A swastika at the Dept. of State: Where’s the outrage?

I do not get the lack of outrage. Any other slur or form of religious or ethnic intimidation at such a high level in our government would have produced (rightfully so) moral outrage and a collective sense of soul searching to figure out how we got here and what needs to change.
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Is it that we are too tired? Or have we become so conditioned to brazen acts of antisemitism that we don’t even bat an eye at them anymore? Have we grown complacent and given up on responding? Or perhaps, old fashioned Nazis aren’t sexy enough for the outrage that feeds social media engagement these days? Maybe, unless it’s explicit, we don’t believe Jew hatred is a real thing, or maybe we don’t want to believe that it’s real…

Nevertheless, a swastika was found etched into the wall of a secure elevator at the State Department near the office of the special envoy on antisemitism, and the response to it so far has been “meh” and “so?” The usual suspects who pontificate on everything are silent on this. It wasn’t front page news in the national media, it didn’t make the cut on the nightly news programs, and coverage in the Jewish press was lackluster to non-existent.

I’m confused. It was a big enough event for President Joe Biden to issue a strong rebuke, why aren’t we seeing this as a “big deal” as well?

We’ve spent the past week arguing about ice cream, and the week before that, arguing about how the media portrays Orthodox Jews, but a swastika found in the very heart of our government’s push to route out antisemitism globally doesn’t even get a once-over by Jewish Twitter? It’s a story buried by the Jewish press? This surely is worth at least more than just a cursory glance?

Have we forgotten our actual enemies? Have we become too consumed by politics and chasing windmills that we have forgotten what actual, real threats to our livelihood look like? Has the rhetoric made us bored and complacent?

Forgive me, but a swastika at the State Department deserves more than just a “meh” response. All too often we treat these acts of antisemitism as “someone acting out” or as an education problem. (It’s just a silly person who did that because they didn’t learn the history behind these symbols.) Sorry, there’s no other way to interpret what that symbol meant and why it was placed in that location. 

I will spell it out: The swastika was a message to us that Jews don’t matter and that we are unwelcomed in America. And yes, you can choose to ignore it and not give it the attention the perpetrator so desperately wanted and call me an alarmist who’s chasing his own set of windmills.

However, I chose to call out this person’s actions and say the America that they are trying to build will not happen. I am not intimidated by this coward. 

By not calling out this incident we are ignoring a huge escalation in antisemitism. By not calling it out you are telling our allies that their silence is okay. All hate symbols are “created equal” so you would think all responses toward them would be the same. But no, here there is nothing but crickets.

I do not get the lack of outrage. Any other slur or form of religious or ethnic intimidation at such a high level in our government would have produced (rightfully so) moral outrage and a collective sense of soul searching to figure out how we got here and what needs to change. 

And here we are. How did we become a society where someone so filled with hate can feel so emboldened to stake their claim at the very heart of our government’s efforts to combat the very same hate that they are spewing?

I get it. It’s just one symbol from the past, splashed on one elevator, it’s really nothing to be alarmed about. It’s an isolated incident, crying wolf all the time takes away from the real things to be upset about… 

Wrong.

In the words of the Holocaust survivor I interviewed at the No Fear rally earlier this month in Washington, D.C.– it starts slowly. Our collective “meh” shows that we’ve become accustomed to these ever brazen acts of intimidation and are treating this swastika like the ones placed on the subway, or at a bus stop, or on the walls of buildings. It’s never just about one person placing a swastika somewhere, it’s about the normalization of these acts. 

Matthew Q. Gebert, does his name ring a bell?

Gebert is a neo-Nazi and also a former foreign affairs officer at the State Department. He was suspended from his position in August, 2019 after he was outed as a white nationalist by the Southern Poverty Law Center. As of January 2020 Gebert was still being investigated by the State Department despite staying active in the white nationalist movement. His goal? A white ethnostate free of Jews. More upsetting, it’s unclear if the State Department has cut ties with him completely: at a press conference in 2019, a spokeswoman refused to comment on the matter. Meanwhile, Gebert is still creating “family friendly” antisemitic content that claims Jews are trying to replace white people. He’s also hoping that one of his sons will become the next Hitler.

This is about so much more than just a silly swastika in an elevator. All too often we are quick to dismiss these incidents as the ramblings of mad men. They’re not. They should be taken seriously. The antisemites are out of the shadows and are feeling emboldened enough to stake a claim within the halls of our very government.

What happens next is up to us.

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