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Colorado sees antisemitic, Islamophobic incidents rise since Israel-Hamas war

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Lindsey Toomer

(Colorado Newsline) Colorado has seen increased incidents of hate against both Jewish and Palestinian communities over the last month since the escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict. 

Scott Levin, direction of the Anti-Defamation League’s Mountain Region, which includes Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, said in an email that the organization has seen a 400 percent increase in contacts to its office as compared with the same time last year, including reports of antisemitic and anti-Israel incidents. The increase in reports is similar to what the ADL has seen nationally.

“When conflict erupts in Israel, antisemitic incidents soon follow in the U.S. and globally,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “From white supremacists in California displaying antisemitic banners on highway overpasses to radical anti-Zionists harassing Jewish people because of their real or perceived support for the Jewish state, we are witnessing a disturbing rise in antisemitic activity here while the war rages overseas.”

Incidents in Colorado reported to the ADL since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched a surprise attack from the Gaza Strip on Israel, killing more than 1,000 mostly civilian Israelis, include a man being harassed at a Boulder bar for being Jewish and Israeli, a high school student receiving antisemitic social media messages from classmates, and one individual sending harassing and antisemitic calls to four synagogues. A rabbi in Colorado also was harrassed after leaving a public meeting, when an individual approached him and said, “We all know where you live, rabbi.”

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has reported three incidents of hate against Palestinians in Colorado, including Palestinian students being singled out by fellow students and teachers. Additionally, a Palestinian family business in Denver received multiple death threats, and a gunman shot through the family’s home in Greenwood Village. 

“We will not stand by and allow hate crimes against our community to become a normal occurrence again,” ADC Executive Director Abed Ayoub said in a statement. “We have seen a sharp increase in hate incidents, including in schools and the workplace. The rhetoric being used by many elected officials and media outlets continues to dehumanize Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims — this is creating an environment for hate crimes to occur. The rhetoric needs to change immediately.”

U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper of Colorado joined a push last week for the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to protect Jewish Americans from antisemitic attacks. 

“Government agencies have a responsibility to continue to prioritize the safety and security of individuals and organizations vulnerable to violence, especially violence motivated by antisemitism, in real time, as the threat landscape evolves,” the letter penned by a group of federal lawmakers reads. “As this effort continues, it is vital to prioritize information sharing to the maximum extent possible with targeted communities as well as state and local law enforcement partners. It is imperative that we work to prevent further targeted, antisemitic violence in the wake of the current conflict.”

Two Colorado state legislators, Republican Rep. Ron Weinberg and Democratic Sen. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, shared a statement condemning antisemitism occurring across Colorado college campuses. 

“We ask every Coloradan that stands against anti-Semitism to not remain silent,” they said in a joint statement. “We must continue to speak out against these acts and not ignore its existence here in Colorado.”

Jeremy Shaver, senior associate regional director of the ADL Mountain Region, said the organization has also heard anecdotally that Muslim, Arab and Palestinian students are being verbally harassed at school. The ADL hasn’t received any direct reports of incidents targeting Muslim and Palestinian communities.

Colorado lawmakers have largely condemned the attacks made by Hamas, but have also called for Israel and the international community to recognize the human rights of Palestinian civilians living in Gaza. Democratic Colorado House Speaker Julie McCluskie last week called out Republican state Rep. Scott Bottoms of Colorado Springs for making both antisemitic and Islamophobic statements in his church sermons.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.