While I don’t want to end the year on a down note I would like to draw your attention to a disturbing trend.
It seems that incidences of anti-Semitism are on the rise in this country. According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, Jews were targeted for hate crimes more frequently than any other group. In 2009, of 37% of all hate crimes committed in the Empire State were directed against Jews. With regard to hate crimes motivated by religious affiliation, Jews were targeted 85%. Most of the hate crimes directed against Jews were crimes against property (presumably synagogues and Jewish community centers) although more than half the incidents involved threats and assault against Jews. To put this figure into perspective, Muslims in New York State were targeted 1.6% of the time. While the report notes that such figures are underreported within the Muslim community one still cannot ignored the vast statistical differential.
It is also hardly an isolated trend. While hate crimes in Los Angeles County decreased overall in 2009, anti-Semitic vandalism rose nearly 50% from 2008. So while Jews were targeted 88% of the time, Muslims were targeted 3% of the time. Yet Los Angeles City Council saw fit to pass a resolution condemning Islamophobia while making no mention of the far more significant increase in incidents of anti-Semitism.
The FBI hate crime statistics tell a similar story. Jews were the targets of 71.9% of all religious hate crimes reported in the U.S. last year. Conversely, Muslims were the target of 8.4% of religious hate crimes. Interestingly, when Israel is criticized for its actions the word “disproportionate” or “disproportionately” are often used. Well, given that Jews comprise just over 2% of the U.S. population one must then conclude that Jews are “disrproportionately” targeted where it concerns crimes committed against people and their property because of religious affiliation.
Now unlike Whoopi Goldberg (who while appearing on The O’Reilly Factor in November dismissed the fact that Jews are more frequent targets of hate in this country than Muslims) I am not trying to trivialize hate crimes that have occurred against Muslims in this country. Far from it. Anyone stupid enough to commit vandalism against a mosque or an Islamic community center or wantonly accosts, threatens or assaults someone simply because they are Muslim deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Yet we do ourselves a disservice to pretend this country is awash in Islamophobia. Nor for that matter is this country rife with anti-Semitism. Outside of Israel, the United States is probably the least anti-Semitic nation on earth and I think most Americans would like it to stay that way.
That said I am fully supportive of being vigilant against attacks towards American Muslims and their property. But it is clear to me that at least for the time being we need to direct greater attention and resources towards combating anti-Semitism in the U.S.