Did Anti-Israel Rhetoric Lead to Anti-Jewish Violence in North Carolina?
The Research Triangle region of North Carolina is earning the distinction of being an all-inclusive destination for antisemites who hail from the disparate religious, cosmopolitan, political, and ethno-racial cliques in the area. And their tactics wielded against the area’s Jewish community are equally varied.
This year’s highlights include: Nazi propaganda flyers posted in Durham and in Cary, swastikas painted on walls in high school bathrooms, downtown street-art exhibitions celebrating terrorists who murder Jews, and a local imam taking to YouTube to exhort his followers to “fight the Jews.” On the campus of Duke University, acts of intimidation against Jewish students have become so brazen and habitual that its president just issued an urgent plea to local officials for help to “confront the scourge of anti-Semitism.”
Those who are quick to blame President Trump for the national rise of antisemitism ignore that it was on the rise before he announced his candidacy, and can also be attributed to progressive groups and intersectionality. One recent case illustrates that bigotry has no special home in either party.
Twenty-year-old William J. Warden of Cary, North Carolina, recently admitted to going on an antisemitic spree — first by burning a cross at a public park, and then by blanketing neighborhoods with pro-Nazi flyers that read, “Are you sick and tired of the Jews destroying your country through mass immigration and degeneracy? Join us in the struggle for global white supremacy at the Daily Stormer.” But the coup de grâce that landed Warden in jail, facing counts of ethnic intimidation, came when he terrorized a Cary synagogue just hours after its services mourning the death of fellow Jews in the recent Pittsburgh attack.
According to a Soundcloud account bearing Warden’s name, picture, and location, he is part of a “3-piece evil, racist, hypocritical Nazi Skinhead Punk band” whose songs boast, “You can almost hear screams and gunfire echoing from a certain Pittsburgh Synagogue.”
Warden comes from the home of prominent Democrats. His mother is Lucy Inman, a North Carolina appeals court judge backed in part by a political group that supports boycotting the Jewish state (BDS). His parents are friendly with Durham’s Democratic mayor Steve Schewel and city councilman Charlie Reece, both objects of international rebuke, a lawsuit, and complaints from rabbis and the ADL, for demonizing Jews.
In April of this year, Durham’s mayor and city council co-opted the BDS policing policy of the antisemitic, deceitfully-named organization Jewish Voice for Peace. The new policy was based on a concept that blamed Jews in Israel for violence in America, and the fact that the Durham police department did not train with Israeli law enforcement agencies wasn’t going to impede their political agenda.
All the Durham city council members signed the petition supporting the policy, which accused Israel of teaching American police officers tactics that were then used to kill innocent “black and brown people.” The city government then adopted a measure to boycott Israel, noting it was a necessary step in order to protect the community.
Once the public reacted to the actual details of the anti-Israel petition, some of Durham’s politicians clung to the old chestnut that one can oppose Israel without being antisemitic, but the damage was done.
The Durham politicians’ approach of scapegoating of the Jewish community could’ve come from a neo-Nazi playbook. When discussing his hatred for Jews to the FBI, Warden told agents, “he believes Jews are running the country on the backs of the working class white male.”
Warden’s parents told the media that their son has “long-standing mental health issues.” Maybe that’s true. But anti-Israel rhetoric absorbed from his parents’ political circle arguably could have contributed to Warden’s hate.
What has happened here in the Triangle should serve as a cautionary tale for the rest of the country in an era of anti-Israel and pro-BDS politicians who embrace antisemites. The nation should think long and hard about whether their approaches and their language veer into antisemitism and provide the incubator for violent antisemites.
Sloan Rachmuth is Director of Research and Special Projects for the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. A version of this article was originally published in The Federalist.