Teen accused of threatening JCCs charged in Israel with extortion, causing panic
The Israeli-American teenager accused of making threats against Jewish community centers in the United States was charged with extortion and several other offenses in a Tel Aviv court.
The teen from Ashkelon, in southern Israel, was charged Monday in district court with thousands of counts on offenses that also include publishing false information, causing panic, computer hacking and money laundering. He was arrested in Israel last month in a joint operation with the FBI and cannot be named in reports originating from Israel.
According to the indictment, the teen, who has dual U.S. and Israeli citizenship, made threats to 2,000 institutions around the world, including the Israeli Embassy in Washington and other Israeli diplomatic missions, schools, malls, police stations, hospitals and airlines.
Threats to three airlines, including Israel’s national carrier El Al, led to planes making emergency landings, dumping fuel and requiring military escorts, according to the indictment.
He is also charged with threatening a Delaware lawmaker, Sen. Ernesto Lopez, for publicly criticizing the person who made the threatening calls to Jewish institutions, including sending illicit drugs to Lopez’s home and threatening to publish photographs and call the authorities to arrest him for possession. The teen also is charged with harassing a former Pentagon official, George Little, including threatening to kidnap and kill his children.
Other charges include buying drugs, running an online hacking and document forging service, buying and selling weapons online, and possession of child pornography, as well as the assault of an Israeli police officer who came to arrest him, according to The Times of Israel.
Israel’s state prosecutor, Shai Nitzan, has opposed allowing the teen’s extradition to the United States, Haaretz reported Monday, echoing a report from Sunday on Israel’s Channel 2 that said Israel has rejected a U.S. Justice Department extradition request. A formal extradition request has not been filed, according to Haaretz, but in informal negotiations Israeli justice officials have said they want to put the teen on trial in Israel.
The Justice Department said April 21 that it was charging the teen with 28 counts of making threatening calls to JCCs in Florida, conveying false information to the police and cyberstalking.
The teen’s parents and attorney have said he has a benign brain tumor that affects his behavior, as well as a very low IQ.
Anti-Semitic incidents in US surging in ’17, rose by a third in ’16
Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States soared 86 percent in the first three months of 2017 after rising by more than one-third in 2016, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
There has been a massive increase in harassment of American Jews, largely since November, and at least 34 incidents linked to the presidential election that month, the ADL said Monday in its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents.
This year has seen preliminary reports of 541 anti-Semitic incidents through March. One reason for the jump appeared to be the bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers and other Jewish institutions across the country. An Israeli-American teenager is accused of calling in most of them, and he has been charged in Israel and the United States. He is in custody in Israel.
The 2017 incidents include 380 for harassment, including the 161 bomb threats, an increase of 127 percent over the first quarter of ’16; 155 for vandalism, including three cemetery desecrations, an increase of 36 percent, and six physical assaults, a decrease of 40 percent.
The states with the highest number of incidents were those with large Jewish populations, including California, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Massachusetts.
In 2016, the report showed a total of 1,266 acts targeting Jews and Jewish institutions, with a 34 percent increase of incidents of assaults, vandalism and harassment over the previous year. Nearly 30 percent of those incidents, or 369, occurred in November and December.
The acts included 720 harassment and threat incidents, an increase of 41 percent over 2015; 510 vandalism incidents, an increase of 35 percent; and 36 physical assaults, a decrease of 35 percent.
Incidents on college campuses stayed mostly static after nearly doubling in 2015, but more than doubled in non-Jewish elementary, middle and high schools. The rise to 235 incidents in 2016 from 114 the previous year represented a 106 percent increase. There have been 95 incidents reported in the first quarter of this year.
“There’s been a significant, sustained increase in anti-Semitic activity since the start of 2016, and what’s most concerning is the fact that the numbers have accelerated over the past five months,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director, said in a statement. “Clearly, we have work to do and need to bring more urgency to the fight. At ADL, we will use every resource available to put a stop to anti-Semitism. But we also need more leaders to speak out against this cancer of hate and more action at all levels to counter anti-Semitism.”
The ADL has been tracking anti-Semitic incidents since 1979. In the past 10 years, the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents peaked at 1,554 in 2006.
Separately, Tel Aviv University’s watchdog on anti-Semitism reported Sunday that the number of anti-Semitic incidents worldwide has decreased by 12 percent in 2016 despite the spike in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Americans for Peace Now cancels annual Israel trip
Americans for Peace Now has canceled its annual trip to Israel over the country’s new anti-boycott law.
The law passed last month by the Israeli Knesset bars entry to foreigners who publicly call for boycotting the Jewish state or its settlements.
Americans for Peace Now is concerned that trip participants could be stopped at Ben Gurion International Airport and denied entry into Israel, Haaretz first reported this week, noting that the dovish group has been holding its Israel Study Tour for 30 years and this is the first time it was canceling.
Peace Now reportedly canceled the early June trip after failing to get assurances from the Israeli government that participants would be able to enter the country.
Haaretz said it obtained a copy of a letter sent April 21 by the organization’s directors to prospective participants, which includes board members and donors.
It read in part: “We do not know yet whether we will reschedule this tour to another date this year or whether we’ll have to suspend our Israel Study Tour program indefinitely, until the law is either revoked, amended or applied in a way that does not impact APN, its staff members, board members and activists.”
The ban applies to any foreigner “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott — if the issuer was aware of this possibility.” It includes those who urge boycotting areas under Israeli control, such as the West Bank settlements.
Lawmakers have asserted that the measure was meant to target groups, not individuals.
The study tour’s itinerary included meetings with Israeli and Palestinian politicians, security experts, civil society and peace activists, writers and artists.
A message of “Page not found” is seen when clicking on the Study Tour section of the group’s website.