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August 30, 2012 5:45 pm

MSU Student Viciously Assaulted, but Was It an Anti-Semitic Attack?

avatar by Yonah Bookstein

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Zachary Tennen recovering in hospital. Photo: Bruce Tennen.

The vicious assault on Michigan State University student Zachary Tennen has been plastered across the Internets, Algemeiner and Michigan newspapers. By the victim’s account he was attacked because he was Jewish. He claims they yelled “Heil Hitler” and were skinheads.

The East Lansing Police on the other hand disagree. As they investigate the assault on Zachary the Police are treating the crime like a regular assault because apparently the witnesses didn’t hear anything anti-Semitic. These are the same witnesses it is claimed by the victim stood by as the assault happened.

The first and obvious question is, how reliable are the witnesses?

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However, the police say that in fact the witnesses to the assault did help Zachary, conflicting his statements, and that they offered him cold packs to apply, and even called a taxi.

Zachary’s account, as relayed it seems by his father, has none of that happening.

Was the attack a vicious anti-Semitic incident, or just a case of a party gone awry, and a drunk teenager getting the crap beaten out him?

The East Lansing police Capt. Jeff Murphy is quoted in the Associated Press:

“This came out early as being reported as a hate crime. It now appears after we’ve talked to many people who were at this party – and most importantly two witnesses who saw the actual assault — it doesn’t appear that religion was the reason he was assaulted.”

Obviously there are many issues to hammer out.

Did the witnesses respond in the way they claim? Why did Zachary come out so forcefully about the anti-Semitism if it was not true? Why would the witnesses to the attack not go to the police, but wait for the police to come to them? Why did Zachary not call the police from the hospital immediately? Why didn’t the hospital call the police? Did he have staples in his lips and mouth or not? Could one hit have done this damage or were their multiple strikes? If the attackers came from off-campus, who invited them to the party? Wouldn’t it be easy to ascertain if the attackers were skinheads or not via the so-called witnesses?

I have more questions but we will leave it at that.

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  • Rabbi Yonah

    You are right that the initial reports by the victim’s father indicated that they yelled “Heil Hitler.” As I said, the details of this case are everywhere and it was not my intention to rehash the entire story, rather it was to offer a series of questions which need to be considered and addressed. Thank you for your contact.




  • The first article stated the attackers asked if Zachary Tennen is Jewish, to which he said yes, then came the Heil Hitler calls. This article claims there is no hate crime here because the attackers did not say Heil Hitler, but fails to address the initial contact which was to confirm the student is Jewish prior to, and therefore the basis for the attack. This is not only poor reporting but the police and university appear to be masking the key element of the story which is Zachary Tennen being asked to identify himself as Jewish for the basis of the attack. A cover-up of a Jew being attacked for being a Jew is a hate crime too. The FBI needs to investigate the story.

  • HaDaR

    For the local police, in full denial, even the L.A. Airport massacre at the El Al counter was not an act of antisemitism…
    Is it possible, may be, that when you are a “closet” antisemite – but you say that you are not since…you have a Jewish doctor – only Germans with brown shirts can be antisemites?

  • John Angles

    From what I’ve read so far it seems that both the university and the police are more concerned about the university’s image than the injury to the victim.