Our Testimony: Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism

On Tuesday, April 9, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on hate crimes and the rise of white nationalism. Here's the statement Bend the Arc: Jewish Action submitted in advance for the record. (Or you can download the statement here.)

April 5, 2019

The Honorable Jerrold Nadler
Chair
House Committee on the Judiciary
2132 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Doug Collins
Ranking Member
House Committee on the Judiciary
1504 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Re: Statement for the record of the Committee’s hearing, “Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism”

Dear Chairman Nadler and Ranking Member Collins:

As the Washington Director of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, I write to commend the fact that you are holding this hearing on white nationalism. The white nationalist movement poses a grave threat to the safety of individuals, communities, and the fabric of democracy itself. Bend the Arc is particularly concerned by the ways in which harmful and dangerous rhetoric and policies on the national stage have emboldened this movement.

In the weeks before the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, political leaders, as well as press outlets, stoked fear through their warnings about a so-called “invasion” of refugees seeking asylum at our borders. Many added conspiracy theories about powerful Jewish financiers funding this supposed invasion. The murderer in Pittsburgh pointed to those very news reports and conspiracy theories as his motivation. That is why members of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh called on the President to fully denounce white nationalism, cease the targeting and endangering all minorities, cease the assault on immigrants and refugees, and make a commitment to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of everyone. More than 86,000 Americans joined that call, which was met with silence. Less than six months later, following the horrific white supremacist murders in New Zealand that killed 50 muslim worshipers, the President dismissed the notion that white nationalism is a rising threat.



Our colleagues at Political Research Associates (PRA) have detailed in their extensive report, "Advancing Immigrant, Muslim, and Refugee Justice in a Period of Ascendant White Nationalism" (2018), that it is not only the Trump administration's rhetoric and refusal to unequivocally condemn white nationalism that is problematic, but his actual xenophobic policies have emboldened the most openly racist elements of our society and pose grave danger to immigrants and people of color. PRA conducted 64 interviews between November 2017 and March 2018 and when asked about current threats to immigrant, refugee, and Muslim communities, organizers and advocates identified the federal government, in the form of immigration policy, surveillance, and law enforcement, as the single biggest threat.

Violence does not just take the form of mass shootings and vigilante murders, it is also family separation, and refugee bans. It is not just racist slurs about Mexicans and Muslims, it is the misuse of executive power and the declaration of a national emergency. Social movements on the extreme right are energized by such policies and such words, some of them moved to violence, others mobilized to pull the country — through policies and through politics — ever more in the direction of bigotry, mistrust, and polarization.

Finally, I respectfully include below two articles which further detail Bend the Arc’s concerns with the mainstreaming of such hate in our society, and its dangers, as seen through particular moments of violence in the last few years: When white nationalism goes mainstream: After Charlottesville, are right-wing groups on the rise? by Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc Jewish Action and Charleston to Tree of Life: White nationalism is a threat to us all by Reverend Jennifer Bailey, executive director of Faith Matters Network, and co-founder of the People’s Supper, and Dove Kent, Senior Strategy Officer at Bend the Arc Jewish Action. Additionally, appended you’ll find for the record, PRA’s timeline of far-right mobilization in 2018. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block
Director, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action