More than 100 bomb threats against US
Jewish organizations and the desecration of
three Jewish cemeteries are stoking fears of
a rise of anti-Semitism, with some analysts
blaming the politics of the Trump era.
On Friday, the Federal Bureau of
Investigation arrested former journalist
Juan Thompson over a handful of the bomb
threats, saying he made them to frame an
ex-girlfriend in what they called a revenge
case rather than a hate crime.
But that left unsolved more than 100
other threats made since the beginning of
the year, some of which forced the
evacuation of Jewish community centers (JCC)
The Anti-Defamation League has tabulated a
total of 121 threats reported since January
1, labelling them an "epidemic."
Unlike Thompson's emailed threats, the
majority were made by a person or people by
telephone using voice-masking, automated
calling and spoofing technologies to hide
their identity and location.
All proved to be hoaxes and no one has
Gretchen STUMME(L-R) Richard Markus, Sidney
Markus (C)and Sandy Rosenthal look at a
vandalized gravestone at Stone Road or Waad
Hakolel Cemetery in Rochester, New York on
March 3, 2017
But on February 16, police in South
Carolina arrested a man allegedly tied to
white supremacist groups for allegedly
planning to attack a synagogue.
Law enforcement authorities are meanwhile
investigating attacks on Jewish cemeteries
in three cities which saw hundreds of
gravestones tumbled and broken.
The latest took place in Rochester, New
York late Wednesday.
"Just because there's been an arrest
today doesn't mean that threats have
disappear or will stop," Evan Bernstein, New
York regional director for the
Anti-Defamation League -- also a target of
the bomb threats -- told a press conference
"There are many more JCC bomb threats
that have not been solved... and we hope all
law enforcement will continue to be
- 'Normalization' of anti-Semitism? -
AFP / AFP ,
Jonathan JACOBSENThe bomb threats to Jewish
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law
Center in Montgomery, Alabama, which tracks
racist and hate groups, said it is too early
to say whether there is a real upsurge in
anti-Semitic activity in the United States.
According to the ADL, there were more
than 900 anti-Jewish incidents reported
across the country in 2015.
But Potok says that the rise of Donald
Trump to the White House has encouraged
extreme right, neo-Nazi groups and boosted
the confidence of activists with racist
A number of Trump advisors, particularly
his chief strategist Steve Bannon, have had
links to right-wing groups.
Bannon was previously head of Breitbart,
which has been accused of being a focal
point for the so-called "alt-right" -- an
amorphous movement that comprises white
nationalists, racists, anti-Semites, and
anti-immigrant Americans who in large part
fell in line behind the Trump campaign.
"Anti-Semitism is pervasive in the
American radical right," Potok said.
"People feel the Trump campaign has
brought their ideas into the mainstream....
This surge of anti-Semitic incidents
reflects the normalization of these ideas."
He said the same force is behind the
alleged torching of four Muslim mosques
across the United States since the beginning
of the year.
- Cyberstalking case -
Jessica KourkounisPeople demonstrate at a
Stand Against Hate rally in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, on March 2, 2017
Investigations into the bomb threats have
involved the Justice Department's
anti-terror and hate crimes units. However,
Thompson's case did not appear inspired by
anti-Semitism or involve any racist group.
The 31-year-old African American,
arrested Friday morning in St Louis, was
blamed for eight emailed threats to Jewish
organizations that were meant to implicate
his former, white girlfriend.
The ADL said it had been monitoring
Thompson's online activities, which it said
had been strongly critical of white people.
He was charged with just one count of
cyberstalking, which carries a maximum
sentence of five years in prison.
- Trump's role? -
MANDEL NGANPresident Donald Trump condemned
the threats and vandalism, but earlier,
Trump suggested the acts were aimed not at
Jews but at making others look bad
politically, according to Pennsylvania
Attorney General Josh Shapiro
The Jewish community has been nonplussed
by the lack of a consistent and categoric
denunciation of anti-Semitic acts from
Kenneth Stern, head of the Justus and
Karin Rosenberg Foundation, which combats
anti-Semitism, said the surge of
anti-Semitic acts takes place in a "larger
environment of xenophobia and racism
engendered by Trump's political rise.
"The white supremacists felt empowered
during and after the election," he said.
"What's different here is that, in the
last few decades, you would have political
leaders that reflexively, without prompting,
react and condemn this."
On Tuesday, Trump did condemn the threats
and vandalism in a speech before Congress.
Such acts "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 its forms," he said.
But earlier that day, according to
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro,
Trump told a group of state prosecutors that
some of the threats could be "the reverse,"
implying they were not real anti-Jewish
acts, but fake threats aimed at making
others look bad politically.
Shapiro told NPR radio Thursday that such
mixed messages from the president "stokes
doubt" in the public about what is going on.
"I don't know what the president meant,"
he said. "But here's what I know, is that
presidents must speak with moral clarity,
not through mixed messages.... And this kind
of wishy-washy speech leaves too much open
to interpretation by the wrong people."