The Trump administration is working on multiple fronts to investigate and combat a rising tide of anti-Semitism in America that top officials warned is spreading across the country via a network of far left, anti-Israel activists, who seek to mainstream hatred against Jews at the nation's college campuses and elsewhere.
During a daylong conference, the first of its kind for this administration, senior administration officials from across the government gathered with legal experts and scholars to address the growing threat of anti-Semitism, which has resurged in America and across the globe in recent years.
The forum comes amid disclosures by the FBI that hate crimes in the U.S. have risen steadily since 2014, with anti-Jewish hate crimes consistently comprising more than half of totals for each year.
Organized by the Justice Department, senior Trump administration officials from the Education, Treasury, and State Departments joined together to discuss a range of actions the government is taking to prevent federal dollars from being spent on college programs that seek to mainstream anti-Israel ideologies.
The Education Department has already launched a formal investigation into how nearly $250,000 in federal grant dollars were awarded to Duke and the University of North Carolina for a series of events that featured speakers and organizations tied to not just anti-Semites, but also known terror organizations.
Officials provided disturbing information about the uptick in anti-Jewish violence across the U.S.
"Far too often, Jews and Jewish communities in America suffer outside the spotlight," Attorney General William Barr said as he kicked off the event. "New York City, this past year, has seen a sharp uptick in attacks on Orthodox Jews, particularly in the Crown Heights neighborhood. People are attacking Jews in the streets and vandalizing synagogues. In Massachusetts in March, vandals desecrated 59 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery, knocking over headstones and scrawling swastikas and hateful graffiti."
"While the tragic attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway appropriately drew national attention, these attacks and others like them in communities across the country are, sadly, less well-known outside the Jewish community," Barr said. "But they form the daily background of concerns about security and safety that many in the Jewish community feel."
"As attorney general and a fellow citizen, I want to assure the Jewish community that the Department of Justice and the entire federal government stands with you and will not tolerate these attacks," Barr vowed.
Already, Barr's Justice Department has "aggressively pursued anti-Semitic hate crimes," according to Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.
"Under his leadership, the Department successfully convicted eight members of hate groups for desecrating a synagogue in Nashville, Tennessee; five individuals for conspiracy to interfere with the rights of a holocaust survivor in San Diego through a vicious campaign of anti-Semitic harassment; numerous skinheads around the country for a variety of anti-Semitic crimes; and convicted the neo-Nazis responsible for the murder of the prominent radio host Alan Berg in Denver, Colorado," Rosen said. "He also fought against anti-Semitic zoning discrimination in Airmont, New York."
The issue of anti-Semitism and vitriolic anti-Israel activities on America's college campuses received a significant portion of attention by those participating in the conference. Experts and officials alike condemned the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign, or BDS, which seeks to wage economic warfare on Israel and has become a mainstay on college campuses.
"On college campuses today, Jewish students who support Israel are frequently targeted for harassment, Jewish student organizations are marginalized, and progressive Jewish students are told they must denounce their beliefs and their heritage in order be part of ‘intersectional' causes," Barr said, referring to a cadre of academic causes that seek to demonize Israel and Jews. "We must ensure—for the future of our country and our society—that college campuses remain open to ideological diversity and respectful of people of all faiths."
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos touted her agency's ongoing investigations into anti-Semitic activity on campus, telling the crowd, "this administration is committed to stopping it."
"We stand firmly against the disturbing rise in anti-Semitism," DeVos said. "We also recognize this reality: Jerusalem is Israel's capital."
The BDS movement is a thinly veiled anti-Semitic enterprise that aims to eradicate the Jewish state, DeVos said.
"These campus bullies claim they stand for human rights but we all know BDS stands for anti-Semitism," DeVos said to applause. "We are intent on ensuring protection for students across the country."
During an early afternoon panel on campus anti-Semitism, experts worked to expose how far-left anti-Israel advocacy groups plot to mainstream anti-Semitism. This includes well-known groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), both of which have a record of employing vitriolic language that encourages the hatred of openly pro-Israel Jews.
Charles Small, director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy, called on the Trump administration to launch investigations into grants given by foreign governments to U.S. universities. In many instances, grant money for anti-Israel programs is awarded by some of the Middle East's wealthiest purveyors of anti-Israel ideology.
"The isolation of Jewish students on campus" is the goal of these groups, said William Jacobson, a clinical professor of law and director of the Securities Law Clinic.
Groups such as JVP and SJP are "not interested in dialogue or compromise, their goal is elimination," said legal scholar Alyza Lewin, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.
The anti-Israel advocacy performed by these campus groups is part of a consolidated and well-funded effort to undermine the state of Israel's existence, Lewin said.
"I ask you, who are your targets?" Lewin asked rhetorically. "Pro-Israel Zionists."