During the tumultuous period in which we live, there is no doubt that in addition to dealing with the daily challenges and adverse effects of the coronavirus that have gripped societies across the planet, we are also facing the most egregious forms of ethnic, racial and religious hatred that we have ever encountered in contemporary times.
In the United States for example, brutal attacks on the Asian population have dramatically skyrocketed since the emergence of the coronavirus. Clearly, the deadly virus that has claimed the lives of 520,000 Americans originated in Wuhan, China and has insidiously created an ominous trajectory to over 180 countries. Yet and still, we must ask ourselves if the anger and resentment felt by Americans towards their fellow citizens of Asian descent should manifest itself in violent assaults.
As Jews, we know all too well what it is like to be treated as a hated minority and to fear for our lives at the hands of those who seek our destruction. Yes, the blood stained pages of Jewish history speak to us in the boldest of terms and serve as a gruesome reminder that we were blamed for the dissemination of deadly plagues throughout the ages.
There is no doubt that it is morally incumbent upon us to raise our collective voices in righteous indignation over the terrifying escalation of attacks on Asian Americans, who, for the most part, as hard working, law abiding citizens who appreciate the freedoms they are accorded in the United States.
Recently, in New York City, a rally was held with the specific purpose of unabashedly denouncing in the strongest of terms, the uptick in attacks on people of Asian descent in the city and across the country, according to an Associated Press report
Hundreds of people rallied at Foley Square in lower Manhattan, not far from where an Asian man was critically injured in what police said was an unprovoked stabbing by another man who was charged with attempted murder.
“It’s really been terrifying for our community,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, a New York-based advocacy group. “What is happening is not right.”
Of the many federal, state and local politicians that took part in the rally was New York State Attorney General Letitia James. She not only denounced the growing number of violent assaults against Asian New Yorkers but she encouraged victims to report attacks.
“Come to my office so that we can do something about it. Come to my office so that we can go after these individuals who hate us and shut them down,” Ms. James said.
On her web site Ms. James said, “As we face an unprecedented and uncertain time for New York, the United States, and the world, we must reiterate the fact that this pandemic does not give anyone an excuse to be racist, xenophobic, or biased. No one should live in fear for their life because of who they are, what they look like, or where they come from. I encourage all victims of discriminatory actions stemming from this pandemic to contact my office. We will continue to work with local law enforcement to combat hate in all its insidious forms.”
It is exceptionally noteworthy to mention that while it is undoubtedly praiseworthy that Ms. James is taking such an aggressive posture against those haters who would seek to instill trepidation into the hearts of the Asian community, it is also noteworthy to mention that Ms. James’ response to the frightening escalation of visceral anti-Semitism as well as brutal attacks on individuals and institutions was non-existent to say the least.
Ms. James’ tepid response to the wave of Jew hatred that proliferated throughout New York City in the summer of 2019 and has continued in various incarnations until this day, will not go unanswered.
It doesn't take much to know that the rudimentary function of the Attorney General is to launch meticulous probes in order to root out the pernicious source or sources from which criminal behavior is emanating, to find out who the suspects are and what their motive is.
While Ms. James is on the fast track to take on Asian-American discrimination with a palpable gusto, her willingness to be a pro-active prosecutor when it pertains to anti-Semitism is sputtering like a faulty engine.
Let’s remember that during the wave of heightened anti-Semitism that plagued New York City and beyond, Ms.James and her cohorts remained completely silent about the insidious surge until she was coerced to hold a press conference in the aftermath of the brutal stabbings of hassidic Jews at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg of Monsey in December of 2019. .
In a statement released to the media at the time, James said, “There is zero tolerance for acts of hate of any kind and we will continue to monitor this horrific situation. I stand with the Jewish community tonight and every night.”
Really, Ms. James? Your actions certainly do not justify these statements.
She followed that up with a press conference after meeting with Orthodox leaders. She then claimed that she would work with local district attorneys in providing them support for their prosecutions of Anti-Demitic attackers. She also promised that she would monitor social media sites that routinely provide a platform for haters to spew forth vitriolic anti-Semitic diatribes.
Suffice it to say, Ms.James, despite her words, has done absolutely nothing to prevent the burgeoning anti-Semitism that has gripped our city and state. She still has not promulgated a viable plan to quash anti-Semitism as the slow motion roll to yet another European style deadly pogrom takes place before our very eyes.
Ms. James, we ask you and your colleagues why you maintain a double standard as it pertains to battling discrimination and prejudice? Why don’t you fight the scourge of Jew hatred with as much fervor as you do when other minority groups are the target of violence?
Ronald J Edelstein is the son of Holocaust survivors and a lifelong Jewish activist, writer and speaker. He is the chairman of Ron Properties, a real estate company in New York.