Belgrade News: Tester worried about rise in antisemitism citing Hamas attacks on Israel — and white supremacists

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, has written the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security asking for more investigative and security resources dedicated to combat a rise in antisemitism and threats of violence after the Hamas attacks inside Israel Oct. 7

Tester cites both the aftermath of the Hamas attacks as well as white supremacists — a frequent focus of Democrats and Biden administration — in his Nov. 2 letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“Since the abhorrent Hamas terrorist attacks, we have seen sharp increase in antisemitic threats and violence throughout America,” Tester writes.

The letter parallels a similar letter written to Wray and Mayorkas penned by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, and other lawmakers from both parties also asking for a primary federal focus on combatting antisemitism.

The Anti-Defamation League reports a 400% increases in threats and violence against Jews since the terror attacks last month and resulting Israel siege, bombing campaign and ground invasion of Hamas-controlled Gaza.

ADL said there were 312 antisemitic incidents in the U.S. between Oct. 7 and Oct. 23.

Tester’s letter on antisemitism also points to white supremacists, which have been a focus of the Biden administration including the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI.

“I want to make very clear to you that this threat is not isolated to major cities and urban areas. We are seeing a rise in antisemitism in rural states like Montana, where in my recent meetings and conversations with Jewish leaders and members of their synagogues they expressed to me that they are now more fearful and under increased threat. Just last month, we saw individuals displaying xenophobic, white supremacist and antisemitic banners outside of Har Shalom synagogue in Missoula,” Tester wrote.

The Biden administration has put a focus on going after white nationalist and alt-right groups since taking office in 2021. It has also tried at times been challenged to address concerns about antisemitism after the Hamas attacks while making combating Islamophobia a priority.

A recent poll by The Economist and YouGov shows 72% of Trump voters and 69% of conservatives favor Israel in the war while only 3% on the right sympathize more with the Palestinians. The same poll shows 30% of young voters (ages 18. to 29) sympathize more the Palestinians compared to 17% who favor Israel in the conflict. Twenty-six percent of U.S. voters who identify as liberal or progressive side with the Palestinians while 22% sympathize more with Israel, according to the poll.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 234-188 Tuesday night to censure U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, over her rhetoric regarding Israel’s war in Gaza after the Hamas attacks. Tlaib, who is Palestinian American, has said President Joe Biden is supporting genocide in Gaza and used the phrase ‘”from the river to the sea” in a social media critical of U.S. and Israel. That’s a reference to creating a Palestinian state from the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea on land currently home to Israel. The phrase is viewed as by Israelis as a call to erase their state and is part of the Hamas charter.

Montana U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale and Ryan Zinke, both Republicans, voted for Tlaib’s censure.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre could not give a direct answer Tuesday during the daily media briefing whether progressive and pro-Palestinian activists pulling down posters of some of the more than 240 Israeli hostages held in Gaza after the October attacks should be condemned

Jean-Pierre later said in a social media statement that those actions were wrong.

“As a result of the Hamas terrorist attacks, communities and families are grieving. For the past month, the families of those who have been taken hostage have lived in agony. Tearing down pictures of their loved ones — who are being held hostage by Hamas — is wrong and hurtful,” she said.

Last month, Jean-Pierre pivoted a question about the rise in antisemitism during the Middle East War to concerns about a rise in Islamophobia. She later said she misheard the question.

The U.S. administration has also launched a new effort — led by Vice President Kamala Harris — to combat Islamophobia. That comes as progressive and pro-Palestinian activists including on college campus criticize Biden for U.S. support for Israel with some calling Israel Defense Forces war in Gaza genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Some of those protests in the U.S and other countries focus on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while others bleed over into antisemitism.

President Joe Biden also referenced the 2017 alt-right and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia during remarks in Minnesota last month where he called Hamas a terrorist groups but also voiced support for Israel pausing its war in Gaza.

Netanyahu has resisted pushes for pauses or ceasefires to the Holy Land war unless Hamas releases the hostages held in Gaza. Netanyahu has promised to destroy and dismantle Hamas after the Oct. 7 attacks.