Cardinal Dolan sharply rebukes surging religious hatred in U.S. amid Israel-Hamas war
(OSV News) -- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York has issued a sharp rebuke against surging religious hatred in the U.S. amid the Israel-Hamas war.
"In recent days here in America, where for hundreds of years many have sought refuge from religious persecution, we have seen outbreaks of religious hatred that shock the conscience," Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on Religious Liberty, said in a Nov. 1 statement.
After Hamas militants attacked some 22 locations in Israel Oct. 7, killing hundreds and taking over 200 hostages, Israel declared war on Hamas, placing Gaza under siege and pounding the region with airstrikes as Hamas has returned fire. To date, some 1,400 in Israel, including at least 30 U.S. citizens, and -- according to Hamas officials -- more than 8,300 in Gaza have been killed. The ensuing humanitarian crisis has left the Middle East "on the verge of the abyss," said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, as Israel has launched a ground offensive in Gaza.
The war has sparked a rise in both antisemitic and anti-Islamic incidents in several nations, including the U.S.
In an Oct. 25 press release, the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism reported that since Oct. 7, "incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault increased by 388 percent over the same period last year."
The ADL said it recorded a total of 312 antisemitic incidents in the U.S that occurred between Oct. 7 and 23, with 190 "directly linked to the war in Israel and Gaza."
Verbal and physical attacks against Jews have taken place across the country, said the ADL.
Among the incidents it cited were assaults of Jewish individuals in Detroit, Indianapolis and New York.
At Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, 21-year-old student Patrick Dai was arrested Oct. 31 and federally charged for his threats to kill and injure the school's Jewish students by shooting them with a semi-automatic rifle.
Following Hamas' Oct. 7 massacre, the ADL also noted "a nearly 1,000-percent increase" in the daily average of violent messages mentioning Jews and Israel posted to white supremacist and right-wing Telegram channels.
Rachel Sass, antisemitic incidents specialist with ADL Center on Extremism, told OSV News the latest increase in antisemitism also includes instances "not directly related to the conflict," with both types "on the rise right now."
With the Oct. 7 Hamas attack being the largest single attack on Jewish people since the Holocaust, the Jewish community is experiencing "a traumatic moment and a scary moment that, I think, brings up a lot of intergenerational trauma and memory of antisemitism from past generations," all of which is compounded by "this wave of antisemitism around the world," said Sass.
"As countless voices celebrate the brutal terrorist attacks of October 7, our Jewish brothers and sisters reasonably fear for their lives," said Cardinal Dolan in his statement.
Anti-Islamic incidents also have spiked, according to the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.
In an Oct. 25 press release, CAIR said it had received 774 complaints since Oct. 7, a total that "likely (does) not represent all cases nationwide."
By comparison, CAIR said it had counted just 63 incidents for the entire month of August.
The new data marks what is likely "the largest wave of complaints (CAIR) has seen since December 2015, after (former U.S. President) Donald Trump declared his intent to ban Muslims from the U.S.," said the organization.
CAIR research and advocacy director Corey Saylor told OSV News that "what has to be remembered is that human beings are behind" the statistics, adding that the anti-Muslim attacks CAIR has tracked are "shockingly personal."
On Oct. 26, Joseph Czuba of Plainfield, Illinois -- a member of that town's St. Mary Immaculate Parish -- was indicted by a grand jury for the Oct. 14 killing of a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy and the stabbing of his mother. According to prosecutors, Czuba -- the victims' landlord -- feared his tenants would rally their family and friends to attack him and his wife amid the Israel-Hamas war. On Oct. 30, Czuba pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, attempted murder and a hate crime.
"It is especially disheartening to learn that the man accused of killing a six-year-old Muslim boy in Chicago reportedly identifies as Catholic," said Cardinal Dolan in his statement. "Nothing could be more antithetical to our Church's teachings than this man's alleged crime."
CAIR also has noted "other trends" in anti-Islamic attacks such as "the use of vehicles as weapons, (with) people ramming (war) protestors)," as well as "brandishing or discharging of firearms" and reputational attacks that in some cases have cost those targeted their jobs, Saylor told OSV News.
He said that "antisemitism, Islamophobia (and) anti-Arab bias are all despicable," and that "domestically, the only winner right now is white supremacists because they hate all of us."
Sass agreed that white supremacists are "harnessing this conflict" for antisemitic purposes, not because "they're pro-Muslim necessarily," but rather to "push their opposition for support of anything Jewish."
"In the face of such base hatred, we must affirm certain fundamental truths," said Cardinal Dolan. "Every human life is of equally incalculable worth. Hating your neighbors is a grave sin against God, who created us all in his image and likeness. Violence only begets more violence, not justice."May those whose hearts have been gripped by hatred repent, and may people of goodwill stand courageously for peace," he said.
- - - Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) at @GinaJesseReina.