DISTURBED singer David Draiman has taken up a social media challenge dubbed the IDF Shirt Challenge which encourages people to post photos of themselves wearing Israel Defense Forces shirts in solidarity with two men who were allegedly victims of an antisemitic attack in Brooklyn, New York. Blake Zavadsky and Ilan Kaganovich were allegedly called "dirty Jews" on Sunday (December 26) before one of them was punched in the face for sporting an IDF sweatshirt.
"Jews are being attacked on the streets of the major cities of the United States on a regular basis right now, but it almost seems like a near-daily occurrence in New York," Draiman told The Jerusalem Post. "I was born in Brooklyn where those two young gentlemen were attacked, in Maimonides hospital in Flatbush. My father was in the IDF, my grandfather was in the IDF. They helped keep Am Yisrael safe, as the IDF does to this day. They keep the thousands of direct and indirect relatives I have in Eretz Yisrael safe and risk their lives to do so every day."
David added: "I will not stand idle while they are demonized, and I will not be silent in the face of those who long for us to go back to the days of being the 'fearful, groveling Jew.'"
New York's 48th District councilwoman Inna Vernikov has tweeted a call to march against antisemitism. The march will take place on Sunday, January 2 at noon and will begin at the spot on 86th Street where the two men were attacked. People are encouraged to show up in their own IDF hoodies.
"I wish I could fly out there myself," Draiman said. "I encourage everyone to mask up and get out there with their IDF t-shirts on. Or, just post a pic of yourself for the #IDFshirtChallenge to your social media."
According to the New York Post, Zavadsky and Kaganovich, both 21, were in a shoe shop in Bay Ridge when two attackers allegedly approached them.
"They asked us what we were doing in their neighborhood," Zavadsky told the New York Post.
Zavadsky, who was sporting an Israel Defense Forces sweatshirt, said the pair took particular issue with his hoodie.
"The one who punched me said if I don't take my sweatshirt off, he's going to rock me," Zavadsky said.
"'How can you support these dirty Jews?'" Zavadsky said the man allegedly asked.
When he refused, he got punched twice in the face and doused in iced coffee.
The NYPD said the incident is being investigated as a hate crime.
Last week, Draiman said that he had lost thousands of social media followers since publicizing his trip to Israel in November.
On November 30, Draiman lit a candle at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel at the Old City site of the terror attack that killed South African immigrant Eli Kay.
At the time, Draiman, who is Jewish, took to his Instagram to share a few photos of his appearance, and included the following message: "A truly wonderful experience. Thanks so much to everyone who came out!"
On December 24, Draiman returned to Instagram to lament the fact that thousands of his fans had apparently taken offense to his decision to share pro-Israel content on his page and had unfollowed him on the platform.
He wrote: "Here's food for thought.
"Before my recent trip to Israel, I hadn't used my Instagram account since the DEVICE experiment. It was at 87k followers. I used it again specifically to make my trip and demonstration at the western wall public.
"Since the pictures of my trip and the demonstration were posted, I'm now down 4K followers.
"AND I'D DO IT AGAIN IN A HEARTBEAT.
"Very telling isn't it? #AmYisraelChai".
A week prior to his visit to Jerusalem, Draiman told The Jerusalem Post that he wanted to make a statement by coming to Israel after seeing the coverage of the attack in which a Hamas gunman opened fire on pedestrians in the Old City.
"The coverage was reprehensible in the vast majority of American and European media," Draiman said. "It's scandalous how they presented it. Headlines like 'Palestinian shot dead.' Well, why was the Palestinian shot dead? Because he was perpetrating a terrorist attack. I love how the context is always flipped around."
Although David — who has some 200 relatives living in Israel — had visited the country many times before, DISTURBED's July 2019 show in Tel Aviv was the band's first performance in the Jewish state. Draiman addressed the crowd in Hebrew at many points during the show at Live Park Rishon LeZion and sang the Israeli national anthem "Hatikvah". Draiman proudly displayed his IDF t-shirt during the concert and at one point declared: "This is for all the IDF soldiers."
DISTURBED's song "Never Again", from 2010's "Asylum" album, was written about the Holocaust and calls out people who deny it.
The Tel Aviv show marked the first time DISTURBED performed "Never Again" since 2011.
Both of Draiman's maternal grandparents were survivors of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, while many others on his mother's side were wiped out by the Nazis.
The United States Holocaust Museum has featured Draiman in its "Voices On Anti-Semitism" podcasts.
In recent years, Draiman spoke out against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which calls for economic pressure on Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian land, grant Arab citizens equal rights and recognize the right of return to Palestinian refugees.
Nearly two and a half years ago, Draiman spoke to KAN radio, where he called BDS advocates "idiots" and "Nazis in suits."
Draiman has in the past battled with Twitter trolls who have harassed him about his sometimes-controversial views regarding Israel and its ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. Draiman has had frequent heated exchanges with followers on Twitter, some of whom believe that Israel is not blameless in the ongoing conflict with Palestinians.