In response to recent rising levels of hate speech, discrimination and violence across the US, Amnesty International USA’s Executive Director, Paul O’Brien, made this statement:
“The recent surge in antisemitic, Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian/Arab rhetoric and attacks as well as incidents targeting other communities, such as the Sikh community in the USA, should concern everyone. We at Amnesty International USA condemn hate speech and violence in the strongest possible terms and demand action federal and local authorities to counter this surge.
“The escalating conflict in Gaza and Israel has spilled over to cities across the US. It has manifested as a rise in discriminatory rhetoric, along with threats and physical attacks targeting people who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian or Arab.
“The list of heart-wrenching acts of hate continues to grow: Wadea Al-Fayoume, a 6-year-old Palestinian boy, murdered, and his mother, Hanaan Shahin, seriously injured in Plainfield, Illinois; online threats against Palestinians in the Arab majority city of Dearborn, Michigan; a Cornell University student made violent threats against Jewish students; a hate crime investigation opened into the vehicular assault of an Arab Muslim student at Stanford University; suspicious packages with an envelope containing white, powdery substances were received by two synagogues in Seattle requiring removal by Hazmat teams.
“Incidents of vandalism and arson have occurred at religious institutions and associated facilities. Violence has also occurred between protesters and counter protesters at demonstrations, including a protest at Tulane University where violence erupted between groups when a pro-Palestinian protester attempted to ignite an Israeli flag, and a 69-year-old Jewish man died following an altercation with a counter protester in Thousand Oaks, California. High school and college students, other individuals and groups have been threatened and doxed for voicing their views about the conflict. And a movement has started to decertify and remove from campus university chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine.
“This collective trauma has created a climate of fear for all communities. Members of Muslim, Palestinian and Arab communities report experiencing an environment akin to the period immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks when hate crimes and Islamophobic attacks surged. Jewish students and community members have expressed fear of being on campus or in their community and openly engaging in protest or discussion about the conflict.
“We must hold accountable — in our personal interactions, in our workplaces, in our communities, and in our activism — those who commit, encourage or acquiesce in such abuse and violence, whenever and wherever it is inflicted. Antisemitism, Islamophobia and targeting individuals and communities for their ethnicity or nationality are hatred. The right to be free from discrimination is a fundamental principle of human rights law, and all governments are obliged to combat discrimination in all its forms. The US government has a duty under international law to protect people from discrimination and incitement to violence based on identity. Likewise, governments, academic institutions and law enforcement have a responsibility to protect the right to freedom of expression and ensure that individuals feel safe in peacefully voicing their viewpoints during protests in public or on campus.
“We stand in solidarity with all who are targeted for their identity, and we reiterate our commitment to building a world in which every person can enjoy the full range of their human rights, free from hatred and discrimination.”