Photo credit: Jorge Salgado/Reuters
Hate-fueled mass shootings horrifyingly make up half of our 2019 Top Ten Incidents of Hate List. Three of the shootings took place in houses of worship: two synagogues, and two mosques. One of those shootings was on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur. Three perpetrators were white supremacists, two are believed to have ties to an anti-Semitic sect of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. Two shootings were overseas, three of them spanned both coasts of the U.S. Hate spread across the political, racial, economic, and international divide. At ADL, it is our business to track hate, so as the year comes to a close, we take a moment to look back at some of the most heinous incidents that remain in our hearts and minds from the past year.
White supremacist shootings in El Paso, Texas
An alleged white supremacist drove more than 11 hours through Texas to kill Hispanics at an El Paso Walmart, telling police as he surrendered that he planned the rampage with the intention of targeting Mexicans. Less than 20 minutes before the massacre began, the suspected shooter is believed to have posted a racist, anti-immigrant screed to 8chan, a website popular among white supremacists. The shooting left 22 people dead and injured 26 others. The Department of Justice labeled the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism, and ADL’s Center on Extremism noted the shooting was the deadliest white supremacist attack in the U.S. in more than 50 years.
Christchurch Mosque Shooting
In March, a white supremacist went on a shooting rampage in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 Muslims and wounding many others. The shooter, who was born in Australia, livestreamed the attack on Facebook, which was then posted on other platforms like YouTube. The shooter also posted a manifesto online just prior to the attack, lamenting mass migration and espousing his beliefs in what he called white “genocide.” The attack on Christchurch underscored the fact that white supremacy is a global terror threat whose ideology manifests around the world and results in acts of violence in many instances.
Two Gunmen Motivated by Anti-Semitic and Anti-Law Enforcement Beliefs Attack Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City
Four people were killed, including a police detective, when two armed attackers inspired by anti-Semitic and anti-law enforcement beliefs stormed a Kosher supermarket in Jersey City and began shooting. The two perpetrators had ties to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, some sects of which profess anti-Semitic and racist beliefs.
The attack represents another in a long line of anti-Semitic violence directed at the Orthodox Jewish community in the New York Metropolitan area in the past year.
White supremacist targets synagogue in Poway, CA; kills one
Six months to the day after the deadly shooting rampage at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, an alleged white supremacist opened fire inside the Chabad Congregation in Poway, California, killing one and injuring three. The alleged gunman posted a white supremacist letter/manifesto to the document-sharing site PasteBin on the morning of the attack, detailing his hatred for Jews and all non-Christians. The suspect also glowingly referred to the Pittsburgh shooter Robert Bowers, and Brenton Tarrant, who murdered 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand earlier in the year.
Attack on synagogue in Halle, Germany
On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, the synagogue in Halle, Germany was attacked by an alleged white supremacist. According to reports, a terrorist with a shotgun tried unsuccessfully to enter the synagogue, where approximately 80 congregants were worshiping. After failing to enter, he began shooting at nearby individuals, killing two and wounding two others. The suspect apparently livestreamed the attack through game-streaming platform, Twitch. The shooting was part of a trend in the mainstreaming of white supremacist ideologies in Europe and the U.S.
Wave of synagogue vandalism; 11 white supremacists arrested for plots and threats
In a year when the FBI warned that domestic terrorism was one of the most pressing national security threats in the U.S. today, the Jewish community experienced a number of serious incidents motivated by anti-Semitism. ADL’s Center on Extremism counted 11 white supremacists who have been arrested for their alleged roles in terrorist plots, attacks, or threats against the Jewish community in 2019, specifically including Youngstown, Ohio, where a white supremacist was arrested after allegedly making video threats against the local Jewish community center; and Las Vegas, Nevada, where a white supremacist had planned to carry out an attack on a local synagogue and the ADL regional office, among other targets. In addition to the 11 white supremacist incidents, there was an additional arrest of an individual inspired by an extremist interpretation of Islam.
In 2019 there were at least 33 extremist-related incidents targeting Jewish institutions including a coordinated campaign orchestrated by the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer Book Club, which targeted synagogues across the country, from Massachusetts to Seattle, with fliers calling the Holocaust “fake news.”
Violent anti-Semitic assaults in Brooklyn and Jersey City murders prompt calls for change
A string of violent, random and unprovoked anti-Semitic assaults on Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn left the community on edge. ADL and the NYPD tracked an alarming increase in the frequency and aggressiveness of anti-Semitic hate crimes and incidents in the borough, which is home to a large Jewish population. In response, ADL worked closely with community officials, offered multiple cash rewards for the arrests of the perpetrators, and announced a doubling of funding for its premier education program, “No Place for Hate,” to bring the program to twice as many schools in Brooklyn.
Immigrants Die in Detention; Series of increasingly restrictive policies reduces U.S. immigration to zero
The Trump Administration’s increasingly restrictive immigration policies led to a dubiously historic moment in the U.S. – for the first time since recordkeeping began, the number of refugees resettled in the U.S. hit zero. The decline came after the State Department froze admissions for refugees, causing more uncertainty for the thousands of immigrants hoping to resettle in America at a time when there are an estimated 26 million refugees worldwide. The situation was just as bleak at the nation’s border, where the Department of Homeland Security forced more than 60,00 asylum seekers and other migrants to wait in camps in Mexico. And the year saw many deaths of migrants in detention and of children at the border. A 16-year-old from Guatemala died in a Border Patrol holding cell where he was left alone for hours; and, according to an NBC News analysis, 24 immigrants died while in ICE custody.
Charges of Jewish “Disloyalty” Permeate Politics on Both Sides of the Aisle
Although the charge of Jewish “disloyalty” is centuries old, it seemed like 2019 brought a revival to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. The idea is that Jews should be suspected of being disloyal neighbors or citizens because their true allegiance is to their coreligionists around the world or to a secret and immoral Jewish agenda. The conspiracy theory manifests itself today with the idea that Jews, specifically American Jews, are more loyal to Israel than they are to the United States.
First, it was Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar who made anti-Semitic remarks, implying that members of Congress have been bought by the Jewish lobbying organization AIPAC into supporting Israel. Then it was President Trump accusing Jews who vote Democrat of being disloyal to Israel. Both charges are inherently anti-Semitic and should be called out as such.
Foster care agency in South Carolina given waiver to freely discriminate against Jews and other minorities
A South Carolina foster care agency, Miracle Hill Ministries, which had previously rejected one local Jewish woman who sought to be a volunteer mentor for children, was granted a waiver by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services allowing it to openly discriminate against Jews, gay couples and others who don’t follow their faith. ADL forcefully opposed the waiver and called the decision “shameful, illegal and immoral.” Adding insult to injury, in November, the Trump Administration proposed a new rule that would allow HHS grantees and contractors to openly discriminate against LGBTQ families with federal funding.