Israeli teen convicted of making thousands of bomb threats against US Jews | News | DW | 28.06.2018
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Israeli teen convicted of making thousands of bomb threats against US Jews

The threats from the dual US-Israeli nationality Jewish teen had stoked fears of rising anti-Semitism in the US. They also led to intense debate and shock in Israel and the US Jewish community.

A Tel Aviv court convicted a 19-year-old Jewish Israeli on Thursday for making thousands of bomb threats against airports and Jewish schools and community centers, mostly in the United States.

The dual US-Israeli national was arrested in March last year in southern Israel following an investigation by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.  He was not named in the court filings.

The allegations

  • That he made more than 2,000 anonymous bomb threats against mostly Jewish schools and institutions in the United States
  • forced evacuations and created an environment of terror among the Jewish community in 2016 and early 2017
  • used identity-masking technology to call in bomb threats to synagogues, community centers and schools.
  • used the online marketplace AlphaBay to market extortion services 
  • made around $240,000 in bitcoin from bomb threats.

Last year, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency published a recording of one of the bomb threats calls using voice hiding technology to a Jewish community center (JCC):

"It’s a C-4 bomb with a lot of shrapnel, surrounded by a bag [inaudible]. In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to [sic] blown off from the shrapnel. There’s a lot of shrapnel. There’s going to be a bloodbath that’s going to take place in a short time. I think I told you enough. I must go."

 

The court said: "The goal of the defendant was to cause public panic, to send many emergency forces to the threatened area, to cause an urgent evacuation of the place, to conduct searches and scans and to create a media echo that would enhance the damage inherent in his actions."

Read more: Poland strips back controversial Holocaust law

The conviction

The 19-year-old was found guilty on hundreds of counts, including:

  • extortion
  • publishing false information
  • creating panic
  • computer offenses
  • money laundering.

He will be sentenced later and faces possible extradition to the United States where hate crime charges have been levelled against him. 

The defense

His parents had argued their son was autistic, but the court decided that "does not fulfil the conditions to be exempt from responsibility." 

The judge hearing the case said the defendant "changed his version of events multiple times according to what suits him the most. He very much understands the significance of his actions."

Read more: German national newspaper apologizes for Netanyahu cartoon criticized as anti-Semitic

Wider debate 

The repeated scares created fears of rising anti-Semitism in the United States. It also prompted accusations that US President Donald Trump was stoking right-wing fueled anti-Semitism.

Trump's daughter and son-in-law are Jewish and he has pursued a staunchly pro-Israel policy. Evangelical Christians are one of the president's most important support bases. 

Trump had suggested the threats could be fake acts designed by Democrats to discredit him and his supporters. His comments provoked a backlash, although the president later condemned any form of "bigotry, intolerance and hatred."

Read more: Trump decries threats against Jewish centers

Read more: Anti-Semitism in Germany: Are immigrants unfairly portrayed in the media?

Mark Zell, the chairman of Republicans Overseas Israel, said: "A lot of the uproar about anti-Semitism among American Jewish leaders and Democratic politicians – particularly those going after Donald Trump and his administration – has been over the top, as this would suggest."

Read more: Netanyahu's son is under fire for Facebook post that echoes Nazi's anti-Semitism

The Anti-Defamation League said last year that the bomb threats constituted anti-Semitism and recorded them in their annual report which showed a rise in anti-Semitic acts.

Read more: Anti-Semitic incidents surge in US: report

"These were acts of anti-Semitism. These threats targeted Jewish institutions and were calculated to sow fear and anxiety, and put the entire Jewish community on high alert," Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said last year.

cw/jm (AFP, AP, dpa)

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