The worst brings out the best. Joe Seals, a police officer and father of five, was killed defending the law and his fellow Americans in the anti-Semitic assault on the kosher market in Jersey City. And the best brings out the worst. In footage from the aftermath of the killings, African American residents are pleased by a mass murder on their doorstep.
‘If they got shot dead, that’s great,’ says one.
‘Get the damn Jews the fuck out of here,’ says another.
‘My children are stuck at school because of Jew shenanigans,’ a woman says. ‘I blame the Jews.’
America was meant to be different for the Jews. In a sense, it is. In Europe, the majority of assaults upon Jewish people or schools or synagogues seem to be committed by Muslim immigrants. In the United States, and in the New York area in particular, the majority of the assaults against Jews seem to be committed by African Americans against their ultra-Orthodox neighbors. The number and range of these assaults has risen sharply over the last year: beatings by gangs, a man with a gun smashing synagogue windows, rocks thrown at a school bus. In 2019, two in every three religious or racially motivated assaults in the New York City area were on Jews.
These figures correlate to three awkward facts. Ultra-Orthodox Jews are nothing if not distinctive. They are frequently poor, so they cannot deal with racial tension in the American way and retreat to the suburbs. And polls show that African Americans are, by a long and alarming way, more likely to have anti-Semitic attitudes, or at least to admit to them, than any other native-born group.
None of these facts should be taken as mitigations of the crimes. No material circumstances justified the lynching of African Americans. No material circumstances justify the white racists who have murdered Jews at prayer in Pittsburgh and Poway. No material circumstances justify any other form of bigoted violence. Unless, that is, the targets are Jewish, and especially when they are the ultra-Orthodox. Then the rationalizations come thick and fast.
Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn District Attorney, recently said that the recent attacks were mostly the work of ‘teenagers’ who don’t understand the significance of what they’re doing. ‘It’s a lot harder to select someone, to hate them, if you know them,’ said Gonzalez, demonstrating a broad and deep ignorance of history.
Pastor Gil Monrose, who leads a church in Crown Heights, blames ‘gentrification’ and rises property prices as Jewish families move in, and blurs the statistics by referring to Crown Heights’ already high crime statistics. The assaults are ‘going up because everyone is living on top of each other,’ Monrose says — as if ultra-Orthodox Jews are routinely assaulting their neighbors, wrecking churches and throwing rocks at school buses. Monrose, incredibly, is the borough president’s director of faith-based and clergy initiatives. With friends like these…
The worst brings out the worst. The police have been slow to respond, presumably because they are fearful of antagonizing ‘community relations’. Bill de Blasio has been slow to respond too, probably because he is, in his constituents’ opinion, the worst mayor New York City has ever had.
All this reflects a profound moral rot, an absence of ethical leadership and common decency, compounded by the guilt-ridden inability of the liberal media and the Democratic party to talk honestly about race as a factor in anything other than the contracting of bloc votes. It is an undeniable commonplace that anti-Semitism is a symptom of social crisis and moral decadence. The sooner Americans start talking about what is going on here — from the left as from the right, from whites as from blacks, from high-school dropouts to college professors — the better it will be for all Americans, and not just Jewish ones.
Donald Trump is the neither worst nor the best, but his response to this appalling situation has been decent and moral — and a world away from Barack Obama, who euphemized a similar massacre in 2015 as they ‘randomly shot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris’. Trump has named the evil and condemned it. The Executive Order he signed on Wednesday morning extends civil rights’ protection to Jews. That it should come to this.
The worst who bring out the worst, and they see the reflection of their malice even where it does not exist. The New York Times and the Washington Post falsely claimed that Trump’s Executive Order was an attempt to de-Americanize the Jews as a separate ‘nationality’.
But the worst can and must also bring out the best. The Satmar Jews in Jersey City are rebuilding their store. It is up to all Americans what kind of society they are now building. A society built on evasions, embarrassment and false reporting will fall.