OPINION: Antisemitic hate groups have no place in Florida

State officials need to address the sharp rise in antisemitic hate crimes in Florida, not ignore them. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/TED EYTAN

The U.S. has seen a drastic increase in antisemitism, and Florida is ranked third in the country for antisemitic activity, according to a Sept. 13 report by the Anti Defamation League (ADL).

Anti-Jewish incidents have dangerously increased in Florida this year, so state officials must denounce hate groups and address the issue before it becomes violent.

On May 7, there were Nazi demonstrations in front of Walt Disney World. On July 23, Neo-Nazi group Goyim Defense League appeared outside of a Turning Point USA convention in Tampa handing out antisemitic flyers with their group proudly claiming responsibility.

These acts can be seen on social media, where even popular celebrities spread antisemitic rhetoric.

Rapper Kanye West has come under fire on social media after an Oct. 9 Instagram post claimed rapper Sean Diddy was controlled by the Jewish media. 

Following his suspension from Instagram, West took to Twitter to rant before his account was restricted. Kanye’s tweet and Instagram caption shared the same conspiracy theory that Jewish people control the media and everyday life.

“I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 – ON JEWISH PEOPLE – the funny thing is I actually can’t be Anti Semitic because Black people are actually Jew also – You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone who opposes your agenda,” West tweeted on Oct. 9 following his Instagram suspension.

West is a popular figure in the media, especially now due to his political beliefs and controversial behavior. The artist is popular among college students, which is concerning for some students.

“I believe that such extreme and offensive claims made by such a major and influential artist of our time has serious implications, both socially and politically, and they should not be taken lightly,”  senior Munira Alani said to The Oracle on Oct. 13.

The increase in antisemitic conspiracies coming from popular artist is alarming, but to see hate groups in Florida proudly standing with swastikas and yelling hate filled antisemitic language is a warning. While just words, they can evolve into something much more dangerous.

“It is important as members of the Jewish community and Americans for people to pay serious attention to this,” Jacob Soliman, CEO and president of the Greater Miami Jewish federation, said in a Sept. 16 NBC 6 interview.

“It is very easy for people to write it off as another bunch of crazies and it does not mean anything or going anywhere, but words lead to actions, and we have seen what happens when hate goes unchecked.”

From January to August there have been over 400 instances of antisemitic propaganda distributed in Florida filled with misinformation and hateful stereotypes surrounding the Jewish community, according to the ADL report. 

In 2020, there were 127 antisemitic incidents reported in Florida, and this year 190 incidents have been reported so far. A 2020 report by the FBI showed 676 anti-Jewish incidents across the U.S., meaning that in 2020, Florida alone accounted for 19% of antisemitic crimes in the country.

On Jan. 30, UCF student David Newstat was allegedly attacked by a Neo-Nazi group in Orlando. 

In an interview, Newstat told Fox 35 reporters he had an Israeli flag on his car, leading the group to call him antisemitic slurs and attack him once he stepped out to confront the group. The hate crime included being pepper sprayed, assaulted and having his phone stolen by his attackers, who were self-proclaimed Nazi members.

“I’m literally Jewish and I got attacked, assaulted, pepper-sprayed, spit on, you name it,” Newstat told Fox 35. “[I was] called disgusting slurs just because of my religion.”

One of the suspects, Joshua Terell, a member of the Nazi demonstration, said Newstat was brandishing the star of david in a May 16 interview. In the interview with detectives, Terrell continued stating antisemitic conspiracy theories that Jewish people controlled the banks.

Hateful rhetoric like this is not new, and sadly it is not something USF is immune to.

Pi Kappa Phi members drew a swastika on a Jewish member’s chest during an initiation activity hosted on Feb. 11, according to a Feb. 23 Oracle story. The fraternity condemned the incident on its Instagram, issuing an apology and denouncing antisemitism.

Florida officials have yet to release any statement or comments on the ADL report, let alone acknowledge the rise of antisemitic behavior. Without denouncing antisemitic attacks, it allows these hate groups to feel safe and continue their deplorable actions. This inaction not only harms Jewish communities, but the people of Florida opening their mailboxes to flyers filled with antisemitic rhetoric.

USF’s main principle of community includes diversity and inclusion, uniting the community that lives and works on campus as one. To see Florida rank so high in antisemitic hate crimes should not only make students sad, but should get them angry. 

Hate has no place in the Sunshine State, and to see such blatant acts of violence against one group is an attack against everyone.