[Pnews] FBI Is Manufacturing Terror Plots Against Jewish-Americans, Driving Divisions Between Jews and Muslims
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 12 14:46:01 EDT 2016
FBI Is Manufacturing Terror Plots Against Jewish-Americans, Driving
Divisions Between Jews and Muslims
By Aviva Stahl / may 11, 2016
Since 9/11, the FBI and NYPD have solved dozens of terror plots that its
own agents and assets manufactured, including some against synagogues.
Even if the plots were less than real, the foiled “attacks” have greatly
impacted both the defendants and their alleged victims, spreading fear
among Jewish-Americans and triggering panicked reports about heightened
threat against Jews.
this April of James Medina, a recent convert to Islam with an extensive
criminal history, may be the latest evidence of the disturbing practice.
An FBI affidavit showed an FBI source suggesting that Medina bomb the
Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in Hollywood, Florida on a Jewish holiday.
The source even encouraged Medina to claim the attack in the name of
ISIS—a group he had no affiliation to. “Yeah, we can print up...
something and make it look like it’s ISIS here in America,” Medina said,
one of a series of statements evincing an erratic mental state.
“Aventura, watch your back,” he continued. “ISIS is in the house.”
The FBI ultimately gave Medina a fake bomb and arrested him. He is now
on trial for planning to commit an act of terror with a weapon of mass
destruction, a charge that could land the 40-year-old in prison for life.
Although there is still much to be known about Medina's case, it appears
to be part of a broader pattern. Before his arrest, there were several
other Muslim men, most of whom had mental illnesses or developmental
disabilities, who were drawn into FBI dragnets and encouraged by federal
law enforcement agents to attack Jewish institutions.
Among the most shocking cases was that of Ahmed Ferhani, a young,
clinically bipolar Muslim teen currently serving a 10-year sentence in
prison for terrorism-related charges.
“The synagogue bomber,” that’s what his lawyer, Lamis Deek, remembers
the press calling Ahmed Ferhani.
On May 13, 2011, Ferhani and his co-defendant, Mohamed Mamdouh, were
arrested and charged
with planning to dress up as Hasidic Jews and plant a bomb in a
Many New York Jews were horrified. "It takes only 1 percent of the
people we don't catch for tragedy to strike our community... We are just
so grateful that the police caught it in time,” Rabbi Eli Shifrin of the
ultra-Orthodox Chabad sect told the Bayside-Douglaston Patch
after Ferhani and Mamdou were arrested.
But as with most domestic terrorism cases, especially those supposed
plots in which undercover cops or informants play a role, the truth was
much more complicated than it first seemed.
In an interview with AlterNet, Deek explained how it was the undercover
NYPD detective—and not the defendants—who introduced the idea of bombing
the synagogue, and manipulated the vulnerable, clinically bipolar
Ferhani into making anti-Semitic remarks.
This April, Ferhani tried to hang himself in his jail cell, a result of
the constant torment he endured from prison guards as a result of his
alleged crimes, according to Deek. Her client is currently in a
medically induced coma and may not survive—and if he does, he may suffer
from permanent brain damage.
As Ahmed Ferhani’s family keeps vigil at his bedside, questions continue
to mount about the alleged plot that brought him there.
*A Case of Entrapment?*
The story of Ferhani’s path to prison begins in 2010, when a friend
introduced him to a man who called himself name Ilter Ayturk.
Ayturk was really an undercover NYPD officer with a history of
initiating potentially illegal activities before his intended targets,
so much so that the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF)—the multi-agency
federal force charged with preventing attacks—had previously declined to
get involved in his investigations.
Ayturk and Ferhani quickly grew close. “He was my twin, my best friend,”
Ferhani told the Nation
2013. Ferhani is bipolar, according to his mother Kheira, and was
hospitalized on and off as a teenager. Kheira would sometimes have to
call 911 when her son got out of control, so the NYPD was well familiar
with him, even before Ayturk was introduced into his life.
An October 2012 article published in the New York Review of Books
analyzed Ferhani’s case alongside several other plots “foiled” by the
NYPD. “Mentally unstable people may be capable of great harm and paid
informants may help detect serious crimes,” noted writer Michael Greenberg.
“But the facts in these cases warrant critical attention.”
According to press reports, the undercover detective, Ayturk, soon
started suggesting various schemes for Ferhani to make money and spoke
to him about what was happening in Palestine and across the globe.
Next, Ayturk began introducing the anti-Semitic angle. “Ilter would
start riling up Ferhani, and start trying to blame all these horrible
things on the Jews,” explained Deek. “Then he would try to get Ahmed
Ferhani to say something along those same lines.”
According to Deek, soliciting these kinds of comments from Ferhani was
crucial for the prosecution to work. Overtly political or anti-Jewish
statements would enable the government to “overcome the entrapment
defense, because now they’ve established predisposition,” she explained.
Eventually, Ferhani met with an undercover agent posing as a weapons
dealer, and paid $100 in exchange for 150 rounds of ammunition, three
semiautomatic pistols and an inert hand grenade, supposedly to be attack
a Manhattan synagogue.
“Absolutely,” said Deek, when I asked if Ayturk had also suggested the
idea of attacking the synagogue. “He introduced everything.”
Deek’s insistence that Ferhani’s case amounted to entrapment—in the
spirit of the law, if not the letter—is echoed by some press coverage of
the trial. ”The government says he is a terrorist,” penned John Knefel
is his March 2013 Nation
article. “But his conversations with undercover police tell a different
Since the federal government had refused to take on the case, Ferhani
and his co-defendant were charged under a little-known state terrorism
statute. In June 2011, a grand jury declined to indict them on the most
serious charges put forward by the government, but indicted Ferhani and
his co-defendant on lesser offenses, including planning to blow up an
In December 2012, Ferhani pled guilty to nine terrorism-related charges
and one hate crime charge. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
It wasn’t the first time an undercover operative in a counter-terrorism
sting would encourage the plot’s anti-Jewish turn.
In 2007, FBI informant Shahed Hussain was sent to infiltrate the Masjid
al-Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh, New York, where he soon introduced himself
to a local resident, James Cromitie. Although Cromitie tried to ditch
Hussain, the informant was persistent, and with time Hussain started
encouraging Cromitie to adopt hateful views. Jews “are responsible for
all the evils in the world,” Hussain told his target in one October 2008
Later that same day, Hussain tried to compel Cromitie to action: “When I
feel these Moishites, these Yahud, in Palestine, killing Muslims, or
killing people in Iraq or in Afghanistan, one of our brothers, I always
think about going for a cause, for a cause of Islam.”
“Have you thought about that brother?” he asked Cromitie.
At the behest of Hussain, Cromitie recruited three other men as lookouts
by offering them with substantial sums of money. The promises made by
the informant sometimes appeared to exploit the men’s greatest
vulnerabilities. David Williams, for example, agreed to get involved
after Hussain offered to help him secure the cash to pay for his
brother’s liver transplant
On May 20, 2009, the day of the planned attack, Cromitie and Hussain
placed three inert explosive devices in a Mazda and parked outside of
the Riverdale Jewish Center, while the other men acted as lookouts. The
defendants have since said they never planned to set the bombs off, but
rather swindle Hussain out of the cash.
The “bombs” had been built by the FBI and provided to the Newburgh Four
through Hussain, and the government had selected the target.
Soon, cops swooped in to arrest.
It’s a case that’s been sharply criticized. “There would have been no
crime here except the government instigated it, planned it, and brought
it to fruition,” US District Judge Colleen McMahon told the court
when she sentenced Cromitie and his co-defendants to the mandatory
minimum of 25 years.
In a Guardian opinion piece
published in June 2011, then-director of the Center on Law and Security
at NYU’s Law School, Karen Greenberg, wondered whether Hussain’s hateful
actions and words were really in the public interest: “Who really thinks
that tax dollars are well spent to support utterances of anti-Semitism
as a means of bonding with potential criminals and turning them into
*A History of Manufacturing Anti-Semitism*
There are other questions, too—like whether it was the undercover
operatives, their handlers, or higher-ups in the NYPD or FBI, who guided
the plots towards their anti-Jewish end.
“I definitely suspect that there was a lot of detailed instructions in
this case,” for Ayturk, said Deek when I asked her what she thought.
It’s a startling image: a group of cops or FBI agents sit around an
office table and plot the details of an “attack” on Jews.
The idea sounds implausible, even conspiratorial. But the FBI has
previously made calculated decisions before to exploit anti-Semitism as
a means of managing perceived national security threats.
As Kenneth O'Reilly writes in his landmark text Racial Matters: The
FBI's Secret File on Black America, “one of the FBI’s favourite tactics
was to accuse the Panthers and other black nationalists of
anti-Semitism, a tactic designed to destroy the movement’s image ‘among
liberal and naive elements.’”
In late 1969, the FBI devised a plan to establish contact with Rabbi
Meir Kahane, head of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), for
“counter-intelligence purposes.” The ultra-nationalist JDL that had
already held several highly publicized protests against “Black
anti-Semitism,” and at the time, Kahane was writing a column for the
The FBI soon began sending Kahane anonymous messages intended to depict
the Black Panther Party (BPP) as violently anti-Semitic, material that
Kahane integrated into his column. One such letter to Kahane declared:
‘We will get you one by one. Israel will have to be destroyed. Too much
Jewish Political Power now. In the future it will be Black power.”
Tensions grew so high that a street battle almost broke out between the
BPP and the JDL in May 1970. “The FBI… was pleased” with this
development, narrates Robert Friedman in his 1990 biography about
Kahane’s life. “Kahane was the perfect stooge.”
*Widening Divisions Between Muslims and Jews*
While the Black Panther Party may no longer be “the greatest threat to
the internal security of the country”—as FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover
once said—today those same worlds could quite easily be applied to
There is no evidence to suggest there is a coordinated scheme within the
NYPD or the FBI to drive divisions between Muslims and Jews—but for
families directly affected by the plots, it seems like the writing is on
Shahina Parveen is the mother of Matin Siraj, who is currently serving
30 years on terrorism-related charges, another instance in which the
government informant played a key role and induced his target into
adopting anti-Semitic beliefs. Parveen is also close friends with
“Hate is like a wildfire,” Parveen told AlterNet. “It is the police
informants and undercovers who start these fires through manipulating
impressionable young people to not only manufacture these cases, but
also to cause mistrust across our communities.”
“Is this a part of their duties?” she lamented.
The informant in Siraj’s case, Osama Eldawoody, acted as a religious
guide for her son, Parveen told me when I interviewed her several years
ago. The two men met in 2003, at the Islamic bookstore in Bay Ridge
where Siraj worked.
He was an impressionable young man who had struggled in school and was
often described as a little slow. Siraj quickly became attached to his
“Eldawoody’s play was that there’s a war on Muslims, and that America
and Israel are at the heart of it,” explained Siraj’s attorney, Martin
Stolar, when I spoke to him over the phone. “And that the war on Muslims
being perpetrated in Iraq and Afghanistan and against the Palestinians,
required a true Muslim to take action.”
When Eldawoody encouraged Siraj to plan an attack, Siraj suggested
bombing the 34th St. Herald Square subway station. Eldawoody offered to
acquire weapons, but the plan never got past its initial stages, and it
is clear from other recordings that Siraj had mixed feelings about
At one point Siraj told Eldawoody that he wanted to ask his mother for
before proceeding, and he later informed Eldawoody he wanted out of the
But the government didn’t back off. Siraj and his co-defendant, James
Elshafay, were arrested in late August 2004, and the recordings of Siraj
making anti-Semitic statements were played at his trial and reported by
“Comments like that would affect the jury, and they definitely affected
the judge,” said Stolar when I asked how the remarks played out.
“[The judge] was angered by those kinds of comments—her background is
Jewish,” explained Stolar. Siraj was found guilty and sentenced to 30 years.
Laura Whitehorn is a Jewish left-wing activist who served time in prison
for her political activities during the era of COINTELPRO.
“In my experience, the claim that someone—especially an alleged
‘terrorist’—was motivated by anti-Semitism seems calculated to silence
any questioning, any doubt,” she told AlterNet. “It’s a way to try to
slam dunk the target, ensuring that the public will not sympathize with
them or question the evidence against them.”
Undercover operatives in the cases also appeared to elide the
distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, even if that meant
editorializing over material critical of the occupation.
“In none of the films or the literature that the undercover was sharing,
or using, with Ferhani or Mamdouh—in none of them was there an iota of
anti-Semitism, or a blaming of the Jews in any of the propaganda that he
used,” explained Deek.
“However,” added Deek, “when [Ilter] would refer to them, that’s how he
would talk—and he would push Ferhani to say these things, to say
anti-Semitic things, especially as it relates to Palestine.”
Ayturk had infiltrated Palestine activist groups in New York City as
early as 2008 <http://nypdconfidential.com/columns/2012/120319.html>,
and was actually spying on the local chapter of Al-Awda, the Palestine
right to return coalition, when he met the mutual friend who
subsequently introduced him to Ferhani.
*Government Grants to Targets of FBI-Manufactured Plots*
Oren Segal, the Director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on
Extremism, said that he felt debates about entrapment were worthwhile,
but that no one should forget the impact of the alleged plots on Jews.
“Whether or not that case was handled as best as possible—let people
debate that, they should,” said, referring to the Newburgh Four case.
“We should always hold our law enforcement accountable for what they’re
“But I will tell you, there’s no debate that case had an impact on the
security and safety of the Jewish community, and how they felt about it.
When we’re talking about the issue of anti-Semitism, and the role it
played there, at the end of the day people tried to plant some bombs in
front of Jewish institutions,” he added.
Fearful people want protection, and protection is pricey—so in the years
since 9/11, American Jews have pushed for government funds.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which was created by
Congress in 2005, “provides funding
support for target hardening and other physical security enhancements
and activities to non-profit organizations that are at high risk of a
terrorist attack.” As of FY 2014, Jewish organizations and institutions
have received the vast majority of the $151 million
including 74 percent of the funds distributed between 2007 and 2010, 81
percent in 2011, 97 percent in 2012
and nearly 90 percent of the money given out in 2014
“This disproportionate distribution is no accident,” wrote Eileen
Reynolds and two other Jewish Daily Forward journalists in an extensive
published in September 2011.
“The coalition lobbying for the program was led by United Jewish
Communities, now known as the Jewish Federations of North America, and
by the Orthodox Union and several other Jewish groups.”
Some communities targeted by government-driven plots have benefitted
directly. After the alleged attacks, the Riverdale Temple and the
Riverdale Jewish Center each received a $25,000 grant
“to upgrade their security systems.”
But the arrests have also been utilized by Jewish groups across the city
to secure funding. In the NSGP application for the grant money,
institutions are required to demonstrate that they or closely related
organizations have been subject to threats or attacks by terrorist
groups. The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York produces a
to help Jewish groups establish risk.
“The Riverdale and Manhattan [Ferhani] bomb plots are exhibits of the
continuing that of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and vehicle-borne
IEDs,” notes the author in a section on how to establish high
probability and high consequence threats.
*“This Case Killed Him”*
Of course, some terrorist groups do propagate the notion that Muslims
are at war with America, and “the Jews.”
“I tell Muslims to believe in the victory of God and in Jihad against
the infidels of the world,” said Osama Bin Laden in an October 2002
interview published by CNN
“The killing of Jews and Americans is one of the greatest duties.”
Jews have also faced real danger. During the November 2015 attacks on
Paris, suspected gunmen Amedy Coulibaly stormed a kosher supermarket and
killed four people. Six people were murdered in the attack on Mumbai’s
Chabad House in November 2008, including a woman who was five months
In the cases examined here, however, the defendants would likely never
have been able to pull off an attack on their own, and they knew little
or nothing about Judaism. “After Ilter had suggested that, they’re so
angry, they should go bomb a synagogue, or they should do something at
synagogue, Mamdouh actually looked at Ilter and said, ‘what the hell is
a synagogue,’” Lamis Deek recalled.
Some American Jewish institutions see and cite these plots as proof of
the danger posed by Muslim “extremists,” even though the primary person
peddling the “extremist” ideology was the government agent. A 2013 ADL
entitled, “American Muslim Extremists: A Continuing Threat to Jews,”
refers to both the Ferhani and the Newburgh arrests on its first page.
Progressive Jewish organizations operating outside the institutional
tent have taken a different stance. “It is not uncommon for anti-Muslim
sentiment or policies to be connected to the Islamophobic stereotype
that Muslims hate Jews,” said Naomi Dann, the Media Coordinator at
Jewish Voice for Peace. “It is particularly disturbing when this false
stereotype is encouraged by actions of the state or law enforcement, and
when accusations of antisemitism are used to justify Islamophobia.”
“Cases of entrapment, and the infiltration and surveillance of community
groups that goes along with these practices, have very real and harmful
impacts on Muslim communities, and should outrage all of us,” she stressed.
Being drawn into a government-manufactured plot has changed the lives of
the defendants and their families irrevocably. A son behind bars means
one less breadwinner in the home, and the often-exorbitant expense of
visiting him behind bars can be taxing. The parents and siblings of the
defendants have sometime endured surveillance from the police or FBI,
even visits from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The day after her son was sentenced, Shahina Parveen, along with her
husband and daughter, were picked up by ICE
and placed in immigration detention, due to outstanding issues in
Parveen’s husband’s legal status. All three were eventually released,
but the experience was very difficult, Parveen told me.
Then there is Ahmed Ferhani, who wrote about the abuses he faced at the
hands of prison guards in letters reviewed by the Nation
“At least 90 percent of the abuse that he suffered at the hands of the
COs was a direct result of the charges that were brought against him,
and that’s what drove him crazy,” said Deek when I asked her about the
impact of the alleged plot.
“This case killed him, or near killed him, and it devastated his
family,” she reflected, her voice trembling with sorrow.
Nefarious or not, the plots have driven a wedge between city residents
of the two faiths.
“Jews feel like the victims of [these plots],” the ADL’s Segal told me
when I asked him about Muslim community concerns.
In 2011, I interviewed Alicia McWilliams, the aunt of one of the
Newburgh Four defendants. She recalled a visit to the rabbi at Riverdale
Jewish Center just one week after the arrests:
“I told him, ‘The government manufactured this crime’, and he said,
‘Well, James [Cromitie] said some hurtful things’ [on the FBI tapes]...
‘You will not see us out there [supporting the accused]’ and we didn’t.”
McWilliams continued, “Then I met with him this past July, and I asked
him how it would feel to be used. We were used, and you were used. The
only difference is that you’re getting grants, and David and them are
going away for life.”
Neither the NYPD nor the FBI have responded to requests for a response
to the allegations raised in this article.
For now, the Newburgh Four remains behind bars, Matin Siraj counts down
the days until his release, and Kheira Ferhani sits at her son’s
bedside, praying for his recovery.
Aviva Stahl is a Brooklyn-based journalist who writes about prisons,
national security, and immigration detention.
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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