By: Jamiles Lartey; theguardian.com
- Most recent call prompted evacuations of 14 Jewish organizations
- Antisemitic incidents have been on rise since Trump election, officials say
Nearly 50 bomb threats have been received by Jewish community organizations in the US since the start of the year, in a climate of rising antisemitism nationwide.
“These are regular occurrences now, with a frequency that’s been increased and on a scale that’s been increased,” Elise Jarvis, associate director for law enforcement outreach and communal security at the Anti-Defamation League, told the Guardian.
The calls have come in clusters, Jarvis said, with the last on Tuesday 31 January causing evacuations at 14 Jewish community centers (JCCs). Another string of calls on 18 January had a similar impact.
So far none of the threats have been substantiated and law enforcement agencies have not identified any suspects.
This week, the Jewish Journal acquired audio of one of the calls received by an undisclosed JCC location. The caller, whose voice sounded as though it had been digitally altered, said the following:
“It’s a C-4 bomb with a lot of shrapnel, surrounded by a bag [inaudible]. In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to be blown off from the shrapnel. There’s a lot of shrapnel.
“There’s going to be a bloodbath that’s going to take place in a short time. I think I told you enough. I must go.”
According to observers and law enforcement officials, incidents of hate targeting Jewish Americans have been on the rise since the November election, as have incidents targeting Muslims, Mexicans, black Americans and immigrants.
Jarvis hesitated to link the recent threats to JCCs to election results, arguing that not enough was known about the person or people behind the calls.
“I would not connect it specifically to any one thing without knowing who is behind this,” she said.
But regardless of who or what was behind the calls, she said, they were a serious reason for concern.
“Bomb threats are most often a tactic to disrupt operations and cause fear and panic,” Jarvis said. “Fortunately there is typically not anything credible behind them but at the same time we need to take each incident extremely seriously and respond accordingly.”
Without identifying the JCCs targeted by the calls, the FBI and the Department of Justice’s civil rights division said in a statement they were investigating “possible civil rights violations in connection with threats”.
Requests by the Guardian for additional comment were not immediately returned.