President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday condemned recent attacks toward the Jewish community after several Jewish people were targeted in cities across the US and abroad as tensions flare over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“The recent attacks on the Jewish community are despicable, and they must stop. I condemn this hateful behavior at home and abroad — it’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor,” Biden tweeted Monday.
Harris added later: “The surge in anti-Semitic attacks against the Jewish community in the U.S. and around the world is despicable—it must be called out, condemned, and stopped. As a country, we must stand united against hate of any kind.”
The attacks appear to be inspired by the latest round of violence in the Middle East between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas, with the perpetrators in one incident in Los Angeles being identified as pro-Palestinian men. They have added to a climate of fear in the Jewish community that has been exacerbated by conspiracies propagated by politicians in the US, said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League.
“We’ve seen a series of acts of vandalism and harassment, and the abuse online … has been staggering,” Greenblatt said Sunday on CNN’s “Newsroom.” “And so when you see wild conspiracy theories about the Jewish people or the Jewish state, we shouldn’t be surprised where there are real world consequences when Jewish people get harmed and hurt.”
Police departments in two of America’s largest cities are investigating anti-Semitic incidents that took place over the last week and are bracing for more. The New York Police Department is stepping up its presence in New York City’s Jewish communities following two anti-Semitic incidents in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood on Saturday evening, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday afternoon. And in California, the Los Angeles Police Department is investigating an altercation last week near Hollywood in which witnesses said Jewish people dining at a restaurant were targeted by a group of pro-Palestinian men driving past in vehicles. The LAPD is treating the incident as a possible hate crime.
Last week, Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas agreed to a ceasefire after more than a week of conflict. Over 11 days, the Israel Defense Forces carried out a devastating aerial bombardment of Gaza, while Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel.
Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. At least 12 people in Israel, including two children, were killed as a result of Palestinian militant fire, according to the IDF and Israel’s emergency service.
An increasingly toxic climate
While the recent violence in the Middle East appears to be the inciting incident for the attacks in New York and Los Angeles, the US has seen a wider trend of politicians being willing to embrace anti-Semitic tropes and groups with a history of racism.
Then-President Donald Trump refused to condemn white supremacists during the 2020 campaign, telling the far-right Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” He frequently downplayed the threat from white supremacists during his presidency and made stoking racial tensions key to his reelection strategy. And when Trump and other members of Congress falsely claimed the election was stolen, many people at the January 6 Capitol insurrection displayed symbols of racist, white supremacist, and extremist groups.
Last week, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican, sparked bipartisan outrage when she sought to tie a mask mandate on the House floor to the Holocaust. During an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody on his Real America’s Voice TV show “The Water Cooler,” Greene accused House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, of being a hypocrite for asking GOP members to prove they have all been vaccinated before allowing members to be in the House chamber without a mask.
“You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star, and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put in trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany,” Greene said. “And this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”
Greene has since doubled down on that comparison, claiming that “any rational Jewish person” would agree with her. Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, called Greene’s initial comments “evil lunacy” in a tweet, but Republican leadership has been silent on the matter so far.
The Georgia congresswoman’s anti-Semitic comments aren’t the only prejudiced sentiments propagated in the United States Congress. Rep. Scott Perry spread the racist “replacement theory” during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last month. In 2019, Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, was reprimanded after making reference to an anti-Semitic trope while criticizing Republican support of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Jews targeted in New York and Los Angeles
Two teenagers aged 18 and 17 were approached in New York by two men who “demanded that the victims repeat anti-Jewish statements,” according to an NYPD statement. When the victims refused, one of the men put the 17-year-old in a “rear chokehold,” the department said, adding that one attacker also chased the victims while “brandishing a baseball bat” as they ran away. The alleged attackers fled in a blue Toyota Camry, according to police.
Within the same hour that evening, three male occupants of a blue Toyota Camry began “to yell anti-Jewish statements” toward four male victims in front of a nearby synagogue, the NYPD said in another statement.
Last week, a man was arrested after a 29-year-old Jewish man was punched, kicked and pepper-sprayed Thursday during an incident in New York’s Times Square, CNN previously reported. The assault involved about five to six men who allegedly yelled anti-Semitic statements, CNN reported.
The New York Police Department’s Hate Crime Task Force tweeted that it is investigating the incident and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has directed the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to assist in the investigation.
A woman who said she was dining at the restaurant in Los Angeles told CNN that the people in the cars began throwing bottles at the group and yelled anti-Semitic slurs, including the words “dirty Jew.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti condemned the attack and said the city would meet the incident “with a full force of law.”
“Our police department together with our sheriff’s department, our FBI, and other partners is rightly investigating this assault as a hate crime,” he said.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to specify the show on which Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene made her comments about mask mandates.