Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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Antisemitic Hecklers Disrupt New Jersey Communal Assembly

Tuesday’s council meeting was peppered with hate speech and vitriol when dozens of residents and some non-residents called in to support or reject a resolution for a ceasefire in Gaza. 

During a more than five hour debate, some said that it’s an international matter, and West Orange can’t affect the situation. Others noted that cities in America have been passing similar legislation.  

As tensions increased, several calls came in from people with fake names and addresses, who were thought to be non-residents. One listed Biden administration officials who are Jewish and said the word “Jewish” after each name, encouraging listeners to “do what they want with the information.” Another white supremacist spoke of the “Holohoax” and made other antisemitic comments. A third started talking about building concentration camps for Jewish people. Several times, Council President Bill Rutherford asked the callers not to use hate speech, and they each called him a racist pejorative – some repeatedly.

Town council members remarked that they had never experienced such a painful and disturbing public meeting. Antisemitic statements were also made by callers who were not part of the white supremacist Zoom Bombing calls.

Rutherford read the ceasefire resolution aloud and recommended that council members offer edits that they feel would help it pass during a vote at the next meeting. Council Member Asmeret Ghebremicael agreed with him, but the other council members voted not to reintroduce the resolution.

Rutherford commented that raising the Israeli flag after Oct. 7 and not raising the Palestinian flag and passing an antisemitism resolution rather than waiting to pass a comprehensive anti-hate resolution for all ethnic groups has left a segment of the population feeling like the township doesn’t care about it.  

“We have to be fair, and that is simply what we’re trying to do. And I would hope that after witnessing this display of antisemitism, racism and Islamophobia tonight, that each of us that live here will go out of our way to show more grace to create more space to address this issue in a way that makes sense for the entire town so that we can get out of this business and get back to the business of governing on the local level,” Rutherford concluded.

West Orange for Humanity issued a press release condemning the calls, which are being investigated by the West Orange Police Department. “We are upset and saddened that the rising tide of white supremacist hate in our country has reared its ugly head in our community. We send our support to our Town Council members who had to endure the painful and offensive racist and antisemitic language. It is especially agonizing that these attacks came at the same time as residents across our town have been voicing their concerns about a rise in Islamophobia and antisemitism across the country, and unfortunately, right here in West Orange.”

They also mentioned that the attack was likely part of a coordinated effort by white supremacists to “Zoom Bomb” City Council meetings in cities and towns across the U.S. such as Anacortes, WA, Calabasas, CA, Winthrop, MA and Iowa City.