Brooklyn’s Homegrown Counterterrorism Expert Takes on the Latest Wave of Anti-Semitic Violence

In 1994, the sixteen-year-old Ari Halberstam was killed when Rashid Baz opened fire with two handguns at a van carrying Ari and several other ḥasidic boys near the Brooklyn Bridge. Baz was convicted the same year on charges of murder and attempted murder, but the FBI declined to pursue the case, initially classifying it as “road rage”—despite the fact that Baz was in possession of anti-Semitic literature and despite significant evidence that he was influenced by the anti-Semitic sermons at the mosque he attended regularly. But Devorah Halberstam, Ari’s mother, devoted herself to investigating the details, eventually convincing the FBI to reclassify the incident as terrorism.

Jacob Siegel describes Halberstam’s unusual career, and her renewed relevance:

Few people took Halberstam seriously until September 11, 2001. . . . She became New York’s eccentric, homegrown expert on the intersection of criminal justice and counterterrorism. Local and state police called on her to teach classes; the FBI invited her to speak. . . . After the recent attacks in Jersey City, it was Devorah Halberstam whom New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio called to stand by his side at a press conference, perhaps to shore up his sagging credibility.

For years, even before the distraction of his ill-fated presidential campaign, de Blasio did little to address or arrest the rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the city. . . . When the mayor finally decided—or felt forced—to focus on anti-Semitism, he initially blamed white supremacists for hate crimes in New York City. . . . Gradually, de Blasio has been led by events toward a more expansive view of the problem, [while continuing to insist that] the rise in anti-Semitism, “is directly related to the permission that’s being given to hate speech in the last three years and that obviously connects to the election of Donald Trump.”

In New York, where she lives and where the spike in regular street attacks against Jews has taken place, Halberstam does not see the problem in terms of ideological enemies but looks instead to things closer to home: new proposals to change the laws around cash bail, parole for older inmates, and other initiatives risk “going from one extreme to the other,” Halberstam said.

In Brooklyn, Halberstam believes that the problem can be located “at the point where the NYPD’s hate-crimes task force has an event and passes it on to [the Brooklyn district attorney Eric] Gonzalez’s hate-crimes office.” Gonzalez . . . has a penchant for plea deals on hate-crime cases including those related to felony charges, according to Halberstam. [The hate-crime designation, she argues, must be] “meaningful,” [which] “doesn’t mean let the guy out the door so he can go back home and tell his buddies, ‘Nothing happens.’”

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Bill de Blasio, New York City, Terrorism

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security