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August 25, 2015

When Hateful Speech Leads to Hate Crimes: Taking Bigotry Out of the Immigration Debate

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

When police arrived at the scene in Boston, they found a Latino man shaking on the ground, his face apparently soaked in urine, with a broken nose.  His arms and chest had been beaten.  One of the two brothers arrested and charged with the hate crime reportedly told police, “Donald Trump was right—all these illegals need to be deported.”

The victim, a homeless man, was apparently sleeping outside of a subway station in Dorchester when the perpetrators attacked.  His only offense was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The brothers attacked him for who he was—simply because he was Latino.

In recent weeks anti-immigrant—and by extension anti-Latino—rhetoric has reached a fever pitch.  Immigrants have been smeared as “killers” and “rapists.”  They have been accused of bringing drugs and crime.  A radio talk show host in Iowa has called for enslavement of undocumented immigrants if they do not leave within 60 days.  There have been calls to repeal the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of citizenship to people born in the United States, with allegations that people come here to have so-called “anchor babies.”  And the terms “illegal aliens” and “illegals”— which many mainstream news sources wisely rejected years ago because they dehumanize and stigmatize people—have resurged.

The words used on the campaign trail, on the floors of Congress, in the news, and in all our living rooms have consequences.  They directly impact our ability to sustain a society that ensures dignity and equality for all.  Bigoted rhetoric and words laced with prejudice are building blocks for the pyramid of hate.

Biased behaviors build on one another, becoming ever more threatening and dangerous towards the top.  At the base is bias, which includes stereotyping and insensitive remarks.  It sets the foundation for a second, more complex and more damaging layer: individual acts of prejudice, including bullying, slurs, and dehumanization.  Next is discrimination, which in turn supports bias-motivated violence, including hate crimes like the tragic one in Boston. And in the most extreme cases if left unchecked, the top of the pyramid of hate is genocide.

Just like a pyramid, the lower levels support the upper levels.  Bias, prejudice and discrimination—particularly touted by those with a loud megaphone and cheering crowd—all contribute to an atmosphere that enables hate crimes and other hate-fueled violence.  The most recent hate crime in Boston is just one of too many.  In fact, there is a hate crime roughly every 90 minutes in the United States today.  That is why last week ADL announced a new initiative, #50StatesAgainstHate, to strengthen hate crimes laws around the country and safeguard communities vulnerable to hate-fueled attacks. We are working with a broad coalition of partners to get the ball rolling.

Laws alone, however, cannot cure the disease of hate.  To do that, we need to change the conversation.  We would not suggest that any one person’s words caused this tragedy – the perpetrators did that; but the rhetorical excesses by so many over the past few weeks give rise to a climate in which prejudice, discrimination, and hate-fueled violence can take root.

Reasonable people can differ about how we should fix our broken immigration system, but stereotypes, slurs, smears and insults have no place in the debate.

Immigrants have been a frequent target of hate, and unfortunately, prejudice and violence are not new.  Many of our ancestors faced similar prejudice when they came to the United States. In the 1800s, the attacks were against Irish and German immigrants. Next was a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment culminating with the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. Then the hatred turned on the Jews, highlighted by the lynching of Leo Frank in 1915.  Then came bigotry against Japanese immigrants and people of Japanese dissent, which led to the shameful internment of more than 110,000 people during World War II.  Today, anti-immigrant bigotry largely focuses on Latinos.  The targets have changed, but the messages of hate remain largely the same.  It is long past time for that to end.

ADL, as a 501(c)(3), does not support or oppose candidates for elective office,but we have a simple message for all policymakers and candidates:  There is no place for hate in the immigration debate.  There is nothing patriotic or admirable about hatred and hate-fueled violence.  The only acceptable response to hate crimes is unequivocal, strong condemnation.  And the same is true for the bias, prejudice, and bigoted speech that have recently permeated the immigration conversation.

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July 13, 2015

Online Activity Provides Insight Into MA Man Arrested For ISIS Plot

Alexander Ciccolo's Facebook profile picture

Alexander Ciccolo’s Facebook profile picture

Alexander Ciccolo, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen from Boston, Massachusetts, is the 55th U.S. resident linked to terrorist plots and other activity in 2015. A closer look at one of Ciccolo’s Facebook profiles, which ADL began monitoring in 2014, sheds light on his views in support of terrorism, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) specifically.

Ciccolo was arrested on July 4, 2015, and charged as a felon in possession of a weapon. According to court documents, he had allegedly planned an attack against a popular bar frequented by university students and a college cafeteria, possibly with the use of pressure cooker bombs modeled after those used in the Boston Marathon bombing. He allegedly planned to broadcast the attack live on the Internet, a testament to the centrality of the Internet in terrorist activity.

According to court documents, Ciccolo had initially considered an attack on civilians, military and law enforcement, for which he also allegedly considered using pressure cooker bombs. As many as 5 other domestic plots in 2015 targeted the military, and as many as 3 other plots targeted law enforcement. At least 2 other domestic plots in 2015 involved attempts at replicating the pressure cooker bombs used in the Boston Marathon bombing.

A series of Facebook posts analyzed by ADL in December 2014 in which Ciccolo posted using the name Ali NoSisters Al Amriki (previously Ali Al Amriki, with the middle name added to indicate that he did not want women to add him as a friend, a further demonstration of his religious extremism) reveal Ciccolo’s apparent embrace of terrorist ideology.

Ciccolo Facebook post ISIS Syria father dream

One of Ciccolo’s Facebook posts

In a post dated December 1, 2014, he described a dream in which he was “running to Sham (Syria), climbing over walls, over fences, through train stations and across the country. It seemed like everyone was trying to stop me from getting to Sham. I eventually stopped running and turned around. There was a man pointing a pistol at me and my father was with him. I kept telling them to let me go, I was trying to reason with them. They wouldn’t listen and continued trying to harm me. I then had to kill this man and my father.” In the same post, he also described a second dream in which he “needed weapons desperately, so I came up with a plan and stole the rifles an (AR15, and a shotgun) out of the trunk of a police car.”

Two days later, Ciccolo posted a paragraph about ISIS capturing weapons supplied by the U.S. and Israel (which he calls the “kuffar alliance,” or apostate alliance) resulting in both countries

Cicollo posted support for ISIS on Facebook

Cicollo posted support for ISIS on Facebook

“working against [themselves]” and “rot[ting] themselves from the inside out. They will suffer severe Hellfire and they will find themselves tortured souls.” One of Ciccolo’s Facebook friends commented on this post saying, “may almighty Allah help isis and in shaa allah rab (God willing) we shall become victorious above the shayatin (devils).”

Other statements further indicated his extremist and conspiratorial beliefs.

  •  “I only hope that I can serve Him the best I can and die a good death” (possibly referring to dying as a terrorist; posted December 1, 2014)
  • “If one does not learn to subjugate the other, one quickly finds the boot of the latter on his throat,” (December 16, 2014)
  •  “It is totally impossible to free associate with kuffar (apostates) if you are a practicing Muslim.” (December 23, 2014)
  • “The kuffar (apostates) contaminated all the food. Can someone please send me a complete halal food list for the United States?” (December 26, 2014)

According to court documents, Ciccolo also praised the June 2015 attack on a beach and hotel in Tunisia, calling it “awesome” and “a huge accomplishment.” Court documents also indicate that, earlier in the year, he posted a statement on Facebook that read, “Thank you Islamic State! Now we won’t have to deal with these kafir back in America” (with an image of a dead U.S. soldier; posted October 17, 2014)

Cicollo posted on Facebook about seeing Adolf Hitler

Cicollo posted on Facebook about seeing Adolf Hitler

Some of Ciccolo’s ideas may have also been fueled by anti-Semitic sentiments.On December 22, Ciccolo described a dream he claimed to have had in which he was “dressed in an SS uniform” inspecting children in a school and then he “saw Hitler and his face was so bright and beautiful.”

Ciccolo is one of at least 15 converts to Islam linked to terrorism in the U.S. this year. And he is far from having grown up with extremist ideologies: His father is a captain in the Boston police and reportedly informed counter-terrorism investigators of his son’s increasing radicalization.

He is the fourth man linked to terror plots in New England in 2015. Ciccolo’s alleged plot makes the 13th known domestic plot apparently inspired by Islamic extremist ideology this year.

News reports indicate that Ciccolo may suffer from mental illness.

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November 20, 2014

Anti-Israel Activity Prevalent On Massachusetts Campuses This Year

With recent anti-Israel activity at multiple universities in Massachusetts,the state has become a hotspot for campus events promoting Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns and the use of confrontational tactics to protest pro-Israel events.students-for-justice-in-palestine-2014-national-conference

Nine anti-Israel events have been held in Massachusetts so far this academic year, more than double the four events that took place last year during the same timeframe. This academic year’s events follow the nine anti-Israel demonstrations that were held in Massachusettsover the summer during Operation Protective Edge, some of which featured signs with slogans like “Not even the Holocaust gives you the right to do this!” and “Do you think that Israel is a victim? Zionism = Nazism.”

In October, the fourth annual National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Conference took place at Tufts University.SJP, a student organization with over 110 chapters at American universities, held the conference so that students from around the country could unify for a weekend to learn about SJP’s stance on the conflict. The conference was titled “Beyond Solidarity: Resisting Racism and Colonialism from the U.S. to Palestine,” a reference to SJP activists’ efforts to connect varying struggles and movements to the Palestinian cause, and it featured workshops such as “Nothing Normal about It: Countering Normalization of Israeli Oppression on Campus,” and “Israeli Apartheid: Reality on the Ground after the Protective Edge Massacre and Ending Genocide in Gaza.”

Open Hillel, a student-run campaign calling on Hillel International to alter its “Standards for Partnership,” held its first conference at Harvard University, calling on Hillel International to allow “free discourse” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Organizers claimed that the conference would allow certain viewpoints to be voiced that would be excluded from a Hillel building because of Hillel International’s “Standards for Partnership,” which do not allow for speakers that delegitimize Israel or deny its right to exist. The Open Hillel conference featured discussions such as “Unpacking Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions,” and “Anti Normalization Workshop: Open Discourse in the Context of Power Differentials.”
Both the SJP and Open Hillel conferences focused on topics such as BDS campaigns and the tactic of anti-normalization, which advises students against dialogue and rejects any attempt to engage in a debate of the conflict with pro-Israel students.

Speakers at the conferences represented a network of groups that have worked to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish State. Those speakers included Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) who spoke at the Open Hillel conference; Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University and an Advisory Board member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation who also spoke at the Open Hillel conference; and Sara Kershnar, a cofounder of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network who has made false allegations including that Israel uses “Nazi tactics” against Palestinians, spoke at the SJP conference.

Other recent anti-Israel events in Massachusetts organized by students include:

  • A panel discussion about the BDS movement took place during the Harvard Arab Weekend, which is sponsored by the Harvard Arab Alumni Association and several corporate sponsors, including Bank Audi, Shell, and the Boston Consulting Group. The BDS discussion, which took place to “highlight recent successes from the BDS movement, discuss approach, and examine its trajectory,” featured Noam Chomsky, an American scholar who has a history of making anti-Israel statements; Andrew Kadi, a member of the US Campaign’s Steering Committee; and Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund; as guest speakers.
  • On November 1, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a group that works to bring about a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel,delivered a presentation about BDS campaigns to students. In past statements, Barghouti has used sensitive Holocaust imagery to condemn Israel and its supporters and has alleged that an “Israel lobby” controls U.S. policy and suppresses debate.
  • In late October, members of various Boston SJP chapters protested a Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) fundraiser outside of the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel where the event was taking place.  Protesters led chants and held signs that read, “The IDF is GENOCIDAL,” “From Ferguson to Palestine racism is a crime,” and “Friends don’t let friends commit war crimes.”
  • At Smith College in Northampton, the “Festival of Resistance” featured an anti-Israel rally outside of Northampton City Hall that led directly into a day-long teach-in about the BDS movement in late September.

In addition to organizing such events, anti-Israel students also oppose pro-Israel programing through confrontational tactics. This past Monday, students from the Tufts University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter, conducted a die-in to protest a presentation from a pro-Israel speaker. In a more extreme example of protesting against pro-Israel programming on campus,anti-Israel sentiment crossed the line to anti-Semitism when swastikas were drawn on flyers advertising a pro-Israel event at Northeastern University.  Northeastern University’s swift condemnation of the incident was clear, timely, unambiguous, and served as an important reminder of effective university responses to acts of hate and intolerance on campus.

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