Following Tuesday’s horrifying and tragic events, ethnic hatred has already begun to set in. Arab American groups have been receiving death threats and emails telling them to “get out of the country,” there have been reports of crowds yelling “Kill Arabs,” Americans of Palestinian heritage have become fearful for their families’ safety.
Sadly, this is not new. Immediately following the Oklahoma City bombing, news commentators blamed “Islamic terrorists” for the attack. As we now know, this accusation was entirely false. In fact, it turned out that an ultra-nationalist American, a former soldier who had participated in the Gulf War, was responsible for this tragic violence. And yet, many Americans unthinkingly believed the accusations against “Arab terrorists.” In fact, in the hours after the bombing, angry mobs attacked family homes; in one case causing a terrified woman to go into premature labor, losing her baby.
We ask everyone to speak out against this kind of irrational behavior. In World War II we interned Japanese Americans because of hysteria that led Americans to tolerate actions that should have been, and normally would have been, opposed by decent Americans. Let’s not do this again to Arab Americans.
To many of us who have been actively studying the situation in the Middle East, today’s events are shocking on every level. It is quite clear that they required enormous strategic planning, coordination, and resources. To us, such complex logistical actions would seem to have required a level of planning and organization more consistent with those to be found at the governmental level of a nation-state with access to our security defenses than with renegade factions.
But we don’t know. No one knows. We have no evidence and no knowledge about who was responsible for today’s horrific tragedy.
What we do know is that no matter who did it - no matter what their religious or ethnic background turns out to have been - American, Israeli, Arab, or any other - that it is deeply wrong, always, to blame an entire religious or ethnic group for the actions of those who claim to act in its name. By now, Americans should know better. We hope and expect that decent people will act decently.
Please do not allow yourself to be whipped up into making war against civilians, anywhere, who are not our enemy.