Jewish community leaders blasted the FBI after law enforcement officials said in a Saturday statement that the actions of a gunman who held five Jews hostage were “not specifically related to the Jewish community.”
Roz Rothstein, co-founder and CEO of the Israel education group StandWithUs, called the FBI’s original statement “insulting and disappointing,” according to Fox News.
“Trying to separate Jews from the idea that JEWS were targeted on their holy day at their house of worship, is a mistake and it is insulting and disappointing,” Rothstein continued. “It is also dangerous to downplay an attack against Jewish people as being something else at a time of rising anti-Jewish bigotry that we should all be paying attention to. It makes no sense to try and separate Saturday’s hostage crisis from the people who suffered and who were the most impacted: Jews, their Jewish families and the Jewish world.”
After receiving backlash over its initial statement, the FBI issued another statement on Sunday calling the incident “terrorism-related” and saying that the Jewish community “was targeted.”
“All of us at the FBI are relieved the hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas, was resolved without physical injury to those taken hostage. We never lose sight of the threat extremists pose to the Jewish community and to other religious, racial, and ethnic groups,” the FBI said in a statement. “We have had a close and enduring relationship with the Jewish community for many years. We continue to work tirelessly with the Secure Community Network, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federation, and others to protect members of the Jewish community from all potential threats.”
“This is a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted, and is being investigated by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Preventing acts of terrorism and violence is the number one priority of the FBI,” the FBI added.
On Saturday, a British national allegedly held a rabbi and four others hostage at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. The hostage situation ended after about 12 hours with all hostages leaving the synagogue safely. The FBI confirmed the suspect was dead, though did not say how.
The FBI’s original statement after the hostage crisis elicited criticism online:
- Seth Mandel, Washington Examiner: “He took a shul hostage and demanded to free a notorious antisemite and forced one rabbi to call another rabbi in NY to help with this. Motive is likely indigestion, though we can’t rule out ‘lost a bet.’”
- Dan McLaughlin, National Review: “Hitler was mad about the Treaty of Versailles, which wasn’t Jews’ fault, either.”
- Alberto Miguel Fernandez, retired U.S. diplomat: “Such a bizarre take by the FBI.”
- Gregg Carlstrom, The Economist: “Just a coincidence that he targeted a house of worship used by this one particular religious minority, a coincidence that seems to happen an awful lot throughout history.”
- Kyle Orton, researcher: “This is absolutely absurd from @AP. In an era when the most micro-identities receive excess coverage and the most innocent slight can be interpreted as evidence of bias, even a hostage-taking at a synagogue doesn’t qualify as hostility to Jews.”
- Josh Hammer, Newsweek: “These people defy parody.”
- John Cardillo, political commentator: “The Bureau is in a race with itself to destroy whatever microscopic fraction of credibility it might have left.”