President Donald Trump watches the lighting of memorial candles during the annual Days of Remembrance Holocaust ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

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The number of anti-Semitic incidents in America surged throughout 2016 and is on pace to increase substantially again in 2017, according to a report this week from the Anti-Defamation League.

Overall, anti-Semitic incidents, defined by the league as assaults, vandalism and harassment, increased 34 percent in 2016 over 2015. The organization counted 1,266 acts against Jews over the year.

And 2017 has seen this rise continue, with preliminary reports of 541 incidents since the beginning of the year, an 86 percent increase over the same time period in 2016. That would put 2017 on pace for more than 2,000 anti-Semitic incidents, according to the league.

However, the data includes at least 100 incidents that were more hoax than hate. Two individuals have been arrested so far this year and charged with making threats to Jewish institutions. Michael Ron David Kadar, an Israeli American teen who is Jewish, was charged earlier this month with making at least 100 threats to organizations across America.

Even if the 161 bomb threats attributable to the two men who have been arrested are subtracted from the data, there still has been a 31 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the first quarter of 2017, said Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.  

“And for those who are inclined to disregard the bomb threats, we have to remember that those actually did occur. People were evacuated from Jewish day schools and community centers at a time of increased anti-Semitic incidents around the country,” he said. “Regardless of the motivation of a specific perpetrator, the reality is Jewish communities felt harassed and feared for their safety because of those bomb threats.”

During a speech Tuesday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Days of Remembrance ceremony, President Donald Trump made some forceful (and, to many, long-overdue) statements about the Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism in America. The New York Times reported:

“We pledge – never again,” said Mr. Trump, invoking the phrase adopted by Jewish leaders after World War II. “We must never shrink away about telling the truth about evil in our time. We know that in the end, good will triumphs over evil.”  

Trump had outraged some Jewish leaders earlier this year when he issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that failed to mention Jews at all. He also has been criticized for promoting White House advisers Stephen Bannon, a favorite of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and Sebastian Gorka, who is reportedly a member of an organization that once was aligned with the Nazis.

Trump showed this week that, when it comes to Jews and the Holocaust, he “finally gets it,” according to an analysis in The Times of Israel:

Trump taking time out to keynote the museum event Tuesday was in itself significant. Presidents have appeared at the event, but their presence is not routine, and this week isn’t exactly a down week for the administration with a government shutdown looming.

And his embrace of Jewish sensibilities about the Holocaust was robust, extending to an excoriation of Holocaust denial, a rejection of anti-Semitism overall and a defense of Israel.

Until now, Trump has been supported by several prominent white supremacists and neo-Nazis, who have viewed the president as an ally in their fight against Jews and people of color. One prominent neo-Nazi wrote on his blog that the president is “a hostage of the Jews.” David Duke, former head of the Ku Klux Klan, has been apoplectic of late, writing on his website that Trump and the American people have been the victim of a Jewish “coup.”

Stabbing in Florida, assault in Oregon and arson in California

Last week, a man in Martin County, Florida, was charged with stabbing a local business owner because he “doesn’t “like Arabs.”

Jeremiah Hendrix is accused of stabbing Shinoy Mailackel in the arm. Hendrix told employees of the Family Dollar discount store in Stuart that he was angry at them for charging taxes on their items. After Hendrix shouted at a cashier, Mailackel stepped in, and Hendrix slashed him on the arm.

In Portland, Oregon, Damien T. Rodriguez, a Marine who has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, was charged this week with a hate crime after attacking workers at an Iraqi restaurant.

Rodriguez and another man allegedly sat in the DarSalam restaurant for almost an hour, refusing to order anything and refusing to leave. Then they started hurling racist abuse at workers, and one allegedly assaulted a server, according to The Oregonian.

Ghaith Sahib, who owns the restaurant, came to the U.S. after surviving a car bomb in Iraq. He told Portland’s NBC affiliate KGW:

We were really sad about what happened. We feel sorry for the guy and we feel sorry for ourselves, too.

A gas station owned by an Indian American man in Vacaville, California, has been hit by a series of incidents, the latest of which occurred this week.

An employee’s car was set on fire Monday. When the fire was put out, employees saw that someone had spray-painted “KKK” on either side of the vehicle.  

Harman Bassi, who co-owns the station, said his business has been spray-painted with “KKK” before. He told NBC station KCRA:

First they spray paint it, then they set it on fire. Maybe they’re escalating. Maybe they’re trying to really send a message. So that kind of worries me.

This week’s fake hate crime

A professor at Indiana State University was arrested this week and charged with faking anti-Muslim threats earlier this year, local media reported.

Azhar Hussain is accused of sending a series of threatening emails to the university that mentioned him as a specific target.

“Based upon the investigation, it is our belief that Hussain was trying to gain sympathy by becoming a victim of anti-Muslim threats which he had created himself,” said Joseph Newport, chief of ISU’s police department.

Neo-Nazis protest in Oregon

A group of neo-Nazis parked a truck emblazoned with a swastika in the heart of the University of Oregon campus in Eugene late last week, causing a confrontation with students and residents.

The neo-Nazis were promoting the release of a film that claims the Holocaust was faked. The truck appears to be the same one that The Oregonian reported last year was driving up and down Interstate 5 with “Jew Lies Matter” painted on the back. The owner reportedly repainted the truck in support of Trump before last year’s presidential election.

‘I absolutely love watching you get punched’

A young woman who was punched in the face at a rally in California last week, and who we wrote about in our last Hate Report, has been the victim of a campaign of online hatred from her far-right opponents, according to a story this week in Mother Jones magazine.

The woman, Emily Rose Marshall, was punched by far-right leader Nathan Damigo in a video that since has garnered more than 1 million views on YouTube.

Hate emails started streaming in. “Would you be interested in doing a role play photoshoot,” read one she later forwarded to me, “where you are being beaten and raped (simulated), by a group of white nationalists?” “I absolutely love watching you get punched in your ugly ass face on YouTube. I can watch it over and over,” another read. “Might I suggest leaping your ugly, hairy ass from a tall building? Or, perhaps, swallow a bottle of sleeping pills? How’s it feel to finally be treated like a man? Haha.” Since then, she says she’s received more than 1,500 harassing or threatening messages via email, Facebook, and Instagram.  

Report: Trump’s administration ‘the most Islamophobic’ ever

In sum, Trump has created the most Islamophobic administration our country has seen.

That’s the conclusion of a detailed report released late last week by the Brennan Center for Justice, a research institute at the New York University School of Law.

The report analyzes Trump’s own comments and rhetoric and looks closely at key members of the his administration and their ties to Islamophobia or anti-Muslim groups.

It finds:

Upon taking office, Trump quickly installed notorious Islamaphobes – including Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, and Sebastian Gorka – in the White House. Trump’s own blatantly anti-Muslim rhetoric has emboldened people to act on their prejudices, and hate crimes against Muslims have soared.

Anti-Semitic fliers, posters and graffiti keep coming

In addition to the anti-Semitic hate crimes outlined in the Anti-Defamation League’s report, this year also has seen an ongoing flood of anti-Semitic graffiti and the spread of anti-Semitic and racist literature and propaganda. This week was no different.

Fighting back: Collaboration is key

In Florida, at least 10 faith-based organizations have rallied together to set up the Interfaith Rapid Response to Hate.

The group is a coalition of religious leaders who quickly share any information about hate crimes or incidents suffered by a member of their community. The team then comes up with the best solution to the incident. That could include rallying volunteers to paint over hateful graffiti or raising money to help the victim of a hate crime, the Sun Sentinel reported Monday:

“This rapid response network is about putting in place the mechanism, that if there is any kind of hate crime, we’re ready to respond,” said Rabbi Bradd Boxman of Congregation Kol Tikvah in Parkland. “It’s not a matter of who do we need to contact, who’s our neighbors? We’re already united.”

Unity was also the message from the leader of the NAACP.

Conservative media site PJ Media reported that Cornell William Brooks said America’s black community must unite with the Jewish community to fight racism and anti-Semitism. Brooks said he is concerned about the role of far-right influencers in the Trump White House:

“We can’t ignore the racism and anti-Semitism in our midst,” Brooks said at Georgetown University. “The relationship between blacks and Jews cannot be a matter of nostalgia. It must be a matter of ‘now’ priority.”

In San Diego, however, a school district’s effort to combat Islamophobia among students is being challenged by parents who argue that it favors one religion over others, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The school board says the effort is modeled on another campaign that helped protect LGBT students. Kevin Beiser, vice president of the San Diego Unified School District board, said:

Muslim students are constantly being harassed, spit on, verbally abused, pushed, shoved, their hijabs are being pulled.

Bonus read: My Aryan Princess

The Dallas Morning News published an in-depth feature this week centered on the life and work of a confidential informant inside the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, considered one of the most dangerous gangs in the United States.

The project takes an extraordinary look inside a secretive and deadly world of hate. Here’s a small taste:

The feds use most spies like matches – to strike fast, burn hot and flame out. Others fill disposable roles in sting operations, as drug buyers or middlemen who fence stolen property.

But agents say the most valuable CIs augur deep inside, where they learn to live in another skin, to lie and believe the lie, to infiltrate silently and investigate invisibly – like a colorless gas filling an empty vessel.

Will Carless can be reached at wcarless@revealnews.org. Follow him on Twitter: @willcarless.

Will Carless was a correspondent for Reveal covering extremism. He has worked as a foreign correspondent in Asia and South America. Prior to joining Reveal, he was a senior correspondent for Public Radio International’s Global Post team based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Before that, Will spent eight years at the Voice of San Diego, where he worked as an investigative reporter and head of investigations. During his tenure in San Diego, Will was awarded several prizes, including a national award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has been a finalist for the Livingston Awards for young journalists twice in the last five years. He surfs, spends time with his family, travels to silly places and pretends he’s writing a novel.