The anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on some 20 cars in a Jewish area of Queens last week was similar to hate markings used in other recent incidents throughout the city, but with an ominous twist.
This time, the swastikas and slogans included the message "Death To Jews on 7-14-05."
Police and Jewish leaders say they’ll be on the lookout on that day, but in the meantime they’ve been poring over history books trying to uncover any significance to the date.
A conclusion is still elusive. July 14 marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison and the onset of the French Revolution in 1789, as well as the day Adolf Hitler’s Nazis seized full control of Germany in 1933 by banning opposition parties. Neither date has been attached to acts of hatred, as in the case of Hitler’s birthday, April 20.
Arthur Flug, education outreach coordinator at the Holocaust Resource Center at Queensborough Community College, who researched the date after the incident, suggests it may have a banal origin.
"Maybe [the vandal] had a fender bender with someone on that date," said Flug. "We’re dealing with someone trying to make a statement."
David Pollock, associate executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said July 14 has no known relation to the Israeli-Arab conflict.
"No one has been able to link this to an Islamic fundamentalist connection or a date in the Middle East," said Pollock. "The likelihood is this is someone who picked something up off the Internet."
The vandalized cars, as well as a bus shelter and a newspaper box, were in the vicinity of 164th Street and Jewel Avenue in Flushing, near the Electchester apartment development. The crime was believed to have been committed late at night on May 17 or early the next morning.
It’s not the first time swastikas have appeared in the area. A local police official told the Queens Tribune that three similar incidents were reported in the past month.
A Police Department spokesman on Tuesday said a preliminary investigation suggested that the vandalism was the work of one person.
"There is no indication of any additional threat, but it’s something we’re obviously continuing to look at," said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne. "We don’t believe there is any particular significance to the date. It’s an ongoing investigation that is being pursued aggressively, but regrettably there have been no arrests at this point."
Elected officials and community leaders gathered in the area May 18 to condemn the incident and declare their vigilance.
"We will all be here on the 14th and wait for them if they make a challenge to the community," Michael Nussbaum of the Queens Jewish Community Council told reporters.
In a statement, Councilman David Weprin of Queens called the vandalism "unspeakable." He called on the community to unite against "those who upset the understanding and tolerance we have established in the present using symbols of hate from the past."