More than half of hate crimes motivated by bias against a particular religion in 2016 were aimed at Jewish Americans even though Jewish Americans constitute just two percent of the population, according to a new FBI report.
The hate crime rate come from the FBI's report, "Hate Crime Statistics, 2016," the latest release from its Uniform Crime Reporting system. The overall report shows a five percent increase in hate crimes between 2015 and 2016.
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Hate crimes targeted at Jewish Americans, meanwhile, increased by 20 percent in that same time period. The number of victims affected by those crimes also rose, by 17.9 percent. Hate crimes targeting Jews accounted for around 11 percent of 2016 hate crimes overall.
Jewish Americans have been the victim of the majority of religiously motivated hate crimes continuously since 1996, the earliest year for which the FBI has reported statistics. The number of offenses in 2016—833—is notably lower than those through the first ten years of reporting, which averaged more than a thousand offenses per year.
However, the number of hate crimes targeting Jews have increased year-on-year for the past two years. This represents a deviation from past trend, as said crimes decreased continually between 2008 and 2014. 2015 saw a 9 percent increase over the preceding year, and 2016's 20 percent bump confirms this change in trend.
Although 2016 levels remain below the historical average, this two-year increase may signal a concerning increase in targeting of America's Jews. It should be noted that violent crimes also reversed trend over the same two-year period.
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), called the two-year increase "deeply disturbing," and called for "improving hate crime data collection, advocating for better hate crime legislation, and working closely with law enforcement on hate crime training" to address the rise.
The majority of hate crimes targeting Jews were non-violent. Thirty-seven percent of the crimes were targeted against individuals, the overwhelming majority of which were instances of intimidation. There were also 61 instances of simple assault, and 12 of aggravated assault.
The remaining 63 percent of the crimes were crimes against property. These were by-and-large instances of vandalism/destruction of property: 489 out of the 522 crimes against property.
These property crimes contribute to an overall sense of a targeting of Jewish community gathering places. Threats against synagogues and Jewish community centers have caused concern among many Americans. More than a hundred community centers have dealt with bomb threats, CNN reported in March. That wave of threats led eventually to the arrest of two men, including former Intercept journalist Juan Thompson.
Congress is considering H.R. 1730, the Combating Anti-Semitism Act of 2017, in response to the threats. That bill would increase criminal penalties for targeting religious buildings. The Muslim Jewish Advisory Council (MJAC), a joint project of the American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America, applauded H.R. 1730 in its response to the new hate crime numbers.
"We look forward to this bill's adoption by the Congress in order to send a signal of zero tolerance for hate crimes against people of faith," said Stanley Bergman, co-chair of the Council.
"The Department of Justice should increase its coordination with the states in public education and community relations, as well as in prosecutions and reporting of hate crimes," said Co-Chair Farooq Kathwari.
As Bergman, Kathwari, and Congress all express concern about rising hate crimes against Jewish Americans, anti-Semitism is receiving a different hearing among some partisans on the left. Later this month, the New School in New York City will host Linda Sarsour, women's march organizer and controversial activist for a talk on "Antisemitism and the Struggle for Justice."
Sarsour may argue at the event that anti-Semitism is more often a charge used to silence than to name real problems. "When anti-Semitism is redefined as criticism of Israel," the event's description reads, "critics of Israeli policy become accused and targeted more than the growing far-right."
Sarsour has a history of comments that critics have derided as anti-Semitic, the Free Beacon has noted:
Sarsour is one such critic of Israel who has made a variety of comments that detractors have accused of being anti-Semitic, including praising children who throw rocks at Israeli soldiers and defending former Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh. She has also called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "waste of a human being," said that "nothing is creepier than Zionism," and argued that Zionists cannot be feminists.
This past month has also seen an increase in activity by the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS), an organization which calls for economic political action against Israel. Organizations like the ADL have attacked BDS as employing anti-Semitic strategies and rhetoric.