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What does arrest of JCC bomb threat suspect mean?
Amanda Koehn Cleveland Jewish News
March 27, 2017

 

After an Israeli-American teenager was arrested on March 23 for allegedly perpetrating more than 100 bomb threats targeting Jewish institutions, Jewish community leaders expressed relief, while some experts questioned the motives behind the anti-Semitic crimes.

Michael Kaydar, 19, allegedly perpetrated threats in the U.S. and abroad using technology like Google Voice, a call forwarding service, and Bitcoin, a digital currency. He was arrested at his home in Ashkelon in southern Israel. His father has also since been detained on the suspicion that he was aware of his son’s alleged crimes.

“We are glad that a suspect has been arrested because what’s been going on with the bomb threats has been extremely disruptive and terrifying,” said Anita Gray, Cleveland regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Gray said despite the fact that Kaydar is Jewish, the impact of his crimes are still “terribly great” and anti-Semitic in nature.

“When a perpetrator selects an institution simply because it is a Jewish institution, it’s a hate crime and we consider that anti-Semitic,” she said.

Kaydar has a “very serious medical condition” that could have affected his behavior, according to his lawyer, Galit Besh, the Times of Israel reported. Local Israeli media reported that the condition was a nonmalignant brain tumor.

More than 150 bomb threats have been called or emailed to Jewish institutions since the beginning of 2017, including the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood. The Mandel JCC received bomb threats March 12 and Feb. 20 and released a statement signed by its board chair Alan B. Semel and president and CEO Michael G. Hyman after the arrest.

“Mandel JCC is both thankful and relieved an arrest has been made in connection with the over 150 hoax bomb threats terrorizing Jewish institutions since the beginning of the year,” the statement read.

According to the statement, the Mandel JCC will continue to maintain its current security measures.

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland also released a statement on the arrest, signed by its board chair Gary L. Gross.

“We are grateful to the FBI, and all other authorities locally, nationally, and internationally who played a role in apprehending this subject,” the Federation’s statement read.

The Daily Beast reported that Kaydar used a program called SpoofCard which masked his caller ID and made him “virtually untraceable” for months. He was caught after he forgot to trace his internet connection through a proxy server, which allowed the police to find his IP address and directed them to his home, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“From what I understand, he was very good at this craft – if that’s what you call it,” Gray said.

Gray also said she has “utmost respect” for law enforcement who found the perpetrator.

Kenneth L. Marcus, the founder and president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C., said there are several reasons someone who is Jewish may commit an anti-Semitic crime, such as this one. The Brandeis Center is a Jewish civil rights advocacy group and Marcus will speak at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland 4:30 p.m. March 29.

“It might be a disturbed individual in which case it’s not so much about reason as their mental condition,” Marcus said.

Moreover, Marcus said that in some circumstances, Jews harbor ill will toward the Jewish people and perpetuate anti-Semitism, despite their belonging to the religious and ethnic group. On the other hand, he said he has seen cases where minorities create hoaxes to draw attention to an issue affecting their group. He said while it is rare in the Jewish community, such hoaxes are problematic because people who were already skeptical about the veracity of such issues affecting the minority become even more convinced the problem is invented.

“My biggest concern is that this will hamper the momentum that we have in fighting back against the widespread issues of actual anti-Semitism and hatred,” Marcus said. “This may make it too easy for people who don’t want to deal with bias to say it is all made up.”

Hours after the arrest on March 23, a JCC in Dallas, Texas, received a bomb threat, according to JTA.

The Times of Israel also reported that Kaydar allegedly made more than 1,000 total threats over the past two years and is thought to be behind two threats to Delta Airlines that resulted in the grounding of planes.

The Times of Israel report also said that although the investigation into Kaydar was ongoing for the past two years, the arrest was only made possible once FBI investigators arrived in Israel several weeks ago. Kaydar may be extradited to the U.S. and the Times of Israel reported that Israel will likely comply.

Marcus said the suspect’s mental health should have bearing on how he is treated by the criminal justice system. He said now, it’s important to redouble efforts to fight rising anti-Semitism, particularly on college campuses and cemetery desecration. Moreover, while right-wing extremists were early scapegoats for the bomb threats, Marcus said it’s important to note that anti-Semitic bias exists on both the left and right.

“In general we tend to be more sensitive to bias that is furthest from ourselves,” he said. “The challenge is to be equally sensitive to all forms of bias.”

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Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.” Campus anti-Semitism can include subjecting Jewish students to different treatment, harassment, violence or a hostile environment. In some cases, campus anti-Semitism is related to anti-Israel sentiment. In other cases, it is not. For most purposes, we define anti-Semitism according to the U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism. .
 
 
 
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Ruth R. Wisse
Ruth R. Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and has taught at McGill, Stanford, New York, Hebrew and Tel Aviv universities.
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