ADL’s Meredith Weisel addresses antisemitism in the wake of Israel-Hamas conflict

Meredith Weisel
Meredith Weisel is ADL’s senior associate regional director. (Courtesy of Meredith Weisel)

The Anti-Defamation League has documented a surge in antisemitic incidents this month, triggered by recent fighting between Israel and Hamas. Protesters have waved signs claiming Jews are responsible for killing Jesus or have made Holocaust analogies demonizing Zionists.

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

The ADL reported more than 17,000 tweets using variations of the phrase, “Hitler was right” from May 7 to 14. While the rocket attacks and airstrikes have ceased, antisemitic incidents continue to occur.

“It’s been a hard two weeks,” said Meredith Weisel. The 45-year-old is ADL’s senior associate regional director covering Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

Weisel said people are using Jews living outside of Israel as scapegoats 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, it’s jumped from rhetoric to violence in real life.

Last week, JTA reported Jews getting attacked across the country. In Los Angeles, 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 there were no reports of similar attacks occurring in the Greater Washington and Baltimore areas as of when she spoke to the JT on May 21. However, the ADL has documented antisemitic rhetoric at several rallies in D.C.

A pro-Palestinian activist speaking at a rally in D.C. on May 18 compared Israel to ISIS and said Zionist are not Jewish, but “f–cking terrorists.”

On May 11, a man in D.C. was photographed by the online media outlet News2Share holding a sign comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. The sign featured both country’s flags with an equal sign in-between and read “What’s the difference? Israel is a terrorist state!! Free Palestine.“ The ADL online wrote the comparison was “an offensive trope that diminishes the significance of the Holocaust.”

Weisel defines antisemitism as any form of prejudice or discrimination that’s directed towards Jews, whether on an individual level our 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.

“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.”

So what can people do to put a stop to antisemitism? Weisel said people 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, whether it’s another form of hate and bigotry,” she said. “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 reopen 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 wherever they see something they need to call it out and they need to report it.”

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