In the days following the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft and numerous other government officials and opinion leaders urged Americans not to take out their frustrations on people and institutions of Arab or Muslim origin.
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and no stranger to racist attacks, joined the chorus. "We are disturbed that a number of Arab Americans and Islamic institutions have been targets of anger and hatred in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks," he said. "At this time of profound anger and anxiety, no group in this country should be singled out for hatred, prejudice or blame based on … ethnicity or religion."
Such a message was sorely needed. According to the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Arab-American community "experienced an unprecedented backlash in the form of hate crimes, various forms of discrimination" and alleged civil liberties violations following the Sept. 11 attacks.
ADC has assembled data for an upcoming report that documents more than 600 violent incidents against Arab Americans, or those perceived to be Arab Americans, since Sept. 11. The report also chronicles 60 occasions on which people perceived to be Arabs were removed from aircraft, 45 cases of violence against Arab students -- 13 of them at the hands of faculty -- and 23 instances in which Arab customers were discriminated against or denied service by merchants.
All of the examples of violence and bias -- to the degree they are true -- are deplorable and go against everything America stands for. This country was founded on the premise that people ought to be judged on their merits, not their lineage. That is what makes America unique among nations.
But let's be consistent.
Where is the outrage over similar acts of hatred and prejudice against Jews?
It has been 18 months since Palestine Authority honcho Yasser Arafat ordered a resumption of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks against Israel and more than a month since Israel finally began to defend herself against the murders of innocent civilians.
Yet, not only do we not hear our leaders urging us not to persecute American Jews for the situation in Israel, we see anti-Jewish sentiment being condoned and actually encouraged in some quarters.
College campuses nationwide have been the scene of anti-Israel sloganeering and rallies. The Associated Press reports Jewish students at the University of California at Berkeley have been pelted with eggs as they leave religious services.
At Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey, the student newspaper, reporting on protests there, quotes a woman who claims the Israeli military went into an all-female Palestinian hospital, chose 30 women at random, accused them of being terrorists and executed them. But when a professor of Jewish studies writes a letter to the editor pointing out how ridiculous the story is and how harmful such myths are to Arab-Jewish relations, the editors refuse to print her letter.
Then, the third weekend of April, Washington, D.C. becomes the scene of strident (if somewhat disjointed and disorganized) anti-everything protests, with much of the anger aimed at Israel.
Yet we hear nothing from the White House, the Justice Department or the ADC about the need to pull together and resist the anti-Jewish slurs.
As we examine the ADC's report on post-Sept. 11 attacks on Arabs in the United States, let's remember that the number of these alleged offenses pales in comparison to the number of anti-Jewish acts committed year after year in this country. The Anti-Defamation League notes that 40 states and the District of Columbia together reported 1,432 anti-Jewish incidents in 2001 (down from 1,606 such incidents reported in 2000).
Alan Schwartz, ADL's research director, cautions against lumping in legitimate political protest with anti-Semitism. Not all those who oppose Israel's policies regarding the Palestinians wave swastikas while doing so, he reminds us. But many do -- as the recent attacks on synagogues in Spokane, Wash., and Key West, Fla., and a cemetery near Pittsburgh demonstrate.
And more will if we merely blink at what has happened in Europe recently. There, anti-Semitic attacks have mushroomed, particularly in France, where Jean-Marie LePen, who once called the Holocaust "a detail" of history, is in a runoff for the presidency.
Hate is always wrong. Prejudice is always un-American. It's time
for all Americans, including Arab-Americans, to be heard loud and
clear denouncing prejudice and hatred in all their forms, against
Muslims and Jews.
Edwin Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation, a Washington-based public policy research institute.