By now, you would’ve had to been hiding under a rock not to have heard about the hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas where a man, claiming to be homeless and needing shelter, gained entrance to the building. Malik Faisal Karam, a British citizen, arrived in this country on December 29, and in the time between then and Saturday managed to buy ammunition and a firearm, travel to Colleyville, enter the synagogue under false pretense and take 4 people hostage during Shabbat services, and threaten their lives. All this caught on the livestream broadcast for the remote Congregation. Mr. Akram talked about the injustice done to Aafia Siddiqui, a jihadi who is serving an 86-year sentence at a Texas prison for assaulting U.S. officers and employees with an M-4 rifle. Mr. Akram wanted her released (she has been in prison for 10 years).
After 11 hours, the hostages got out unharmed and Mr. Akram ended up dead. It is not yet known if his death resulted from security officers’ actions or if he committed suicide.
The FBI said this:
“We do believe from our engagement with this subject that he was singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community, but we are continuing to work to find the motive.”
And President Joe Biden said this:
I don’t think there is sufficient information to know why he targeted that synagogue why he insisted on the release of someone who’s been in prison for over 10 years… why he was using anti-Semitic & anti-Israeli comments.”
In their initial reporting, The Washington Post reported this:
In Texas, the identity of the suspect had not yet been released and a motive had not yet been officially announced, although a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing investigation said the man’s motive for taking hostages appeared to be his anger over the U.S. imprisonment of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman held in federal prison for trying to kill U.S. soldiers.
What no one reported as this was unfolding and as the siege ended was this:
During her trial, Siddiqui told the judge she did not want anyone with “a Zionist or Israeli background” on the jury and suggested that they be subject to “genetic testing.” As jurors left the courtroom at the end of the trial, Siddiqui said: “This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America. That’s where the anger belongs.”
PS: Siddiqui is a committed Jew hater. (Source: Bari Weiss in Common Sense January 17)
The AP did not initially report this, neither did the NY Times or the Washington Post, nor Politco. Everyone expressed ignorance as to why Mr. Akram chose Congregation Beth Israel outside of Dallas. Everyone, you see, but us cynical Jews.
One explanation is that Colleyville is remarkably close to the Federal prison holding Ms. Siddiqui. A different explanation for entering a synagogue is that people most likely to be inside a synagogue on a Saturday are those who just happen to be Jewish.
Can you imagine the commentary if the FBI investigating Dylan Roof, who shot and killed 9 African Americans in a church whose service he was attending, said the incident had nothing to do with race?
Jews represent something less than 2% of the population but 55% of the religiously motivated hate crimes in the United States. (FBI statistics)
And the NY Times, Washington Post, Politico, and all the rest could not put this together and offer it up to its audience? That is gaslighting at its finest. The antisemitic right applauds such actions and the woke progressive left denies them.
After reflection, and any number of guest columnists, yes, including many Jewish ones, suggesting the obvious connection between Mr. Akram and his choice of victims, the Washington Post finally came out with this:
Akram told the assembled that he chose to attack a synagogue because “America only cares about Jewish lives,” according to Silverman, who attended the Shabbat service online. At Beth Israel, Akram spoke with disdain about Israel and Jews and engaged in detailed negotiations with the FBI and with the rabbi.
The fact that sophisticated news reporters and media outlets would need direct quotes from participants to make the obvious connection here says volumes. After a great outcry from the Jewish community among others, the FBI, The NY Times, Washington Post, and others walked back their comments or lack thereof regarding the impetus for Mr. Akram ending up in a synagogue.
Maybe, I should not be incredulous. According to the American Jewish Committee most recent survey on the topic, while 80% of Jews think antisemitism is a real problem, only 40% of non-Jews believe so. Even more problematic is the following from the survey conclusions, “The other surprising finding was that the general public doesn’t believe that Jews’ views need to be taken into account when they consider whether or not something is anti-Semitic. Seven out of 10 Americans said that if a Jewish person or organization considered a statement to be anti-Semitic, that would not make a difference to them, and seven percent said that it would make them less likely to consider it anti-Semitic.”
Let us look at those last two sentences again. My interpretation of this is that most non-Jewish Americans believe that their definition of antisemitism is more relevant than those experiencing it and that one out of every 14 Americans believe that Jews are lying about their experiences with antisemitism.
I wish I had the same information about how non-Black people think about racism, but I can guess the results – they will be even worse.
Dara Horn, author of People Love Dead Jews and journalist covering Jewish culture, came to the realization that, in this era of increased anti-Semitic activity, much of her content concerned dead Jews, not living ones. There is something seriously wrong with a society more “entertained” by who died and how than what the living are doing and how.
We are teetering on the edge of harmful stuff here. Regardless of source or origin, we are clearly going backwards. The consequences are an increasingly divisive nation consisting of tribal groups with little common ground and an increasingly nervous group of minorities who feel threatened.
I ask you to contemplate the question of what people who are afraid tend to do – and I’ll answer my own question – they strike out, violently and blindly. Kyle Rittenhouse did it and got away with it because he was a young, white kid. When Black Lives Matter supporters march, they are domestic terrorists, but when right wingers attack the Capitol and commit sedition, they are merely protesters. Read this Religious News Service op-ed piece and ask yourself what kind of country we will be living in when clergy starts talking about owning and using guns. Scared white Christian folks are not the only people who can buy guns. If this continues, it will not end well.
My daughter worked in a synagogue. On her first day, she learned where every panic button was, including the one under her desk. As she reflected on this experience Saturday, she posted, “I prayed every day that I would never have to use it am endlessly grateful I never did – but days like this remind me that this was pure dumb luck.” I am willing to bet that my white Christian friends never had to think like that.
This is not the kind of country I want my children and grandchildren to inhabit. It is time for us to reject minority rule via fear and intimidation and wise the fuck up. Think of me as a modern-day Cassandra.