At Tablet, Armin Rosen has written an excellent and necessary article about the recent spike in violent anti-Semitism in Brooklyn. Having interviewed victims, community figures, police officers, and city officials, Rosen presents the most thorough portrait of the problem thus far (including a map of recent attacks).
“Anti-Semitic hate crimes against persons, which describes nearly everything involving physical contact, jumped from 17 in 2017 to 33 in 2018,” Rosen writes, “with the number for the first half of 2019 standing at 19, according to the NYPD’s hate crime unit.” He goes on: “Jews are the most frequent targets of hate crimes in New York City, and have been for some time.” Given that most of the victims Rosen interviews know other Jews who haven’t reported similar attacks, the number is probably larger.
Rosen notes how the string of attacks don’t fit into popular hate-crime paradigms: “The fact that the victims are most often outwardly identifiable, i.e., religious rather than secularized Jews, and the perpetrators who have been recorded on CCTV cameras are overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, inverts the perpetrator-victim dynamics with which most national Jewish organizations and their supporters are comfortable. A close look at these cases reveals no apparent connection to neo-Nazis, the alt-right, Donald Trump, jihadism, the BDS movement, or any other traditional cause of anti-Jewish behavior.” He adds: “Not a single incident during the spike has been traced to a white supremacist group or any other organized entity.”
At a time of constant reminders about hate crime and prejudice, the large, well-documented record of violent attacks against Jews has barely made a blip on media and political radar. The city’s efforts at dealing with the attacks have been lackluster, mostly involving the ever-stalled creation of an ill-defined “office of hate crime prevention.”
There are two big questions here: First, what accounts for the increase in attacks on Jews? Second, why does no one seem to care all that much?
Regarding, the first question, Rosen writes, “Everyone has a different explanation for the increase.” He quotes Rabbi David Neiderman, the executive director of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, who says simply, “Society is in terrible shape . . . so you attack people different from you.” The other explanations on offer are no more satisfying. Some blame mental illness and lax policing while others chalk it up to the tensions inherent in gentrifying communities. Some even wonder if the apparent uptick is just a statistical illusion. None of these theories account for the fact that Jews are being singled out and targeted for assault when, as Rosen writes, “crime is at record lows across the entire city.”
I have another theory. And I think it suffices as an answer to both questions. As I’ve written before, Jews are historically targeted as representatives of whatever group a society most loathes at a given moment:
The Jew is hated as whatever the anti-Semite holds responsible for his own misfortune. If you’re a capitalist, the Jew is a Communist; if you’re a Communist, the Jew is a capitalist. If you’re a pacifist, the Jew is a warmonger. If you’re a warrior, the Jew is a coward. Depending on your circumstance, the Jew can be grimy or snobbish, rootless or nationalist, invader or separatist. And if 100 years ago, American bigots saw Jews as Asiatic cross-breeds, today bigots see them as “hyper-white.” If you want to know what a culture considers most problematic, look at its brand of anti-Semitism. When you have headlines about “white privilege” and “evil white men,” Jews become the epitome of whiteness.
We see this in the recent notion that Jews are perceived as “hyper-white,” according to Mark Winston Griffith from the Black Movement Center. It’s also evident in intersectionality theory—a leftist ranking system of identity grievance that deems Jews essentially too powerful to be a minority worthy of social-justice empathy.
The idea that Jews are a rich, powerful, turbo-white elite is also reflected in the messaging of the country’s most celebrated progressive politicians. Taken as a whole, the Democratic Squad theory of American villainy says that the United States is racist, greedy, war-mongering, and cruel—and its politics is underwritten by manipulative Zionists.
Those who promote collective grievance often make their way round to blaming the Jews. In an age of sanctified victimhood, it’s not so surprising to see a rise in anti-Semitic violence and a lack of interest in doing anything about it.