Friday, October 19, 2001 | return to: local


State’s skyrocketing anti-Arab incidents pain area Jews

by JOE ESKENAZI, Bulletin Staff

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Examining the surge in alleged anti-Arab or anti-Muslim hate crimes reported last week by the state attorney general's office, Jonathan Bernstein came up with only one possible mitigating factor. Perhaps, given the current national mood, many Californians are more inclined to report hate crimes.

"With that said," the Central Pacific regional director of the Anti-Defamation League acknowledged, "there are still clearly more hate crimes occurring."

The state's six largest law-enforcement agencies -- including the San Francisco and San Jose police departments -- report a whopping 236 alleged incidents of anti-Arab or anti-Muslim hate crimes ranging from verbal harassment to murder in the 20-day period between Sept. 11 and 30.

The San Francisco and San Jose police departments reported 43 and 41 incidents, respectively. The Los Angeles Police Department reported 79 alleged hate crimes, the most of any agency responding to the attorney general's query.

The cases -- which have not yet been confirmed as hate crimes by the reporting law enforcement agencies -- dwarf the number of anti-Arab or anti-Muslim hate crime totals for the entire year of 2000.

"I think this is a very disturbing picture," said Rabbi Doug Kahn, executive director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council. Bernstein noted that, at this pace, the reported incidents from the six California law enforcement agencies alone would make up "roughly half the hate crimes that take place in the country in a year."

Last year, 1,957 incidents were confirmed as hate crimes by the office of Bill Lockyer, California's attorney general. Anti-Arab incidents were not even kept as an official statistic by the state, but there were only 96 "miscellaneous" hate crimes reported, and only three anti-Islam cases. As a matter of comparison, 236 anti-Jewish attacks were reported last year.

While well-publicized incidents and media coverage have given the impression that anti-Arab and anti-Muslim activity was up, Mike Van Winkle, the information officer for the California Department of Justice, said this report helps to prove it.

"Very shortly after Sept. 11, we were hearing about incidents in which Arab-Americans were being victimized simply because they were Arabs. But do we know it's more than last year?" he said. "We wouldn't know unless we capture some numbers. Our response was to poll the largest agencies."

Typically, agencies send all cases they have determined to be hate crimes to the attorney general's office at the end of the year for the office's annual report. Van Winkle said that office usually classifies 75 to 80 percent of those cases as actual hate crimes.

While not covered in the scope of the attorney general's report, Bernstein said he believed the incidence of anti-Jewish activities was up as well. He has heard many incidents of Jews and Israelis being singled out by those who claim the U.S. alliance with Israel caused the terrorist attacks.

Bernstein said an El Cerrito man approached the ADL claiming he had been physically assaulted and that his yarmulke was knocked from his head by a man shouting, "It's the Jews' fault."

Kahn said it is important for the Jewish community to express solidarity with the Arab and Muslim communities, which may be feeling "a great sense of vulnerability" in the wake of increased harassment.

"When people speak out and say, 'You're not alone,' and literally stand with and support those victims of hate crimes, it provides a very important psychological and emotional lift," he said. "Hate will not be tolerated within our community."


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