US Senate passes resolution condemning ethnic, religious hate crimes
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US Senate passes resolution condemning ethnic, religious hate crimes

Government urged to provide more support and security at places of worship

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Vandalized Jewish tombstones are framed through a hole in the fence surrounding Mount Carmel Cemetery February 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP)
Vandalized Jewish tombstones are framed through a hole in the fence surrounding Mount Carmel Cemetery February 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP)

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan-drafted resolution condemning ethnic, religious and racial hate crimes passed the US Senate unanimously on Wednesday night.

The resolution — which was co-sponsored by California Sen. Kamala Harris (D), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), California Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and Main Sen. Susan Collins (R) — asks federal law enforcement to work with state and local officials to expedite its investigations into hate crimes nationwide.

It also asks the Trump administration to provide material support and fund security at places of worship and other religious institutions of any faith that have been targeted. Since January, there has been a surge in hate crimes directed at Jews, Muslims and other demographic minorities.

Over the last thee months, nearly 150 bomb threats have hit JCCs, Jewish day schools and other institutions, causing the evacuation of dozens of Jewish community centers and prompting some parents to remove their children from JCC programs.

A Jewish Israeli-American teen is brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court, on suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the US and around the world, on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)
A Jewish Israeli-American teen is brought for a court hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court, on suspicion of issuing fake bomb threats against Jewish institutions in the US and around the world, on March 30, 2017. (Flash90)

Most of those calls were apparently the work of a 18-year-old Jewish Israeli-American who was arrested last month in Israel on suspicion he was behind hundreds of threats to institutions in the US and elsewhere.

There have also been repeated incidents of swastikas being drawn on schools and other buildings, and hundreds of Jewish tombstones that have been vandalized in the US.

Sen. Harris announced last month during her address to AIPAC’s 2017 Policy Conference that she would be introducing the motion.

“No one should have to worry about their children’s safety when they drop them off at the JCC,” she told a crowd of nearly 18,000. “No one should have to be afraid to put a menorah on their front window or on their front lawn. And no one should ever have to fear that the grave of a loved one might be desecrated because of their faith.”

US Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, speaks at AIPAC's 2017 Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center on March 28, 2017 (screen capture)
US Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, speaks at AIPAC’s 2017 Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center on March 28, 2017 (screen capture)

The text of the resolution cites the various incidents reflecting an uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes throughout the country, as well as incidents of Islamic centers and mosques being burned in Texas, Washington, and Florida.

“The recent rise in the number of hate crimes is truly troubling and is counter to American values,” Sen. Collins said in a statement. “No individual in our society should have to live in fear of violence or experience discrimination.”

Her colleague Sen. Feinstein, however, seemed to suggest that the administration of US President Donald Trump has been indifferent to these kinds of episodes.

“The rise in hate crimes is due, in part, to the perception that people in positions of power are indifferent and do not prioritize protecting the rights of all Americans,” she said. “We must stand together to make clear that hate has no place in our country and these vicious crimes will be investigated with the seriousness that’s demanded.”

Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. listen as President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. listen as President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Since the waves of bomb threats to Jewish centers started in January, some Jewish leaders have expressed frustration at the administration’s handling of the matter — including Trump’s seeming reluctance to forcefully condemn or even address these occurrences.

In February, Trump opened his maiden speech to a joint session of Congress denouncing anti-Semitic attacks, but the remarks came hours after he reportedly told a group of state attorneys general visiting the White House that he suspected the bomb threat called may have been planted out of political motives.

Following the arrest of the Israeli-American teenager, numerous Jewish groups, including the ADL, expressed relief but also said it did not allay fears over anti-Semitic attacks in the United States.

“Even though it appears that the main culprit behind the majority of these attacks has allegedly been identified, anti-Semitism in the US remains a very serous concern,” Anti-Defamation League chief Jonathan Greenblatt said at the time.

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