Time for Israel to focus on hate crimes

Time for Israel to focus on hate crimes

In December 2011, swastikas and white supremacist slogans were discovered on Temple Beth Israel, the Reconstructionist congregation in Maywood.

Two weeks later vandals struck again at Temple Beth El in Hackensack.

And then the attackers escalated, as people consumed with hate often will, and they threw Molotov cocktails into the upper story of Congregation Beth El in Rutherford, where Rabbi Nosson Schuman and his family were sleeping.

At this point the Bergen County Prosecutors Office made the investigation a top priority, and soon afterward they arrested the first suspect. Detectives discovered that the ingredients for the bombs came from Walmart, and then released pictures from the store’s security camera.

Say what you want about America’s growing number of surveillance cameras, but they help capture criminals.

Two weeks ago, anti-Semitic slogans were spray-painted in Brooklyn’s Manhattan Beach neighborhood. A former New York Police Department officer soon was arrested. He had been caught on a security camera.

Last week, two Maryland high school students were charged with hate crimes, accused of drawing swastikas on a synagogue and a school bus.

“It doesn’t matter to us what their motives were,” Police Chief J. Thomas Manger told the Washington Post. “What they did was a hate crime of the most hurtful and offensive nature.” The suspects were caught on surveillance video.

This week, swastikas were again drawn on a synagogue. This time, in Jerusalem.

The attack on a Conservative Moreshet Yisrael synagogue in downtown Jerusalem follows a growing surge in vandalism against Muslim and Christian targets in Israel and the West Bank, believed to be committed by radical Orthodox Jews. Only a handful of arrests have been made. And many people, including former heads of Israeli intelligence, charge that Israel is not serious about investigating the matter.

One proposal is for Israel to classify these crimes as terrorism, allowing for greater latitude in investigations.

We’re not fans of this idea. Instead, we think that Israel should borrow the approach of the American government, which makes tens of millions of dollars available for security grants for religious institutions, primarily synagogues.

As it happens, Israel has a ministry of religions, with a budget reported to be $100 million. While 20 percent of Israel’s population is Muslim or Christian, non-Jewish religious institutions receive only 5 percent of this budget.

We’d like to propose that Naftali Bennett – who is the minister of religious affairs, as well as minister of the economy and head of the right wing Bayit Hayehudi party – allocate a couple of million dollars to provide every mosque and church and non-Orthodox synagogue in Israel with a video surveillance system. Israel long has affirmed the principle of supporting minority religious rights. Security cameras are a cheap investment in a priceless principle.

– LY