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October 15, 2014 0

The Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act: Five Years Later

The Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act (HCPA), enacted into law on Octo­ber 28, 2009, is the most impor­tant, com­pre­hen­sive, and inclu­sive fed­eral hate crime enforce­ment law passed in the past 40 years.Matthew_Shepard_and_James_Byrd,_Jr._Hate_Crimes_Prevention_Act

The HCPA encour­ages part­ner­ships between state and fed­eral law enforce­ment offi­cials to more effec­tively address hate vio­lence, and pro­vides expanded author­ity for fed­eral hate crime inves­ti­ga­tions and pros­e­cu­tions when local author­i­ties are unwill­ing or unable to act.  Impor­tantly, the HCPA adds sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der, gen­der iden­tity and dis­abil­ity to the groups which pre­vi­ously had fed­eral pro­tec­tion against hate crimes – race, color, reli­gion and national origin.

For more than a dozen years, the Anti-Defamation League led a broad coali­tion of civil rights, reli­gious, edu­ca­tional, pro­fes­sional, law enforce­ment, and civic orga­ni­za­tions advo­cat­ing for the HCPA. The leg­is­la­tion was stalled by fierce oppo­si­tion from some con­ser­v­a­tive orga­ni­za­tions — and, for eight years, by Pres­i­dent George W. Bush — in large part because it pro­vided new author­ity for the FBI and the Jus­tice Depart­ment to inves­ti­gate and pros­e­cute cases in which mem­bers of LGBT com­mu­ni­ties were tar­geted for vio­lence.  Ener­getic sup­port by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Attor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder, Jr.  was essen­tial to achiev­ing final pas­sage of the measure.

The HCPA has proven to be a valu­able tool for fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors.  The Depart­ment of Jus­tice has brought more than two dozen cases over the past five years – and has suc­cess­fully defended the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the Act against sev­eral con­sti­tu­tional chal­lenges.

Enact­ment of the HCPA also sparked a wel­come round of police train­ing and out­reach – and the devel­op­ment of a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant new hate crime train­ing and pre­ven­tion resources, includ­ing an updated Hate Crime Model Pol­icy pre­pared by the Inter­na­tional Asso­ci­a­tion of Chiefs of Police.

Yet, much work remains to be done.  Hate crimes remain a seri­ous national prob­lem. In 2012 (accord­ing to the most recent data avail­able) the FBI doc­u­mented more than 6,500 hate crimes – almost one every hour of every day. The most fre­quent were moti­vated by race, fol­lowed by reli­gion and sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.  Of the crime moti­vated by reli­gion, more than 60 per­cent tar­geted Jews or Jew­ish institutions.

Unfor­tu­nately, more than 90 cities with pop­u­la­tions over 100,000 either did not par­tic­i­pate in the FBI 2012 data col­lec­tion pro­gram or affir­ma­tively reported zero (0) hate crimes. That is unac­cept­able. As FBI Direc­tor James B. Comey said in remarks to the 2014 ADL Lead­er­ship Sum­mit, “We must con­tinue to impress upon our state and local coun­ter­parts in every juris­dic­tion the need to track and report hate crime. It is not some­thing we can ignore or sweep under the rug.”

The fifth anniver­sary of the HCPA pro­vides an impor­tant teach­able moment.  It is a fit­ting occa­sion for advo­cates, the Obama Admin­is­tra­tion, and Con­gress to pro­mote aware­ness of the HCPA, to report on the progress our nation has made in pre­vent­ing hate vio­lence, and to reded­i­cate our­selves to effec­tively respond­ing to bias crimes when they occur.

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October 8, 2014 0

Sweden’s Recognition of ‘Palestine’ Premature and Ill-Advised

   By Abra­ham H. Fox­man
   National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

   This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in The Huff­in­g­ton Post

Many observers were sur­prised by the sud­den announce­ment by the newly elected prime min­is­ter of Swe­den that his coun­try would become the first in the Euro­pean Union to for­mally rec­og­nize the “State of Palestine.”

The announce­ment by Prime Min­is­ter Ste­fan Lofven, which stip­u­lated that his new gov­ern­ment would even­tu­ally rec­og­nize a Pales­tin­ian state within the 1967 bor­ders, was inap­pro­pri­ate on a num­ber of lev­els. First, it is con­trary to long­stand­ing E.U. for­eign pol­icy. Sec­ond, it appears to reward the intran­si­gence of Pales­tin­ian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas, which was on full dis­play in his recent speech at the United Nations. Mr. Abbas’ over­heated rhetoric only con­tributes to dis­cour­ag­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of resum­ing nego­ti­a­tions between Israel and the Palestinians.

But Sweden’s deci­sion was much less sur­pris­ing if one con­sid­ers the state of dete­ri­o­rat­ing rela­tions between Swe­den and Israel, which in recent years have trig­gered tremors along a grow­ing fault line in Swedish soci­ety between more mod­er­ate forces and the rad­i­cal left.

It should be said upfront here that the bilat­eral rela­tion­ship between Israel and Swe­den remains vitally impor­tant, and that even with this poten­tial change in pol­icy there are still oppor­tu­ni­ties to move for­ward diplomatically.

Com­pli­cated fac­tors are at play in Swedish pol­i­tics and soci­ety, and these are clearly influ­enc­ing its for­eign pol­icy. Zvi Mazel, who served as Israeli ambas­sador to Stock­holm between 2002 and 2004, out­lined some of those fac­tors in recent inter­views in the Israeli press.

Lofven, he noted, only won the elec­tion with 43 per­cent of the vote, and needs to form a minor­ity gov­ern­ment that has the sup­port of the for­merly com­mu­nist left-wing party, which has stri­dent anti-Israel pro­cliv­i­ties and whose sup­port­ers are pri­mar­ily Arab and Mus­lim Swedish cit­i­zens. Mus­lims now com­prise about 8 per­cent of Sweden’s pop­u­la­tion after the coun­try absorbed more than 80,000 immi­grants from Syria and Iraq this year alone.

As a result, says Mazel, Lofven is seek­ing sup­port and pub­lic sym­pa­thy by play­ing “the Israel card.”

Two of Lofven’s cab­i­net appoint­ments are trou­bling as well. They are indi­vid­u­als well known for their enthu­si­as­tic sup­port for the Pales­tin­ian cause and who were deported from Israel because of their activities.

Accord­ing to a report in the Israeli daily Ma’ariv, the new city plan­ning and envi­ron­ment min­is­ter, Mehmet Kaplan, a native of Turkey and a for­mer spokesman for the Mus­lim Coun­cil of Swe­den, was involved in the Mavi Mar­mara inci­dent in which pas­sen­gers on the Gaza-bound ship vio­lently attacked Israeli naval per­son­nel in 2010. And the new edu­ca­tion min­is­ter, Gus­tav Fridolin, was arrested and deported from Israel in 2003 for encour­ag­ing demon­stra­tions against the secu­rity fence between the West Bank and Israel.

More­over, highly pub­li­cized spats between Israel and Swe­den in recent years have widened the rift between these two coun­tries that oth­er­wise share many of the same demo­c­ra­tic val­ues and a strong bilat­eral relationship.

Most mem­o­rably, in August 2009 the Swedish news­pa­per Afton­bladet pub­lished a false and mali­cious report that Israeli sol­diers were har­vest­ing organs from Pales­tini­ans. The report mush­roomed into a full-blown global con­spir­acy the­ory and led to a diplo­matic row when Swe­den rejected Israel’s request to con­demn the false report, cit­ing “press freedom.”

Ear­lier that year a mob descended on a sta­dium where an Israeli team was play­ing against Swe­den, with pro­tes­tors car­ry­ing signs con­demn­ing Israel and threat­en­ing to attack Israeli athletes.

There have also been trou­bling anti-Semitic attacks reported in the coun­try this year, tak­ing place before and after Israel’s oper­a­tion in Gaza. In March, a high school in Stock­holm which holds classes for Jew­ish stu­dents was spray painted with anti-Semitic graf­fiti, includ­ing a swastika, the phrases “Jew­ish swine” and dis­gust­ing Jews.” In July, the city of Malmo’s main syn­a­gogue was attacked when van­dals hurled bot­tles at the build­ing, break­ing three win­dows. And in August, a rabbi in Malmo was attacked by a group of men who threw a glass bot­tle at his car while shout­ing anti-Semitic epithets.

At the same time, the coun­try has high lev­els of edu­ca­tion and a very low accep­tance for tra­di­tional anti-Semitic beliefs.

The recent ADL Global 100 Sur­vey found that only 4 per­cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion in Swe­den is infected with anti-Semitic atti­tudes, the low­est find­ing for Europe. This amounts to just 300,000 peo­ple out of a total pop­u­la­tion of 7.4 mil­lion peo­ple. Com­pared with other coun­tries in Europe (France was 37 per­cent, Nor­way and Fin­land, 15 per­cent) this was a remark­ably low score.

And here is where the issues of Israeli poli­cies and the anti-Jewish rhetoric and vio­lence in Swe­den can get enmeshed. Politi­cians and jour­nal­ists who espouse vir­u­lently anti-Israel mes­sages, con­tribute to an atmos­phere which pro­vides a patina of accept­abil­ity and cover for anti-Jewish hate to emerge. While 96 per­cent of Swedish adults do not har­bor strong anti-Semitic atti­tudes, the small per­cent­age who do are likely among the ones act­ing on those beliefs and doing it under the guise of express­ing oppo­si­tion to Israel’s poli­cies toward the Palestinians.

It is up to Sweden’s polit­i­cal, reli­gious and civic lead­ers to make clear to the peo­ple of Swe­den that anti-Semitic rhetoric and vio­lence against the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion are never accept­able expres­sions of crit­i­cism of Israel’s poli­cies. Prime Min­is­ter Lovfen should be the one to set an exam­ple in this regard, not allow­ing pol­i­tics to trump the government’s respon­si­bil­ity to ensure the well-being and secu­rity of Sweden’s small but vibrant Jew­ish community.

Sweden’s pre­ma­ture recog­ni­tion of the State of Pales­tine will have reper­cus­sions far beyond Scan­di­navia. Swe­den is con­sid­ered a flag-bearer of human rights, and many coun­tries across Europe respond to its cues. The risk is that other coun­tries in the E.U. may soon want to fol­low suit.

The U.S., the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity, and the global Jew­ish com­mu­nity need to con­vince Swe­den that this is the wrong posi­tion at the wrong time.

If Swe­den is truly con­cerned about improv­ing the sit­u­a­tion for the Pales­tin­ian peo­ple, they should be work­ing hard to sup­port inter­na­tional efforts to pre­vent Hamas from replen­ish­ing its sup­ply of mis­siles and rock­ets and to pro­mote the restora­tion of hous­ing and infra­struc­ture for the peo­ple of Gaza.

The time for rec­og­niz­ing a Pales­tin­ian state will come when the Pales­tin­ian lead­er­ship shows it is fully com­mit­ted to liv­ing in peace and secu­rity in a state side by side with Israel and the par­ties reach an agree­ment through direct bilat­eral nego­ti­a­tions resolv­ing all the issues between them.

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October 2, 2014 5

Anti-Semitic Flyers At UC-Santa Barbara Blame Jews for 9/11

Anti-Semitic fly­ers alleg­ing that “9/11 was an out­side job” and that “9/11 was Mossad” were posted on the cam­pus of the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Santa Bar­bara last week. The fly­ers included the addresses of two web­sites that pro­mote the idea that Israel and Jews were behind the 9/11 ter­ror­ist attacks. The flyer also included the web address of a group that accuses Israel of inten­tion­ally attack­ing an Amer­i­can ship and influ­enc­ing the U.S. gov­ern­ment to cover up the attack. At this point it is unclear who dis­trib­uted the flyers.911-flyer-ucsb-september-2014

The three web­sites listed are:

Redis­cover 911

“Redis­cover 911” is one of the most vir­u­lent web­sites devoted to pro­mot­ing anti-Semitic 9/11 con­spir­acy the­o­ries. The site is run by a small group of peo­ple active in the “9/11 truth move­ment” who pro­mote anti-Semitic views. They accuse Israel and Jews of being behind the ter­ror­ist attacks.  Re-Discover 9/11 not only blames the Israeli gov­ern­ment for car­ry­ing out the 9/11 attacks as a “false flag” oper­a­tion, but also demo­nizes Jews and spreads anti-Semitic stereotypes.

911missinglinks

The 2008 anti-Semitic con­spir­acy video “Miss­ing Links:The Defin­i­tive Truth About 9/11,” as well as updated ver­sions, also blames Jews and Israel for car­ry­ing out the attacks.  The video is divided into var­i­ous sec­tions, all of which present Jews as evil and duplic­i­tous. Pro­duced by Mike Delaney, “Miss­ing Links” invents a myth­i­cal group, the sayanim, described in the video as a net­work of every­day Jews who carry out nefar­i­ous deeds to serve Israel and the Jews. The video pro­motes numer­ous anti-Semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries that blame Israel and Jews for the 9/11 attacks as well as other inci­dents and paints var­i­ous Jews who worked for the U.S. gov­ern­ment as criminals.

USS Lib­erty

The web­site USSLiberty.org makes the con­spir­a­to­r­ial alle­ga­tion that Israel attacked the USS Lib­erty ship in 1967 know­ing that it was an Amer­i­can ship and that they were killing Amer­i­can ser­vice­men. While the web­site claims to sep­a­rate itself from anti-Semitic posi­tions and groups, it pro­motes the idea that there is a pow­er­ful pro-Israel lobby made up of “anti-American apol­o­gists.” The web­site claims that the U.S. gov­ern­ment helped Israel cover-up the USS Lib­erty inci­dent because of alleged Israeli con­trol over the Amer­i­can polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary struc­ture. It also makes the claim that U.S. elected offi­cials have been “unwill­ing to chal­lenge Israel’s inter­ests when they con­flict with Amer­i­can interests.”

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