Wednesday morning when she arrived at Columbia University for work, Jewish professor Elizabeth Midlarsky was met with two swastikas and the slur “yid” spray-painted in red on her office walls. The following day, and on the other side of the country in southwest Los Angeles, someone spray-painted white swastikas across a section of the celebrated black history murals on Crenshaw Avenue, defacing the figures of the female leaders of the Black Panther movement.
Both incidents are being investigated as hate crimes. Both incidents also fit into a string of upsetting anti-Semitic events that have occurred throughout the country this year.
“I was in shock,” Midlarsky, who focuses much of her teaching, research, and writing on the Holocaust, told campus newspaper the Columbia Spectator of the incident. “I stopped for a moment, because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”
In Los Angeles, artist Enkone Goodlow, who painted the Black Panther section of the mural, immediately returned to paint over the swastikas after learning about the graffiti. “I was hurt because that portion of the mural has never been defaced,” Goodlow told CNN.
While these two events are the most high-profile anti-Semitic crimes of the week, they are not isolated. Goucher College students woke up on Thursday morning to find swastikas spray painted on their Maryland campus. It was the second time this occurred this month; a suspect was arrested. In New Jersey, two middle schools and a high school, all in Union County, found swastikas and other hateful graffiti drawn on their school property as well.
Nor is it an issue isolated to this week: As Vox’s Tara Burton reported, there’s been a steady increase in anti-Semitic incidents and hate crimes since the 2016 presidential campaign season.
In 2017, the last year for which complete data is available, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an advocacy group dedicated to combating anti-Semitism, found that there had been 1,986 reported anti-Semitic incidents in the United States that year, including acts of vandalism as well as physical violence. That figure was a 57 percent increase from 2016, which itself had seen a 35 percent uptick in incidents from 2015.
Anti-Semitism has been on the rise since Trump’s inauguration. This year, it got worse.
Generally, anti-Semitism has been on the rise over the past few years — there was a nearly 60 percent uptick in incidents in the first year of Trump’s presidency, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. And with the October mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11, 2018 has been particularly devastating.
Trump’s presidency and the nationalist rhetoric he espouses have been blamed by many for the rising climate of extremism and hate in America. In anticipation of his trip to Pittsburgh after the synagogue shooting, a group of Jewish leaders in the community wrote a letter asking him not to come. They said the attack was, as Vox’s Emily Stewart put it, “the ‘direction culmination’ of the president’s influence.”
Both the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter and the man who mailed prominent Democrats bombs earlier this fall both expressed xenophobic sentiments and attacked high-profile political figures as “globalists,” Stewart noted:
It’s not hard to see the similarities between these men’s beliefs and Trump’s rhetoric. The president often complains about globalists and at a recent rally declared himself a nationalist. The term “globalist” is often considered code for anti-Semitism.
Anti-semitism has long been a rising problem in Europe, but as recently as 2014, scholars thought it was not as serious an issue within the United States. All it takes is one look at Midlarksy’s office walls to see how rapidly that’s changed.