By Sean Savage
Nearly 70 percent of the major attacks against American Jews and their institutions during the last five decades have been carried out by white supremacists and Islamic terrorists, according to an unprecedented new report released by the Community Security Service (CSS), a Jewish security organization.
“What is most concerning is that those who intend to harm the Jewish community are becoming increasingly brazen in their attacks,” said Yehudit Barsky, the author of the report, which was released Monday.
The report, titled “Terrorist Incidents and Attacks against Jews and Israelis in the United States 1969-2016,” catalogues the 104 most violent attacks against American Jews over the course of the last five decades by focusing on the patterns and trends in those incidents.
Jason Friedman, executive director of CSS, told JNS.org that the report aims to raise awareness not only among Jewish leaders, but also the wider American community and law enforcement agencies on attackers’ trends and tactics as well as the security threat the Jewish community faces.
“We hope that readers understand the nature of the threat, the ideologies and impulses behind the threat, and that this leads to greater emphasis on security within the [Jewish] community,” he said.
Friedman noted that a report of this specific nature had never been previously compiled.
“We saw this type of research had never been done before, and we wanted to better understand the patterns of attacks over the last five decades to inform our own – as well as our law enforcement partners and other security partners’ – operations and training,” he said.
According to the report’s analysis, attacks against the Jewish community “have increased in their intended severity and have, or would have, claimed many more victims than in previous decades.”
The report reveals that Jewish houses of worship were the most-targeted location, accounting for roughly 51 percent of attacks, followed by Jewish communal institutions (14 percent), individual Jews (13 percent), and Jewish educational institutions (10 percent). Among these attacks, the report finds equal frequencies for arson, shootings and the use of explosive devices.
Further, the report extrapolates several lessons and recommendations that could inform general law enforcement. For instance, the report notes that going after Jewish targets often serves as a precursor to larger attacks – including for the perpetrators of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, who were first involved in anti-Jewish incidents, and the 2009 Arkansas military recruiting center shooting, whose perpetrator first carried out attacks on anti-Jewish targets.
“Now, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, we find ourselves in an era where those who promote anti-Jewish rhetoric and instigation have the technical tools to reach a broader audience in less time than ever before. In fact, as recently as March 2016, the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) publicly encouraged its followers to attack Jews and their allies, ‘wherever they find them,’” the report states.
For American Jews, the CSS report comes at a time marked by various challenges such as surging anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric and attacks on U.S. college campuses, the rise of the alt-right movement, and the threat of Islamic terrorism. Friedman said he hopes the report will provide “some critical perspective” for the Jewish community.
“The Jewish community does not exist in a vacuum and is subject to the social, political and economic forces that affect all Americans. In many cases, these forces can affect the Jewish community more intensely,” Friedman told JNS.org.
“We are certainly feeling this effect right now,” he said.
Friedman also hopes the report will underscore the importance of security awareness and investment in security infrastructure.
“Every Jewish community has the responsibility to be aware and take proactive steps to prevent attacks,” he said. “Having trained volunteers from within the community ensures that no matter how law enforcement resources and security guard budgets are allocated, the community has a sustainable and effective means of security.”