On Jan. 15, Malik Faisal Akram entered a synagogue during Shabbat Services and took the rabbi and three congregants hostage. Yet, the initial reaction of the FBI was that this “was not specifically related to the Jewish community.” The FBI has revised this position to acknowledge that this was explicitly a “terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted.” But how is it possible that the FBI did not immediately recognize this as an antisemitic attack? Their data shows that 60% of religious hate crimes are directed against Jews, who are only 2% of the U.S. population.
The FBI narrowly focused on the gunman’s demand that a terrorist, Siddiqui, who had been incarcerated for the attempted killing of American soldiers and plotting to blow up the Statue of Liberty be released, rather than on the reason Akram selected a synagogue for his attack. The gunman believed the widespread conspiracy theory that Jews control the world, the media, the government – and everything else.
Fortunately, the hostages escaped but the incident shows how deadly conspiracy theories can be. And, unfortunately, these lies have spread throughout history and on all sides of the political spectrum– from Ancient Greece to Nazi Germany to Soviet Communism.
Over the past several years we have seen antisemitism grow significantly in this country, coming from the left, right, extremists, theology, and it has mainstreamed in pop culture and throughout social media.
It can be seen from some on the right in the chants of “Jews will not replace us” and supporters proudly displaying Auschwitz T-shirts as they stormed the capitol building. We see it in caricatures of George Soros with a large nose on campaign materials. It is used to compare Dr. Fauci to Nazi doctors who performed experiments in concentration camps.
On the left, some have taken over progressive spaces and social media to repeat the lies of, “It is all about the Benjamins” or the calumny that Jews in America have dual loyalties – or even comparing Israel to Nazi Germany or politicians in this country to Hitler.
Some repeat antisemitic theology from the 60s’ Louis Farrakhan, who blames all the ills of the world on the Jews or calls them “termites.”
Or, the Islamist extremists who misrepresent Zionism, which is merely the support for the continued existence of the Jewish state of Israel, as a form of racism.
This flood of hate, coming from every direction has had a dramatic impact on the rise of antisemitism nationwide and globally.
Every law enforcement officer, every educator, every elected leader and everyone in the media needs to read the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, which has been adopted by the European Parliament, the U.S State Department, over 500 other entities, including three dozen countries and Florida. Left, right and anywhere in between, the echoes and origin of antisemitism need to be explained, named (not just when it comes from your opposition) and contained to not stain another generation.
Despite all of this, there is still hope because for now the majority of communities reject the hate. The effort for change is not generational and together we must ensure that “Never Again” is an action not simply hope.
Tara Laxer, of Boca Raton, founded the new interactive educational non-profit, a boot camp to teach a generation of about antisemitism.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Texas temple terror shows need for vigilance against antisemitism