Robert Cherry
Author: Jewish and Christian Views on Bodily Pleasures

Anti-Jewish Violence: Liberal Obfuscations

In the last month, there has been unprecedented violence against orthodox Jews throughout the NYC metropolitan area: killings in Jersey City, knifings in Monsey, and the wack-a-Jew Hanukkah actions in Brooklyn. As I have shown, this latest spike was just a continuation of behavior that has been going on for more than one year and is overwhelming perpetrated by black New Yorkers.

This uncomfortable source of the violence goes beyond the individuals identified. After the Jersey City murders, a trustee of the Jersey City public schools Joan Terrell-Paige, wrote that Jews “brazenly came … wav[ing] bags of money. Resistance was met with more threats of WE WILL BRING DRUG DEALERS AND PROSTITUTES TO LIVE NEXT DOOR TO YOU.”

Sympathizing with the murders, she claimed, “Are we brave enough to explore the answer to their message? Are we brave enough to stop the assault on the black communities of America?” When elected officials called for her resignation, Carolyn Oliver Fair, the executive director of the North Jersey Chapter of the National Action Network, defiantly defended Terrell Page: “She said nothing wrong. Everything she said is the truth,” While Al Sharpton finally issued a condemnation of anti-Semitism, he has yet to condemn Ms. Fair’s pronouncements.

What has been just as troubling has been the response of the liberal community. The executive director of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, has called out Mayor de Blasio for his slow response to this upsurge. Part of the reason was that the mayor had repeatedly insisted that the attacks against Jews in New York were driven by a white-supremacist movement empowered by Donald Trump. Indeed, even in his pronouncements after the Monsey knifings, de Blasio still sees Trump’s rhetoric as the driving force.

The Daily Beast reporter Jay Michaelson exemplifies this redirection. He falsely claimed, “The vast majority of anti-Semitic attacks in this country are carried out by right-wing white supremacists.” The ADL source referenced was murders, driven by the killings in Poway (CA) and Pittsburgh (PA). In its comprehensive report on anti-Semitic incidents, the ADL reported: “In 2018, 249 acts of anti-Semitism (13 percent of the total incidents) were attributable to known extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology.” However, it noted that putting up flyers in public places or making robot calls comprised 229 of these incidents. Thus, outside of the murders, virtually none of the assaults or direct harassments were perpetrated by white supremacists.

Unfortunately, the ADL had been somewhat complicit: Despite the fact that all the assaults were in New York City, a NY/NJ ADL report noted, “In 2018, ADL documented 67 white supremacist propaganda distribution incidents in New York State, 10 of which were anti-Semitic in nature.” Even now Greenblatt is unwilling to combat anti-Jewish beliefs within the black community and, in response to Mayor De Blasio’s proposal to increase police presence in afflicted Jewish neighborhoods, worries about “the adverse consequences that ramped-up policing have often had on communities of color.”

The Forward writer, Batya Ungar-Sargon does condemn the left for its silence: “They twist and torque those rigid ideologies … to justify, excuse, or muzzle criticism of anti-Semitism.” However, like the ADL the only organized ideology that underpins the wave of anti-Semitism emanates from Donald Trump:
While the Brooklyn attackers are, at least according to demographic trends, extremely unlikely to be Trump supporters, our president, who has a penchant for anti-Semitic tropes, is a conspiracy theorist, and anti-Semitism often manifests as a conspiracy theory about secretive Jewish power.

Another Forward writer Eli Steinberg noted that it might be true that the left has ignored the spike in anti-Semitic assaults because they were perpetrated mostly by black Americans. However, he cautioned against embracing this view “because of its racist underpinnings.” Importantly, Steinberg does reject leftist concerns that more policing will be harmful to the black community and black-Jewish relations. He writes,

[Its] the rhetoric from the left that’s dividing these communities into two oppositional camps, not the attempts to solve the months and months of violence. … These bad-faith actors seem focused on making sure people think it is a conflict between two communities. … Speaking ostensibly on behalf of minority communities, these people are saying no to the proposed solution, then shrugging at the problem and suggesting nothing else.

One of the more egregious explanation of the violence comes from New York Daily News reporter, Errol Louis. He focused on the mental illness of the Monsey attacker. Then ignoring the Jersey City murders and evidence that a good number of the Brooklyn assaults were perpetrated by adults, he claimed, “That leaves the anti-Semitic attacks that come from juvenile delinquents.” He concludes by recommending initiatives to aid the mentally ill and disaffected youth not programs to combat anti-Semitism, especially not those that include more policing.

Mayor De Blasio has also proposed new Education Department curricula about anti-Semitism. Given his attitudes and the unwillingness of the left to consider any direct response to anti-Semitic strains within the black community, there is no reason to expect De Blasio will provide effective leadership. Nor should we have much confidence in NYC School Chancellor Carranza. In response to the behavior and performance problems of black students, he has instituted implicit bias training to root out the unconscious bigotry of the teaching staff; and introduced social justice curricula to identify the sources of white supremacy that are responsible for racial inequalities.

Without a pushback against the liberal framing of the situation, it is unlikely there will be educational material that shows the link between the demonizing of Israel by pro-Palestinian activists and anti-Jewish attitudes? Nor will there be a focus on combating the negative stereotypes of Brooklyn’s ultra-orthodox communities, particularly those held by a modest share of the black community. Without this focus, anti-Semitic attitudes will remain a growing illness that infects our society.

About the Author
Robert Cherry is a professor of economics at Brooklyn College. Author of Jewish and Christian Views on Bodily Pleasures: Their Origins and Relevance to Twentieth Century (Wipf & Stock, 2018); Increased Constructive Engagement amoAung Israeli Arabs, (Israel Studies, Jan 2014); Rethinking Poles and Jews (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007).