NEWTON – Freshman U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss asked about the intersection of domestic terrorism and anti-Semitism during a hearing of a subcommittee of the House Committee on Financial Services on Feb. 26 held in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.
The Newton Democrat – who is a Jewish member of Congress – told the hearing his Jewish constituents are increasingly nervous about attending synagogue. He believes houses of worship should be protected without turning them into fortresses.
“The attack laid bare our vulnerability to domestic terrorism,” Auchincloss said in a video posted to his Facebook page, “and we need to examine solutions to stop future attacks before they happen.” However, he said it would be a “grave mistake to maintain permanent fencing around our Capitol,” given that constituents and advocates have the right to visit with representatives to share their concerns or air grievances
“We need innovative tools to root out domestic terrorism to protect members, staff and visitors without turning this building into a fortress surrounded by fences capped with barbed wire,” Auchincloss said. “And indeed, we also need to find ways to protect places of worship in my own district without having them resort to a military posture, as well, and in particular Jewish places of worship.”
At the hearing, focusing on domestic terrorist financing after the Capitol insurrection, Auchincloss told members of Congress that he represents one of the most densely populated Jewish districts in the country.
“I know that my Jewish constituents who go to places of worship are increasingly on edge and increasingly concerned about the threats of domestic terrorism targeted and fueled by anti-Semitism,” he said.
Auchincloss posed his question about the “intersection of anti-Semitism and domestic terrorism in this country” during a Subcommittee on National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy held as part of an ongoing investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection. He asked Lecia Brooks, the chief of staff of the civil rights organization the Southern Poverty Law Center and Dr. Daniel Rogers, the co-founder of the Global Disinformation Index, “whether they have seen a rise in both intent and actions targeting Jewish people.”
“We don’t talk about this enough,” Brooks said, “but there is a direct link and a connection between white nationalism, white supremacy and anti-Semitism. It should not be separated at all. There has been an increase in anti-Semitism in this country and globally for the last couple of decades and people failed to pay attention. We have these major violent events, like the Tree of Life Synagogue, like what happened in Escondido, and then we move on but we are not connecting the dots.”
Brooks was talking about two mass shootings at synagogues – the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018 that killed 11 worshipers and injured many others, and the shooting at the Poway synagogue in California in April 2019 that killed a woman and left three others injured. Suspects in both shootings face hate crime charges in these anti-Semitic attacks, both having expressed a desire to kill Jewish people, including in messages posted to social media, according to news reports. “We are in this together,” Brooks said.
Auchincloss agreed with Brooks that it’s important to stand together.
“The Jewish people, as well as my African-American constituents know that where there is conspiracy theorizing, where there is extremism, it’s just a matter of time before they come for Black Americans and for Jewish Americans, such has been our history,” Auchincloss said.
“If history is any guide, hate is hate, and it always comes for people of color and the Jewish community as well,” Rogers said. He described the QANON conspiracy theory as “a mashup of historically all of the various sort of anti-Semitic Jewish blood libels. You know, the idea of the cabal at the top, etc., etc., if it’s not explicit it’s a very, very thinly veiled version of the same blood libel that has been circulating for a hundred if not hundreds of years.”
Auchincloss asked if there is anything Congress can do related to the intersection of anti-Semitism and domestic terrorism and the spread of disinformation. Rogers suggested regulatory measures to tackle disinformation fall into three big categories, including liability by social media platforms that play a key role in facilitating hate groups.
“What we have found is there is already policies in place against all of these hate and extremist groups, but they are simply not enforced,” Rogers said.