A 19-year-old Israel resident has been charged with telephoning bomb threats to dozens of Jewish organizations in the U.S., possibly including recent calls to Buckhead and Dunwoody organizations.
The suspect, whose name has not been released, is a man who holds Israeli and American dual citizenship, according to Israeli media reports of his March 23 arrest there. While it appears that the suspect is Jewish, various Jewish organizations and the U.S. Department of Justice said the calls still constitute anti-Semitic hate crimes.
“Today’s arrest in Israel is the culmination of a large-scale investigation spanning multiple continents for hate crimes against Jewish communities across our country,” said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a written statement. “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.”
More than 120 telephoned bomb threats made via pre-recorded robo-calls have been made to Jewish organizations since January. The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta in Dunwoody received two of the bomb threats. The Southeast regional office of the Anti-Defamation League, based in Buckhead, received one. A list of specific bomb threats the Israeli suspect is charged with was not immediately reported. U.S. authorities, including the FBI, were involved in the investigation that led to the suspect’s arrest.
Among the local reactions to the bomb threats was the formation of a new organization called the Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism.
“While Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism is pleased another suspect has been arrested in connection with threats targeting JCCs, anti-Semitism across the U.S. remains a very serious problem,” the AIAAS said in a written statement. “It is critical that communities stand in solidarity to denounce and combat hatred and terrorism.”
The MJCCA declined to comment on the suspect’s arrest, citing the ongoing investigation.
“We are troubled to learn that the individual suspected of making these threats against Jewish Community Centers, which play a central role in the Jewish community, as well as serve as inclusive and welcoming places for all, is reportedly Jewish,” said Doron Krakow, president and CEO of the JCC Association of North America, in a press statement.
“While the details of this crime remain unclear, the impact of this individual’s actions is crystal clear: These were acts of anti-Semitism,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, in a press statement. “These threats targeted Jewish institutions, were calculated to sow fear and anxiety, and put the entire Jewish community on high alert.”
“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,” Greenblatt continued in his statement. “No arrests have been made in three cemetery desecrations or a series of other anti-Semitic incidents involving swastika graffiti and hate fliers. JCCs and other institutions should not relax security measures or become less vigilant.”