NEW YORK (Dec. 19)
Two men, allegedly members of the New Jewish Defense League (NJDL) were arrested early yesterday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and charged with conspiracy to blow up the Egyptian government’s tourist office here. The two, Victor Vancier, 21, and Bruce Berger, 30, were arraigned on conspiracy charges later in the day in United States District Court in Manhattan. Magistrate Martin Jacobs ordered Vancier held in jail in lieu of $100,000 bail and Berger held in lieu of $50,000 bail.
The FBI, in announcing the arrests, said it had found a powerful bomb in a parked car near the tourist office located at the Fifth Avenue entrance to Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. An FBI spokesman said Berger was seized in the parked car near the office and Vancier was arrested at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, about a mile away. A man identified as Michael Fitzpatrick, who was in the car with Berger, provided the FBI with the information that led to the arrests, according to Jacob Laufer, an assistant U.S. attorney in the federal prosecutor’s office in Manhattan. Fitzpatrick was not arrested and no information about him was available. The lawyer for Vancier and Berger, Sam Polur, charged that his clients “were set up by the FBI” and contended that “this case is directly related to the Carter Administration’s swing to Egypt.” The FBI claimed that Vancier, who they said identified himself publicly as the executive director of the NJDL, may have been responsible for other firebombings in New York City and West chester County in the last few months of cars and homes of Egyptian officials stationed in New York Vancier had formerly identified himself as the leader of an ad hoc group called the Jewish Committee of Concern (JCC).
Vancier first came into the news November, 1977 when he and another member of the JCC disrupted a meeting of the Synagogue Council of America where the guest speaker was the Egyptian Ambassador to the United States, Ashraf Ghorbal. The JCC and the NJDL contended that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem November, 1977 was a move to lull Israel into a false sense of security and that the government of Premier Menachem Begin was surrendering its security to an enemy. The targets of both groups were solely Egyptian officials.
Last week an anonymous phone caller to newspapers claimed that the NJDL was responsible for a firebombing in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn. In what turned out to be a bungled effort, the home of a Jewish family was firebombed in the mistaken belief that it was occupied by an Egyptian diplomat who actually resides next door. The diplomat, Egyptian Vice Consul Farouk Mansour, summoned the fire department and raced to the aid of his neighbors.