FBI director Christopher Wray told Jewish communal leaders that his agency is “working to confirm if there is any validity to the call.”
By Faygie Holt, JNS
National security officials are urging Jewish institutions to keep their facilities open but to be vigilant after a former head of Hamas called for a “Day of Jihad” on Friday, Oct. 13. Much of the concern stems from online posts in which former Hamas leader Khalid Mashal called the “Friday of the Al-Aqsa Flood.”
FBI director Christopher Wray told Jewish communal leaders that his agency is aware of the call for global “mobilization” and that “we are working to confirm if there is any validity to the call.”
“I am not, in any way, trying to alarm you, but I want you to be confident that the FBI is most assuredly paying attention,” he continued. “We remain vigilant to the potential of this event to inspire violence” against Jewish people, houses of worship, day schools and Jewish community centers in the United States.
Wray made his remarks on Thursday as part of a “National Update on Domestic Security Guidance Amidst Hamas Terror Attacks,” sponsored by the Secure Community Network. More than 4,700 people took part in the briefing, during which Wray said that just last weekend, the FBI received a tip about a potential threat to several institutions in Connecticut, including a “Jewish senior services center,” and immediately worked with local partners to eliminate that threat.
He also noted that the 2022 hate-crime numbers expected to be released next week will continue to show an “upward trend” of threats and violence against the Jewish community in the United States.
“Amidst the unspeakable devastation in Israel, the North American Jewish community must do all we can to ensure our institutions are safe and secure. As of this moment, SCN has not seen any direct, credible threats as it relates to Hamas’s call to action or the broader situation in Israel,” said Michael Master, national director and CEO of SCN. “Absent information otherwise provided by law enforcement and public safety partners, we are encouraging organizations to remain open and active.”
According to Kerry Sleeper, senior adviser for the SCN, potential threats can come from different directions, such as nonviolent protests or demonstrations that turn violent, which may be centered on college campuses; neo-Nazis and hate groups who are using the current atmos; and “lone-wolf” violent extremists who are inspired by Hamas to act.
Some of that inspiration may come from social media, particularly X (formerly known as Twitter), which Sleeper said “is currently an epicenter for content praising attacks by Hamas, Al-Kassem Brigades, a Hamas offshoot, as well as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.”
“As of last evening, there were 16 million content views of Hamas-related propaganda content,” which includes go-pro videos of Hamas terrorists killing and desecrating the bodies of Israeli servicemen and the murder of civilians. “This is the message of if you can’t travel for jihad, commit jihad where you are,” said Sleeper, calling the videos a recruiting tool for Hamas.
Against this backdrop, law-enforcement agencies in Jewish areas are increasing their public presence on Friday, particularly in major urban centers that saw an uptick in anti-Jewish activity associated with the 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in May 2021.