Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked a steady rise in hate groups from 892 in 2015 to 917 in 2016 and 1,020 groups in 2018. The numbers for 2019 won’t be released until next month, but news accounts document an upsurge.
There is no way to redress hate by selectively targeting it on one group or another. It doesn’t work to discriminate against some but not others. It doesn’t work to recognize the basic human rights of some but not others.
The Jewish Defense League would sound by its name to be a credible, anti-hate group, but it is listed by Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group that is anti-Arab and advocates denial of any Palestinian claims to land. Israel and Judaism can’t be defended and strengthened by stoking hatred toward Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims.
When the Trump administration stated that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land were legal and should be permanent, that decision flew in the face of international law and a ruling by the World Court. (See column “Where They Stand” on page 8 about a letter sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by members of the House of Representatives objecting to the administration’s position on the Israeli settlements.)
Following violent anti-Semitic attacks in New Jersey and New York in the waning days of 2019, The New York Times ran several opinion page pieces focusing on recognizing anti-Semitism and redressing it. The message: recognize it as an epidemic, not a new normal. Counter it with knowledge.
A shocking number of young people have no knowledge of the Holocaust. Many, both young and old, lack understanding of the pervasive grip of institutional racism in this country. A surprising number of people don’t understand the Civil War was fought over slavery.
Discrediting credible journalism exacerbates hate based on lack of understanding. The internet makes hate speech easy to disseminate. When President Trump calls journalists traitors and liars, he helps hate and false narratives to flourish.
Southern Poverty Law Center identifies two hate groups here in Central Illinois: Aryan Nations Sadistic Souls Motorcycle Club in Canton and Divine International Church of the Web in Morton. There is also a group in Tazewell County, Family Research Council, that discriminates against the LGBTQ community.
Nationalism, hate and disinformation are rising globally. There is a noticeable surge in violence directed at people in places of worship, whether churches, mosques or synagogues.
Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life in Pittsburgh spoke two weeks after the deadly attack in his synagogue and said “hate” is a four-letter obscenity that does not belong in public or private discourse. He said hate arises from lack of understanding:
“With the exception of Native Americans, we are all immigrants to these shores, some by choice, and horrifically, some by force against their will. Many immigrants fled their homeland seeking a better life in the New World.
Many were stolen from their families and sold as property. Some have been able to find success. Others continue to struggle. Part of what might be deemed significant in the United States is an unwritten civil contract that we are all together in the grand experiment called democracy. The experiment can only reach a high level of success when we work together with our neighbor, when one’s color, faith and sexual orientation are irrelevant. The desire for a successful outcome demands that we find ways to work together.”
Hate, Rabbi Myers said, is a sign of failure, not a sign of success.
The best way we can combat hate in Peoria and in the country is to counter it by promoting truth and dialogue.