5 members of Congress seek inquiry on potential acts by foreign adversaries to cause civil unrest

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Five United States representatives from New York wrote a letter to several national security officials imploring them to investigate foreign adversaries potentially using social media to create a divide in America. (Photo by Robert Pelaez)

Five members of Congress have sent a letter to national security officials asking them to investigate potential acts by foreign adversaries to cause civil unrest in the wake of several recent anti-Semitic acts.

Representatives Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), Peter King (R-Seaford), Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) gathered in Cedarhurst Village Hall on Friday to address anti-Semitism in New York.

“We must stand together on Long Island,” Rice said. “We can never afford to be silent in the face of bigotry. While we are doing a lot in Congress, words are not enough anymore. This issue does not revolve around politics; this is about doing the right thing.”

“We are all concerned that there may be efforts going on right now to foment hate and further civil unrest. Instead of waiting until 2021 and point fingers about who did what, let’s uncover efforts like this now and hold them accountable,” Suozzi said. “This is not about the Democrats and Republicans. This is not about the president or Congress. This about our foreign adversaries.”

Suozzi, King, Rice, Meeks and Zeldin all signed the letter that was sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, Department of Homeland Security acting Secretary Chad Wolf and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

The letter requests that the federal officials investigate potential campaigns sponsored by foreign adversaries to cause civil unrest on domestic soil. The letter noted that the U.S. Justice Department charged 13 Russians with using social media accounts to subvert the 2016 presidential election with tools such as online political advertisements.

“Whether anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, race based or some other form of hate, internal divisions provide an opportunity for our adversaries to exploit and further divide our nation,” the letter states. “We must work together to combat those that exploit ignorance to sow division for their strategic interest.”

The letter also cites a recent FBI study that found that hate crimes increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017.

According to the study, anti-Semitic crimes increased by 37 percent in 2017 and attacks motivated by racial or ethnical prejudice doubled.

The letter and the news conference both come after a recent mass stabbing during a Hannukkah celebration inside a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York. At least eight other anti-Semitic incidents have occurred in the past month in the New York City area, including a Jersey City shooting that resulted in the deaths of six people, including two assailants.

Rice, who organized the news conference, was praised by her fellow U.S. representatives and other local officials such as Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder.

Rabbis from around the county stood behind the political officials during the news conference. Rabbi Kenneth Hain of Congregation Beth Sholom said that it is imperative the entire nation gains more resources to eliminate fear.

“We need to do everything in our power to not let this be a forgotten event,” Hain said. “This must be a follow through with a real sense of commitment.”

Rice touted the initiatives that Curran, Ryder and other local officials have put in place to educate youths in an effort to “prevent history from repeating itself.”

“County Executive Curran and her staff working alongside Jewish organizations, synagogues, and the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center have done an incredible job educating the youth in Nassau,” Rice said. “Connecting students to Holocaust survivors and having them hear their stories is one of the most effective educational tools there is.”

Curran praised Rice and the other representatives for actively taking measures to prevent instances such as the ones in the past month from happening again. Though Curran mentioned that crime in Nassau County has decreased in recent years, she said that there will be heightened security in synagogues and other places of worship.

“Our staff is scheduling security forums to keep the public informed of what the county is doing, and should do more of, to ensure people can feel safe when going to a place of worship,” Curran said. “We have visited temples, synagogues and shuls around the area, and have increased our officer presence around those areas.”

Curran also announced that there will be a march against anti-Semitism outside the county Supreme Court building on Sunday at 3 p.m.

“We will be neither silent nor complacent in the face of this horrifying rise in anti-Semitic attacks,” she said. “Together, Long Islanders of all faiths and backgrounds will march in solidarity with our Jewish community to make clear that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

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