Under the banner of “Not Here, Not Now, Not Ever,” the Jewish community of Sacramento, California, led a rally protesting a rise in anti-Semitism in the area.
“Right here in the River Park neighborhood there was a home that displayed an American and an Israeli flag with swastikas in the middle [of the flag],” said Ryan Pessah of the California Jewish Legislative Caucus, one of the rally’s key organizers. “Everybody has a right to free speech, but we have a right and an obligation to speak out against hate speech and bigotry.”
The demonstration was attended by approximately 500 people, mostly from the city’s small Jewish community, as well as several members of the general population from the broader community.
Although sparked by the recent incident in Sacramento, organizers were mobilized by a general rise of anti-Semitic incidents, mostly centered on California’s many college campuses.
At the University of California’s Davis Campus, students leading a boycott campaign against Israel shouted “Al-ahu Akbar” at Jewish students and made comments supporting Palestinian terror groups. A week later, swastikas were found painted on a student building.
In a story that drew national attention last week, a Jewish student at UCLA was denied a position in student government after being asked, “Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?”
“I truly think that the increase in anti-Semitism is directly connected to the BDS [boycott, divest, sanction] movement,” said Pessah. “I would argue that without BDS, you would not have these swastikas. This is part of a mindset that the movement has brought into the community.”
Fear of rising anti-Semitism on campuses has been supported by a recent study carried out by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law and Trinity College showing that over half of Jewish college students polled said they had witnessed anti-Semitism on campus.
“The correlation of BDS to anti-Semitic incidents is very high. One seems to follow the other,” Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder and director of AMCHA, a California-based group to combat anti-Semitism in institutions of higher education, told Hamodia. “Hatred of Israel is an acceptable hatred of Jews; it is the new anti-Semitism.”
Several groups called for state legislation that would require anti-discrimination and civil rights training for all student governmental bodies.
“In Europe and even here in the United States, extreme anti-Israel rhetoric is becoming more and more mainstream … it is a very short distance between anti-Israel and anti-Semitism,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center. “We have to bring together a vocal coalition together with our neighbors. It is not just a Jewish problem.”