tv Attorney Generals Remarks at Justice Department Combating Anti- Semitism... CSPAN July 15, 2019 10:56pm-11:14pm EDT
hosted a summit on combating anti-semitism with administration officials and legal experts. it began with remarks from attorney general william barr who discussed how the department was focused on the issue. [applause] and thank youg for joining us at this important . i am privileged to have the opportunity to set the table and introduced the attorney general, bill barr. i expect most of us are aware that attorney general william barr has had a distinguished career in private practice and government. he served as the general counsel for a major corporation. everyone knows that he served previously as the 77th attorney
general of the u.s. and now again is the 85th attorney general of the u.s. what many may not know is that he was previously attorney , he was honored by the good of israel america with the humanitarian of the year award. his commitment to using the power of the federal government to ensure the free practice of religion and to fight those who traffic in vile, anti-semitic acts is not new. confirmation -- in his confirmation hearing nearly three decades ago, he emphasized that in discrimination, it strikes at the very nature and fiber of what the country stands for. pledged, the department of justice's unyielding commitment to eliminating anti-semitism and
other forms of religious bigotry. word, asd to his attorney general the first time, he aggressively pursued anti-semitic hate crimes. under his leadership, the department of justice successfully convicted eight members of hate groups for deficit -- after quitting synagogue and -- in tennessee. five individuals for interfering with the rights of a holocaust survivor. numerous skinheads around the country for a variety of anti-semitic crime and convicted neo-nazis who had been responsible for the murder of a prominent radio host in denver, colorado. as attorney general, he fought against anti-semitic zoning discrimination in new york. unfortunately, fighting
anti-semitism, perhaps the world's oldest hatred, requires unyielding vigilance. according to the fbi, hate crimes based on religion have steadily grown in the u.s. since 2014. havejewish hate crimes consistently been more than half of the totals each year. more recently, horrific murders at jewish synagogues in pittsburgh and san diego have alerted us again that this is not just a problem in europe, south america and the middle east. we must confront those responsible for hateful acts, wherever and whenever they are found, whether in our cities, on our college campuses, in our workplaces, online, and particular -- particularly for those who would come -- cause harm to others.
now, i have known attorney general barr for a long time. so i knew of his strong views about both the protection of religious freedom, and fighting intolerance. as he told the senate at his most recent confirmation, "we can only survive and thrive as a nation if we are mutually tolerant of each other's differences. each of us treasures our own freedom. but that freedom is most secure when we respect everyone else's freedom. and yet we see some people violently attacking others, simply because of their differences. we must have zero tolerance for such crimes." those words guide us today and going forward, as the department of justice punishes hate crimes, and as we protect religious liberty. so, with this short introduction of his long record of combating
secretary steven mnuchin, secretary betsy devos, fbi director christopher wray, and others joining us here for the summit. today's program includes a great set of panelists and speakers. for one thing, you will be hear throughout the day from federal officials across the administration. about our efforts to combat anti-semitism. for me and for the part of -- the department of justice, this is a critical priority. i am deeply concerned about the rise in hate crimes and political violence that we have seen over the past decade. this trend has included a marked increase in reported instances of anti-semitic hate crimes. the most ancient and stubborn form of racism throughout western history has been
anti-semitism. the causes have been varied. at times it has been driven by religious intolerance, cultural differences, economic envy, and ideological dogma. sometimes those disappointed with their own lot in life sees eize on conspiracy theories, to blame the jewish people for their own discontent. and sometimes local factions competing for power, find in the jewish people, a convenient scapegoat to unified and inflame their palooka base. -- their political base. hostility or prejudice toward the jewish people has manifested itself in the organized violence of pogroms, expulsions, and massacres. within living memory, these genocidal acts reach the unimaginable scale of the holocaust. in the united states today we do not see state-organized violence. but, increasingly, we are seeing
hate inspired violence against the jewish community, perpetrated by individuals and groups. this past year in particular, the entire nation saw the evil fruits of the anti-semitism in pittsburgh at the tree of life synagogue. and in california at the chabad at poway. gunman motivated by hatred against jews open fired, killing jews and earn -- and injuring others. we were all horrified by these attacks. federal, state, and local law enforcement respond quickly and decisively. of course, it is one thing for the nation to pull together in condemning anti-semitism when confronted with from pitch -- from frontpage stories about horrific shootings, as in pittsburgh and poway. but far too often, jews and jewish communities in america suffer outside the spotlight. in new york city, we have seen
a sharp uptick in attacks on orthodox jews, particularly in the crown heights neighborhood. are vana -- vandalizing synagogues. in massachusetts, in march, vandals desecrated gravestones in a jewish cemetery, scrawling hateful graffiti. while the tragic attacks [where -- while the tragic attacks drew national attention, the attacks in communities like them are less well-known outside the jewish community. but they form the daily background about concerns for security and safety, that many in the jewish community feel. the nation as a whole must be aware of these concerns and reject the forces that motivate them. as attorney general, and fellow citizen, i want to assure the jewish community, that the department of justice, and the
entire federal government, stands with you, and will not tolerate these attacks. [applause] ag barr: anti-semitism in the united states manifests itself in many ways other than outright violence. prejudice is often reflected in zoning laws designed to exclude jews from residing in particular communities. it is also manifest in the harassment of jewish residents and businesses. that is also why today is about far more than criminal prosecutions. we need to combat anti-semitism on all fronts as a government. but also as a society. we are therefore grateful that today's summit will include thoughtful discussions from outside contributors who join us.
the first panel will focus on combating anti-semitism while respecting the first amendment. hate crimes and civil rights prosecutions are important tools, but they cannot solve the problem on their own. hearts and minds must be changed, but that is not always the task to which the government is particularly well-suited. we have a legal obligation to respect the free-speech rights of even despicable speakers and our harshest critics, but lines can be drawn by our society. sometimes easily and sometimes not so easily, between that commitment and repudiation of anti-semitism. another panel will focus on the problem of anti-semitism on campus. on college campuses today jewish students who support israel are frequently targeted for harassment. jewish student organizations are marginalized and progressive jewish students are told they must denounce their beliefs and
heritage in order to be part of intersectional causes. we must ensure for the future of our country and society that college campuses remain open to ideological diversity and respect for people of all faiths. i think the various forms of anti-semitism are very much like different kinds of cancer. a healthy body with a strong immune system can have success in preventing cancer from emerging or spreading. but if the immune system weakens, cancer can emerge. some might be localized, but others can rapidly metastasize and become systemic. just like a physical body, a body politic must have an immune system that resists anti-semitism and other forms of racial hatred. what is the state of our immune
system within american society? in a pluralistic society like ours i think the ability to resist hate comes from cultivating a civil society that on one hand nurtures the freedom of each group to pursue their faith and distinctive way of life while at the same time fostering the ties that bind us together into a genuine, broader community. my concern today is that under the banner of identity politics, some political factions are seeking to obtain power by dividing americans and they undermine the values that draw us together, such as a shared commitment to our country's success. this is the breeding ground for hatred and we must reject it. what is the competing vision? i am reminded of something that happened two months after 9/11 up in new york. an american airline flight with
260 souls aboard took off from jfk, went wildly out of control over jamaican bay and crashed into the small bell harbor neighborhood of rockaway in queens. the community had just completed burying its victims of 9/11, 50 of them, the highest concentration of victims in any neighborhood in new york from 9/11. the pilot died as did five people on the ground in many houses were consumed by fire. a news report on the incident has always stuck in my mind. it involved a man on the street interviewed, a lifelong resident of bell harbor. the fire was raging behind him. he was distraught, but unbound as he assured the reporter that bell harbor would surmount this latest tragedy. he said, "this is a tightknit
community. we have fabric. you have your irish, you have your italians, you have your jews. so we are pretty homogenous." [laughter] ag barr: that always stuck with me. is there a better description of the framers' aspiration of e pluribus unum? we are a pluralistic nation composed of distinct groups, each bound together by ethnicity, race or religion. each group proud of its identity and committed to its faith and traditions, yet despite these differences, we can be bound together into a broader community. not one that seeks to grind away our distinctive identity. not one that seeks to over bear
our religious commitments, which must be paramount, but one which respects the rights and freedom to hold fast our identity, values, religion, the parts of us that give meaning to our lives, help us understand. where does this fabric come from? it is not something that can be politically mandated. it arises from the genuine affinity, affection and solidarity that grows out of a shared patriotism, and that spontaneous feeling of fellowship that arises from a shared sense of place, shared experiences, and common attachments. these bonds are the surest safeguard against racial hatred, including anti-semitism.
with that i would like to thank all of you again for being here. i was going to conclude with the blessing contained in president washington's letter to the jewish congregation in newport, rhode island but the good rabbi has preempted me on that. so i will say again thank you, god bless you all and god bless our work today. [applause] >> our first combating anti-semitism -- our first panel involves eli lake.