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With white nationalism on the rise in the US, JCC bomb threats stoked fear and solidarity

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Millions breathed a deep sigh of relief last week, when it was announced that the FBI, in coordination with police forces in New Zealand, Australia, and Israel, arrested Michael Kaydar,  a 19-year old man with dual Israeli-American citizenship, who was behind the majority of the bomb threats made to Jewish community centers around the U.S.   The threats were a hoax and, in typical official lingo, the “motive remains unclear.”

To most Americans, however, Jewish and otherwise, the motive, as well as the actual effect of those threats, were very clear: this was intimidation, a message to American Jews that they are not, and should not feel safe in the country they call home.  In a lengthy Op-Ed,  David Shasha proposes that Kaydar, who lives in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, identifies with Israelis, the “Macho Jews who fearlessly call the shots,” as distinct from, and superior to, “the weak and pusillanimous Diaspora Jews.” Kaydar’s “Zionist sadism is a product of an internal Israeli Jewish hatred and contempt for those who are viewed as weak and unable to defend themselves,” Shasha writes.

I am in no position to debate internal Jewish differences, but can certainly understand and empathize with the terror Jewish-Americans felt as the threats were issued, reminding them that this is now a nation where white nationalists are once again empowered to openly unleash their hatred of all non-whites and non-Christians.  The hoaxes, by resurfacing and foregrounding anti-Semitism, widened the net of those caught in the justified fear of white nationalism.  They also had a totally unintended effect, as they brought threatened and marginalized communities closer together, to face the greater enemy.

I refer to Kaydar as a “man,” by the way, rather than a “teen,” as most media do, because even though he is 18 or 19, he would certainly not be referred to as a “teenager” if he were Arab.  We can and must play a part in ending linguistic apartheid.

There are multiple layers to this still-developing story, that must be parsed and analyzed critically.

First, we must keep in mind that the man who was arrested was responsible for most, but not all, the threats that were issued.  Were the others also strictly hoaxes, copy cats, or real threats that somehow, thankfully, were not carried out?  There have been over 100 bomb threats against Jewish schools, community centers, and synagogues since Trump’s presidency began on January 9, 2017. And while no Jewish Community Center has been attacked since the threats were made, the calls have nevertheless shattered the Jewish communities’ sense of safety, and can thus be termed psychological terrorism.

And, even though no Jewish center or school was bombed, Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized in St Louis, MI, Fort Wayne, IN, and Philadelphia, PA.   These were real hate crimes, that must not be ignored, as most people focus on the fact that the hundreds of threats to Jewish community centers were made by a young Israeli-American, a mere “teenager.”  And despite attempts to describe that Kaydar as mentally ill, we should insist that mental illness does not necessarily translate into hateful behavior, and that he was not acting alone.  His father, with no reported brain tumor, was also arrested.  And we can say with confidence that neither son nor father, who live in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, toppled the headstones in Jewish cemeteries across the US.    The hoaxes, then, should not distract from the reality of increased anti-Semitic actions.

At about the same time Kaydar was making his hoax calls, initially attributed, albeit wrongly, to white nationalists, a string of hateful anti-Semitic posters appeared on a number of campuses in the US, that pointed the finger at completely different groups, namely Blacks and Muslims.  Some such posters were plastered on walls at the University of Illinois in Chicago, leading a coalition of groups affiliated with the university to issue an Open Letter stating that “the damaging and hurtful nature of these posters is that they seek to malign and divide some of the very groups that are fighting injustice and xenophobia in the first place. They erroneously depict the groups “Black Lives Matter” and “We are Muslims” as authors of the anti-Semitic hateful flyers.”

These posters, the Open Letter continues, “are consistent with a long history whereby hate groups have cited marginalized communities as authors of hate speech to smear them and incite mistrust between them. They serve the goals of both provoking anti-Semitic hatred and justifying the targeting of Palestine solidarity and Black Lives Matter movements, wrongly indicting them as purveyors of hate.”

We must also acknowledge that such hoaxes have historically come from communities that are indeed vulnerable, yet still benefit from some social privilege: when Jewish community centers receive threats, the FBI mobilizes; when white women claim they have been raped by black men, police and vigilante mobilize.  Case in point: when the bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers peaked, President Trump was chastised into ultimately denouncing anti-Semitism.  However, there was no sustained and successful pressure to have him denounce the hateful killings of Sikhs and Hindus (mistaken for Muslims), and the torching of at least three mosques since his election.   Whether his denunciation of the anti-Semitic threats was sincere or not is irrelevant, (and of course there is every indication it was not sincere), he was successfully pressured to denounce anti-Semitism, but not Islamophobia.  And the case of the threats to Jewish community centers, which had been active for close to two years, was only finally cracked after Trump prioritized it, sending twelve FBI agents to Israel to work on it.  Trump will certainly not prioritize Islamophobic crimes, and while the FBI claims it investigates all hate crimes, in reality, it only considers some crimes as hate crimes, while most are viewed as “lone wolf” attacks.  Even the recent burning down of a mosque in Bellevue, a suburb of Seattle, has not been investigated as a hate crime.  With the renewed empowerment of white supremacy, however, these distinctions between various marginalized communities are now eroding fast.

Ultimately, whatever the twists of this still developing story, the impulse behind these hoaxes, just like the impulse behind the posters, and the vandalism at the Jewish cemeteries, is fundamentally racist. These hateful incidents revive valid fears of anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. at a time when this country is actively, officially, promoting white nationalism.  And as these fears peak, they can reinforce in Zionists the need for potentially extreme means of security.  The “security” that Israel takes very seriously. As Israel promotes itself as a safe haven for Jews from all parts of the world, the hoaxes contribute to a false sense that “the Jewish state” is justified in the horrors it commits against Palestinians, for supposed security reasons. The need for “extreme measures” thus distracts from the real purpose of Israel’s brutal and illegal practices, its apartheid wall, the genocidal siege and regular attacks on Gaza, the occupation of the West Bank, the checkpoints, the administrative detentions and torture of thousands of Palestinian civilians.

Yet as we look for some solace in these otherwise scary times, we can take comfort in the fact that the communities that would otherwise be pitted against each other are actually coming together, to confront the greater evil, racism in its various manifestations, including its Zionist guise.  New alliances, formed over the past few years, are getting stronger.  Jewish Voice for Peace “is honored” to have Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh speak at their National Membership Meeting, Muslim-American organizers Linda Sarsour and Tarek El Messidi are raising funds to repair vandalized Jewish cemeteries, and multiple campus groups representing Blacks, [email protected], LGBTQI, Asian, Muslim, and Jewish communities are mobilizing together to denounce the anti-Semitic posters on campuses.

In this increasingly hostile climate, every threat to non-whites, non-Christians, and gender non-conforming individuals and communities reveals the unadulterated racism, sexism, and overall violent hatred of empowered white nationalism, and threatens us all.  And today, more than ever before, we have each other’s backs.  The calls may have been hoaxes, the solidarity is real.

About Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

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21 Responses

  1. AddictionMyth
    March 30, 2017, 12:45 pm

    I would love to know what industry the elder Kaydar is employed in. I would not be surprised if it is private security. He probably benefits from this hysteria that is used to justify armed guards outside every synagogue and community center.

    • oldgeezer
      March 30, 2017, 1:20 pm

      @AddictionMyth

      According to one report I have seen at either jpost or ToI he is an IT person.

  2. oldgeezer
    March 30, 2017, 1:15 pm

    Thank you.

  3. inbound39
    March 30, 2017, 5:12 pm

    Kaydar is 18 -19 years of age. Old enough to be conscripted for military service in many nations and old enough to hold a licence to drive and old enough to vote and hold a firearms licence…..for ALL intents and purposes he is a man. Zionist apologists need to stop with the semantics and transact using the truth. Kaydar is just another product of the criminal state of Israel. Those products need to be taken off the World shelves of consumerism. They are a health hazard to ALL.

  4. Annie Robbins
    March 30, 2017, 5:40 pm

    this was intimidation, a message to American Jews that they are not, and should not feel safe in the country they call home. ……These hateful incidents revive valid fears of anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S.

    while this is undoubtedly true, i’m not convinced the actual target of the hoax bomb threats was the american jewish community. and while i do believe the fear generated within that community was very real, i think their fear was dismissed by the perpetrators or deemed worth it for the benefits the criminals saw in the faux attacks.

    my observation as a non-jewish outsider, is that the press generated by these hoax threat attacks sends a very powerful message to the american people — that anti semitism is thriving and threats to jews are very real. if the perpetrator of the crimes truly believed that was the case, he would have no reason to issue those threats himself. so why did he do it? did he do it to garner the very press attention the attacks generated? evidence suggests he did because, as i read somewhere, he enhanced (or stepped up) attacks in locations where the attacks generated press.

    he [trump] was successfully pressured to denounce anti-Semitism, but not Islamophobia. …

    true, the focus is, once again, anti semitism. but does the perp hate jews? did the perp carry out the crime because he hates jews? a false flag attack is not just an attack on the supposed target of the attack, it is intended primarily as an attack on the people accused or implicated in the crime. in this case american society as a whole — or the general public.

    In this increasingly hostile climate, every threat to non-whites, non-Christians, and gender non-conforming individuals and communities reveals the unadulterated racism, sexism, and overall violent hatred of empowered white nationalism, and threatens us all.

    i’m not sure i would categorize the hostile climate generated by the the hoax attacks as revealing “the unadulterated racism, sexism, and overall violent hatred of empowered white nationalism”.

    empowered nationalism perhaps, which zionism certainly is, but i think white nationalists were targeted in these particular hoaxs too, for it was predictable the press would blame them for it. and until we know who vandalized the jewish cemeteries, i think it’s fair (tho perhaps not accurate) to assume american society was also the intended target of these attacks, at the expense of legitimate jewish fear.

    of course if one defines zionist nationalism as “white nationalism” then this theory is a mute point. but if american society is the target, and it was a hoax on the american public, then it was not limited to “non-whites, non-Christians, and gender non-conforming individuals”, the hoax is on everyone implicated the crime as well. which would include some of the most unsavory elements of our society.

    These hateful incidents revive valid fears of anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. at a time when this country is actively, officially, promoting white nationalism. And as these fears peak, they can reinforce in Zionists the need for potentially extreme means of security.

    having our law enforcement, or any government functionaries including the president and congress, focus on “extreme means of security” for one small (arguably privileged) american minority, could have very well been the purpose of the hoax, the primary “message” so to speak. and it diverts attention and resources not only at the expense of minorities who suffer very real discrimination, but at the expense of society as a whole.

    this was a zionist crime, and it served zionism. ironically it served the very people it appeared to target — until the criminal(s) got busted.

    • Mooser
      March 30, 2017, 6:57 pm

      “— until the criminal(s) got busted.”

      Even after that, the confusion and humiliation of having the perpetrator revealed serves the purpose of isolating.

      • Citizen
        March 30, 2017, 8:06 pm

        Isolating whom, exactly?

      • Annie Robbins
        March 31, 2017, 5:24 pm

        it isolates jewish people, setting them apart and leading to the idea or impression they are different from the rest of americans.

      • Mooser
        March 31, 2017, 12:15 pm

        “Isolating whom, exactly?”

        Guess. Do you think these phony bomb threats and the rest of this mishegos is the kind of thing I want to talk about with my non-Jewish friends and neighbors? They wouldn’t understand.

        Better we should discuss it among ourselves. We know how those brain tumors can be.

      • gamal
        April 1, 2017, 7:15 am

        “they are different from the rest of americans.”

        and you know the answer to that conundrum

        “for the gates at Sion-I are open wide
        for the righteous ones
        yes, the gate is open wide
        for the conscious ones, sinners”

        which logically implies

        “war inna east and-a war inna west
        I-man I-say I got to do this
        but Jah-father in the war
        so throw down your arms and come I-say

        throw down your arms and come, sinners
        throw it down – throw it inna the deep sea
        let down the violence and come, sinners
        let it down – let it wash away”

        https://youtu.be/0zsyr8fOZ38

    • oldgeezer
      March 30, 2017, 7:41 pm

      Well lucky the fbi stepped in. The hitch wonder child of the world couldn’t accomplish it for two years. Go figure. Funny how that works.

    • Citizen
      March 30, 2017, 8:08 pm

      Seems to me white gentiles generally have been smeared by this hoax; and we don’t know who vandalized the cemeteries, right?

      • Annie Robbins
        March 31, 2017, 5:21 pm

        right citizen, we don’t know.

        Seems to me white gentiles generally have been smeared by this hoax

        i think our society as a whole has been targeted. as nada pointed out:

        At about the same time Kaydar was making his hoax calls, initially attributed, albeit wrongly, to white nationalists, a string of hateful anti-Semitic posters appeared on a number of campuses in the US, that pointed the finger at completely different groups, namely Blacks and Muslims. …..They erroneously depict the groups “Black Lives Matter” and “We are Muslims” as authors of the anti-Semitic hateful flyers.”

        These posters, the Open Letter continues, “are consistent with a long history whereby hate groups have cited marginalized communities as authors of hate speech to smear them and incite mistrust between them. They serve the goals of both provoking anti-Semitic hatred and justifying the targeting of Palestine solidarity and Black Lives Matter movements

        it’s a continual drumbeat of the US being constantly infested with bigotry towards jews, in a way that leaves the impression they (as a group) are constantly the victims — which i don’t believe, in the overall context of bigotry in america, is true. i think our legislators spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on protecting israel and jewish people in general and states passing these anti bds laws (which require lots of ongoing data/work from the states) is an example of that.

    • Misterioso
      March 31, 2017, 10:55 am

      Worth noting:

      “Anti-Semitism has grown and continues to grow – and so do I.” (Theodor Herzl, The Complete Diaries, Vol. 1, p. 7, quoted by David Hirst, in The Gun and the Olive Branch, p. 160)

    • rhkroell
      April 1, 2017, 12:18 am

      Americans should insist on a professional (meaning: not-“enhanced” but adroit and exhaustive) interrogation of this “terrorist.” We need to understand and expose his probable motivation(s). Nothing less than a rigorous and methodical investigation of these hate crimes are required.

  5. talknic
    March 31, 2017, 2:58 am

    Purposefully manufactured Antisemitism to bolster the Zionist cause isn’t actually Antisemitism.

    Further more if the bomb hoaxes were by one person it was only one act .

  6. just
    April 3, 2017, 7:15 pm

    I thought Israel was the bestest wrt ‘intelligence’…

    How come they didn’t know about him? Did they know and stay mum?

    What about his Mama and Papa? Come on now, seriously? He was supposedly homeschooled!!!

    “JCC Bomb Hoaxer’s Mom Goes Public, Fearing Son’s Extradition to U.S. …

    Weeping and emotional at times, the mother of the 18-year-old said her son was “not a criminal,” because he “didn’t know what he was doing” when he made the threats.

    “Forgive me, but he has a tumor in his brain!” she said, breaking down during the interview.

    “He’s autistic! This isn’t something he could control! He doesn’t think right – he has a problem with logic. He needs medical care. He’s in very, very bad shape.”

    The interview with the mother filled in details about the young man that were previously not made public – notably that the suspect had been diagnosed with autism from a young age and a tumor was first detected five years ago.

    When he was arrested, his lawyer, Galit Bash, referred only to a “medical problem” that she said affected his “ability to understand right from wrong.”

    The family’s concerns about extradition are justified. A request by U.S. authorities that he face criminal charges in the United States is highly likely, according to Eugene R. Fidell, Yale University lecturer and veteran attorney. “I think the odds are very high,” Fidell told Haaretz.

    “This is a serious matter that has been very disturbing to the Jewish community. Happily, no one was injured because it was fakery, but this is something the government can’t overlook. It’s not something that can be disregarded,” he said.  

    The threats in such a high number of locations spread fear throughout the American Jewish community, and triggered political controversy when they were presumed to be a sign of a new wave of anti-Semitism, triggered by the campaign and election of President Donald Trump.

    Fidell said the young man’s autism was not likely to fall into the legal categories of insanity at the time he allegedly committed the crimes. And since he was capable of allegedly making the threats and operating the complex technology needed to mask his identity, it is also unlikely he will be determined incapable of participating in his own defense.

    While his medical issues – both the autism and brain tumor – would likely be presented to U.S. law authorities, and the judge and jury in a bid for leniency, Fidell expressed doubt whether they would deter the United States from seeking extradition.

    The accused’s mother, whose face was hidden during the television interview, said she had been unaware what her son was doing on his computer until the police knocked on their door to arrest him. She said the family had actually discussed the bomb threats in the United States. Furthermore, when she mentioned she had a friend back in the United States with a child in a threatened JCC, she said her son worried about the child as she did.

    “I was in shock,” she said. “I wish I had known, and I could have prevented it.” Later, she repeated herself: “I was shocked. I’m still shocked. It makes no sense, this is a kid who loved Judaism.”

    The mother related the story of her boy – an only child, born in the United States to her and her Israeli husband when she was 40. She said he was always different – at a year old he was unable to speak but could easily put together complicated puzzles. At 5, she said, he went to a Jewish school in the United States, but refused to sit still and “would get up and wander around,” and was sent home after a month.

    Shortly afterward, she said, they moved to Israel and tried once more to put him in first grade. Again he didn’t manage in school, even when she sat next to him in the classroom, and since then he was homeschooled. The mother displayed the maps her son drew obsessively throughout his childhood and the tickets he had collected from every bus or train ride he had ever taken.

    Five years ago, she said – showing her son’s brain scans as proof – a tumor was detected in his brain. She felt this explained his regression from merely reclusive and quirky behavior to the level where he was threatening Jewish institutions around the world and warning that “Jews are going to be slaughtered. There’s going to be a bloodbath. Their heads are going to be blown off,” in an electronically disguised voice.

    “I’m so sorry about what happened, but he’s not guilty – it was the tumor,” she said. “This could happen to anyone who has a tumor on their brain.”

    Pressed over how she had remained unaware about the bomb threats, the mother responded: “I didn’t know how many hours he was spending on the computer. I would return from work and go to sleep, and didn’t know how much time he was spending on the computer.”

    The young man’s father, who works in high-tech according to the television report, was also arrested on suspicion that he was aware of his son’s alleged crimes or assisted him in some way. He was released to house arrest last week under restricted conditions.  

    The father’s lawyer, Maayan Haimovich, contended in the television report that neither the mother nor father “had any idea what was going on,” particularly because their son would use his computer when they went to sleep. “They had no control over what their son did in the middle of the night,” she claimed. …”

    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.781025

    Now for Papa:

    “Father of JCC Bomb Hoax Suspect to U.S. Jewry: ‘We Apologize From the Bottom of Our Hearts’ …

    The father of the American-Israeli teenager suspected of making more than 100 fake bomb threats against North American Jewish community centers and institutions expressed great regret for the threats on Monday.

    “To all of the Jews in the United States, I want to convey a clear message. We very much apologize from the bottom of our hearts,” the father, told Channel 2 television. “We are good Jews. We don’t hate you.”

    “I was in total shock over what happened,” said the father, who faced the investigation, which is conducted by police and the FBI, over whether he knew about his son’s alleged threats at the time they were purportedly committed. The parents of the suspect, who live with him in the coastal southern city of Ashkelon, have denied knowing anything about the threats before the teen’s arrest, but they did not deny the allegations against their son.

    “The world has to understand. This boy in different, he’s unique” said the father in the television interview. …”

    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.781272

    “The world” does NOT have “to understand.” You might want to apologize to all Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, law enforcement, etc. and NOT just to “US Jewry”.

    None of this passes the proverbial smell test. He’s been making threats for @ least 2 years and his parents (and Israeli ‘intelligence’) never knew a thing?

    • oldgeezer
      April 3, 2017, 7:39 pm

      @just

      They either knew or they decided there was no real threat given the originating location of the calls and the benefits of creating an air of antisemitism beneficial to their cause.

      It is not remotely conceivable that they could not have apprehended the individual. The assistance provided by the fbi amounted to a we are watching now so you can’t ignore solving this case.

      As you note Israel is quite hitech. And when it comes to internet activity they actually have more data at their disposal than the fbi.

      Something is very rotten in this case.

      As to his inability to know what he was doing, the steps he took to conceal his identity and refusal to cooperate is evidence that he knew what he was doing. There is no inability to tell the difference between right and wrong. One sick little punk. Of course when your entire life has been based on crimes against humanity and your superiority over others it’s not that surprising.

    • Mooser
      April 4, 2017, 11:18 am

      ““To all of the Jews in the United States, I want to convey a clear message. We very much apologize from the bottom of our hearts,” the father, told Channel 2 television. “We are good Jews. We don’t hate you.”

      Thank God I saw that paragraph. Finally, I’ll be able to sleep, instead of worrying about what Israelis think of me. Thank you, sir.

    • Mooser
      April 4, 2017, 3:22 pm

      “The world has to understand. This boy in different, he’s unique” said the father in the television interview. …”

      O-kay! Now I know where to sell the last gross of these lovely buttons.

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