Federal law enforcement officials warned on Wednesday that Israel’s ongoing war with Palestinian militants could encourage more hate crimes in the U.S.
In a public service announcement released Wednesday night, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it “has seen an increase in reports of threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities and institutions” and said that “recent events have increased the possibility of potential attacks against individuals and institutions in response to developments in the Middle East.”
The FBI, joined by the Department of Homeland Security, also warned that foreign actors, including Iranian media outlets and Islamic jihadist groups Al-Qaida and ISIS, were using the conflict to stoke divisions and call for violent attacks in the U.S. and other Western countries.
ISIS figures, the release notes, in particular have called on attacks against “the Jewish presence all over the world … especially Jewish neighborhoods in America and Europe” and specifically have singled out Jewish temples, nightclubs, “economic interests” and “Jewish and Crusader” embassies.
The warning from the country’s top law enforcement agencies comes on the heels of several high-profile incidents of antisemitic and Islamophobic violence against Jews and Muslims in the United States, which many attribute to the ongoing conflict in Israel.
In a surprise attack on Oct. 7, Hamas militants stormed out of the Gaza Strip, killing more than 1,200 Israelis and abducting dozens more, while firing rockets at cities including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel has since hit back by commencing a siege of Gaza and firing its own barrage of retaliatory missiles, killing thousands. The U.S. has publicly pledged to support Israel as it seeks to militarily defeat Hamas and end its rule over the Gaza Strip.
On Oct. 14, a man repeatedly stabbed a 6-year-old Palestinian boy, Wadea Al-Fayoume, in Plainfield, Ill. The murder, which authorities have labeled an anti-Muslim hate crime, sparked outrage and grief among Muslim Americans.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League said Wednesday that “reported incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault increased by 388 percent” since the outbreak of the war in Israel.
Biden has addressed antisemitic and Islamophobic violence since the war began, denouncing both antisemitism and Islamophobia during an Oval Office speech last week. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also said in an Oct. 12 briefing that the “entire Biden–Harris administration” is “committed to doing all we can to protect against antisemitism and other forms of hate.”
Still, the Biden administration has been criticized by both Jewish and Muslim community leaders for its response to the incidents. In particular, Biden has been criticized for not emphasizing enough that Palestinians are not all aligned with Hamas.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Jean-Pierre was criticized for saying the White House had not seen “any credible threats,” when asked about the administration’s level of concern about increasing antisemitism. She then went on to condemn “hate-fueled attacks” against Muslim and Arab Americans.
After facing pushback from Jewish Democrats, Jean-Pierre clarified her remarks on Tuesday, saying “there is no place for antisemitism. Full stop. Period. This is important to the president. This is important for me personally and to everyone in the administration.”
“We must all do our part and forcefully — forcefully speak out against antisemitism, and we must ensure there is no place for hate in America — not against Jews, not against Muslims, not against Arab Americans, not against Palestinian Americans, not against anyone,” Jean-Pierre continued.