US hate crimes expected to soar as Middle East war intensifies: DHS


(WASHINGTON) — Citing a rising number of domestic hate crimes against Muslims, Arabs and Jews, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning that the intensification of Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets and a possible ground incursion into Gaza will keep the United States on a “heightened threat environment in the near-to-medium term.”

In a new intelligence assessment, the DHS warned of more and more antisemitic and Islamophobic hate attacks occurring in the United States.

“Targeted violence attacks may increase as the conflict progresses,” the assessment said.

In a separate memo to law enforcement agencies in Washington, D.C., the DHS sounded an alarm that the “escalations in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas almost certainly will increase the threat of terrorism and targeted violence” in the United States.

The likely targets, according to the DHS, include houses of worship, First Amendment-protected demonstrations and events, or U.S. military assets. The memo released by the DHS mentioned a jump in swatting calls targeting Jewish temples in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island with hoax bomb threats since the latest Israel-Hamas conflict erupted on Oct. 7.

The DHS memo surfaces amidst the homicide investigation into the stabbing death Saturday of the president of a Detroit synagogue outside her home, police and the synagogue confirmed. But Detroit Police Chief James E. White said on Sunday that “no evidence has surfaced suggesting that this crime was motivated by antisemitism.”

No arrests have been announced.

“I again ask the community to remain patient while our investigators and law enforcement partners continue their work,” White said in a statement.

On Oct. 15, a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, was killed when he and his mother were allegedly stabbed in their suburban Chicago home by their landlord, according to police. The suspect, 71-year-old Joseph Czuba, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Will County Illinois prosecutors alleged that Czuba confronted the family on Oct. 15, angry about the recent events in the Middle East. Czuba allegedly stabbed 32-year-old Hanaan Shahin a dozen times after she asked him during the confrontation, “Let’s pray for peace,” according to prosecutors. When Shahin, who survived the attack and was released from a hospital on Sunday, locked herself in a bathroom and called 911, Czuba allegedly attacked her son, Wadea, stabbing the boy 26 times, killing him, prosecutors said.

Czuba, who has yet to enter a plea to the charges, is being held in jail without bail. His next court date is scheduled for Oct. 30.

The stabbing incident in Plainfield, Illinois, prompted a warning from the FBI director that the violence erupting in Israel and Gaza could spill over to the United States as more domestic “lone actors” seek to spread antisemitic or Islamophobic hate.

“This horrific act of hate has no place in America, and stands against our fundamental values: freedom from fear for how we pray, what we believe, and who we are,” President Joe Biden said in a statement, adding that he was “sickened” by the crime.

The DHS intelligence assessment issued over the weekend warned that the intensifying Israeli-Hamas conflict “may increase calls for violence in the United States.”

“While we currently have no intelligence to suggest that homegrown violent extremists and unaffiliated lone actors are planning any attack on the District (Washington, D.C.) or U.S. at large, foreign terrorist organizations are likely to increase the production of propaganda, compelling U.S.-based actors to conduct attacks,” the memo said.

The memo included several images pulled from social media to demonstrate some of the content circulating online depicting antisemitic, Islamophobic hate and calls for violence.

Even if the war between Israel and Hamas suddenly ended, there is no expectation the threats to the United States would also end, according to the memo. Rather, the memo said, “We expect to remain in a heightened threat environment in the near-to-medium term — even if a diplomatic solution to the crisis is found.”

“In this heightened environment, there’s no question we’re seeing an increase in reported threats, and we have to be on the lookout, especially for lone actors who may take inspiration from recent events to commit violence of their own,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said during a meeting of the International Association of Chiefs of Police last weekend. “And I’d encourage you to stay vigilant, because as the first line of defense in protecting our communities, you’re often the first to see the signs that someone may be mobilizing to violence.”

The New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned alleged anti-Palestinian attacks that recently occurred in Brooklyn, and called on public officials and the media to end anti-Palestinian incitement.

The NYPD hate crimes unit confirmed it is investigating several reported anti-Palestinian and antisemitic assaults in New York that have occurred since the Hamas surprise attack on Israel. In one incident that occurred on Oct. 11 in Brooklyn, police said two Jewish men approached two other men holding Palestinian flags, grabbed one of the flags and hit one of the victims with it before running away.

Also on Oct. 11, two 16-year-olds allegedly fired gel pellet guns outside the congregation B’Nai Yosef in Brooklyn. Police said the teens were taken into custody by the Flushing Shomrim, a Jewish watchdog group. Later that same night, an 18-year-old Middle Eastern man was allegedly assaulted by one of three men waving Israeli flags. Police said the men got out of their cars and asked the victim if he was Palestinian before one allegedly kicked and punched him, according to the NYPD, which is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.

“Let me be clear: New York has zero tolerance for hate of any kind, not now and not ever,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a recent statement. “As we mourn the loss of innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives, there is no excuse or tolerance for antisemitism, Islamophobia, or bigotry and discrimination of any kind. No New Yorker should fear walking in our streets because of what they wear, what they believe, or where and how they practice their faith. I encourage anyone who experiences a hate crime or bias incident to report it to my office.”

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