US Attorney General William Barr called antisemitism a “cancer” at a recent Department of Justice summit on the topic notable for its focus on anti-Israel activity and for speeches by the top leaders of the departments of Education, the Treasury and the FBI.
The conference was bracketed by speeches by Barr and three other top officials of the Trump administration: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
“I am deeply concerned about the rise in hate crimes and political violence that we have seen over the past decade,” said Barr. “And this trend has included a marked increase in reported instances of antisemitic hate crimes. We can all agree this trend is intolerable. We must have zero tolerance for violence that is motivated by hatred for our fellow citizens whether based on race, sex, or creed. Antisemitic violence is especially pernicious because it targets both Jewish ethnic identity and religious practice.”
“The most ancient and stubborn form of racism throughout Western history has been antisemitism,” he continued. “In the United States today, we do not have state-organized violence. But increasingly we are seeing hate inspired violence against the Jewish community perpetrated by individuals and groups.”
“I think of the various forms of antisemitism as very much like different kinds of cancer,” he added. “A healthy body with a strong immune system can have success in preventing cancers from emerging and spreading. But if the immune system weakens cancer can emerge. Some might be localized. But others can rapidly metastasize and become systematic. Like a physical body, a body politic must have an immune system that resists antisemitism and other forums of hatred.”
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen added that “Unfortunately, fighting antisemitism — perhaps the world’s oldest hatred — requires unyielding vigilance. We must confront those responsible for hateful acts wherever and whenever they are found: in our cities, on our college campuses, in our workplaces, online, and particularly as to those who intimidate, terrorize, or cause harm to others.”
Elan Carr, the State Department’s special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, said the lineup was a sign of how seriously the administration is taking what he called a “time of striking growth in antisemitism around the globe.” He said that growth extends from Europe to the United States, “where vandalism in New York and other cities, according to the Anti-Defamation League, occurs on a fairly regular basis, and campuses have become hostile places for Jewish and pro-Israel students.”
Anti-Israel activity — at colleges and by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel — was perhaps the major theme of the summit, with two of the four panels largely devoted to aspects of the topic: “Antisemitism on Campus” and “Combating Antisemitism While Respecting the First Amendment.”
Carr noted at least three sources of present-day antisemitism: the “white supremacist far right,” the “anti-Zionist far left” and “radical Islam.” DeVos said that “BDS stands for antisemitism.” She described her department’s investigations into incidents of alleged discrimination aimed at pro-Israel students at Williams College in Massachusetts and at a pro-Palestinian event sponsored by departments at Duke University and University of North Carolina.
Liora Rez, executive director of “StopAntisemitism.org”, told The Jerusalem Post that “Today’s DOJ Summit on Combatting Antisemitism mirrored what we are seeing via our social media platforms and tips from our followers. Universities with Middle Eastern Studies Departments experience higher than average incidents of antisemitism and increased hostile environments for Jewish students. While the media focuses only on alt right antisemitism, we must be honest with ourselves and confront the ever-increasing threat from the radical left we see on college campuses masked as activism.”