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May 3, 2016

Medina Arrest Highlights Threats of Anti-Semitism in Islamic Extremism

James Medina

James Medina

James Gonzalo Medina, a 40-year-old resident of Hollywood, Florida, was arrested on May 2, 2016, for allegedly plotting to use an explosive device in a Florida synagogue on Passover. Court documents indicate that he wanted to leave a notice with the bomb attributing the attack to ISIS.

Violent expressions of anti-Semitism, including encouragement of attacks against Jews and Jewish or Israeli institutions, have been at the core of propaganda distributed by Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamic extremist terrorist groups for decades. Last year, the ADL released a report, “Anti-Semitism: A Pillar of Islamic Extremist Ideology,” which describes the way in which terrorist organizations rely on depictions of a Jewish enemy to recruit followers, motivate adherents and draw attention to their cause.

Medina’s plot was never operational because he had been working closely with an undercover informant. ADL joined with the South Florida Muslim community in issuing a press statement condemning the plot, which is available on the ADL website.

However, Medina is not the first U.S. resident apparently motivated by Islamic extremist ideologies to plot attacks against a synagogue. Others included New York residents Ahmed Ferhani and Mohammad Mamdouh, arrested in May 2011 for plotting to attack a synagogue in New York City and four New York residents who plotted to attack synagogues in the Bronx and to shoot down airplanes at a military base in Newburgh, New York in 2009.

More recently, there have been a number of U.S. residents inspired by Islamic extremist organizations who considered attacking Jewish or Israeli institutions or otherwise indicated that anti-Semitism was an important element of their ideology. They included:

  • Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, arrested in 2016 for allegedly attempting to bomb a masonic temple in Wisconsin, had initially expressed interest in traveling to Israel to kill soldiers and civilians in the West Bank, according to court documents. He allegedly changed his plan for logistical reasons.
  • Tairod Pugh, arrested for allegedly attempting to join ISIS in 2015, wrote a Facebook post that stated, “All the evil done by the Jews came from within themselves. On the day of Judgment full responsibility of the starving, torture, jailing and killing of innocent Muslims will rest upon there (sic) shoulders. Allah must really hate them to give the rope to hang themselves,” and posted an image with text stating, “Most Jews do not like to admit it, but our Gd is Lucifer.” He also shared an image on Facebook that referenced blood libel accusations, depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slitting the throats of sleeping children.
  • Nader Elhuzayel, arrested in 2015 for allegedly attempting to join ISIS, reportedly expressed excitement at the possibility of ISIS attacking Israel. Court documents claim that he wrote, “Looking forward to see some yahoodi (Jewish) heads rolling, or dead bodies carrying their own yahoodi heads, and jihadi john (identified as the beheader in several Screenshot from Al Shabaab video calling for attacks on “Jewish-owned Westfield shopping centers” 9 ISIS videos) doing this stance on them…” as part of an Internet exchange in December 2014.
  • Nadir Soofi, one of men who allegedly fired shots at a Garland, Texas community center in 2015, advanced conspiracy theories suggesting Jewish involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks in online forums.
  • Christopher Lee Cornell, arrested in 2015 for allegedly plotting to bomb the U.S. capitol and shoot government officials, reportedly expressed a desire to attack the Israeli Embassy in an interview conducted in prison following his arrest.
  • Shannon Maureen Conley, arrested in 2014 for allegedly attempting to join ISIS, threatened a church in her home town repotedly in part because of the church’s support for Israel.
  • Basit Javed Sheikh, arrested for attempting to join Jabhat al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria) in 2014, advanced a conspiracy theory on online forums that there was a Jewish conspiracy to promote moderate Islam, which he viewed as inauthentic, over fundamentalist or extremist views of Islam

The ADL provides security resources for Jewish institutions, including best practices for Jewish Institutional Security and a Guide to Detecting Surveillance of Jewish Institutions. Individuals and institutions can contact their local ADL offices for more information and resources, including requests for security training or to sign up to receive ADL’s Security Bulletins and Alerts.

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June 25, 2013

’93 Landmark Plot Foreshowed Domestic Terror Threat

landmark-plot-omar-abdel-rahman

Omar Abdel Rahman

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the arrest of eight followers of radical Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman for conspiring to carry out a campaign of terrorism against New York City landmarks and officials.

The arrests not only foreshadowed efforts to attack New York City in the years since 1993 – most horrifically on September 11, 2001 – but also how terrorists link their opposition to America with their hatred of Jews and Israel.

The major landmarks that were targeted in the 1993 plot included the United Nations Headquarters, the Lincoln Tunnel, the Holland Tunnel, the George Washington Bridge and the FBI office. Notably, the plotters also discussed attacking New York’s diamond district, an area largely populated by Jewish businessmen, which, according to one them, would be like “hitting Israel itself.”

The arrest came four months after a car bombing at Tower One of the World Trade Center in New York City killed six people and wounded more than 1,000 others. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the attack, first planned to bomb Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but settled on the World Trade Center because “the majority of people who work in the World Trade Center are Jews,” according to Abdul Rahman Yasin, a co-conspirator in the attack.

In the 20 years since the foiled landmarks plot and first World Trade Center bombing, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel ideologies remain a core feature in the propaganda distributed by terrorist organizations.

For example, every issue of Al Qaeda’s Inspire magazine, which has influenced numerous international and domestic extremists, including the Boston Marathon Bombers, has been saturated with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel narratives. The ability for Al Qaeda to disseminate such propaganda online and recruit would-be Jihadists around the world was virtually unheard on in June 1993.al-qaeda-new-york-threat

But while the communication and recruitment has significantly changed, efforts to attack New York remain unchanged, as do the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel motivations. Several post-9/11 plots and conspiracies targeting Jews have taken place around the country and in New York in particular. For example:

  • In May 2011, Ahmed Ferhani, a legal resident from Algeria, and Mohammad Mamdouh, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Moroccan decent, were arrested for plotting to attack a synagogue in New York City in order to advance their radical ideological goals. During his sentencing, Fer­hani said, “I repeat­edly discussed…my anger towards Jews based on what I believed and per­ceived to be their mis­treat­ment of Mus­lims through­out the world. I intended to cre­ate chaos and send a mes­sage of intim­i­da­tion and coer­cion to the Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion of New York City, warn­ing them to stop mis­treat­ing Muslims.” New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Ferhani planned to grow out his beard in order to look “more like a Jew” and enter a synagogue more easily.
  • Zarein Ahmedzay, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, admitted in federal court that he and two other New Yorkers planned to detonate homemade explosives on New York City subway lines during the days following the eighth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. While entering his guilty plea, Ahmedzay stated that “the real enemies of this country are the ones destroying this country from within” and condemned “a special group of Zionist Jews” who want to “establish a permanent shadow government in the United States of America.”
  • A similar plot occurred in 2009, when four men, including three American Muslim converts, planned to attack synagogues in the Bronx and a military base in Newburgh, in response to perceived American actions against Muslims around the world. The men planted what they believed to be bombs in cars outside of the Riverdale Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center.  In a conversation with an undercover informant, one of the plotters, James Cromitie, stated his desire to “destroy” the Jews. “The worst brother in the whole Islamic world is better than 10 billion Yahudi (Jews),” Cromitie stated.  “With no hesitation, I will kill 10 Yahudis.”
  • In 2007, Russell Defreitas, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Guyana, and three other men were arrested for plotting to attack New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The men planned the attack in part because they wanted to take revenge on the U.S. for its diplomatic relationship with Israel. Defreitas later reportedly told an informant that Muslims “incur the wrath of the world while Jews get a pass,” and that he “wanted to do something to get those bastards.” Court documents have also alleged that Defreitas had suggested targeting a nearby Jewish school or a predominately Jewish neighborhood.
  • In 2004, American citizen James Elshafay and Shahawar Matin Siraj, a Pakistani who was in the U.S. illegally, plotted to bomb New York’s Herald Square subway station. In conversations secretly recorded by an undercover informant, Elshafay talked about his hatred of “Zionists” and his solidarity with the Palestinians, according to court documents. The men also watched terrorist videos at the bookstore where Siraj worked, and Siraj gave Elshafay books that claimed the Jews were conspiring to take over the world’s economy.

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