NEW YORK (Nov. 3)
Racist and anti-Semitic organizations have lost ground in the past few years but the movements in many cases have become highly sophisticated and in some cases increasingly violent, according to an American Jewish Committee report.
The AJCommittee released this report at its annual National Executive Council meeting in Seattle last week. The report, based on the Committee’s extensive research, found that support for anti-Semitic organizations and racist groups has waned although their numbers are still rising slowly. The report also cited increased incidents of synagogue desecrations and similar anti-religious violence.
Leonard Zeskind, an expert on the activities of racist and anti-Semitic groups, provided examples of some of the more recently developed hate groups.
Zeskind, who is research director of the Center for Democratic Renewal which monitors extremist activity in this country, alerted the AJC to growing support for the Christian Identity movement, a violent, anti-Semitic group which he called “perhaps the most sinister” of the newly emerged extremist groups. The group attempts to spread its message of hate through a thinly veiled appeal to Christian values, Zeskind said. The report also characterized extremist groups as those which perpetrate “demonized” images of Jews and non-whites and those which advocate the overthrow of the federal government.
DEVELOPING POLITICAL SOPHISTICATION
Zeskind said the extremist groups had “grown exponentially” from 1978 to 1982 and since then the growth rate has diminished but remained steady. Nevertheless, since 1982, the groups have developed a political savvy which has worked to increase their influence, according to Zeskind.
The groups have learned to take advantage of modern technology, using videotapes, cable TV, and computer bulletin boards, Zeskind said. They have also been successful in attracting a broad social spectrum of adherents, he said.
Several speakers at the convention observed that rightwing, extremist and racist movements are particularly targeting the economically depressed of the country, such as Midwestern farmers. The people in these areas, facing monumental economic and personal crises daily, look to the extremists to provide scapegoats for their problems, speakers noted.
Established groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party cooperate with the newer groups. Aryan Nations and Posse Comitatus, to promote their doctrines in the depressed areas, according to the report.
The extremist organizations have also carved out a place for themselves in the political process by disguising their ideologies. Such are the tactics used by Lyndon LaRouche and his followers who have won, among others, the democratic nominations for Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State of Illinois.
The report urged legislative and educational activity to curb the rise of extremist movements. It noted that all but six states now outlaw racial and religious violence and some 17 states have laws prohibiting activities associated with groups like the Klan such as wearing masks or burning crosses. But no federal statute prohibits paramilitary training, a measure advocated by several Jewish organizations to limit the violence stemming from extremist groups.
The report also recommended educational programming to inform youth about democratic values, pluralism and tolerance.