Week after week come new headlines of attacks upon Jews walking the streets of ordinary, traditionally Jewish New York neighborhoods.
Since the beginning of December, there have been eight attacks on Jews, starting with the shooting assault on a Jersey City Jewish supermarket that left three innocent people dead.
Quite simply, even a mere year or two ago, this was not a problem one would have expected to see in the post-World War II United States. Moreover, a high proportion of this antisemitic violence is being perpetrated by African-Americans.
After the Jersey City attacks, some local blacks despicably blamed Jews for living in the neighborhood and thus supposedly causing the attack.
Astonishingly, a local black official, Jersey City School Board member Joan Terrell-Paige, asked “Where was all this faith and hope when Black homeowners were threatened, intimidated, and harassed by I WANT TO BUY YOUR HOUSE brutes of the jewish [sic] community?,” whom she accused of having “waved bags of money” in front of black homeowners.
In one of the five assaults in New York City during Hanukkah, a Jewish man walking in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, was confronted by a gang of black youths screaming antisemitic obscenities at him, one of whom threw his drink at him.
In another assault, also in Crown Heights, a Jewish man was accosted by a group of eight black teenagers and knocked to the ground.
More serious still, a machete-wielding African-American man, Grafton Thomas, attempted to murder several Jews after entering a rabbi’s home in the Jewish neighborhood of Monsey. Thomas stabbed five people, one of whom was seriously injured.
So much for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s claim that the antisemitism we are witnessing is mainly “right-wing.” So much for Representative Rashida Tlaib’s claim that the Jersey City attack was a case of “white supremacy.
”Where are the African-American community leaders, local and national, decrying this anti-Jewish violence perpetrated by members of their community? Where are the New York City Democratic representatives? Senator Charles Schumer has condemned the attacks as “pure evil” and called for a federal investigation into the attack, but why have we heard nothing, for example, from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?
Only last October, Ocasio-Cortez could be found absurdly accusing US President Donald Trump of antisemitism. Now, when confronted by actual antisemitic assaults in the streets of her own city, not a word is to be heard from her.
De Blasio’s observed “it’s not enough to condemn antisemitism — we have to confront it … The NYPD … will bring the perpetrators to justice.”
However, as the ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspaper, Vos Iz Neias, noted, “Mayor De Blasio’s policy has proved to be consistent: send out a Tweet (only sometimes). Arrest the perpetrators. Release them a few hours later back onto the streets … The mayor cannot claim to be serious about eliminating antisemitic attacks in the city, while at the same time refusing to keep the perpetrators of these very crimes off the streets.”
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been forthright and active, describing the Monsey attack as a case of “domestic terrorism” and issuing instructions to state police to increase patrols in Jewish neighborhoods across the state, but the silence from many other Democrats and African-African-American leaders remains alarming and symptomatic of the issue.
It would appear that attacks on Jews are viewed as serious and deserving of scrutiny and action only when committed by credentialed haters like white supremacists.
This is an unsustainable and unserious approach to a profoundly serious problem. The African-American community must confront the problem of antisemitic sentiment and violence within and this can only start with the African-American leadership taking the lead, forthrightly condemning the assaults, and visibly engaging in acts of solidarity with Jews.
Progress also cannot occur when leaders like de Blasio and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders embrace antisemites like Linda Sarsour.
In short, positive words without positive action, or worse, coupled with negative action, has not and will not suffice.
This is a moment of truth for Democrats and for African-Americans, to be counted in substantive opposition to the haters within their ranks with a view to marginalizing them, or to quietly acquiesce in this alarming state of affairs, to the detriment of American Jews and society in general in the years to come. Their decision will shape the country the United States will become.
Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the Zionist Organization of America’ s Center for Middle East Policy and author of H.V. Evatt & the Establisment of Israel (Routledge, London, 2004).
Click here to view the original Op-Ed in The Jerusalem Post