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ADL: Arrest of bomb threat suspect doesn’t allay anti-Semitism concerns

JCCs and other institutions should not relax security or become less vigilant, says Jonathan Greenblatt

Spray-painted swastikas on the doors of the Machzikei Hadas synagogue in Ottawa, November 2016. (Screenshot)
Spray-painted swastikas on the doors of the Machzikei Hadas synagogue in Ottawa, November 2016. (Screenshot)

WASHINGTON — After Israeli police arrested a Jewish Israeli teenager Thursday suspected of calling in dozens of bomb threats to Jewish community centers and other institutions around the country, the Anti-Defamation League warned against minimizing the extent of anti-Semitism in the United States.

“Even though it appears that the main culprit behind the majority of these attacks has allegedly been identified, anti-Semitism in the US remains a very serous concern,” the group’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “No arrests have been made in three cemetery desecrations of a serious of other anti-Semitic incidents involving swastika graffiti and hate fliers. JCCs and other institutions should not relax security or become less vigilant.”

Since January, nearly 150 bomb threats have hit JCCs, Jewish day schools and other institutions, causing the evacuation of dozens of Jewish community centers and prompting some parents to remove their children from JCC programs.

American-Israeli Jewish teenager, center, accused of making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats in the United States and elsewhere, is escorted by guards as he leaves the Israeli court in Rishon Lezion on March 23, 2017. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)
American-Israeli Jewish teenager, center, accused of making dozens of anti-Semitic bomb threats in the United States and elsewhere, is escorted by guards as he leaves the Israeli court in Rishon Lezion on March 23, 2017. (AFP/JACK GUEZ)

The threats have come in repeated waves, via phone and email, and many of the institutions have been targeted more than once.

A spokesman for Israeli police said Thursday the arrest was made earlier in the day of a 19-year-old resident of the southern city of Ashkelon, who was the subject of a months-long undercover investigation by the Lahav 433 cyber unit in coordination with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

People evacuated because of a bomb threat return to the David Posnack Jewish Community Center and David Posnack Jewish Day School on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
People evacuated because of a bomb threat return to the David Posnack Jewish Community Center and David Posnack Jewish Day School on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

But there have also been other anti-Semitic attacks have also sparked worry in Jewish communities, one’s that have undoubtedly transpired on US soil, including swastikas being drawn on numerous schools and other buildings. There have also been hundreds of Jewish tombstones that have been vandalized, including recently in Pennsylvania and Missouri.

Another incident occurred this month in which a gunshot was fired into a synagogue, Adath B’Nai Israel Temple, in Evansville, Indiana.

This series of hate crimes directed at Jewish communities led President Trump to open his first address to a joint session of Congress several weeks ago by condemning anti-Semitism and saying the United States “stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

Trump’s remarks came hours after he reportedly told a group of state attorneys general visiting the White House Tuesday that he suspected the bomb threat calls may be planted within the Jewish community out of political motives.

The ADL said it was “relieved” the arrest was made. “While the details of this crime remain unclear, the impact of this individual’s actions is crystal clear: These were acts of anti-Semitism,” Greenblatt said. “These threats targeted Jewish institutions, were calculated to sow fear and anxiety, and put the entire Jewish community on high alert.”

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaking at the ADL Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on November 6, 2014. (Courtesy ADL)
Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaking at the ADL Annual Meeting in Los Angeles on November 6, 2014. (Courtesy ADL)

The arrest was the culmination of a large-scale international investigation into the bomb threats, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday.

“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans, and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs,” he said in a statement

Earlier this month, 141 leaders of American Jewish community centers sent an open letter to Sessions demanding he take more action to address the threat.

The suspect — who has not been named — was ordered to held in jail by an Israeli court after he was apprehended and attempted to grab an officer’s gun during his arrest.

His case in Israel is entirely separate from that of Juan Thompson, 31, who was arrested earlier this month for allegedly making at least eight threatening phone calls against Jewish organizations.

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