How the Israel-Hamas war is fueling hate against Muslims and Jews

Vox - Deadly violence in the Middle East is spurring attacks and heightening fear in Muslim, Jewish, and Arab (especially Palestinian) communities across the United States.

In Illinois, about a week after Hamas militants attacked Israel, a landlord stabbed his tenants, 6-year-old Wadea al-Fayoume and his mother Hanaan Shahin, more than two dozen times for being Muslim, according to the police. Only the mother survived and told a relative that the landlord yelled “you Muslims must die!” as he choked her.

Police opened a hate crime investigation this week after a man in Los Angeles was yelling “free Palestine,” “kill Jews,” “brown people matter,” and “Israel kill people,” and kicked in the back door of a Jewish family’s home and entered.

Israel’s airstrikes in the past three weeks have killed more than 8,000 Palestinians, most of them women and minors, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Hamas’s attack killed more than 1,400 Israelis, and the group is still holding about 200 people hostage, according to the Israeli government. As the war continues, law enforcement officials expect hate crimes reports to only increase: The FBI warned last week that “the volume and frequency of threats to Americans, especially those in the Jewish, Arab American, and Muslim communities in the United States, have increased, raising our concern that violent extremists and lone offenders motivated by or reacting to ongoing events could target these communities.”

At the Pennsylvania state Capitol, a man pulled up to a pro-Palestine protest, yelled out anti-Muslim and racist slurs, and pointed a gun at rallygoers from his car. In California, synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses have been vandalized since the start of the war. Flyers with anti-Jewish rhetoric — including “Jews wage war on American freedoms!” — were placed on vehicles across Orange County.

A man in Illinois was charged with a hate crime after threatening to shoot two Muslim men and yelling slurs at them. A Muslim all-girls school was on “soft-lockdown” after receiving a “threatening hate letter” that applauded the killing of al-Fayoume and included “racist, anti-Palestinian, and anti-Muslim language, and discussed killing Muslims and Palestinians.”

Owners at a New York City Palestinian restaurant, who publicly called for an end to what they deemed Israel’s “apartheid,” disconnected the restaurant’s phone over threatening voicemails. The restaurant has received nonstop one-star reviews since the start of the conflict; a man entered the dining room in the past week, shouting “terrorist” at the workers. College campuses have become breeding grounds for a host of antisemitic and anti-Muslim acts, leaving students fearful that they are unprotected from intimidation and possible violence.

The FBI’s national hate crimes data is reported on a yearly basis, and the agency has not released specific numbers about the increases they’ve seen in threats and hate crimes against Palestinians, Jews, or Muslims have risen in the past few weeks. Even so, the FBI’s latest hate crimes report, released on October 16, showed that hate crimes were already on the rise in the past year.

Hate crimes increased by 7 percent in 2022 compared to 2021. Anti-Jewish attacks, the second highest hate crimes category after anti-Black, rose to 1,124 incidents. There were 158 reported anti-Muslim incidents and 92 reported anti-Arab incidents.

The numbers are an undercount. Many police departments opt out of submitting hate crime data to the FBI, and it remains difficult for officers to prove that a reported crime was motivated by bias. Fear and distrust of law enforcement among victims of certain populations, such as Muslim communities, leads to underreporting. Nevertheless, the number of incidents represents the highest number recorded since the FBI began collecting this information in 1991.

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