WASHINGTON (JTA) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the arrest in Israel of a teenager allegedly responsible for more than 100 bomb threats against U.S. Jewish institutions was the culmination of an investigation “spanning multiple continents.”
“Today’s arrest in Israel is the culmination of a large-scale investigation spanning multiple continents for hate crimes against Jewish communities across our country,” Sessions said in a statement Thursday morning after news of the arrest broke.
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the civil rights of all Americans and we will not tolerate the targeting of any community in this country on the basis of their religious beliefs,” the statement said. “I commend the FBI and the Israeli national police for their outstanding work on this case.”
Israel’s anti-fraud squad arrested the 19-year-old Israeli-American suspect at his home in southern Israel and searched the premises. He also is accused of a series of threats made in Europe, Australia and New Zealand in the past six months, according to reports in Israel.
In a statement, the Israeli police seemed to suggest that they had taken the lead in the operation. The statement said the arrest was made possible by an international undercover operation that featured cooperation with other national police forces, including a visit to Israel by FBI agents, and analysis of the threats was coordinated through the Israeli police’s cyber crimes unit.
“It should be noted that a large number of law and order organizations throughout the world collaborated professionally with the Israeli police, which enabled a coordinated, cross-border investigation integrating the technological know-how of multiple enforcement bodies,” it said.
On March 8, executives from 141 Jewish community centers signed a letter to Sessions expressing frustration with efforts combating a rash of bomb threats.
The letter, sent by the JCC Association of North America, the national organization of Jewish community centers, requested a meeting with Sessions and urged the Justice Department to do more to stop the threats. It also praised local law enforcement’s response to the incidents and recognized President Donald Trump’s condemnation of them.
“Still, we are frustrated with the progress in resolving this situation,” the letter said. “We insist that all relevant federal agencies, including your own, apply all the resources available to identify and bring the perpetrator or perpetrators, who are trying to instill anxiety and fear in communities across the country, to justice.”
The Department of Homeland Security had made its regional experts available to JCCs, and leaders of major Jewish groups met with FBI Director James Comey on March 3.