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Officials warn of increased antisemitism, Islamophobia


War in Middle East rages on

By Stacy M. Brown | NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

As the Israel-Hamas conflict escalates, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are issuing warnings of an anticipated surge in hate crimes within the United States. The agencies underscored the need for heightened vigilance not only against antisemitic and Islamophobic attacks but also against the backdrop of continued threats faced by African Americans and LGBTQ+ communities.

The DHS’s recent intelligence assessment emphasizes an expected increase in antisemitic and Islamophobic hate attacks in the country as the conflict progresses. The agency also cautions that the ongoing war could elevate the threat of terrorism and targeted violence on American soil.

In a separate memo addressed to law enforcement agencies in Washington, D.C., the DHS pinpointed potential targets, including places of worship, First Amendment-protected demonstrations, events, and U.S. military assets. The memo, first reported by ABC News, disclosed a troubling spike in swatting calls targeting Jewish temples in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, featuring hoax bomb threats since the eruption of the latest Israel-Hamas conflict on Oct. 7.

“At the top of our agenda will be our shared efforts to help keep our communities safe from violent crime,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a conference in Florida.

Garland acknowledged the palpable fear gripping communities nationwide considering Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel.

The FBI has reported an uptick in threats against faith communities, particularly those of Jewish, Muslim, and Arab faiths. In response, Garland directed all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the FBI to maintain close communication with state, local, and federal law enforcement partners in their districts.

Garland pledged the DOJ’s commitment to providing the necessary support for law enforcement partners, particularly in the face of rising threats of hate-fueled violence and terrorism.

However, the heightened alert extends beyond the Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities. Minority communities across America are also on edge. African Americans, long-standing targets of hate crimes, and LGBTQ+ communities are particularly concerned about the potential for increased violence.

Officials confirmed that organizations and community leaders representing those groups are collaborating with law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety and security of their members. The Department of Justice has initiated measures to address hate crimes targeting these communities, pledging to stand alongside them in the face of adversity.

A recent incident in Pensacola, where law enforcement agencies and ATF ballistics experts worked together to convict a shooter involved in an attempted robbery, served as an example of the Department’s commitment to combating violent crime.

A successful operation called “Agua Azul” that seized sizable amounts of illegal substances proved the DOJ’s dedication to destroying the global fentanyl supply chain, the DOJ said. A recent conviction for a racially motivated attack close to the scene of the 1923 Rosewood Massacre also proves that the Department continues to pursue justice in cases of hate crimes, Garland noted.

He concluded that the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice “remain resolute in their mission to uphold the rule of law, safeguard communities, and protect civil rights, even in the face of escalating international conflicts.”

This article is a part of a series of articles for Our Weekly’s #StopTheHate campaign and is supported in whole or part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library. #NoPlaceForHateCA, #StopAAPIHate, #CaliforniaForAll