Jewish leaders call FBI comments on Texas hostages ‘insulting’

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Jewish leaders call FBI comments on Texas hostages ‘insulting’

Jewish leaders ripped the FBI Monday and said the bureau “got it wrong” when they said the terrorist who took hostages at a Texas synagogue didn’t make demands that were “specifically related to the Jewish community,” reports said. 

FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno made the comments late Saturday when addressing reporters after four people, including a rabbi, were taken hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville by British national Malik Faisal Akram

DeSarno noted that Akram was specifically focused on Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who was convicted in Manhattan Federal Court in 2010 of trying to kill US authorities in Afghanistan, and his primary demand was her immediate release from prison. 

“We do believe from our engagement with this subject that he was singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community. But we are continuing to work to find [the] motive,” DeSarno said. 

Kenneth Marcus, the founder and chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, said “the FBI got it wrong” and the attack was “obviously a matter of antisemitism.” 

Matt DeSarno.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said Malik Faisal Akram’s primary demand was Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui’s immediate release from prison.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images

“Failure of the FBI to understand this is something of a pattern with law enforcement in the United States and frankly in Europe,” Marcus told Fox News Digital.

“It seems that time after time, we see law enforcement officials fail to understand when an antisemitic incident occurs, even when it’s entirely obvious,” he said. 

Marcus said DeSarno’s comments were “not a mere slip-up” but are “symptomatic of a widespread failure with law enforcement to understand the problems of antisemitism and anti-Zionism.” 

Authorities escort a hostage out of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue.
During her 2010 trial, Aafia Siddiqui demanded the court conduct “genetic testing” to weed out jurors “of Zionist or Israeli background.”
Elias Valverde/The Dallas Morning News via AP

Siddiqui, who is currently serving an 86-year sentence at a Fort Worth prison, has a history of making anti-semitic comments. During her 2010 trial, she demanded the court conduct “genetic testing” to weed out jurors “of Zionist or Israeli background,” The Post reported at the time.

“They’re all mad at me, and I have a feeling that everyone here is them, subject to genetic-testing, and they should be excluded if you want to be fair,” Siddiqui told the judge.

“This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America, and that is where this anger belongs.”

Police stand in front of the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue.
“We see law enforcement officials fail to understand when an antisemitic incident occurs,” Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law founder Kenneth Marcus said.
Brandon Wade/AP

Following nearly 12 hours of negotiations with Akram, 44, an elite SWAT team flown in from Virginia was able to safely rescue the four hostages without injury. Akram died at the scene. 

Roz Rothstein, the co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs, an organization that combats anti-semitism, called the FBI’s comments “insulting and disappointing.” 

Malik Faisal Akram.
Malik Faisal Akram died at the scene following the rescue of his 4 hostages.

“Trying to separate Jews from the idea that Jews were targeted on their holy day at their house of worship, is a mistake,” Rothstein told the outlet. 

“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,” he said.” 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.” 

Late Sunday, the FBI clarified their comments in a statement but again, did not say that the hostages were targeted for their faith.

“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 bureau said.

“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,” the agency continued.

FBI press briefing.
“This is a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted,” the FBI later clarified.
Francois Picard/AFP via Getty Images

“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.” 

Rothstein believes DeSarno originally “misspoke” when addressing the situation. 

“The man looked for a synagogue near the airport, had the rabbi contact another rabbi in New York that he felt could move the meter on the release of Aafia Siddiqui, there were antisemitic slurs during his rant as well as by Siddiqui during her trial,” Rothstein said. 

“There must be no question that he targeted Jews.” 

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