Mar. 20, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
Queens elected officials hosted a forum on the impact of antisemitism and hate in the community Sunday, March 19, at the Commonpoint Queens Sam Field Center in Little Neck. Among the elected leaders in attendance were Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and Councilwoman Linda Lee.
The elected leaders held this forum in partnership with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization that researches the Holocaust and hate around the world in a historical and contemporary context. The event was funded by and held in collaboration with the office of New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.
According to a representative from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the total number of hate crimes across the United States has experienced a large uptick since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The most significant rise in hate crimes across the country in 2021 were anti-Asian hate crimes, which experienced a 167% increase. This was due in large part to many people across the country blaming them for the pandemic reaching the United States, despite there being little to no evidence to support this theory.
One factor that has led to the rise in hate crimes across the country is that many hate groups are able to interact and post their propaganda on social media. These sites have allowed hate groups to organize and spread their harmful rhetoric, both within the groups and across the social media platforms as a whole.
Lee, who is the vice co-chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, acknowledged the fact that the spread of hate online is just one of many new fashions in which those in Queens, as well as communities across the country, are facing discrimination.
“One of the reasons why I made it a point to join the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus as one of their executive board members on the council is because we need to work together,” Lee said. “We need to have that voice of representation and work across all different communities and religions.”
Multiple accounts and websites that spread and promote hateful rhetoric and with large followings were highlighted at the presentation. One such group was White Lives Matter. With over 250,000 followers on its website and Twitter account, the group promotes the idea that white genocide is being carried out in the name of diversity. The group is anti-Islamic, anti-immigration and antisemitic. They also promote content from former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, as well as from a Holocaust-denying website.
Another antisemitic website highlighted at the forum was Goyim TV. The video-sharing site was created by Jon Minadeo, the operator of the neo-Nazi group known as the Goyim Defense League. The website is used by white supremacists and neo-Nazis to post and share videos promoting these views. The “About” section of the website states that everyone except Jews and those who support them should be treated as equals.
The elected leaders in attendance at the forum drew upon some of their own experiences with hate. Assemblyman Braunstein brought up a recent incident at Fort Totten, in which the police were called in response to graffiti on a building of a swastika, with the statement “All Jews should burn.”
“It’s important that we speak out [against hate],” Assemblyman Braunstein said. “It’s important that we’re not silent about it and it’s important that we acknowledge this problem.”