Words Aren't Enough

Trump Must Fight Anti-Semitism Surge Through Actions
  • by:
    • Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, CEO
  • March 1, 2017

Tuesday night, we heard a lot about what President Trump has planned for our country. You may agree or disagree with him on a variety of issues, but part of what was notable in his speech was what he did not say.

Constructively, he opened the speech by condemning recent threats to the Jewish community — from nearly 100 bomb threats to Jewish institutions to the desecration of cemeteries.

Yet what the President did not say is what he will do about the most sweeping wave of anti-Semitic incidents in decades. Presidential leadership is measured not merely by words, but by actions. The Jewish community is demanding action to apprehend and bring to justice those who are terrorizing our communities. We are demanding the administration take steps to combat the wave of anti-Semitic harassment sweeping our country.

Consider what happened just this week. On Monday, nearly 30 Jewish community centers, schools, as well as ADL’s regional office in San Francisco were targeted with a wave of anonymous bomb threats — the fifth wave of threats phoned in to Jewish institutions in as many weeks.

Beyond these attacks, we’ve seen an uptick in anti-Semitic harassment, from taunting to swastikas painted on garage doors and a virtual tsunami of vicious “trolling” of Jews on social media such as Twitter. In response, the Trump transition team and White House offered virtually no comment, opting to dismiss, downplay and deflect the issue, including the President shouting down a Jewish reporter for even raising the issue.

Last week, we finally heard from our President when he was interviewed during the tour of the National Museum of African American History, and he said, “Anti-Semitism is horrible, and it’s gonna stop and it has to stop.” Last night, he reiterated that sentiment on a national stage.

But what was left unsaid last night, was the answer to a simple question: What will the President do to address these anti-Semitic attacks?

If the White House is looking for ideas for concrete steps to take, the ADL has proposed an Action Plan for Anti-Semitism, five basic steps that the President can take right now to fight anti-Semitism:

  • Direct the Department of Justice to launch a fully-resourced civil rights investigation into the threats to ensure that the investigations have the funding, manpower, and support to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice;
  • Convene a federal interagency task force chaired by the attorney general to bring together relevant federal agencies who can develop policy steps that would mitigate anti-Semitic threats and all hate crimes;
  • Direct the FBI to work with state and local law enforcement agencies to implement hate crime training, reporting, and response as well as promote comprehensive participation in the Hate Crime Statistics Act reporting program so we have a full picture of the problem. Preserve funding for federal efforts to counter violent extremism, especially from white supremacists and neo-Nazis. After all, over the last decade, 74% of all deaths from domestic extremists were perpetrated from these groups.
  • Address the growing challenge of cyberhate comprehensively, by centralizing the reporting of abuse and encouraging Congress to review and improve new legal protections for victims of cyberbullying and doxxing.

There’s no panacea for anti-Semitism. It’s the world’s oldest hatred. But history shows that when anti-Semitism gains the upper hand, courageous leaders need to speak out and take action before it’s too late. Mr. President, you’ve started down the path. It’s time to take the next step.

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