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Saturday, February 4, 2023

New Evolving Terrorist Threats Intersect with ‘Oldest Hatred’

The next terror wave has been described as having an emphasis on technology as a driver, and no one ideology dominating over others.

Since the inception of the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the threats and targets of terrorism have changed drastically. The attack on the World Trade Center took place within what Glenn E. Robinson, author of Global Jihad: A Brief History, termed the “second wave of global jihad” when emphasis was placed on mass casualties and targets were mostly iconic symbols of western dominance, cities and transportation systems.[1]  Terrorist attacks and targeted violence now strike society anywhere and everywhere – in schools and the workplace, and in places of worship, festivities, shopping and more.

Over the years, the once-main focal point on mostly foreign terrorists evolved with the arrival of the homegrown violent extremist (located in the United States but radicalized by foreign terrorism ideology) and now with the rise of domestic violent extremism (DVE), fueled by ideologies of hate and anti-government sentiment among others. Now terrorism attacks in the U.S. come from loosely organized groups, networks and lone actors in addition to international terrorist organizations with established chain of command and control structures.

As reported by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), two decades after the largest terrorist attack in history, Salafi-Jihadist terrorism is declining, accounting for only 5 percent of terrorism attacks in 2020[2], while domestic terrorism linked to violent far-right and far-left extremism is increasing. In 2020, nearly 40 percent of all domestic terrorist attacks were against government, military and law enforcement, followed by ‘soft targets’ of demonstrators and private individuals.

The White House identified the two most dangerous domestic terrorism threats as stemming from racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism (REMVE) and from anti-government sentiments among others recognized by the FBI and DHS as significant national security threats. While the very name behind the acronym itself, REMVE, points to extremism based on racial or ethnic bias, both political and religious justifications are often intertwined to support these ideologies and crimes. Though myriad online communities and their extremist ideologies are wide-ranging, a common thread that runs through many is antisemitism that pulls from Nazi propaganda, according to the State Department, which has tracked transnational connections among REMVE groups and individuals.[3]

There is also a distinction of antisemitism within REMVE that has been made, which was articulated by Beth Israel Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker about Malik Faisal Akram, the terrorist who attacked the Texas synagogue in January 2022. He “literally thought that Jews control the world,” believing that speaking to a rabbi in New York would authorize the release of a Pakistani woman held for attempted murder at a nearby facility in Fort Worth. [4]

The FBI has reported that hate crimes against the Jewish community make up over half of all religious-based crimes, [5] even though Jews make up only 2 percent of the U.S. population. Within the U.S. alone, assaults on Jews increased 167 percent since last year, occurring in cities from Los Angeles to the Las Vegas strip to Times Square, while antisemitic incidents surpassed record highs in 2021 – up 34 percent from the year before[6].

The wave of antisemitism that has swelled across the nation is also felt on college campuses. The DNI[7] has issued reports on the significant number of hate crimes and assaults that have taken place at university campuses as well as K-12 schools. A survey showed that 95 percent of Jewish college students and recent alumni said antisemitism is an issue, and three of four respondents called it a “very serious problem”.[8] The Anti-Defamation League (ADL)[9] reported that between June 1, 2021, and May 31, 2022, 359 antisemitic incidents occurred on U.S. college campuses in the form of assaults, harassment, offensive comments, antisemitic flyers, and more, including acts of vandalism such as spray-painted and carved swastika hate crimes.

While domestic terrorist attacks and hate crimes may overlap in some aspects (as hate crimes may involve violence or threats thereof and may allude to involving extreme ideologies), distinctions are drawn between the intentions and motivations behind these acts; although in certain cases, an act could be considered both. Moreover, there are key distinguishing factors between the two regarding federal criminal statutes: these exist for hate crimes to be charged with established penalties for those convicted, whereas domestic terrorism may only be “an element of other federal crimes or provide an enhanced sentence.”[10]

Previous to the current rise of domestic terrorism and hate crimes, the long dark history of antisemitism goes back hundreds of years. It has been called the “oldest hatred” with discrimination manifesting itself in different ways over the centuries along racial, ethnic and religious biases long before the Holocaust, the world’s deadliest genocide that killed two-thirds of the Jewish population in Europe.

The past has shown us how hate and terrorism change and evolve as time marches through history. The different waves of global jihad that began when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979 merge together as the ‘religious wave’ of terrorism, and are preceded by many other distinct waves of terrorism, such as the ‘anarchist wave’ that began in the 1880s, the ‘anti-colonial wave’ in the 1920s, and the ‘new left wave’ in the 1960s. Each of the waves defined by UCLA professor David Rapoport lasted approximately 40-45 years.

As the current era defined by Rapaport draws closer to its end, the next wave has been described by several, with an emphasis on technology as a driver, and no one ideology dominating over others. The current wave we enter further into is a mix of many different extremist views: not all fit neatly into global jihadism, REMVE or anti-government sentiments, and some forms are driven by ideologies far different from what preceding waves of terrorism have shown us.


[1] See Georgetown Security Studies Review, https://georgetownsecuritystudiesreview.org/2021/11/23/global-jihad-a-brief-history-with-dr-glenn-e-robinson/

[2] See Seth G. Jones and Catrina Doxsee, https://www.csis.org/analysis/military-police-and-rise-terrorism-united-states

[3] See the State Department, https://www.state.gov/public-launch-of-the-iijs-criminal-justice-practitioners-guide-for-addressing-remve/

[4] See Yair Rosenberg, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/01/texas-synagogue-anti-semitism-conspiracy-theory/621286/

[5] See Anti-Defamation League, https://www.adl.org/blog/six-facts-about-threats-to-the-jewish-community

[6] See William Brangham and Rachel Wellford, PBS, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/antisemitic-incidents-hit-a-record-high-in-2021-whats-behind-the-rise-in-hate

[7] See Office of the Director of National Intelligence, https://www.dni.gov/files/NCTC/documents/jcat/firstresponderstoolbox/90s_-_Threat_of_Terrorism_and_Hate_Crimes_Against_Jewish_Communities_in_US-survey.pdf

[8] See Fox News, https://www.foxnews.com/us/antisemitism-college-campuses-rising-students

[9] See ADL, https://www.adl.org/resources/report/anti-israel-activism-us-campuses-2021-2022

[10] See Congressional Research Service, https://sgp.fas.org/crs/terror/IN10299.pdf

Amy Mintz
Amy Mintz is a Ph.D. Candidate in Counterterrorism at Capitol Technology University. She is an NCAE-C PhD Scholar and her doctoral research is focused on ways to contribute to the cyber forensics domain by applying counterterrorism techniques to mitigate challenges of protecting critical infrastructure in smart cities. More information about her dissertation research can be seen at SmartCity360.info with featured SMEs who are leading experts from the public and private sector, including the Department of Homeland Security and local government. Her academic background includes an M.S. in Digital Forensics and Graduate Studies in Cybersecurity Policy, and Curriculum and Instruction. Mintz directs, supervises and oversees all operations and affairs of the 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, eGirl Power, that she founded over ten years ago to educate and support the youth through signature events and programs, which have earned endorsements and testimonials from leading experts in the nonprofit and education sectors, and have been featured in numerous publications including USA Today, the Official Harvard Site of Multiple Intelligences, and Philanthropy Journal. In addition, she also oversees the partnership between the Center for Public Safety for Women (CPSW) and her 501(c)3 nonprofit organization for the #StopGBV Initiative to educate and raise awareness of issues related to Gender-Based Violence.

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