The vast majority of anti-Semitic attacks in this country are carried out by right-wing white supremacists. But most of the recent New York-area attacks have been carried out by people of color expressing very different grievances, or none at all. So is this the same phenomenon, or a different one? Hate, yes, but what kind of hate?
The answer is not simple. The recent street violence and acts of terror are based, in part, on anti-Semitic conspiracy theories similar to those on the Right. And yet, it is dangerous and misleading to see this as the same phenomenon, because the social contexts, the dynamics of race, and the relationships to power are all quite different.
For example, on Sunday the FBI found handwritten journals in the home of Grafton Thomas, who last weekend attacked a Hasidic family in the New York suburb of Monsey, indicating an espousal of anti-Semitic “Black Hebrew Israelite” ideology, which holds that Jews are not the true chosen people. (Police also recovered Grafton’s recent internet history, including searches for “zionist temples” and “Why did Hitler hate the Jews.” )
This same ideology apparently motivated the Dec. 10 attack on a kosher grocery store in Jersey City.
As Mark Potok recently discussed in these pages, the Black Hebrew Israelites are a tiny sect that blames Jews for degrading American culture and accuses them of being self-interested moneymakers. Like those of the Nation of Islam, these doctrines of hate are not dissimilar to right-wing anti-Semitic tropes of Jews being foreigners who destroy their host countries for their own enrichment.