Jonathan Greenblatt's Testimony Before the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism on Confronting the Rise in Anti-Semitic Domestic Terrorism

Remarks by Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO, ADL

January 15, 2020

Washington, D.C., January 15, 2020

Chairman Rose, Ranking Member Walker, Chairman Thompson and all the distinguished Members of the Subcommittee: On behalf of ADL, thank you for the opportunity to testify here today and share our perspective.  

For more than a century, ADL has been battling anti-Semitism and fighting to secure justice and fair treatment to all. We stand on the front lines of fighting hate in any form.

And it’s fair to say that the past few years have been the most challenging that we have seen in recent memory.  We have already mentioned some of the spots: from Pittsburgh to Poway…Jersey City to Monsey… El Paso to Orlando … Charleston to Christchurch…the list goes on and on.

But it’s not just the high-profile and lethal incidents that I want to talk about today. It’s also the kids who snap a heil Hitler salute for a gag, the swastikas scrawled on a garage door, the college campuses where Jewish students are ostracized for supporting Israel.  This moment is about women wearing wigs harassed as they ride the subway or men wearing black hats assaulted as they cross the street. It’s the idea that a person isn’t safe in their supermarket, in their synagogue, or in their home just because they are Jewish.

In fact, ADL’s most recent Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents recorded more than 1,800 acts in 2018, the third highest that total we’ve seen in 40 years. These results came on the heels of our 2017 Audit, which documented a 57 percent surge over the prior year, the largest on record. And in New York City alone, the NYPD reported more anti-Jewish incidents in 2019 than all other hate crimes put together.

Now what may surprise you is that this increase in incidents is happening against a backdrop of steady, relatively low levels of anti-Semitic attitudes among the general population. That is, our fellow Americans aren’t hating more, but there is a growing group of people who are acting out on hate.

So why is that?

First, we have leading voices in our nation – from both sides of the political spectrum, in academic institutions, in the media, in other stations of public life – who are normalizing anti-Semitism.  They are using anti-Semitic myths and tropes about “globalists” controlling government, Jewish money destroying our borders, dual loyalty to Jewish citizens, or attacking the Jewish state with the same dangerous myths and tropes used throughout history to demonize the Jewish people. And all of this destigmatizes anti-Semitism and renders it routine.

That’s why it is so important that we all call out anti-Semitism whenever it happens, especially if it’s uttered by our allies and friends. We need leaders to stop politicizing anti-Semitism and weaponizing it for partisan gain, no matter what their political affiliation. We need citizens to step up and demand more of people in public life.  That they should insist on a zero tolerance for intolerance. Full stop.

And on that score, Mr. Chairman, you’ve shown real courage in speaking out, and I applaud you for it.

Now a second reason is that we have online platforms that tolerate anti-Semitism and hate. And I’m not talking about just adults, but children can find horrific hate online with a click or a swipe, 24/7, 365 days a year. Now, as someone who has managed engineers and built software products in Silicon Valley, I know the culture there, and I know full well that tech can do good, but it is impossible to ignore the fact that it’s become an amplifier, an organizer, and a catalyst for the some of the worst types of hate in our society.

So it is long overdue for social media companies to step up and shut down the neo-Nazis on their platforms. Companies like Twitter and Facebook need to apply the same energy to protecting vulnerable users that they apply to protect their profits. That will take putting more pressure on these companies, and possibly new regulations.

But, today, I want to follow up with what the chairman said.  This is not the time for thoughts and prayers, this is the time for action.  So I want to leave you with what I think you can do across party lines right now.

  • Pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act to ensure law enforcement agencies deal with violent extremists on the home front;
  • Pass the NO HATE Act to ensure local law enforcement is resourced and trained up in how to deal with hate crimes;
  • Pass legislation to hold perpetrators of online hate accountable, along the lines of the Online Safety Modernization Act;
  • Pass the Never Again Holocaust Education Act so children are educated about the evils of prejudice unbound;
  • Fund fully the non-profit security grants to shore up at-risk institutions and meet the needs of all faith groups, synagogues, their schools, and community centers, and do that today; and

Lastly, I want to encourage the State Department to examine whether violent white supremacist organizations overseas, those frequently connecting with and inspiring equally violent hate groups in our country, meet the criteria to be designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). If these groups are a threat to our homeland and if Americans are supporting them, we can bring the full force of the law and society against them.

ADL stands ready to serve as a constructive partner as you explore and act on these issues.

Thank you for the opportunity to be here, and I look forward to your questions.