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OpinionEditorial

Stop the symbols of hatred on Long Island in in New York State

Fist - Hate iStock

Fist - Hate iStock Credit: iStock

Disgusting.

That’s the only way to describe the symbols found on buildings in Nissequogue River State Park this week and last. They were swastikas, the same symbol that showed up elsewhere in the same park in Suffolk County in February. 

Other recent anti-Semitic incidents around the state were just as unacceptable: the desecration of a White Plains Holocaust memorial just before Yom Kippur. A Brooklyn synagogue defiled over Rosh Hashana.

The list goes on, and it includes recent physical attacks and hate speech hurled at fellow New Yorkers.

It should not even have to be said that all of this is beyond the pale. Honoring a regime that murdered 6 million Jews and waged war against America and its allies is despicable.

Worse is the growing concern that a creeping anti-Semitism is paving the way for more of this  prejudice, along with the nooses and racism and misogyny and other false ideologies that often go with it.

The Anti-Defamation League logged 380 incidents of reported anti-Semitism in New York in 2017, a big jump from 199 incidents the year before. The group charted 340 incidents statewide last year, a dip but still much higher than the yearly average over the last decade.

Long Island has seen disturbing numbers, too. The Nassau County Police Department reports 34 biased incidents, including 28 swastikas, in 2018, with a bump to 52 incidents and 23 swastikas so far this year.

While hate crimes investigated by the Suffolk County Police Department have dropped recently, lower-level incidents such as hateful words mixed with graffiti have nearly doubled or more each year since 2016, with 57 incidents investigated this year.

These incidents are hard to perfectly chart over time. But in the underbelly of the internet, this kind of behavior is normalized and spreads, with people feeling safe saying the most nauseating things without fear of consequence. There is the international rise of far-right and fascist groups that prey on people’s insecurities and rally around a perceived enemy. The U.S. President's flirtation with far-right groups has not helped.  

This kind of evil, which existed long before Donald Trump, is more than graffiti to be scrubbed away once again. It could lead to horrors like the synagogue shootings in Pittsburgh and Southern California and other attacks on houses of worship. Active shooter precautions should not have to be part of holy day rituals.

In Suffolk County, the state police increased patrols in the area near where the swastikas appeared, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo directed the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to assist in the investigation.

The swastika perpetrator or perpetrators could face up to seven years in prison if caught and convicted under New York’s hate crimes statute, according to a state police spokesman.

That’s a stiff penalty that should be reason enough to stop the garbage. Unfortunately, these incidents and attacks keep coming. We have to ask ourselves from what well this hate springs. — The editorial board

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