Anti-Semitism & White Supremacists: What to Do Now

The latest explosion of hate from a disaffected young white man was pre-explained in a digital tangle of incomprehensible worn out cliche learned on the internet.  Hate is not in hiding: white supremacists present clear domestic terror threat. Not individual acts, not done by lone wolves, these killers meet not in beer halls wearing armbands but in chatrooms. They may be radicalized virtually and announcing intention in online forums, but their words online still constitute threat: the men making them and their guns are very real, and those dying at their hands are not given extra lives.

The internet is filled with the next self-identifying killers publishing their hate and vitriol. Giving advance warning. Identifiable, they can be monitored and stopped. The Poway shooter was on 8chan, linked to MediaFire and PasteBin, the Pittsburgh shooter on Gab. The Poway shooter promised a Facebook livestream that failed to materialize. Gab posts have included “jews are the children of satan”, posts on “ZOGs” (“Zionist Operated Governments”), on the Jews’ “war against” white people and on  “kike infestation.” While hate speech is protected, hate threats and actions are not. Threats made online are no different than those made in person or in writing – yet even the Supreme Court has been unclear as to standards of prosecuting online threat. There were at least 50 people murdered by domestic extremists in the US in 2018, and each killer had ties to at least one right-wing extremist movement, most identifying as white supremacists. Guns were responsible for 42 out of 50. We can see lists of these groups throughout the US.  FBI Director Christopher Wray says white supremacy presents a “persistent” and “pervasive” threat

But President Trump characterizes white nationalism as “a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.” And the Department of Homeland Security is producing fewer reports on it, and even recently disbanded its group of domestic terror intelligence analysts. Domestic terror groups cannot be courted as a political base, and we can’t stand in fear of angry men with assault rifles forming militias but must act to remove their threat. History shows us that self-professed Nazis must be disbanded BEFORE they come into power. 

Five of the 10 richest people in the US are Jewish, all in tech, each with a net worth of over 50 billion dollars. Can they assume responsibility for policing the internet so it can no longer be used as a white supremacist breeding ground if government is neither willing nor effective?  They are Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Michael Bloomberg. There were 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were posted and reposted on Twitter in a one-year period, in English, from 3 million unique handles.  Twitter owner Jack Dorsey has Ali Alexander, also known as Ali Akbar, as an advisor,a hard right figure known for anti-Jewish sentiment – and Twitter has actually verified white supremacists. Can Big Tech – along with “Big Money” – fight this instead of providing a platform and meeting ground? Or will nothing happen until legislation demands greater monitoring and accountability, or courts assess social media liability and establish responsibility (along with vast financial penalties as regulators have re: privacy violations)?

There are recent reports that Twitter can’t use an algorithm to pick up White Supremacists because some Republican politicians will wind up getting picked up by it and barred too. Anti-Jewish sentiment expressed by government officials is widespread, bipartisan  – and quickly forgotten. Some reminders:

President Trump may dispute his meaning behind the notorious “Fine people on both sides”, but the chant echoes: “Jews will not replace us.” And no, we won’t. We could never stoop that low. 

Those seeking public office might take note that Jews, though 2.1% of the population, are well represented in crucial swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. And compared to a general voter turnout of slightly over 58%, Jews vote at 85%. Currently, the Senate is 8% Jewish, the Congress is 6%. Jewish donations make up 50% of donations to the Democratic Party and 25% of donations to Republicans. 

Domestic hate shootings are treated very differently than foreign, not only in governmental rhetoric, but under federal law.  “Providing material support to terrorism” is often used in international cases, but can be and has been used, though rarely, to combat domestic terror 18 U.S.C. § 2339A, criminalizes material support that facilitates any one of 57 previously enacted terrorism-related offenses, 51 of which (89%) can be used in cases of both international and domestic terrorism. § 2339B is the statute that relates only to designated foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs), whose liability requires only that a person support or conspire to support and organization and not that they do so with the intent to further or support the organization’s terrorism. Maybe we need either a means of establishing designated DTOs (domestic terrorist organizations) or to establish white supremacist organizations as FTOs when their reach or ideological basis is multinational. Or to more widely use 18 U.S.C. § 2339A in domestic cases.

Senator Dick Durbin Rep. and Brad Schneider are introducing The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2019, requiring federal law enforcement agencies to address domestic terrorism and authorizing provide resources to do so. Durbin originally introduced a version of this in 2017. This one adds language regarding “the need to address white supremacist and neo-Nazi infiltration in the uniformed services”. Which adds a new dimension to internal terror.

It may take both a public and private resources to fight long ingrained hate based on racial superiority. Hitler was inspired by American’s use of white supremacy in legal codes such as Jim Crow laws, learning from American jurists to produce the Nuremberg laws.  In 1939, 83% of Americans didn’t want to admit refugees, fearing economic burden. The 200,000 Jews that were able to get to the US between 1933 and 1945 were “a small fraction of those who attempted to come”.    In 1930’s Los Angeles, Nazi – along with affiliated supremacist groups – planned to drive through streets machine gunning down Jews, fumigating their homes with cyanide, infiltrating US Army bases and the National Guard and publicly hanging celebrities from Samuel Goldwyn Mayer to Al Jolson. From German American Bund meetings in Madison Square Garden to the influence of Henry Ford and Charles Lindberg to the prevalence of the American Nazi Party, the US had and maintained its Hitler loyalists long after the Holocaust, the sad remnants of which are trying to reignite today. 

With Jews a part of the fabric of the US since before the beginning, the first Jews arriving in New Amsterdam more than a century before the American Revolution, let’s stop worrying about which political party is more anti-Semitic. Right now, parts of both are. While our government doesn’t raze the homes of terrorists, we needn’t empower and energize them either. White supremacists are an internal terror group, not a political base, and these shootings demonstrate that we can no longer stand idly by while they attempt to legitimize threats as political ideology. We’ve prayed and mourned and recognized and despaired and decried: now let’s demand action.

About the Author
Judi Zirin is an attorney and freelance writer in the New York area.