FBI director says probes of anti-Jewish hate crimes tripled in months after Oct. 7

In call with Jewish leaders and security officials, Christopher Wray says threat against Jews has ‘elevated’ since Hamas onslaught, warns Iran’s proxies could attack on US soil

FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, Monday, March 11, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill, Monday, March 11, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The number of FBI investigations into anti-Jewish hate crimes tripled in the months after October 7, FBI director Christopher Wray told Jewish leaders on a call Wednesday.

Wray also warned that, amid the Israel-Iran conflict, Iranian proxies could attack targets on American soil.

“For just a few days after the October7 attack, we’d already seen a rapid uptick in threats to Jewish people in the United States,” Wray said a call with Jewish community security officials and lay leaders.

“Since then, we’ve seen the threat elevated,” he added. “So to be more specific, between October 7 and January 30 of this year, we opened over three times more anti Jewish hate crime investigations than in the four months before October 7.”

That message came a day after an annual report by the Anti-Defamation League likewise showed a surge in antisemitism following October 7, when Hamas attacked Israel, launching the ongoing war in Gaza.

World leaders have worried that the war could expand into a regional conflict. That threat that increased last weekend when Iran directly attacked Israel with hundreds of drones and missiles in retaliation for an Israeli strike on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members in Damascus in Damascus. Israel and its allies repelled Iran’s attack and it is now discussing how to respond.

US President Joe Biden has tried to dissuade Israel from ramping up the conflict. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We will make our decisions ourselves. The State of Israel will do whatever is necessary to defend itself.”

File: A member of the New York Police Department patrols in front of a synagogue on October 13, 2023, in the Williamsburg neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images/AFP)

But in the call, Wray cautioned that the Iran-Israel conflict may not stay limited to the Middle East, and could spark an attack by Iranian proxies in the American “homeland.”

“Following Iran’s direct and brazen attack on Israel over the weekend, and given the what I would say is just the sheer volatility and fluidity of the environment abroad, we are urging all of our partners here and around the world to stay vigilant and on also their feet when it comes to potential for threats that may emerge from Iran, or its proxies, both overseas and even here in the homeland,” Wray said.

Wray did not say there was any indication that Iran would directly attack the US Jewish community. Michael Masters, the director of the Secure Community Network, the Jewish security agency that organized the call, also said there were no known specific threats on the community.

“We are not aware at this time of any direct known threat to the Jewish community or any of our institutions domestically,” he said.

Wray said Iran has previously tried to execute attacks in the United States.

“Back just over the past few years, Iran has brazenly planned or attempted several assassinations of former US officials, US journalists here on US soil,” he said, apparently referring to active threats against John Bolton, the former National Security Adviser, and Masih Alinejad, a journalist who has been critical of the country. “A lot of Iranians actions have been motivated by a desire to retaliate.”

Wray added the Iranian threat to others potentially targeting US Jews, including “lone wolves,” violent individuals motivated by hate speech doctrines, and specific threats by foreign terrorist groups, including ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He said the FBI is “increasingly concerned” about terror attacks following the recent attack by a branch of ISIS on a Russian concert hall.

Masters in an interview after the call described the threat following the Iran attack as “escalated.”

“We have been and we remain concerned with the threat from Iran and its proxies, particularly post-April 13,” he said. “And you know, this is on top of an already elevated threatened environment. This is, as the director clearly pointed out, a rogues’ gallery. Unfortunately, the rogues’ gallery is united in their desire to undermine if not end or attack the Jewish community. So it really is a time of escalated threat.”

He warned communities not to engage with protesters. “The best way to avoid a confrontation is not to enter one,” he said.

Most Popular
read more: