The Cable

Israel Detains U.S.-Israeli Teen Over Jewish Center Bomb Threats

Amid a wave of anti-semitic threats across the United States.

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Israel detained a Jewish teenager for targeting Jewish institutions worldwide with bomb threats. Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said the 19-year-old man, a joint U.S.-Israeli citizen, is the prime suspect in a string of dozens of threats against U.S. Jewish community centers and synagogues. Israeli police haven’t released the suspect’s name and his motives remain unclear.

The arrest signals a potential breakthrough in the new spate of anti-semitic threats and vandalism across the United States since January. U.S. President Donald Trump drew widespread criticism for not condemning anti-semitism quickly enough. This month, the White House said it denounced “these latest anti-Semitic and hateful threats in the strongest terms.”

Rosenfeld said the suspect is from southern Israel and used “advanced camouflage technologies” to mask his digital footprint as he emailed and phoned in threats to Jewish institutions. “He didn’t use regular phone lines. He used different computer systems so he couldn’t be backtracked,” Rosenfeld said. Police raided his house after cooperating with the FBI on an undercover investigation. They discovered satellite and antenna equipment in his home.

The suspect also reportedly threatened to bomb Jewish institutions in Australia and New Zealand and a Delta airlines flight in 2015 that forced the flight to be grounded. 

The Anti-Defamation League said there have been 165 bomb threats in the United States and Canada this year. In New York City alone, police say there’s been a 177 percent increase in anti-semitic hate crimes compared to last year — 72 so far compared to 26 in 2016.

Last month, a Missouri man was arrested in connection with eight bomb threats against Jewish institutions and the Anti-Defamation League. Prosecutors say Juan Thompson, a former journalist for online national security news site the Intercept, made the threats to harass an ex-girlfriend.

Photo credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @RobbieGramer

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