Since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war, both New York City and the nation as a whole have seen a rise in hate crimes and bias-related harassment directed towards Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, and other groups.
Mainstream news outlets have reported a spike in the number of complaints of incidents motivated by antisemitism, Islamophobia and bias against Palestinians and Arabs after the start of the Israel-Hamas war. They cite data from advocacy groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which reports 774 complaints of bias-related incidents from Oct. 7 to Oct. 25, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which reports 312 complaints of antisemitic incidents between Oct. 7 and Oct. 23. Antisemitism had already been on the rise, largely driven by white nationalism, in recent years.
A closer look at the numbers
The accuracy of these numbers as bias incidents is unclear. CAIR’s disaggregated data isn’t yet publicly available. A representative told Epicenter that CAIR staff at chapters nationwide have been too overwhelmed by the number of calls for help to put together more detailed reports, but that the organization would publish a complete data report by early next year.
The staffer also echoed a report by the Othering & Belonging Institute that found that about 85% of Muslims who have been a victim of a hate crime don’t report it.
“People don’t trust the police,” said Corey Saylor, the research and advocacy director at CAIR. For members of affected communities, he added, it’s often also so normalized for them to receive threats that people don’t report them or know where to report them.
ADL’s more detailed data of reported antisemitic incidents is publicly available in an interactive map. Some reported incidents classified under this umbrella — including one in New York that involved a flier directing curse words at Zionists — were related to anti-Zionism, which raises questions about their inclusion in the data. Anti-Zionism is a stance that in some way critiques or opposes the modern Zionist political movement. Zionism can have different interpretations, but in a nutshell, it’s a form of Jewish nationalism and the primary ideology that drove the establishment and support of the state of Israel.
ADL director Jonathan Greenblatt has equated anti-Zionism to anti-semitism, but critics and some scholars, including the former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, maintain it’s a false equivalency. (ADL did not respond to a question about inclusion of anti-Zionism in the data on reported antisemitic incidents by the time of publication.)
A closer look at hate crimes
Regardless of any gray areas in either reported data, there have been widely reported incidents of people nationwide being threatened or harmed based on their race, ethnicity, religion or political ideology since the war began. Particularly tragic was the murder of six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume, the Palestinian-American boy in Illinois who was stabbed dozens of times by the landlord, and was declared a victim of a war-motivated hate crime.
In New York City, a stranger punched a Jewish woman in the face on the subway in Midtown on Oct. 14; when she asked why, the assailant told her it was because she was Jewish. On Oct. 15, another stranger punched a 19-year-old Sikh teen in the back of his head, his face and his back multiple times while on a bus in the area of 118 Street and Liberty Avenue in Queens. Before the assault, the assailant told him, “we don’t wear that in this country,” and tried to take off the teen’s turban. And on Oct. 18, a stranger pulled on the hijab of a 16-year-old Muslim girl before telling her “you’re a terrorist, you don’t belong here,” on the 5 train near Union Square.
“Islamophobia, nor any other kind of hatred, is what ‘doesn’t belong here,’” Mayor Eric Adams said via X, formerly Twitter. His tweet came amid criticism from Muslim advocates of his rhetoric about the Israel-Hamas war and of people participating in pro-Palestine rallies. Adams has also recently denounced antisemitism, saying it has “no room in this city.”
Meanwhile, last week White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced the first-ever national strategy to counter Islamophobia in the United States. On Oct. 30, the Biden administration unveiled new steps to combat antisemitism on college campuses after a recent “alarming” uptick in reported incidents.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of an anti-Muslim hate crime or act of discrimination in New York, submit this form to have your case reviewed by the local chapter of CAIR. If you have experienced or witnessed an incident of antisemitism, extremism, bias, bigotry or hate, please report it using this incident form. The ADL pledges to assess your situation and respond as quickly as possible.