Anti-Semitic graffiti in suburban DC seen as part of a trend
WASHINGTON (AP) — The discovery this week of violently anti-Semitic graffiti along a popular Maryland walking trail is just the latest in a growing wave of vandalism and anti-Jewish activity dating back a decade, according to reports. local Jewish leaders.
On Monday, graffiti was found along the Bethesda Trolley Trail outside Washington, D.C., depicting a swastika and the statement “No Mercy for the Jews”, as well as several crude hangman-style drawings of figures hanging from a gallows. Similar graffiti was found along the same trail in August.
“This is nothing new,” said Meredith Weisel, local regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
While these issues have been in the headlines in recent months, thanks to public controversies involving basketball star Kyrie Irving and rapper formerly known as Kayne WestJewish leaders have said the frequency of anti-Semitic activity long predates these scandals.
“People want a scapegoat. They want a population they can point to and say, ‘They caused my problems,’” said Gil Preuss, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
Recent years have witnessed a series of incidents ranging from graffiti and the distribution of anti-Semitic leaflets to white supremacist rallies. While incidents in the District of Columbia remain relatively rare, a group calling itself the Goyim Defense League has distributed anti-Jewish flyers and pamphlets several times this year in Maryland and Virginia, according to the Online Incident Tracker. of the ADL..
Weisel partially attributed the trend to an overall societal rise in racial and religious extremism and intolerance that coincides with but also precedes the rise of former President Donald Trump. In August 2017, white supremacists held an open rally in Charlottesville near the University of Virginia; one person was killed when a man drove his car into a group of counter-protesters.
“These extremist views have become part of everyday life. It’s been normalized now,” Weisel said. “It may start with the Jewish community, but it never ends with the Jewish community.”
Weisel pointed out that Bethesda’s most recent graffiti also included the number “1488,” a numeric symbol that has deep meaning in white supremacist circles. This, she said, shows that the vandal was not just an attention seeker seeking shock value, but someone with a familiarity with white supremacist ideas and culture.
In January this year, several swastikas were found spray-painted on the exterior walls of Union Station in DC Police later arrested a homeless man living in a tent camp outside the station, saying he had a history of mental health issues.
Even so, Preuss of the Jewish Federation said the incident shows how deeply these images and feelings have permeated mainstream society.
“Hate and swastikas always come from somewhere,” he said. “This person was expressing an attitude and a context that they had come into contact with.”