Saturday, January 22nd | 20 Shevat 5782

October 21, 2016 7:25 am

Why Won’t the US Justice Department Investigate Antisemitism?

avatar by Johanna Markind

The US Department of Justice. Photo: Wiki Commons.

The US Department of Justice. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Despite the Obama administration’s touting itself as the most transparent in history, its Justice Department has stonewalled requests for information about its efforts to combat antisemitism; this stands in stark contrast to its very public talk about fighting anti-Muslim crime.

Readers may remember Rick Santorum telling the audience at a 2015 presidential debate, “There’s [sic] four times as many acts of violence against Jews than there are against Muslims, [but] I never hear the president talk about that.” The statistic is roughly accurate, according to a comparison of the raw numbers of reported hate crimes targeting each community in 2014. It should be noted, however, that the statistics are incomplete. For example, Kansas failed to report three 2014 murders targeting Jews, and many Muslim-based incidents are likely missing as well.

If we accept these numbers, Jews are also significantly more likely to be targeted: there are roughly 10.05 hate crimes per 100,000 Jews, as compared to about 5.37 hate crimes per 100,000 Muslims in the United States, based on Pew Research Center population estimates.

The Federal government has publicly reached out to the Muslim community and made a priority of protecting it from hate crime. A July 2016 web post about a government report entitled “Combating Religious Discrimination Today” referred to Muslims three times (and Jews not at all). In March 2011, the government posted a blog entitled: “Protect the Civil Rights of American Muslims Outreach and Enforcement Efforts.” The government also co-sponsored a 2011 conference at George Washington University exploring how to address the “sharp increase in hate crimes and discrimination against Muslims, Sikhs, Arabs, and South-Asians” post-9/11.

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US Attorney Offices for the Eastern District of Tennessee and the Eastern District of Missouri both have outreach programs directed toward the Muslim community. The US Attorney Office for the Eastern District of Michigan has a BRIDGES program that works with the Arab, Muslim and Sikh Communities, and the offices for the District of Columbia and the Eastern District of California have both previously reported outreach efforts to the Muslim community.

While considering these efforts commendable, I wondered if the Federal government had similarly reached out to the Jewish community or expended effort to prevent hate crimes targeting Jews.

In November 2013, I sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Federal office overseeing US Attorney offices around the country. The requests sought information about outreach efforts to Jewish and Muslim communities and efforts to prevent hate crimes against both.

Federal agencies must at least acknowledge FOIA requests within 20 days. The government didn’t acknowledge my requests until April 2014.

In May, the DOJ said it had identified 1,800 responsive pages, which would cost $630 in search/copy costs. I appealed and won the appeal, but never received the documents. In October 2015, I contacted OGIS, a government office that tries to mediate FOIA problems. OGIS assured me I would have the responses by June, then by the first week in October 2016. Both deadlines have passed, and the government still hasn’t responded.

Although President Obama doesn’t directly control FOIA responses, the troubling wait and delay on this matter is connected to his administration.

Why won’t the government provide information about its efforts to prevent hate crimes against Jews and Muslims, or about its outreach efforts to both communities? Is it possible the federal government has done little or nothing to prevent the targeting of Jews, especially compared to its efforts on behalf of the Muslim community, and is embarrassed to admit it? If so, we need to know about it.

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