For many anxiety-filled weeks, Jewish institutions – schools, synagogues, and JCCs in particular – underwent heightened levels of attacks. The vandalism was disheartening enough but what really had people on edge were the bomb threats. Even without the presence of an actual bomb, the tension caused by such a call is overwhelming, to say nothing of the disruption to the affected institutions’ work. With or without a bomb, it’s an act of terror and it reached the point that Jewish institutions weren’t wondering if they would receive such a threat, they were wondering when.
Then came the insult to injury as some suggested that the bomb threats were actually a “false flag” perpetrated either to garner sympathy for the Jewish community or to embarrass the political right. While false flag attacks certainly do occur, the conspiracy-theorist cry of “False flag!” is far more common than the real thing. For example, there are those who sincerely believe that 9/11 was carried out by the US government (or by Israel), framing al-Qaeda for the act, despite the fact that al-Qaeda actually claimed credit for it. (bin Laden admitted being behind 9/11 in an October, 2004 television appearance.)
When journalist Juan Thompson was arrested for making some of those bomb threats in an attempt to frame his ex-girlfriend, it was certainly an act of misdirection (and a plot worthy of Scooby Doo) but it was hardly a brilliantly-conceived political maneuver. But Thompson didn’t make all of those calls.
And then Israeli authorities arrested a 19-year-old Jewish male with dual Israeli-American citizenship for making bomb threats against schools and JCCs in the US, New Zealand and Australia, as well as for calling in bomb threats to two Delta flights at JFK in 2015.
At this point, the Jewish community let out a collective sigh of exasperation and, in unison, recited a line from Seinfeld: “That’s not going to be good for anybody.”
The unnamed suspect’s motives are still unknown but they are immaterial. Whatever his misguided reasons, the assailant has made things harder for the Jewish community. The next time a Jewish institution receives a bomb threat, there are those who will roll their eyes and say, “Uh huh. I’m so sure. They’re probably phoning it in themselves, just like last time.”
Except we didn’t phone it in ourselves. Even if the perpetrator was Jewish, it was still an act of terror, and still an act of anti-Semitism because he targeted Jews. Sadly, such things are well-precedented. Here are a mere three examples spanning 3,000 years of history:
- Ravshakeh, the Assyrian delegate in II Kings chapter 17, was an apostate Jew; this did not make his antagonism or the threat he represented any less real;
- Tomas de Torquemada, Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition, came from a family of conversos (Jews forced to convert to Catholicism); this does not mitigate the harshness of his torture and persecution;
- Musician Gilad Atzmon – born Jewish in Tel Aviv – is such a virulent anti-Semite that in 2012 the US Palestinian Community Network disavowed his anti-Semitic comments as too extreme for their tastes.
Let’s not even get into the unproven hypothesis that Hitler’s paternal grandfather was Jewish (though, according to historian John Toland, Hitler was worried enough about this rumor in the 1930s that he wrote the laws defining Jewish identity to exclude both Jesus and himself).
The fact is, being born Jewish does not guarantee that someone is on the side of the Jewish community or the Jewish people. This is true of all races, religions and nationalities. Benedict Arnold, a general in the Continental army, offered to surrender West Point to the British, to whom he then defected. This made him a traitor, no longer on the side of the Americans. ISIS has killed tens of thousands of Muslims in the Middle East. Clearly they are not all on the same side by virtue of their religion. Similarly, the bomb-threat phone-caller may be Jewish, he may have been born in Israel, he may be a Zionist – who knows? None of that matters. All that matters is that he committed acts of terror directed against Jewish institutions. By definition, he is not “on our side.” Anyone who thinks he represents a false flag attack is seriously mistaken.