Some new developments in the horrific-sounding attack on a Jewish Michigan State student, via the Detroit News:
Police say they have identified a potential suspect in an assault against a Michigan State student but they doubt the attack was a hate crime.
MSU sophomore Zachary Tennen, 19, of Franklin told police the two people who attacked him early Sunday off campus asked him if he was Jewish, and his father said on Twitter that the assault was motivated by anti-Semitism.
But East Lansing police, who have spoken to two witnesses, say it is unlikely it was a hate crime.
“There’s a big difference between an assault and assault that classifies as a hate crime,” said Sgt. Jeff Murphy of the East Lansing Police Department. “We need to figure out what this one is so we can seek the appropriate charges on whoever did it.”
The comments that follow are a dialogue of the deaf (and stupid, if truth be told). One guy writes, “we’ve learned that Jewish slurs are really not slurs, and physical attacks on Jews are not hate crimes.” Well, no — we learned that police have the responsibility to investigate a crime, and that such investigations do not end with the account of the victim, or the initial flurry of news reports.
Another commenter writes that the victim’s account “sounds so fabricated.” Again, can we wait until the investigation plays out before condemning the police and/or the victim?
Facebook lit up with comments about the ”return” or “resurgence” of anti-Semitism. “For the people who say there is no anti-Semitism…oh yes there is. And there’s plenty more where this came from,” writes one of my FFs. Plenty more? An isolated attack in East Lansing does not suggest the resurgence of anything, especially when every survey of anti-Semitic incidents shows that the number of such incidents has plateaued, and that considering the size of the Jewish and general population, the number of incidents remains fairly rare. The ADL tallied 1,239 incidents of “assaults, vandalism and harassment” in 2010. That year, ADL tallied 22 “physical assaults on Jewish individuals” (down from 29 in 2009) and 900 cases of anti-Semitic harassment, threats and events, which included things like someone posting “stupid Jewish bitch” on a teenager’s social networking page and a driver yelling anti-Semitic comments at a New Jersey father and his 12-year-old son.
Every anti-Semitic attack or taunt is one too many, and a cursory Google search finds conspiracy-mongers, hate groups, and purveyors of anti-Semitism disguised as anti-Israelism.
But on balance the American Jewish community has never been more secure, or the anti-Semitic fringe more isolated. Consider the words of Abe Foxman, the ADL’s national director, who is often accused of exaggerating anti-Semitism to justify the ADL’s agenda. In fact, Foxman acknowledged in February that
For most American Jews, experiences with anti-Semitism in their lives and the insecurity surrounding fears of anti-Semitism are largely things of the past. Sixty or seventy years ago, there were many points of contact in the life of an American Jew where he or she could be personally exposed to anti-Semitism.
It could happen in school or on the street where taunts of Christ-killer were still not unusual. It could happen when applying to medical school, to an Ivy League college where quotas were in place. It could happen in the public sphere where politicians, religious leaders or intellectuals were not all above Jew-baiting.
It could happen in applying for a job where some industries were not open to Jews or it could happen in some neighborhoods or clubs where “no Jews allowed” was the unstated policy.
Since such events no longer regularly occur, it is customary to focus on the American Jewish experience as exceptional in the long history of the Diaspora. [Emphasis added.]
Attacks like the one in Michigan are awful, but so outside the norm that they are, for most practical purposes, statistically insignficiant. Yet too many of us keep insisting that every swastika scrawled by a teenager, every ugly Jew crack on Facebook is either a sign of a vast anti-Jewish conspiracy or the harbinger of a pogrom to come. That gives way too much power and credit to a small number of idiots.
We should be zealous in insisting that police and judges enforce the hate crimes statutes that have never been stronger or more prevalent than they are today. We should support the kind of pluralism and multicultural programs that are ubiquitous in American classrooms. We should provide the resources that college students need to be strong advocates for Israel, and we should demand that universities — and all institutions for that matter — remain safe palces for political and religious expression.
But we have to stop living like it’s 1934. Zachary Tennen deserves justice, he deserves a complete healing of body and soul, and he deserves our concern and support. He doesn’t deserve to become a poster boy for the “New Anti-Semitism.”