In at least 13 states, bomb threats were called into Jewish community centers and schools on Monday. Media and police reports came in from Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
This is the fifth series of threats against Jewish targets that started in January. There have been at least 80 such threats issued in both Canada and the United States so far in February. The rash of attacks on Monday came a day after monuments at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia were desecrated. About 100 headstones were toppled at the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia. Capt. Shawn Thrush toured Jewish cemetery said of the assault, "It's beyond belief."
The narrative that has emerged in the press is that the Trump administration has been slow to bring the attacks to an end. However, President Donald Trump denounced anti-Semitism specifically last week after 11 Jewish community centers across the country received death threats. In addition, more than 100 headstones were damaged at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.
“I will tell you that anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s going to stop. It has to stop,” Trump told MSNBC’s Craig Melvin last week. And at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, he said, “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday that Trump “continues to be deeply disappointed and concerned” about “the reports of further vandalism at Jewish cemeteries.”
“The cowardly destruction in Philadelphia this weekend comes on top of similar accounts from Missouri and threats made to Jewish community centers around the country,” Spicer said. “The president continues to condemn these and other forms of anti-semitic and hateful acts.”
“We saw anti-Semitism in Britain, we saw it in France, and now we see it’s spreading everywhere,” says Malcolm Hoenlein, who presides over the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations. While calling for a world summit to combat anti-Semitism, Hoenlein said forcefully, “Any accusations that Trump is an anti-Semite are unfounded.”
“I think we’re seeing a pandemic in formation,” said Hoenlein, who is currently in the UK. “I don’t think it’s here. I think America’s situation is different from Europe. But the potential is there.”
Hoenlein has asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to invite to Israel the head of the Democratic party, Tom Perez, to reaffirm a bipartisan commitment to the survival of the Jewish state. “We saw anti-Semitism in Britain, we saw it in France, and now we see it’s spreading everywhere,” Hoenlein told The Times of Israel. “Look at the numbers of incidents in Germany, Scandinavia and other parts of the world. And now we see in America swastikas being painted, other expressions [such as phoned-in] threats or aggression against kids on campuses. So it spreads. It’s not isolated to one geographic locale. It’s like a virus that spreads. And you have to declare it for what it is.”
Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center, responded to Spicer with a statement, saying Trump’s “sudden acknowledgment is a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration.” White House counselor Steve Bannon has been repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism, largely because of his past as an executive at the pro-Trump Breitbart news service and the discredited words of an ex-wife.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN)
However, the current media attention on the cemetery desecrations in St. Louis and Philadelphia is at odds with a similar event that occurred during the Obama administration. In December 2010, at least 200 tombstones were tumped over at the Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn. While it was covered by the New York Post and Brooklyn weeklies, the incident was largely unremarked. The New York Times did not cover it.
The current spate of cemetery desecrations occurred during the run-up to the election of Tom Perez as head of the Democratic party. The co-chair is Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), who was the first Muslim elected to Congress. Ellison was considered the leading candidate for the job. Trump tweeted that Perez’ victory was rigged, while socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also expressed his doubts about the election.
Ellison was recorded at a 2010 private fundraiser in which he evinced a hostility to the state of Israel. The Investigative Project on Terrorism quoted Ellison, who said, “The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people.” Ellison goes on to say, “A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right? When the Americans who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes. Can I say that again?”
The fundraiser was hosted by Esam Omeish, a former president of the Muslim American Society. In 2007, Omeish dropped out of a Virginia state commission that was examining immigration. It came in the wake of revelations of comments in which he told his fellow Muslim “brothers and sisters” that “the jihad way is the way to liberate your land.”
At the time one of the biggest donors/fundraisers for the Democrats, Haim Saban, said that as chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Ellison would oversee the destruction of the Democratic party.
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement in 2010 that said that Ellison’s remarks raise “serious doubts” about his commitment to the party’s traditional support for Israel.
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.