The FBI is warning about the possibility of a terrorist attack in Jerusalem by Islamic extremists at the dawn of the new millennium, according to a new “Doomsday” report obtained by The Jewish Week.
The bureau also is sending out an alarm about violence from fanatical apocalyptic Christian groups streaming into Israel anticipating the Second Coming of Jesus after the world calendar flips over in two months.
“Several religious cults have already made inroads into Israel, apparently in preparation for what they believe to be the endtimes,” said the 35-page report produced by the FBI’s Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit in Washington.
In the report, the FBI seems to perceive Jerusalem as a tinderbox ready to blow at the smallest provocation. But an American millennium expert criticized the report as “paranoid.”
“I think it’s misguided,” said Professor Brenda Brasher, a member of the Center for Millennial Studies, who last summer met with the FBI and Israeli security to discuss the issues.
Brasher said the bureau has offered no evidence to make its claims of increasing danger, and seems to have ignored pleas by her and other scholars not to overdramatize the potential dangers.
“The FBI assessment does not appear to be grounded in a reasonable grasp of millennial pilgrimages that we anticipate is going to unfold,” she said Tuesday.
An FBI spokesman declined to comment.
The report was made available to American law-enforcement officials as Israel continued to respond to criticism for deporting a group of 21 Christian evangelists — mostly Americans — last week for allegedly planning a “public disturbance.” Israel has yet to produce any evidence (see sidebar).
The FBI report, code-named “Project Megiddo: A Threat Analysis for the New Millennium,” largely deals with the threat of millennial violence within the United States. “Megiddo” comes from the Hebrew name for the strategic hill in northern Israel that was the scene of bloody battles for several thousand years. “Har” (Hebrew for mount) Megiddo has become in English “Armageddon” — the place where the faithful believe the final battle between good and evil will take place.
The report comes following a summer of violence by white Christian racist groups against Jews, African Americans, gays and other minorities. Incidents included the firebombing of three Sacramento synagogues and the Fourth of July weekend shootings of Jews, blacks and Asians in the Midwest by a white supremacist.
“Numerous religious extremists claim that a race war will soon begin, and have taken steps to become martyrs in their predicted battle between good and evil,” the report said, noting the recent incidents, including the August shootings of children at a Los Angeles JCC day camp by white supremacist Buford Furrow Jr.
The FBI report advises U.S. police officials to prepare for potential violence from religious and political extremist groups who believe in the New World Order conspiracy theory that the United Nations has a secret plan to conquer the world.
“The threat posed by extremists as a result of perceived events associated with the Year 2000 is very real,” the report said, indicating that extremists from such racist groups as Christian Identity and Black Hebrew Israelites appear to be preparing for conflict by acquiring weapons and storing food and clothing. Potential targets include UN buildings and Jewish and African-American institutions.
But the report notes that Project Megiddo has identified “very few indications of specific threats to domestic security.”
“Of the nearly 1,000 cults operating in the Unites States, there are very few present credible threats for millennial violence.” the report said.
Nevertheless, the FBI stresses that violence in Jerusalem will reverberate here.
“While events surrounding the millennium in Jerusalem are much more problematic for the Israeli government than for the United States, the potential for violent acts in Jerusalem will cause reverberations around the world, including the United States,” the report stated.
“The extreme terrorist fringes of Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all present in the Unites States. Thus millennial violence in Jerusalem could conceivably lead to violence in the United States as well.”
Regarding Israel, the report issues several warnings about the threat to Jerusalem from Muslim, Christian and Jewish extremists, who may work separately or even in partnership to fulfill their messianic expectations.
Regarding Muslims, the report warns of attacks based on political or religious zealotry. “The possibility exists that Islamic extremist groups will capitalize upon the huge influx of foreigners into Jerusalem and engage in a symbolic attack,” it said.
But the report also expresses great concern about a potential attack on the Temple Mount, where Judaism’s Second Temple stood 1,970 years ago and which for the last 1,361 years has been the site of Islam’s third holiest place, the Dome of the Rock. Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from this site.
Bureau experts warn that it may not even take an act of violence but merely an insult to light the fuse of an explosion that could rock the world.
“Indeed, a simple symbolic act of desecration, or even perceived desecration, of any of the holy sites on the Temple Mount is likely to trigger a violent reaction,” the report said.
The FBI also outlines threats from Christian or Jewish extremists.
The report warns that the “implications of pilgrimages to Jerusalem by vast numbers of tourists are ominous, particularly since such pilgrimages are likely to include millennial or apocalyptic cults on a mission to hasten the arrival of the Messiah.”
While it does not name any Jewish extremist groups, the report specifically cites the Denver-based “cult” group called Concerned Christians, whose members were arrested and deported from Israel in January after Israeli authorities charged the group with plotting violence on the streets of Jerusalem.
According to a poll in Newsweek magazine this week, 6 percent of Americans — about 14 million people — think Jesus will return as early as the year 2000. Forty percent of Americans and 45 percent of Christians believe that the world will end as the Bible predicts, in a battle at Armageddon between Jesus and the antichrist.