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May 3, 2016 0

Medina Arrest Highlights Threats of Anti-Semitism in Islamic Extremism

James Medina

James Med­ina

James Gon­zalo Med­ina, a 40-year-old res­i­dent of Hol­ly­wood, Florida, was arrested on May 2, 2016, for allegedly plot­ting to use an explo­sive device in a Florida syn­a­gogue on Passover. Court doc­u­ments indi­cate that he wanted to leave a notice with the bomb attribut­ing the attack to ISIS.

Vio­lent expres­sions of anti-Semitism, includ­ing encour­age­ment of attacks against Jews and Jew­ish or Israeli insti­tu­tions, have been at the core of pro­pa­ganda dis­trib­uted by Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamic extrem­ist ter­ror­ist groups for decades. Last year, the ADL released a report, “Anti-Semitism: A Pil­lar of Islamic Extrem­ist Ide­ol­ogy,” which describes the way in which ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions rely on depic­tions of a Jew­ish enemy to recruit fol­low­ers, moti­vate adher­ents and draw atten­tion to their cause.

Medina’s plot was never oper­a­tional because he had been work­ing closely with an under­cover infor­mant. ADL joined with the South Florida Mus­lim com­mu­nity in issu­ing a press state­ment con­demn­ing the plot, which is avail­able on the ADL web­site.

How­ever, Med­ina is not the first U.S. res­i­dent appar­ently moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­olo­gies to plot attacks against a syn­a­gogue. Oth­ers included New York res­i­dents Ahmed Fer­hani and Moham­mad Mam­douh, arrested in May 2011 for plot­ting to attack a syn­a­gogue in New York City and four New York res­i­dents who plot­ted to attack syn­a­gogues in the Bronx and to shoot down air­planes at a mil­i­tary base in New­burgh, New York in 2009.

More recently, there have been a num­ber of U.S. res­i­dents inspired by Islamic extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions who con­sid­ered attack­ing Jew­ish or Israeli insti­tu­tions or oth­er­wise indi­cated that anti-Semitism was an impor­tant ele­ment of their ide­ol­ogy. They included:

  • Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, arrested in 2016 for allegedly attempt­ing to bomb a masonic tem­ple in Wis­con­sin, had ini­tially expressed inter­est in trav­el­ing to Israel to kill sol­diers and civil­ians in the West Bank, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments. He allegedly changed his plan for logis­ti­cal reasons.
  • Tairod Pugh, arrested for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS in 2015, wrote a Face­book post that stated, “All the evil done by the Jews came from within them­selves. On the day of Judg­ment full respon­si­bil­ity of the starv­ing, tor­ture, jail­ing and killing of inno­cent Mus­lims will rest upon there (sic) shoul­ders. Allah must really hate them to give the rope to hang them­selves,” and posted an image with text stat­ing, “Most Jews do not like to admit it, but our Gd is Lucifer.” He also shared an image on Face­book that ref­er­enced blood libel accu­sa­tions, depict­ing Israeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Netanyahu slit­ting the throats of sleep­ing children.
  • Nader Elhuza­yel, arrested in 2015 for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS, report­edly expressed excite­ment at the pos­si­bil­ity of ISIS attack­ing Israel. Court doc­u­ments claim that he wrote, “Look­ing for­ward to see some yahoodi (Jew­ish) heads rolling, or dead bod­ies car­ry­ing their own yahoodi heads, and jihadi john (iden­ti­fied as the beheader in sev­eral Screen­shot from Al Shabaab video call­ing for attacks on “Jewish-owned West­field shop­ping cen­ters” 9 ISIS videos) doing this stance on them…” as part of an Inter­net exchange in Decem­ber 2014.
  • Nadir Soofi, one of men who allegedly fired shots at a Gar­land, Texas com­mu­nity cen­ter in 2015, advanced con­spir­acy the­o­ries sug­gest­ing Jew­ish involve­ment in the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 attacks in online forums.
  • Christo­pher Lee Cor­nell, arrested in 2015 for allegedly plot­ting to bomb the U.S. capi­tol and shoot gov­ern­ment offi­cials, report­edly expressed a desire to attack the Israeli Embassy in an inter­view con­ducted in prison fol­low­ing his arrest.
  • Shan­non Mau­reen Con­ley, arrested in 2014 for allegedly attempt­ing to join ISIS, threat­ened a church in her home town repot­edly in part because of the church’s sup­port for Israel.
  • Basit Javed Sheikh, arrested for attempt­ing to join Jab­hat al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria) in 2014, advanced a con­spir­acy the­ory on online forums that there was a Jew­ish con­spir­acy to pro­mote mod­er­ate Islam, which he viewed as inau­then­tic, over fun­da­men­tal­ist or extrem­ist views of Islam

The ADL pro­vides secu­rity resources for Jew­ish insti­tu­tions, includ­ing best prac­tices for Jew­ish Insti­tu­tional Secu­rity and a Guide to Detect­ing Sur­veil­lance of Jew­ish Insti­tu­tions. Indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions can con­tact their local ADL offices for more infor­ma­tion and resources, includ­ing requests for secu­rity train­ing or to sign up to receive ADL’s Secu­rity Bul­letins and Alerts.

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April 26, 2016 1

New ADL Resources for Safe and Respectful Schools

high school students and tabletsFears of extrem­ism, rad­i­cal­iza­tion and mass vio­lence in our schools have unfor­tu­nately become all too com­mon for edu­ca­tors and school admin­is­tra­tors across the United States. At the same time, infor­ma­tion that allows edu­ca­tors to under­stand the threat and leaves them equipped to address it with­out per­pet­u­at­ing biases and stereo­types is scarce. In order to fill this gap, the Anti-Defamation League and START (the National Con­sor­tium for the Study of Ter­ror­ism and Responses to Ter­ror­ism), have cre­ated a back­grounder pro­vid­ing accu­rate, empir­i­cally tested infor­ma­tion on under­stand­ing mass vio­lence and extrem­ism for edu­ca­tors and school administrators.

The new back­grounder is designed to enable edu­ca­tors to be bet­ter equipped to under­stand and appro­pri­ately respond to observ­able warn­ing signs and to imple­ment pro­grams that fos­ter safe school communities.

By com­bin­ing top­ics of mass vio­lence and vio­lent extrem­ism into one doc­u­ment, the back­grounder strives to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive infor­ma­tion that is rel­e­vant as well as appro­pri­ate for all school dis­tricts. It empha­sizes the cre­ation of a three-pronged strat­egy to decrease risk for both rad­i­cal­iza­tion and mass vio­lence in schools, through:

  1. Aware­ness of observ­able warn­ing signs,
  2. Devel­op­ment of school pro­grams encour­ag­ing respect and inclu­sion, and
  3. Imple­men­ta­tion of cur­ricu­lum resources teach­ing stu­dents to be safe and con­sci­en­tious con­sumers of online material.

The doc­u­ment pro­vides fact-based evi­dence, empha­siz­ing a goal of pre­ven­tion rather than pre­dic­tion in order to ensure a wide safety net. At the same time, by high­light­ing the fact that feel­ings of iso­la­tion and mar­gin­al­iza­tion often play a pre­cip­i­tat­ing role in rad­i­cal­iza­tion and vio­lence, the doc­u­ment makes clear that pro­grams encour­ag­ing inclu­sion and dis­cour­ag­ing bias are at the core of any suc­cess­ful strat­egy for cre­at­ing safe schools.

In con­junc­tion with this back­grounder, ADL has also released a new Cur­rent Events Class­room les­son for high school stu­dents enti­tled Out­smart­ing Pro­pa­ganda: Com­bat­ting the Lure of Extrem­ist Recruit­ment Strate­gies. Pro­duced with addi­tional assis­tance from START, this cur­ricu­lum pro­vides the resources for stu­dents to uti­lize crit­i­cal think­ing when faced with pro­pa­ganda and mes­sag­ing they encounter online, increas­ing their abil­ity to rec­og­nize and resist extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda and recruit­ment strate­gies.  A par­al­lel resource for fam­i­lies, Pro­pa­ganda, Extrem­ism and Recruit­ment Tac­tics, guides adult fam­ily mem­bers in hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions with their chil­dren about ter­ror­ist exploita­tion of the Inter­net and online pro­pa­ganda – again, a cru­cial first step in ensur­ing that young peo­ple are less sus­cep­ti­ble to dan­ger­ous pro­pa­ganda and recruit­ment techniques.

As young peo­ple, par­ents and teach­ers are dis­cussing vio­lence, extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism, it is impor­tant that they don’t fall prey to stereo­typ­ing and scape­goat­ing that can some­times accom­pany these con­ver­sa­tions. In ADL’s anti-bias work, we pro­vide stu­dents with skills to under­stand the lan­guage of bias, be crit­i­cal thinkers, counter bias, big­otry and stereo­typ­ing and learn how to be an ally.

ADL has cre­ated a new web­page called Find­ing the Bal­ance: Coun­ter­ing Extrem­ism and Com­bat­ing Stereo­types that is designed to serve as a com­pre­hen­sive resource by pair­ing these new items with its exten­sive array of mate­ri­als for par­ents and teach­ers on teach­ing and dis­cussing ter­ror­ism, hate and vio­lence, big­otry, and scape­goat­ing, as well as resources for cre­at­ing inclu­sive, bias-free class­rooms. The new site also includes back­ground infor­ma­tion on extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism in the U.S. pro­duced by the ADL’s Cen­ter on Extrem­ism.

Together, these mate­ri­als will help to fill a cru­cial gap for both par­ents and edu­ca­tors by pro­vid­ing fact-based resources, cur­ric­ula, and back­grounders that can equip them to develop inclu­sive and safe schools, resis­tant to vio­lence and extrem­ism and respect­ful of all students.

 

 

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April 20, 2016 8

Why I’m Speaking to Students at J Street U

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium on April 17, 2016.

J Street U

This morn­ing, I will speak to stu­dents at the J Street U National Assem­bly, the annual gath­er­ing of more than 200 young lead­ers from across the coun­try who con­verge on Wash­ing­ton D.C. to dis­cuss the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, and to exchange views about what they can do on cam­pus to advance a two-state solu­tion. J Street U reached out to me seek­ing to engage with the Jew­ish com­mu­nity, eager to estab­lish a rela­tion­ship with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which it has never had.

As I begin to chart the course of my lead­er­ship, I felt it was impor­tant that I accept this invi­ta­tion. I feel this way because of my con­vic­tion that it is vital to engage with all mem­bers of our com­mu­nity, even and espe­cially those with whom we might have disagreements.

We can’t talk only to those who are aligned with us on every point.

In our time of hyper-polarization and the ero­sion of civil dis­course, I believe it’s imper­a­tive that the orga­nized Jew­ish lead­er­ship mod­els the traits that we want to define the broader pol­i­tics in our coun­try. When I started my tenure as CEO, the coun­try was locked in a bit­ter debate over the Iran deal. More than any­thing, the expe­ri­ence showed me that our com­mu­nity suf­fers from an inabil­ity to thought­fully and respect­fully engage across polit­i­cal divides.

I saw it first­hand as Jews who sup­ported the deal as well as those who opposed the deal both were attacked viciously for their views, par­tic­u­larly by fel­low Jews. I was dis­mayed by the self-destructive behav­ior — tak­ing out news­pa­per ads, plas­ter­ing munic­i­pal buses, exco­ri­at­ing oth­ers with ad home­nim attacks — such attacks don’t advance the debate. They dimin­ish all of us.

For a peo­ple who ele­vated the notion of dis­sent as a bedrock prin­ci­ple of our reli­gious prac­tice, the unwill­ing­ness to coun­te­nance oppos­ing views is counter to the best tra­di­tions of our peo­ple. As a leader, I will not engage in these tac­tics. Instead, as the CEO of ADL, I will be an active advo­cate for civil­ity and avoid the pol­i­tics of per­sonal destruction.

Build­ing from this frame, I see my remarks today as a major oppor­tu­nity for ADL to accom­plish two things.

The first is to deliver the mes­sage that, at ADL, we are com­mit­ted to ensur­ing Israel remains a safe and secure, Jew­ish and demo­c­ra­tic state, as enshrined in its procla­ma­tion of inde­pen­dence. It was that remark­able Zion­ist vision expressed from the cra­dle of Israel’s birth that cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and the world, the notion that Israel would be a coun­try unlike all others:

“…based on free­dom, jus­tice and peace as envis­aged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure com­plete equal­ity of social and polit­i­cal rights to all its inhab­i­tants irre­spec­tive of reli­gion, race or sex; it will guar­an­tee free­dom of reli­gion, con­science, lan­guage, edu­ca­tion and culture…”

Frayed Israel Flag

That is why ADL has had a pol­icy of sup­port for a two-state solu­tion for decades. This means advo­cat­ing for the legit­i­macy and secu­rity of the Jew­ish state even as we sup­port Pales­tin­ian dig­nity and equal­ity of Arab cit­i­zens in Israel. These ideas should not be in con­flict. Rather, they are con­sis­tent with our cen­ten­nial com­mit­ment to civil rights and social justice.

Sec­ondly, I see an oppor­tu­nity to deliver an impor­tant mes­sage to these impas­sioned stu­dents who are gal­va­nized by the imper­a­tive to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. At ADL, we equally want to see a res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict. Israel must take real, mean­ing­ful mea­sures to pro­mote an end to the impasse. How­ever, the idea that peace can be brought about only by apply­ing pres­sure to one side of the con­flict — Israel — is a strat­egy bound to backfire.

Fur­ther iso­lat­ing Israel at a time of great local tumult and regional volatil­ity will only rein­force the polit­i­cal psy­chol­ogy of Israelis who eye con­ces­sions made in the con­text of nego­ti­a­tions with the Pales­tini­ans as inevitably endan­ger­ing them. And this fear is real. It is sub­stan­ti­ated in the unrav­el­ing of the mod­ern Mid­dle East, the rise of vio­lent non-state actors com­mit­ted to the destruc­tion of Israel, ter­ror­ist groups like Hezbol­lahISIS and Hamas, and the regional power of Iran whose rev­o­lu­tion­ary ide­ol­ogy remains firmly rooted in anti-Semitism. As Israelis look around they see regional chaos engulf­ing their neigh­bor­hood: whole­sale slaugh­ter in Syria, chaos in Sinai, chal­lenges to the sta­bil­ity of their friends in Jor­dan. Any rea­son­able approach to solv­ing the con­flict in order to be cred­i­ble in the eyes of Israel must bear in mind this new reality.

Given these facts, it is only the con­stancy of Amer­i­can guar­an­tees of moral and phys­i­cal sup­port that will under­gird an even­tual agree­ment. And under­min­ing that sup­port endan­gers the prospects of peace. While a respon­si­ble approach should rec­og­nize that there are steps that Israel must take to ensure the via­bil­ity of a two-state solu­tion, a rea­son­able approach must have expec­ta­tions of the Pales­tini­ans as well.

Ignor­ing the steps they also must take, com­pro­mises they too must make to achieve peace, does a deep dis­ser­vice toward that goal.

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The fact is that the Pales­tini­ans, under the lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Abbas, twice rejected seri­ous Israeli peace offers, once in 2008 dur­ing direct talks between Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert and Abu Mazen, and again under the Obama Admin­is­tra­tion — an admin­is­tra­tion which I was a part of. When Pres­i­dent Obama offered Pres­i­dent Abbas an Amer­i­can frame­work doc­u­ment for the res­o­lu­tion of the final sta­tus of the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, Abbas decided to ignore it entirely. That is an incon­ve­nient fact for some who wish to por­tray the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict as a sim­plis­tic story of Israel’s unwill­ing­ness to make peace. But it is a fact that can­not be ignored.

The cham­pi­ons of Pales­tin­ian self-determination must hold the Pales­tin­ian lead­er­ship to task for its fail­ures as well.

But even as I will make these points, I want to stress that despite this, we must find the areas where we can be partners.

It is vital to be in con­ver­sa­tion with these stu­dents and the next gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can Jew­ish lead­ers because it they who can cred­i­bly bro­ker crit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions on cam­puses rooted in a com­mit­ment to peace, while unmask­ing the dam­ag­ing effects of BDS and anti-normalization.

The imper­a­tives for social jus­tice today do not lie in the Israeli-Palestinian nego­ti­a­tions alone. We can­not let our dif­fer­ences over how to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace keep us from work­ing together to address so many other chal­lenges fac­ing our nation. There are vital issues of struc­tural racism that we must address now, mat­ters of press­ing racial injus­tice that wrack our own soci­ety. There are dem­a­gogues ris­ing to power in Europe and the intro­duc­tion of a ter­ri­ble new type of polit­i­cal dis­course that threat­ens our fun­da­men­tal values.

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 with an endur­ing mis­sion that still rings true today: to stop the defama­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple and to secure jus­tice and fair treat­ment to all. For more than 100 years, we have worked to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of big­otry even as we equally have fought for civil rights and social jus­tice for Jews and other mar­gin­al­ized people.

But it always has been a shared strug­gle, one that we have not waged our­selves but that has been a prod­uct of alliances, coali­tions and part­ner­ships. And the work is not yet com­plete. There is still much to do be done. Hope­fully we can do it, together.

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