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Antisemitic threats spotlight America’s issue with hate

antisemitic-threats-spotlight-america’s-issue-with-hate
Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — When the FBI alerted New Jersey synagogues to a “broad threat” against their houses of worship, Jewish community centers and synagogues across the country heeded the warning.

On the other side of the nation, Los Angeles areas worked with law enforcement to send extra patrols to their synagogues, though there was no known threat to the community at the time.

“We know that hate speech often leads to acts of hate and violence and are very concerned by the growing amount of antisemitic rhetoric,” Rabbi Noah Farkas, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, told ABC News. “We are committed to fighting this rising scourge locally and globally and know that in the end, there is more that unites us than divides us.”

The threat follows antisemitic rhetoric from celebrities like Kanye West and Kyrie Irving, as well as the ongoing hate speech promoted by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups online.

As antisemitism and other forms of hate continue to spotlight discrimination in the U.S., some researchers say addressing hate and extremism needs to be a priority.

Preventing hate should also be community-based, researchers say

Researchers from Harvard University recently found an important detail in how hate and prejudice manifest in different communities.

Based on hate crime data from the FBI for 20 years, researchers found that when a marginalized group grew in size relative to another group in a community, it was more likely to be the target of discrimination.

When different neighborhoods, cities and regions have different demographics, it can affect what marginalized groups are receiving hate and how they’re receiving it, experts say. This insight could help policy makers address the specific needs, and tailor messaging to what’s being seen in their community.

“Effects seem to be really local,” said Mina Cikara, associate professor of psychology at Harvard University, to ABC News. “While we do have countrywide statistics on which groups are most likely to be targeted … The people you think are most likely to get victimized may not actually be the people who are.”

Standing up for community

Researchers also called on communities to form local, interfaith and multicultural forces, coalitions and strategies to fight back against hate.

Activists found that comradery between neighbors in the aftermath of past bias incidents may have deterred more hate incidents through sheer support. Filmmaker Patrice O’Neill created the advocacy group Not In Our Town after documenting the growth of hate groups in Billings, Montana, in the early 1990s.

The town became a symbol for community togetherness – and the Billings Coalition for Human Rights was born.

When neighbors banded together with victims of racist and antisemitic violence, they found it as an effective tactic in reducing hate incidents.

“The town started learning what can happen if they work together,” said O’Neill to ABC News. “People in the community started seeing what could happen if they could work together so that when there was an attack on Black church members, other denominations showed up and the attacks stopped.”

She continued, “When a Native American woman’s home is plastered with racist graffiti, 30 members of the painters union showed up to painted over it and 100 neighbors were there to watch.”

Targeting radicalization online

According to Susan Corke, the director of legal advocacy organization Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, researchers say the internet can be a dangerous rabbit hole for people vulnerable to radicalization.

Conspiracies, misinformation, disinformation – research has shown that in 2016, social media played a role in the radicalization process of nearly 90% of extremists in the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.

The ease in which hate can move through social media was highlighted when Brooklyn Nets star Irving tweeted a link to a film that critics say promotes antisemitic tropes to his millions of followers. He later stated that he meant no harm by it.

“A number of these far-right actors are enriching themselves online,” Corke said to ABC News. “The impact of that has been that group affiliation is less important, there is this wider spread and embrace of conspiratorial violent ideology and rhetoric, and that’s very mainstreamed within the Republican Party.”

The SPLC has focused its efforts on youth – creating guides to understanding how youth is radicalized and how to prevent or fight against it.

These guides discuss media literacy opportunities children can learn from, talking about the news in age-appropriate ways, and how to speak to children and help them navigate away from extremist online materials, and more.

“What we found is that people don’t need a huge amount of tools or background than just reading the guide for seven minutes,” said Corke. “More than 80% of parents and caregivers felt better equipped to entertain, intervene and engage with young people for becoming susceptible to manipulative hate-fueled violence.”

Similar educational opportunities and campaigns for people of all ages can better prepare the general public against bad-faith actors of extremist hate, Corke said.

The SPLC found that focusing on community investment and prevention may be more important than investing solely in a law enforcement-forward approach, which is more of a reactionary tactic to hate crimes and bias incidents.

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