N.Y. Governor Suggests Hate-motivated Mass Violence Be Classified Domestic Terrorism

In State of the State address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 'New York will not stand by when our people are being victimized and killed by hate' amid uptick in anti-Semitic attacks in the area

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivers his State of the State address at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany, N.Y. January 8, 2020.
Hans Pennink,AP

NEW YORK – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed Wednesday to classify mass violence motivated by hate as domestic terrorism, amid an increase in violent anti-Semitic incidents in the state.

"We've had a disturbing number of discrimination attacks, but the greatest increase has been in the number of anti-Semitic attacks, Cuomo said in his State of the State address. "The government's first responsibility: Protect the people. And we will."

He continued, "Let's acknowledge displays of hate-filled mass violence for what they are. They are domestic terrorism."

Cuomo added, "Let's pass the first-in-the-nation domestic terrorism law to include mass violence motivated by hate and send the strongest message across this state and nation: New York will not stand by when our people are being victimized and killed by hate."

The Anti-Defamation League welcomed Cuomo's proposal and its recognition that "hate crimes, when committed with an intent to cause mass casualties and terrorize a broader community, can also be considered domestic terrorism,” said Evan Bernstein, ADL Regional Director for New York and New Jersey. 

“Initiatives to address domestic terrorism must involve a careful balancing of security needs and civil liberties concerns, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Governor and lawmakers with these goals in mind," Bernstein added.

The organization's CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt said that New York is facing "an epidemic of hate-motivated violence against Jews" and that it must "bring to bear all of the state’s resources to head off future acts of bias-fueled violence." He added, “We are grateful for the governor’s leadership and his commitment to deter hate crimes in 2020 and stand ready to provide whatever resources we have available to prevent future hate crimes in New York State.”

Anti-Semitic incidents, and particularly assaults, have been on the rise in the New York area over the past few years. More than half of the hate crimes reported to the New York Police Department in 2019 were committed against Jews. 

December was a particularly difficult month for Jews in the New York and New Jersey area: A shooting in a Kosher supermarket in Jersey City left three people dead on December 10. There were also dozens of incidents against Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, including some after five people were stabbed in the attack on a rabbi’s house in Monsey on December 28 during a Hanukkah celebration.

According to figures released by the Anti-Defamation League, there have been 43 state-wide anti-Semitic incidents in New York since the beginning of December, a 40 percent increase over the same five-week period in 2018.