Anti-Semitic threats and ‘false flags’ —again

OK, so now a Jewish youth with dual US-Israeli citizenship has been arrested by Israeli authorities in a joint operation with the FBI and charged with being behind "hundreds" of the recent bomb threats against Jewish community centers in the US and a other countries. The youth's lawyer is saying he suffers from a brain tumor that could affect his behavior. (Haaretz, NYT) This follows the arrest three weeks ago of an African American ex-journo of seeming left-wing sentiment who was said to have undertaken some of the threats to try to pin them on an ex who had spurned him. So, we must ask a second time: are the "false flag" theories reportedly floated by Trump (and certainly by some of his supporters) now vindicated?

The first point that needs to be made (once again) is that using terror against Jews cynically, to try to tar your political enemies with it (or to try to get back at an ex, or whatever), is itself anti-Semitic. It still turns up the heat on real Jews, and exploits their vulnerability in a stratagem inimical to their interests. This reality does not change if the perp is himself a Jew.

Frustratingly, but too predictably, it falls to the righties at The Tablet to make this point. Their David Schraub writes: "Yes, the Jew Who Called in Bomb Threats Was Anti-Semitic. Being Jewish doesn't immunize a person from being anti-Semitic. It just fuses their bigotry with betrayal." A critical passage:

For anti-Semites, it is a glorious moment (indeed, the anti-Semites are not hard to identify: they're the ones who are more ecstatic that the perpetrator was Jewish than they are relieved that he was caught.)

For Jews, by contrast, this is agonizing. First having to endure these threats, we must now also deal with the painful knowledge that many of them were acts of betrayal. Likewise, all of us know we will as a class lose credibility for the actions of one deranged member…

But now we must deal with the aftermath. I am grateful that the perpetrator has been caught; I hope it signals the end of this terrible moment in Jewish history. Still, there continues to be much we don't know. In particular, the suspect's motive has not been revealed; there is some talk that he is mentally ill. But even at this juncture, there is something we can say with absolute confidence:

The man who did this was anti-Semitic.

The ADL was absolutely right when it said, in response to the arrest: "These were acts of anti-Semitism. These threats targeted Jewish institutions, were calculated to sow fear and anxiety, and put the entire Jewish community on high alert." That he was Jewish is utterly irrelevant—if anything, this is a fantastic illustration of how Jews can commit anti-Semitic acts.

Nor does his particular motive matter….

If he did this "for the lulz," he is an anti-Semite.

If he did this because he thought American Jews were soft, liberal, beholden to leftist ideology and insufficiently "pro-Israel," he is an anti-Semite.

If he did this because he wanted to discredit Donald Trump and the American political right, he is an anti-Semite…

Only these last two theses enter the realm of what may credibly be called a "false flag" stratagem. But even here, use of the tactic at this moment would doubtless be informed by the Trumpian zeitgeist, and the ascendance to high places in the White House of figures with actual flirtations (at least) with Nazism, like Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon. Not that this lets the perp off the hook whatsoever. After all, we're arguing that he is anti-Semitic.

Yes, if he were a Muslim he'd be called a "terrorist," and there would be less of this forgiving talk about brain tumors and "mental illness." But, as with the sad case of a young Muslim woman who apparently "made up a New York subway hate attack" by Trump fans last year, there is an element of self-hatred at work here certainly exacerbated by the current ugly atmosphere—and possibly a misguided instinct to raise the alarm about that atmosphere.

Of course the unseemly conspiranoids at 21st Century Wire are happily crowing: "Trump Was Right: Latest Arrests Prove Threats to Jewish Centers in US Were False Flags." Those who are paying attention shouldn't be too surprised that a website popular among "leftists" should be glad to see Trump vindicated. 

We wish we were confident that the arrest of the apparent perp marks the "end of this terrible moment in Jewish history." It remains to be seen if there were other parties responsible for some of the threats—or if they will now in fact come to an end. And this confused fellow was assuredly not responsible for the relentless vandalism attacks on Jewish cemeteries, the postings of anti-Semitic leaflets from coast to coast. Trump and his machine are by no means off the hook for having created the climate that enables such acts—or the related wave of xenophobic and racist attacks still mounting across the country.