In a briefing about the terrorism at a synagogue in Texas, an FBI spokesman said the demands of the hostage taker, Malik Faisal Akram, were “specifically focused on an issue not directly connected to the Jewish community.” There is a sense in which this is true. The issue the terrorist specifically focused on was the imprisonment of a jihadist, Aafia Siddiqui. He demanded her release.
That issue obviously has implications for the Jewish community, especially given the blatant anti-Semitism of Aafia Siddiqui, but it arguably is not specifically or directly a Jewish issue. The imprisoned jihadist is a threat to Jews and non-Jews. Her conviction was for trying to murder American soldiers and officials in Afghanistan
The FBI’s statement has been attacked as an attempt to portray the terrorism at a synagogue as not targeted at the Jewish community — as not specifically or directly anti-Semitic. Lindsey Graham construes it to mean the FBI “does not believe the hostage taker’s demands had anything to do with the Jewish faith.”
The FBI might have been trying to say something along those lines. But its statement actually conveyed, at least to me, is quite the opposite.
That a terrorist would select a synagogue as the target of an attack “not specifically focused on an issue directly connected to [Jews]” demonstrates anti-Semitism of the most free-floating, virulent, and dangerous kind. And it precludes the frequent dodge that the terrorist’s quarrel is with Israelis and Zionists, rather than Jews.
A jihadist demanding, say, an end of U.S. support for Israel would naturally pick a Jewish target. A jihadist demanding the release of a prisoner could take any sort of hostages to use in a trade.
That this jihadist selected Jewish hostages makes the case, if anything, all the more disturbing for Jews. And, of course, it reaffirms the link between jihadism and anti-Semitism that the FBI may have been trying to obscure.
The FBI has now acknowledged the obvious — that, whatever the focus of the terrorist’s demands, “the Jewish community was targeted.” It would have been well advised to do so at the outset.