Double standards towards rising hate crimes against Palestinians
Washington can put an end to these consistent acts of hate-crime and terror towards Palestinians, but refuses to move in that direction.
As the Israeli occupation sustains its attacks on Gaza and sidesteps accountability for war crimes, hate incidents against Muslim Americans continue to reach new highs. The most visible example of brutality is the shooting of three young Palestinian men – Hisham Awartani, Tahseen Ali and Kenan Abdulhamid – in the U.S. state of Vermont. They were wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh and nearly four rounds were shot by the gunman. Awartani, 20, faces the specter of a life-altering disability, and may not be able to walk again.
These attacks on Palestinian identity cannot be viewed in isolation. These are manifestations of terror and deserve to be condemned and addressed with the same pace of justice as against other segments. They are also reflective of a growing climate of intolerance towards anything remotely linked to the cause of the Palestinian resistance in the U.S., and the Palestinian identity that underpins it. Families of all three students are on edge, simply because their children were targeted, attacked, and clearly dehumanized. And yet, the response from the White House remained grounded in double-standards. Biden extended a passing expression of ‘horror’ at the incident, and nothing beyond such cosmetic rhetoric. If the goal is to show some teeth on justice for aggrieved families, put an end to this streak of rampant hate crimes against Palestinians in the aftermath of October 7.
The earlier stabbing of six-year-old Wadea al-Fayoume should’ve been a wake-up call for Washington to end its denial and lax accountability toward Palestinian lives. Federal officials haven’t come through on releasing data about reported threats or incidents, despite the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) painting a completely different picture.
From October 7-24, the Council said it received hundreds of requests for help and pointed to many reports of bias incidents from Muslims across the country. And yet U.S. officials have shown reluctance to even render the latest shooting a hate crime, pointing to the hypocritical standards applied in investigating and projecting terror against Muslims. According to Vermont’s own hate crimes statute, a crime motivated “in whole or in part, by the victim’s actual or perceived protected category” qualifies as one. That is where the debate needs to focus to establish reasonable doubt and ensure that such instances get the longer jail sentences and higher fines that they unquestionably deserve.
Support from law enforcement officials makes the prejudice clear as day. Look no further than the remarks from Burlington Police Chief Jon Murad, who urged the public to avoid calling the incident as hate-motivated and sought to underplay critical media scrutiny. Such unwarranted distinctions are quick to arrive when the matter concerns the lives of innocent Palestinians. Sympathy is also deliberately skewed away from justice when urgently needed. All of a sudden, the debate in the U.S. is about gathering so-called “evidence” on a gunman who is subject to three counts of attempted second-degree murder.
All these double-standards contribute to the empowerment of a principal shooter, enabling him to enter public eye and tout the falsehood that he’s not guilty. In the process of this brazen display of audacity, Palestinian lives are dehumanized and swift justice takes a backseat. “Tragically, this incident is yet another example of the diminished regard for the lives, suffering, and inherent humanity of Palestinians,” read a statement from the Ramallah Friends School. “Let this incident be a stark reminder of the urgent need to challenge and change the discourse that deems us as anything less than fully human; people who are deserving of empathy, compassion, rights, life, freedom, and happiness.”
Washington can put an end to these consistent acts of hate-crime and terror towards Palestinians, but refuses to move in that direction. It continues to sponsor Israeli aggression in Gaza, overlooking gaps in a fragile truce, and openly justifying Israeli right to further its genocide. Congress’s decision to weigh more aid to the Israelis is the latest illustration of tacit U.S. facilitation. This is important, because the brutal shooting is part of a larger wave of hate crimes and terror against Palestinians in wake of the Israeli war on Gaza. Evidence as far as Europe has made clear that anti-Muslim hate crimes have proliferated in wake of the assault, and that Islamophobia has taken on a new intensity across the United States.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has statistical evidence that past Israeli aggression in 2004 and 2014 has drastically shot up nationwide anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. The current genocide supersedes all past Israeli brutalities against Palestinians, and yet Washington refuses to put the brakes on bloodshed in Gaza.
Thus understood, Hisham Awartani, Tahseen Ali, and Kenan Abdulhamid’s shootings make clear that there is a deliberate attempt to downplay the root causes that enable such a climate of prejudice and hate-crimes against Palestinians. The need for course correction appears more significant than ever.