WASHINGTON — FBI Director James Comey on Monday lamented an uptick in anti-Semitic and racist events in the United states, telling the Anti-Defamation League’s annual summit that he was committed to working with them to meet the challenge.
“We have been spending way too much time together lately,” Comey said. “Together, we have confronted bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers and schools, the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, the racially motivated shooting of two Indian immigrants.”
“We have met together to talk about swastikas painted on synagogues and subway signs, a transgender woman attacked in her own home, a noose sent to an African-American attorney,” he added.
Since January, nearly 150 bomb threats have hit JCCs, Jewish day schools and other institutions, causing the evacuation of dozens of Jewish community centers and prompting some parents to remove their children from JCC programs.
However, most were found to be the work of an Israeli-American teen from Ashkelon who has been charged with making thousands of bomb threats over the last two years.
The FBI were reportedly instrumental in helping Israeli police track him down.
The FBI director, speaking to a large crowd at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, spoke of how the Holocaust influenced his thinking and how he used its lessons to teach FBI agents.
“I believe the Holocaust is the most significant event in human history because it was the most horrific display of inhumanity imaginable,” he said.
“It is our duty, our obligation to make sure some good comes from unalienable bad,” he added. “Not to somehow make it worth it, that’s nonsense, not to justify the loss, but simply because it’s what we must do. It is our obligation to refuse to let darkness win.”
Comey said it was a requirement for agents in his bureau to visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“Good people helped murder millions, and that’s the most frightening lesson of all: That our very humanity is capable of convincing itself that we have to do this, it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “That should frighten all of us. That’s why we send our agents and our analysts to the Holocaust museum, so they can stare at us and realize our capacity for rationalization and moral surrender. ”
Drawing from that, Comey said hate crimes were of a particular concern to the FBI.
“Hate crime is different from other crime. It strikes at our heart, identity, sense of self,” he said. “Hate crime hurts more than just the victim, it affects the entire community.”
Comey expressed concern that not enough state and local jurisdictions are reporting hate crimes to the FBI — which is mandated by federal law.
“Some jurisdictions do not report hate crime data,” he said. “Some say there were no hate crime in their jurisdiction, which would be awesome if it were true.
We must continue to impress upon our state and local counterparts how important it is that we track and report hate crime data,” he added. “It’s not something we can ignore.”