Mirroring the landscape on a national and international level, the Atlanta area has experienced a spike in anti-Semitic incidents since the outbreak of violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Atlanta area has seen a doubling of anti-Semitic incidents since May 10, according to Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the Southern division of the Anti-Defamation League. As a ceasefire appeared to be taking hold in the Middle East, she said that the local ADL office is investigating seven anti-Semitic incidents. Normally in the same time period, there would only be two or three such incidents. In all of 2020, there were 53.
Nationally, the ADL reported 193 anti-Semitic reports in the same time period, up from 131 the previous week.
Padilla-Goodman cited an incident of Jews being harassed while walking in the Toco Hills area as an example of an event her office is investigating. Another is a proposal in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel recommended by the Emory University Middle Eastern Law Student Association.
There were other anti-Israel incidents in the metro area too. For instance, the painting of a Palestinian flag with the words “Free Palestine” on a utility box at the corner of Trickum and Jamerson roads in Cobb County was reported to the police but not the ADL, she said.
Israeli-born Liat Tzionov, who moved to Atlanta about three years ago, drove by the graffiti just to see it on her way to shop. “I’d never seen anything like this. It made me feel so insecure.”
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a press release: “As the violence between Israel and Hamas continues to escalate, we are witnessing a dangerous and drastic surge in anti-Jewish hate right here at home. We are tracking acts of harassment, vandalism and violence as well as a torrent of online abuse. It’s happening around the world – from London to Los Angeles, from France to Florida, in big cities like New York and in small towns, and across every social media platform.”
The preliminary data from ADL’s Center on Extremism showed more than 17,000 Twitter tweets in the days following the outbreak of the violence in Israel that included variations of the phrase, “Hitler was right.”
Padilla-Goodman blamed social media for the spread of anti-Semitism. “People are getting their news from Facebook and TikTok,” she said. “We’re living in challenging times with incredible political divides.”
Not all anti-Israel incidents are anti-Semitic, she added. “Context really matters. Oftentimes they do overlap.”
For instance, in Los Angeles, carloads of pro-Palestinians drove down a street near several synagogues and Jewish schools and attacked Jewish diners at a sushi restaurant while calling out anti-Semitic slurs. CNN reported that protesters threw fireworks at people in New York City’s heavily Jewish diamond district even as violence dimmed in the Middle East.
“I don’t think the tensions will cool off even with the ceasefire,” Padilla-Goodman said. “We have witnessed flare-ups before, but this feels different. There are a lot more nuances and flattening of nuances in the conflict. We’re seeing people taking sides very swiftly and forcefully.”
She added that although there have been dozens of pro-Palestinian protests across the country, including in Atlanta, they have been “mostly free of anti-Semitic discourse.”