Last Tuesday, Free Press staffers arrived for work in New York to discover antisemitic graffiti sprayed on hallway walls outside of our office. Fuck Israel and Fuck Jews, read the messages. The graffiti was found on three floors of the building as well as in the freight elevator. At the time of this writing, the police have not identified any suspects, but they are investigating it as a hate crime.
Since Hamas’s October 7 massacre, a wave of antisemitic hate—from physical violence to harassment—has affected Jews across the globe. So the vandalism in the building where some of us work, while vile, was hardly a bolt out of the blue.
It also pales into comparison to what many Jews in this country and across the world have experienced in recent days.
A synagogue in Berlin was firebombed. In Paris, the door of an elderly Jewish couple’s apartment was burned; theirs was the only one in the building to display a mezuzah. According to London police, there were 218 antisemitic hate crimes reported in the capital between October 1 and 18, a 1,350 percent increase over the same period last year. Mobs across the world have gathered to cheer for Hamas’s barbarism. And, as we have reported, Jews have been intimidated and demeaned in American cities and on U.S. university campuses in recent weeks.
If there is anything more ulcer-inducing than the rise in explicit Jew-hatred, it is the denial and downplay of it.
Take, for example, an exchange at the White House press briefing on Monday. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked about President Biden’s “level of concern right now about a potential rise of antisemitism.” Jean-Pierre could not even bring herself to acknowledge the problem. Instead, she pivoted to anti-Muslim hate crimes:
We have not seen any credible threats. I know there’s been all these questions about credible threats. And so, [I] just want to make sure that’s out there. But look, Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks, and certainly President Biden understands that many of our Muslim, Arab American, and Palestinian American loved ones and neighbors are worried about the hate being directed at their communities.
The White House’s spokesperson could not state the basic truth about the antisemitic hate we have seen in recent weeks. On Tuesday, Jean-Pierre claimed she had misheard the question. But her claim about American Muslims being disproportionately targeted isn’t even correct. According to FBI data, Muslims make up about 1 percent of the population and are the target of 9.6 percent of religion-related hate crimes. Jews make up about 2 percent of the population and are the target of 51.4 percent of religion-related hate crimes.
(We’re working to track these incidents. Please send your tips to: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
It is a very disorienting thing to watch as evil is denied in real time. Especially when that evil, in the case of Hamas, was filmed and broadcast by its perpetrators.
Hamas terrorists came armed with guns and GoPros. They were proud of their rampage. Some of them called their fathers to boast: “I killed 10 Jews with my bare hands!” And yet still their apologists try to cast doubt on reports of their crimes.
Selective skepticism, whataboutism, and obfuscation is also why the Israeli government decided to hold a press conference like no other this week. Two hundred journalists filed into an auditorium in Tel Aviv to watch forty-three minutes of footage of some of Hamas’s most appalling crimes. David Patrikarakos was in the room. Today we publish his account of what he saw. One thing the clips make clear, he writes, is that October 7 “had nothing to do with occupation or a one- or two-state solution. It was about something far more ancient and atavistic—the desire to kill Jews wherever they are and whoever they are.”
Also in The Free Press today: John McWhorter. . .
John McWhorter, a columnist at The New York Times and our favorite linguist, takes aim at the “patronizing racism in the idea that slaughtering innocent people equates to noble freedom fighting, as if this were the only way to respond to oppression.” Read his new essay right here:
And now for something completely different. . .
Yes, we may be working overtime to bring you the latest on events in Israel and losing sleep over the possibility of World War III, but we still have the bandwidth to get worked up about life’s minor annoyances. High on our list of such gripes here at The Free Press: the increasing ubiquity of tip requests.
If you’ve found yourself staring at an iPad asking you for money and thought Enough! then our colleague Olivia Reingold stands in solidarity with you.
In other news. . .
We hear there are other things happening in the world. Apparently, Republicans are still trying to pick a new speaker. And a bipartisan group of 42 attorneys general is suing Meta, alleging that Facebook and Instagram have addictive features that are aimed at kids.
On a normal day, that’s what we’d be talking about. But we’ve gotta be honest: all of that pales next to the not-totally-unlikely chance that the war that Hamas began on October 7 could widen into something much, much bigger.
Consider the flashpoints:
U.S. and coalition forces in Syria and Iraq have been attacked at least 13 times in the last week “via a mix of one-way attack drones and rockets,” a Pentagon spokesperson revealed Tuesday. U.S. officials say that 24 American troops have been injured in these attacks.
On Tuesday evening, Israel struck back at several military targets in Syria after rocket fire was directed at Israel from Syria.
Saudi Arabia intercepted one of the cruise missiles that was fired toward Israel last week by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The U.S. is hurriedly deploying nearly a dozen air-defense systems to countries across the Middle East.
Just a few weeks ago, a rapprochement with Iran was the Biden administration’s top priority in the region. Now, war with Iran looks like a possibility. Speaking at the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued a warning in the wake of attacks on U.S. forces: “The United States does not seek conflict with Iran. We do not want this war to widen. But if Iran or its proxies attack U.S. personnel anywhere, make no mistake: we will defend our people, we will defend our security—swiftly and decisively.”
Things are so serious that the first lady can’t even boogie to the B-52s at the White House.
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