ICAN Supports L.A. City Council Efforts to Protect the Jewish Community; Urges Full Implementation of IHRA Definition

Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council considered a proposal led by Councilmembers Katy Yaroslavsky and Bob Blumenfield to allocate $2 million for security services across all houses of worship and faith communities. The original proposal, introduced on June 26, was amended to address the broader need for enhanced security following protests. ICAN supports this comprehensive approach, which aims to protect all faith communities in Los Angeles from hate-driven attacks.

Councilmember Yaroslavsky emphasized the urgency of providing security funding beyond the Jewish community, highlighting the necessity of inclusive protection measures. The revised proposal increases funding and ensures expedited support, mirroring Gov. Gavin Newsom’s California State Nonprofit Security Grant Program. ICAN commends Councilmembers Yaroslavky and Blumenfield for their swift and inclusive action to safeguard vulnerable communities.

This initiative addresses immediate threats and fosters solidarity among diverse faith communities. ICAN remains committed to advocating for the safety and security of Jewish and Israeli-American communities and applauds efforts to create a safer environment for all. We urge the council committees charged with evaluating this motion to do so without delay and move the item to the full council for a vote.

Background and Response to the Adas Torah Attack

On June 23, 2024, violent clashes erupted in front of the Adas Torah Synagogue in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of Los Angeles. Pro-Palestinian protesters gathered to disrupt an event inside the synagogue. The protest quickly escalated into violence, with masked extremists vandalizing property, assaulting Jewish individuals, and blocking access to the synagogue. Video shows the scene as chaotic, with pro-Hamas protesters chanting genocidal slogans, physically assaulting those who appeared Jewish, and using pepper spray against bystanders, including children.

Some pro-Hamas protesters were detained, but no formal arrests were made in Los Angeles. One arrest was made by the Beverly Hills Police Department.

In response to the violent clashes, Mayor Karen Bass has committed to several proactive measures to prevent hate-motivated violence and ensure the safety of the Jewish community in Pico-Robertson.

These measures include:

  • Increased Security and Accountability:
    • Banning Masks at Protests: Implementing a prohibition on wearing masks during protests to increase transparency and accountability.
    • Increased Law Enforcement Presence: Enhancing the police presence in the Pico-Robertson area to prevent further incidents and protect community members.
    • Securing Additional Security Funding: Allocating additional security funding from both the city budget and state resources to enhance the safety of vulnerable communities.
  • Community Engagement and Communication:
    • Improved Communication: Fostering better communication between the LAPD and community leaders to ensure a more coordinated and effective response to future incidents.
    • Condemnation of Violence: Reaffirming the administration’s stance against hate and violence, emphasizing that such actions will not be tolerated in Los Angeles.
    • Community Engagement: Working closely with Jewish community leaders to address their safety concerns and build trust.

To effectively address these measures and ensure their successful implementation, we must analyze the recommendations through a comprehensive framework that balances public safety, legal considerations, and community needs.

International Holocaust Alliance Definition of Antisemitism Implementation
In November 2022, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. This definition offers a comprehensive framework for identifying and combating antisemitism, including forms related to the delegitimizing, demonizing, and application of double standards regarding Israel and Holocaust inversion. The resolution requires city departments, staff, elected and appointed officials, and contract agencies to familiarize themselves with the IHRA definition and incorporate it into their operations. While this adoption is a significant step in fighting antisemitism, full implementation is crucial for its effectiveness in protecting the Jewish community.

Some opponents argue that the IHRA definition conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism, potentially stifling free speech. However, the IHRA definition includes specific examples to clarify this distinction, ensuring that legitimate political discourse is not silenced. It aims to identify and combat hate speech and actions that target Jewish people under the guise of political critique, thereby enhancing protections without infringing on free expression.

We urge other cities in California, in addition to the State, to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. Doing so will create a unified and robust stance against Jew-hatred, fostering a safer environment for Jewish communities. This statewide approach will also standardize responses to antisemitic incidents, ensuring consistency and effectiveness in addressing hate crimes.

Constitutionality of Detering Crime While Masked
To balance public safety with constitutional rights, unmasking should be a standard police procedure during detainment or arrest. This approach ensures the identification of individuals involved in unlawful activities and provides additional safety for police officers by allowing them to verify identities and assess potential threats more effectively. We would also urge the State to consider enhanced penalties for the commission of a crime while masked.

Increased Law Enforcement Presence
As the Mayor looks to increase law enforcement presence, it is essential that these agencies analyze incidents like the Adas Torah attack using the IHRA definition of antisemitism. This framework offers clear guidelines for identifying antisemitic acts, ensuring a thorough understanding of the threats faced by the Jewish community and enabling a more effective response. By employing the IHRA definition, law enforcement can distinguish between legitimate criticism and hate speech, allowing for precise actions against antisemitism while safeguarding free speech.

Increased Security Grant Funding
We applaud the Jewish Caucus for securing a record $80 million annually for two years to fund the California State Nonprofit Security Grant Program (CSNSGP). This funding has been critical in protecting Jewish institutions and other vulnerable communities across California, particularly given the recent surge in antisemitism, including helping to fund groups like Magen Am, which offer security services to Jewish organizations at little to no cost. Led by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel and Senator Scott Wiener, the Jewish Caucus has prioritized this program, providing essential support to institutions at risk.

Improved Community Engagement and Communication
As the Mayor focuses on improved community engagement and communication, collaborating with other Jewish organizations becomes vital in amplifying our efforts to combat antisemitism and enhance community safety. By joining forces, we can share resources, strategies, and support systems, creating a stronger network to protect Jewish and Israeli-American communities. This collective approach ensures a more comprehensive and resilient response to antisemitic threats.

CAIR Continues to Incite Jew-Hatred
In response to the Adas Torah attack, Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director of CAIR-LA, stated, “The demonstration in front of the Adas Torah synagogue over the weekend was in response to the blatant violations of both international law and human rights from agencies that seek to make a profit selling brutally stolen Palestinian land.” This statement exemplifies the inflammatory and misleading nature of CAIR-LA’s rhetoric, which unjustly targets the Jewish community and legitimizes violence against them. It is important to note that the Simon Wiesenthal Center considers CAIR as a hate group.

ICAN strongly condemns CAIR-LA’s inflammatory statements and false allegations regarding the Adas Torah Synagogue incident. By mischaracterizing a legitimate real estate event as promoting illegal activities, CAIR-LA spreads misinformation and fuels antisemitic sentiments. Their rhetoric attempts to justify violence against the Jewish community, diverting attention from the real issue of hate-driven attacks. We call on CAIR-LA to retract their statements and acknowledge the detrimental impact such baseless accusations have on community relations and safety.

Furthermore, CAIR-LA’s actions not only incite hostility but also undermine efforts to foster peaceful coexistence and mutual respect among diverse communities. Their narrative, which seeks to politicize a straightforward business event, exacerbates tensions and distracts from constructive dialogue. ICAN urges CAIR-LA to engage in responsible discourse and contribute positively to the fight against all forms of hatred, including antisemitism. The Jewish and Israeli-American communities are increasingly targeted, as seen in the Adas Torah attack, where extremists disrupted a real estate event. These escalating tactics underscore the necessity for robust protections. It’s no surprise that, with the rise of Jew-hatred and anti-Jewish violence on the rise in America,  some Jews might consider trying to find a place to live in peace in their ancestral homeland. We must counter these hateful attacks by highlighting the real and present dangers these communities face and advocating for stronger protective measures.

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