Wilshire Boulevard Temple. Photo courtesy of downtowngal/Wikicommons.

Bomb threats shut down three L.A. synagogue locations on Shabbat


Three Los Angeles synagogue campuses were shut down following a series of online bomb threats, disrupting normally scheduled Shabbat activities on June 10.

The Glazer and Irmas campuses of Wilshire Boulevard Temple as well as University Synagogue in Brentwood were closed shortly after 8 a.m., according to Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Officer Mike Lopez. By about 12:45 p.m., LAPD cleared all locations to reopen.

“K9 units responded to the locations to make sure to render all locations safe,” Lopez said. “At this time we have no credible threats.”

Rabbi Morley T. Feinstein of University Synagogue said a staff member “found an email that was beyond nasty — horrific language, and threatening” in a temple email account and its executive director, Lisabeth Lobenthal, called the police.

About 10 police officers answered the call. The building was empty at the time, Feinstein said.

Don Levy, the director of marketing and communications at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, said a threat came in Saturday morning via an online submission form on the synagogue’s website. LAPD was notified immediately and the synagogue’s campuses were shut down. Levy said no one was at either the synagogue’s Irmas Campus in West L.A. or its flagship Koreatown building, the Glazer Campus, at the time the threats were made.

“While a communication like that can come in through something as innocuous as an online submission form, we take them all seriously,” he said. “We take any threat seriously and investigate it thoroughly to protect everybody’s safety.”

The June 10 shutdowns follow a wave of more than 160 threats to synagogues and other Jewish buildings between January and March made by phone and email, including two against the Westside Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles. Two separate arrests have been made in connection with that series of threats.

Lopez, the LAPD officer, urged communities to exercise vigilance, and to use LAPD’s iWatch phone application to notify the police of any suspicious activity.

“We just want to remind the community to be aware of their surroundings,” he said. “If they see something, say something.”

Feinstein of University Synagogue said the only scheduled activity for the morning was a Torah study group. When participants arrived, they found the building under lockdown and retreated about a block, continuing their Torah study on the sidewalk.

The lesson of the day is, Feinstein said, “We never stop the study of Torah — no matter what.”

Iran says test-fires missiles over threats of attack


Iran said on Tuesday it had successfully tested medium-range missiles capable of hitting Israel as a response to threats of attack, the latest move in a war of nerves with the West.

Israel says it could attack Iran if diplomacy fails to secure a halt to its disputed nuclear energy programme. The United States also has military force as a possible option but has repeatedly encouraged the Israelis to be patient while new economic sanctions are implemented against Iran.

The Islamic Republic announced the “Great Prophet 7” missile exercise on Sunday after a European embargo against Iranian crude oil purchases took full effect following another fruitless round of big power talks with Tehran.

Iran’s official English-language Press TV said the Shahab 3 missile with a range of 1,300 km (800 miles) – able to reach Israel – was tested along with the shorter-range Shahab 1 and 2.

“The main aim of this drill is to demonstrate the Iranian nation’s political resolve to defend vital values and national interests,” Revolutionary Guards Deputy Commander Hossein Salami was quoted by Press TV as saying.

He said the tests were in response to Iran’s enemies who talk of a “military option being on the table”.

On Sunday, Iran threatened to wipe Israel “off the face of the earth” if the Jewish state attacked it.

Analysts have challenged some of Iran’s military assertions, saying it often exaggerates its capabilities.

Senior researcher Pieter Wezeman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said Iran’s missiles were still relatively inaccurate and of limited use in conventional warfare. With conventional warheads, “their only utility is as a tool of terror and no more than that”, he said by telephone.

He added, however, that they could be suitable for carrying nuclear warheads, especially the larger ones.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies, said in a 2010 report that all Tehran’s ballistic missiles were “inherently capable of a nuclear payload”, if Iran was able to make a small enough bomb.

Iran denies Western accusations that it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons capability. The world’s No. 5 oil exporter maintains that it is enriching uranium only to generate more energy for a rapidly growing population.

OIL MARKETS ON EDGE

Iran has previously threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which more than a third of the world’s seaborne oil trade passes, in response to increasingly harsh sanctions by the United States and its allies intended to force it to curb its nuclear research programme.

Fars said dozens of missiles involved in this week’s exercises had been aimed at simulated air bases, and that Iranian-built unmanned drones would be tested on Wednesday.

Iran repeated its claim to be reverse-engineering the sophisticated U.S. RQ-170 drone that it says it brought down during a spying mission last year.

“In this drone there are hundreds of technologies used, each of which are valuable to us in terms of operations, information and technicalities,” General Amir Hajizadeh was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying.

Wezeman said Iran had a large standing armed force, but that its weapons were generally outdated. “And those weapons only get older and older and they don’t have access to new technology because they are under a United Nations arms embargo.”

In his first comments since the European Union oil ban took force, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said sanctions would benefit Iran by lessening its dependence on crude exports.

“We must see the sanctions as an opportunity … which can forever take out of the enemy’s hands the ability to use oil as a weapon for sanctions,” Fars news agency quoted him as saying.

Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear programme continued in Istanbul on Tuesday with a meeting of technical experts from Iran and six world powers.

The discussions follow a round of political talks in Moscow last month at which the sides failed to bridge differences or agree on a further round of talks at that level.

The experts have no mandate to strike agreements but the six powers – the United States, China, Britain, Germany, France and Russia – hope that by clarifying technical aspects of Tehran’s work they can open way for more negotiations in the future.

Diplomats in Istanbul said discussions in the Turkish capital were “detailed” and would most likely be followed by a meeting between a senior negotiator from the European Union and Iran’s deputy negotiator Ali Bagheri. Such a meeting could, at a later date, be a prelude to talks on a political level, diplomats have said.

“We hope Iran will seize the opportunity … to show a willingness to take concrete steps to urgently meet the concerns of the international community,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said ahead of the meeting. Ashton and her team represent the six powers in dealings with Iran.

As a priority, the powers want Iran to stop enriching uranium to levels close to weapons-grade, ship out any stockpile, and close a secret facility where such work is done.

Iran denies its programme has a military dimension and wants relief from economic sanctions before it makes any concessions.

IRANIAN CALL TO SHUT OIL LANES

On Monday, Iranian parliamentarians proposed a bill calling for Iran to try to stop tankers taking crude through the Strait of Hormuz to countries that support the sanctions.

However, the Iranian parliament is relatively weak, analysts say, and the proposal has no chance of becoming law unless sanctioned by Iran’s clerical supreme leader.

That is seen as unlikely in the near term given that Western powers have said they would tolerate no closure of the Strait while Iranian leaders, wedded to strategic pragmatism for the sake of survival, have said they seek no war with anyone.

“It’s a gesture at this stage,” said independent British-based Iran analyst Reza Esfandiari.

“They want to emphasise that Iran can make life difficult for Europe and America. I think this is more of an attempt to offset falling crude prices. Financial markets are very sensitive to such talk.”

On Tuesday, the price of Brent crude, which has been on a downward trend for the last three months, broke $100 for the first time since early June.

“A lot depends on nuclear talks,” said Esfandiari. “If there’s no progress and the initiative is deadlocked, then these kind of actions will intensify.”

Additional reporting by Yeganeh Torbati in Dubai, Fredrik Dahl in Vienna and Justyna Pawlak in Brussels; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Kevin Liffey and Michael Roddy

Jewish institutions reassess security following bomb attempt


Jewish institutions throughout the United States are reassessing their security following last Friday’s mail bombing attempt of two Jewish institutions in Chicago.

On Tuesday, some 200 representatives of Jewish community institutions took part in a conference call with FBI experts on security measures.

“The situation with bombs this weekend certainly reminded us that all our institutions can be vulnerable to threats of this type,” said Bonnie Michelman, the community security chairwoman of the Anti-Defamation League, which organized the call.

Michelman, the security director at Massachusetts General Hospital, went on to outline specific signs that people should look for to identify suspicious packages.

The FBI announced Tuesday that no synagogues exist at the addresses on the two bomb packages but urged the need for continued community vigilance.

“Terrorists will continue and diversify their attacks,” a representative from the FBI’s Washington field office said during the conference call.

Senior leadership from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were set to begin holding teleconferences on the same topic with senior Jewish organizational leaders across the country beginning Wednesday afternoon.

Security experts are still trying to determine the actual targets of the two explosive-packed printer cartridges intercepted last Friday. It was unclear whether they were meant for the planes carrying the packages or the Jewish institutions to which the packages were addressed. U.S. authorities have refused to confirm the identities of the institutions targeted.

One of the packages was intercepted in Dubai and another in London. Al-Qaida is believed to be behind the two bombs.

After the bombs were discovered, a Homeland Security team arrived Sunday in Chicago, according to Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, the national agency for Jewish communal security. SCN operates under the auspices of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The Homeland Security representatives are contacting Chicago Jewish institutions for security training in conjunction with the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. SCN will notify other communities in advance of the Homeland Security calls, which will extend through the week.

“They’re providing training and resources to ensure the community feels safe and has the tools it needs,” Goldenberg said.

Of particular concern in this case, Goldenberg noted, is that the package bombs were addressed to American Jewish institutions, indicating that terrorists are treating them as proxies for Israel and thus legitimate targets.

“We don’t know when the bombs were intended to go off, but the fact remains they were going after American Jews, not Israeli consulates,” he said. “They targeted American synagogues. That was the message.”

Last Friday, SCN sent out two e-mail notifications to its national network outlining how to handle suspicious packages and alerting people to key addresses and other signs of a potential terrorist mail threat. The Orthodox Union and Union for Reform Judaism, both members of the SCN network, also sent out security alerts to their member congregations.

The SCN notification advised Jewish organizations to watch for large packages, particularly coming from abroad.

“Organizations that believe they have received a suspicious package should not open it, [should] evacuate the area and call 911 immediately,” it said.

Steve Sheinberg, who oversees the ADL’s Jewish community security program, said now that the first wave of emergency information has gone out, it’s time to regroup and engage in a careful, ongoing reassessment of each institution’s security measures.

“Our security messages are very measured,” he said. “Our goal is to inform, not panic. There is no need for panic. This is an occasion to look at security measures in place, make adjustments as necessary and move forward.”

In Chicago, Jews are calm but wary following the bomb threat.

“The schools are all being very vigilant, without getting everyone nervous,” said Rolly Cohen, education director of the Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago.  “They’re stepping things up a bit, making sure doors are locked, checking to see who’s there before opening them, putting security measures back in places they might have become more lax about.”

“The need to take security precautions is not new,” said JUF Executive Vice President Michael Kotzin, who praised national and local security agencies for their professionalism and alacrity in responding to this incident. “This was a very traumatic example of that. There’s generally been a sense of calm, not fear and panic but a kind of resignation that we need to be alert—as Americans, and as Jews in particular.”

The Chicago federation and the ADL scheduled a security conference for Thursday in Chicago bringing together heads of local Jewish institutions with representatives of Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Service and local law enforcement.

Comparing this week’s efforts to those following the shooting of six people at the Seattle Jewish federation three years ago, Goldenberg distinguished between the actions of “a lone wolf” like the Seattle shooter and the current situation.

“Now we are dealing with the potential of one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world targeting Jewish institutions,” he said.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin of Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel Congregation, an Orthodox synagogue in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, said operations at his synagogue “continued as usual” last Shabbat, although security was enhanced and worshipers were instructed to be extra vigilant.

“We had a bar mitzvah and no one was afraid to come to shul. I think it even drummed up business—one man told me his wife said, ‘You have to go to shul,’ ” Lopatin said.

“You think Chicago is under the radar screen, then you realize no one is immune if you are a part of a community,” the rabbi added.

(For detailed information on recommended security precautions, visit http://www.scnus.org or http://www.adl.org/security. The Chicago Jewish News contributed to this report.)

Paul McCartney is ‘shocked but not intimidated’ by jihadi threats re Israel concert [VIDEO]


LONDON (JTA)—Suicide bombers will target Paul McCartney unless he cancels his concert in Tel Aviv, a Muslim cleric said.

Omar Bakri said the ex-Beatle’s decision to perform in Israel “is creating more enemies than friends,” London’s Sunday Express reported.

“If he values his life Mr. McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there,” Bakri said. “The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

Bakri made the comments on his weekly Internet broadcast from his home-in-exile in Lebanon after being banned from returning to Britain, according to the Express.

McCartney is scheduled to perform for thousands of Israelis in Hayarkon Park on Sept. 25 as part of a world tour.

Several pro-Palestinian and political groups have asked McCartney to cancel his show, but he has refused.



From The Express . . .

SIR PAUL: TERROR TARGET
Sunday September 14,2008
Dennis Rice
SIR Paul McCartney has been threatened that he will be the target of suicide bombers unless he abandons plans to play his first concert in Israel.

Self-styled preacher of hate Omar Bakri claimed the former Beatle’s decision to take part in the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary celebrations had made him an enemy of all Muslims.

Sources said Sir Paul was shocked but refused to be intimidated.

In an interview with Israeli media yesterday he said: “I was approached by different groups and political bodies who asked me not to come here. I refused. I do what I think and I have many friends who support Israel.”

Sir Paul, 65, should have gone to Israel with the Beatles in 1965 but they were barred by the Jewish nation’s government over fears they would corrupt young people.

Yesterday a number of websites described him as an infidel and suggested he was going to Israel only because of the reported £2.3m fee for the one-off concert.

A message posted on one website said: “Shame on you Paul McCartney for day trippin’ to apartheid Israel” and vowed never to buy his music again.

Bakri, who made his weekly internet broadcast to fellow extremists from his home in Lebanon, where he has lived in exile since being banned from returning to Britain, said Sir Paul was “making more enemies than friends”.

Syrian-born Bakri, 48, went on: “I heard today that the pop star Paul McCartney is playing as a part of the celebrations.

“If you speak about the holocaust and its authenticity never being proved historically in the way the Jewish community portray it, people will arrest you. People will you say you should not speak like this. Yet they go and celebrate the anniversary of 60 years of what?

“Instead of supporting the people of Palestine in their suffering, McCartney is celebrating the atrocities of the occupiers. The one who is under occupation is supposed to be getting the help.

“And so I believe for Paul McCartney, what he is doing really is creating more enemies than friends.”

Explaining his comments, Bakri told the Sunday Express: “Our enemy’s friend is our enemy.

“Thus Paul McCartney is the enemy of every Muslim. We have what we call ‘sacrifice’ operatives who will not stand by while he joins in a celebration of their oppression.

“If he values his life Mr McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him.”

Lawyer Anjem Choudary, who last week chaired a meeting in London at which extremists claimed the next 9/11-style atrocity would be in Britain, said Sir Paul had allowed himself to become a propaganda tool for Israel.

He added: “Muslims have every right to be angry at Paul McCartney. How would the world react if he wanted to have a
concert in occupied Kashmir?

“They would not allow it to happen but because it is Israel he can play. A country which, as the celebration indicates did not exist 60 years ago, only exists thanks to stealing and occupying another country’s lands.” Yesterday the comments drew condemnation from Palestinian sources and outsiders.

Omar Barghouti, of The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, described the threat as “deplorable”.

Patrick Mercer, the Conservative MP for Newark and a former Shadow Security Minister, said: “One could dismiss Bakri as a ranting extremist but history has shown that he has an ability to twist minds, so his comments should not be underestimated.

“If Sir Paul McCartney wants to play at the 60th anniversary then it is the worst form of illiberalism for Omar Bakri to restrict the artist’s freedom in this way.”

A spokesman for Sir Paul declined to comment on the threat, saying: “Paul’s Friendship First concert is about his music. Paul’s is a message of peace.”

Tickets for the concert range from £70 to £230.

Last night Sir Paul performed his first concert in the Ukraine, playing to tens of thousands in the capital Kiev.

Fan video welcomes Sir Paul to Israel

 

 

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