BOSTON – The region’s Jewish community has been shaken by two separate high-profile instances of antisemitism and hate that took place in the span of three days.
The first took place on Thursday, June 24, when a pro-Palestinian rally stopped in front of the Anti-Defamation League’s New England Regional Office on Court Street in Boston at which a journalist was accosted, spat at, called a Nazi and told: “Zionist go home!” according to a video of the protest. The writer who was harassed is not Jewish, but works for an organization that seeks to bring accuracy to reporting on the Middle East.
The other incident with antisemitic overtones took place on Saturday, June 26, with the execution-style double murder in Winthrop of two Black people by a man the Suffolk County District Attorney says “drew swastikas.”
Police and District Attorney Rachael Rollins say Nathan Allen, 28, carjacked and crashed a box truck into a house on Shirley Street, then shot and killed two Black people, one a veteran who had been a staff sergeant in the Air Force, Ramona Cooper, 60, and a retired Massachusetts State Trooper, David L. Green, 58.
Both victims were shot multiple times by Allen, who apparently interacted with but did not shoot others he encountered who were not Black.
A Winthrop police sergeant, responding to the crash scene, shot and killed Allen, described by Rollins as married, unassuming, with a Ph.D. and no criminal history.
“The individual wrote about the superiority of the white race … He drew swastikas,” she said about the suspect’s white supremacist writings.
During a video of a press conference, Rollins said: “We have found in this very preliminary stage of this investigation, and law enforcement has been working around the clock … that there is some troubling white supremacist rhetoric that was found in the hard police work that they did, in this individual’s, Nathan Allen’s, own handwriting, writing antisemitic and racist statements against Black individuals.”
“Obviously we have no tolerance for hate in this community,” said Winthrop Police Chief Terence Delehanty during the press conference. Delehanty said it’s an issue he and Rollins have worked on in the past in Winthrop. “We continue to work on it as a community.”
Rollins, when asked during the press conference, said the suspect was not on their radar. “We will be reaching out to lots of different members of law enforcement.” The shooter had a lawful gun license to carry which had transferred from another town, Rollins said, “meaning he had nothing in his background check.”
Rollins also pointed out that there were synagogues in the area where the shooter was driving at nearly twice the speed limit. “There are temples, right, where houses of worship for Jewish people are right around these corners. We don’t know where he is going, that is mere speculation; We do know he had antisemitic rhetoric written in his own hand,” she said.
“Apparent hate crime in Winthrop is another [example] of the grave threat extremist ideologies pose to our communities,” read a Tweet from ADL New England.
Zionist go home!
In Boston last Thursday, a “Free Palestine” rally organized by UMASS Boston Students for Justice in Palestine stopped at ADL Boston where a scuffle ensued with Dexter Van Zile, the Shillman Research Fellow for CAMERA who was covering the rally.
CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis, is a Boston-based nonprofit which promotes “accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East,” according to its website.
“We condemn the deplorable physical and verbal harassment of a pro-Israel activist at UMass Boston’s SJP rally yesterday,” read a statement posted to Twitter by Robert Trestan, regional director of ADL New England. “The disturbing scene right outside ADL Boston included shoving spitting, cursing, and labeling this bystander as a Nazi. As ADL has documented, far too-often so-called anti-Israel protests have devolved into anti-Israel hatefests that single out, marginalize and intimidate Zionists and Jewish community members. There is a time and a place for legitimate discussions and criticisms of Israel but resorting to slurs like ‘Nazis’ is not it. That’s not activism. That’s antisemitism. Period.”
“Everyone has a right to protest,” said the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston on Twitter. “They do not have the right to bully and intimidate those who come to observe peacefully.”
“It shouldn’t only be the Jews who go through stuff like this,” said Van Zile about the reason why he felt he needed to stick up for himself and the Jewish people when confronted at the rally.
In the video leading up to the scuffle, a woman speaker calls out Van Zile by name as he wrote in his notebook. Two journalists with CAMERA were also on hand taking videos, he said.
Van Zile was then confronted with a protestor wearing a mask and a reflective yellow vest carrying a cellphone. Van Zile said the man was trying to antagonize him, criticize his handwriting and tried to take his pen out of his hand.
Van Zile said he was then called out by activist Nino Brown, about whom Van Zile had written about in the past. Brown, according to the video, charged Van Zile with “trying to smear and muckrake on our righteous movement,” as he exhorted the crowd to chant “Zionist go home!”
Van Zile was surrounded. “Get the (expletive) out!” Another man wearing a kippah and what appeared to be a “Free Palestine” T-shirt repeated: “Don’t give them any ammunition … They will use this against us.”
Later, a woman wearing the Palestinian flag and headdress shouted: “You’re a (expletive) pig,” and spat in his direction. A man yelled: “(expletive) you, pig!” As the march turned the corner, another man wearing a yellow vest appeared to push Van Zile and Van Zile shoved him back.
“You cannot yield to them in any way shape or form,” Van Zile said about what happened when he turned to walk with the march.
“To be honest with you,” Van Zile said, “my mind kind of went blank. OK, I’m outnumbered. The one thing we had on our side, anything they did was being videotaped. That was the one source of calm.”
Van Zile, 56, has worked for CAMERA since 2006. He considers himself a Zionist.
“My concern remains the safety and welfare of the Jewish people. As time goes on it goes beyond that,” he said of these kinds of protests. “Oftentimes, people use antisemitism to achieve political power.” That was the case with this rally, he said, which was meant to frighten Jews in the Boston area from participating in civic life.