Boston (Dec. 22)
An official of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith has charged that law enforcement agencies are not taking seriously the alarming upsurge of anti-Semitic acts of vandalism and defacement of property reported in Massachusetts during the past year. According to Leonard Zakim, civil rights director of the ADL, the number of such incidents in the state nearly doubled, rising from 34 in 1980 to 64 in 1981.
ADL records showed that most of the complaints were received from persons in 32 towns in Massachusetts. An ADL audit ranked this state third in the nation with respect to anti-Semitic manifestations, Susan Feinberg of The Jewish Advocate reported.
Most frequent were the scrawlings of swastikas and graffiti such as “Hitler should have burned all Jews,” “Jews should be buried,” “kike” and “Kill Jews” found on homes, synagogues, businesses, schools and public transportation facilities.
Ms. Feinberg reported that Zakim said one of the factors responsible was “the economic tension in the country which contributes to the desensitization of many people to these acts.” But he added, “the failure of the law enforcement community to take these problems to the attention of the authorities, encourages the perpetrators to think that they can get away with it.”
POLICE DISMISS ANTI-JEWISH ACTS
Zakim said the police often dismiss anti-Jewish acts committed by juveniles as malicious mischief rather than serious crimes. He also accused the police of hiding behind the funding problems induced by Proposition 2 1/2, a state law reducing property taxes similar to California’s Proposition 13. “I don’t think 2 1/2 should stand in the way of police protecting the rights of Jewish citizens,” he said according to The Jewish Advocate.
Martin Walsh, regional director of the U.S. Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, attributed the increase of anti-Semitic graffiti to “a developing climate in the country today, a growing intoleranoe for people who are different.”
But Walsh also indicated that many people are not aware of the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act, passed in February, 1980, which allows persons who were previously restricted to suing under federal civil rights law for redress for acts of vandalism, to bring criminal or civil action in state court.
The law provides for fines up to $1,000 and prison terms up to one year for such violations where no bodily injury results. According to the ADL, there has been only one successful prosecution under the new law.
Sol Kolack, the ADL’s East Coast director, cautioned Jews to keep the increased anti-Semitic vandalism in perspective, the Advocate reported. Nevertheless, the ADL is urging the Jewish community to report promptly any and all anti-Semitic incidents. “The name of the game is to make these perpetrators accountable,” Zakim said. He is the ADL’s New England director.