Hate Crimes and War Crimes

Friday’s shooting at a Seattle Jewish center was particularly disheartening to me and shook my interfaith optimism… Deep down, I can’t help but wonder if this type of attack is actually demonstrating how violence around the world can come to affect us here at home.

I was elated to read that Seattle law enforcement is treating the shooting as a hate crime, based on the shooter’s comments to the 911 operator and the victims. The whole thing is reminiscent of the anti-Muslim and anti-Indian harassment and crimes (and even murder) that occurred across the country after 9/11. This isn’t just a Jewish issue – all of us from all faiths should step forward to condemn this type of attack because it is wrong, and the next hateful attack could be on any one of us.

I only hope that publicity about this horrible crime will change the minds of those on the right (and some on the left) who are opposed to hate crime legislation. We need to reinvigorate the debate about why it’s important to treat crimes targeting certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups differently (and more harshly) than other crimes. Punishing hate crimes preserves America’s ideals as a pluralistic and tolerant society that welcomes people of all backgrounds.

Today’s tragic attacks by Israel in Qana, Lebanon cost the lives of at least 56 innocent civilians, including 34 children. It is past the time for President Bush and Secretary Rice to intervene and force a cease-fire. All I saw on Meet the Press this morning were excuses, excuses, and more excuses on all sides. These innocent children were being shoved back and forth – “It’s Israel’s fault,” or “It’s Hezbollah’s fault,” or “human shields,” or “disproportionate response,” or “It’s tragic, but…”

None of this matters – they were children, they were hiding because their families couldn’t get them out of the city… and did I mention that they were children? It does not matter what nationality they were or whose fault it was, it’s time we stop the violence and bring all parties to the table. Israel’s actions today are disproportionate and against international human rights standards.  Granted, Hezbollah can be called guilty of the same.  We as Americans should use our clout for peace, stop the slaughtering of innocents, and stop Israel from radicalizing another generation of young Muslims through its disproportionate use of force against civilians, this time in Lebanon.

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