Seeing Our Own Bitter Division Through the Prism of Boston Marathon Bombings

Right and Left Can't Agree on Real Threat

getty images

By J.J. Goldberg

Published April 19, 2013, issue of April 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

The debate isn’t new. It’s been percolating for decades. It resurfaces whenever an attack occurs without an obvious perpetrator, and again when a new report attempts to analyze the threats.

Conservatives erupted in April 2009 over a Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism, begun under the Bush administration, that cited rising threats following the economic downturn and election of a black president. Under pressure, Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano finally withdrew the report and reassigned all but one of her domestic terrorism investigators.

In July 2012, House Republicans hammered Napolitano over a training program that examined right-wing threats alongside Muslim extremism. One congressman, Paul Broun of Georgia, complained that security officers were being taught to look for “gun-owner, Christian-conservative, pro-life” types. “That’s me,” Broun said. “How are you going to prevent me from being identified as a terrorist?”

In 2010, liberals protested a House committee hearing on extremism among American Muslims, saying it unfairly tarred an entire faith. Dozens of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have been accused since 2001 of profiling Muslims and spying on mosques. Publicly, police said they weren’t spying. Privately, they said that’s how they catch terrorists.

The numbers suggest that both sides are correct. Available statistics are wildly conflicting, depending on who’s counting and what’s included, but it appears that since 2001, jihadist-inspired American Muslim terrorists have carried out between five and 10 attacks, killing either 17 or 33 people. (The higher numbers include killers who spouted vague Islamist ideology, notably the so-called Beltway Sniper who killed 11 people in 2002.)

In all, between 150 and 172 jihadist terror suspects have been arrested. Significantly, about 45 other attacks were foiled in that period. Some interdictions resulted from intelligence work, others from Muslim community cooperation. That spotlights a dilemma in domestic espionage: It saves some lives, but threatens others by undermining community trust.

In the same period, right-wing domestic terrorists were responsible for at least 16 lethal attacks resulting in 40 deaths. They include white supremacist, anti-government and anti-abortion extremists. Non-lethal incidents include at least nine bomb and arson attacks on abortion clinics.

A dozen others, all domestic right-wingers, were arrested for collecting chemical, biological or nuclear weaponry. In all some 300 far-right terrorists and plotters were arrested. Only a handful of left-wing terror acts occurred, mainly environmental or animal-rights, none lethal.

America has two distinct terrorism problems. Both are serious, but neither poses a strategic, existential threat. Our greatest danger is within ourselves: our inability to listen to each other.

Contact J.J. Goldberg at goldberg@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • "What I didn’t realize before my trip was that I would leave Uganda with a powerful mandate on my shoulders — almost as if I had personally left Egypt."
  • Is it better to have a young, fresh rabbi, or a rabbi who stays with the same congregation for a long time? What do you think?
  • Why does the leader of Israel's social protest movement now work in a beauty parlor instead of the Knesset?
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.