Originally published under the title “White Supremacist and Radical Islamist Terror Against American Jews and Israelis.”
Founded in 2007, the Community Security Service (CSS) is a low-profile, nonprofit organization based in New York City and concerned with protection of American Jewish institutions and public activities. CSS has trained thousands of volunteers in professional security methods, provides physical security where needed, and acts otherwise to improve public awareness of security issues
CSS has now prepared an 80-page report titled Terrorist Incidents and Attacks Against Jews and Israelis in the United States, 1969-2016. The study was authored by Yehudit Barsky, a leading counter-terrorism expert, and includes a foreword by Mitchell D. Silber, director of terrorism investigations in the New York Police Department’s Intelligence Division from 2005 to 2012.
This thorough and scrupulous documentation is alarming without being alarmist. America cannot be described as threatened today by a significant antisemitic tendency. Yet across almost fifty years of analysis, CSS enumerates 104 “most serious incidents” that demonstrate the persistence of prejudice expressed in violence.
A chronicle of vicious plots, through the decades, is more disturbing when compiled in a single document, and leaves the impression that anti-Jewish fanaticism has been overlooked consistently, with assault upon assault covered briefly by media, and then forgotten. The report points out that FBI hate-crime statistics show Jews are “the most targeted religious group” in America.
The CSS survey concludes that the ideologies of white supremacy and radical Islam are the “central influencing factor” in anti-Jewish lawlessness. Silber writes that the perpetrators “include white extremists, Neo-Nazis, Palestinian terrorist groups, Al Qaeda and its varied offshoots and progeny, Iranian supported agents, as well as lone actors.” Adherents to these doctrines and groups may differ on details, but they agree in focusing their venom on Jews.
Synagogues are the most-favored target, accounting for 51 percent of the cases examined, followed by Jewish communal institutions (14 percent), Jewish individuals (13 percent), schools (10 percent), and Israelis (7 percent). Terror weapons include arson, shootings, and bombings in more-or-less equal occurrence. The report warns that while the rate of attacks has diminished, recent episodes have been more lethal, killing, and intending to kill, more victims.
White supremacist Jew-baiting, which had been a pernicious phenomenon during the Depression, was revived in the 1970s and 1980s in reaction to the social changes of the civil rights era. Holocaust denial emerged then as a theme in anti-Jewish propaganda. Radical Islamic efforts were encouraged at the same time by a global Russian Communist campaign portraying America as a Zionist power seeking to make Muslims servants of Jewish domination. In this, the Muscovites were hardly original; they widened a trail set out by the German Nazis in their attempt to recruit supporters in the Islamic lands.
The “Black Muslims” or Nation of Islam (NOI), led currently by the demagogue Louis Farrakhan, promoted “pseudo-Islamic, African American nationalist, anti-white and anti-Semitic” attitudes, in the words of the CSS report. NOI is criticized by both moderate and radical Muslims for alleging that it is an Islamic trend, given its belief in prophetic powers granted, supposedly, to its leaders. For normative Muslims, whatever their ideology, Muhammad was the last prophet. But NOI generated splinter factions that while asserting their Islamic authenticity, plunged further into delusion.
In a historical chapter that transpired nearly 40 years ago, and that only older Washingtonians may now remember, on March 9-11, 1977, 11 African American men invaded the B’nai B’rith national office; the Islamic Center of Washington, a sumptuous structure known as “the diplomats’ mosque,” at 2551 Massachusetts Avenue NW; and the District Building (now the John A. Wilson Building), the seat of municipal authority on Judiciary Square. The occupation of these buildings led to a 40-hour standoff.
The jihadists—a term unknown then to most Americans—carrying firearms, machetes, and hatchets, were led by a man who called himself the “caliph” Hamaas Abdul Khaalis. They claimed to be “Hanafi Muslims,” identifying with the dominant, mainstream legal school in Islam. At the B’nai B’rith office, the intruders seized more than 120 hostages, capturing some 30, additionally, in the District Building. Radio news reporter Maurice Williams was killed by the “Hanafis” at the District Building. A municipal security guard and a city council aide were injured there, along with the late Marion Barry, then a councilman, later the mayor, who was struck by a ricochet.
Hostages in the B’nai B’rith building were beaten and stabbed. The “Hanafis” had surveilled the B’nai B’rith facility by gaining construction work on the building’s expansion. “Hanafi” demands, after they besieged the three offices, had an illogic that nonetheless provided a harbinger of atrocities later to come, as did the “caliphal” pretensions of Khaalis. The “caliph” called on U.S. cinema operators to refuse screening of the 1976 film The Message, originally titled Muhammad, Messenger of God, as ostensibly blasphemous in its depiction of early Islam.
So would Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran condemn Salman Rushdie to death in 1989 for the same offense in writing The Satanic Verses. And an identical impulse among Islamic radicals produced the 2005 denunciation of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten for printing cartoons satirizing Muhammad, and the 2015 slaying of 12 staff members and wounding of 11 more in the Paris mass homicide at Charlie Hebdo. The common element was (and remains) the fantasy that Islamic legal practices may be imported from abroad and from far in the past, for imposition on non-Muslim societies.
The “Hanafis” demanded that the U.S. government hand over eight members of the NOI (from which they had broken off), for beheading – the habitual method of execution of Saudi Wahhabis, al Qaeda and the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS). Fortunately, the “Hanafis” surrendered to D.C. Metropolitan Police. “Caliph” Khaalis and his accomplices were found guilty of armed conspiracy and kidnapping, and the “caliph” himself was sentenced to 41-123 years in prison. He died behind bars in 2003. When his punishment was handed down, Dr. Mostafa Momen, the adviser to the Islamic Center in the United Arab Emirates, sent a message to Khaalis’ defense attorney, stating “We . . . in the Arab world bear witness that Khalifa [caliph] Hamaas is a true Muslim leader who stood for the character and respect of Islam.”
One might think that this and other outrageous misdeeds against American Jews would have sharpened the ability both of political leaders and law enforcement to respond to a menace that has grown to include repeated white supremacist murders and radical Islamist bloodshed in the U.S. But much of this depravity seems to slip quickly over the edge of public consciousness. As Mitchell Silber declared in his foreword to the CSS compendium, “this report provides the reader with an invaluable tool for conceptualizing the nature and breadth of the threats to the Jewish community.”
Stephen Schwartz, a fellow at the Middle East Forum, is executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, DC.