The JCC bomb threats perpetrator was caught. Now what?

There has been over 150 bomb threats either emailed or phoned in to Jewish Community Centers (JCC) in the USA and other parts of the world since the beginning of 2017. Along with several Jewish cemetery desecrations and antisemitic graffiti, an eerie atmosphere of surging antisemitism has been noticed, even in mainstream media. I say "even" in mainstream media because the normal coverage of antisemitic hate crimes is usually very sparse or non-existent. "Black lives matter" and "Islamophobia" get quite a bit of coverage, but antisemitism usually not so much.

Nobody could ignore the multiple bomb threats to JCCs around the United Sates and other countries. But what came as a surprise was the identity of the perpetrator of the vast majority of these hoax bomb threats. It is believed that he might have made close to 1,000 similar threats in the last few years. That is quite an act of bold, relentless antisemitism, but......wait for it.......the perpetrator is Jewish and holds a dual USA/Israeli nationality. So the question is "was it antisemitism after all?" and the answer is "probably not."

Michael Kaydar, the young man arrested on March 23 in Israel and suspected of making the calls has been diagnosed with a medical condition. He has had a brain tumor since the age of fourteen and was recently exempt from IDF service for health reasons. It is unclear what kind of sentence will Kaydar receive, if any. Yet, the arrest that just took place was significant for several reasons.

• The Bomb threats were not a by-product of Trump's New America:
As much as many people wanted to blame the bomb threats to the "Alt-Right" atmosphere of Donald Trump's America, it is now clear that there is no connection. Yet people were quick to blame our new President creating a tense atmosphere of racism. While it is always possible that extreme Right and/or extreme Left would participate in similar antisemitic acts, it wasn't the case for this recent wave of threats. Donald Trump waited before speaking on the subject or reacting wrongly, and that was very wise.

• The perpetrator might not be a self-hating Jew:
Michael Kaydar was arrested for the threats. He is Jewish and holds a dual Israeli/American citizenship, but it is probably fair to say that he is a perpetrator that happens to be Jewish and not a self-hating Jew who wants to harm his own people. Kaydar is mentally unstable. His father was also arrested because he apparently knew of his son's behavior in regards to the threats. Frankly, I would be more worried about the father than his son.

• The threats could be considered as acts of terrorism:
While Michael Kaydar might never be charged because of his condition, his actions were highly disruptive and as such could easily be considered as acts of terror. Many Jewish Community Centers (some of them multiple times) had to evacuate their facilities at a moment's notice, risking the safety of their members, wasting a lot of energy, time and resources.

• Jew haters will find a way to use the events against the Jewish community:
It won't be long before some real antisemites find a way to spin this series of threats to their advantage. Years ago, some accused the Jewish people of being behind the "inflated" statistics of the Holocaust simply as propaganda to force the establishment of the modern State of Israel. The same devious, unfounded methods could be used to accuse the global Jewish community of being behind the hoax threats simply to self-victimize, get attention to themselves and play the antisemitism card.

Jewish communities worldwide continue to suffer from acts of antisemitism. None of the bomb threats were real and that is good! But what about the multiple cases of graffiti and the several Jewish cemeteries that were recently desecrated? It would be a mistake to think for a second that because the bomb threats perpetrator was an irresponsible young man, Jewish people can rest. Antisemitism's shadow is always looming around the corner of Jewish daily life.  But I believe that the current administration will do more to fight it that the previous one did. Vice-President Pence's visit to Missouri proved it! We Jews could certainly use the support at this time.

Antisemitism in America: The Not-So-Dormant Volcano!

For as long as I have studied and taught against antisemitism, the United-States were never immune from the virus of Jew hatred, but they were not in the forefront either. Antisemitism has been expected from countries in the Middle East that are mostly Muslim countries. It has also been on the rise in most of Europe in the last two decades, with a recent surge in the last three years coming from all sides of the political, religious, ideological and cultural spectrums.

Things seem to be changing in America! Over 100 Jewish Community Centers (JCC) have received bomb threats in the last two months all across our nation. Several of these threats touched some of my personal friends, as well as one JCC in my own neighborhood. Fortunately, none of them was real. But how many more phone calls before one threat turns into a real explosion and innocent lives are lost? The President covered the issue in his address to Congress when he said "Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms."

One definition for "terrorism" reads "the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims." When I look at the recent bombs threats against multiple Jewish communities, and how they disrupted the peace of regular civilians, I cannot help but think that they were acts of terrorism. The intimidation in a bomb threat is very high as nobody can ever assume that it is a hoax, especially in the current world we live in. I also find the act of making a threatening anonymous phone call very cowardly. Antisemitism can happen in words and/or deeds. So far, the bomb threats have only been words but they can be equally damaging.

Two Jewish cemeteries in Missouri and Pennsylvania have also been desecrated with over 250 tombstones turned over. No muslim or Christian cemeteries were affected in the same period of time, just like no Muslim or Christian Centers were affected either. These attacks–strangely reminiscent of the 1930s and 1940s in Europe– were clearly targeted against Jewish people. These qualify as antisemitism in deeds the same way that several graffiti recently written on various Jewish properties do.

This may come as a surprise to many Americans, but these acts are not happening in a vacuum. I have been documenting such acts against American Jews since 1999. They were fewer and further in between than today...by a long shot. America is a huge country and isolated incidents of antisemitism have never made the front page of the papers or the eight o'clock news. Yet they happened all across the USA. This recent surge is symptomatic of a very serious problem but it can also be beneficial to many.

As surprising as it might sound, there are still many in America and around the world who either find it difficult to believe that antisemitism exist or who are simply unaware of it. The recent wave of events has propelled the issue to the forefront of the news, and it needs to park there for a while. Americans must understand that Jewish people are becoming a real target in the United-Stated like they have been in the Middle East and Europe for a while now. Outside from the obvious need to show our support to a scared community, this also should serve as a wake-up call for our country and the rest of the world. Antisemitism is back, it is growing again, and it is here to stay.

We must boldly denounce this wave of hatred against the Jewish people. Our current administration is going to have to do more than provide us with a few comforting words. When Mr. Trump makes it so clear that we are fighting Islamic radicalism and terrorism, he also needs to severely punish the perpetrators of such crimes.

Antisemitism is indeed the "Longest Hatred" and has been somewhat of a dormant volcano in America. The recent months have shown that the lava of Jew hatred is resurfacing out of a volcano that was never dead. I am not certain that we can stop the volcano, but I know that we can better protect the potential victims from its lava.

Hitler called his plan for the eradication of the Jewish people "the solution to the Jewish problem," and he almost succeeded. The current surge of attacks against Jews in America could lead to another "solution to the Jewish problem," if left unchecked. Europe is already seeing Jewish people being killed again. The evangelical community and all people of good will need to step up and reach out to help their Jewish friends, lest we become 21st century by-standers and facilitate what I call End-Times antisemitism.

Mr. Trump doesn't need to be less antisemitic, he needs to be more presidential!

Since January 2017, nearly 60 Jewish community centers have received bomb threats over the phone. This happened over many states, and in some cases more than once at the same location. As it turned out, none of the threats led to the discovery of any bombs. This is now the fourth wave of such bomb threats against Jewish institutions in America. Each time such a phone call is received, the targeted center is obligated to stop all activities and evacuate their premises in an emergency, waiting for the police and or bomb squad to clear them back in.

Depending on the activities taking place at the time the bomb threats were received, children , young adults and/or elderly people had to be evacuated. In all cases it was absolutely necessary yet extremely inconvenient. There is no way that any of these threats could be ignored or blindly assumed to simply be phone pranks. The one time that a telephone bomb threat is ignored could be the one time that it is a real one and the ramifications would be disastrous. Are these threats against various Jewish community centers considered terrorism? Are they considered hate crimes? Are they even considered acts of an antisemitic nature?

Police consider these threats to be hate crimes and take them very seriously. From the standpoint of the disruptive factor and the fear of the unknown, they are very similar to acts of terrorism. Just like terrorism, these bomb threats have materialized in unexpected locations at unpredictable times over an incalculable period of time. But even all these factors compounded do not constitute acts of antisemitism, although the frequency and high number of occurrences could prove otherwise.

To remove all doubt, we have to start looking at the content of the messages left on the phone when some of the threats were made. One such recording received on January 18, 2017 was made available. It's transcription is a follows: "It’s a C-4 bomb with a lot of shrapnel, surrounded by a bag (inaudible). In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to [sic] blown off from the shrapnel. There’s a lot of shrapnel. There’s going to be a bloodbath that’s going to take place in a short time. I think I told you enough. I must go.

When a threat is made over the phone, it is always to be taken seriously, even if it targets people in general. But when the person giving the threat claims that "In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered," there is no longer any doubts as to the antisemitic nature of the call. During the same period of time, nobody reported bomb threats to any Christian organization, Mosque, Buddhist temple, Mormon ward, Jehovah's witness kingdom hall, etc. You get my drift! The threats were made ONLY to Jewish community centers. There should be no question in our mind that these were antisemitic actions.

This wave of bomb threats prompted some really concerned Jewish leaders to look for answers. Recently, at a White House press conference, orthodox Jewish reporter Jake Turx asked President Trump what the government intended to do to fight the new wave of antisemitic bomb threats. He asked the President “What we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it,” The response was unexpectedly rude and rather disconnected from the question. I don't believe for a moment that President Trump avoided the topic on purpose, but I believe that he completely missed the point made by the reporter.

Mr. Trump could have simply answered–even if he was unaware of anything being done– that his government was working on a solution and that he clearly opposed antisemitism. Instead he very rudely interrupted the question and turned it around to sound like an accusation of antisemitism on his part. This was an embarrassing moment. But even Jake Turx understood it when he later stated that he still supported President Trump and that he firmly believed that his question had been misunderstood.

I don't believe that we can accuse President Trump of being an antisemite. Even Benjamin Netanyahu said that the question "could be put to rest," during his first visit at the White House. Nevertheless, Mr. Trump needs to be more presidential and less reactive. He needs to listen better to questions and not be so defensive, leading him to give short, rude and disconnected answers. He had a great opportunity to solidify his ties and reaffirm his true appreciation for the Jewish community and he really missed it. In the end, I still believe that his actions will speak louder than his words in a positive way–something many previous US presidents from both parties cannot claim.

I truly believe that having a president who never was in politics before is a breath of fresh air from many standpoints. It has many advantages. His awkward, disconnected and arrogant rhetoric definitely isn't one of them!