Bay Area Jews, Palestinians fear backlash from Middle East war

The Israeli war against Hamas is generating fears in some Bay Area residents, that what’s happening 7,500 miles from here could spark backlash against their specific ethnicity.

"We’re quite concerned that…the general public will look towards the Palestinian community as being the cause of you know, this conflict, and this crisis. And it is truly quite concerning," said Rami Sultan, a South Bay Palestinian who has family living in Gaza.

Members of the Jewish community have similar concerns.

"We are concerned about backlash. The reality is, when events happen overseas, we often find ourselves to be the scapegoats," said Tyler Gregory, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).

Communities around the Bay Area are reeling with grief due to the loss of innocent lives in Israel and Gaza. But Palestinians and Jews are also bracing for what could come next here, for their own families and friends.

"I have a daughter; she goes to high school. She is Palestinian she wears the headscarf," said Sultan. "I’m more concerned about her than myself. I’m more concerned about the fact that she’s someone who's never stepped foot in the Palestinian territories including Gaza.  And yet she may potentially be a target from people’s ignorance, to be honest."

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Members of the Anti-Defamation League said they too believe their businesses and homes could be targeted in the coming days.

"We see typically rising antisemitism which is already at historic highs, whenever there is conflict in the Middle East," said CEO Mark Levine. "We’ve seen flyering [sic] across California with anti-Semitic literature going door-to-door. Being put on people’s lawns and yards. And that occurred over the weekend and that makes people feel insecure." 

Added Gregory, "We are ready for it. We are prepared for it. And sadly we think that it’s coming."

As people look to an uncertain future, an unending question haunts both Jews and Palestinians – what can end the fighting and the killing?

"For me, the only solution is that for violence to end on both sides," said Sultan.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv