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The Message

Why terrorists from Yemen are trying to bomb synagogues in Chicago

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Barack Obama speaking in the White House briefing room yesterday afternoon. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Image)

Friday afternoon, international authorities announced that they intercepted two explosive devices originating in Yemen and destined for two synagogues in Chicago. The discovery of the packages containing the bombs—the first one in England and the second one in Dubai—set off a panicked hunt for additional packages from Yemen on planes coming into New York, Philadelphia, and Newark, and on a truck that was stopped by law enforcement officials in Brooklyn. What does it mean?

It means that al-Qaida’s networks in the Arabian Peninsula are very active. It means that al-Qaida leader Anwar al-Aulaki, the onetime “moderate” Imam in Virginia who inspired Major Nidal Malik Hasan to shoot 12 of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, Texas, is trying to kill as many of his fellow Americans as he can before the Obama Administration catches him in the crosshairs of a drone attack. It means that the Yemeni government is weak. Were it strong, it would have either found those devices before they left Yemen or, alternatively, it would have ensured those bombs reached their destinations by providing the sort of logistical support that only Arab and Iranian security services can offer terrorist groups.

Most important, it means it’s OK to kill Jews.

These two explosive devices, directed at the president’s hometown on the eve of midterm elections, constitute an information operation. While the message is not particularly sophisticated, what makes it interesting is that the perpetrators seem to have come to a perfect understanding of their target audience. After all, what do two synagogues in Chicago have to do with anything in Yemen?

President Barack Obama, Homeland Security chief John Brennan, and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs all carefully declined to take the opportunity of the well-publicized threat to make any comment whatsoever about the fact that American Jews were being specifically targeted by terrorists, to reassure the Jewish community that it was being protected, or to denounce the planned attacks on Jewish places of worship.

And yet, in the next few days, someone in the media—I don’t know exactly who, but someone—will argue that these synagogues were chosen because the president’s former chief-of-staff, a Jew, wants to be the next mayor of Chicago. Hence, this is, in reality, a message to the White House to stop targeting Yemeni militants.

Absurd? Sure it is. But it is more plausible than the notion that American Jews and Jewish houses of worship in Illinois were targeted because of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, or the Golan Heights, or Shaaba Farms, or because of the existence of the State of Israel itself. Someone is surely going to make that argument, because almost all Arab terror against Jews is now attributed to—and excused by—the Arab conflict with Israel, which has become a free pass to commit acts of terror against Jews.

Terror, violence, and bloodshed against Jews now come pre-packaged with a sanctimonious justification. It’s not seen as crazy, sick, irrational violence. It’s political violence. Terrorist violence is irrational and incomprehensible—unless the victims are Jewish. Why do terrorists bomb America, bomb London, bomb Madrid, bomb Casablanca, burn Mumbai? Because they’re crazy, that’s why. With the Jews, well, there’s the occupation. There’s Israel. There’s America’s support for Israel. Terrorism may be abhorrent, but when it comes to the Jews the terrorists themselves have a lot to be angry about. Accordingly, we’re supposed to regard these acts with both horror and reason at the same time—“sure, it’s not pretty, but we get it.” In other words, terror against Jews may produce violence and bloodshed but not moral revulsion.

The target of this attack was Jews, but the target of the information operation is all Americans—including the Americans who rationalize terror attacks against Jews. We created the context for operations like this one and we will see many more of them, bombs and much worse, against Jews and non-Jews alike, for our enemies have taken stock of our character. We are looking for excuses not to fight them. And we accept their phony justifications for the killing of Jews.

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Bem Bochner says:

I don’t understand the writer’s hysterical tone. Here is an attempted act of terrorism that was sniffed out and stopped. Nobody said it was OK to target Jews. The whole government seems to be working overtime to stop these attacks before they get started. We have a president who seems to be competent, does not invite more attacks with provocative rhetoric and, overall, has been very successful in squelching terrorist attacks. How about a word of thanks to people who are doing their jobs? Why don’t we show a confident face to the world, instead of whining and making up slights? American-Israeli relations are strong and effective. This is something to take pride in, not to denigrate at every opportunity. Obama is simply not the monster you want to make him out to be. He is a very good friend of Israel and it wouldn’t hurt to say so every once in a while.

PeaceCat says:

What is the big to-do??? I’m still convinced that this whole thing is not just a hoax. A “terrorist threat” right before a major election?? Gimme a break.

Wow, another paranoid screed that elevates a straw man to totemic status. Who, beyond an extremist fringe, justifies terror against Jews? Oh, “Someone is surely going to make that argument,” well then it’s worth lashing out at it before it emerges.

How has the Arab-Israeli conflict “become a free pass to commit acts of terror against Jews”? Seriously, where is the free pass coming from? Is Mr. Smith arguing that the Obama administration and its allies won’t try to stop terror attacks that target Jews on the grounds that it’s understandable, given the situation in the Middle East? Or that the media will excuse terror attacks that target Jews? Can Mr. Smith make even a single citation to prove his argument?

“In other words, terror against Jews may produce violence and bloodshed, but not moral revulsion.”
Again, who says this? Outside the extremist fringe, who argues that terror against Jews is not morally reprehensible? If the purpose of this essay is to argue that Al Qaeda is evil, kudos to Mr. Smith for his brave and original stand. But that’s not his point. He specifies “President Obama, Homeland Security Chief John Brennan, and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs” as being somehow complicit in excusing terror against Jews because they didn’t address it at the star tof the investigation.

Finally, Mr. Smith mistakenly included Mumbai in his litany of terror attacks on non-Jews. But as he could have used Google to find out, a Chabad house was targeted as part of those attacks, and nine Jews were murdered because they were Jewish. By the reasoning in this article, the authorities in Mumbai would have refused to track down the perpetrators of the attack on the Chabad house on the grounds that Jews were victims, and there would have been no “moral revulsion.” Did that happen? No — because despite Mr. Smith’s fervid victime-porn imaginings, it is not “OK to kill Jews.”

I look forward to the clarifications in an upcoming Lee Smith Exclusive.

herr Peper says:

the damage done by this kind of ridiculous article is not to be underestimated

Paul Freedman says:

Absolutely correct and on point against this paranoia! After all, the President forthrightly condemned anti-Semitic targeting of Jews and drew yet another lesson for Americans on the anti-Semitism that has so perverted the cultures of the Middle East, encouraging the leaderships of Saudia Arabia and its circles, Iran and its allies, and often the Palestinians to demonize Israel with stock stereotypes ripped out of the past’s catalogue of calumnies, not excluding National Socialism’s virulent contribution.

Oh wait, no lessons were drawn at all. Or commented on. When last heard from , the appointed administrative go-to anti-Semitism czar was delivering lectures condemning … Islamophobia.

But yes, it is nice that the Administration is on the case and so far preventing our synagogues from being blown sky high by these gutter-feeding flotsam.

Interesting question in relation to that target choice, clearly Ilyas Kashmiri likes to incorporate the killing of Jews into his operations when possible, this occurred in Mumbai while the Chabad House attack was a diversion from the main attack. The operation was put into affect in a short period of time most probably because the President was going to Chicago, as we know that Kashmiri favors commando Mumbai style attacks that would mean that a al-Qaida sleeper cell is based in Chicago and ready to be activated at short notice. We know that David Headley has scouted targets for Kashmiri in Chicago. The diversion sub plot is needed to divert law enforcement assets, bomb squad, SWAT, rotary air assets, patrols (saturation policing) in quadrants, road blocks. Now you do not need such a diversion for a truck or car bomb, but you do for a commando Mumbai style attack. Look at this way the President is in Chicago for his rally, next minute explosive packages start turning up all over the place, it would have been a chaotic scene, and created a gap in security, remember CPP is reliant on rings of security, if you cannot break the outer rings you cannot get to the final ring which is the Secret Service Presidential CPP team. That cell could be activated at anytime for such a terrorist operation, why the urgency to launch it on such a short notice. What was the game changer, the President was going to be in Chicago at a rally. There is no love loss between the Arabs and the Jews and recent comment out of Saudi Arabia about Israel, would make one wonder what the internal debate was about revealing the intelligence, of course if Saudi citizen that belong to al-Qaida are involved and it was a sub plot to a larger terrorist attack, the Saudi’s would like to disrupt it, by disrupting the sub plot, they can disrupt the over all plot without reveal any involvement by al-Qaida members that may be Saudi citizens. The Saudi connection would be the link between Yemen and the Pak FATA.

Empress Trudy says:

Once again the upper middle class polite liberals of Tablet have fomented their own outrage at simply being confronted with reality. When they’ve staked their careers at essentially denying that terrorism exists, it’s difficult to divert in any way from that path. Well all I can suggest is that Tablet readers stand guard at shuls.

Why do people call this hysteria. I live in Israel and have watched with amazement how the world press has covered terrorism in Israel as compared to the rest of the world. The message is clear that it is perfectly understandable to want to kill Jews. Also, how many times have we heard anti-Israel spokesman from all kinds of organization spouting the usual we love the Jews, it’s Israel that we hate. Wake up fellow Jews, if the expulsion of 1 million Jews from Arab lands hasn’t taught you exactly how the Moslem world views the Jews, then this and other terrorist attacks should.

Jerome says:

“The target of this attack was Jews, but the target of the information operation is all Americans—including the Americans who rationalize terror attacks against Jews. We created the context for operations like this one and we will see many more of them, bombs and much worse, against Jews and non-Jews alike, for our enemies have taken stock of our character. We are looking for excuses not to fight them. And we accept their phony justifications for the killing of Jews.”

The hysterics are the people who deny reality.

Shmuel says:


It is Shabbat in the US right now. It seems odd to have a Jewish publication putting out new stuff on Shabbat. Take a break!!!


riain george says:

Who is this idiot? He’s allowed to publish delusional rants on here?

Hana levi Julian says:

Personally, I thought the writer was right on target. Sorry, folks, but I live in Israel also, and have been confronted by the reality of terrorism far too often to ignore the inconvenient truths of this issue.

Mr. Obama reminds me Soviet Union where the victims of the holocaust were called “soviet citizens”.

“The Message
Why terrorists from Yemen are trying to bomb synagogues in Chicago”

Isn’t it obvious? They only do these acts of terrorism because they love us and they really want peace so we can all sit down and braid each others hair and sing Cumbaya.


the president referred to the attacks against “places of jewish worship” as “a credible terrorist threat against our country.” that is because the president sees jews not as “the other” but as an integral part of -our- country. and to prove it, this year the dept. of homeland security doled out nearly $100 million in taxpayer funds to secure jewish institutions from terrorist attack, , which is in addition to the administration taking significant steps to increase israel’s qualitative edge over its neighbors, .

lee smith is just trying to distort the foreign policy theory of linkage as “excusing” terrorism against jews because lee smith does not want the administration placing pressure on israel to end the occupation of the palestinian territories. but what he’s actually doing by attacking the president in such a manner is further imperiling the u.s.-israel relationship by turning support for israel into a partisan issue.

Jerome says:

“Shmuel” is not a Jew.

He just an antisemite who posts on Jewish websites and adopted a Jewish sounding name.

Carrie says:

Pat Buchanan’s and Obama’s linkage theory IS anti-Jew and DOES excuse terrorism against Jews. This piece was spot on.

One more Israeli chiming in: All of you who think this article is hysterical or a ‘delusional rant’ are out of the loop of reality. When it comes to Jews, terrorism is weighed differently. By Mr. Obama, by the UN, by the media, and even by some American Jews, apparently. But be warned, my brothers and sisters: the delegitimization of Israel IS the delegitimization of the Jew. It’s an old Christ-killing song in a new ‘occupation’ key and is indeed creating a mindset in the world that it is OK to kill Jews because they themselves are the bloodthirsty killers of innocent Palestinian babies. Violence against Jews makes sense, has an air of justice. And through this loophole, Islamist violence can be aimed at all Americans.

Wise Man says:

OK, I get it. My ex-left ex-friends now prohibit any reference to inunendo of apathy toward anti-Jewish terror. I, too, wish we lived in the make-believe world in which the last ddecade did not exist, and in which Islamic terror – rather than Anarchists or Right-wing Generals – are the real threat. In which there is a true distinction between anti-Zionist rhetoric and anti-semitism, like used to be true of left-wing circles. In which the real threat is the population bomb, and not the Islamization of Europe.
I, too, desperately would like to go back in time and to confront threats which today seem oh so manageable and not personally threatening.
But this is not 1978. This is a lot more like 1ike 1930, or mayb even 1898. The traditional Judenhasse has come back with a vengeance, legitimized by romantic indetification of jew-hating Islamic terrorists with anti-colonial struggles. And the sooner you understand that profoundly uncomfortable reality, my sisters and brothers – the better.

I will stop reading Lee Smith and, as long as it published him, Tablet. His paranoid conspiracy theories are simply a waste of time.

It seems to me that the Tablet article tone begs the question, “is enough being done or is the road to complacency being laid”. Sure these packages were intercerpted “only” in route. But can this be viewed as reactive and should we be more proactive in ridding this thread. These are difficult question that need to be ask for the sake of self preservation.

Empress Trudy says:

so we’re agreed then. There’s no such thing as evil and especially evil directed against Jews. Thanks for clearing that up.

Mr Smith, keep writing your insightful articles and ignore the idiots who comment negatively on them. They are despicable and not worth thinking about.

Ariadne says:

I’m with the Israelis and the friends of Israel on this.

Never underestimate this threat of violence towards Jews! Since Kristallnacht is going to be in a few days,I remember too many Jews in Germany believed “It can’t happen here” My father wanted to leave in 1929 and was called a pessimist. Luckily we were able to leave after my father was released from Dachau after he was arrested during Kristallnacht. I have lived through all of this and remember it vividly !!! I hoped that my children and grandchildren would live in a better world than I did. I guess I was an optimist!

End Antisemitism says:

I agree with the author. All those who believe the author overstated things or is paranoid, do not fully understand how radical Islam is not a phenomenon of a few hundred violent people. Radical Islam is a violent version of Islam and has been spreading across all Muslim countries. It is THE ONLY ISLAM in Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon is teetering, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt is teetering,Sudan, Somalia, Chechnya, the PA, and Hamas etc. They hate all of the West, (and therefore Israel), they do not fear death, they especially hate Jews, & they feel no guilt about killing civilians for Allah.

Anthony says:

This is alarmist neoconservative nonsense.

Richard A. says:

Good article.
For the people out there that think Mr. Smith is going overboard, instead insert any other category of people (except Jews and Catholics) and then try to see how this bombing event would be reported. Does anybody remember when the black churches were supposed to being burned in the US and president Clinton’s demagoguery on the subject in time for the 1996 elections? Jew’s ARE treated differently. Europe’s antisemitism is also returning.

Jerome says:

Anthony says:

“This is alarmist neoconservative nonsense.”

You hope, Anthony. The neocons didn’t invent antisemitism. You and your kind did.

I would like to find some clear answers to these questions, which I cannot find anywhere.
1. I am still not clear about how two boxes mailed from Yemen to two Chicago synagogues did not set off alarm bells all along the line from the very beginning. It reminds me in the 1960s how some stoned American university students decided to send feather pillows to themselves from their hotel outside of Kingston, Jamaica, stuffed with weed. Strangely enough, a not-wholly-stupid US customs officer wondered, “gee, why would someone mail himself a pillow–of all things– from Jamaica? Let’s look in the box…”
Surely there is some sort of security where all packages from states that harbor terrorists send in manifests from shippers and addressees so that security experts (Jesus, call center employees in Mumbai could do this kind of work) can at least have a first line of defense–like using their eyes and brains to wonder why on God’s earth would a Yemenite be posting packages to shuls in suburbran Illinois.
2. They sent a computer printer? From Yemen–to the United States–to a synagogue in the midwest? Are you joking? Leaving aside the electrical current wouldn’t work anyway nor the plugs, was there a note? “Dear Rabbi, Here’s a great new ink jet printer for you we found in Sana at a great price. A mitziah! Hope you like it! Just plug ‘er in and you’ll get a blast from using it!” Someone had to have noticed this and had a lightbulb go off in her or his head. But who? We still don’t know.
3. The computer printers had cell phones inside, and according to UK sources, were meant to go off over the ocean. Really? I never turn my cell phone off on planes but above 3,000 feet, it happens anyway as there’s no signal. So that doesn’t make sense, either.
Security experts are telling us that this was all highly sophisticated, but it seems to me there are basic lines of defense that can and should be employed. And we still don’t know what the tip-off actually was!

Alarmist and hyperbolic demagoguery.

I find it ASTONISHING that some commenters here fail to see the historical if not ‘Quranic-ally’ and Hadith justifiable actions, and significance of Al Qaeda this week and the ASCENDANT FORM OF ISLAM they represent.

Commenters here are taking refuge in ‘supposed’ “facts” about cell phones and reception etc. Printers come with switchable power supplies. FACT. 120/240V as do virtually all computers. FACT. The correct physical plug for ANY CONNECTION is readily available ANYWHERE deliveries can be made. FACT. 4 lbs of PETN would do a nice job if the phone was called after FEDEX tracking reported delivery if it was called say Sat AM, or during sunday school or hebrew school hours. You don’t think the addresses came from google?


These people BELIEVE Mohammed’s injunction of the Stone and the Tree. That is clearly an historical fact by now.
They have chosen an odorless and colorless professional/military explosive. They are sending to the Quran – ically damned in their eyes.

We stopped this only via Saudi intelligence revealing the actual tracking numbers.

If that is NOT an alarming scenario in which FEDEX becomes the DRONE by which these people can attack (primarily) the ancient religious enemy, I can’t imagine what would be.

We need AT LEAST to be able to sniff out explosives being shipped by any means. We need to be able to find these people and KILL THEM.
It’s a war.

It’s sad that so many commenters are taking what has actually occurred and its logical conclusions as demagoguery and hysteria. Al Qaeda and those they represent spiritually has told us IN PRECISE LANGUAGE, who they are, what they believe, and what they want. And too many find the message so horrible they resort to tortuous inner logic to reduce their tension.

BTW for those imagining this is ONLY about the jews, what do you think they are doing this morning at Franklin Graham’s, google earth findable, institutions?

Think Amazon origination labels cannot be faked?

Faked enough for some shipping clerk or secretary, or admin assistant to refuse delivery and call 911?

This is real, and this is PRECISELY what those people want. Using the best items of western civilization as the tools to kill members.

Cheap, fast worldwide shipping, directed by our national technical achievements, tracked to its destination, to alert the mass murderers, via a text message sent when the package is out for delivery when to check the web to ensure the package has been signed for, to use their cell phones to detonate PRECISELY inside the target.

Epaminondas has some interesting ideas. You might even be right on some of these things. Goodness knows I like the Fedex-As-Drone scenario. I hate to be picky, though, but while you are right that computers have dual currency (and I use my laptop on three continents) nothing that has wheels or moving parts (like ink cartridges on those sliding rails) has dual currencies. Even if they did, surely the idea of sending a computer printer from Yemen to a synagogue in middle America must have tipped someone off…

jerome says:

Sarah aka Anthony
“Alarmist and hyperbolic demagoguery.”

So anthony is now calling himself sarah.

same jew hatred different name.

Martin K says:

Wow. Lee Smith has discovered that Al Quaeda doesnt like the jews as a group, or Israel as a entity. He deducts from this that the President of the US thinks its OK to kill Jews. Its just another version of the “secret muslim” theory, that Obama is a AQ/muslim brotherhood sleeper agent who is on a course to destroy all Jews.

Lee Smith should start a survivalist camp with Caroline Glick and Pam Geller. Would make for some nice parties.

Martin K says:

A serious analysis of the reasons for this action could include points such as:
* The stated aim of AQ is to wage a slow war inflicting disproportinate cost to the modern capitalist system. The main thrust of this one is propably to make the intl. community react by spending billions in luggage security.
* The adress is much more a fck you to Obama than to the jews. The adress of the synagogues is a subtle message to the AQ core public that Obama is a jew-friend. Atotaly opposite of Smiths analysis.
* The Yemeni adress is propably a attempt to foce the US to interfer in yet another theatre of operations. AQ *wants* the US to invade as many places as possible, in order to A) suck the resources dry and B) enrage the umma. OBL propably has a Sarah Palin poster in his cave wich he wishes good luck every day, she is his dream opponent.

See? Instead, Lee Smith makes it once again all about the jooos. And somehow he reads out of the response of gvmnt to a successful anti-terror op. that it is really about Obama hating the joos. How much more fckin selfcentered can you be in a war time?

Watson says:

I agree with the author. There are all too many people who see Israel as the problem with the Middle East. The further to the left the more anti Israel they become, Jew or not. It is a false hope to think it is only Israel that the terrorists are against.

It is long established pattern for Muslims to divide Christians and Jews. The have a saying; first comes Saturday then comes Sunday. It is not paranoid to fear those who want you dead.

ahad ha'amoratsim says:

“And yet, in the next few days, someone in the media—I don’t know exactly who, but someone—will argue that these synagogues were chosen because the president’s former chief-of-staff, a Jew, wants to be the next mayor of Chicago. Hence, this is, in reality, a message to the White House to stop targeting Yemeni militants.”

Juan Cole has already posted that theory, and has said that if that’s the case, AQ made a mistake because Rahm, the president’s other advisors, and the liberal gay synagogue that was targeted are among the ‘good’ Jews who support noble President Obama’s desire to end the evil occupation.

Samaria – Israel’s Hidden Asset

For more info:

I have not checked in here for some time since I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are great quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend :)

great points altogether, you simply gained a brand new reader. What would you suggest in regards to your post that you made some days ago? Any positive?

I’ve said that least 3791599 times. The problem this like that is they are just too compilcated for the average bird, if you know what I mean


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Why terrorists from Yemen are trying to bomb synagogues in Chicago

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