Anti-Semitic flier hits Takoma Park

Takoma Park resident Hadar Susskind awoke early Sunday morning to find a four-page, anti-Semitic screed laying in his front yard.

The flier, which purports to detail “Jew crimes” and labels “Israel the problem,” has been found outside homes in areas of Arlington and Takoma Park in recent days. The Anti-Defamation League says that it’s currently investigating numerous complaints from Virginia residents who’ve received the document (others who received it in Takoma Park contacted WJW).

The flier heavily resembles a multipage pamphlet that was left in front of homes in Bethesda and Washington D.C. in 2009.

“I think it is absurd that someone would distribute this in a community that has a strong Jewish presence and is probably the most open and tolerant anywhere that you can find,” said Susskind, noting that he had never before received anything like it.

The ADL’s associate regional director, Sophie Dornstreich, said that “more than likely, it’s the same individual and flier” that was distributed several years ago. Dornstreich encouraged those who’ve received the document to contact local police.

According to a 2009 WJW report, the flier was created and distributed by an older man who identified himself as Peter Cojanis. The report, which is based on an eyewitness account, described Cojanis as “a grizzled white guy in his mid-70s” who distributed the flier by bicycle.

The pamphlet requests that state and federal lawmakers “declare war on Israel” and advocates the removal of “each and every Jew and pro-Israel official from state and federal governments and financial organizations,” according to pictures of the flier that were forwarded to WJW.

The flier also accuses Jews of putting hazardous materials in the nation’s food and water supply, and alleges that “government Jews murder 20 million.”

The ADL’s Dornstreich said that while the language in the document is protected under the First Amendment and “doesn’t rise to the level of criminality,” it most certainly is “an example of how someone can create a climate of intimidation.” The anti-Semitic language and bizarre accusations “give the sense that there’s a reason to feel targeted and vulnerable.”

Takoma Park Police Chief Ronald Ricucci said that his department is currently investigating reports of a man who was handing out fliers that match those obtained by WJW. Police, in conjuction with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, are trying to determine whether or not the fliers “cross the line as a hate crime,” Ricucci said.

Currently, Takoma police believe that Cojanis is responsible for distributing the fliers, though it still remains unconfirmed. According to Ricucci, a man who resembles Cojanis was photographed with the fliers near a local Metro stop. Additionally, Cojanis’ name appears on the fliers themselves. Phone calls placed early Tuesday to the police department in Arlington were not returned.

Dornstreich said that the police would consider this “a noncriminal bias incident,” meaning that while officers cannot take action, the situation will be officially monitored. She added that the ADL receives reports of similar incidents multiple times a year.

Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said that “this is clearly the work of some individuals who are trying to promote hate.”

But “they will not succeed,” Halber added. “This is a very inclusive region with a strong record of rejecting bigotry and valuing inclusion.”

(Tags: Anti-Semitism, Free Speech, Misinformation)

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