LATEST UPDATE: JANUARY 1998
An assessment of antisemitism in the USA reveals a mixed picture. Hostility towards Jews continues to be far less apparent than hostility towards other minority groups, including African Americans, gays and Native Americans. In addition, there are few signs of institutional antisemitism: the attempt to limit the entry of Jews into the key arenas of power, whether economic, political, educational or cultural. Indeed, by nearly all measures, Jews constitute a remarkably successful group within US society, being fully integrated into the nation's fabric.
However, one can point to the growing presence of extremist militias with a strong potential for terrorist violence-a potential that could be greater still in the coming years following the high level of publicity given in 1997 to the state trials of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
In addition to the threat of the far right, the growing acceptance of Nation of Islam (NOI) leader Louis Farrakhan as a prominent African-American figure and the number of prominent people, black and white, who are willing to overlook his clear and continuing record of antisemitism, remains troubling. Furthermore, the increased success of the so-called Religious Right in advancing its political agenda (see Religious antisemitism) is worrying for US Jews.
Antisemitic behaviour on an individual level in the USA has fluctuated in recent years. This is especially true of antisemitic vandalism which, according to Anti-Defamation League (ADL) figures, increased for five years up to 1991, decreased in 1992, increased again in 1993, increased yet again to a record high in 1994, decreased by 11 per cent in 1995 and then decreased again in 1996 and 1997. What accounts for these fluctuations is not clear.
What is most disturbing about the current situation in the USA is the erosion of the taboo on expressions of antisemitism. For decades this taboo was in place-mainly as a shocked response to the Holocaust-and it served to protect Jews. In recent years, however, it has begun to wear thin.
Ignorance of the Nazi genocide, partly due to the passing of generations and propelled by those with a political interest in trivializing or denying it, continues to erode the symbolic power and meaning of the Holocaust. In part, this explains why Jews, on college campuses for example, are exposed to expressions of hostility that were unlikely to surface in an earlier period. This also partly reflects a general coarsening of public discourse in the USA, and the fact that it is no longer considered 'fashionable' to champion the cause of the Jewish minority. Consequently Jewish leaders have found it increasingly difficult to find allies in the general community in the struggle against antisemitism. It is a telling sign of the state of inter-group relations in the USA that Jews have been routinely challenged by other US citizens to 'prove' that Louis Farrakhan is an antisemite, reflecting a suspicion regarding charges of antisemitism that was not present before.
Total population: 262 million
Jewish population: 5.9 million (mainly in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Washington DC)
Other minorities: African Americans, 12.1 per cent of the population; Hispanics, 9 per cent; Asian Americans, 2.9 per cent; Native Americans, 0.8 per cent. The 75 per cent representing people of white European descent in 1990 is expected to fall to an estimated 52.7 per cent by 2050 (1990 Census figures).
Religion: An overwhelming number of Americans identify themselves as Christian and a clear majority of those are Protestants. Amongst the several million Muslims are several black Muslim groups, whose members are largely African Americans. Jews constitute between 1-2 per cent of the population and there are smaller numbers of Buddhists and Hindus.
Constitutional status: democratic federal republic
Head of state: President Bill Clinton (Democrat)
Government: the bi-cameral Congress is controlled by the Republicans
Next presidential elections: November 2000
Inflation 1997: 2.3 per cent
GDP per head 1997: $31,230
Unemployment 1997: 4.9 per cent
Although religious-based antisemitism dates back to colonial days, antisemitism with a racist bent emerged during the 1890s, when the large-scale immigration of Jews began, and characterized the next three decades. US antisemitism followed the European nineteenth-century pattern and sought to restrict immigration. A result of this trend was the passage by the US Congress in the 1920s of national origin quotas, which largely closed the doors to immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. The effect of the quotas was that, some years later, the USA was unavailable as a refuge for a significant number of Jews fleeing Hitler's Europe. Another result of the 'nativist' trend was the re-emergence in the early twentieth century of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Dormant since its first incarnation following the Civil War in the 1860s, the KKK promoted antisemitism and became a potent force.
In the early twentieth century, antisemitic stereotypes proliferated within popular culture, first in vaudeville and on the stage, and later in motion pictures. In 1903 the Kishinev pogrom galvanized many leading US Jews to fight antisemitism, leading to the formation of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in 1906.
In 1913 Leo Frank, a Jew, was wrongfully convicted of the murder of a young Christian woman in his factory in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1915 he was removed from his prison cell by a vigilante mob and lynched, a victim of rumours, slanders and calls to anti-Jewish prejudice.
In the 1920s the automobile manufacturer Henry Ford popularized The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and conducted a seven-year propaganda campaign through his newspaper, the Dearborn Independent, against what he termed the 'international Jew'. The 1930s, the era of the American depression, was a time of distinct anti-Jewish bias in many sections of society. Large-scale discrimination against Jews in employment, higher education and housing combined with a virulent political antisemitism associated with the rise of Nazism in Germany and fascism in other European countries. The last major eruption of antisemitism in the USA occurred during this period, with an upsurge of ideologically motivated and political anti-Jewish activity. The era gave rise to domestic anti-Jewish bigots, such as Father Charles Coughlin, Gerald L. K. Smith and William Dudley Pelley, the leader of the Silver Shirts. It also witnessed the rise of the German-American Bund, led by Fritz Kuhn, and the notorious anti-Jewish speech by the aviator and US hero Charles A. Lindbergh to an America First Committee rally. Especially influential in the 1930s was Father Coughlin, a Catholic priest whose weekly radio broadcasts containing an openly antisemitic message reached millions. Coughlin's campaign paved the way for isolationist organizations, such as the America First Committee, to attract antisemites to their banners. Echoes of some of Father Coughlin's speeches can be heard today in the rhetoric of some NOI speakers, such as Khalid Abdul Muhammad.
The 1940s, a period of social cohesiveness as the USA went to war, saw a diminution of some forms of antisemitism. Nonetheless there was continuing anti-Jewish bias in employment and housing, while in social clubs there were other, 'polite' forms of discrimination. Quotas on Jewish students also continued at many major universities.
In the 1950s the Jewish communal agenda in the USA was almost synonymous with the civil rights struggle. In 1954 the US Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education ruled segregated schools illegal (the AJC underwrote the sociological studies on which the Supreme Court based its decision). In the years following the Brown case those who fought to preserve racial segregation caused serious social turmoil. There was some scapegoating of Jews, an increase in KKK activity and the growth of 'white citizens' councils'. There was also a proliferation of antisemitic fringe groups. During the post-war years antisemitism lost much of its ideological strength. Serious manifestations of antisemitism ceased to be a factor in the USA.
Since the 1950s there has been little political antisemitism: discriminatory barriers have continued to fall in all sectors of US society, including the corporate world. Notwithstanding these trends there have been noteworthy manifestations of antisemitism during the latter part of the twentieth century. Together with the McCarthyite witch-hunts, the late 1950s and 1960s witnessed the rise of far-right groups. These groups advanced a theory that sometimes focused on Jews as promoters of a conspiracy to spread communism and attain world domination. In 1960, during a two-month period, a swastika-daubing epidemic took place resulting in 643 desecrations of synagogues and other Jewish property throughout the USA. In the 1970s, at the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement and the beginning of the women's movement, antisemitism was also expressed by the political left. Using UN Resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism, as a political wedge, various left-wing groups sought to portray Jews as racist and/or part of a conspiracy to spread capitalism and control the world.
During the latter part of the 1980s and continuing into the 1990s the number of incidents of antisemitic vandalism and harassment rose around the country. However, the general diminution of most forms of antisemitism continued. Analysts suggest that there is no contradiction between the rise in the number of acts of antisemitic vandalism and the decline in anti-Jewish attitudes. It is not always possible to determine to what degree incidents are motivated by antisemitic sentiment alone. In particular, acts of vandalism may be the work of juveniles with cans of spray paint rather than outright anti-Jewish acts. The rise in antisemitic hate crimes generally reflects the upward trend of hate crimes against other communities. The one difference is that Jewish property (synagogues, cemeteries) is the target of a large proportion of antisemitic hate crimes, while among other groups of victims, such as the gay community, the targets are more likely to be people.
It is worth noting that in 'moments of conflict' during the post-war period, when one might expect outbursts of antisemitism-for example, the oil crises of the 1970s, the farm crisis of the 1980s and, most dramatically, the Pollard affair, which clearly evoked the question of 'dual loyalty'-there was no increase in manifestations of antisemitism. This was not the case in the USA before the Second World War when conflict situations did lead to expressions of antisemitism. Conversely, there have been indications that the US populace is willing to overlook a politician's antisemitism if he is appealing for other reasons. David Duke was elected a state representative in Louisiana in the 1980s. He won the majority of white votes in his campaigns for senator and governor in the early 1990s despite his racist and antisemitic history, as well as his Holocaust-denial and neo-Nazi views. Patrick Buchanan, despite his antisemitism, was seen as a welcome member of the Republican Party in the 1992 presidential campaign and thereafter. He even won some of the early caucuses and primaries in the 1996 presidential campaign before losing to former senator Bob Dole.
One major source of anxiety in the 1990s derives from Afrocentrist antisemitism in the African-American community, particularly the activities of the NOI. This anxiety was fuelled by two events. The first was the speech in July 1991 by Professor Leonard Jeffries, Jr. of the City College of New York who claimed, among other things, that Jewish conspiracies controlled the slave trade and were responsible for negative depictions of African Americans in Hollywood movies. The second was the riot in August 1991 in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn that occurred when an African-American child was killed by an out-of-control car driven by a Hasidic Jew in a motorcade of the late Lubavitcher rabbi Menachem Schneerson. A three-day riot broke out, targetting Jews and Jewish property in the neighbourhood, during which an Australian Hasidic scholar, Yankel Rosenbaum, was fatally stabbed. Lemrick Nelson, tried for Rosenbaum's murder, was acquitted on state murder charges in October 1992, but subsequently convicted on federal civil rights charges in early 1997 (see Legal matters: hate crimes prosecutions). Classical antisemitism, as expressed by NOI leaders and in NOI publications, has not met with the same level of denunciation by mainstream Blacks and Whites as it would if expressed by a KKK or militia member.
Virtually all the world's racial, national, ethnic, cultural and religious groupings are represented in US society. Furthermore, the ethnic complexity of the population tends increasingly to displace the hegemony of those of white European descent. The 75 per cent representing people of white European descent in 1990 is expected to fall to an estimated 52.7 per cent by 2050.
Although the USA has a long democratic tradition, it also has a long history of racism. Racial discrimination continues to show itself in various sectors of US society. Scholars, community leaders and politicians vary in their assessments of the degree to which racism contributes at present to the significant disparities that certainly exist between white Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and some groups of Asian Americans. The Arab-American community is also subject to negative stereotyping and some harassment, particularly during periods of tension in the Middle East and after acts of terrorism.
Despite the emergence of a sizeable black middle class, including highly successful black artists and sports figures, many African Americans live in inner-city ghettos plagued by poverty, unemployment, crime, drugs, illiteracy and violence. The latest figures show that in 1995 41.9 per cent of all black children lived at, or beneath, the poverty line. The 1994 African-American infant mortality rate was 14.9 per 1,000 live births, compared with 6.3 per 1,000 live births for Whites. These problems are even more pronounced in the Native American community, where unemployment on some reservations hovers at over 80 per cent.
The latest hate crimes statistics available from the US Department of Justice reveal that 8,759 incidents characterized as hate- or bias-motivated occurred during 1996 (the fourth year of reporting), up from 7,947 in 1995 (although the number of law enforcement agencies reporting rose from 9,584 in 1995 to 11,354 in 1996): 6,336 were racially or ethnically motivated, 1,401 were motivated by religion (1,109 of which were antisemitic) and 1,016 by sexual orientation. Reporting, although improved in 1996, continued to be characterized by non-compliance by many state and local jurisdictions. Because in many places additional paperwork is a disincentive for police to classify an incident as a hate crime, the statistics are not always accurate. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the agency that collects the data, is trying to improve the reporting for subsequent years.
In March 1997 reports emerged charging the United States Marshals Service with racism and discrimination in its ranks. The ADL called for an in-depth investigation in a letter to Eduardo Gonzalez, the service's director.
A Gallup poll published in June 1997 showed that 55 per cent of both Blacks and Whites believed that relations between the two groups would always be problematic in the USA, although 42 per cent thought that the conflict would eventually be resolved. A total of 76 per cent of black university graduates said race relations would always be difficult, while only 56 per cent of Blacks without a university education thought the same. Blacks under twenty-five were likely to see the problem continuing, whereas those over sixty-five were more likely to think that a solution would be found.
In September 1997 in Little Rock, Arkansas President Clinton marked the fortieth anniversary of the enforced desegregation of the state's whites-only schools. He said that too many Americans were giving up on integration and retreating into ethnic isolation.
The Los Angeles Times has recently reported that cross-burnings have been increasing in recent years. In September 1997 a cross was burned in the yard of a Portuguese family in Rushville, Missouri. In the following November the National Afro-American Museum in Wilberforce, Ohio was the target of the burning of a five-foot cross daubed with racial slurs, 'KKK' and a swastika. Museum officials contemplated making the cross into an exhibition.
In November 1997 the US Supreme Court refused to hear a constitutional challenge to California's controversial Proposition 209 which proscribes the use of affirmative action programmes in public education, employment and procurement. The proposition was adopted by voter referendum in 1996 and later upheld by a court of appeal; that latter decision led to an emergency request to the Supreme Court to block the law's implementation, which was turned down in September 1997. The refusal of the court to consider the case was thought likely to increase significantly the number of states which would follow the California lead.
On the issue of affirmative action, a significant Supreme Court decision was averted in November 1997 when the parties in Piscataway Township Board of Education vs. Taxman agreed to settle their dispute out of court. Sharon Taxman, a white business education teacher, had been laid off before an African American teacher of equal seniority and qualifications when the school board was faced with budget cuts. In making their decision, the school board had invoked an affirmative action policy designed to achieve diversity in the faculty. Taxman sued the board, alleging racial discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and won at every turn in the lower courts. A coalition of civil rights groups, concerned that a sweeping decision by the Supreme Court would prove disastrous for affirmative action, agreed to provide a major share of the monetary settlement. In recent years the Supreme Court has shown increasing opposition to race-based employment decisions.
The release of Steven Spielberg's film Amistad in December 1997 provoked debate about slavery, the shadow it casts over US history and what it means to be black.
Refugees and immigration
According to the latest figures from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the largest groups of immigrants to enter lawfully into the USA in 1996 were from (in descending order) Mexico, the former Soviet Union, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, China and the Dominican Republic. Allegations have been made of violence by the border police against undocumented Mexican immigrants.
In March 1997, in anticipation of hearings by the US Congressional Oversight Committee on Naturalization, a coalition of ethnic, immigrant advocacy and civil rights groups held conferences in Washington DC, New York and Los Angeles, calling on the federal government to ensure that the naturalization process was accessible to all immigrants eligible for US citizenship. These conferences, together with similar events in other cities in the ensuing weeks, were intended to convey the message that, despite any recent improprieties that may have led to the naturalization of ineligible persons, the contribution that immigrants have made to the USA and the importance of naturalization to that contribution should not be in doubt.
In April 1997 a new law designed to toughen rules for immigration into the USA took effect. The law, part of an omnibus statute passed in 1996, contains guidelines for immigration officers which make conditions for the granting of political asylum stiffer, facilitate the deportation of arriving foreigners and make it harder for offenders to win a waiver of deportation.
Pro-immigrant groups hailed the restoration of welfare benefits for legal immigrants which was part of the budget deal finalized in the summer of 1997. The welfare reform law adopted in 1996 had stripped legal immigrants of benefits for which they had long been eligible.
In November 1997 a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that California's controversial Proposition 187, passed by 59 to 41 per cent in November 1994 and ever since stymied in the courts, violated both the US Constitution and the 1996 congressional welfare reform law. In March 1998 a final order was issued by the same judge forbidding any implementation of the core provisions of the proposition. Proposition 187 would have prevented the state's 1.8 million illegal immigrants from receiving non-emergency health care, education and welfare support, and compelled teachers and health professionals to inform the authorities of suspected illegal immigrants and their children.
In February 1998 Clinton authorized the admission of up to 51,000 refugees from Europe for the fiscal year 1998. The admissions ceiling of 26,000 for former Soviet citizens represents a decrease of 4,000 in admissions from the former Soviet Union from the previous fiscal year.
Mainstream political life
In May 1997 Representative Helen Chenowith (Republican-Idaho) joined an Idaho county commissioner in criticizing the US Forest Service for its practice of recruiting minority applicants to work in the Northern Idaho region. 'The warm-climate community just hasn't found the colder climate that attractive,' she said. 'It's an area of America that has simply never attracted the Afro-American or the Hispanic.' Her comments stirred considerable local controversy and attracted national attention. Black and Hispanic leaders reacted angrily, with Representative James Clyburn (Democrat-South Carolina) characterizing Chenowith's comments as 'beyond the pale', with 'nothing humane about them'. Northern Idaho is known as a haven for racist groups such as the Aryan Nations and various militia organizations (see below), an image that many residents would like to change.
In terms of membership and influence, the impact of racist and antisemitic groups on society is minimal. Nonetheless, the white supremacist movement has expanded since the early 1980s and is responsible for several recent violent incidents, including the bombing of the federal office building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (see below). No single organization dominates the movement, which is composed of probably hundreds of groups of varying sizes and overlapping activities whose fortunes wax and wane. To one degree or another, however, they share the goal of creating a society dominated by white Christians in which the rights of others (particularly Jews and African Americans) would be denied. Many white supremacists espouse theories of Jewish conspiracy and Holocaust denial, and many are adherents of Christian Identity churches (see below and Religious antisemitism). The number of hard-core activists in the movement is estimated to be at least 25,000. A much greater number of sympathizers, estimated at between 150,000 and 200,000, attend meetings and rallies, buy literature and make donations.
In March 1997 the Klanwatch Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama group that monitors activities of white supremacist and paramilitary groups, estimated the number of extremist groups at 858, including 380 armed militias. This represents a 6 per cent rise in the number of extremist groups since 1994-5.
The major antisemitic and white supremacist propaganda organization in the USA is the Liberty Lobby, founded in 1955 by Willis A. Carto, a professed admirer of Hitler. Carto was a key figure in Holocaust denial, and the founder of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) and its antisemitic publishing house Noontide Press (see Publications and media and Holocaust denial). In 1991 the Liberty Lobby launched the Populist Action Committee to support far-right candidates standing as Republicans, Democrats, Populists and independents. The organization produces a talk show, Radio Free America, and its weekly tabloid, Spotlight, is widely distributed (see Publications and media).
The Liberty Lobby has also been an ardent promoter of the militia movement. Timothy McVeigh, one of the convicted Oklahoma City bombers (see below), had advertised a rocket launcher under a pseudonym in Spotlight, and used a phone card issued by Spotlight while plotting the bombing.
Ku Klux Klan (KKK)
The Ku Klux Klan is the oldest of the contemporary racist organizations in the USA. It has enjoyed several periods of growth since its founding in the years following the Civil War, notably during the 1920s and in the 1950s and 1960s. While many of today's KKK groups attempt to project a more 'respectable' and less violent image, they have incorporated a Nazi-inspired antisemitism into traditional white supremacy, and the KKK's original Protestantism has largely given way to adherence to Christian Identity beliefs (see below and Religious antisemitism).
According to Klanwatch, an independent group that monitors KKK activity and produces a publication of the same name, the total membership of the different factions known collectively as the KKK is 6,000, distributed among about seventy groups. A ten-year decline in KKK membership ended in 1991, with perhaps a small upward swing since 1992. The disbanding in 1993 of the Invisible Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, led by James W. Farrands and based in Sanford, North Carolina, occurred as part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought against them by the Southern Poverty Law Center (although KKK recruitment letters and fliers were circulated in Sanford in August 1997). The principal KKK organization remaining is the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, led by Thom Robb and based in Harrison, Arkansas. Robb's group, which has attempted to appeal to a more 'moderate' mainstream, has suffered recent defections by those who favour greater militancy.
KKK rallies and marches have recently been held in Pittsburgh, Boyertown, Yukon (Pennsylvania); Wilmington, Delaware; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Ironwood, Caro and Saginaw (Michigan); Beloit, Wisconsin; Huntington, West Virginia; and Fresno, California. In Pittsburgh, where the KKK was involved in litigation over its rally, it was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). KKK member Jeffrey Berry, identified as a 'national wizard', thanked the ACLU during the rally: 'They're all a bunch of Jews', he remarked, 'but what can I say? This is America.'
The Missouri-based New Order Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, headed by James L. Betts, expanded and opened sects in San Jose and Upland (California); Watkins and Yoder (Colorado); Energy, Illinois; Lansing and Leavenworth (Kansas); Milford, Michigan; Fredericktown and Overland (Missouri); Dewey, Oklahoma; Prineville, Oregon; and Nashville, Tennessee.
A KKK group distributed pamphlets as part of an organizing effort in Auburn, New York, and in the autumn of 1997 KKK members rallied on the Fresno State University campus in California, protesting against a federal court decision that found much of an anti-immigrant ballot proposition unconstitutional. In July 1997 the Redneck Shop in Laurens, South Carolina re-opened after briefly closing when an irate citizen drove through the front window. The store contains a Klan museum and sells White Power shirts (see below). Also during the year J. D. Alder, formerly head of the Templar Knights of the Ku Klux Klan based in Port St Lucy, Florida, announced on the Jerry Springer television talk show that he was leaving the Klan as he now considered himself a National Socialist.
A breakaway faction of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, led by Imperial Wizard Troy Murphy of New Salem, Indiana, held its annual Klan Congress near Centralia, Illinois in June 1997. Some 150 people attended, but a weapons training session was reportedly cancelled because of the number of felons in the audience (it is illegal for felons to possess weapons). A cross-burning was also cancelled due to rain. In the same month the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, led by National Imperial Wizard Jeffrey Berry and his son, Grand Dragon Anthony Berry, held a 'freedom of speech' rally in Bradley, Illinois.
The Imperial Klans of America was founded by Grand Dragon Ron Edward in Kentucky in March 1997. By the end of the year a state headquarters in Decatur, Illinois and a sect near Chicago had been added. In Missouri, the Ku Klux Klan-Realm of Missouri tried to sponsor four segments of the National Public Radio (NPR) programme All Things Considered on KWMU-FM, the local NPR member station. The request was denied, and the KKK has filed suit.
KKK literature has recently been distributed in the communities of Fisher, Rantoul, Melvin, Roberts, Cissna Park, Buckley, Loda and the Bayles and Iriquois Lakes (Illinois). Many of the fliers carried the address of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and many were put inside copies of the Thrifty Nickel newspaper. Two Rantoul residents were stopped after distributing the fliers. Authorities found two burned crosses and a hood with eye holes. The same two individuals were also charged with a felony hate crime for yelling racial epithets and threatening a black youth in September 1997. Meanwhile Tony Gamble, imperial wizard of the Tri-state Knight Riders, was arrested in 1997 in Cincinnati on charges of rape and sodomy involving a thirteen-year-old girl. Gamble has become well known for his successful crusade to erect a cross in Cincinnati's Fountain Square every Christmas. In 1997, for the first time in seven years, the cross did not appear: the KKK did not apply for a permit.
In June 1997 former KKK member Henry Francis Hays was executed for his role in the 1981 slaying of nineteen-year-old Michael Donald. Klan members murdered Donald, a black person, after a jury had reached deadlock in the trial of a Black charged with killing a white policeman. A wrongful death suit brought by Donald's mother with the help of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center in 1987 bankrupted the United Klans. Hays's execution was the first of a White for killing a Black in Alabama since 1913.
In 1997 Stone Mountain, a long-time KKK stronghold, elected its first black mayor.
Aryan Nations was established in 1974 by Richard Butler, a Christian Identity 'preacher' and former Klansman. Aryan Nation acts as an umbrella organization uniting various KKK and neo-Nazi groups. Although the group is based in Hayden Lake, Idaho, its membership is nation-wide. It defines its aim as the creation of a Whites-only preserve in the Pacific Northwest (the so-called 'Northwest Imperative') and holds an annual 'world congress' for white supremacists and neo-Nazis from the United States, Canada and Europe at which instruction on urban terrorism and guerrilla warfare is provided. According to Klanwatch the annual congress of 1996 drew some 100 people (about 200 had attended the 1995 congress). Aryan Nations also holds an annual youth festival to mark the anniversary of Hitler's birth in April.
Aryan Nations has recently set up an Ohio headquarters in New Vienna, near Cincinnati, taking over an old KKK meeting hall and renaming it the Church of Jesus Christ Christian Aryan Nations. The church has a 'Whites only' sign and its doormat is an Israeli flag. Its leader, Ray Redfeairn, wears a blue clerical collar and combat boots; he previously served twelve-and-a-half years in prison for shooting a Dayton police officer.
An offshoot of Aryan Nations is The Order, an underground network of white supremacists formed in 1983 after two Aryan Nations leaders, Louis Beam and Robert Miles, published a small-circulation newsletter calling for a movement of 'leaderless resistance'. According to this concept, small cells take independent action making it more difficult for the law enforcement authorities to break up the groups. The ultimate aim of The Order is to carry out acts of violence and terror to create a Pacific North-west Whites-only republic. In the past members of The Order have been convicted of numerous murders, robberies and bomb plots. In 1996 two Order-like groups-the Aryan Republican Army in the Midwest and the Phineas Priesthood in the North-west-went on crime sprees. At present The Order is defunct but attempts have been made to revive it.
White Aryan Resistance (WAR)
White Aryan Resistance is a white supremacist organization based in San Diego, California and headed by former KKK leader Tom Metzger and his son John. Tom Metzger is best known for his television programme Race and Reason, which has been broadcast on community access stations in at least ten states, including California, New York, Texas and Virginia. WAR espouses an ideology known as the Third Position, which rejects both the capitalist West and the former Communist East. The organization claims to represent the interests of the international white working class in its 'battle' against race-mixing and capitalist exploitation. Metzger also favours a loose organizational structure and 'leaderless resistance'. Despite being fined $12.5 million in connection with the 1988 murder of an Ethiopian immigrant, Metzger and WAR remain active, and a WAR web-site depicts Jews as vermin and Blacks as subhuman. Affiliated to WAR is the Aryan Women's League, founded by Tom Metzger's daughter Lyn, which has branches in several cities.
In August 1997, when two men were arrested on weapons charges in La Mesa, California and were alleged to have been part of a white supremacist group distributing racist material and vandalizing property, Tom Metzger said: 'If the establishments around this country are going to start using nefarious, and quasi-legal methods to quash racial literature then there will be a much bigger rise in racist activity.'
Christian Patriot Movement
The Christian Patriot movement is a part of the white supremacist movement. Some Christian Patriots are also known as Populists, America Firsters, Freemen, Identity Believers and Patriots. At the time of their emergence, in the tax protest movements of the late 1970s, they mostly came from the Posse Comitatus (Latin for Power of the Country) movement active in the 1970s and 1980s. Today the Christian Patriots are affiliated to dozens of different organizations, including the militia movement.
Christian Patriots believe in an international Jewish banking conspiracy; that the USA should be a Christian republic and not a democracy in which the 'idle and parasitic majority' have the power to subvert the 'productive minority'; that only property-owning Christians should have a voice; that 'internationalists' (usually Jews) and 'aliens' are attempting to establish international socialism; and that the United States is the biblical promised land-promised to white Aryan Nordic types-and that the US Constitution and Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) are divinely inspired. They see subsequent amendments (income tax, votes for women, equal rights) as man-made and suspect.
Most Christian Patriots are also Christian Identity adherents. Christian Identity provides a neat theological package of racism and antisemitism that helps empower the Whites-only political views of Christian Patriotism (see Religious antisemitism).
Skinheads and White Power
Neo-Nazi skinheads have menaced numerous US communities over the past decade. The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates the number of racist skinheads at about 4,000 nation-wide. Skinhead violence targets African Americans, Jews, Asian Americans, homosexuals and other groups. Since 1988 at least forty-nine homicides have been committed by neo-Nazi skinheads and there have been dozens of convictions for murder, assault, arson and, most frequently, vandalism.
At present there is no national umbrella skinhead organization. Rather, there are loosely linked networks of gangs such as the Northern Hammerskins, American Front, New Dawn Hammerskins, Confederate Hammerskins, American Spring, Fourth Reich, Aryan Resistance League, National Front and SS of America. White Power music is the unifying force of the skinhead movement.
Resistance Records (RR), founded by George Burdi, former leader of the Canadian branch of the Church of the Creator (COTC), publishes skinhead rock music tapes and CDs and operates a web-site through which White Power music from groups such as RAHOWA ('RAcial HOly WAr') can be downloaded. Burdi is currently in prison in Canada for assaulting an anti-racist demonstrator outside a RAHOWA concert (see Canada).
WAR (see above) is an 'adult' organization to which neo-Nazi skinheads are most often linked, although other groups, such as the Aryan Nations, the National Alliance and, particularly in the South-east, the KKK, also attract skinhead followers.
In January 1997 Danny Williams, a neo-Nazi skinhead awaiting trial in Lancaster, California for physically attacking two Blacks, escaped. The alerts which authorities issued for him, who is associated with the Nazi Lowriders group, included descriptions of his tattoos-'666' behind an ear, a swastika on a hand, a KKK figure on a shoulder and a Viking on an arm.
In February 1997 two reported members of the Nazi Lowriders pleaded guilty to attacking a Hispanic man in Lancaster, California. Officials speculated that the attack may have been part of a plan by racist groups to drive Latinos and African Americans out of the community. Since 1993 the area has been experiencing a surge in hate crimes involving white supremacists from the Nazi Lowriders, the Palmdale Peckerwoods and the Metal Minds.
In March 1997 three skinheads were arrested in Salem, Oregon for shouting racial slurs at an African-American man outside a dance. During the same month a jury acquitted a Los Alamitos, California punk rock fan of participating in a 1995 skinhead assault on an Asian American man. Chad Salisbury had previously been convicted but a judge overturned the verdict when it was revealed that important information had been withheld from the jury.
In April 1997 the Buffalo Area Skins in upstate New York held 'Adolf Hitler's 108th Birthday Bash'.
Also in April 1997 the headquarters of Resistance Records, North America's leading distributor of neo-Nazi and skinhead music, located near Detroit, was raided by law enforcement officials on account of tax evasion charges. The following August the authorities decided not to file charges against the company which, by then, had recovered nearly all the confiscated material and moved its headquarters to Walled Lake.
In May 1997 200 skinheads gathered in Wichita, Kansas to hear music by Aggravated Assault and the River City Brawlers. The stage sported a large Nazi flag. Police officers were attacked by concert-goers who threw bottles, nails, rocks and beer while shouting 'Heil Hitler!' and 'white power!'. A female African American police officer was injured when pushed off the stage.
Also in May 1997 a new, unoccupied home in Meadowview, California was damaged and defaced. The word 'skinheads' was scrawled on a wall and spindles from a staircase railing were left on the floor in the shape of a swastika.
In July 1997 a neo-Nazi Nordicfest took place in Michigan. According to its promoters 373 people attended to hear such groups as Intimidation One, Max Resist and the Hooligans, Blue Eyed Devil and No Alibi.
In August 1997 a black Fresno State student was savagely beaten. According to police records Jerry Joseph Hamilton, a member of the Peckerwoods, admitted to the crime and was convicted. A tattoo on Hamilton's back reads: 'My skin is my religion.'
In November 1997 neo-Nazi skinheads murdered a police officer in Denver and dumped a dead pig with his name scrawled on it in a car park. The following week the same skinheads allegedly murdered a West African immigrant at a bus stop, and shot and paralysed a woman who attempted to intervene. One of those charged, nineteen-year-old Nathan Hill, said on television that he 'walked through town with my gun in my waist, saw the black guy and thought he didn't belong where he was'.
The National Alliance is a highly structured hierarchical organization founded by William Pierce, author of the violent novels The Turner Diaries and Hunter, and a follower of American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell. Based in West Virginia, the National Alliance promotes a violent form of National Socialism and calls for the extermination of non-Aryans. In recent years it has been gaining in influence, primarily among young skinheads, and has been recruiting members in Canada and the United Kingdom. It operates telephone message centres in the United States and Canada and publishes the monthly National Vanguard.
Letters from Pierce have been recently circulated on the Internet. One, entitled 'In your ear, Mr Clinton!', proclaimed: 'We want a government . . . which is totally free of Jewish control. . . . Just as surely as the government's massacre of the women and children in David Koresh's church in Waco, Texas in 1993 caused the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995 [see below], President Clinton's condoning of Benjamin Netanyahu's terrorism in 1997 will cause other Federal buildings to be bombed in the future.'
Pierce received additional notoriety in 1996 when The Turner Diaries was reprinted by a publishing house, and in 1997 when it was discussed during the trials of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (see below). The Turner Diaries was evidently an inspiration to McVeigh: a scene in the book closely resembles the Oklahoma bombing, down to the time of day and the size of the explosive used. McVeigh peddled the book while in the military and later at gun shows, and reportedly telephoned the National Alliance two weeks before the bombing.
Former KKK leader David Duke, who downplayed his white supremacist and neo-Nazi connections when he ran for state office in Louisiana earlier in the decade, moved closer to the National Alliance in 1997. In May he had intended to speak to a group in Tampa but a hotel and a community group refused to let the group use their facilities. Later that month Duke spoke to a gathering organized by the National Alliance at the Lithuanian American Citizen's Club in Cleveland, Ohio. Among other comments, he reportedly blamed the supposedly Jewish-dominated left-leaning media for misleading Americans. In July 1997 Duke allegedly joined the Canadian-based Radio Freedom, an Internet-based radio station, and in September 1997 was elected chair of the Republican executive committee in a Louisiana parish. He also openly supports Australian politician Pauline Hanson, whose One Nation Party has been linked with far-right groups (see Australia).
In April 1997 a pipe bomb factory was discovered in Orlando, Florida. Bombs, an assault rifle and literature from the National Alliance, including references to Timothy McVeigh (see below), were found at the factory.
The Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei/Auslands und Aufbauorganisation (NSDAP/AO, German National Socialist Workers' Party/Overseas Section) was founded in 1972 and is headed by Gary Lauck of Lincoln, Nebraska. Lauck is currently serving a four-year prison sentence following his 1996 conviction in Germany for violating laws against inciting racial hatred and distributing Nazi paraphernalia. The NSDAP/AO is a large supplier of neo-Nazi and Holocaust-denial material to a number of European countries. The organization publishes material in more than ten languages, including Russian, and disseminates it in various forms, including on computer disks and by e-mail.
The seventy-seven-year-old Lyndon LaRouche has an international network of followers who engage in pseudo-political activities (see also Australia). Antisemitism is the mainstay of this conspiratorial network which identifies a 'hard kernel of truth' in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. LaRouche was released from prison in 1994 after serving fifteen years for financial irregularities. A November 1997 article in the organization's journal, The New Federalist, claimed that the 'British got rid of Rabin-shot to death two years ago today-and brought in Netanyahu, whose assignment has been to return the region to a state of war. . . Netanyahu is gunning for nuclear war [but in] order to carry out this British game plan . . . [he] must first purge several leading figures in the intelligence and military establishment who consider such a war suicidal'.
John Birch Society (JBS)
The John Birch Society, which in the 1960s popularized communist conspiracy theories, is currently promoting anti-government conspiracy theories. It publishes The New American, whose editor and publisher regularly tour the country speaking on topics such as the 'conspiracy for global control' and peddling conspiracy theories about the Oklahoma City bombing (see below). Recently the group has targetted environmentalists. JBS president John McManus, speaking in 1997 in Spokane, a region that has seen increasing collaboration between anti-environmentalist extremists and the far right, claimed: 'The father of environmental extremism is Karl Marx.'
Militia groups continue to be active in nearly every state; estimates of their memberships range from 10,000 to 40,000. Some of these groups have documented connections to white supremacist and antisemitic groups. One of the most notorious is the Militia of Montana (MOM), organized by John Trochmann, who has links with the Aryan Nations in Idaho.
Militia groups cite the Second Amendment (mischaracterizing it as guaranteeing an individual the right 'to keep and bear arms') and the Tenth Amendment (reserving powers not delegated to the federal government 'to the States . . . or to the people'). They appeal to disaffected Americans by talking about gun rights and the 1993 Brady Bill (which mandates a waiting period for the purchase of firearms) and the 1994 assault rifle ban (which outlaws nineteen types of rifles and ammunition clips holding over ten rounds). Also cited by militia members is the 1992 government 'shoot-out' with the white supremacist fugitive Randy Weaver in Ruby Ridge, Idaho and the federal government's siege of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas in 1993. They claim that these events prove that the federal government is attacking the rights of Americans.
The federal government is the principal target of the armed militias, although conspiracy theories-including anti-Jewish stereotypes-drive the movement. The groups are heavily armed and have adopted 'leaderless resistance' (see above). In recent months many militia cells were arrested after illegally preparing for 'war'. Although many militia groups attracted large numbers to their initial meetings, subsequent meetings have been less well attended.
While law enforcement authorities are investigating militias and other far-right groups, and have made some noteworthy arrests thwarting bomb plots, they have also been careless. In the summer of 1997 an FBI-authored article designed to help law enforcement develop strategies to deal with local militias contained two important errors: it characterized some militia members as having strong 'Christian' beliefs, and mischaracterized 'paramilitary training' as legal (it is illegal in at least forty states).
In October 1997 a classified FBI document that warned of a possible attack on government agencies during the 'holiday season' became public after it was mistakenly faxed to a Spokane movie memorabilia store.
According to a December 1997 story in the Dayton Daily News, 111 army investigations were opened in 1995 and 1996 into weapons stolen or missing from army bases. In some of the cases the army had been unaware of the missing weaponry until civilian authorities had recovered the hardware.
The militia movement relies on gun and 'survivalist' shows for its recruitment and organizing efforts. Pete Peters, a Christian Identity leader, and Militia of Montana co-founder John Trochmann were among the speakers at the Spokane Survivalist Expo in February 1997. Music was provided by white supremacist Carl Klang. Trochmann also appeared at the Indianapolis Preparedness Expo in October 1997, as did Bo Gritz and Chris Temple, at the Detroit Expo in June 1997 with Mark Koernke, Michael New and members of the Michigan Militia, and in July 1997 at the Philadelphia Expo with Koernke again and Larry Pratt.
The movement also uses the Internet for communication, propaganda and recruitment. In a new enterprise Randy Trochmann (nephew of John Trochmann) sponsors the American Patriot Internet Classified Service, which offers 'patriots' a cyberspace marketplace. Among the product categories are real estate, 'do-it-yourself', music, firearms, Internal Revenue Service (IRS)/taxes, religion and Ku Klux Klan. Under the latter, people are directed to The Kourier, the publication of Indiana Klan leader Richard Bondira.
With concern over the perils posed by the militia movement heightened by the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see below), Jewish organizations have joined Congressmen Charles Schumer and Peter King in calling for House Judiciary Committee hearings on the issue. In November 1995 a formal hearing was held before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, at which the AJC, ADL, Simon Wiesenthal Center and others testified about the dangers posed by paramilitary groups. The Jewish groups expressed support for bills directed at the violent activities of paramilitary groups introduced by Congressmen Schumer and Jerrold Nadler. Despite continued support for such legislation, there has been no further action on these bills. In fact, there have been no congressional enquiries into the militia movement since 1995 despite regular reports in the magazine US News and World Report that there have been 'credible' bomb threats at government offices (favourite targets being police, the IRS, FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF)).
The Timothy McVeigh trial and the Oklahoma City bombing
In June 1997 Timothy McVeigh was convicted on federal charges of bombing the Alfred Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in April 1995. Much circumstantial evidence proved him to be a key participant in the worst terrorist incident in US history. McVeigh was sentenced to death.
On 12 December 1997 McVeigh's co-defendant, Terry Nichols, was convicted of conspiracy and manslaughter charges in a separate trial. He was acquitted of murder charges in what some considered an inconsistent verdict.
Although 168 people died in the 1995 bombing, 160 of these deaths were not covered in the federal proceedings because they were beyond federal jurisdiction. With Nichols escaping the death penalty, Oklahoma authorities announced plans to proceed with state murder trials against both McVeigh and Nichols.
At the same time a civil suit is proceeding, brought by one of the victim's families, as well as an independent grand jury investigation. Although most observers scoff at the various conspiracy theories floated by militias and others, there is a serious question as to who else may have been involved, given witnesses who claim they saw McVeigh with someone other than Nichols in the days before the bombing, and phone calls linking McVeigh with the Christian Identity compound Elohim City, the National Alliance and the Liberty Lobby (see above).
In conjunction with the 1997 trials of McVeigh and Nichols, the militias put additional energy into spinning conspiracy theories about the Oklahoma City bombing. An Oklahoma state grand jury, established after Oklahoma state representative Charles Key submitted a petition with 13,500 signatures, is investigating whether other people were involved in the bombing. Key has been a vocal critic of the federal government's investigation of the bombing: 'We want to know what happened to John Doe No. 2 and we want to know about the prior knowledge that some in the federal government had that this attack was going to take place.' Federal investigators have rejected Key's claims and many family members of the 168 killed have accused him of harbouring political motives. Even some mainstream columnists have echoed the militia line, including Robert Novak, who wrote 'Oklahoma City coverage?: open question-was it a federal sting that went horribly wrong?'.
Common law courts
There is a growing movement of Freemen, white separatist 'sovereigns' who advocate a doctrine of common law-the rejection of federal government, the setting up of bogus alternative courts and the refusal to use drivers' licenses and vehicle tags. Reminiscent of the Posse Comitatus of the 1970s (see above), which proclaimed the county sheriff the highest legitimate government official and sent out 'bounties' and 'indictments' against public officials for treason, the 1990s common law courts are also an expression of white supremacist Christian Patriot beliefs. Latest figures show that some 131 common law courts have been established in thirty-five states, conducting campaigns that the AJC has termed 'paper terrorism' against county, state and federal officials.
In August 1997 a common law court was convened by the Kansas Territorial Agricultural Society (KTAS) in the Kansas state capital. The group, which called its court the Supreme Court of Christian Jurisdiction in American Government, 'convicted' a federal judge of 'treason'.
In December 1997 a New York City commissioner and almost 100 other city workers were charged with failure to pay taxes. Many used Freemen-style claims of renouncing US citizenship as a defence. Some were apparently members of a black separatist group called the Moorish Nation, whose philosophy ironically mirrors that of Christian Patriotism. Its members believe they are not bound by the US constitution, which they contend is for Whites only, they profess allegiance to the Free Moorish Zodiac Constitution, 'make their own license plates', and New York members describe themselves as citizens of (for example) the 'Republic of Queens' or the 'Republic of the Bronx'.
The AJC, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ADL have been working with law enforcement officials to encourage the prosecution of groups that use fraudulent financial or judicial documents and/or threaten public officials and others with such bogus claims. In April 1997 the self-described 'chief clerk' of the Multnomah County Common Law Court in Portland, Oregon was arrested, along with his son, on charges of forging state legal documents.
Islamist groups continue to function and raise funds in the USA. Pro-Hamas videos have been made and distributed throughout the country, encouraging Arabs to engage in and finance an Islamic holy war.
According to the testimony of FBI director Louis Freeh at a May 1997 Senate hearing, Hamas and Hizbullah had recently 'placed supporters inside the United States who could be used to support an act of terrorism here'.
In February 1997 Ali Abu Kamal, an English teacher from Gaza, shot seven people before killing himself on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. A letter found on Kamal's body read, in part: 'The Zionists are the paw that carried out their savage aggression. My restless aspiration is to murder as many of them as possible, and I have decided to strike at their own den in New York, and at the very Empire State Building in particular.'
In August 1997 police raided a Brooklyn apartment, arresting three people and finding five bombs. Two of the men arrested, from the Middle East, were wounded by police, concerned that explosive devices were about to be detonated. The men were charged with conspiring to set off the bombs in New York's subway system and in buildings. Reports indicate that they planned suicide bombings in subways and buses with the nail-studded devices.
In August 1997 Mark Bruzonsky wrote in Middle East Realities : 'It's not inordinate Chinese money and influence in American politics the Congress should be investigating, it's how Israel manipulates American politics with the help of some key Americans (most of them Jewish), who are in fact, however distasteful it is to say it, "dually loyal".'
On 12 November 1997 Ramzi Yousef was found guilty of masterminding the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. According to the prosecution, the motive for the attack was retaliation against the US government for its Middle East policies. In 1996 Yousef was convicted of plotting to blow up twelve US airliners.
Nation of Islam (NOI)
The Chicago-based Nation of Islam was founded in 1930 by Elijah Muhammad, formerly Elijah Poole. Its espousal of black separatism made it problematic for mainstream civil rights and black organizations throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The NOI has a long history of factional disputes, the most celebrated split being the departure in 1964 of Malcolm X, who turned to orthodox Islam and was subsequently assassinated. More recently, under the leadership of Louis Farrakhan, the movement has become influential in the African American community. Estimates of the organization's membership range from 10,000 to 30,000, with many times that number of young admirers. NOI mosques or temples exist in 120 cities.
Antisemitic rhetoric figures prominently in the movement's Afrocentrist ideology, as does anti-white, anti-Catholic, anti-Korean and homophobic rhetoric. Frequently overlooked is the organization's regular peddling of antisemitic and/or virulently anti-white books, including its own Secret Relationship between Black and Jews, Tony Martin's The Jewish Onslaught, Michael Bradley's The Iceman Inheritance and William Cooper's Behold a Pale Horse, a favourite also of the militia movement and containing a full reprint of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. A major ideological theme of the NOI is the insistence that the persecution suffered throughout history by Blacks is far worse than that suffered by Jews under the Third Reich.
In March 1997 Farrakhan criticized President Clinton's leadership on issues of race and said that 'maybe the separation [of the races] might be the best answer'. Speaking in the same month on the television programme Evans and Novak, Farrakhan was asked about Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates's assertion that Farrakhan had 'told him in an interview that there is a cabal of Jews that meets in New York to decide the fate of the nation. . . '. Farrakhan replied that a Jewish film producer 'said they meet once a year in Hollywood or in Park Avenue to look at the trends of America and the world. And if there are trends that they do not like, then they write scripts, they write movies, they write books-they do things to influence the trends of things.'
In April 1997, speaking on NBC's programme Meet the Press, Farrakhan accused the Catholic Church of inspiring hate and hate crimes directed against Blacks. He re-affirmed his comment that 'big Jews' financed Hitler while 'little Jews' died. Asked about Elijah Muhammad's assertions that Whites were created by an ancient black scientist, and that Whites would eventually be killed by a spaceship, Farrakhan replied: 'I subscribe to every word that the Honourable Elijah Muhammad taught us.' Questioned about an essay on the NOI's web-site which referred to 'the Jews' awesome control over American society and government: All presidents since Franklin Roosevelt, 1932, are controlled by Jews', Farrakhan replied: 'I believe that, for the small numbers of Jewish people in the United States, they exercise a tremendous amount of influence in the affairs of government.' Asked about his statement that 'Jews . . . hold my people in their grip', Farrakhan replied: 'And that is true. Who controls the movement of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People], the Urban League? Who controls black politicians?'
During the autumn of 1997 Farrakhan conducted a ninety-city tour to promote his 16 October Day of Atonement and Absence, in commemoration of the second anniversary of the Million Man March, when supporters would be expected to refrain from going to work. During the tour mayors of several cities refused to welcome Farrakhan. They included the mayor of Plainfield, New Jersey in August and the mayor of Cincinnati, Roxanne Qualls, in September. Qualls refused to give Farrakhan a 'key to the city', as requested by Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Push Coalition because of Farrakhan's 'history of public anti-Semitic statements'. Mayor Wellington Webb of Denver also refused to meet with Farrakhan.
Mayor Marion Barry of Washington DC supported Farrakhan's Day of Atonement initiative by giving workers the option of taking a day off without pay if they so desired. Reportedly few Blacks did as Farrakhan requested. Only 400 turned out for a rally in Philadelphia and only sixty attended a meeting. (In January 1997 Mayor Barry had called for a 'day of dialogue', an attempt to bring people from different backgrounds together in the city. Jewish organizations, including the AJC, American Jewish Congress and ADL, boycotted the meeting because the NOI was also invited.)
On 25 October 1997 some 500,000 black women participated in the Million Woman March in Philadelphia.
In recent times Farrakhan's relationship with some white conservatives has improved. In 1996 Jack Kemp, at the time a Republican vice-presidential candidate, described Farrakhan's ideas about black self-help as 'wonderful' and said that, had he been asked, he would have agreed to speak at the Million Man March. Journalist Robert Novak reported in March 1997 that Farrakhan had been warmly received at a Florida retreat for Republican leadership.
Affiliated to the NOI are private security companies. NOI Security, formed in 1990 and based in Washington DC, and New Life Inc., run by Farrakhan's son-in-law, Leonard Farrakhan Muhammad, and based in Chicago, have in the past few years been awarded contracts worth millions of dollars to police and protect public housing projects in several major cities, including some under the auspices of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In September 1996 in New York, Governor George Pataki ruled that a state-financed housing project must break its contract with the NOI-linked security group X-Men, after the group had been discovered distributing antisemitic literature. In 1997, however, a New York federal judge ruled the X-Men could sue Representative Peter King and New York State Assemblyman Jules Polonetsky on charges that they conspired to deprive the security concern of its constitutional rights.
Latest figures from the ADL's annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents show a decrease in the number of antisemitic incidents in 1997. The total of 1,571 incidents represents a decrease of 8.8 per cent, or 151 incidents, from the 1996 total of 1,722. In 1997 there were 898 incidents of antisemitic harassment, threats and assaults directed against Jewish individuals and institutions, a decrease of 4.6 per cent in such incidents from the 941 reported in 1996. Incidents on college campuses increased in 1997: there were 104 such incidents representing an increase of 13.5 per cent on the 1996 total of 90. However, incidents of vandalism decreased: there were 673 acts of antisemitic vandalism in 1997, down by 108 incidents, or 14 per cent, from the year before.
The five states reporting the highest total of antisemitic incidents of all kinds in 1997 were New York (380), New Jersey (197), California (180), Florida (114) and Massachusetts (99).
The most recent hate crime figures issued by the justice department (i.e. those for 1996, see Racism and xenophobia) show that 16 per cent of the total number of hate crime incidents in 1996 were motivated by religious bias. Of the 1,401 religious-bias incidents, 1,109 incidents were classified as anti-Jewish; the remainder included incidents classified as anti-Catholic (35), anti-Protestant (75), anti-Islamic (27), anti-other religious groups (129), anti-multireligious groups (24) and anti-atheism/agnosticism etc. (2).
Antisemitic leaflets and other material
In January 1997 in San Jose, California, anti-black and antisemitic material-including swastikas, a 'ticket' for a 'boat ride to Africa' and an advertisement for a 'racial joke line'-was found inserted in library books, such as biographies of Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass, as well as in books about African-American history. In the same month, in a Toledo, Ohio library, flyers were placed in books about the Second World War claiming that Hitler was a martyr for 'racial idealism'. Two hundred 'Hitler was right' flyers were also found in the campus library at the University of Michigan several weeks earlier.
In February 1997 leaflets bearing the name American Revolutionary Nationalist Nuclei were circulated in Tucson, Arizona celebrating 'Jewish Identity Month'. The material sported extracts from the Talmud, Holocaust denial propaganda and claims about Jews controlling the media, the Department of Justice and the ATF.
In Southern California in June 1997 a series of antisemitic leaflets (some bearing the name White Aryan Resistance) were circulated. One quoted racist and antisemitic statements by American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell; another called for the public hanging of 'race traitors'; a third commemorated Hitler's 108th birthday, calling him 'a man whose ideas are tailor-made for the 21st century'.
Physical attacks and bombs
In January 1997 reports emerged that a thirteen-year-old Jewish student from Concord, New Hampshire was being harassed by schoolmates with notes containing swastikas and slurs such as 'Die kike' and 'We want you-Third Reich Army'. There were allegedly over thirty such incidents, including assaults. Five boys were suspended when they gave the boy a Nazi salute and said 'Hail Nazis'. School officials said they took the incident seriously.
In March 1997 a bomb exploded outside the Seattle area's Stroum Jewish Community Center in Mercer Island, Washington. There was no damage.
In April 1997 a package was sent to B'nai B'rith headquarters in Washington DC containing a petri dish with a red gelatinous substance and a note that suggested the material was anthrax. It was later determined that the substance was not toxic. The package also contained a note signed 'Counter Holocaust lobbyist of Hillel'.
In May 1997 a sixteen-year-old Long Island, New York high-school student was charged with stabbing a fifteen-year-old Jewish student. According to police reports, the older boy had made numerous antisemitic remarks.
On 15 December 1997 a crude bomb exploded outside the Planet Hollywood restaurant in New York. The explosive used was similar to one that exploded in a Manhattan office building on 9 November. Theories of a possible far-right motive were advanced: 9 November is the anniversary of both Kristallnacht and the 'Day of the Martyrs' in The Turner Diaries (see Parties, organizations, movements) and 15 December is the date the Bill of Rights (including the Second Amendment) was ratified in 1791.
Antisemitic graffiti and desecration of cemeteries
Synagogues daubed in 1997 include the San Diego, California synagogue in June and the Northfield, California, synagogue in August (subsequently an Illinois man was charged with this offence, along with two other hate crimes associated with his group, the White War Commission).
In September 1997 an Atlanta synagogue and senior citizens' centre were defaced by antisemitic vandals. The words 'Liberate Palestine/PLO/PLO' were found on a van owned by the Atlanta Jewish Community Weinstein Center for Adult Services. Other vehicles were also defaced. Fifteen miles away the words 'Heil Hitler' and 'Jew Pigs Die' were painted on the driveway of Congregation Beth David; swastikas were also scrawled on the pavement and a nearby street sign.
Also in September 1997 150 tombstones were overturned and seven were defaced with swastikas at a Jewish cemetery in Staten Island, New York. It was the seventh incident at the cemetery since the previous June.
A synagogue in Cleveland, Ohio was targetted for attack in September 1997. Two cars in the car park were broken into, and five bullets were shot into the synagogue's front window the following week. On 1 October a bullet shattered a window hours before the Jewish New Year services.
In December 1997 swastikas and the initials 'SWP' were painted on a car and car park pavement at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center in Portland, Oregon. It was speculated that 'SWP' stood for 'Supreme White Power' or 'Supreme White Pride'.
During 1997 the use of swastikas in graffiti by street gangs of swastikas in graffiti was widespread. Anthony Scalise, commanding officer of the Chicago Police Department's civil rights unit, said: 'They're starting to use the swastika symbol because it's there. . . . When we see it on darn near every garage in an alley, and some of the victims are White, it's obvious this stuff was just done indiscriminately. . . . [They're] marking turf.' Conversely, Scalise noted that some hatemongers were possibly trying to encode their symbols: substitutes for KKK include '3-K', 'Triple K' and '311' (meaning three 11s, K being the eleventh letter of the alphabet).
In May 1997 Virginia's Department of Motor Vehicles recalled the licence plate 'ZYKLON B' which had been issued to Ryan Maziarka. Maziarka was convicted in 1995 of defacing a predominately black church with racial and religious slurs. Maziarka said: 'When I see displays of black pride or black power, I don't go running to my senator . . . But as soon as I get something that represents my race's dominating spirit, I get put down for it. Apparently I lost all civil rights in this community.' The Department of Motor Vehicles has a policy of refusing plates that are deemed offensive.
Racist and antisemitic black extremist speakers are known to give talks at campuses around the country. Such speakers on the circuit include Professor Tony Martin of Wellesley College (Massachusetts) and various NOI representatives.
The tract Antisemitism-Found, circulated in various academic institutions in 1996, resurfaced in 1997 at Wellesley College and Williams College (Massachusetts). Dated October 1995, the document was loaded with antisemitic canards.
Khalid Muhammad, demoted by Farrakhan for the 'tone' of his blatantly antisemitic speech at Kean College in 1993, spoke in San Diego in April 1997. His talk, billed as 'Not Out of Europe', was in response to a lecture that same day in San Diego by Mary Lefkowitz, author of Not Out of Africa, a refutation of Afrocentric theories. Muhammad spoke again at San Francisco State University the following month. With a large swastika adorning a chalkboard to his right, he said: 'The so-called Jew claims that they lost six million in Nazi Germany. I am here today to tell you that there is absolutely no evidence, no proof. . . . the so-called state of Israel is a criminal settler colony. The state of Israel has no right to exist under God and God is not with the State of Israel. . . . I can say here today that the Talmud . . . has . . . cause[d] the murder and enslavement and persecution and discrimination and haunting racism of the black people. . . . [The racism of the Talmud is what] the Apartheid system in South Africa rests on, that the Ku Klux Klan, the Nazis, the Skinheads, and all of the other rabid racist type organizations can rest their racism on. . . . they are not the true Jews. You [Blacks] are the chosen people of God. Don't you let no hooked nose, bagel eating, lox eating, perpetrating a fraud so-called Jew who just crawled out of the ghettos and Europe just a few days ago. You are the chosen people of God. No good bastards.'
In May 1997 questions were raised concerning the Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, in the news because of court rulings requiring the admission of women. Three of the four women admitted to the Citadel were placed in Echo Company, and two of those three later left the college, saying they were severely harassed. Two cadets alleged, in court documents, that swastikas adorned T-shirts and that other Nazi symbols were exalted: 'Nazi symbols [were] treated as badges of honour and passed on from year to year'. The company called itself 'Stalag' and its members used the term 'Echo über alles'.
The same month a banner hung at San Francisco State University called for the death of Peru's president and his 'Zionist commandos'. The banner, which bore an Israeli flag with a swastika and an American flag with a dollar sign, was removed after pressure from the administration. The Pan Afrikan Student Union was responsible for the banner (as it was for an 1994 antisemitic mural at the university).
In June 1997 two Georgia high-school students were barred from graduation ceremonies after writing a poem for a school publication in which the first letter of each line spelled the words 'Hitler' and 'Nazi'.
In September 1997 a group of nineteen 'teachers, supervisors, para-professionals, school aids and custodian workers' complained that the principal of a New York City public school had spoken about the 'damn Jews and how they own the board of education' and how 'Hitler did not kill enough of them'. The school board is investigating the charge.
There are occasional reports of Jewish students being harassed at various public schools throughout the United States. Heightened tensions usually surface during Christmas and Easter when there are often specifically religious assemblies or school programmes. When Jewish and other non-Christian students protest the Christological nature of these required school activities, there are sometimes antisemitic remarks or undue pressure placed on the youngsters. Although the US Supreme Court ruled in 1963 that religiously sectarian assemblies and other such exercises were unconstitutional, violations continue to occur on a regular basis (see Legal matters: church-state matters).
In the Microsoft Word 95 version 7.0 thesaurus 'Hitler youth' is listed as an organizational example of the word 'scout'.
In August 1997 the American Psychological Association postponed the granting of a lifetime achievement award to psychologist Raymond B. Cattell, aged ninety-two. Cattell had created many standard personality and intelligence tests but Barry Mehler, a professor at Ferris State University, claimed that many of Cattell's writings were racist and that he had 'a lifetime commitment [to] fascist and racist causes'. Cattell openly affiliated with Wilmot Robertson, publisher of the overtly racist Instauration, and, in 1994, Cattell's The Beynodist said: 'Hitler actually shared many values of the average American. He aimed at full employment, family values and raising the standard of living. . . . His attempts at eugenics broke the first law of eugenics: that it is the humane substitute for natural selection. It favours preventing the birth of those who would inevitably be miserable and incapable of a normal, happy life. It encourages the birth of those who look after themselves and others, who invent and enrich the culture.' Asked about the controversy Cattell said his views had evolved and that he now believed in eugenics only on a voluntary basis.
In May 1997 the New York Mets pitcher Jason Isringhausen apologized for calling Jay Horowitz, the baseball team's public relations director, a 'Jew boy'.
Business and commerce
In March 1997 six former employees accused Avis Rent-A-Car of instructing its workers to discriminate against Jews, saying they were told to 'watch out for yeshivas', which one former employee swore was used as a code word for Hasidic Jews. 'Agents were told to identify "Yeshivas",' the employee said, 'by listening to the way customers spoke and by determining if the customer lived in a predominately "Yeshiva" area.' A company memorandum also set out special procedures for age restrictions in various areas of New York, including Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, Monsey, Monroe, Poughkeepsie and Manhattan. The company was already embroiled in a lawsuit alleging that some of its franchises discriminated against Blacks. Avis said it had never intended to discriminate, and that its policies were designed to thwart a real problem of under-age drivers.
Acts of overt antisemitism are on the decline in US religious institutions. Nevertheless there are several areas of concern relating to antisemitism within the Christian and Islamic communities, each of which merits constant monitoring.
Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)
The Southern Baptist Convention is the USA's second largest Christian body, numbering over 14 million members (the Roman Catholic Church is the largest). In June 1996 the SBC's national convention adopted a resolution calling for active 'evangelizing among Jewish people'. To carry out this campaign a former missionary to Israel was appointed as the SBC's director of 'Jewish evangelism'. Leaders of the SBC insist that their denomination's call for the conversion of Jews to Christianity is an appropriate part of Christianity's so-called Great Commission of seeking all people 'to come to Christ', and reject the charge that their campaign is antisemitic.
Some Southern Baptists, clergy and laypersons, have publicly repudiated the SBC resolution and called for reconciliation with Jews and Judaism. Many who affirm the theological legitimacy of Judaism are members of the Alliance of Baptists, a moderate group that opposes the active proselytization of Jews.
In January 1997 the AJC and the Fuller Theological Seminary of Pasadena, California co-sponsored a national conference on 'Religious conviction in the public arena: how people of faith can be citizens of a pluralistic republic'. Fuller, often called the 'Harvard of Evangelical Seminaries', represents a broad cross-section of the conservative Christian community.
Fuller's president, Dr Richard Mouw, has publicly condemned antisemitism, but in an August 1997 article in the influential journal Christianity Today he re-affirmed his belief that Christians must 'witness' to 'the Jew first'. He softened his position by adding: 'I also oppose treating Jews as if they were only "targets" for evangelism' (a reference to the 1996 SBC resolution).
For Jews themselves, any organized conversion attempt by Christians is frequently perceived as antisemitic, since such actions, by their very nature, seek the end of both the Jewish religion and the Jewish people. Mouw's public statement reflects the intense discussions on antisemitism, conversion and Christian-Jewish relations that are currently taking place in many Christian circles.
The Religious Right
The Christian Coalition, the best-known organization of the so-called Religious Right, played an active role in the 1996 presidential and congressional election campaigns. Both the group and its former executive director, Ralph Reed-who left the group in 1997 to take up private consultancy work-are often accused of antisemitism. Reed recently sought to improve relations between Jews and Evangelical Christians when he apologized for what he termed insensitive language and pledged to eradicate references such as 'Christian America' from the Religious Right's vocabulary and stated goals.
The Christian Coalition's founder, the Rev. Pat Robertson, attracted attention in 1997 for an anti-Muslim remark he made on his television programme, the 700 Club. Robertson, some of whose earlier published writings are regarded as antisemitic, labelled adherents of Islam 'insane'. Challenged on this remark by Rabbi David Saperstein of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Robertson answered: 'This is not bigotry, it is a fact based on the action of those who hold to Islam all over the world.'
The Christian Coalition presently has a lower profile and appears less effective in the political realm than it was in earlier years under Reed's leadership.
The white supremacist wing of the Religious Right includes followers of the Christian Identity Church. Christian Identity adherents believe that God first tried a creation that failed-thus explaining ethnic minorities. When God tried again, He created Adam and Eve. Eve, impregnated with the seed of Adam, produced Abel and the white race. Eve, impregnated with the seed of Satan, produced Cain, whose descendants are the Jews. Minorities are thus pre-Adamic beasts, sometimes called 'mud people', and Jews are the literal offspring of Satan.
Promise Keepers (PK)
Founded in 1990 by former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney, the Promise Keepers have headquarters in Denver, thirty-six field offices and an annual budget of $117 million. PK claims that more than 2 million men have attended PK assemblies since 1990.
PK's mission is to bring men back to their families, the church and Christ. This is accomplished by personal commitments often made at national and regional male-only rallies. On 4 October 1997 over 250,000 Christian men, mostly white and Protestant, gathered on the Mall in Washington DC for a PK national rally entitled 'Stand in the gap: a sacred assembly of men'; its purpose was to 'take back America for Jesus'.
Critics of PK point out the 'sexist, exclusivist and Christian triumphalist' platform of the organization and its Christian nationalist theology that calls for a 'Christian America'. Especially disturbing at the 1997 rally were the token appearances of Jews who had converted to Christianity and were introduced to the masses as representatives of the Jewish community. One Presbyterian minister said after the October rally: 'There's more than a whiff of antisemitism in the PK agenda.' While PK officials vigorously denied this charge the question remains as to whether a highly evangelistic Christian group that aims at 'taking back America for Jesus' can maintain theological, political and cultural space for other religious groups, including Jews.
Shortly after the 1997 Washington rally, PK announced it was laying off many of its paid employees for budgetary reasons. Observers are now divided as to whether the group has the financial resources to maintain its previous high level of activity.
Holocaust denial plays a role in most white supremacist organizations in the United States. The vanguard of Holocaust denial, however, is the California-based Institute for Historical Review (IHR) and its publishing house Noontide Press (see Parties, organizations, movements).
The IHR has in past years produced a bi-monthly journal, the pseudo-academic Journal for Historical Review, and eight newsletters per year worldwide, as well as publishing and distributing numerous books. However, publication of its material has been sporadic since the group's editors took over from Willis A. Carto, the IHR's founder (see Publications and media). In 1994 the editors of the journal wrested control of the institute from Carto as part of an effort to sanitize its image and, purportedly, to exercise control of a multimillion dollar bequest left to the IHR by an heir of Thomas Edison. The issue remains the subject of pending litigation. The winner of the power play appears to be the institute's director, Tom Marcellus, who is supported by Holocaust deniers Ernst Zundel, Robert Faurisson and David Irving.
Carto thereafter founded a new Liberty Lobby-linked Holocaust-denial journal called the Barnes Review, named after Harry Elmer Barnes, one of the 'founding fathers' of Holocaust denial, which he continues to publish.
Holocaust-denial propaganda appears regularly on newsgroups' web-sites. The IHR increasingly uses newsgroups and bulletin boards to disseminate its publications. It has also stated its intention to make its past publications available on the Internet.
Since 1991 an important method for the dissemination of Holocaust denial among students has been the placing of advertisements in campus newspapers by Bradley R. Smith, head of the so-called Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust and media director of the IHR. In 1996 fewer than five campuses ran one of his advertisements. However, in the autumn of 1997 Smith stepped up his campaign. His new ad contained the offer of $50,000 to anyone who could get David Cole's Auschwitz video aired on national television during prime time. Bradley has also submitted two op-ed pieces and promoted his web-site. Among the campus papers that subsequently printed the ad and/or the op-eds are: Binghhamton University, Carnegie-Mellon University, Cleveland State University, Colgate University, University of Delaware, Denver University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Florida State University, Fordham University, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech University, the University of Georgia, Hofstra University, Iowa State University, Johns Hopkins University, Louisiana State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Nebraska, the University of New Haven, Oklahoma State University, Pace University, San Diego State University, the State University of New York at New Paltz, the State University of New York at Fredonia, Rice University, the University of South Dakota, the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Vassar College and Villanova University.
In January 1997 Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois attempted to persuade Arthur Butz to take early retirement by offering to buy out his contract. Butz, a tenured professor of electrical engineering who has been a controversial figure since the publication of his 1976 book The Hoax of the Twentieth Century, declined the offer. Recently Butz has been criticized by student groups because he uses the university's computer system to put his views on the Internet.
In August 1997 a controversy erupted at the two-campus Orange County, California Community College District. A divided board of trustees presided over by Steven J. Frogue approved a 'high-quality community education' course on the John F. Kennedy assassination. Some of the speakers for the course were associated with the antisemitic publication Spotlight (see Publications and media). One speaker, Michael Colins Piper, has described the assassination as 'a joint enterprise conducted on the highest levels of the American CIA, in collaboration with organized crime-and most specifically, with direct and profound involvement by the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad'. In the ensuing controversy, the course was cancelled, but allegations of Frogue's teaching of Holocaust denial to high-school students surfaced and a recall petition against him was circulated at the end of 1997.
In December 1997 a Holocaust-denying homepage on the Washington State University server, posted by a student, came to light. Several people in the community (Pullman, Washington) voiced opposition to the site and the university began a process of developing policies to address the problem. There was some criticism that the university was not speaking out forcefully enough. In possibly related events, the campus suffered through the distribution of hate literature, including documents targetting Jews, Latinos and homosexuals.
Antisemitic propaganda, disseminated by all forms of media, is for the most part well protected by freedom of speech guarantees. Many publications including books, magazines, journals, newspapers, newsletters and pamphlets by far-right, militia and neo-Nazi organizations (see Parties, organizations, movements) purvey antisemitism. However, unlike a generation ago, there are at present no national mainstream antisemitic serial publications. Some mainstream black-oriented tabloids, such as the Amsterdam News in New York, promote Afrocentric claims and the activities of the NOI, whilst either ignoring or sanitizing that group's antisemitism.
Radio, short-wave, public access and cable television channels provide opportunities, protected under licensing ordinances, for white supremacist, black supremacist and neo-Nazi groups to broadcast to communities around the country as well as internationally. A continuing issue is the proliferation of 'talk radio' programmes, including many that provide a forum for often unchallenged racist and antisemitic remarks.
The California-based publishing house Noontide Press (see Parties, organizations, movements and Holocaust denial) continues to publish antisemitic and Holocaust-denying literature. However, Willis A. Carto's empire has for some time been in the midst of litigation between Carto and a group of IHR staff who have been wresting control of IHR from him. In 1996 Carto lost his lawsuit, and a multimillion dollar judgement was entered against him for illegally converting money left to the IHR. Noontide Press has published Holocaust-denial texts such as Arthur Butz's Hoax of the Twentieth Century , the works of Paul Rassinier and 'traditional' antisemitic material like The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Henry Ford's The International Jew.
Among the more important non-mainstream newspapers and journals that have recently espoused antisemitism are the following:
Spotlight (Washington DC) is a thirty-two-page weekly Liberty Lobby tabloid (see Parties, organizations, movements), founded in 1974. The number of its subscribers is approaching 100,000, a figure significantly lower than that of a decade ago (200-300,000). The racist, antisemitic and Holocaust-denying articles that fill Spotlight's pages are not written in the crude language of KKK or neo-Nazi literature but tend to be coded in populist, anti-federal government or conspiratorial rhetoric. Occasionally they are more transparent. For example, in September 1997 Spotlight printed a 'special report' on 'Israel and the Bible', complete with antisemitic artwork. A bold headline said: 'Israel declares war on Christianity!' The issue also contained an 'open letter' from Spotlight supporter and long-time antisemitic evangelist Dale Crowley, who complained that 'Israel's behaviour among the nations of the world plunges ever deeper into wickedness, outrage and disrepute . . . Does the righteous God of the Bible now approve unrighteousness and the kingdom of Satan?' Spotlight is also an important promoter of the militia movement and the conspiracy theories that help fuel it.
White Patriot is a publication of Thom Robb's Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (see Parties, organizations, movements). The Truth at Last (Georgia) is a racist, antisemitic and homophobic monthly published by long-time neo-Nazi Ed Fields, a national council member of the America First Party. Liberty Bell (West Virginia) is a neo-Nazi monthly published by an independent publisher. The War Eagle is a neo-Nazi skinhead newsletter that first appeared in 1994. It was produced by veteran neo-Nazis and America First Committee members Art Jones, John McLaughlin and Roger Fountain.
The Jubilee is a bi-monthly tabloid of the Christian Identity movement (see Religious antisemitism) published by Paul Hall in Midpines, California. It also promotes the militia movement. Scriptures for America is the publishing arm of Pete Peters's Christian Identity Church. Among its offerings is a $32 version of the New Testament, described as the 'anointed standard translation', which is marketed as a 'Jew-free' Bible.
Aid and Abet is a newsletter of the militia movement, published by former Arizona policeman Jack McLamb. Its purpose is to recruit law enforcement officers into the movement. Taking Aim is also a newsletter of the militia movement that bills itself as 'the Militiaman's newsletter'.
Endsieg and the New Order (Lincoln, Nebraska) are publications of Gary Lauck's NSDAP/AO (see Parties, organizations, movements). The New Order is published in English, French, German, Spanish and Hungarian and disseminated internationally.
Final Call is the NOI newspaper (see Parties, organizations, movements), often sold on street corners by NOI members whose sales records affect their status in the organization. NOI shops also sell books and recordings of NOI speeches, as well as The Secret Relationship between Blacks and Jews, a rewrite of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion targetted at a black audience. Reportedly The Secret Relationship has been sold at major bookstores in some cities.
The publications of Lyndon LaRouche and his followers (see Parties, organizations, movements), New Federalist (formerly New Solidarity) and Executive Intelligence Review, continue to single out prominent Jews, Jewish families and Jewish organizations for abuse.
In December 1997 Richard Curtiss, executive director of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs , wrote that 'only one national newspaper, The Christian Science Monitor' provides 'truly objective coverage of the Middle East'. Curtiss reasoned this was because it 'is not answerable to Jewish owners and is not dependent upon Jewish-owned business for even a portion of its advertising'.
Antisemitic and white supremacist groups produce radio programmes that are regularly broadcast, but usually to smaller target audiences and usually with weaker signals. The talk-radio programme produced by the Liberty Lobby, Radio Free America, is carried on more than 300 US radio stations and on short-wave to Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere. Pete Peters (see above) hosts a weekly television show, Truth for the Times. He also hosts a radio programme that is broadcast in several US cities.
The dissemination of racism and antisemitism via the global telecommunications network has increased in recent years. The Internet has emerged as an uncontrollable, unpoliceable and decentralized zone where independent voices, however unpopular and objectionable, can 'speak' and be heard. There are several million Internet users in the United States and Canada and the number of web-sites is growing rapidly. Furthermore, information in cyberspace is protected by the same freedom of speech guarantees as other forms of expression, although the parameters of what is permitted are not yet clearly defined.
The Internet is increasingly becoming a communication tool of the far right. The Liberty Lobby, for example (see above and Parties, organizations, movements), sponsors a bulletin board called Logoplex BBS. Bomb-making manuals have also been transmitted by computer links, as have recipes for chemical warfare. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, there are over 600 racist web-sites on the Internet, up from more than 300 in 1996. One of the most active is Stormfront, run by Don Black, one of the first white supremacists on the Internet. Through links to various racist sites, one can transfer easily from sites of black antisemites like Wellesley professor Tony Martin to sites of white supremacists who consider blacks biologically inferior. What 'connects' the two is shared antisemitism.
Because the Internet is a quick means of spreading messages worldwide, some old antisemitic canards have been given new life. For example, in 1934 the American pro-Nazi publication Liberation reported that the diary of a South Carolina delegate to the Constitutional Convention had recorded hostile remarks about Jews made by Benjamin Franklin. 'In whatever country Jews have settled in any great number', Franklin is claimed to have said, 'they have lowered its moral tone, depreciated its commercial integrity . . . I warn you, gentlemen, if you do not exclude the Jews forever, your children's children will curse you in their graves . . . They should be excluded by the Constitution.' Entitled the Franklin Prophesy, the document was declared a hoax by historians shortly after it appeared; nonetheless, it was a regular part of the literature handed out by such groups as the Posse Comitatus in the 1970s. Now groups, including the National Alliance and pro-Hamas organizations (see Parties, organizations, movements), have been giving the lie a new and expanded life on the Internet, posting it to various bulletin boards and circulating it.
The Internet is also a place for interaction. The racist game 'Hang Leroy' was found on a web-page of a Delaware KKK group.
Not only are hate groups using the Internet to spread their messages, there has also been a reported increase in 'hate e-mails' directed against individuals or groups. In July 1997, for example, a Jew in Cambridge, Massachusetts received an e-mail which said: 'Hey, Jew, the KKK will get u'. Attached was a picture of a muscular white man with the words 'white power' inscribed on him. The question of whether such speech is 'protected' is a thorny one. The first federal hate crimes e-mail case ended in a hung jury in November 1997. Richard Machado, a former student at the University of California at Irvine, sent messages to Asian students accusing them of being responsible for crime on campus and threatening to kill them if they did not leave school. The case was retried in early 1998 and a conviction was secured.
Meanwhile, the use of other means of disseminating antisemitism continues. Various hate groups use telephone answering machines to disseminate hatred and recruit members. Some phone-based schemes do, however, keep up with new technology. In June 1997 in Missouri several people were paged with a message to call a number which, it turned out, contained racist recordings.
Cable television stations also allow hate programmes over their community access channels. For example, WAR leader Tom Metzger (see Parties, organizations, movements) has produced more than forty-five half-hour segments of the television programme Race and Reason. These are televised from community access stations in ten states. In fact, cable access laws allow community members to produce their own programmes, or sponsor previously recorded videos. Community access laws do not permit the station to censor such programmes for offensive content, although regulations that restrict the number of times a person can air a programme and/or strictly enforce rules that require sponsors to live within the cable region have made the use of this medium more difficult for those with a hateful political agenda. Community responses with counter-programming can be effective too.
Hate crimes legislation
Speaking at a White House conference on hate crimes in November 1997 (see Countering antisemitism), President Clinton endorsed legislation introduced by Senators Edward Kennedy (Democrat-Massachusetts) and Arlen Specter (Republican- Pennsylvania). The legislation, with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, will extend the existing criminal civil rights legislation to cover crimes based on gender, sexual orientation and disability (crimes motivated by racial, religious or national origin are already covered) and to expand the jurisdictional basis for such crimes to be prosecuted. Jewish groups, notably the ADL and the AJC, worked with non-Jewish groups to shape and promote the legislation.
In February 1997 the New York State Assembly passed a state 'hate crimes' law intended to increase the degree of offence when acts of violence are motivated by bias and prejudice. The bill was defeated in the New York State Senate.
In August 1997 a federal appeals court in California upheld the federal hate crime law, which punishes assaults in public facilities that are motivated by race or religion. The law makes it a federal crime to wilfully injure or intimidate anyone because of their race, colour, religion or national origin. It applies to attacks and vandalism which occur in national parks and on other federal property. Violations are punishable by up to one year in prison, or up to ten years if the victim is injured. The law had been challenged by Robert Makowski, who attacked a jogger in a public park in 1995 and shouted anti-Mexican slurs. Makowski claimed the law was unconstitutionally vague and could be applied to anyone who uttered a racial slur during a fight. Judges disagreed saying the law required proof that the attack was motivated by bias.
Hate crimes prosecutions
In February 1997, five-and-a-half years after race riots in Crown Heights, Brooklyn (see Antisemitic legacy), two men were convicted for the stabbing to death of a Hasidic Jew. A federal jury convicted Lemrick Nelson, Jr. and Charles Price of violating the civil rights of Yankel Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum was murdered in 1991 when a mob attacked him after a car driven by a Hasidic Jew went out of control and killed a seven-year-old African-American boy. Nelson, a teenager at the time of the murder, was acquitted of state murder charges in 1992; sentencing was scheduled for April 1998.
Malcolm Wright was found guilty in May 1997 of two counts of first degree murder in the racist slaying of a black couple in North Carolina in 1995. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Prosecutors said the slaying was part of a neo-Nazi skinhead initiation rite. Fellow skinhead James Burmeister, who was the triggerman, also received a life sentence. A third, former soldier Randy Meadows, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and accessory charges for his role in the murders in exchange for his testimony against Burmeister and Wright. He was sentenced to between thirteen and sixteen months.
In June 1997 a former Ku Klux Klansman convicted of killing a black teenager was executed in Alabama. Henry Francis Hays was convicted of the 1981 murder of Michael Donald. The execution was Alabama's first for a 'white-on-black' crime in eighty-four years.
Four KKK members pleaded guilty and were sentenced in August 1997 for the burning of the Macedonia Baptist Church in Bloomville, South Carolina in June 1995. The church sued the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan for unspecified damages for inciting members to violence. Those convicted received sentences ranging from fifteen to twenty-one-and-a-half years.
Twenty-two years after the crime, a former Klansman was sentenced in September 1997 to twelve years in prison for his role in a racially motivated car bombing that killed a twenty-three-month-old girl who happened to be nearby. Frank Helvestine, now seventy-six and in ill health, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, arson and unlawful wounding after a son-in-law turned him in 1996.
In October 1997 a white supremacist was sentenced to three years in prison for a plot to bomb fifteen cities. James Viefhaus, who apologized to US district judge Michael Burrage for his taped threats condemning blacks, homosexuals and Jews, professed his innocence. Viefhaus made the bomb threat in a message recorded for a white supremacist hotline. The message said bombs would go off in fifteen US cities on 15 December 1996. None did so.
Alleged white supremacist Gunner Lindberg, who wrote a chilling account of the stabbing and stamping-to-death of a Vietnamese American college graduate, was convicted in October 1997 of first-degree murder in California and sentenced to death. Lindberg was the first person sentenced to death under California's hate-crime special circumstance statute.
The nation's first federal trial involving a hate crime on the Internet ended in a mistrial in November 1997. Richard Machado, a former student at the University of California at Irvine, was accused of sending threatening e-mails to Asian students. His retrial is expected in 1998.
The 105th Congress, which opened in January 1997, saw a reprise of the church-state initiatives that had been forestalled in the previous session. Almost from the beginning there was a steady stream of initiatives to provide public funding for low-income families to be used towards tuition in private sectarian and non-sectarian schools. The year 1997 closed without any of these voucher initiatives having been passed by Congress.
A significant Supreme Court church-state decision occurred in June 1997 when, in Agostini vs. Felton, by a 5-4 vote, a 1985 ruling that barred public school teachers from providing remedial instruction on-site at parochial (private religious) schools was overturned. Federal law requires public schools to provide remedial instruction to all disadvantaged students in their district regardless of which school they attend. As a result of the 1985 ruling, remedial classes had to take place at neutral sites, such as in mobile vans parked outside parochial schools, often at considerable expense. Following the June 1997 decision, the US Department of Education issued guidelines to ensure that such instruction taking place in parochial schools remained secular. The guidelines state, among other things, that teachers should not become involved in the religious activities of the school.
Although the decision dealt with a narrowly proscribed issue, it opened the door to a debate as to whether other forms of public aid to parochial schools could now win the Supreme Court's sanction. Whilst the guidelines were praised by the American Jewish Congress, its spokesman acknowledged that they were not binding on the schools that would receive them.
Several church-state cases were decided by the lower courts during 1997. A federal appeals court in May 1997 ruled that Georgia students could continue the state-mandated moment of silence at the beginning of each school day, rejecting a challenge claiming that the law was an illegal attempt to return prayer to public schools. The 1994 Georgia law was the first such to survive constitutional review by a federal appeals court. The unanimous decision by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the Georgia law met the three-pronged standard set by the US Supreme Court in 1971. In that ruling, the court said that government action was constitutional under the Establishment Clause if it had a secular purpose, did not advance or promote religion and did not excessively entangle government with religion.
In August 1997 a federal district court judge ruled that an eastern Louisiana school board's plan to introduce a disclaimer into science textbooks that describe the scientific theory of evolution was unconstitutional because the court, unable to glean 'any secular purpose' to the disclaimer, could only conclude that it was an endorsement of religion. The school board adopted the disclaimer fearing that students' religious beliefs would be 'confused and disturbed' by the theory of evolution because it conflicted with what they learned in Sunday school. The disclaimer states that 'the lesson to be presented, regarding the origin of life and matter, is known as the Scientific Theory of Evolution and should be presented to inform students of the scientific concept and not intended to influence or dissuade the Biblical version of Creation or any other concept'. The decision has been appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
After denying, in December 1997, a temporary restraining order that would have blocked financing for Kiryas Joel, a school district created by the state legislature for disabled Hasidic children, a New York state judge held in April 1998 that the law that created the school district was unconstitutional. The case represents the third time New York's School Boards Association has challenged the constitutionality of the publicly financed Kiryas Joel school district. Kiryas Joel is a village forty-five miles north of New York City whose residents are all Satmar Hasidim (members of a mystical Jewish sect). The approximately 250 disabled children from the community had, for years, received state-funded special education from the nearest public school district, whose teachers came to the Satmar yeshivas. That arrangement ended in 1985 when the Supreme Court banned public school teachers from teaching in religious schools (see above discussion of Agostini vs. Felton). Thereafter, the children received instruction in the public schools. However, parents maintained that the children were taunted because of their obvious cultural differences and thus the special school district was established.
The School Boards Association won both previous court challenges against the school district. One, which went all the way to the US Supreme Court, ruled in 1994 that the district violated the separation of church and state. However, each time a court has struck down the district, state legislators have passed new legislation to circumvent the ruling. In July 1998 a New York appellate court upheld the lower court's finding that the latest effort to create a Kiryas Joel school district violated the Establishment Clause.
The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled 6-0 in December 1997 that divorced parents of different faiths could be prohibited from teaching their religious beliefs to their children if it would harm them. The decision upheld a probate court ruling that barred a father from taking his children to church services or enrolling them in Sunday school. The judge said the father tried to impose his faith on the children and held negative views on Judaism, his former wife's faith. The father is a member of the fundamentalist Boston Church of Christ and the mother an orthodox Jew. The children are being raised as orthodox Jews. The justices called it a 'close question' but said the US and state constitutions permitted limitations on individual liberties if there was a compelling interest. 'Promoting the best interests of the children is an interest sufficiently compelling to impose a burden on the [father's] right to practice religion and his parental rights to determine the religious upbringing of his children,' wrote the court.
Alabama has recently been a notable battlefield in the church-state debate as several cases have challenged the practice of state officials in allowing for religious expression in public schools and courtrooms. In 1997 a federal court struck down a 1993 state law that permitted student-initiated prayer (following a lawsuit by a public school vice-principal who had unsuccessfully tried to stop the practice of prayer before sporting events and the handing out of Bibles in the classroom). The federal court also issued an order barring prayers at school sporting events and Bible readings on school grounds. The Alabama attorney general has asked for a delay in enforcing the decision pending appeal, claiming that the order violated students' right to free speech.
Another Alabama-based church-state controversy occurred in February 1997 when state judge Roy Moore was directed by a superior court to remove a wooden carving of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom. At the time of the order Alabama governor Fob James announced he would call out the National Guard and state troopers to prevent removal of the plaque. The controversy was compounded when, in early March, the House of Representatives voted 295-125 to adopt a resolution affirming that the Ten Commandments represented a 'cornerstone of Western civilization and the basis of the legal system here in the United States' and supporting their placement in courtrooms and government offices. The House resolution, although it was without binding effect and made no mention of the Alabama case, was seen as a disturbing development by many Jewish groups. 'The display of the Ten Commandments in Judge Moore's courtroom, in context and intent,' said the AJC, 'clearly promotes religion. It is wrong for a court to suggest that people who might subscribe to a particular code, as represented by the tablets, may receive preferential treatment and those who do not might be looked upon with disfavour.'
Judge Moore, who is currently appealing the order, has made several comments in his defence which have been both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim in substance and tone. He has obtained the public backing of Alabama's Governor Fob James, and a host of US congressmen/women. The case has gained national attention because it focuses on a recurrent theme in American life: what does the legal separation of church and state mean? And how do public officials who are ardent Christians deal with the constitutional rights of Jews and other non-Christians in an increasingly pluralistic nation?
Christmas and Hanukkah in 1997 became the season for controversy over how public institutions, in particular public schools, should commemorate the festivals. In New Mexico, a high-school choir director was suspended for leading a concert with Christian content substantially in excess of that allowed under school district guidelines requiring schools to be 'religion neutral'.
There have recently been a number of cases involving the issues of vouchers and public funding of parochial (private religious) schools. The Supreme Court's decision in Agostini vs. Felton (see above) was widely regarded as creating a more favourable climate for increased public support of parochial schools. Shortly before this decision, however, an Ohio appeals court struck down Cleveland's 'Pilot Program', enacted to address the educational and fiscal crisis in the Cleveland City school district. Under this programme the state was required to provide financial aid to students residing within the Cleveland City school district by setting up a scholarship programme to enable students to attend alternative schools. Once the recipient chose a school, the state delivered a cheque to the parents, who then endorsed it over to the school. Only parochial schools had chosen to participate in the programme. The appeals court ruled, however, that the programme violated the Establishment Clause in that it provided direct and substantial, non-neutral aid to sectarian schools with its primary effect being the advancement of religion. The case is now on appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio.
In June 1997, post-Agostini, a Vermont state judge ruled that public tuition payments for children attending parochial schools in districts without public high schools violated the Establishment Clause. Many towns and villages in rural Vermont are too small to support a local high school and children must go either to a distant public high school or to a private school. In either case, the state pays the tuition. Parents of children attending a local Roman Catholic school contend that since their school district already pays for private schools, it should also pay tuition to schools with religious affiliations, if parents so request. The court disagreed, noting that while Agostini expanded the type of government aid that may benefit sectarian schools, direct unconstrained aid going directly to religious schools was still prohibited under Agostini and prior Establishment Clause jurisprudence. The appeal of this case is pending before the Supreme Court of Vermont.
In another setback for vouchers, a Wisconsin appeals court in August 1997 struck down the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which would have provided private and parochial schools with $3,600 per student. The court said the programme violated the Wisconsin constitution which prohibited state money being 'drawn from the treasury for the benefit of religious societies, or religious or theological seminaries'. Both this decision and the Ohio decision (see above) were made on the basis of state law rather than on federal grounds, and thus do not set any broad precedent in the national debate over vouchers.
Currently pending is an appeal of a federal district court decision in Louisiana which declared that Chapter two of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act does not violate the Establishment Clause. Chapter two provides federal funds for various educational services and equipment to both public and non-public schools, including sectarian schools, for the purpose of improving student achievement. The court found that because the benefits were neutrally available without reference to religion, and the majority of the benefits went to public schools, the programme did not treat religious schools in a manner that appeared to endorse religion. The court also found that there were sufficient safeguards to ensure that Chapter two benefits were not being diverted to religious instruction.
Proposals for a 'religious freedom' constitutional amendment were slow to emerge in the 105th Congress and disagreements among pro-amendment factions from the previous congress continued to delay action. The logjam showed signs of breaking when it was revealed in 1997 that the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) had decided to endorse a new version of the amendment proposed by Rep. Ernest Istook. The NAE, together with a number of members of Congress, had earlier indicated their support for a constitutional amendment that would give religious institutions 'equal access' to government funding but had opposed Istook's initiative as itself a threat to religious liberty. NAE, and later some of those members, now indicated that their concerns had been addressed by the changes made to the bill. Some observers found it difficult to see how the alterations made by Istook accomplished that feat.
Hearings on the revised Istook proposal were held before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution in September 1997. Following a November 1997 subcommittee meeting the initiative was sent on to the full committee by a strictly party-line vote. Despite that vote, endorsement by the House leadership and a list of 150 co-sponsors, it was assumed that the bill was unlikely to achieve at least the two-thirds majority of the House necessary for its ratification.
Most Jewish groups oppose the amendment as being unnecessary and dangerous. 'It's a catch-all problematic initiative that would mean vouchers and prayer in school with teacher participation and religious symbols in the heart of government', said Michael Lieberman, a member of the ADL's Washington office. There was some fall off, however, as the initiative began to move forward. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations (OU), notwithstanding its support for vouchers, had earlier been a member of the coalition formed to oppose a constitutional amendment based on a fundamental concern with any tampering with the First Amendment. But in 1997 the OU pulled out of the coalition. 'We're sort of caught in the middle', said Nathan Diament, director of the OU's Institute for Public Affairs. 'While we don't like the concept of constitutional, organized school prayer, we are in favor of the concept of school vouchers or other government programs being available on an equal basis to religious institutions and individuals.'
Free exercise of religious belief
In June 1997 the Supreme Court in City of Boerne vs. Flores ruled 6-3 to strike down the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), holding that Congress had unlawfully usurped the states' and federal courts' power when it had enacted this measure in 1993. RFRA was passed to grant greater protection from government regulation to the exercise of religious freedom. The act applied a strict scrutiny test to all laws curbing religious practice and required the government to demonstrate that the law furthered a compelling government interest and was the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. The Supreme Court saw RFRA as an attempt by Congress to interpret the substantive rights protected by the Constitution and to decide cases and controversies.
By striking down RFRA, the Supreme Court has, to a significant extent, removed legal protection for religious groups whose practices may conflict with state and local regulations. The law had shielded numerous religious practices from state and local regulations, including young Catholics taking Communion wine, orthodox Jews objecting to autopsies, Islamic inmates observing dietary laws dictated by their faith, among others. RFRA, however, is still valid with respect to federal laws, and federal agencies are ordered to comply with it. Members of Congress began to consider what options might be available to reinstate at least some of the RFRA provisions.
There was better news in 1997 on other free-exercise fronts. On 14 August 1997 President Clinton issued Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace, a document developed in consultation with a broad range of religious and civil rights groups, including the American Jewish Congress, the Christian Legal Society and People for the American Way. The guidelines, applicable only to federal employees, allow for a large degree of religious expression and recognize that coercive proselytizing and religious harassment of employees is unacceptable. The guidelines also establish a workable standard for accommodating religious practices, such as holy day observance and the wearing of religiously required garb in the workplace.
Progress has also been made in the enacting of legislation that would expand workplace protections for religious employees in the private sector and at the state and local government levels. In 1997 the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA) was introduced in the Senate by John Kerry and in the House by Bill Goodling, with Senator Dan Coats and Rep. Jerrold Nadler as the chief co-sponsors in their respective houses. This reflected the first significant bipartisan support for the initiative. A hearing on workplace religious accommodation was also held before the Senate Labor and Human Relations Committee on 21 October 1997. It was chaired by Senator Coats, a senior member of that committee. Witnesses included AJC legislative director and counsel Richard Foltin, who chairs a coalition (including over thirty religious and civil rights groups) that supports WRFA, and John Kalwitz, an orthodox Jew who lost his job when his employer refused his request to be excused from work on Saturdays.
Freedom of speech
In March 1997 the case of Reno vs. the American Civil Liberties Union began in the Supreme Court. It was a challenge to the Communications Decency Act, Congress's first attempt to regulate speech in cyberspace. The law was passed in 1996 to prevent children under eighteen being exposed to 'indecent' or 'patently offensive' material through the Internet. The court's judgement in June 1997 found the law unconstitutional because it abridged the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court found that the breadth of the restriction was unprecedented and the burden on adult freedom was not acceptable.
In 1997 the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against school officials in Pike County, Alabama on behalf of Jewish students who claimed they were repeatedly harassed and subjected to Christian prayers at their schools. The suit alleges that the children, two boys and a girl, were forced to bow their heads during school prayers, ordered to remove Star of David lapel pins and skull caps, and tormented by antisemitic slurs and graffiti on their clothes and lockers. The Pike County superintendent, while denying most of the allegations, admitted that the high-school vice-principal had disciplined one of the boys by telling him to write an essay about 'Why Jesus Loves Me', and acknowledged that school officials ordered the children to remove Star of David pins because they thought it was a gang symbol.
In February 1997 the US Department of Commerce took vigorous action to enforce the federal anti-boycott laws in a case that implicated other federal government agencies. Officials of the justice department and the US Air Force, as well as personnel associated with CACI Inc., a private defence contractor, were fined by the Department of Commerce for their roles in a government-approved decision to exclude Jews and individuals with Jewish surnames from a federal litigation support project in Saudi Arabia. Both of those departments took responsibility for the discriminatory actions and issued strong policy directives to ensure that similar violations would not recur.
In August 1997 a religious man accepted a $7,000 settlement from the city of Cincinnati, Ohio for being forced to violate the Jewish sabbath. In September 1994 he was detained by a policewoman for crossing on a red light. As it was the sabbath he was not carrying a wallet and could not produce any identification. The policewoman forced him to sign the summons, threatening that he would be arrested if he failed to do so.
In September 1997 the Georgia Board of Regents agreed to pay Dr Candace Kaspers, former chair of the communication department at Kennesaw State University, $750,000 to settle her lawsuit against the board. This settlement was made following an award of $275,000 by a jury in a US district court in Atlanta, which found that Dr Kaspers had been summarily dismissed from her position for raising the issue of religious insensitivity with university administrators. Kaspers raised the issue after an administration-mandated reorganization of the communication department eliminated the department's two Jewish faculty members.
Also in September 1997 six Illinois public health department officials were directed by a US district court to pay 250,000 to Sherwin Manor, a Jewish nursing home in Chicago, for submitting false findings of federal and state violations by the home during a routine certification survey. The court's action followed a 1994 decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, based on testimony to antisemitic remarks made by the inspectors and substantial evidence refuting their charges against the nursing home and that Sherwin Manor's right to equal protection under the law had been violated by 'verbal abuse accompanied by the imposition of a special administrative burden'. In addition to falsely charging that the nursing home lacked no-smoking signs and that residents were not given a programme of activities, the inspectors added that Sherwin Manor failed to serve its residents pork, though a varied diet of beef, chicken and fish was available.
Four orthodox Jewish students at Yale University filed a federal lawsuit against the school in October 1997 claiming that the 'pervasive' sexual activity in the dormitories violated their religious beliefs. Yale requires unmarried first- and second-year students under twenty-one to live on campus. When attempts to reach a compromise in the dispute failed, the students filed their suit, seeking repayment of dormitory fees and unspecified monetary damages as well as a court order that would allow them to live off-campus. Under the threat of disciplinary action by the university, the students are paying the $7,000 housing fee for dormitory rooms they do not use. The students' lawyer argues that Yale should be treated as a state school because its close ties to the state of Connecticut require it to meet a higher constitutional and legal threshold with respect to religious accommodation. The university filed a motion to dismiss the case in December 1997. Most orthodox Jews on campus have not supported the students.
The far right: criminal cases
There have been a number of criminal proceedings involving white supremacists and members of various militia movements. Early in 1997, five men with ties to the Mountaineer Militia were either convicted or pleaded guilty to federal charges arising out of a conspiracy to blow up the FBI's new fingerprint complex in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The convictions were obtained under a new anti-terrorism law that makes it a crime knowingly to provide resources to someone planning a terrorist attack. The law was designed to eliminate loopholes and provide a means for preventing acts of terrorism before they are carried out.
A leader of the Aryan Nations movement (see Parties, organizations, movements) was arrested in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in April 1997 during an anti-racism meeting designed to celebrate north Idaho's civil rights record. Richard Butler, pastor of the Aryan Nations church in Hayden Lake, was arrested for trespassing after trying to hand out white separatist literature to people arriving at the hotel. Butler and eight other protesters had been warned by police not to walk into the hotel's car park, which was private property.
Four people with ties to the Ku Klux Klan were charged in April 1997 with conspiring to blow up a gas plant in northern Texas. Federal law enforcement officials said they believed the arrests had thwarted a significant terrorist threat in the area, near Fort Worth. An FBI agent said the four were preparing to 'wipe out half of Wise County' and that the group had planned to blow up the Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation's natural gas processing plant in Bridgeport, and then commit robbery to finance other terrorist acts. Those arrested were Catherine Dee Adams, her husband Shawn Dee Adams, Edward Taylor, Jr. and Carl Jay Waskom, Jr.
F. Joe Holland, the self-proclaimed leader of the Indiana-based North American Volunteer Militia, received a twenty-year prison sentence in April 1997 for inciting local militia members to engage in lawless actions while he remained in Indiana. According to prosecutors, Holland made a speech in the spring of 1995 that included a call to arms in Ravalli County and threats of sending federal agents 'home in body bags'. Holland's strongest link to Ravalli County is with anti-government activist Cal Greenup of Darby, Indiana, who attended Holland's sentencing. In 1995 undercover officers exposed a plan by Greenup and several other anti-government activists to assassinate public officials, overthrow the judicial system and remove criminal fugitives from the valley. Prosecutors say Holland encouraged them to carry out the plan.
The far right: civil cases
In January 1997 a federal judge in Michigan ruled that a co-founder of the Michigan Militia was not defamed when a prominent civil rights group reported that he had met with a leader of a white supremacist organization. Ray Southwell, who had once served as information officer and chief of staff for the Michigan Militia, filed the lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center. Southwell claimed he was libelled because the Law Center's publication Klanwatch Intelligence Report incorrectly reported that he had met with an Aryan Nations leader. The judge threw out the lawsuit, ruling that Southwell had 'not provided a single piece of evidence that would help him satisfy the high legal burden he faces'.
In June 1997 a magistrate in Albany, New York found no basis for the suspension of a prison guard who flew a Nazi flag outside his home. Edward Kuhnel was ordered to be reinstated with full back pay when corrections officials were unable to prove their contention that flying the flag could lead to disturbances at the prison or personnel problems.
The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in August 1997 that a white man punched by a black colleague for making racist remarks was entitled to workers' compensation for his injuries. The court found unanimously that the injury was work-related even if events leading up to the assault were not. A lawyer for the company that employed the men said the ruling essentially rewarded the use of racist epithets, calling it 'a pretty surprising message to come out of the Supreme Court'.
In the same month Roger Roots lost his libel lawsuit against the Human Rights Network. Roots had sued the Network for describing him in its nationally distributed report, A Season of Discontent, as a KKK organizer. Roots demanded $20 million to alleviate his resulting 'state of great fear and paranoia'. A representative of the Network stated that it had sufficient evidence that Roots admired the KKK, that he published a derogatory book about Blacks, that he worked closely with admitted KKK organizer John Abarr, and that he was currently a reporter for a racist Christian Identity tabloid.
In November 1997 a bill was introduced in the Senate which would make public all US government records on Nazi war criminals compiled since the Second World War. The bill would amend the Freedom of Information Act, suspending restrictions on the disclosure of information for Nazi-related materials.
There have been continuing developments in several cases involving suspected war criminals and/or Nazi collaborators. In January 1997 the justice department initiated deportation proceedings against a Philadelphia man who acted as an armed SS guard at Buchenwald and Auschwitz. Johann Breyer, a seventy-nine-year-old native of Slovakia, 'had no right to enter the United States in the first instance', said Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), the justice department's Nazi-hunting branch. Breyer was stripped of his US citizenship in 1993. At that time Breyer admitted serving as an armed SS perimeter guard at Buchenwald and Auschwitz, and as such was under orders to shoot escaping prisoners and escort slave labourers to work sites.
An Ohio man who had assisted in the persecution of Jews during the Second World War was stripped of his US citizenship by a federal judge in Cleveland in February 1997. Algimantis Dailide, seventy-five, had served in the Vilnius Saugumas, the Lithuanian security service whose responsibilities paralleled those of the Gestapo. He had concealed his war-time past when entering the United States in 1949. This was the third case in which the OSI had sought and obtained the denaturalization of members of the Vilnius Saugumas.
In April 1997 a federal court rescinded the citizenship of an Illinois man who participated in a massacre of Jews and served at Treblinka. The court found that Bronislaw Hajda had concealed his war-time activities when he entered the country in 1950, and again when he applied for citizenship in 1955. Hajda, a seventy-three-year-old retired factory worker, had served as an armed guard in the SS training camp Trawniki, the Treblinka labour camp and the SS Streivel Battalion. A US Department of State official said the government would seek Hajda's deportation.
A resident of Detroit whose citizenship was revoked in 1996 for concealing his Nazi past was ordered to be deported in May 1997. Ferdinand Hammer, seventy-five, served as an armed Waffen SS guard at the Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. A federal immigration judge found he had participated in persecuting persons because of race, religion, national origin or political opinion. German documents presented at the deportation proceedings confirmed Hammer's service in the Waffen SS at Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen, and on prisoner transports between the two camps.
The justice department began deportation proceedings in July 1997 against an eighty-one-year-old man who served in a Lithuanian police unit that assisted the massacre by the Nazis of 94 per cent of Lithuania's 210,000 Jews. The US Supreme Court refused in May 1997 to hear Jonas Stelmokas's appeal of a judge's decision to revoke his citizenship. Stelmokas, a retired architect, lost his citizenship in 1995 when a federal judge ruled he had lied about his war-time activities to gain entry into the United States after the war.
In September 1997 the justice department moved to revoke the citizenship of a retired Pennsylvania masonry worker, alleging that he had served as a guard in two camps in Poland where Jews worked as slave labour before being murdered or deported to death camps. Feder Kwoczak, seventy-six, is accused of hiding his war-time activities at German SS-operated labour camps at Trawniki and Poniatowa, first when he applied for a visa in 1949 and again in 1966 when he became a naturalized US citizen.
A documented Nazi war criminal who arrived at Los Angeles International Airport in December 1997, apparently seeking to enter the USA, was put back on a plane to Australia, where he holds citizenship. Konrads Kalejs, eighty-four, whom a US appeals court once labelled a 'key officer' in the killings of tens of thousands of Latvian Jews during the Nazi period, told immigration agents when he arrived in Los Angeles that he was passing through from Australia en route to Mexico. US authorities suspected he wished to go to Mexico so he could then sneak across the border to the USA, where he had lived for nearly thirty-five years before being deported to Australia in 1994. In August 1997 Kalejs had been deported to Australia from Canada where he had moved after his previous deportation (see Australia and Canada).
The US also won a court order of deportation against New Jersey resident Ferenc Koreh, who worked as a propagandist in Nazi-allied Hungary and publicly advocated the persecution of Jews. The government, however, agreed that it would not act to remove Koreh, eighty-seven, from the USA unless his rapidly deteriorating health improved. A number of cases have been settled in this manner, said Eli Rosenbaum. He added that his office would monitor the status of Koreh's health. Koreh had been stripped of US citizenship in 1994 as a result of his war-time activities.
In January 1997 the ADL wrote to Secretary of State Warren Christopher expressing disappointment that no foreign terrorist organizations had been designated as such, some eight months after the enactment of an omnibus federal anti-terrorism law that provided him with authority to make such designations. The naming of groups as foreign terrorist organizations would bar them from access to, or fund-raising in, the United States. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright issued the long-awaited list in the autumn of 1997.
In a significant development involving international terrorism, family members of a Jewish victim of a Middle East terrorist attack have for the first time sued Iran for monetary damages. Alisa Flatow, a twenty-year-old American, was killed on 9 April 1995 in the Gaza Strip. Her father Stephen filed suit in federal court seeking $150 million in damages from Iran. According to court papers, Iran sponsored the suicide bomber, who drove his car into a public bus killing the young American and seven Israeli soldiers. Islamic Jihad, the militant fundamentalist group, claimed responsibility for the attack. A provision of the 1996 anti-terrorism law permits American citizens to bring suits in US courts against foreign terrorists.
In November 1997 a federal jury in Manhattan convicted Ramzi Ahmed Yousef on charges that in 1993 he orchestrated the bombing of the World Trade Center, one of the deadliest acts of terrorism in American history. The jury also convicted Eyad Ismoil, who was accused of driving the bomb-carrying van into the Trade Center's underground garage. Both men face life imprisonment. Yousef was also convicted in September 1996, along with two other defendants, of trying to blow up twelve US commercial aircraft.
In recent decades honest, sometimes painful, disagreements over public issues have divided African Americans and Jews. Attesting to the sense of urgency felt by sectors of both the African-American community and the Jewish community regarding the troubled state of this relationship, the AJC and Howard University formed a partnership to develop a forum for the two communities to talk to each other. Common Quest, a national magazine on African American/Jewish relations, is designed to fulfil that purpose. The first two issues appeared in the spring and autumn of 1996, and another appeared in 1997. The magazine has received critical acclaim in wide sections of the national media and reaches 18,000 prominent African Americans, Jews and others representing a wide variety of professions and institutions.
In January 1998 the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding presented its second Report on Black/Jewish Relations in the United States. The report chronicles issues and events during 1997 and their impact on relations between the two communities. President of the New York-based foundation, Rabbi Marc Scheier, said the results of the study 'shatter the myth' that relations between African-Americans and Jews is one of conflict: the facts indicate many areas of common concern and co-operation between the two communities.
The AJC, the ADL, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center have been drawing attention to the Internet as a vehicle for hateful messages and propaganda by hate groups. In 1997 the ADL announced a project with Cyber Patrol, a company which markets filtering equipment to screen out violent and pornographic images from children's computer screens, to block racist and antisemitic sites, and publicly criticized America Online (AOL) for hosting a 'Knights of the Ku Klux Klan-Realm of Texas' web-site, which, it alleged, violated AOL's users' guidelines.
In February 1997 2,500 people marched in Westchester County, New York to protest a series of swastika daubings on houses in the area. A community-wide meeting was also held and a task force established.
Also in February 1997 a high-school teacher in Illinois, reacting to news that Holocaust deniers were using web-sites, enlisted his students to collect 6 million of 'something' to make the enormity of the Holocaust more understandable. They decided to collect pop-top tabs.
In 1997 sixteen students from both American and Howard universities (in Washington DC) enrolled in a course offered by the two universities in conjunction with the ADL. The purpose of the course, first offered to students in 1995, is for students-Jewish, African American and Asian-to learn about and understand one another better.
Small towns have been developing novel ways of dealing with marches, rallies and parades by hate groups. In Pulaski, Tennessee, the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan, the city virtually shuts down when the Klan comes, leaving a ghost town appearance with no restaurants, toilets or other facilities open. In Boyertown, Pennsylvania a group started 'Project Lemonade', encouraging people to donate money based on how long a Klan rally lasted in downtown. The idea was to give people something concrete to do and to provide a disincentive to the haters: the money raised goes to groups fighting racism.
Following a series of brutal skinhead murders in Denver, churches around the Pacific Northwest rang their bells at noon on 17 December 1997 in an effort to oppose intolerance. Organized by the Northwest Coalition against Malicious Harassment, the event was covered extensively in the media.
Another innovative approach to combatting racism is that of the Education and Vigilance Network (EVN) in Pennsylvania. Led by Floyd Cochran, a former Aryan Nations member who renounced white supremacy, EVN hosts 'Rock against Racism' concerts to detract youngsters from being enticed into skinhead groups.
The film Not in Our Town, produced by the California Working Group, has been used to educate people around the country. It is based on the true story of Billings, Montana where the community responded to hate crimes by displaying paper menorahs on thousands of homes.
In June 1997 President Clinton announced a major initiative to combat racism, expected to take the form of hearings and forums across the nation. He noted that the 'classic American dilemma' of racism had become many dilemmas of race and ethnicity, and referred to 'a resurgent antisemitism' present 'even on some college campuses'. In the same month the President delivered an address on healing the racial divide at the University of California at San Diego.
In July 1997 the commander of Fort Lewis in Washington state announced that all 19,000 soldiers would be searched for tattoos that might indicate membership of gangs or extremist groups. Commanders were told to look for swastikas, Celtic crosses, rabbits with a black star on one ear, skulls and three-leaf clovers. Soldiers sporting the tattoos were to be counselled or disciplined.
After the raid on Resistance Records (see Parties, organizations, movements), and also because of hate graffiti, cross-burnings and local militia activities, residents of Muskegon County convened a one-day workshop entitled 'Building Bridges in the Face of Faith-based Hate'. The conclave was hosted by the County's Co-operating Churches in partnership with the AJC, the ADL and the Michigan Education Forum.
On 10 November 1997 more than 350 victims of hate crimes, law enforcement officials, educators and representatives of advocacy groups participated in a one-day White House Conference on Hate Crimes at George Washington University. President Clinton told the conference that hate crimes were the 'antithesis of the values that define us as a nation', and announced a number of initiatives directed at hate-based violence, including plans to create hate crimes working groups to be organized by the attorney general at the national level and within the offices of the various US attorneys locally (see Legal matters: hate crimes legislation).
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Institute for Jewish Policy Research and American Jewish Committee
© JPR 1998