Furrow kept company with haters

San Jose Mercury News/August 12, 1999
By Julia Prodis Sulek

Demonstrators tried to shout them down, but the message of hate and violence from a small group of neo-Nazi skinheads at a recent white supremacist rally in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, still could be heard: "Six million more! Six million more!"

Six million more Jews, that is, the number murdered by the Nazi regime in the Holocaust.

Anti-Semitism in America has declined dramatically during the past several decades, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), one of the national organizations that monitors such activity. But this chilling chant at a public park during the July 4 weekend by young men raising their arms in Hitler-style salutes exemplifies a virulent increase in anti-Semitism within the white supremacist movement.

It is a cause to which Buford O'Neal Furrow Jr. claims allegiance. The 37-year-old told authorities Wednesday that he shot up a Jewish community center in Los Angeles on Tuesday, wounding five people, as a "wake-up call to America to kill Jews."

One white supremacist leader, Richard Butler, founder of the Aryan Nations, said he was not surprised or bothered by the shootings.

"This is just the beginning," Butler, 81, said Wednesday from his compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho. "These lone wolves are going to come up and do what they think they have to do. In future days, you're going to see this escalating for the next four, five or 10 years."

Furrow had been a member of Aryan Nations, according to Butler.

The shooting spree was the third major act of violence against Jews in the United States in the past six weeks. Call for calm

But at least one Southern California rabbi warns against alarmism.

"I want us to keep a balance and not assume that because one evil individual commits a terrible act that this society is swirling down the drain hole," said Rabbi David Wolpe of the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. "The vast majority of Jews go about their lives in this country in freedom and security without encountering that kind of vile hatred."

However, he added, "It certainly is important to be vigilant."

The recent acts of anti-Semitism have been particularly violent and disturbing. As the Coeur d'Alene rally was under way, Benjamin Nathaniel Smith was in the midst of a deadly rampage in Illinois and Indiana, wounding seven orthodox Jews, killing a black man and a Korean student, and injuring two other blacks. Smith, who then killed himself, had been a member of a Peoria, Ill.-based hate group that espouses the deportation of Jews and non-whites.

On June 18, three Sacramento synagogues were firebombed. Two Redding brothers with apparent ties to Northwest white supremacist groups are suspected.

The Anti-Defamation League reports that the recent violence comes against a backdrop of steadily improving public opinion about Jews in the United States.

In 1964, some 34 percent of the American public "was infected with latent anti-Semitic stereotypes and feelings," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the New York-based ADL. By 1993, that number plunged to 20 percent. And now, 12 percent of Americans have anti-Jewish feelings, he said.

"Attitudes have improved, but it's still there," Foxman said. "It's of serious consequence because the people who hate, hate significantly and seriously. That's still 25 million to 30 million people who are hard-core anti-Semites."

Jews have fared better in public opinion than blacks, he said, who still encounter negative attitudes from 40 percent of those surveyed, while Latinos face a negative from more than 30 percent of Americans, according to the ADL.

As anti-Semitic views have decreased, so have acts of assault, harassment and vandalism against Jews. One year in the early 1990s, anti-Jewish incidents peaked at more than 2,000. Now, those numbers have dropped to about 1,600, although incidents increased 2 percent from 1997 to 1998, according to a 1998 report on anti-Semitic acts prepared by the ADL. Tougher penalties

Foxman attributes the overall drop in acts against Jews to declining crime in general, tougher hate crime penalties, and police officers making more hate crime arrests.

Nonetheless, some 300 to 400 "hard core" hate groups exist in the United States, he said, including 20 to 30 that are "violent prone."

"Blaming Jews has always been on top of the hit parades," Foxman said. "Jews have been accused of killing Jesus, to being responsible for the plague in the Middle Ages, to being responsible for earthquakes and volcanoes. If it rains on Fourth of July, blame it on the Jews."

Anti-Semitism within the white supremacy movement has gained popularity over the past 10 years with the rise of Christian Identity, a religious movement that describes Jews as biologically descended from Satan.

"Jews are seen (by white supremacists) as active and cunning agents of the devil engaged in a global conspiracy to bring Satan up from the fiery depths to rule the world," said Mark Potok, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, a quarterly investigative magazine that monitors hate groups. "They are seen as the truly wicked hand that is running everything nefarious in our world."

Butler, described by the Intelligence Report as "the elder statesman of American hate," espoused his view: "The Jew now owns America and owns the news media, owns the television, owns the Hollywood programs. So, therefore, we now are only subjects of the Jews. The Jews have a country; it's called Israel. They can go to that country."

Views such as Butler's are being disseminated faster than ever through the Internet, a "superhighway for bigots of hate," Foxman said.

About 500 to 600 Web sites are dedicated to racist propaganda, he said.

"Anti-Semitism will exist as long as we do not find a vaccine or antidote for hate that's been around for 2,000 years," Foxman said. "If the community stands up and says we reject it, it will further isolate the bigots. If they for a moment believe there is a certain tolerance, they will take advantage of it."



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