JERUSALEM — The father of the Israeli-American teenager arrested on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats to JCCs and Jewish institutions has apologized for his son’s actions.
The father appeared in his first interview in Israel, nearly two weeks after he was arrested, along with his son, following a months-long undercover investigation by Israel’s anti-fraud unit, as well as the FBI in the United States and law enforcement in other countries.
“To all the Jews in the United States, I want to convey an unequivocal message: We are very sorry from the bottom of our hearts. We are good Jews, we do not hate you. There was no hatred here. His motive is solely the disease,” the teen’s father said on Channel 2 from his home in Ashkelon, in southern Israel, where he remains under house arrest on suspicion that he knew about his son’s activities.
The identity of the suspect, 19, is under a gag order in Israel, though he has been identified in reports in other countries. The father, who was not seen in the interview, is identified only as Eli, a pseudonym.
The father denies knowing about what his son was doing, but he does not deny that his son carried out the threats. “The world has to understand, this boy is different, he’s unique,” Eli said.
The father said that he has undergone three surgeries to remove tumors after being exposed to harmful chemicals at his job, and that his son has a benign tumor in his head. At a court hearing last week, the teen’s attorney presented photographs and medical images of a non-malignant brain tumor that the defense says affects his behavior.
On Thursday, the teen will appear in court, where investigators are expected to ask that he remain in police custody. The father said he hopes his son will be permitted to go to house arrest, though it seems unlikely since law enforcement is portraying the teen as dangerous.
He also is accused of a series of threats made in Israel, Europe, Australia and New Zealand in the past six months and of making a threatening call to Delta Airlines, leading to the emergency landing of at least one plane.
In a television interview, the teen’s mother said through tears that the threats were not her son’s fault because he cannot control his behavior, not only because of the tumor but also because he is autistic.
The teen was born in the United States; the family moved to Israel when he was 6. He was homeschooled from first grade. According to his mother, her son rarely left home and has no friends.
The woman, whose identity was disguised with digital imagery, was interviewed on Israel’s Channel 2. Her son was called “M” in the Channel 2 report.
The mother said that M was homeschooled after being diagnosed on the autism spectrum and it became clear he could not function within a formal school framework. She stopped working as a biochemist in order to teach her son, who she said is very intelligent.
The mother said she was “shocked” when she found out that her son was suspected of making the threats against the JCCs and other Jewish institutions in the United States. She said she did not know how much time he spent on his computer because she works nights and was not home.
She said she had spoken to her son about the JCC bomb threats before his arrest and that he joined her in expressing concern about their Jewish friends in the United States.
She asserted that the threats were not her son’s fault, because he cannot control his behavior. “It’s the tumor,” she said. “It could happen to anyone with a tumor in his head. He’s autistic. He can’t control it. He can’t think straight. He needs medical help.”
JTA Wire Service