Think about it: An armed Muslim terrorist walked into a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. He demanded the release from federal prison of an avowed Jew-hater and enemy of Israel. Could there be any doubt that this was a hate crime—an open act of anti-Semitism?
President Joe Biden, the FBI and numerous news organizations initially attributed no particular motive to Malik Faisal Akram for singling out Congregation Beth Israel. While some officials and media have slowly come to acknowledge the anti-Semitic nature of Akram’s actions, few have yet fully linked it to the anti-Zionism underlying his act.
The events at this synagogue show once again the chasm between reality and the reactions of our leaders and the media. Time and again, Western leaders and the press utterly miss the point of—or deliberately conceal the truth behind—attacks on the Jewish community.
FBI special agent Matthew DeSarno, in charge of the bureau’s Dallas office, weighed in right after the 10-hour standoff: “[The perpetrator] was focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community.”
The reality is that enemies of Zionism are also enemies of all Jews—even Jews as far away from Israel as those in Colleyville, Texas.
The synagogue, near Fort Worth, was commandeered by a Pakistani-British Muslim, who took its rabbi and three congregants hostage. The terrorist had traveled thousands of miles to force the release from federal prison of a fellow Pakistani Muslim, Aafia Siddiqui. Siddiqui, a Pakistani “heroine” known as “Lady Al-Qaeda,” is married to the nephew of the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. She was sentenced to 86 years in a Texas federal prison for attempting to murder American soldiers and agents in Afghanistan in 2009. Among her papers were maps for dirty-bomb attacks in New York and plans for other lethal terrorist schemes.
Siddiqui attributes her prosecution to shadowy “Jewish forces” that, she claims, really control America. She pleaded in vain at her trial that all potential jurors undergo genetic testing to assure that none had even a drop of Jewish blood. Upon conviction, she insisted: “This is a verdict coming from Israel and not from America.”
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has held fundraisers in support of Siddiqui’s legal efforts to be set free from her supposed American/Zionist oppressors.
Just two months ago, CAIR’s executive director, Zahra Billoo, paid tribute to her, while condemning “Zionist synagogues” and the American Jewish community in general. The head of CAIR’s Dallas-Fort Worth chapter is also Siddiqui’s lead attorney. CAIR is just one among many Islamist front groups that champion Siddiqui’s cause on the web.
After Akram demanded the release of Siddiqui, Biden said: “I don’t think there is sufficient information to know about why he targeted that synagogue … why he was using anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli comments.”
It’s clear why this Muslim terrorist chose a synagogue as the target for trying to secure the freedom from prison of a kindred spirit. Both had loudly proclaimed their hatred of Israel and contempt for the Jewish people.
Part of the pathology shared by Siddiqui and her would-be liberator is the belief that the Jews control America—indeed, the world. Thus, Akram ordered Colleyville rabbi to call and appeal to a leading rabbi in New York City, who, Akram believed, could order the release of his terrorist “sister” with no problem.
Unfortunately, the misleading reactions of our leaders and media to such incidents have become almost routine. Consider other recent examples:
In 2008, a 10-man group of Pakistani murderers, dispatched by an anti-Hindu, anti-Israel Islamic terror group, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, launched a series of attacks in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India. They killed 164 people at carefully selected sites around the city. The Mumbai targets included the leading hotels frequented by the wealthy Indian elites—not the top tourist hotels run by American chains like Hilton.
Mumbai is a target-rich city with a population of more than 20 million. Yet two of the 10 attackers were dedicated to an assault on a nondescript six-story building housing the city’s Chabad center. Seven people—including the rabbi and his wife—were brutally tortured and murdered by the terrorists.
Why did the terrorists commit 20% of their manpower to a minuscule Jewish center?
At the time, the BBC and The New York Times both described the Chabad House attack as “an accidental hostage scene”—as if the terrorists had just taken a wrong turn and inadvertently wound up at Chabad.
At trial the next year, the sole surviving terrorist in the attack testified that the Chabad house had been specifically targeted early in the planning.
On Hanukkah in 2019, the JC Kosher Market in Jersey City, New Jersey, was attacked by two devotees of the Black Hebrew Israelites, a passionately anti-Semitic and anti-Israel cult. Four people were murdered, including one of the owners, two Hassidic customers and an Ecuadoran clerk.
The reaction of the New Jersey State District Attorney? “We do not know the suspects’ possible motives.” (Jersey City’s mayor, however, immediately condemned it as an anti-Semitic hate crime.)
The predominant media reaction (including by the New York Times) was that this was just a robbery gone wrong—despite the anti-Semitic social-media posts of the terrorists. Those posts included denunciations of the “phony” Jews and the illegitimacy of the Jewish claim to Israel.
In attack after attack on synagogues and other Jewish institutions, our leading media and top government officials avoid or deny the obvious—that intense anti-Semitism is a core belief of those who hate Israel. Conversely, anti-Zionism is a root cause of lethal anti-Semitic acts.
Our war against terror and fanaticism—whether in Texas, Mumbai, Jersey City, Pittsburgh or Poway—must include a battle against anti-Semitism and its fraternal twin, anti-Zionism.
Even if politicians and the mainstream media seek to evade this truth, supporters of Israel need to make clear that the safety of Jews and of the Jewish state is under existential threat.
Ken Cohen is co-editor of the Hotline published by Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which offers educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.