ADL’s Meredith Weisel on rising antisemitism

Meredith Weisel
Meredith Weisel
(Photo courtesy of Meredith Weisel)

As one day of fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza led into another, antisemitic incidents surged, both in the United States and Europe. The two are closely linked, according to Meredith Weisel, the ADL’s senior associate regional director, covering Washington and Baltimore.

Between May 7 and 14 alone, the ADL counted more than 17,000 tweets using variations of the phrase “Hitler was right.”

“It’s been a hard two weeks,” Weisel said, speaking of the period of fighting before a ceasefire on May 21.

A protester at a May 16 rally in Miami held a sign reading, “Jesus was Palestinian and you killed him too!” Another protester at a May 18 rally in Connecticut held a sign reading, “One Holocaust does not justify another.”

Weisel, 45, said people are scapegoating Diaspora Jews for the actions of the Israeli government. She’s seen online posts made by people “who have certainly reached for antisemitic stereotypes in a misplaced response to their anger over Palestinian suffering.” In some cases, the anger has jumped from rhetoric to violence.

In Los Angeles last week, pro-Palestinian attackers punched and threw bottles at diners at a sushi restaurant. Also in Los Angeles, pro-Palestinian men in two cars chased an Orthodox Jewish man who ran away on foot.

In New York’s heavily Jewish Diamond District, protesters of Israel threw fireworks from a car during a street altercation. On May 20, a Jewish man in New York City was assaulted by a crowd. The attackers kicked and pepper-sprayed him while shouting antisemitic slurs, according to CNN.

Weisel said while there were no reports of such attacks in the Greater Washington and areas, the ADL has documented antisemitic rhetoric at several rallies in Washington.

One pro-Palestinian speaker compared Israel to ISIS, and said Zionists are not Jewish, but “f–cking terrorists.”

Another man was photographed holding a sign showing both the Israeli and Nazi flags with an equal sign between them. “Israel is a terrorist state!! Free Palestine,“ the sign read.

Weisel defines antisemitism as any form of prejudice or discrimination directed against Jews, whether individually or as a group. Blaming all Jews for the action of the Israeli government, denying Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, using anti-Jewish stereotypes or conspiracy theories are all examples of antisemitism, she said.

“Israel, like any country, has good and bad policies. Its good and its bad actors,” Weisel said. “So blaming the entire Israeli population or the Jewish community globally, then you’re getting into some gray areas where your legitimate criticism becomes antisemitism,” said Weisel, a resident of North Potomac and member of Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg.

So what can people do to put a stop to antisemitism? Weisel said they should contact their elected officials to support legislation that strengthens hate crime laws.

“I would encourage people in the community to find ways to speak out against discrimination, whether it’s antisemitism or another form of hate and bigotry. It’s so important for the community to come together to respond to discriminatory incidents in the community.”

Weisel also encourages people to call out hate of all kinds and report incidents to the ADL. She said more in-person antisemitic incidents are expected as businesses re-open due to relaxed COVID restrictions.

“Right now the recent antisemitism is related to the Israel-Hamas conflict, but next month it could be something else,” Weisel said. “And so people really just need to keep their eyes and their ears open and whenever they see something they need to call it out, and they need to report it.”

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Jewish Telegraphic Agency contributed to this article.

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