Words of hate too easily become deeds

The Mideast crisis is making it easier for anti-Semites to come out of the closet.

Every time Israel is publicly criticized, an anti-Semite gets more ammunition to commit a hate crime.

Contrary to the childhood proverb, words do hurt. We've heard the damage words can do in Syria and Egypt this week. And we've seen how words have the potential to lead to crimes in both San Francisco and Davis.

All too often, the violence in the Mideast serves as the raison d'être for criticizing Jews, wherever they live.

In Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Assad took advantage of the media attention garnered by the pope's visit. He welcomed the pontiff with a speech attacking Israel, and went on to blame Jews for the death of Jesus. Although the Vatican finally repudiated the Christ-killer accusation in 1965, John Paul II listened to Assad but didn't raise an objection.

Meanwhile, Egyptians are embracing recording artist Abdel Rehim for his song that is climbing to the top of the charts: "I Hate Israel."

And now we find out this growing anti-Israel sentiment has manifested itself in apparent anti-Semitic hate crimes in our own backyards.

In San Francisco, Rabbi Bentzion Pil and congregant Michael Medvedev were beaten up following Friday night services on April 28 in front of Pil's home. According to Medvedev, their assailant was saying, "You f—–g Jews, you f——g Zionists, killers of Palestinians."

And now this week, an arson attack occurred at the U.C. Davis Hillel. Arsonists broke a window and set the Israeli flag on fire. The fire spread to the roof.

It's hard to believe a hate crime could take place in liberal San Francisco or at U.C. Davis. But words of hatred against Israel or Jews in general fuel the actions of Jew-haters. If that's what the leaders of Syria and Egypt want, they can view their accomplishments in Northern California with pride.

But if what they really want is peace in the Mideast, the Arab world needs to do a much better job of watching its language.