Marcos Bretón

Opinion: Anti-Semitic display at Sacramento home part of hateful trend

A home on Moddison Avenue in Sacramento’s River Park neighborhood displays a swastika on an Israeli flag.
A home on Moddison Avenue in Sacramento’s River Park neighborhood displays a swastika on an Israeli flag.

When news broke that some crank had erected a shrine to anti-Semitism at a River Park home, I rolled my eyes. I laughed when a TV news reporter tried to talk to the crank as he slammed the front door while the reporter approached with the cameras rolling. It was the act of a petulant child.

Then the story hung on, lapped over into the next news cycle, wouldn’t go away. My annoyance grew.

Why are we giving this idiot what he wants?

Clearly, if you decide to desecrate a replica of the flag of Israel by replacing the Star of David with a swastika, you are screaming for attention.

You want people to be angry. You want the TV cameras and the news stories. You want to promote hatred.

Intolerance is a conspiracy that attracts like-minded haters, but the danger with this conspiracy is that it is far from isolated. This is not just about one crank at one home in one neighborhood.

This is a symbol of intolerance akin to similar symbols we’ve seen both far and near the home on Moddison Avenue where an anti-Semitic shrine violates the essence of community.

Only weeks ago, a swastika was scrawled on the wall of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity at UC Davis.

“Jewish people still can’t feel safe on their own campuses and in their own houses,” Nathaniel Bernhard, vice president of Alpha Epsilon Pi, said in The Sacramento Bee. “Anti-Semitism still exists today. It’s not a fairy tale.”

Last week, the National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students, produced by Trinity College, found that more than half of Jewish students at American colleges had witnessed or experienced anti-Semitism within the previous academic year.

“This is a national problem; it’s not just happening in pockets of areas,” Trinity professor Ariela Keysar said in The Washington Post.

The Trinity survey follows the Pew Research Center’s 2013 “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” which found that 22 percent of young Jews reported being called an offensive name in the previous year because they were Jewish, a far higher percentage than older Jews. It also comes 10 years after the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights declared that campus anti-Semitism had become a “serious problem” and called for more research on the issue, The Post wrote.

According to the Pew Research Center, global harassment of Jewish people is at a seven-year high – particularly in Europe. Jews were among the targets of the recent terror attacks in Denmark and France, even as the population of Jewish people in Europe has declined rapidly in the last two decades.

When the crank in River Park raised a Palestinian flag amid his anti-Semitic shrine, he connected an otherwise peaceful pocket of Sacramento with a conflict responsible for many lifetimes of bloodshed.

His hate shrine may be protected by a U.S. Supreme Court that has consistently upheld the rights of those who burn the American flag, but it only serves to promote discrimination and discord. It doesn’t teach or inform. It only divides.

“When the founders of our country sat down to write the Bill of Rights, I don’t believe their intention was to permit what this man has done,” said Rabbi Reuven Taff of the Mosaic Law Congregation in Sacramento.

“This is the kind of act that needs to be expunged from our society.”

Property records list the owners of the home where the shrine is erected as Douglas M. Clark and Mary K. Clark. Voter registration records show that Douglas Clark is a registered member of the Green Party.

Is Mr. Clark responsible for the abomination? Who knows? The artist won’t speak. That’s what tends to happen with demonstrations such as these. Artists of hate tend to cover up their faces, scrawl their work in the dead of night – like someone did at Alpha Epsilon Pi in Davis – or slam doors when news cameras come around.

If you really believe in your message, then say it in public. Reveal your identity. But that’s not going to happen because hate is a coward. Hate has no friends, only co-conspirators.

“We can talk all we want about slippery slopes (of free speech), but there will be copycats,” said Taff while noting a curiosity of free speech: Those who would defend anti-Semitic imagery but fill his voicemail with angry messages attacking those who speak out against it.

In Canada, there have been “hate promotion offenses” written into the criminal code of the nation.

For example, it’s against the law to communicate “statements that willfully promote hatred against an identifiable group.” An “identifiable group” is defined “as any section of the public distinguished by color, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.”

According to the Canadian Library of Parliament, these laws were written specifically to curb “groups and individuals engaged mainly in anti-Semitic and anti-black propagandizing.”

These laws take into account the times in which we live and target those who spread hate and attack the idea of community.

Near the anti-Semitic display in River Park, people are pushing back peacefully.

On Friday, Taff sent an email of a sign placed in window near the offending home of Moddison Avenue. It simply read: “Hate is not acceptable in our community.”

Call The Bee’s Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee