Colleyville is a tiny Texas town between Dallas and Ft. Worth, with a population of 26,462. There are at least 20 churches there. There is only one synagogue in Colleyville — Reform congregation Beth-Israel. And there is only one Mosque — the Islamic Association of Colleyville.
According to the FBI, during Shabbat services on the morning of Jan. 15, 2022, armed British citizen Malik Faisal Akram (44), entered Beth Israel synagogue and took four people hostage, including Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker. The services were being live-streamed on Facebook; Akram was heard shouting for a woman he referred to as a “sister.” He wanted to speak to her on the phone.
It wasn’t long before approximately 200 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers were on the scene, including hostage negotiators. One hostage was released unharmed around 5 p.m. local time. And by 9:30 p.m., the hostages were freed and Akram was dead.
As details emerged, officials say Akram’s main demand was the release of 49-year-old Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani woman incarcerated in a federal prison in Fort Worth for trying to kill American soldiers. According to the Washington Post, “Siddiqui was convicted on terrorism charges in 2010 and sentenced to 86 years in prison after opening fire on Americans. She is slated for release in 2082.”
But aside from the event itself, the most alarming fallout came in the form of a quote from FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno from the Dallas field office, who gave a press conference Saturday evening.
The gunman, DeSarno said, was “singularly focused on one issue” not related to Jewish community.
DeSarno, please accept my gratitude for bringing the hostage situation to an end without any harm befalling any of the hostages, but respectfully: You could not be more wrong.
This was an act of terror visited upon the entire community of American Jews, just like the 2018 terror attack at L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh which killed 11 and injured 6 more.
Just like the 2017 terror display from the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. where tiki-torch wielding neo-nazis marched with nazi salutes raised high, chanting, “Jews will not replace us!”
Just like the 2019 terror attack at the Chabad House in Poway, Calif. That killed one and injured three more.
Just like the 2019 terror attack at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City that killed three and injured three more.
Just like the 2019 terror tack during Hanukkah at the home of a Hasidic rabbi that killed one and injured four more.
Just like the 2020 terror attack where arsonists set fire to the Chabad Center of the University of Delaware.
Just like the 2021 attempted bombing of Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo, Colo.
And on, and on, and on.
The claim that this terror attack on American Jews peacefully observing the holy sabbath was not related to the Jewish community is out-and-out gaslighting. The choice of venue, time, and people taken hostage could not be clearer evidence of that fact. It’s just one more in a long line of egregious displays of deeply rooted antisemitism that have become commonplace over the last six years, an era we could refer to as The Great Emboldening.
Many things have contributed to this — starting with a Trump administration known to discount white nationalist threats while espousing antisemitic tropes; an effective neo-nazi propaganda machine connecting Jews to myriad COVID-19 conspiracies; and a wide and growing network of homegrown militias and white-nationalist hate groups.
Antisemitism is at unprecedented levels in the United States. And make no mistake: Jews are in the crosshairs more than any other ethnic group on our shores.
Per the FBI, in 2019, Jews were far and away the most-targeted ethnic population in hate crimes — 2.2 times more likely than Muslims and 2.6 times more likely than Black people. That pattern remained in place in 2020 and appears to have held in 2021 as well (Final numbers haven’t been released yet.).
What’s even more alarming is that there’s been a noticeable decline in the number of agencies providing data to the FBI — a clear sign of significant under-reporting:
According to the Anti-Defamation League: “The increase in reported hate crimes comes despite the fact that, for the third straight year, the number of law enforcement agencies providing data to the FBI has declined… According to the FBI, only 15,136 agencies participated, which is 452 less than in 2019. The larger majority of agencies who did participate reported zero hate crimes.”
ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt’s statement last summer summarizes why this is worrisome.
“While these numbers are disturbing on their own, the fact that so many law enforcement agencies did not participate is inexcusable, and the fact that over 60 jurisdictions with populations over 100,000 affirmatively reported zero hate crimes is simply not credible,” said Greenblatt. “Data drives policy and without having a complete picture of the problem, we cannot even begin to resolve the issues driving this surge in hate and violence.”
Between that trend and what the FBI’s DeSarno said, a grave picture is starting to take shape — one that appears to be a purposeful obfuscation of the increasing tide of antisemitism on U.S. soil.
And that might be the greatest terror threat of all.