Standing against anti-Muslim violence and hatred

We are not doing enough in our own communities to counter xenophobia and anti-Muslim hatred that is perpetuated, particularly through our media, when I see reports like this, and I hope more Jewish groups join in denouncing these acts of violence:

Five Jewish teenagers, Yitzi Horowitz, 15, David Brach, 15, Yossi Friedman, 17, Shulomi Bitton, 16, and Benjamin Wasserman, 16, all from Brooklyn, are expected to appear in court Friday in connection with the beating of a Muslim man in Brooklyn.
The suspects were arrested Sunday after police say they shouted racial slurs before punching Shahid Amber, a man of Pakistani-descent, with brass knuckles and breaking his nose outside an area Dunkin’ Donuts.
According to a court document obtained by NY1, the teens also shouted “…terrorist mother-[expletive,] you [expletive] our country. Why are you here? Go back to your country and never [expletive] with the Jews.”
The District Attorney classified the assault as a hate crime, and three of the five suspects are being tried as adults.
“The man was attacked by these people who identified him as a Muslim and claimed that was the reason they attacked him and that’s of tremendous concern to us because he wasn’t attacked just as an individual, but as a member of the Muslim community,” said Joel Levy of the Anti-Defamation League.

In reading the ADL’s, release on their condemnation of the attacks, I was particularly struck by this part: “Hate crime statutes have been adopted by 45 states, including New York State. Many of those laws are based on a model statute crafted by ADL, which has long been in the forefront of national and state efforts to deter and counteract hate-motivated criminal activity.”
What struck me in particular about ADL’s statement, and what adds another level of sadness, questioning, probing and wanting more from our communities, was this last paragraph about hate-crime legislation being modeled from the ADL.
Hate-crime legislation has raised red flags for many of us within the advocacy world, (and I’ve had this conversation a fair amount in LGBT advocacy groups)—that hate-crime legislation relies upon a criminal justice system that is far from just, in which people of color and low-income people are profiled, arrested and convicted at massively higher rates–and no, it is not because they commit more crimes, (which has been documented particularly in drug law policy).
Many of us want to demonstrate or find means to highlight when an act of violence is predicated upon hate that is reflective of deeper oppression and hatred of entire communities, but don’t want this by feeding into the idea that longer prison sentences or increase in rates of incarceration will lead to a more just or humane world.
There is little that is restorative or redemptive about our prison system. These are questions that are still being weighted through, and questions some advocacy groups are still wrestling with in figuring out how to address crimes and the severity and seriousness of acts of hate, and at the same time, attempting to offer a different model of addressing this hate so as to not have it continue to cycle and build and replicate. This does not mean ignoring or excusing or saying that this violence is OK, but it is saying and acknowledging that to begin to address systemic violence it means acknowledging that there are generations and histories of pain and violence involved, and how do we begin to heal that, rather than thinking that if we add more years onto a prison sentence that this will “prove the point” and lead to a more just world.
So, I would love to hear if others have had conversations about different models of addressing hate-crimes in the work that they do, or any resources that people might find useful to share.
crossposted to JVoices

19 thoughts on “Standing against anti-Muslim violence and hatred

  1. Here’s from the article itself: “They punched and broke his nose. They ripped his jacket. He was covered in blood. They said, ‘Jews rule this country!’ ” Islam said.” Hmm… Did they really say that or is someone trying to perpetuate an anti-jewish stereotype? Something is fishy about this… Of course, no matter what really happened, our progressive friends will use the story to prove to us that we are just as bad as they are. Kind of reminds me of the “extremists on both sides” mantra.

  2. find out the real truth….
    The real truth and i know it because i know personally some of these boys and acually the boys that were arrested were the boys who were the first to call the police wich it took them 25 minutes to come. and the reason that they called the police was because that pakistanian guy had punched one of thier 15 year old friend . also these were not Yeshivaish boys with hats and jackets like they claim in the newspapers and defenetly thier were no racial slers this was not a hate crime , but an unfortunate insidient a fight between an angry guy who happens to be a muslem and some teens who happen to be jewish.
    I feel the muslem community is taking advantage of this situation . making a big deal out of it . throwing lies just to justify thier own actions and to show that they suffer because of jews. Meanwhile we will and these kids who were foolish enough to hang out in the wrong place and the wrong time . will suffer for it.
    I think that we as jews all the community should help these kids because they are inosent of any hate crime.

  3. I think hatred is wrong. I think we need to combat hatred. We need to do it at home and when we’re away, when we lie down at night and when we rise up in the morning.
    I’m just not sure I believe in hate crime legislation.
    People get punished for committing crimes. Does it really make sense to start punishing them for what’s in their mind when they commit it?
    These kids should be punished for assault or battery or whatever the legal term is for what they did. They should be punished severely. But no matter how much I despise what they think, I don’t think people should be punished for what they think.

  4. my main form of activism used to be criminal justice work, so i am really glad you’re talking about it.
    but right now it’s jewish liberation & mutual defense between jews, arabs, muslims & other people under attack that i’m focused on, and this case of the jewish kids beating up a muslim confirms *exactly* what my theory is on jewish young people:
    we need to start organizing jewish young people around successfully fighting antisemitism. young jews who understand, on some internal level, that antisemitism is real and something they’re afraid of, have NO CONSTRUCTIVE RESOURCES being offered them!! that’s why our young people are being funneled into the kinds of expressions that the Right is eager to see: fearing and hating arab people, spending their time on campuses defaming and hassling the local college-age palestinian activists, defensively pouring all their energy into making sure no one voices even a tiny criticism of israel. and THIS sh*t.
    if young jews were being given real understanding of how to resist and end antisemitism, they would know that successful opposition to antisemitism, to the fearful conditions in the world that make us only feel safe based on whether we have Israel to run to, will come and can only come through mutual organizing with other oppressed groups, getting our supposed enemies to become our allies and us doing the same for them.
    this understanding of radical self-defense is not rocket science. the main reason this hasn’t happened a long time ago is that jews on the left have not resolved our internalized issues that keep us from fighting for ourselves, and not built theory to understand what jewish oppression *is* in a current-day context.

  5. Helping to ‘model’ hate crimes legislation is no feather in anyone’s cap. Do tell, which crimes are crimes of ‘love?’ All crimes are hateful, so what is the point, unless to simply imprison more people, for longer and longer periods, during the same time frame that more and more prisons are being privatized?
    ‘Hate crimes’ legislation, and the ‘3 strikes’ (no matter what the crime) legislation, should be overturned (and no child should ever be tried as an adult). Prisons should serve only two purposes, of equal importance: They should protect society from the criminals, and they should rehabilitate the criminals so they may return to society, and become productive members of it.
    A while back, a social worker acquaintance was telling me about some chilling findings. In two areas of Philly, two privatized jail ‘centers’ were being built. Shortly before being finished, both neighborhoods

  6. I heard about this story over Shabbat. I heard the Paki started up with one of the kids and the Paki also threw the first 2 punches.

  7. I think all hate crimes (including the spraying of bleach) is awful.
    When viewing this news it is important to put into perspective the tiny statistical percentage of Jews participating in these crimes.
    When our dear Muslim cousins catch wind of an allah cartoon they kill 4,000 people, beat their wives and burn down UN buildings across the world. Everybody says “they are so opressed” blah fucking blah blah blah.
    A twisted Muslim dude goes into the El Al terminal and kills some Jewish people, no one gives a damn. Barely gets a cycle of new coverage.
    Muslim shoots Jews at Federation in Seattle (I think it was there . . . ) Did you even hear about it.
    Muslim runs over some people in Frisco. News reports didn’t even say that he was Muslim.
    My point is MOVE ON. It is wrong and ugly BUT pales into oblivion in contrast with the crimes commited by Muslims against Jews everywhere and every day.

  8. I do think that “Hate Crime” is an important categorization. I do not, however, think that longer incarceration periods are an appropriate response.
    If someone is convicted of a hate crime, they should, in addition to serving the basic sentence for the crime, have to perform public service that requires them to work cooperatively and maybe even form a bond with people who are of their target group. An anti-semtic Muslim and an Islamophobic Jew working together to serve meals in a homeless shelter for example.

  9. April, I used to do re-evaluation counseling too. (I recognize your jargon.) It’a a useful analysis as far as it goes, but not a panacea. What if one oppressed group wants to kill your oppressed group, and there are 100x more of them so they don’t have to make any alliances and don’t want to?
    “An anti-semtic Muslim and an Islamophobic Jew working together to serve meals in a homeless shelter for example.”
    A great idea for a sit-com!

  10. i could respond to all, but i’m going to say one thing here, which is to miriam’s point, which is that i don’t agree that all crimes are hate…again in acknowledging how much social justice work is built upon challenging our laws because they aren’t just, it’s in recognizing that often what is deemed a crime in the eyes of the law in actuality is a law or policy that is racist or classist…how many stories have i heard of people who steal to feed their families because they need to eat…that is not a crime of hate, that is a crime of love and one that gets typecast as about individuals or individual morality when really it’s about our failures in systemic morality and systemic policies to address huge economic disparities and hunger….
    and merliner, i’m sorry but actually, to use just one of your examples, the shootings in seattle were covered on all major prime time channels and all over the news (including here on jewschool)–i even got it on my cellphone video news–but overall i am wondering what you’re gaining by setting up these equations or comparisons in trying to evade yourself and really all of us from our involvement in this, for we are all apart of a culture right now, particularly those of us living in the U.S., and particularly post-9/11 that is vehemently anti-muslim which is more often than not conflated or equated to anti-arab.
    so no, moving on is not the answer, nor will it solve or really acknowledge, let alone address this problem, a problem that previous posts on jewschool have also played into, so i think it’s more than appropriate and time to do more of our work on this here.

  11. “when I see reports like this”
    How many reports have you seen like this?
    How many times in the last 100 years in the US have Jews been guilty of violent hate crimes against Arabs?
    Just wonderin?

  12. I will tell you one thing definitively, having sat next to one of the bochurim in question at a Shabbos table, you will NOT get the whole story on this from k’mat any media — an unofficial “gag” has been placed on the entire incident.
    The people being accused are not the people who started the fight, nor were any brass knuckles involved. (Only one person in the five guys’ combined circles of friends owns a pair, and it was confiscated months ago.)
    My personal question is, why don’t the accused bochurim tell the cops what happened? No one wants to be a moser (one who gives over Jews into the hands of non-Jewish authorities), and to do such is usually quite forbidden. However, this is not talking about a parking ticket.
    Once I was going down Avenue J, the merkaz of Flatbush frum shopping, and I saw a tall Sephardi guy suffering horribly from road rage. A Russian car service driver had blocked traffic on Avenue J and East 12th (or 13th) and the Sephardi guy was quite incensed and honking. The Russian driver motioned as if to say “chill out” but his hand motion was misinterpreted as “come to the car”. The Sephardi guy gets out of his car and goes over to the window. “You want to talk to me? You want to talk to me?” he screams at the drivers’ side. The driver, clearly nervous, tentatively opens the door to talk to the angry Sephardi man.
    The Sephardi guy drags him out of his car and beats him down to the ground, knocking him out. Following this, he parks his car across the street and watches the guy, waiting for him to get up so he can finish him off.
    I told a cop about this violence and felt horribly guilty for doing so afterwards, so I spoke to a rabbi. “I don’t want to be a moser,” I said to him. He said to me a quote, and why it is not being applied here, I don’t understand:
    “You did the right thing”, the rabbi told me, by helping stop the violence.

  13. I’m just not sure I believe in hate crime legislation.
    People get punished for committing crimes. Does it really make sense to start punishing them for what’s in their mind when they commit it?

    The vast majority of crimes in the US require some degree of mens rea (“criminal mind”) to be considered crimes.
    For example, criminally negligent homicide is usually called manslaughter and is far less heavily punished than intentional killing (aka murder). Premeditated intentional homicide (usually called “first degree murder”) is even more heavily punished.
    Check out the Wikipedia entry for mens rea for a much more detailed explanation.
    If society decides that attacks with a racial/ethnic/religious/sexual motivation are more odious than similar attacks without such a motivation (just as we think that it’s worse to plan out and execute a killing than to kill someone in the heat of the moment), it makes perfect sense to punish them more heavily.
    I agree that simply sending people to prison for a long time isn’t necessarily the best way to go about punishment/rehabilitation. But that’s a criticism of our prison system–not of hate crime statutes.
    I’d be curious to know how the concept of a hate crime would fit in halacha. My knowledge of halacha is somewhat limited. I know, for example, that killing in self-defense can be halachicly acceptable (just like under American law). And even intentional killing is okay in certain contexts–such as killing Amalekites. So clearly contextual considerations go into halachic analysis of criminal acts. But does halacha have a developed doctrine akin to mens rea?

  14. Let’s ask the bigger question — does motive, period, come into questions in halacha vis-a-vis an extra stringency (as opposed to examining one’s motive to gain an exemption from the death penalty, as in the case of the go’el ha’dam, the guy who kills after his relative was killed by a manslaughterer).

  15. Yehudit, I love re-evaluation counseling as much as the next guy – I mean that. But my “jargon” about mutual defense doesn’t come from that, it comes from my activist experience. I built an Arab-Jewish-Muslim Mutual Defense group at Temple University with other students I met through organizing we did there, and it was one of the best & most politically-convincing experiences of my life.
    You’re not just imagining all the thousands of people you describe being against us. The question is, how do we get out of this? This is how. It’s not a panacea, because it’s not easy. It’s hard, AND it’s the only thing that can work, so we better get our asses moving and start doing it.
    I saw Muslim, Palestinian & other Arab students at Temple totally get it, even though they didn’t *have* to want to ally with me or other Jews. They got it because they recognize the danger they’re in, I recognize the danger I’m in, and it just makes SENSE to defend each other and turn the whole thing we’ve been set up for on it’s head.
    And it’s my research ab. antisemitism ( that convinces me that this is the only way for Jews to break out of the historical position we’re in.

  16. This whole story is bs
    the paki pushed/hit the jewish kid..the kid responded a fight occured and thats it.
    the jewish kids called the cops, from what i heard it was friedman who called the cops…why would he call the cops if he was guilty?
    a jew defends himself from an arab and it becomes a hate crime. what kind of ludicrous is this? the kid who calls the cops gets arrested?

  17. Look, the kid sustained massive injuries because they used brass knuckles. Five people laying into someone is disproportionate even if he threw the first punch. This is at BEST what happened, and chances are, it was worse.
    Both the Muslim and the Jewish communities have internal issues with hate. The only way to do that is to breach denial with truth, and censorship with knowledge.
    I agree that hate crime legislation is a bit of an over-reach of judicial power, though I think the designation should continue to be made in the media since everyone knows what it means.

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