The PJ Tatler

Did 'Obsessive' Gaza Coverage Contribute to the Murder of an Orthodox Rabbi in Miami?

There was a horrific murder on Saturday in North Miami. An orthodox rabbi visiting family in Miami was gunned down in broad daylight in a heavily Jewish section of the city. Joseph Raksin was approached by two young males and shot. He was airlifted to a hospital but died a few hours later.

Both the Miami-Dade police and the local Anti-Defamation League say that the murder was more likely a robbery gone bad than a hate crime. But police are still investigating. And a recent spate of vandalism directed against the Orthodox community has many residents questioning whether the rabbi’s murder was an act of anti-Semitism.

The Miami Herald reports:

The shooting took place in an area of unincorporated Northeast Miami-Dade near North Miami Beach, where swastikas found painted on a local synagogue last month have worried local Jewish leaders.

“At this time there is no indication of this being a hate crime,” said Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Elena Hernandez in a statement.

She said police are searching for two young male suspects, one of whom may have fled on a bicycle. The other may have run from the area.

Late Saturday, Hava Holzhauer, the Anti-Defamation League Florida Regional Director, whose organization has been in close contact with Miami-Dade homicide investigators, said the crime “appears to be a robbery that went badly.”

“Currently no evidence has been brought to light that it was motivated by anti-Semitism,” Holzhauer said.

Said Holzhauer: “This is a terrible tragedy. While the motivation for this crime is still being investigated, nothing can justify the killing of an innocent man walking to his place of worship to pray on his holy day.”

Miami-Dade police have not commented on whether the shooting was connected to a robbery attempt on Raksin.

Yona Lunger, a local Jewish community activist and member of the Shmira Patrol — a neighborhood watch group — confirmed to the Miami Herald late Saturday that Raksin was an Orthodox rabbi from Brooklyn who was in South Florida to visit his granddaughter and other relatives.

Efforts to reach the relatives were unsuccessful.

Raksin was on his way to Bais Menachem, 1005 NE 172nd Ter., when he was shot, said Lunger, who spoke to one witness who told him that — contrary to what Miami-Dade police reported — Raksin had no altercation with the two young men. He said the witness, whom he did not identify, told him that Raksin was shot immediately after the two approached him on Northeast 175th Street.

Another local Jewish community leader, Brian Siegal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Miami and Broward Regional Office, said he believes Raksin’s shooting may be connected to the recent act of vandalism at the nearby Torah V’Emunah, an Orthodox synagogue, 1000 NE 174th St.

On July 28, police reported that swastikas were spray-painted on the front pillars of a Northeast Miami-Dade synagogue, which has left the local Jewish community on edge, especially amid the heightened tension between Israel and Palestinians over the conflict in Gaza.

There may be “no evidence” that this was a hate crime, but how the shooting went down is certainly suspicious:

Raksin was on his way to Bais Menachem, 1005 NE 172nd Ter., when he was shot, said Lunger, who spoke to one witness who told him that — contrary to what Miami-Dade police reported — Raksin had no altercation with the two young men. He said the witness, whom he did not identify, told him that Raksin was shot immediately after the two approached him on Northeast 175th Street.

[…]

Raskin was walking ahead of his grandsons and son-in-law when he was shot, said Rabbi Moshe Druin.

“We are in utter shock,” Druin said.

Druin said community members ruled out a possibility of robbery because Orthodox Jewish do not carry any money or possession on Saturdays, the community’s Sabbath day.

“There hasn’t been a robbery on Sabbath for the past 35 years,” Druin said.

If the murder was an anti-Semitic act — and judging by these eyewitness reports, it certainly can’t be ruled out — you have to wonder if the coverage of the anti-Semitic rallies here and in Europe might have had something to do with it.

Eylon Aslan-Levy, writing in the Guardian, blames “obsessive” media coverage and over-the-top descriptions of the war:

It is no longer possible to deny that Europe still has a “Jewish problem”. In France, synagogues have been firebombed. In Germany, chants of “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas!” have been heard. The British Jewish community, too, is reporting a spike in antisemitic incidents – most thankfully non-violent – in a nasty spillover of anger over Gaza. “Free Gaza” was spray-painted onto a Brighton synagogue; a “child murderers” sign affixed to a synagogue in Surrey. This nastiness permeates polite society too: in sympathising with David Ward MP’s pro-Hamas comments, former Lib Dem MEP Edward McMillan-Scott derided the Board of Deputies of British Jews as “a frightful bag of disputatious Jews”.

Perhaps no wonder that Newsweek’s cover story last week had the chilling headline: “Exodus: why Europe’s Jews are fleeing once again”.

Critics of Israeli policy might say that only Zionists, not all Jews, should be facing reproach for the operation in Gaza. But the anti-Jewish backlash – aimed at Jewish, not specifically Zionist, targets – has, ironically, reminded many Jews precisely why they need a safe and secure Jewish homeland in the first place – the essence of Zionism.

Why has the conflict in Gaza caused such a frightening reaction on the streets of Europe? One answer is that the media attention has been excessive, exaggerated beyond all reasonable proportions, and it is this which encourages outbursts of anger by appealing to the public’s emotions. Tiny Israel ranks fifth in the list of foreign countries most reported on by the Guardian. Gaza is an important news story – but the wall-to-wall coverage leaves many scratching their heads. Nobody seems to recall similar attention devoted to the far greater civilian casualties of the UK’s operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Why the disproportionate coverage of Israel? “Jews are news” many say, with a shrug. But this obsession with Israel’s conduct tacitly encourages the easy slide into hostility towards Jews.

Unhinged rhetoric from the European and American left, as well as the vile, nauseating anti-Semitic chants and signage by Muslims, is contributing to a climate of fear in Jewish communities around the world. They know how easily such rhetoric can morph into violence against them.

On an atavistic level — where humanity’s demons sleep, ready to stir and come to life when properly enabled –the kind of hysterical anti-Zionist and anti-Israel speeches being broadcast around the world have a dangerous effect on those predisposed to be fearful and suspicious of Jews.

It is not impossible that the rabbi’s murderers were inspired by the kind of Jew hatred that has been plastered all over the media this past month.