WASHINGTON — The head of the Anti-Defamation League said Tuesday the fatal car-ramming that claimed a young woman’s life in Charlottesville, Virginia resembled the kind of terror attacks Israel has long experienced.
Appearing on MSNBC, Jonathan Greenblatt was asked to explain the recruiting techniques that white nationalist groups use to attract more people to its cause.
“Extremism is a problem in any form,” he said. “Islamic extremists. Left-wing extremists. But right-wing extremists, like other fringe groups, they try to exploit disaffected young people at an early stage in their lives.”
At this point, he was interrupted by the show’s host, Stephanie Ruhle, who said the method Greenblatt was describing reminded her of Islamist terrorist organizations. “That sounds like the same description you hear when we talk about ISIS recruiters,” she said, using a common acronym for Islamic State.
Greenblatt agreed with Ruhle’s assessment. He went on to say that car rammings in particular have been a common practice for terrorists in the Middle East and Europe.
“It’s very similar,” he said. “It’s no accident that the car ramming took place. This young man [Alex Fields Jr.] who murdered the innocent Heather Heyer … [was] using the same technique of car ramming that has terrorized Tel Aviv, terrorized France, Germany.”
“It’s domestic terror.” he said. “So if it quacks like a duck and it walks like a duck, guess what? It’s a duck.”
Since the Saturday incident, in which the 20-year-old Fields killed Heyer and injured 19 others in the car attack, as hundreds of white nationalists marched the streets of Charlottesville with Nazi, KKK and confederate insignia, several US officials have condemned the episode as an act of terror.
“Certainly I think we can confidently call it a form of terrorism,” US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said Sunday on NBC’s Meet The Press. “What terrorism is is the use of violence to incite terror and fear, and of course it was terrorism.”
But quite notably, Trump himself has not made a similar declaration. As a candidate, he repeatedly castigated his predecessor, Barack Obama, for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terror.”
“When will President Obama issue the words RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM?” he tweeted on November 15, 2016, after an Islamic State attack in Paris, France. “He can’t say it, and unless he will, the problem will not be solved!”
Trump also outraged many when he did not condemn white nationalists during his first remarks about the rally on Saturday, when he also blamed “many sides” for the violence that transpired.
It was not until two days later, amidst intense pressure and constant negative media coverage, that he begrudgingly said “racism is evil” and directly called out the racist groups who organized the rally to protest the city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee.
“Those who cause violence in its name are criminal and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said.
On Monday, the Justice Department said it was opening a civil-rights investigation into the death of Heyer, who was murdered by Fields when he ran a Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people protesting the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.
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