Columns

Israeli-American Citizen Arrested in Worldwide Threats to Jewish Institutions

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

The FBI said it worked with Israeli National Police to apprehend a suspect today in threats made to Jewish institutions in the United States and other parts of the world.

Details were scant from the Bureau, which simply said, “Investigating hate crimes is a top priority for the FBI, and we will continue to work to make sure all races and religions feel safe in their communities and in their places of worship. At this time, we cannot provide additional information on the investigation.”

The Jerusalem Post reported that a 19-year-old dual Israeli-American citizen was suspected of being behind “most” of the threats in the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The paper said it was an investigation into a New Zealand threat six months ago that led to ties with the U.S. threats.

“There are still few details available about the suspect’s profile, but he is not in the IDF, not ultra-Orthodox, at some point made aliya and possibly has psychological problems and few friends,” the Post reported. “It is unknown how many others might have worked with the suspect, but it is believed that he was the main operator of the scare-spree and might have even acted completely on his own.”

The young man obscured his face with a sweatshirt during a court appearance in Rishon Lezion. His father is also in custody.

More than 140 threats have been made to Jewish centers in the U.S. and Canada since the beginning of the year. Juan Thompson, 31, was arrested and accused of making threats to at least eight of the targeted centers in the name of a woman he was stalking and harassing. Law enforcement sources told NBC News that Thompson was believed to be a “copycat” instead of the main source of the threats; he used his stalking victim’s name on the threats, according to the criminal complaint, whereas the bulk of the threats have been anonymous.

An additional round of threats occurred earlier this month, when Thompson was already in custody. Some centers said that the voice on calls seemed to be digitally altered.

The Anti-Defamation League said they were “relieved there’s been an arrest in the majority of the bomb threats against JCCs, schools, synagogues and several of our offices across the country.”

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

“Even though it appears that the main culprit behind the majority of these attacks has allegedly been identified, anti-Semitism in the U.S. remains a very serious concern. No arrests have been made in three cemetery desecrations or a series of other anti-Semitic incidents involving swastika graffiti and hate fliers,” he added. “JCCs and other institutions should not relax security measures or become less vigilant.”

Noted Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.): “The successful arrest of this perpetrator demonstrates how strong working relationships with our allies overseas benefit Americans and our homeland security.”