But the horror is real, according to experts, as more Israelis died during Hamas’ initial assault than on any previous day in Israel’s history, including all of its wars as presently there are an estimated 1,400 Israelis who died mostly during the initial October 7 Hamas attack at a concert while around 10,320 deaths were reported in Gaza and the numbers continue to rise while bombardments continue even as 240 Israeli hostages Israelis are still believed to be held hostage by Hamas militants.
The destruction currently being inflicted on Gaza and its civilian population is described to be staggering ground invasion by Israeli Defense Forces with calls for ceasefire and even a pause in the attacks seem to fall on deaf ears as there are only few places of refuge for Palestinian civilians continue to be under siege.
All of this comes as acts of hate and bigotry targeting Jews and Muslims have reached record highs in recent years, particularly here in the US, where antisemitic and Islamophobic rhetoric have become almost “mainstream,” according to experts who study the far right.
As latest figures show, there was a 25% increase in antisemitic hate crime in the U.S. last year way before the current conflict started and recently the New York Attorney General announced there’s been a significant increase in threats against Jewish and Muslim communities and college campuses are seeing it from coast to coast.
Some of the recent reports that illustrate volatility on campus where hate crimes against Jews and Muslims are both on the rise nationwide traced to the ongoing conflict include that of a Las Vegas man who is charged with leaving a series of antisemitism threats for senator Jacky Rosen, that anti-Semitism incidents documented by the Anti-Defamation League since October 7th vandalism harassment assault where there’s been a nearly 400% increase in anti-Semitic incidents reported, a justice department statement saying Cornell JR Patrick Dy has been charged with making threats to Jewish students on Cornell campus, the stabbing of Hanan Shaheen and her six-year-old son Wandea Al-Fayoume in Chicago by their 71-year-old landlord Joseph Czuba who was accused of attacking them because they were Muslim and Palestinian resulting to the death of son who was stabbed 20-26 times and the death of Southern California Jewish Paul Kessler following a confrontation with a pro-Palestinian demonstrator over the Israel-Hamas war. Kessler reportedly had fallen backward and struck his head on the ground Thousands Oaks, a suburb northwest of Los Angeles.
In an Ethnic Media Services briefing, experts discussed the conflict’s roots, what it means for Jewish and Muslim U.S. communities confronting increased hate, and how inter-ethnic U.S. violence is deepening in response to the international violence, the roots of the current conflict in Israel, what it portends for communities here in the US already confronting the impacts of hate, and whether the violence in the Middle East could ultimately deepen fault lines between and among communities here.
Among the guest speakers were Palestinian-American journalist Jamal Dajani, Palestinian-American Journalist, Jewish Voice for Peace Lose Angeles chapter organizer Estee Chandler, founder of Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, Professor Emeritus Brian Levin, Esq. and New York-based Palestinian community organizer Fatin Jarara.
In his message, Dajani explained that what’s happening now is not happening in a vacuum.
“For the past 75 years, Palestinians have not seen any advancement in negotiations, they have not realized their aspirations, and they are living under apartheid,” Dajani believes. “Domestically, the U.S. has witnessed a rise in white supremacy, antisemitism and Islamophobia since the Trump administration and white supremacists are opportunists. They can take advantage of any international event, be it between Russians and Ukrainians or Palestinians and Israelis, to foment their hatred. Across the board, most of the hate crimes here — attacks on mosques, attacks on synagogues — are perpetrated by white supremacists.”
Dajani added that Palestinians’ aspiration for freedom and independence, they have a lot of Jewish supporters, like from Jewish Voice for Peace expounding that this is not a religious conflict nor an ethnic conflict but rather a territorial conflict.
“It’s a colonial conflict. If you have any ethnic group — whether Jewish, or from Afghanistan or China — drive you out of your home to refugee camps, Palestinians will see them as invaders,” continued Dajani.
For his part, founder of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism and criminal justice Professor Emeritus at CSU San Bernardino Brian Levin cited that the U.S. has seen an increase in hate crimes over recent years hitting a record reported number of 10,840 in 2021 with a population representation of 91.1% per the FBI but was surpassed again with the FBI’s release of 2022 statistics recently with a whopping 11,463 reported hate crimes with a slightly raised population representation of 91.7%. Over 56% of these crimes were racially or ethnically motivated, while over 17% were religiously motivated.
“Hate crimes are not only spiking, but are more elongated in in their spikes,” and “There is massive underreporting. The most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics studies show that a bare minimum of overall hate crimes are reported by victims … and certain populations, like immigrants or foreign-language communities, are far less likely to report.”
While white supremacists are very often involved in these attacks, he added “Not everybody who attacks Jews are white supremacists. We have different types of offenders: thrill offenders with shallow prejudices, acting on stereotypes; defensive or reactive offenders; mentally ill offenders; and mission offenders.”
Organizer of Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles chapter Estee Chandler reminded that “Gaza has been under nearly 16 years of Israeli military blockade and the war on Palestinians started over 75 years ago with occupation and systemic apartheid … and though much of the media is reporting that Israel has now left Gaza, that’s not true. They just moved their defenses to the perimeter.”
“What we are seeing now is a mass expulsion,” Chandler continued, “where half of the over two million people in Gaza have been asked to leave their homes … because Israel says that they will bomb them. They’ve given over a million people 24 hours to try to move amidst all the bombing and rubble and roads that have already been destroyed … and the mainstream media isn’t reporting on these incidences … there is much misinformation that drives this.”
Nor is the mainstream media reporting on the effect in U.S. communities, Chandler added — and particularly on college campuses. “Locally on the UCLA campus, we’re seeing that members of Students for Justice in Palestine are being doxed on social media. Their ability to organize and secure spaces to do teach-ins has been suppressed,” and this is seen on campuses nationwide, she said — for example, at Harvard.
Palestinian community organizer working with Al-Awda New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition for 20 years Fatin Jarara clarified that what is going on is not an issue between a whole nation of people and a militant group
“This is an issue of occupation imposed on indigenous people … In one week of bombardment on Gaza, more have been killed than in a year of bombardment on Afghanistan.”
Describing U.S. responses, she said the push for support of Israel “is already very high. The talking is done for you,” often without verification, she said, offering as example President Biden’s claim of having seen photos of babies decapitated by Hamas; the photos never surfaced and the White House later walked back this claim.
“As Palestinians, we see all lives as worthy of living a dignified life,” she concluded. Those in the U.S. who support the Palestinian cause “don’t want to see violence” and “don’t want to see people losing their lives,” but “want to see my people live a dignified life too. They want to see my people liberated.”