Friday, June 29, 2012

Inscriptions of hatred

I am struck by how many references to hate graffiti have been in my inbox and twitter timeline the last day or two. I suspect that this constant drip of intolerance and bigotry into the public square goes on all the time and that this week is not exceptional - but maybe there's something in the stars.

In Jerusalem, members of the wacko haredi sect, Neturei Karta, have been arrested for spraying pro-Nazi messages in Hebrew at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Centre: "Hitler, thank you for the Holocaust", "If Hitler did not exist, the Zionists would have invented him", and "Jews, wake up, the evil Zionist regime doesn't protect us, it jeopardises us". It strikes me that the second two slogans could so easily appear in almost any mainstream anti-Zionist website, and it's not such a huge leap from them to the first one. The suspects are also accused of being responsible for graffiti at Ammunition Hill on Remembrance Day and vandalizing army memorials throughout the Jordan Valley. On one of the memorials they wrote “Shimon Peres is Amalek,” a biblical reference to the enemies of the Jewish people.

Graffiti is a major weapon of extremist forms of Zionism in Israel/Palestine too, with the so-called "price tag" vandalism perpetrated by settlers. Last week, for example, settlers set fire to a mosque in Jab'a village, near Ramallah, and sprayed graffiti on the mosque, including the words "Ulpana war". (Some settler leaders have recently condemned the price tag violence.) Meanwhile, Muslim writings were graffitied in the entrance hall of a synagogue in moshav Maor in central Israel. "Police have launched an investigation into the vandalism but do not have any suspects."

"Allah Wakbar" has been daubed on the 9/11 memorial at the WTC site in New York. This is presumably a mistaken rendering of the Takbīr, "Allāhu Akbar (الله أكبر)", Allah is the greatest. Whether the misspelling suggests an illiterate Jihadist, or an ignorant Islamophobic provocateur, it's a horrible and damaging act of hatred. Anti-Muslim racism certainly manifests in graffiti: a couple of weeks ago saw a fire at a building allegedly covered with anti-Arab graffiti near a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan. Swastikas have appeared on a Jewish synagogue in Jackson, Michigan, at schools in Burnaby, British Columbia, on a synagogue and other sites in Borough Park, Brooklyn, and in Springfield, Oregan. While Jews were the targets in some of those instances, in the BC there were no specific ethnic targets and in the Oregon instance the perpetrators are suspected to be a white gang who have been attacking black residents. Antisemitic and racist slogans were combined in profuse graffiti on a Baptist church in Richmond, Virginia at the start of the month. And swastikas featured in graffiti harassment of a biracial couple in Newmarket near Toronto. Antisemitism and racist are also found together in this case from Davis, Northern California: "A swastika and the n-word were spray painted on a bike trail underneath Interstate 80."

Pure old-fashioned antisemitism is behind graffiti in Hungary too:
Two men thought to be behind the vandalism of several statues and Jewish memorials were arrested on Friday, Budapest police announced. One suspect is the Budapest leader of the nationalist youth movement HVIM. The far-right party Jobbik subsequently demonstrated outside a city centre jail for his release from pre-trial detention.
In Arlington, Texas, a bunch of teenagers have been arrested for spraying dozens of homophobic slogans and reportedly also racist slurs on cars and garages. The police took a while to register it as a hate crime, and I can't find a report on the content apart from one obvious homophobic one Apparently, racist graffiti, targeting Arabs among others, has been epidemic in North Texas lately.

More bizarrely, in Hastings, in the South of England, police are investigating slogans such as "Roman Devils" and "Evil Queen" on Anglican churches, and the erasure of the letters "St" from streets named after saints. They describe the graffiti as "anti-religious" (although I'd say that it is either specifically anti-Christian or more likely the work of a heterodox Christian mad person) and as a "hate crime":

"These are being treated as hate crimes. Sussex Police is committed to reducing all forms of hate crime and works closely with community groups to increase reporting, widen awareness, and build confidence with victims to help bring offenders to justice."
Whatever the motivation, the police response should be taken as refutation for the bullshit notion widely circulating among our cultural conservatives that the state only cares about hate crimes against Muslims and brown-skinned folk. 



Brian Goldfarb said...

"Pure old-fashioned antisemitism..."

Sorry, Bob, but there's nothing 'pure' about antisemitism or, indeed, any other form of racism.

Just old-fashioned ideological nastiness.

TNC said...

Bob, another vandal hit a 9/11 Memorial in NJ w/ the word "Hoax."

Brian, I think he's using the term "pure" as in "unadulterated", old-school Jew hatred.