The dangers our community faces from right-wing and left-wing extremism are growing. Recent events demonstrate this and these trends are cause for significant concern. We must address both the trends and developing threats.
The dangers of the extreme left
On June 30, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in Time Magazine:
“Last weekend, organizers of a gay pride parade in Chicago ejected three people carrying pride flags emblazoned with a Jewish Star of David. Subsequent bizarre statements attempting to rationalize their action, claiming that Zionism is ‘an inherently white supremacist ideology’ only exacerbated the sense that the organizers were deaf to the concerns of the Jewish community and engaged in anti-Semitism — denying Jews the same rights that were extended to other participants, basically to celebrate their identities as Jewish queer women.
“While this incident could be dismissed as one fringe group in one city, the fact is that it does represent a wider school of thought that is fueling a trend of creeping anti-Semitism among some segments of the political left.
“Over the past year, we have seen other examples that have raised eyebrows as intersectional intolerance has sprung up among the progressive community. Similar stories to the one in Chicago were reported at the Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City earlier this month.
“Last summer, a plank in the platform of the Movement for Black Lives bizarrely accused Israel of genocide.”
This growing and alarming trend joins a long-standing and no less troubling presence of anti-Semitism and racism in the extreme right. As the following data indicates, these right-wing extremist threats are -- in many cases -- not the same purveyors of the hatred of yesteryear.
The dangers of the extreme right
In 2016, the Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Committee tracked 11 anti-Semitic incidents throughout the Commonwealth -- five were in Richmond. Alarmingly, in the first half of 2017, the JCRC tracked 13 anti-Semitic incidents in the state -- four were in Richmond. If this trend continues, this year will more than double the number of incidents in 2016. Some of these include attempted violent action and assaults in the greater Richmond area.
Each time the JCFR learns of one of these incidents, it notifies our law enforcement partners and the Jewish Community Security Leadership. This group is comprised of lay and professional leaders in our synagogues, agencies and organizations.
(Note: The JCFR tracks incidents that are reported to it or which it learns of via the media. These statistics are non-scientific and by no means are these numbers exhaustive.)
As this column noted in June, on May 13 a Ku Klux Klan-esque white nationalist rally took place in Charlottesville, nearly an hour from here. The participants chanted “Blood and Soil,” a Nazi phrase. On July 8, a relatively small but formal KKK rally was held in that same city. On Aug. 12, a major, national white supremacist rally will be held there. Its titular goal is to, “Unite the Right.” Alt-Right (the modern successors to KKK ideology) national leaders will be flying in and the event is likely to be an epicenter of national hatred. It seeks to unite those who identify with the KKK, the alt-Right, neo-Nazis, and supporters of the Confederacy and defenders of its legacy. These events are likely to shift the threat matrix local and embolden local bigots. The FBI continues to advise our community to develop and maintain a “state of vigilance stance for suspicious behavior,” which should be reported to 911 immediately (and only later to the JCRC).
This is to say nothing of the many hundreds of anti-Semitic incidents (and thousands of hate-driven incidents) that have occurred since Jan. 1 nationally.
National & international known threats
- On May 15, the Department of Homeland Security updated the National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin based on the persistent threat from homegrown terrorists.
- On May 14, al-Qaeda released a new video, featuring Osama Bin Laden's son, Hamza bin Laden, in which he encourages Muslims in America and the West to carry out lone-wolf attacks against Jewish targets.
- On May 10, the FBI and DHS released an assessment that lone actors and small cells within the white supremacist extremist movement would likely continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year.
- On March 3, DHS reported that members of a pro-ISIS Telegram channel were encouraging followers in the West to carry out attacks on Jewish communities.
- On Aug. 3, 2016, the National Counterterrorism Center, DHS and FBI reported that since mid-2015, homegrown violent extremists are increasingly favoring softer civilian targets. These include, such as Jewish houses of worship, having judged them to have lower levels of security and as a result of direct encouragement from overseas violent extremists.
As coordinator of safety and security in the Jewish community, this office tracks anti-Semitic incidents locally, throughout Virginia and the U.S. This is done in partnership with our local, statewide and federal law enforcement agencies and our community partners.
Armed with the knowledge noted in this column, we are compelled to act. For years the JCFR has been at the forefront of engaging the Jewish community leadership in safety and security matters. In recent months, the JCRC has worked with the Richmond Jewish Foundation, which is making $100,000 available to the Jewish community for safety and security needs. We salute their leadership and commitment. Such efforts continue and we must carry on in two veins.
The first is to engage in teaching our community about safety and security and the phrase See Something, Say Something™. Every single community member plays a part in keeping us safe. Additionally, the JCFR is organizing synagogue usher-security awareness training and another pre-high holiday security forum for the Jewish community leadership and our law enforcement partners.
The second is to further engage in community relations with the broader Richmond community. We must deepen our ties with our interfaith partners and redouble our commitment to Tikkun Olam. Whether it is through volunteering with the Richmond Jewish Coalition for Literacy or the JCRC’s “Standing Together” initiative, we must be engaged in building ties with our fellow community members. Through these efforts we counter the extremist narrative of the left and right, which defame and threaten the core principles of the JCFR.
Please reach me to get further involved.
Daniel “Doni” Fogel, director of Jewish community relations and Israel and overseas programming, and coordinator for safety and security for the Jewish community -- DFogel@JewishRichmond.org or (804) 545-8626.
The full Time Magazine piece by Greenblatt is available here: www.adl.org/news/anti-semitism-is-creeping-into-progressivism.