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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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December 5, 2012

New York Synagogue Bomb Plot Suspect Pleads Guilty

Ahmed Ferhani

Update: On March 15, 2013, Ferhani was sentenced to 10 years in prison. On April 26, Ferhani’s  coconspirator, Mohammad Mamdouh was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

Ahmed Ferhani, a legal U.S. resident from Algeria, pleaded guilty yesterday to terrorism charges stemming from his role in a plot to attack a New York City synagogue. The foiled plot was the latest is a series of post-9/11 terror plots motivated, in part, by hatred of Jews and Israel.

Ferhani, 27, and his alleged coconspirator Mohammad Mamdouh, 21, were arrested on May 11, 2011, after attempting to purchase weapons, including guns and a hand grenade, from an undercover officer during a sting operation.

Reading a prepared statement in Manhattan Supreme Court yesterday, 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.”

As part of his plea deal, Ferhani pleaded guilty to 10 terror-related and hate crime charges and is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

During the undercover operation, Ferhani allegedly said that Palestinians are particularly victimized and allegedly expressed interest in traveling to Gaza to fight. At the time of the arrest, New York Police Commissioner Kelly said Ferhani planned to grow out his beard in order to look “more like a Jew” and enter a synagogue more easily.

Other terror plots in New York in recent years have been similarly motivated, in part, by hatred of Jews and Israel, including:

September 2009: Zarein Ahmedzay, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, and two other New Yorkers were arrested for plotting to detonate homemade explosives on New York City subway lines during the days following the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. While entering his guilty plea a year later, 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 theUnited States of America.”

May 2009: Four Muslim converts, three American and one Haitian, were arrested for an alleged plot to attack two synagogues in the Bronx and to shoot down planes at a military base inNewburgh,New York. James Cromitie, the apparent leader of the group, and the other three men allegedly began surveillance of several synagogues and a Jewish Community Center in theBronx in April 2009. “These were people who were eager to bring death to Jews,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder said at a court hearing the day after the arrests. The men were subsequently sentenced to 25 years in prison.

November 2008: American citizen Bryant Neal Vinas was arrested for providing information about New York City transit systems to Al Qaeda for potential terrorist attacks and for firing rockets at an American military base in Afghanistan. Vinas, who was angry with the U.S. government for its support of Israel, was also involved with the Islamic Thinkers Society, a New York-based anti-Semitic extremist group that calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. He also met with the former leader of Revolution Muslim, another New York-based anti-Semitic organization that justifies terrorist attacks and other forms of violence against non-Muslims. Vinas subsequently pleaded guilty to all three charges against him.

February 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 plotted the attack in part because they wanted to take revenge on theU.S. for its diplomatic relationship withIsrael. Defreitas later 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,” according to court documents. Defreitas also suggested targeting a nearby Jewish school or a predominately Jewish neighborhood. Defreitas was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

August 2004: American citizen James Elshafay and another man plotted to bombNew York’sHerald Squaresubway 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 and shared books that claimed the Jews were conspiring to take over the world’s economy. Elshafay was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in prison.

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