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Large increase in harassment against Jewish, Muslim Americans reported since Hamas attacks

Former assistant police chief of Detroit discusses murder of Detroit synagogue president Samantha Wo
Former assistant police chief of Detroit discusses murder of Detroit synagogue president Samantha Wo 05:41

Muslim and Jewish civil rights groups say they've seen large increases in reports of harassment, bias and sometimes physical assaults against members of their communities since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

The Anti-Defamation League and the Center on American-Islamic Relations saw increases in reported instances, many involving violence or threats against protesters at rallies in support of Israel or in support of Palestinians over the last two weeks as war broke out between Israel and Hamas. Other attacks and harassment reported by the groups were directed at random Muslim or Jewish people in public.

A spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Wednesday that the organization's chapters and national office had received 774 reports of bias-related acts between Oct. 7 and Oct. 24. The national headquarters had 110 direct reports during that period, compared to 63 for all of August. The council's leaders believe it's the largest wave of complaints since December 2015, when then-presidential candidate Donald Trump declared his intent to ban Muslim immigration to the U.S. in the wake of the San Bernadino mass shooting that left 14 people dead.

The reported acts since Oct. 7 include an Illinois landlord fatally stabbing a 6-year-old Muslim boy and wounding the boy's mother, police say, as well as the arrest of a Michigan man after police say he asked people in a social media post to join him in hunting Palestinians.

Impact on Muslim and Jewish communities in Michigan

Since the initial Hamas attack, Muslim and Jewish residents in Metro Detroit have faced increased tensions. 

Many of the state's Democratic leaders have shown strong support for Israel, which has offended many Muslim residents. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other leaders attended a pro-Israel rally at a Metro Detroit synagogue, but they did not attend a rally supporting Palestinians that was held in Dearborn the next day.

Dearborn has the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the U.S and at a rally on Oct. 10, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Nasser Beydoun, whose family immigrated from Lebanon, called out Whitmer, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist for not attending the event. 

Other local leaders have shown their support for Palestinians. 

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, who is Palestinian-American, is facing censure for her response to the Hamas attack on Israel.

Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud criticized the Biden Administration after its response to the hospital explosion in Gaza.

Residents have also seen an increase in harassment, and the Dearborn Police Department has increased patrols at schools and places of worship around the city, and the Dearborn Heights Police Department enacted a zero-tolerance policy for any threats, harassment or intimidation based on race, ethnicity, religion or political beliefs.

A Farmington Hills man was arrested on Oct. 12 for making threats against Palestinians in Dearborn.

Detroit synagogue leader, Samantha Woll, was found stabbed to death outside her home in the city, and many feared it was motivated by antisemitism. 

The Detroit Police Department said they found no evidence that her death was not prompted by antisemitism. 

Increased reports of antisemitism

"Public officials should do everything in their power to keep the wave of hate sweeping the nation right now from spiraling out of control," said Corey Saylor, research and advocacy director of the Center on American-Islamic Relations.

Saylor noted that former President George W. Bush's visit to a mosque after the 9/11 attacks had a calming effect on the backlash felt in Muslim communities. He called on President Joe Biden to visit with Americans who lost family members in Gaza.

The Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism reported in a statement Wednesday that the organization recorded at least 312 reports of antisemitic acts between Oct. 7 and Oct. 23 — compared to 64 recorded during the same time period in 2022. Those reports included graffiti, slurs or anonymous postings, as well as physical violence such as a woman being punched in the face in New York by an attacker who the league says said, "You are Jewish."

The 312 reports included 109 anti-Israel sentiments spoken or proclaimed at rallies the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism found to be "explicit or strong implicit support for Hamas and/or violence against Jews in Israel," according to the statement.

Protesters at several of the rallies used the slogan, "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," which the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups have criticized as a call to dismantle the state of Israel. Many Palestinian activists say they are not calling for the destruction of Israel, but for freedom of movement and equal rights and protections for Palestinians throughout the land.

The Anti-Defamation League called for strong responses to antisemitic posts, rhetoric and acts. The organization said violent messages that mention Jews on platforms like Telegram Messenger have increased even more than reports of in-person instances.

"It is incumbent on all leaders, from political leaders to CEOs to university presidents, to forcefully and unequivocally condemn antisemitism and terrorism," Jonathan Greenblatt, Anti-Defamation League CEO, wrote in the statement.

Jewish civil rights organizations in the United Kingdom, France and other countries across Europe, Latin America, North Africa and elsewhere have also tracked increases in antisemitic acts in the past few weeks compared to 2022. League officials said London police had received 218 reports of antisemitic crimes between Oct. 1 and Oct. 18, which was 13 times greater than the numbers reported in 2022.

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