even in the US, the increase in anti-Semitic incidents troubles the Anti-Defamation League.
Segal and his colleagues are concerned that a narrative has developed that doesn’t distinguish between Israelis and Jews writ large. Protest, minus religiously, racially, or ethnically motivated bigotry is acceptable, Segal said, but over the last month, particularly in Europe, his organization has tracked anti-Semitism with worry, including an increase in the use of Holocaust analogies and rhetoric that is laden more with bigotry than critique.
“It’s one thing to express your criticism, your anger of Israeli military operations or of Israeli policies. But when trying to do that you interchangeably use Israelis or Jews, it then becomes a different narrative,” Segal said.
In early August, Brooklyn resident Rabbi Joseph Raksin was killed in Miami, Florida, on a Saturday morning on his way to synagogue, allegedly shot by two men, one of whom escaped on a bike, the other on foot.
The incident is still under investigation.
Though police released a statement immediately after, stating that they had no reason to believe the attack was a hate crime, tensions in south Florida are palpable.
Following protests in Europe that have turned violent, in which demonstrators have thrown Molotov cocktails, damaged property and attacked Jews, the recent murder of Raksin in south Florida raised alarm bells for the ADL, and Miami-Dade police worked to control the fear that the killing was an act of anti-Semitism.
“At this time there is no indication of this being a hate crime,” Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Elena Hernandez said.
Adding to the conversation, the rabbi’s daughter told a local media outlet that she believed her father’s murder was an act of anti-Semitism.
Just a couple weeks prior, two separate instances of anti-Semitic vandalism shook Miami-Dade County.
In the first, an Orthodox synagogue was vandalized, spray-painted with swastikas and the word “Hamas.” A couple of days later and nearby to the original incident, two cars were smeared with cream cheese and eggs, and on one of them, the words “Jew” and “Hamas” were written, the Miami Herald reported.
Director of the American Jewish Committee’s Miami and Broward Regional Office, Brian Siegal, expressed skepticism on behalf of the community that the rabbi’s murder wasn’t in some way linked to the two previous acts of anti-Semitism in the area.
“Coming so soon and so close to the synagogue that was vandalized last week with swastikas and pro-Hamas graffiti, obviously we’re suspicious that it’s linked, but that remains to be seen.”
“For the most part, America remains very supportive of Israel, and that’s demonstrated through the comments of its leadership,” Siegal said.
He did not shy away, however, from suggesting that the recent surge of protests in the United States had anti-Semitic undertones: “I’m not sure the rallies that we’re seeing could be described as rallies against Israeli military policies.”