An 18-year-old male teen has been arrested in Israel and is accused of making a series of threats against Jewish institutions across the United States and several other countries over several months. Law enforcement officials said that his actions piqued fears of a rise of anti-Semitism. An attorney for the young man claims that her client suffers from a brain tumor that affects his behavior.
Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that the suspect, a dual U.S.-Israel citizen, made threats against Jewish community centers and other facilities in Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. He also threatened at least one commercial airliner. His motivations remain unclarified.
A judge has ordered the suspect held until March 30, even though he has not yet been charged. A medical examination has also been ordered. Attorney Galit Bash said of his client in a statement: “He suffers from a brain tumor that may have had an effect on his cognitive functions.” Bash told the court that the teen has had a brain tumor for several years and has not attended regular school since the first grade. He has no other criminal record. In addition, he was rejected for Israel’s obligatory military service because of his condition.
According to media reports, the young man tried to seize an officer’s gun during the arrest. In his court appearance, the accused was wearing khaki cargo pants. His head was bowed and he pulled his shirt over his face. Police have also arrested his father, who is being held for eight days on the suspicion of having knowledge of the threats.
President Trump specifically denounced the threats against Jewish targets during his speech to Congress last month. Since January 1, there had been over 100 bomb threats, leading to bomb sweeps, evacuations, and fear. Other acts of violence, such as the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, have been attributed to as yet unidentified parties.
Doron Krakow, who leads the Jewish Community Center Association of North America, released a statement saying, “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.” A spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League insisted that the threats should be considered acts of anti-Semitism.
President Trump’s critics have sought to link him to an alleged rise in hate crimes and accuse him of not condemning attacks strongly enough. In a meeting with state attorneys general on Feb. 28, Trump said that the threats and attacks may be an effort to “make people look bad” for political gain.
Juan Thompson, 31, a former reporte from St Louis was charged earlier this month for issuing bomb threats against at least six Jewish community centers, schools, and a Jewish history museum. Federal authorities say that Thompson issued some of the threats in his own name, while in others he sought to implicate an ex-girlfriend. In February, Thompson allegedly threatened a Jewish school in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He claimed to have emplaced two bombs in the school and was “eager for Jewish Newtown,” in a reference to the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.