Why ‘Holocaust Denial’ Graffiti Matters
Early Friday morning, March 10, 2017 Holocaust graffiti was discovered by an off-duty Seattle police officer on the façade of a major Reform Jewish Temple in the Capitol Hill District of Seattle, Temple De Hirsch Sinai.
According to a Buzz Feed report, the graffiti read:
“Holocaust is fake history!” A dollar sign appeared to be used in place of the letter S in the graffiti.”
The Seattle Police Department (SPD) undertook an immediate bias crimes investigation and established patrols for both the historic sanctuary on Capitol Hill as well as a companion one in Bellevue, Washington. Later that morning, a thoughtful neighbor in the Capitol Hill district of Seattle hung a sign over the anti-Semitic graffiti with a comforting statement expressing community support for the temple, “Love wins.”Because of the heightened security, a suspicious box left at the door of the temple Friday afternoon was investigated by the SPD and found to contain a donation of old books.
Comments of the anti-Semitic incident by the Seattle Temple Rabbi
A CNN report noted what Rabbi Daniel Weiner wrote on the Facebook page of Temple de Hirsch Sinai regarding the security precautions that this latest anti-Semitic incident prompted and its occurrence on the cusp of the Jewish festival of Purim:
And as we take all of these precautions, we are also adamant in our conviction that we will not allow the toxicity of intolerance and growing climate of hate to define who we are, how we live, and what our nation can be.
We take courage from the upcoming celebration of Purim and its story in the Book of Esther, as our people triumphed over the evil plans of those who seek to diminish and destroy us, and as we stand shoulder to shoulder with all who are vulnerable and in need, placing our faith in God to inspire us to perfect a broken world.
Condemnation of Anti-Semitic Seattle incident by Washington Governor Inslee and U.S. Representative Jayapal
Washington Governor Jay Inslee condemned this latest act of anti-Semitic vandalism, saying: “It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to condemn any and all acts of hate and intolerance.” US Rep. Pramilla Jayapal, whose 7th Congressional District covers Seattle tweeted:
“I condemn the anti-Semitic vandalism against Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle in the strongest possible terms.”
The Seattle anti-Semitic incident reported on Friday was not the only occurrence that day. CNN noted:
The graffiti is the latest in a wave of anti-Semitic vandalism and threats made to Jewish institutions all over the country.
Earlier in the day, staff at a Jewish community center (JCC) in Las Vegas received “suspicious communications,” according to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, prompting them to evacuate the area and investigate. Police reported the property safe a short time later.
In Tucson, Arizona, police were investigating the second threat in two weeks sent to a JCC. Sgt. Pete Dugan, a spokesman for the police department, said a bomb threat was received via email.
There have been more than 148 reports of anti-Semitic bomb threats, calls against Jewish Community Centers across the US and several Jewish cemetery desecrations in St. Louis, Philadelphia and Brooklyn, New York. These occurrences have been condemned by both President Trump and Vice President Pence. The FBI has a task force currently investigating these occurrences and at least one arrest has been made in St. Louis of a suspect, Juan Franklin who made a string of 8 hate bombing calls. Franklin was a former staff journalist for on-line journal The Intercept, ironically fired for producing fake news stories.
Governor Inslee in a statement drew attention to this latest occurrence of intolerance in the State of Washington:
Yesterday’s act of vandalism at the Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle is the latest in a wave of anti-Semitic threats against our state’s Jewish community.
We can’t ignore the reality that these threats have increased in recent months. Right here in Washington — a state known for being tolerant, open-minded and forward-thinking. We are seeing an increase in reports of harassment, vandalism and attacks against Muslims, Sikhs, Hispanics and Latinos, African-Americans, LGBTQ individuals and other minority groups. I continue to stand with the Jewish community as I have stood with all Washingtonians. Regardless of one’s faith, color or orientation, Washington welcomes all.
The 2006 Seattle Jewish Federation lethal attack
The Seattle Jewish Community is acutely aware that anti-Semitic attacks can be lethal. In 2006 there was a shooting attack on the Seattle Jewish Federation offices by a Pakistani – American Muslim that killed one staffer, maiming and wounding others. We reported a second trial and conviction to multiple life sentences of a Pakistani American in December 2009 in a New English Review/Iconoclast blog post, .“Seattle Jihad Naveed Haq found guilty in Second Trial.”
Remember the infamous Seattle Mass shooter, Pakistani American, Naveed Haq? He was convicted by a Seattle Jury in a second trial. The AP report noted what he did in 2006:
Haq made several trips to gun stores in the weeks prior to the attack, wrote two documents on his father’s computer criticizing Israel and U.S. policy in the Middle East, and used MapQuest to find directions to the center from his family’s home in Pasco, 180 miles east of Seattle
Haq drove from his eastern Washington home to Seattle the day of the attack and forced a teenage girl at gunpoint to let him into the Jewish Federation. Once in the second-floor office, he opened fire, shooting some people in their cubicles, some in the hall and one, Pamela Waechter, fatally as she fled down a stairwell.
He shot and seriously injured five others. One of the shooting victims a woman who was pregnant was shot in her arm shielding her unborn fetus. Her child, a boy was born unharmed seven months later.
Here is the Seattle Times ‘harrowing testimony’ of Layla Bush in the first Haq trial in 2008. She has not been able to walk again:
As Layla Bush lay bleeding from a gunshot wound on the floor of her boss’s office, her thoughts were a jumble.
Against a backdrop of gunfire and screaming coming from other parts of the building, Bush thought about how, as the receptionist, it was her duty to call 911 and report the rampage at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.
But the pain in her side anchored her to the floor.
“I realized that I couldn’t move, so there was nothing I could do even if he was reloading,” she said.
Suddenly, the gunman, Naveed Haq, returned.
“We made eye contact, and he shot me again. I believe he was trying to kill me,” she testified.
According to the AP report on the second trial outcome:
Haq was found guilty of all eight counts against him. The 34-year-old man will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Haq’s first trial ended in 2008 with jurors deadlocked on whether he was legally insane during the shooting spree on July 28, 2006, that left one woman dead and five others injured.
The eight counts against him included one count of aggravated first-degree murder; five counts of attempted first-degree murder; one count of unlawful imprisonment; and one count of malicious harassment, the state’s hate-crime law.
Jurors rejected Haq’s defense that he was not guilty by reason of insanity. His lawyers acknowledged that he committed the shooting but said his mental illness kept him from understanding what he was doing.
They also conceded he poses a danger to the public and should never be free, but asked jurors to send him to a state mental hospital rather than prison. They declined comment after the verdict.
Prosecutor Don Raz said he was pleased the verdict would bring closure to the victims.
Raz argued Haq wasn’t insane – just angry – when he stormed the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.
“He was tired that no one was listening to the Muslim point of view. He wanted that point of view heard,” Raz told jurors as Haq’s second trial opened in October, 2009.
A major difference between this trial and the first was the playing of jailhouse phone calls.
In a recorded phone conversation after the shooting, Raz said, Haq told his mother, “I did a very good thing. I did it for a good reason.”
She said, “I know you’re not well,” to which Haq replied: “Whatever, Mom.”
One of Haq’s lawyers, John Carpenter, argued that his client believed he could change the course of wars by attacking the Jewish Federation.
The 2006 Seattle Jewish Federation attack was a wake-up call to Jewish communities across the country to undertake robust security precautions. Now, with this latest anti-Semitic graffiti incident in Seattle, the fear is palpable about whether this might be a prelude to another possible shooting incident or a temple bombing like the historic one in Atlanta in 1958. We only have to look at the March 3, 2017 shooting by a gunman wounding a Sikh in the driveway of his home in a Seattle suburb. The attacker shouted: “go back to your own country.” That is why this Seattle anti-Semitic incident matters both there and throughout this country. Violent intolerance kills.