It took me several hours, a couple of weeks ago, to figure out that this was not some sort of internet hoax. I was going to ignore it until there was a spate of violent anti-semitic attacks, in New York, over the Hanukkah holiday period, which appear to have been perpetrated by black people.
The story, which I stumbled upon on social media, is that two young black men who may have been ‘Black Hebrew Israelites‘ extremists attacked a Jewish grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey, and killed several people. It appears they may have actually wanted to target a Jewish school (Yeshiva) next door in order to kill dozens of children and teens. There was an outpouring of support for the Jewish community … America at its best, we might say.
One source says that the suspected perpetrators, “the Black Hebrew Israelites are a tiny sect that blames Jews for degrading American culture and accuses them of being self-interested moneymakers. Like those of the Nation of Islam … [another, albeit better known, black and anti-semitic group] … these doctrines of hate are not dissimilar to right-wing anti-Semitic tropes of Jews being foreigners who destroy their host countries for their own enrichment.“
Then there was this:
That hate-filled diatribe which even goes so far as to repeat the ancient Jewish blood libel, was published on Facebook, in a response to someone else’s comment. I must point out that I searched the FB page of the originator and looked for the FB page of Lincoln High School Principal Chris Gadsden who, I think made the comment to which Joan Terrell responded, and could not find it. But there are enough reports about it in what appear to be reasonably reliable media outlets, that I am convinced it is true.
Joan Terrell (also Joan Terrell-Paige) is an elected member of the Jersey City Board of Education. She said, specifically, in her social media post that she was speaking (writing) as a private citizen but I’m not sure that matters. What she said appears to me to cross too many lines. She is condoning murder, maybe even inciting violence and what she says is the worst sort of anti-semitism. There is a long, sad history of tension in Black-Jewish community relations that goes all the way back to the 1940s and ’50s when Jews spearheaded the American civil rights movement. Black Americans have also turned against other ethnic groups, notably the Korean shop-keepers in Los Angeles, who are perceived to prosper in neighbourhoods in which blacks suffer.
There is a reluctance, in the media and in society at large, to name black people as the foul anti-semites that some, only a few, to be sure, but too many of them are.
No one denies that American blacks have suffered greatly over many
generations centuries and no one denies that black people in the USA still suffer from discrimination. Equally, no one should suggest that Jews are never guilty of economic opportunism ~ gentrifying poor neighbourhoods, for example, or of using shady business practices. It would be a fair comment to say that some poor, and poorly educated blacks in Jersey City were swindled to make way for new, middle class, white (and Jewish) homeowners. That may be a fact. But to use that assertion as an excuse for murder is beyond the pale.
This is another sort of populism, an especially vile sort of racial and religious populism that threatens violence against the “other.” America has drifted far, far away from being the “city upon a hill,” as Puritan preacher John Winthrop envisioned it in 1630. It has receded into a dark and dangerous place where ignorance and prejudice are becoming too powerful and where too many are afraid to confront it lest they are branded as racists.
America needs new, better leadership at every level from the White House all the way down to local school boards.
When this happens in America we know that Canada will not be too far behind. Groups like Black Lives Matter will propagate their grievances across borders and into every community. Canadian civic leaders and local police had best be ready to protect Jewish Canadians from random, inchoate violence.