The only thing more frightening than a violent act of antisemitism, is a violent act of antisemitism that the world is happy to ignore.
Last Saturday, on Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest), a Muslim extremist from Blackburn named Malik Faisal Akram entered the Congregation Beth Israel Synagogue in the town of Colleyville, Texas and took four Jewish people (one a Rabbi) hostage for 11 hours while demanding the release of a terrorist – Aafia Siddiqui – from a Texas prison.
The news of this incident broke as it was happening, spread by Jewish media outlets and Jewish activists on social media. As is typical for the Jewish news cycle, when mainstream media picked up the story, they doubted its authenticity. The BBC, Guardian and Telegraph all reported the situation with quotation marks around the word ‘hostage’, because apparently it wasn't obvious enough that this was a hostage situation. Associated Press wrote: ‘Hostages apparently taken at Texas synagogue’.
The news did not make the front page of the New York Times the next day. It didn't receive nearly as much coverage on rolling televised news as such events warrant. Why? It has no political use. It's not on the agenda. The hostage-taker Malik Faisal Akram – shot dead in the standoff with police and SWAT teams - wasn't a white supremacist nor a neo-Nazi. He was avenging a Jihadi serving an 86-year sentence, who at her trial had asked that there be no Zionists or Israelis on her jury.
As for Twitter pundits, where the previous week people with zero interest in Jew hate were laying into JK Rowling over the question of whether or not her depiction of goblins in Harry Potter was antisemitic, causing it to trend with a hashtag. During this desperate moment for Jewish Americans? Crickets. The opportunists who used Jewish victimhood to attack a now controversial public figure had no business with this more prescient instance of antisemitism. Disappointing doesn't cover the angering sense of betrayal and abuse.
The message was loud. Nobody cared. If they did, they were actively trying to minimise or justify the attack. Some blue tick voices made it about the Islamophobia that may or may not result from a scenario in which a terrorist was potentially going to kill four innocent Jews. Only a month prior to this, Zahra Billoo, the Executive Director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), had given a spine-chilling speech in which she warned against ‘Zionist synagogues’ and other Zionist organisations as ‘enemies’.
It’s evil that people have a hard time naming an attack on a synagogue an act of antisemitism. Wonder why a Muslim extremist would hold a rabbi hostage at gun point and force him to call another rabbi in a faraway state believing that other rabbi had some institutional power to free an imprisoned terrorist? It is because that terrorist believed Jews wield such power. It is because that terrorist spread the oldest antisemitic tropes. The terrorist didn't walk into a Starbucks. He walked into a synagogue. If this had been a Black church or an LGBTQ+ nightclub, there'd have been no question calling the act what it was. But Jews are not granted the same ferocious collective protection.
In 2020, the FBI reported a 6% increase in hate crimes on the previous year, with 7,759 hate crimes reported for all groups. Reported hate crimes targeting Black people rose to 2,755 and the number of anti-Asian hate crimes rose to 274. The same year, the 676 reported hate crimes targeting the Jewish community made up nearly 60% of all religion-based hate crimes, making Jews the most targeted religious community in America. American Jews are only 1.9% of the US population.
When the FBI gave its press conference in Texas on Saturday night once the hostages were free, the officer stated that the motive was ‘unclear’ and that it was indeterminable that this attack was ‘specifically related to the Jewish community’. That is insane. It is also indicative of institutionalised anti-Jewish racism and the government’s inability to deal with Islamist antisemitism. President Biden himself said: ‘I don't think there is sufficient information to know why he targeted that synagogue why he insisted on the release of someone who's been in prison for over 10 years... Why he was using anti-Semitic & anti-Israeli comments.’
Can you imagine the POTUS saying similar about any other group and not being received with mass hysteria? I cannot.
Violent words lead to violent acts. When the prerogative of social justice warriors and leftist celebrities, and many of those who hold powerful positions in office and huge swathes of mainstream media is to spread untruths about Israel and Zionism, the ramifications are incidents such as that of last Saturday, which thankfully only ended with the neutralisation of the terrorist, and no other deaths. While the FBI were present, and a SWAT team on hand, neither saved the Jews. It was Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker who threw a chair at the gunman after 11 hours allowing him to run for an exit door. The other Jews freed themselves.
It's time for the non-Jewish world to actively free itself from antisemitism. If you're not Jewish and you think Jews are centring themselves in cries about media bias, you don't have a clue what it feels like to watch mainstream media serve your enemies and jeopardise your security. You have no idea the act of courage and resistance that it is to walk into a synagogue in 2022 and pray. America tells itself it's a safe place to do that. That is a lie. This could have happened at any Jewish institution in this country. Why don't more people care?