Remember Lihi Aharon? The Israeli student took a New York subway ride last month and got assaulted by a woman yelling anti-Semitic taunts at both her and an Orthodox Jewish man riding in the same car. Much of the attack was caught on video, and police arrested the woman at a subway station while she ranted against the Jews and promised that Allah would wipe them all out.
In comments to made available to Hot Air (and others) today, executive director Brooke Goldstein calls a failure to pursue a hate crime charge “an egregious miscarriage of justice”:
“The Jewish community is under siege and the DA’s office won’t even attempt to defend us. Allowing acts of hate and violence like what happened to Lihi to go unanswered seeds the ground for more horrible tragedies like we saw in Jersey City and Monsey. We must send a message that religious bigotry and violence targeted against any minority community is not acceptable.”
According to a source close to the legal team, the DA’s office informed Aharon’s attorneys of the decision earlier this week. Oddly, though, the DA’s office declined to present the grand jury with an opportunity to indict the perp under hate-crime laws. That infuriated Ken Belkin of the Spodek Law Group, in comments also made available to Hot Air, and confirmed personally by me. “If this isn’t clear evidence of a hate crime, I don’t know what is,” Belkin wrote. “This is a slap in the face to every Jewish New Yorker.”
I contacted the Manhattan District Attorney’s office this morning to determine their position on this. They politely declined to comment “on open and pending investigations.” They referred me to watch for the next court date on January 23rd, when the DA will have to decide on the indictment.
There is still time, therefore, for Cyrus Vance and his office to rethink this — and they should take advantage of it. I view hate-crime laws with deep skepticism because of the ease in which they can be manipulated, and this is a perfect example of it. The DA’s office appears to be comfortable pursuing hate-crime charges against some anti-Semites but not others. Equal application of the law, even in cases of hate crimes, requires that the same charges be pursued regardless of the identity of the perpetrator of the crime. If prosecutors aren’t willing to do that, then they should not be given tools like hate-crime laws in the first place — or should step aside for attorneys with less discomfort with equal application of the law.
Or if they can’t do that much, why not take it to a grand jury to see if they have more intellectual honesty and consistency? The failure to ask a grand jury to consider a hate crime rider in this case is inexplicable, especially with the video evidence and witness testimony available.
John wrote about it as an “another anti-Semitic incident for the national media to ignore,” but unfortunately, a series of further anti-Semitic hate crimes in the NYC metropolitan area were tougher to ignore. By not charging a hate crime in this instance, it sends a pretty loud signal that Jews can’t expect the same level of protection as perhaps more-favored groups that these laws are designed to protect. Expect to see even more of these attacks as a result, if the DA’s office doesn’t change their minds.
Update: Jeff Dunetz wonders at length, “How Did The Black-Jewish Civil Rights Alliance Become African-American Antisemitism?” The answer, as Jeff notes, is that it didn’t — except in certain groups. It’s a long read but a useful reminder of the history in place.
Update, 17:27 pm: I just got off the phone with Ken Belkin on my show, who called in immediately after talking again with the Manhattan DA’s office. He was informed that they are reconsidering their decision not to press hate crimes charges, and that he should know in the next few days. Belkin told me that he has great respect for the DA’s office in Manhattan and that they usually do the right thing in these cases.
His interview comes at the 60-minute mark or so, so be sure to hear all his comments.