Harold Ohayon
A Wandering New Yorker

A Deafening Silence in Brooklyn

Imagine, if you will, that a certain predominantly Muslim community within the United States found itself constantly bombarded by Islamophobic attacks. Mosques are vandalized, hijabs are torn from the heads of female believers, individuals are physically assaulted and the community is stricken with an ever present sense of doom and dread. Now imagine how the wider American community would react to this. The media would have a field day, running constant coverage in an attempt to highlight the deeper social issues facing America today. Politicians would go on talk shows and press conferences to issue statements of solidarity and declare that such attacks have no place in the United States. No doubt solidarity marches and vigils would spring up at various corners of the country. The uproar would be deafening, and rightly so. While this scenario is hypothetical, a similar situation is developing in New York and the victims are not Muslim but are in fact Jews. While this is troubling to begin with, the more unsettling aspect of this story is the deafening silence from the wider community as a whole.

I am old enough to remember the riots in Crown Heights. Though a child at the time, I remember the whispers of the fear and chaos that followed in the riots wake. It pains me to no end that the Jews of Crown Heights are now facing another anti-Semitic onslaught. True, this current wave of bigotry by no means matches the intensity of the 1991 riots, but this does not negate the severity of the situation. Indeed, I believe this constant drip of assault is by far more menacing because it creates a sense of normalcy when news of attacks arise. It reminds me of when suicide bombings were a frequent occurrence in Israel. Bombings rattled the country so often that  it became part and parcel of everyday life. But the Jews of New York do not live in a war zone. Nor should they fear for their safety every single day. But this is becoming a ‘matter of fact’ reality in Brooklyn, and this should stir the collective outrage of the American populace and establishment. But it hasn’t. Why?

In today’s day and age, the slightest of slights against a minority group can provoke an intrepid response from the American public. And yet, when it comes to Jews the mass of support is no where to be found. I believe it is evidently clear that the reason the wider public stands silent in the face of this current crisis facing the Jews of Brooklyn is because the attackers do not fit into the pre-conceived narrative many people hold when they think of bigoted attacks in the country. And because of this the plight of the Jews of Brooklyn is not banner waving worthy, nor is it a ‘hot scoop’ for American media. Had these attackers been Confederate flag waving loons, the media vans would never leave Crown Heights. If these attackers wore MAGA hats, countless politicians would make appearances on every channel demanding action. One simply needs to recall the aftermath of the Tree of Life terrorist attack to see a perfect example of this. Many in the media rushed to try to link the shooter to President Trump, and so it was a constant news story. People hailed it as an example of the toxic environment President Trump was supposedly created within the country. Curious, since the shooter hated the fact that President Trump holds pro-Israel views, but I digress. The media went into a frenzy with the story, and tried their utmost to use the attack as a weapon to smear Republicans in general and President Trump in particular. So where is the media now? Where are the pundits’ tears and rage? Where are the politicians? But the attacks in Brooklyn do not fit within the presupposed profile. They are not perpetrated by Neo Nazis or white supremacists. They are not far right lunatics. And so the media, politicians and the public lay low. I have yet to hear of any solidarity marches. I have not seen any major politicians decry these assaults. And this is what is truly disheartening. Is hate only hate when points can be gained against a political or ideological opponent? Are we Jews not equal in our suffering and fear? Are we not worthy of the same empathy and support that other marginalized groups receive?

The attacks against the Jews of Crown Heights illustrate a flaw in the mainstream narrative. Humanity is vastly more complicated than what many people want to believe. Rightists and Caucasians are not the only source of bigotry and extremism in the world. But in today’s political climate, the majority of people want to believe in a clear cut ‘us versus them’ mentality. The reality is that hatred can come from any group, regardless of ethnicity, color or creed. The political arena and the mainstream media should be ashamed of themselves. Far too often they are willing to weaponize events to push their own agendas, yet they refuse to act when the attacker’s identities conflict with their own personal biases and preconceived notions. This is disgusting and hypocritical. We are all equal, and every victim of racism should be heard. Our cries and concerns should be addressed. And the problem should be challenged and solved. If politicians and the media truly care about human rights and dignity, they both must take up this cause and seek solutions to an ever increasing problem. Failure to do so will only prove that these individuals care only  about advancing their own outlooks and careers and not about victims of hate. It is time to wake up, America. It is time to stand up and defend your Jews. We are better than this. The madness must stop now.

About the Author
Expat New Yorker living in the Land of the Rising Sun: Trekking to random parts of the globe, debating countless things under the sun, and attempting to learn to cook Korean food.