News from December 23 to December 29
Attack in Monsey and an Israeli election update
Hey everyone. I hope all is well and you’ve had a relaxing holiday season. I could only cover two news pieces this week. As always, please feel free to contact me with any comments, questions, or concerns at email@example.com
What happened? On Saturday night, 5 Chasidic Jews were stabbed by a knife-wielding man after he broke into a Rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, during a Hanukkah celebration. One of the men at the scene managed to take a picture of the assailant’s license plate and notified the police (after smashing a table into the attacker’s face), who arrested the suspect, Grafton Thomas, in Manhattan just hours later. Thomas has pleaded not guilty to five charges of attempted murder and one charge of burglary. Today, federal authorities decided to add a hate crimes charge (obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs involving an attempt to kill) after they found antisemitic journal entries in his apartment. Some of his writing reportedly referenced the Black Hebrew Israelites. As you may recall, the Jersey City shooters were linked to the same group.
What else? Just weeks after the lethal December 10 attack in Jersey City, antisemitism in and around NYC is surging. Here is a list of some of the attacks that occurred in the past couple weeks (excerpted from NY Post):
“The spate of hate began at East 41st Street in Manhattan Monday morning, hours after the first night of Hanukkah.
Steven Jorge, 28, of Miami allegedly shouted, “F- -k you, Jew bastard!” as he punched and kicked a 65-year-old Jewish man who was wearing a yarmulke.
That night, in Williamsburg, two Jewish boys were attacked by two teens who punched the younger boy in the stomach.
Early Tuesday, a group of people hurled anti-Semitic slurs at a 25-year-old Jewish man outside 332 Kingston Ave. in Crown Heights.
Later Tuesday, a 56-year-old Jewish man was punched from behind by a group of people on Union Street in Crown Heights.
Early Wednesday, a 40-year-old Jewish man was punched in the chin by a stranger.
On Thursday afternoon, Ayana Logan, 42, identified as homeless by police, allegedly approached a 34-year-old woman and her 3-year-old son on Avenue U in Gravesend yelling, “You f- -king Jew, the end is coming for you!” and hit the mom with her bag.
Early Friday at Eastern Parkway and Kingston Avenue, Tiffany Harris, 30, of Flatbush allegedly slapped three women in the face and barked, “F- -k you, Jews!” The victims, ages 22, 26 and 31, were not seriously injured.”
Is anyone doing anything? New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced that he would send extra police to Jewish areas of New York City and would increase patrols near synagogues.
What are people saying? Some folks are not happy with the idea of sending more police into areas that are also heavily populated by other minority groups who are not comfortable with a heavy police presence. Others have pointed out that it’s often the same people who worry about the police presence that refuse to call out antisemitism unless it comes from white supremacists. The Jewish Agency commended de Blasio for his “swift action in tackling this scourge of hatred.” On the opposite side of the spectrum, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R) condemned de Blasio for not going far enough.
As for Monsey, everyone from President Trump to Al Sharpton have issued statements condemning the stabbings. It’s important to note that tons of leaders in the black community have spoken out against antisemitism in recent days. Carly Pildis of Tablet compiled a Twitter thread of their statements. Check it out here.
Also, for those in Westchester, Congresswoman Nita Lowey wrote an op-ed in the New York Times about how we should respond to the Monsey attack.
Personal note: The situation in New York City is complicated because, like what happened in Jersey City, it does not fit into the traditional narrative that antisemitism is exclusively a neo-nazi or white supremacist phenomenon. If it were true that ending antisemitism was as simple as exposing and stopping neo-nazis, it would have been done a long time ago. Don’t let people get away with ignoring antisemitism when it doesn’t fit their political beliefs. That being said, avoid blaming attacks on any one group of people because the data is mixed, and it’s not productive or right to accuse other races, religions, or ethnicities of holding beliefs that are only held by a few. Just as other groups have extremists, there are Jews who hold extremist views. We wouldn’t want to be painted as though we are all problematic because of the actions of a few.
It’s also important to remember that when times get tough, we are not alone. There are great allies out there who have our best interests in mind. Consider this story from a few weeks ago about a Holocaust survivor in Rome. After she received police protection following a surge of antisemitic threats against her, thousands of people came out “in a show of solidarity” for her.
Further reading: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/30/nyregion/jewish-attacks.html (NYT)
Does Israel have a government yet? Nope.
What’s the latest? The biggest news of the week was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s solid victory in the Likud primaries. For those of you who are not up to date, Netanyahu’s main challenger, Member of Knesset (MK) Gideon Sa’ar, forced Likud to hold a leadership primary. Although Netanyahu easily defeated Sa’ar by a margin of 72.5% to 27.5%, the election was significant because it was Netanyahu’s first real challenge within his party in a long time. His victory ensures that he will be leading Likud in the March election.
Why are the primary results so important? Netanyahu was expected to win by a solid margin, but the fact that the election even happened is notable. For years, Netanyahu had been seen as “Likud’s indispensable man,” even running unopposed in the 2016 primaries. Now, almost 30% of his party essentially said they did not want him to be the leader anymore. That is a wild swing. It also means that Sa’ar is positioned very well to be the future leader of Likud after Netanyahu is gone.
What to watch for: As I mentioned in a previous newsletter, polls before the primary indicated that although Likud would fare worse in an election under Sa’ar, the right as a whole would do better. The polling clearly did not convince Likud voters to drop Netanyahu in this primary, but it was an important data point to analyze the future of Israeli politics. In the long term, that polling bodes poorly for Blue and White and Israel’s center-left parties who rely on anti-Netanyahu sentiment for support. Many of the voters who vote for Blue and White are ideologically right-wing but hate Netanyahu. If Sa’ar takes over for Netanyahu soon, parties like Blue and White stand to lose a lot of voters. Keep that in mind as you think about what lies ahead for Israel.
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