A Rash Of Swastikas, With Question Marks


The reports of swastika incidents and other crimes lately seem to appear so fast that it’s hard to keep track of them. But in some cases, the episodes may have an awkward, if not bizarre, explanation.

Police on Monday arrested a Jewish man from Manhattan for making anti-Semitic phone calls to his mother and other women, and he is also suspected of painting anti-Semitic graffiti.

David Haddad, 56, was arrested Sunday for making anti-Semitic phone calls including a Dec. 11 call to his mother in which he said “All Jews should die and go to hell.” He was also charged with painting swastikas on the doors of some apartments at the Penn South apartment complex in Chelsea. Because of that crime, authorities are reportedly investigating whether he is connected to another graffiti attack in Midwood over the weekend.

Haddad reportedly knew nearly all of the victims, some of whom were his relatives, according to the New York Times. He reportedly was in a business dispute with his family, which may be the reason for the attacks.

A spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said Haddad would be charged with two counts of aggravated harassment as a hate crime and two more counts of aggravated harassment in the second degree and that other charges may be added. Hynes is prosecuting the case because some of the call recipients live in Brooklyn.

Marc Stern, legal expert for the American Jewish Committee, said that while he did not know of other cases of a Jew being charged with bias against Jews since New York passed its hate crimes law in 2000, there was no reason why it couldn’t happen.

“As an evidentiary matter it may be hard to prove, but there is no impediment,” said Stern. “It’s certainly not what the legislators had in mind, but there is nothing inherently wrong with it.”

A series of swastikas were painted the garage of a Jewish-owned house on East 5th Street in Midwood last weekend as well as on an apartment building across the street. The words “Die Jews” were also painted on the garage. A building of the Yeshiva of Brooklyn was also vandalized.

Councilman David Greenfield, who represents part of Midwood, said the perpetrator’s religion made little difference.

“Overall we are seeing a lot of anti-Semitism in the form of swastikas in the last few weeks, in Queens and Midtown, on a scale that we have never seen before, so the fact that we have an individual in custody is comforting,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

“I think Jewish people are capable of anti-Semitism, so I don’t see it as a matter of Jew versus non-Jew. A lot of these acts have no particular rhyme or reason.”

The vandalism, discovered Sunday morning, follows an incident in November in a nearby area of Midwood, when, on the day after the anniversary of Kristallnacht, swastikas were painted on the ground on Ocean Parkway and several cars were torched.

But in that incident, police are now considering the possibility that it was an insurance scam disguised as a bias crime, local media reported.

A police source told The Jewish Week Tuesday that that information “was released too soon” and that Hate Crimes investigators had yet to make a conclusion.

A swastika was also found scrawled in the heavily Jewish Wythe Avenue housing complex in Williamsburg on Jan. 12, and four days earlier several storefronts on Sixth Avenue near Bryant Park in Midtown were targeted with swastikas, including a bookstore and clothing shop. None was overtly Jewish-owned. Security cameras captured a group of youths identified as Asian carrying out the vandalism, according to the Village Voice, but no suspects have been arrested.

Michael Miller, executive vice president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New York, said he had confidence in the police to uncover both the culprits and their motives in all these incidents.

“It’s much too early to determine if this is a wave of anti-Semitism,” said Miller. “Until the perpetrators are identified we can’t either rule it in or out. Based on the Hate Crimes Task Force’s record in these investigations I’m confident justice will be served.”

The Anti-Defamation League recently announced that it does not automatically classify the painting of a swastika as an anti-Semitic crime because the Nazi icon has become so ubiquitous a symbol of hatred and protest and is often used against non-Jews.

In another incident involving a synagogue last weekend, thieves broke into Temple Beth-El in the small Bronx community of City Island and stole ritual items, including silver crowns from Holocaust-era Torah scrolls and kiddush cups, shortly before Shabbat.

“Instead of preparing to welcome Shabbat with joyful song and dance, community members and clergy arrived to a mess in the sanctuary and police investigators saying, “Don’t touch anything,” said the congregation’s rabbi, Shohama Weiner, and a shul member, David Evan Markus, in an e-mail message to The Jewish Week.

“We’re lucky: we weren’t firebombed like the Temple Beth-El of Rutherford, New Jersey; nobody was hurt and our Torahs were unharmed,” they wrote. “But the recent spate of violence against area synagogues is a sobering reminder of our world’s brokenness.”

JTA contributed to this report