OpinionU.S. News

Palestinian ‘hate-crime’ hoax

Statistics show that antisemitism is on the rampage, while Islamophobia is minuscule. And that’s bad for the Palestinian cause.

Islamophobia. Credit: frank333/Shutterstock.
Islamophobia. Credit: frank333/Shutterstock.
Moshe Phillips
Moshe Phillips is a commentator on Jewish affairs whose writings appear regularly in the American and Israeli press.  

The Vermont man charged with shooting three Palestinian-American college students on Nov. 25 was a defender of Hamas, The New York Times has belatedly acknowledged—and with it, the No. 1 example of an “anti-Palestinian hate crime” has completely crumbled.

For the past three months, the Times and other major news media have portrayed the incident in the city of Burlington as proof that Palestinians are victims of hate crimes in America. Whenever somebody points to the outsized number of recent antisemitic incidents, Arab advocates cite the Vermont shooting as evidence that Arabs and Muslims are just as much victims as the Jews.

It’s reached the point that when some universities announce they are forming a committee to investigate antisemitism, they also announce one to investigate Islamophobia—as Harvard recently did. Even the Biden administration, after unveiling its U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, then announced it is preparing a national strategy to counter Islamophobia, too.

But it turns out that Exhibit A of “anti-Palestinian hate” apparently was nothing of the sort.

As early as last December, local media in Vermont reported that the alleged shooter’s social-media accounts included pro-Hamas statements.

The major news media ignored this myth-busting news—until now. The New York Times Sunday Magazine, in its March 3 edition, included a long essay by Rozina Ali, formerly a Cairo-based journalist who now teaches adjunct at New York University. She is writing a book on “the recent history of Islamophobia in the United States.”

The entire theme of Ali’s article in the Times was why we should feel sympathy for the three 20-year-old men, one of them very seriously hurt. Fair enough. Of course, everybody should feel sympathy for any innocent person who is shot.

But deep in the article, in paragraph 30 (out of 41), the text suddenly took a strange turn. “Hate crimes are challenging to prove in court,” Ali wrote. What made this case “even more tricky” was that the alleged shooter, Jason Eaton, said nothing out loud before, during or after the shooting.”

Usually, you know something was a hate crime because the perpetrator yelled a racist slogan or told the police he was motivated to attack the victim because of the victim’s race or religion. Sometimes, the attacker’s social-media accounts contain racist writings.

But in this case, according to author Rozina Ali, it was the exact opposite.

With regard to the Oct. 7 pogrom perpetrated by Hamas in southern Israel that killed 1,200 men, women and children, here’s what the “anti-Palestinian” Eaton wrote on X on Nov. 16: “What if someone occupied your country? Wouldn’t you fight them?”

Although Ali quoted only one of Eaton’s posts, there was at least one more in the same vein. This is what Eaton tweeted on Oct. 17 (which was quoted by the Vermont-based news agency Seven Days on Dec. 6): “The notion that Hamas is ‘evil’ for defending their state from occupation is absurd. They are owed a state. Pay up.”

That crashing sound you hear is the shattering of the myth that the Vermont shooting was Islamophobia. No wonder the police have not charged Eaton with a hate crime: his social-media accounts clearly indicate he is a supporter, not a hater, of the Palestinian Arabs. Ali and others have reported that Eaton has a long history of personal problems. That would seem to be what was behind this crime.

But that didn’t fit the narrative that Palestinian advocates prefer. So, as long as that critical information was confined to the local Vermont press, they could keep claiming that the shooting was “anti-Palestinian hate.” Now the jig is up. It has been acknowledged by The New York Times.

This matters because the fight for public opinion regarding Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip revolves around the question of sympathy. In the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 mass murders, most of the public’s sympathy was with Israel. But after months of nonstop biased media reporting, some Americans’ sympathies have shifted.

The attention being paid to rising antisemitism creates sympathy for Jews and, by extension, for Israel. Supporters of the Palestinian Arabs want to reduce that sympathy, by claiming that they, too, are the victims of bigotry.

Statistics about hate crimes show that antisemitism is on the rampage, while Islamophobia is minuscule. That reality is bad for the Palestinian cause. So, advocates seize every opportunity to claim that some incident was anti-Arab or anti-Muslim.

Last November, an Ohio man named Hesham Ayyad claimed a driver yelled “Kill all Palestinians!” and “Long live Israel!” at him and then ran him over. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and similar groups yelled “Hate crime!” But security footage showed Ayyad and his brother got into a fistfight on that street corner, which is what caused his injuries. Ayyad has been charged with lying about the incident. CAIR still won’t admit that it was a hoax.

I doubt that CAIR will acknowledge the truth about the Vermont shooting, either. Extremists are reluctant to ever admit that they were wrong about anything. But reasonable people can no longer deny the reality of Jason Eaton’s pro-Hamas posts.

It’s a tragedy when any innocent person is shot. However, people are shot all the time, and their stories almost never make the pages of The New York Times Sunday Magazine. The fact that the three Vermont victims feared it might have been a hate crime is no longer relevant once everyone knows that the perpetrator’s motives had nothing to do with hate—and therefore there is no reason to give them special treatment in the Times or any place else.

The shooter’s own words, written on X before he carried out his crime, clearly indicated that his assault on the young men had no political implications. Any further attempt to exploit it for political purposes is nothing less than fraud.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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