Jewish institutions in Capital Region at risk

Kenneth Timmerman President, Foundation for Democracy in Iran
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With the recent arrest of a suspected suicide bomber near the U.S. Capitol, it’s time for the federal government to strengthen the protection of Jewish synagogues, schools and other institutions in Montgomery County, Maryland and the surrounding region.

Now is not the time to wait and see. Nor is it a time to make politically correct excuses for the motives of would-be suicide bomber Amine El Khalifi. Whether El Khalifi was operating alone, as the FBI and the Justice Department allege, or whether he was operating in concert with al Qaida and the Iranian regime, we know one thing for sure: The Iranian regime and al Qaida are united in their bloodthirsty desire to murder Americans, especially Americans of the Jewish faith.

Who can forget the blood-chilling video of the man later identified as the mastermind of the 9/11 plot, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, slitting the throat of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl simply because Pearl was an American Jew?

On February 2, Iran’s “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that the Islamic Republic would kill “all the Jews,” and laid out the legal and religious justifications for doing so, according to the Alef News Agency, a Persian-language media outlet run by allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Khamenei’s genocidal doctrine includes destroying Israel as well as Jewish people worldwide, including here in North America. Khamenei said that the Iranian regime “must take the helm” of this worldwide jihad and promised to support any group anywhere in the world that would advance this agenda.

These are not idle threats or “mere rhetoric,” as apologists for Tehran often claim. The Iranian regime has shown on many occasions that it can strike civilian targets far from Iran. It has struck down hundreds of Iranian dissidents around the world and has murdered scores of Jews in places as far away as Buenos Aires. And let’s not forget the murderous rocket war launched by Hezbollah against Israel in the summer of 2006, which I witnessed first-hand while reporting for Newsmax.

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly understands the particular threat to the Jewish community in his city, and he recently announced a series of measures to step up the protection of New York’s Jewish institutions.

I believe our elected officials here in Maryland should be taking similar steps and urging the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to share intelligence on known terrorist threats with local law enforcement. But so far, they have remained silent.

Former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich stepped up protection of Jewish community institutions after the 9/11 attacks. But his successor, Martin O’Malley, has dismantled much of this extra security.

Even worse, under the pretext of “tight” budgets — which include billion-dollar giveaways to political cronies and favorites — the State of Maryland and Montgomery County in particular have reduced police patrols by as much as 75% around local schools, synagogues and other Jewish institutions in recent years.

I called for stepped-up protection of Montgomery County Jewish institutions on the day of El Khalifi’s arrest. But Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who pretends to be a friend of Israel, has said nothing. On the contrary, he has been at the vanguard of preventing ICE from bringing its Secure Communities program to suburban Maryland, and has supported “sanctuary cities” for illegal aliens in our communities.

El Khalifi was in this country illegally. Had he been arrested in Montgomery County, there’s a good chance he would have been allowed to continue his murderous designs undetected, because of the refusal of our elected officials to enforce Secure Communities until just the day before his Feb. 17 arrest.

The Iranian regime is dangerous, and when it openly threatens to start a new wave of terrorism, as it is now doing, we have to be ready to stop it.

We should thank the FBI for its vigilance in stopping would-be suicide bomber Amine El Khalifi before he could carry out his murderous scheme. It also appears that the FBI steered El Khalifi away from his original plan of attacking a local synagogue.

His arrest last month was a warning. The time to act to provide better security is now. We can’t until the next Amine El Khalifi sets up shop in Silver Spring or Wheaton and succeeds in his murderous scheme. Our communities need real security, not just good luck.

Kenneth Timmerman is the author of “Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran” (Crown Forum, 2005), and is a Republican candidate for Congress from the 8th District in Maryland.