A Southern hate group has been recruiting in my area, using anti-Semitic fliers to try and attract new members.
More than a hundred fliers have been dumped on lawns in and around Princeton, N.J., sealed in plastic bags and weighted down by sand. The fliers were linked to the national white-supremacist group, the National Alliance of Hillsboro, W.Va.
The fliers called the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism, "America's Greatest Enemy" and said "Let's deport these arrogant Jews."
The discovery of the fliers was a shocking development in this era of goodwill and tolerance, though it shouldn't be.
Anti-Semitism and ethnic and racial hatred have always been a part of the global landscape. I can remember as a kid being taunted occasionally for being a Jew, hearing kids repeat the asinine and ignorant comments their parents would make at home, using the epithets against my friends and me as a way to make themselves feel more important.
These hatreds and prejudices show up in Shakespeare (the Shylock character, Othello the Moor), in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, in Kipling's tales, in much of the historical and scientific writing of the past, and in the films Birth of a Nation and Gone With The Wind.
This long history should not obscure the fact that anti-Semitism seems to be growing in recent months, as have anti-Arab and anti-Muslim feelings.
In June, the ADL issued a report showing the number of anti-Semitic incidents on the rise and that Americans are more anti-Semitic than they have been in recent years. According to the ADL, 626 incidents had been reported through the end of May, an increase of 11% over the first five months of 2001. They've included a bullet fired through a window at a synagogue in Nashville, arson at Alameda, Calif., and Key West, Fla., synagogues, physical assaults in Brooklyn and Sacramento, Calif., and assorted vandalism.
In addition, reports of anti-Semitism -- and anti-Jewish violence -- in Europe also have been increasing. According to the ADL, synagogues in Russia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine were vandalized, firebombed or were damaged by Molotov cocktails. A swastika was painted on the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin and a Holocaust memorial in Greece also was defaced, a Jewish cemetery in Strasbourg, France, was vandalized and a Jewish day school in a Paris suburb set on fire and a warehouse at the school destroyed.
Jews have been physically attacked, as well. Youths with baseball bats attacked a Jewish soccer team training in another Paris suburb. A young Jewish couple were beaten in a town outside of Lyon and the woman, who was pregnant, was hospitalized. In Toulouse, a gunman opened fire on kosher butcher shop.
A young Jewish woman wearing a Star of David necklace was attacked in Berlin's underground rail system and two American Orthodox Jews were beaten in separate incidents.
Other groups have been targeted, as well. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, American Arabs have been attacked -- a former member of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey was killed in Texas, Arab and Sikh gas station attendants have reported harassment.
Blacks, of course, face constant abuse that ranges from police misconduct and profiling to violent racist attacks.
And on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there have been disgusting displays of racial and ethnic stereotyping, much of which relies on stock characterizations of Jews as greedy and Arabs as animals. (It also is unfortunate that some supporters of the Palestinians have difficulty separating Zionism and Israeli nationalism from Judaism; it is the Israeli government that is responsible for the occupation, not Jews, and that not all Jews support it. At the same time, not all Arabs and Palestinians are terrorists or support terror.)
This wave of fliers, unfortunately, bring this kind of hate home. They appear, according to Princeton police, to be part of an ongoing recruitment effort by the group, which had distributed similar fliers in Salt Lake City during the Winter Olympic games earlier this year. The group apparently has delivered similar fliers elsewhere in New Jersey.
But the distribution of fliers is more than a recruitment device. It is a calling card, a public announcement that the National Alliance is here and ready to hate -- and that it expects others to sign on. It is a warning to blacks, Arabs, Jews, Indians, to anyone who is not white, that there are people looking to enact a "thorough rooting out of Semitic and other non-Aryan values and customs everywhere," as the Alliance's Web site says.
The fliers, of course, are protected as speech by the First Amendment. But that does not diminish their intent as intimidation. And it does not mean we shouldn't be ready to combat their sentiments.
This is not just about Jews. This is about all of us.
We do this by loudly denouncing their sentiments, by standing up and showing that ethnic and racial hatred has no place in a free society like ours.
Hank Kalet is a poet and managing editor of the South Brunswick Post and the Cranbury Press. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.