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COMMENTARY: Response to Texas synagogue attack shows double standard on anti-Semitism

When word broke that a gunman had taken hostages at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, most Americans assumed it was another anti-Semitic attack against members of the Jewish community. When the news came the gunman was a Muslim, 44-year-old British citizen Malik Faisal Akram, complaining about “the Jews” and demanding the release of an Islamist terrorist, those suspicions appeared to be confirmed.

Which is why it was so confusing to hear a statement from the FBI saying the hostage-taking at a synagogue on behalf of an anti-Semitic terrorist had nothing to do with hating Jews.

“We do believe from our engagement with this subject that he was singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno had said following the situation’s resolution.

For some in the Jewish community, the reaction was just the latest example of a double-standard in how hate crimes are treated.

Just hours after news of the hostage-taking, Avid Mayer, managing director for public affairs for the American Jewish Committee, predicted, “There will be attempts to make today’s events in Texas about everything under the sun — except anti-Semitism. Don’t let it happen. The attacker targeted a synagogue and held four Jews, including a rabbi, hostage. This was an act of anti-Semitism, plain and simple.”

American sensitivity to issues of race and justice is at or near an all-time high. Even disagreements on early voting and voter ID can invoke accusations of “George Wallace” racism from the president of the United States. In this environment, how is it actions and rhetoric targeting Jews don’t receive the same focus as attacks targeting other groups?

Those arguing there is a double-standard point to Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who are members in good standing of the Democratic caucus. Both have made comments called anti-Semitic by their fellow Democrats — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even proposed a resolution condemning Omar’s Jewish slurs, before backing down due to pressure from members of her own party. And yet Omar, despite her animosity toward Israel, has retained her seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Even though just 2 percent of the U.S. population is Jewish, in 2020 they were the target of 58 percent of all religiously-motivated hate crimes, the FBI reports. New York City, which has the largest Jewish population in the country, is experiencing a spike in anti-Semitic assaults. There have been repeated random attacks on the city’s streets, and in May a Jewish man was beaten in the middle of Times Square as pro-Palestinian mobs threw fireworks and shouted profanities in the heart of Manhattan.

Anti-Semitism isn’t being ignored. On Sunday, President Joe Biden called the incident an “act of terror” and condemned anti-Semitism. But would an attack on a Black church by an advocate of white supremacy be declared “not related to racism”?

Why, then, would the FBI say Saturday’s assault was something other than anti-Semitism?

“This is something narrowly semantic that I recognize from personal experience,” tweeted David Simon, the writer and former journalist best known for the HBO series “The Wire.” “When my father was held hostage in 1977, his captors did so because they targeted D.C.’s B’nai B’rith building with two other sites. Nothing explicitly anti-semitic, but hey, Jews are always in season.”

Michael Graham is managing editor at InsideSources.