The Washington Post reports: A new wave of threats were made late Monday and Tuesday to Jewish schools and institutions, including the New York and Washington offices of the Anti-Defamation League, according to that group and other officials.
These latest bomb threats came as a letter signed by every U.S. senator was sent to top law enforcement officials in the Trump administration, asking them to do more in response to the bout of threatening messages that have continuously rattled Jewish groups this year.
“We write to underscore the need for swift action with regard to the deeply troubling series of anonymous bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), Jewish day schools, synagogues and other buildings affiliated with Jewish organizations or institutions across the country,” the senators wrote in a letter, a copy of which was shared publicly Tuesday by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), two of the lawmakers who said they were behind the message.
The senators’ letter and the new threats underscored the anxiety still present in Jewish communities four days after a disgraced former journalist was arrested and charged with being responsible for a handful of the threatening messages. [Continue reading…]
The Atlantic reports: The FBI has arrested one suspect in connection with the recent bomb threats against Jewish institutions and Jewish Community Centers, known as JCCs. According to the arrest warrant, a culprit in at least some of the threats is Juan Thompson, a St. Louis native who was fired from his job as a reporter at The Intercept in early 2016 for fabricating stories. The FBI alleged that Thompson “appears to have made some of the JCC threats as part of a sustained campaign to harass and intimidate” a former girlfriend. The details in the FBI arrest warrant against Thompson link him to eight specific threats. But they do not account for the much larger wave of phone calls threatening Jewish institutions.
The complaint tells the story like this. Somewhere in the period of 2015 and 2016, Thompson was in a relationship with a young woman working in the greater New York City area. During the summer of 2016, they broke up. Thompson started sending her false text messages and emails, claiming, for example, that he had been the victim of a shooting and was going to be taken off life support. He emailed her boss, saying she had a sexually transmitted disease. And he sent her nude photographs he had of her, threatening to release them to the public.
Faxes and emails started showing up at her work. One email, allegedly sent by an account that had been used by Thompson, claimed she had threatened to kill him. A series of faxes claimed she was an anti-Semite, and purported to provide evidence that she had made anti-Semitic statements on social media.
Investigators say Thompson sent tips about the woman to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, saying she watches child porn. When the New York Police Department contacted Thompson about these claims, he said his email had been hacked a few weeks prior, even though a month had elapsed since the claims were made. The NYPD warned him that his “conduct must stop,” and that he shouldn’t contact the woman.
Starting in January, investigators believe, Thompson made at least eight threats to Jewish institutions around the country. Some were made in the woman’s name. Others were made in his own name; he later claimed that she had made the calls in an attempt to falsely implicate him in the threats. These allegedly included threatening emails sent to the Jewish History Museum in Manhattan on January 28; Jewish schools in Farmington Hills, Michigan, and New York City on February 1; a JCC in New York City on February 7; and a threatening phone call to the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that tracks anti-Semitism, on February 22. He also allegedly emailed the Anti-Defamation League, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the JCC in San Diego claiming that the woman was anti-Semitic and planned to carry out violent attacks. These threats included various false details about bombs and explosives that had been planted in these Jewish institutions. [Continue reading…]
Doyle Murphy reports: At the Riverfront Times, we published a cover story about Thompson last February. He was a north St. Louis native who was once a reporter with a job at The Intercept in New York City, a news site best-known for its cache of documents from national security leaker Edward Snowden. But Thompson had been fired after the site caught him making up details and sending bogus emails, including some masquerading as the site’s editor.
Thompson blamed racism and also claimed to have cancer. But we uncovered additional problems with his work, going all the way back to his college days with the student newspaper at Vassar College, a prestigious university in Poughkeepsie, New York. Thompson had overcome an impoverished background to attend college there, but failed to graduate. He still landed a few good media jobs — only to crash and burn when his sourcing didn’t check out.
After our cover story, we followed up later with a short account of his brief tenure for an online news site. I wrote the stories. Thompson was pissed. He emailed my boss and tried to get me fired. When that didn’t work, he emailed me.
“You are a white piece of shit who lies and distorts to fit a narrative,” he wrote me in October. “Thankfully no one reads you or the rft and you will spend the rest of your career aggregating stories about shootings.”
Things were quiet for a while after that, but then came the fake Twitter accounts. My wife and I were sitting on our couch one night when she tapped me on the elbow and showed me her phone. Someone had created a brand-new Twitter profile claiming I was a rapist. The person tweeted at her, my boss and other journalists around St. Louis. It was an insane — and, though it’s hard to believe I even have to say it — completely untrue accusation.
For the next several days, we scrambled to get people at Twitter to pull down the account. They finally did. Then another popped up. We got it pulled down. Another popped up. This went on for weeks, account after account, day after day, and extended to Facebook. Someone created fake Facebook accounts and pages and regularly popped up on RFT stories, accusing me of rape. This person also made reference to my mother, using her first name, and published a social media profile picture of my wife that had been scraped from the internet.
We finally contacted the St. Louis police department’s cyber crimes unit. I still remember the detective stopping me before I could get the full explanation out.
“Does this have anything to do with Juan Thompson?” he asked. [Continue reading…]
Riverfront Times reported in 2016: Journalist Andrew Jerell Jones worked with Thompson for about six months at the Intercept. He says they were “friendly” and, like Thompson, he claims the site has a race problem, though he won’t get into specifics.
That doesn’t excuse bad journalism, he says.
“There are some fundamental problems at the Intercept with race, as there are in media in general, including liberal online media,” Jones writes in an email. “But what Juan did was something that is TABOO for all of us journalists of ALL color and something that does not make him look like the martyr he is sadly trying to portray himself as.
“What he did was made it worse for all of us minority journalists, especially black, who have legitimate issues with race in newsrooms and media as a whole.” [Continue reading…]
Rashid, a veteran, who calls himself as the “Muslim Marine,” sent out a tweet on Monday offering to stand guard for any Jewish synagogue, cemetery or organization.
I'm a #MuslimMarine in Chicagoland area. If your synagogue or Jewish cemetery needs someone to stand guard, count me in. Islam requires it.
— The Muslim Marine (@MuslimMarine) February 27, 2017
Rashid knew he had to do more to help out his Jewish neighbors and that’s why he fired off his now-viral tweet.
“As I watch this horrible thing unfold here, I felt terrible about what happened in St. Louis and this heinous event in Philadelphia,” Rashid, 40, said in a phone interview. “I was moved to tears. This is absolutely not right.” [Continue reading…]
Aaron Blake writes: President Trump seemed to suggest Tuesday that the recent bomb threats and vandalism at Jewish community centers and cemeteries across the country might be false flags, according to a Democratic attorney general who met with him. And Trump’s comments came the same day that one of his top advisers suggested the culprits could be Democrats.
It wouldn’t be the first time Trump went down this road.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) told reporters Tuesday that Trump expressed horror at the situation but also appeared to suggest it might not be anti-Semitism and that it could be “the reverse,” according to reports from the BillyPenn and BuzzFeed. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Two attacks on Jewish cemeteries in the last week have resulted in an outpouring of more than $136,000 in donations from thousands of Muslims and others, who have also pledged to financially support Jewish institutions if there are further attacks.
Jewish organizations have reported a sharp increase in harassment. The JCC Association of North America, which represents Jewish community centers, said 21 Jewish institutions, including eight day schools, had received bomb threats on Monday.
Two Muslim activists, Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi, asked Muslims to donate $20,000 in a crowdfunding effort to repair hundreds of Jewish headstones that were toppled near St. Louis last week. That goal was reached in three hours.
Though the activists do not have cost estimates yet, Mr. El-Messidi said on Monday that the money raised would most likely be enough to repair the graves near St. Louis and in Philadelphia, where about 100 headstones were toppled on Sunday.
Any extra money will be held in a fund to help after attacks on Jewish institutions in the future, he said. That could mean removing a spray-painted swastika or repairing the kind of widespread damage seen in the graveyards. [Continue reading…]
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: Stacy Silver prayed as she drove with her husband to Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia’s Wissinoming section Sunday: Please don’t let my mother and great-grandmother be among the victims.
When Silver, 50, of Cherry Hill, N.J., heard about the vandalism at the Jewish cemetery that occurred overnight Saturday, she rushed to her loved ones’ graves.
What she saw when she arrived was worse than she imagined — tombstone after tombstone, story after story, was toppled to the ground — including those belonging to her mother and great-grandmother.
“Your stomach just drops,” Silver said. “I mean it’s just horrible.”
Detectives canvassing the cemetery Sunday afternoon estimated that 75 to 100 headstones had been knocked over.
“It’s criminal. This is beyond vandalism,” said Northeast Detectives Capt. Shawn Thrush, as he walked the cemetery grounds. “It’s beyond belief.”
The vandalism, coming a week after a similar incident in St. Louis, prompted the Anne Frank Center to call for President Trump to make a forceful denunciation of anti-Semitic hate crimes.
“Mr. President, it’s time for you to deliver a prime-time nationally televised speech, live from the Oval Office, on how you intend to combat not only #Antisemitism but also Islamophobia and other rising forms of hate,” the organization posted Sunday on Twitter. “Whether or not your intention, your Presidency has given the oxygen of incitement to some of the most viciously hateful elements of our society.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded 1,372 bias incidents between Trump’s inauguration and Feb. 7, the watchdog group reported. Among those, the group highlighted 57 incidents in 24 states of anonymous bomb threats being called in to Jewish Community Centers. The organization has also recorded that the number of hate groups in the U.S. grew in 2016 for the second straight year, with a threefold increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups. [Continue reading…]
By Ariana Tobin, ProPublica, February 23, 2017
When it comes to death, my family honors all of the Ashkenazi Jewish traditions: We name our children after dead relatives, we sit shiva for a week, we gather around trays of fruit and lox and cream cheese, we cover the mirrors, we say the Kaddish prayer, we each toss three shovelfuls of dirt into the grave, and we wait a year to put a stone on top of it. When I got my driver’s license at 16, my mom asked me not to sign the organ donor card because Jews are supposed to be laid to rest in one piece. When I turned 18 and signed it anyway, I couldn’t stop imagining her face when she found out after I’d died in a car accident.
But traditions don’t protect you from death, or the life of anxiety in preparation for it. When I told my grandmother — her mother called her Malka, her sisters called her Mollie — that I had an opportunity to teach English abroad, I knew what to expect in response: “That’s nice, baby, but why don’t you find a teaching job around here where it’s safe?” That, and a $20 bill she couldn’t necessarily afford to give.
But when I added, “I’m going to a place in Belarus called Minsk; it’s a big city,” her reply took me by surprise. “Minsk!” she exclaimed. “That’s where my mother was from! I guess you could go. Maybe you’ll see where they lived?”
I did go. I didn’t see where they lived because that place does not exist anymore, thanks to World War II and the Soviets. To identify the symbols of Judaism left in a city that was about 37 percent Jewish in 1941, you have to squint at the stone facades of buildings and say, “Yes, I think that might be a Hebrew character.” You have to stare hard, and wonder, “Hmm, is that Yiddish?”
There are statues and plaques here and there. But look as one might, there are few relics of Jewish death. When you visit Khatyn, a memorial to the victims of “the Great War,” you learn about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, but little to nothing about what religion they practiced. Nor are there signs marking entire villages of Belarussians, Jews and non-Jews, that became unmarked mass graves. When I would ask my students and co-workers and friends, “What happened to the Jews here?” all most of them would say was, “They left.”
Southern Poverty Law Center reports: As President Trump is pressured to substantively respond to the rise in anti-Semitic incidents since his election, a new analysis reveals that Breitbart News under Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon fostered a comment section — a sample of Breitbart’s readership — that increasingly reflected language specific to the white nationalist “alt-right” movement, including anti-Semitic sentiment.
Comparing the language of Breitbart commenters to the language of the most aggressive far-right extremists online — e.g. language used by Twitter users who advocate for violence against minorities and are openly pro-Nazi — we can see a clear trend of increasing similarity over a three-year period, the bulk of it under Bannon. Bannon left Breitbart to join the Trump campaign in mid-August 2016 but the editorial focus of the site stayed the course he set it on.
Diving deeper into anti-Semitic sentiment we see a similar trajectory. In early 2013, the term “Jewish” was used in a similar way as “white” or “black” as a racial/ethnic descriptor, which is similar to how “Jewish” is used in the mainstream press. By 2016 on Breitbart, however, “Jewish” had morphed into an epithet, used in similar contexts as “socialist” or “commie.” [Continue reading…]
Steven Goldstein, Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, released a statement today on President Trump’s acknowledgment of antisemitism. He wrote: The President’s sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration. His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Antisemitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record. Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration. The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial. And it was only yesterday, President’s Day, that Jewish Community Centers across the nation received bomb threats, and the President said absolutely nothing. When President Trump responds to Antisemitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment.
Huffington Post reports: Jewish Community Centers were shaken by another wave of bomb threats, forcing evacuations in 10 states Monday.
Eleven Jewish Community Centers received threatening calls Monday, said Marla Cohen, communications manager for JCCA, the Jewish Community Center Association.
Incidents were reported at Jewish Community Centers in St. Paul, Minnesota; Buffalo and Amherst, New York; Birmingham, Alabama; Houston; Cleveland, Ohio; Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin; Nashville; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Tampa, Florida; and Chicago.
Law enforcement officials were investigating the threats and, as of late Monday, centers were being reopened after explosive devices were not found.
For some of these organizations, it was not the first threat made in recent weeks. There have now been at least 67 incidents at 56 Jewish Community Centers in 27 states and one Canadian province since the start of 2017, Cohen told The Huffington Post.
Monday’s incidents are part a sharp rise in threats made against JCCs around the nation since Donald Trump began his presidential campaign, which was frequently criticized for winking at white nationalists and not forcefully condemning hate speech and extremism. [Continue reading…]
My name is Lutz Grünthal. The US turned me away at the border in 1939. I was murdered in Auschwitz pic.twitter.com/DyS8NXrk2P
— St. Louis Manifest (@Stl_Manifest) January 27, 2017
Nine hundred thirty-seven.
That was the number of passengers aboard the SS St. Louis, a German ocean liner that set off from Hamburg on May 13, 1939. Almost all of those sailing were Jewish people, desperate to escape the Third Reich. The destination was Havana, more than two weeks away by ship.
So begins a haunting tale, one that would end tragically for hundreds of those on board — so much so that, decades later, it would be the basis for the movie “Voyage of the Damned.”
Before the St. Louis even left Hamburg, there were indications the passengers might have problems disembarking in Cuba. The ship’s owners knew many travelers were likely holding invalidated landing certificates, according to research by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Thousands of miles away, anti-Semitic protests and editorials were cropping up all over Cuba.
“Many Cubans resented the relatively large number of refugees (including 2,500 Jews), whom the government had already admitted into the country, because they appeared to be competitors for scarce jobs,” the museum noted. “Hostility toward immigrants fueled both antisemitism and xenophobia. Both agents of Nazi Germany and indigenous right-wing movements hyped the immigrant issue in their publications and demonstrations, claiming that incoming Jews were Communists.”
Still, the inhospitable circumstances awaiting them paled in comparison to what the passengers wanted to flee in Europe, and so the ship set sail. When the St. Louis arrived in Havana two weeks later, only 29 passengers were allowed into the country. The other 907 were ordered to remain on the ship. (One person had died en route of natural causes.)
As futile negotiations with the Cuban government ensued, the would-be asylum-seekers redirected their pleas to the American government. They would be in vain.
“Sailing so close to Florida that they could see the lights of Miami, some passengers on the St. Louis cabled President Franklin D. Roosevelt asking for refuge,” the Holocaust museum noted. “Roosevelt never responded.”
A State Department telegram stated, simply, that passengers must “await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States.” [Continue reading…]
James Kirchick writes: “I refuse to join any club that will have me as a member,” Groucho Marx famously said.
“We insist on joining the club that refuses to have us as members” might as well be the mantra of some aspiring Jewish adherents of the racist “alt-right.”
A nebulous collective of internet trolls, neoreactionaries, and outright white supremacists, the alt-right has drawn widespread fascination in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, which it helped propel. Contemptuous of mainstream conservativism and explicitly embracing white identity politics, alt-righters are in many ways the mirror image of the racial minority and “woke” liberal activists they gleefully antagonize. This likeness is implicitly acknowledged by the alt-right’s use of the term “identitarian,” a designation that seeks to politicize whiteness.
Needless to say, these guys aren’t exactly fans of the Jews. One of alt-right’s leading voices, Kevin MacDonald, has written entire books positing that Judaism is a “group evolutionary strategy” aimed at undermining white, Christian civilization.
But none of this seems to faze denizens of “The Jewish Alternative,” a newly launched website and podcast purporting to represent “The Voice of Dissident Jewry.” The alt-right, they say, is the only force willing to protect western civilization — and, by implication, Jews — from the hordes of Muslims, Black Lives Matter activists, and campus totalitarians trying to destroy it. [Continue reading…]
The Guardian reports: The Prince of Wales has warned that the rise of populist extremism and intolerance towards other faiths risks repeating the “horrors” of the Holocaust.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s religious Thought for the Day slot, the prince delivered an outspoken attack against religious hatred and pleaded for a welcoming attitude to those fleeing persecution.
He said: “We are now seeing the rise of many populist groups across the world that are increasingly aggressive to those who adhere to a minority faith. All of this has deeply disturbing echoes of the dark days of the 1930s.
“My parents’ generation fought and died in a battle against intolerance, monstrous extremism and inhuman attempts to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe.”
The prince did not mention any politicians by name, but his address will be seen by some as a veiled reference to the election of Donald Trump in the US, the rise of the far right in Europe, and increasingly hostile attitudes to refugees in the UK.
“That nearly 70 years later we should still be seeing such evil persecution is to me beyond all belief,” he said. “We owe it to those who suffered and died so horribly not to repeat the horrors of the past.” [Continue reading…]
The Local reports: Sweden’s neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) mounted the biggest march in its history on Saturday, with its leadership saying the election of Donald Trump in the US marked the start of a world revolution.
Five people were arrested and two were injured in Stockholm on Saturday as an estimated 600 far-right demonstrators marched from the central Kungsträdgården park to Mynttorget, the square where Sweden’s parliament is based in historic Gamla Stan.
“A number of people have been held. They were aggressive at one of our barriers,” Kjell Lindgren, a press spokesman for the Stockholm police said. He said that police had registered two cases of violent rioting, which carries a maximum four-year sentence. At least twenty others were detained for the duration of the march.
The NMR, set up in 1997, promotes an openly racist and anti-Semitic doctrine, and press commentators had questioned the wisdom of authorising Saturday’s rally, given the likelihood of violence. [Continue reading…]
In an editorial, the New York Times says: In his victory speech early Wednesday morning, Donald Trump pledged that he “will be president for all Americans,” and he asked those who did not support him “for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”
Here’s some guidance right off the bat, Mr. President-elect: Those sentiments will have more force if you immediately and unequivocally repudiate the outpouring of racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and homophobic insults, threats and attacks being associated with your name. Do this in a personal plea to people who supported your candidacy. Tell them this is not what you stand for, nor is it what your new administration will tolerate.
Explicit expressions of bigotry and hatred by Trump supporters were common throughout the campaign, and they have become even more intense since his election. On a department-store window in Philadelphia, vandals spray-painted “Sieg Heil 2016” and Mr. Trump’s name written with a swastika. In a Minnesota high-school bathroom, vandals scrawled the Trump campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” and next to it, “Go back to Africa.” There are many more reports pouring in of verbal and physical harassment of Muslims, Latinos and other members of minorities. Though not all are verifiable, the atmosphere of intimidation and fear is unquestionably real and will keep growing. Mr. Trump may not be able to stop it by himself, but he must do everything he can.
The problem, of course, is that Mr. Trump’s campaign was based on appeals — some explicit, some coded — to racial and ethnic resentment and division. His followers heard it starting with his speech declaring his candidacy, warning of Mexican immigrant “rapists,” continuing to a rally last weekend where he promised to bar all Syrian refugees because they “will import generations of terrorism, extremism and radicalism into your schools and throughout your communities.” These statements emboldened and even encouraged those who have been looking for a license to lash out against immigrants, refugees, minorities and anyone else they find threatening. They take his victory as vindication of their feelings.
David Duke, the former Louisiana lawmaker and former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, tweeted that Mr. Trump’s victory was “one of the most exciting nights of my life,” and also, “Our people have played a HUGE role in electing Trump!” In another tweet, he wrote, “Anyone telling you this was a vote for ‘unity’ is a liar and they know it!”
As a candidate, Mr. Trump could get away with ignoring racist and sexist abuse by his supporters. But as the president-elect, he has the moral duty to reject it in the most aggressive terms. There should be no space in American political discourse for violent or abusive behavior. And that includes, of course, acts of vandalism and other violence by anti-Trump demonstrators.
In a little more than two months, Donald Trump will take charge of a country of more than 320 million people of all races, ethnicities and religions. Every one of them deserves to live in safety, with dignity. [Continue reading…]