When I was in high school, a relatively uncommon but not unknown phenomenon were bomb threats called in to my Jewish school. We dutifully evacuated the building while the police searched the premises. I remember feeling more delight at a break in routine than concern. Had the student body been polled I think more of us would have guessed that the threat originated with a fellow student trying to avoid an algebra exam rather than with a terrorist.
Fast forward to the past few weeks where Jewish schools and community centers have been targeted with warning phone calls. Things look rather different from an adult perspective. I doubt they are signaling a serious physical threat. Terrorists of the past two decades such as those who orchestrated 9/11, the Boston Marathon bombing or Fort Hood have not politely telephoned warnings of their intentions allowing lives to be saved.
Nevertheless, we must treat the calls seriously. I now realize that as a teenager I did not understand the economic and social impact of disrupting lives. Unfortunately, over the past few years, adults in positions of responsibility and authority have failed to understand that as well. Or perhaps, they understood it perfectly well but for reasons of their own condoned the activities.
It is, sadly, not unusual to see traffic blocked, storefront windows shattered and police threatened by protesters. Back in 2011, Occupy Wall Street obstructed streets in various cities, stopping ordinary citizens from running their businesses and going about their lives. ‘Outraged’ college students have stopped traffic on freeways causing missed flights, missed family suppers and missed appointments. Through it all, the news media regularly seemed to celebrate this ‘freedom of speech’ while local governments acted as if this behavior was fine as long as no one was severely injured or killed.
Protests that illegally stop law-abiding residents from going about their way are not examples of free speech. Stopping commerce by blocking the entryway to businesses is not an example of a First Amendment right. Overturning police cars and smashing storefronts is not ‘petty crime.’
And yes, calling in a bomb threat causing pre-schools, exercise classes and communal events to cease while rushing everyone outdoors is not just a nuisance. All of the above are threats to a functioning society and must be treated seriously. Municipalities and government officials that minimize those activities invite more serious breaches of law. The proper authorities, whether local police, the FBI or the Justice Department need to respond forcefully.
However, I am disturbed by the Jewish alphabet organizations and those who anoint themselves to speak for the Jewish community. Now they indignantly protest disruptions against Jewish institutions. Did they speak out during prior interruptions of daily activity when the protestors were easily identifiable as politically left-leaning? Whether it is National Public Radio or other media outlets sympathetic to the Left, I keep hearing the assumption that whoever is behind the recent phone calls, as well as the desecration of cemeteries is a card-carrying Steve Bannon acolyte. Actually, we have no idea yet who is responsible. It could just as well be college students who have been radicalized by the Palestinian propaganda being preached on today’s college campuses. There are any number of other possibilities.
Why are the cries for President Trump to condemn these activities and solve this, admittedly real, problem exponentially louder and more public than the cries asking President Obama to condemn the bullying, harassment and intimidation of Jewish students on college campuses that increased greatly during his administration? Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that if it turns out that the latest round of disturbances emanate from individuals who cannot be linked, however circuitously, to the Trump White House, the media and liberal Jewish organizations will drop this story like the proverbial hot potato?