Jewish safety group says anti-Semitic killings in Arizona could have been prevented – The Forward | Techno Glob


(JTA) — A top Jewish community safety adviser accused the University of Arizona of ignoring anti-Semitism as a warning sign in a case involving the shooting death of a professor.

“Professor Thomas Meixner lost his life because anti-Semitism was not taken seriously enough,” Michael Masters, CEO of the Secure Community Network, wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday in the Arizona Republic.

Masters said the alleged assailant’s apparently anti-Semitic threats should have been a red flag to campus police, who Masters said did not aggressively pursue criminal charges, and the Pima County Attorney’s Office, which did not file charges. In one text to a teacher, the attacker wished “the death of all Jews”.

“Often reported violent adversary threats are dismissed as a byproduct of poor mental health and not treated with the necessary precautions,” Masters wrote. “More could and should have been done to prevent senseless killings.”

Masters Group coordinates security for Jewish organizations across the country, and his op-ed comes after renewed attention has been drawn to the work of security groups like his. Last week, the Community Security Initiative, a local safety project in New York City, provided a tip that led authorities there to arrest a man who allegedly posted online that he was “going to shoot up a synagogue”; When arrested, the man was in possession of a gun, ammunition and a Nazi armband. In the past, people who have trained with the Security Community Network have been credited with undermining attacks, including a hostage situation at a Texas synagogue last January, and the group says tips about online posts have also led to arrests.

Meixner believed that Mehsner was Jewish, the suspect in the Oct. 5 killing of Murad Darwish on the University of Arizona’s Tucson campus, and was targeting Derwish because he was Muslim, Meixner’s colleagues said.

Darwish, a graduate student in the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences, received poor grades and was fired as a teaching assistant last semester, although he was allowed to remain at the school as a student.

Meixner, the head of the department, was Roman Catholic, but, according to Eyad Atallah, another teacher who was threatened by Dervish, Dervish refused to believe it.

“You’re a dirty kayak lover who got scammed by them, but I can’t really blame you, they’re so gullible,” Darvish said in a text to Atalla, who had been friends with him for a while.

In a text message to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Masters said Meixner’s killing showed how anti-Semitic violence causes collateral damage.

“We must take threats seriously – regardless of their motivation – and work to address them in a comprehensive, coordinated manner,” he said. “If that had happened, one has to wonder if the victim in this case would still be alive and if we would learn the lesson to keep future potential victims safe and alive.”

The university evicted Darwish and barred him from campus but had no mechanism to prevent him from entering the building.

The county attorney’s office said Darvish’s texts did not rise to the level of an actionable threat. His threats “do not meet the evidentiary requirements to charge him with the crime of threats and intimidation,” the office said in a statement.

Atallah told the Arizona Daily Star that he believes Darvish worded his text carefully so he could claim he wasn’t directly threatening the person he was addressing. In a text to Atalla, Darvish said, “I hope someone blows your brains out.” Atallah, who obtained a bulletproof vest and limited his time on campus after the threats, believes Darvish would have killed him too if they had encountered each other on the day of the shooting.

It is not clear how Darwish, who has been charged and sentenced to prison in other states for violent acts, was able to purchase the gun. He has pleaded not guilty.

This article originally appeared on JTA.org.



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