James Gonzalo Medina, a 40-year-old resident of Hollywood, Florida, was arrested on May 2, 2016, for allegedly plotting to use an explosive device in a Florida synagogue on Passover. Court documents indicate that he wanted to leave a notice with the bomb attributing the attack to ISIS.
Violent expressions of anti-Semitism, including encouragement of attacks against Jews and Jewish or Israeli institutions, have been at the core of propaganda distributed by Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamic extremist terrorist groups for decades. Last year, the ADL released a report, “Anti-Semitism: A Pillar of Islamic Extremist Ideology,” which describes the way in which terrorist organizations rely on depictions of a Jewish enemy to recruit followers, motivate adherents and draw attention to their cause.
Medina’s plot was never operational because he had been working closely with an undercover informant. ADL joined with the South Florida Muslim community in issuing a press statement condemning the plot, which is available on the ADL website.
However, Medina is not the first U.S. resident apparently motivated by Islamic extremist ideologies to plot attacks against a synagogue. Others included New York residents Ahmed Ferhani and Mohammad Mamdouh, arrested in May 2011 for plotting to attack a synagogue in New York City and four New York residents who plotted to attack synagogues in the Bronx and to shoot down airplanes at a military base in Newburgh, New York in 2009.
More recently, there have been a number of U.S. residents inspired by Islamic extremist organizations who considered attacking Jewish or Israeli institutions or otherwise indicated that anti-Semitism was an important element of their ideology. They included:
- Samy Mohamed Hamzeh, arrested in 2016 for allegedly attempting to bomb a masonic temple in Wisconsin, had initially expressed interest in traveling to Israel to kill soldiers and civilians in the West Bank, according to court documents. He allegedly changed his plan for logistical reasons.
- Tairod Pugh, arrested for allegedly attempting to join ISIS in 2015, wrote a Facebook post that stated, “All the evil done by the Jews came from within themselves. On the day of Judgment full responsibility of the starving, torture, jailing and killing of innocent Muslims will rest upon there (sic) shoulders. Allah must really hate them to give the rope to hang themselves,” and posted an image with text stating, “Most Jews do not like to admit it, but our Gd is Lucifer.” He also shared an image on Facebook that referenced blood libel accusations, depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slitting the throats of sleeping children.
- Nader Elhuzayel, arrested in 2015 for allegedly attempting to join ISIS, reportedly expressed excitement at the possibility of ISIS attacking Israel. Court documents claim that he wrote, "Looking forward to see some yahoodi (Jewish) heads rolling, or dead bodies carrying their own yahoodi heads, and jihadi john (identified as the beheader in several Screenshot from Al Shabaab video calling for attacks on “Jewish-owned Westfield shopping centers” 9 ISIS videos) doing this stance on them…" as part of an Internet exchange in December 2014.
- Nadir Soofi, one of men who allegedly fired shots at a Garland, Texas community center in 2015, advanced conspiracy theories suggesting Jewish involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks in online forums.
- Christopher Lee Cornell, arrested in 2015 for allegedly plotting to bomb the U.S. capitol and shoot government officials, reportedly expressed a desire to attack the Israeli Embassy in an interview conducted in prison following his arrest.
- Shannon Maureen Conley, arrested in 2014 for allegedly attempting to join ISIS, threatened a church in her home town repotedly in part because of the church’s support for Israel.
- Basit Javed Sheikh, arrested for attempting to join Jabhat al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria) in 2014, advanced a conspiracy theory on online forums that there was a Jewish conspiracy to promote moderate Islam, which he viewed as inauthentic, over fundamentalist or extremist views of Islam
The ADL provides security resources for Jewish institutions, including best practices for Jewish Institutional Security and a Guide to Detecting Surveillance of Jewish Institutions. Individuals and institutions can contact their local ADL offices for more information and resources, including requests for security training or to sign up to receive ADL’s Security Bulletins and Alerts.