The Polar Bear House

The Knockout “Game” rages on with new victims being enlisted to the ranks all the time.

We all know the sequence of events: An innocent individual walks near another person or group of young people and suddenly the unsuspecting victim is struck with a fist to the head. The violent acts are generally filmed then posted to the internet with the intention of preserving the prowess of the perpetrator but, instead, end up revealing their moral depravity.

Those who toss the blindside punch are the most egalitarian of bad guys. Showing no discrimination based on age or gender, they have “knocked-out” both men and women ranging in age from 12 to nearly 80. More than 12 attacks have occurred in New York over the past month; all the victims have been Jewish, with all the attacks occurring in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods. The most sickening element has been the victimization of the elderly; two of the victims were in their late 70s.

The game is also known as “polar-bearing” and if you haven’t figured it out, the videos of the victims have revealed that they all share one trait: They are white, like polar bears.

There were initial claims that the attacks went under-reported in order to avoid racial tensions. Quickly it became apparent that the attacks were not merely targeting whites, or polar bears, but specifically Orthodox Jews.

It goes without saying that the hitter is a vicious and dangerous individual. But there is another element at play here: the audience as enabler. The hate crime becomes an act of theater, starting with a villain waiting for his victim. The punch performed for internet immortality is preserved by an accomplice, a depraved individual immortalizing the moment of impact and posting it online for voyeurs to watch. Noting significant differences, nonetheless, there are similarities to the Nazis filming their atrocities. Each act of filming reveals morally defective souls wishing to preserve the perverse moment of vanquishing the innocent in a one-sided battle of evil against a Jewish victim.

It is rare that I have found common cause with Reverend Al Sharpton. His long and storied career as a racial opportunist makes it nearly impossible to agree with him even when he is right. That said, he published an open letter condemning the knockout phenomenon in clear and unequivocal terms: “I stand with them [the Jews] in strongly condemning the outrageous behavior referred to as knockout games — in which an attacker or attackers attempt to knock out an unsuspecting person with a single sucker punch.”

I commend him for writing these words and agree with much of the letter. I vehemently disagree with his deflecting the racial component of young men attacking white Jews in Knockout. Rev. Sharpton, in defense of his community, rejected the possibility that the attacks were “a symptom of deeply-held anti-Semitism on the part of the black community. In my opinion, nothing could be farther from the truth.” Rev. Sharpton concludes his letter of support as follows: “It’s very easy for people to ignore things or close their eyes to a harsh reality when it doesn’t affect them personally. But when one group is the apparent primary target of attacks, each and every one of us must intervene somehow. Remaining silent can never be an option; that is the only way we as a society will continue advancing.” Rev. Sharpton’s words offer comfort from a black leader at this time of concern within the Jewish community.

While Rev. Sharpton ran unsuccessfully to be the first African American president, the man who succeeded at becoming the first African American president of the United States remains silent. It is easy to speculate that if the game were called Knockout-Black Bear, the White House (should it be renamed “The Polar Bear House”?) would have roared.

When Trayvon Martin was killed in February 2012, President Obama in a speech reflected that, if he had a son, “he would look like Trayvon.”

These words gave me a clearer understanding of the president. They helped me recognize that he chooses to be the president of those who physically and philosophically resemble him. A great president would say that every child could be his child, recognizing that that which unites us as Americans is greater than that which separates us, and that the only colors of consequence for the nation’s children are red, white, and blue. A great president would have commented on the alarming number of Jews being assaulted in their own neighborhoods and say they look like him because we are all Americans.

The president’s silence has been profound. Now, that is something Rev. Sharpton has never been accused of. Perhaps the president can learn to be a little “sharper” and speak out condemning past, present, and future attacks against all Americans.


Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at