The largest targeted murder of Jews in US history in Pittsburgh is one of many attacks over the last decades which have targeted Jews in synagogues and community centers throughout the world.
Below are the nine worst attacks we could identify that occurred globally, not including the numerous terror attacks on Jews in Israel, some of which have targeted synagogues.
Attacks in Israel include the 2014 Har Nof attack which killed six, the Mercaz HaRav massacre in 2008 in which eight were murdered and the Yeshivat Beit Yisrael massacre in 2002 that left 11 dead.
Globally, antisemitism has resulted in Jews being targeted in every country they reside in and Jewish places of worship being firebombed, spray painted, and targeted by bombings and shooting rampages. With the rise of Palestinian terrorist organizations and in the wake of Iran's revolution and the increase in Islamic jihadist terror, Jewish sites have been targeted more often and in more deadly attacks.
These include attacks that purposely targeted children and sought out Jews to kill on Shabbat. Yet most of the attacks below were not condemned as specifically antisemitic attacks, their perpetrators were not found, or they were quietly deported. The list reveals that in country after country, in the wake of attacks, there has been a tendency to downplay the anti-Jewish nature of the violence and not recognize the attack as targeting Jews.
The attacks are also linked to foreign governments, including Iran, and show that terrorists often reveled in their murders, even filming the killings or calling their handlers abroad, which shows complex prior planning. In many cases, attempts to kill Jews at Jewish institutions also resulted in the murder of many others, including non-Jews in the area and security guards.
Our report attempts to identify the nine largest-scale attacks in the last 40 years, presented below in chronological order:
1982 - Attack on the Great Synagogue of Rome
October 9: Rome, Italy. Five Palestinians attacked the Great Synagogue of Rome as the Sabbath morning services were ending. The Palestinians murdered a two-year-old boy and wounded 37 civilians, throwing grenades and shooting them with automatic weapons. The attackers fled. One was later arrested in Greece, but Athens refused to extradite him, and instead deported him to Libya in 1989. He is believed to have been part of the Abu Nidal terrorist organization.
1986 - Istanbul Synagogue Attack
September 6: Istanbul, Turkey. Two terrorists affiliated with Palestinian Abu Nidal and linked to support from Iran, Libya and Syria, attacked the Neve Shalom synagogue in Istanbul. They murdered 22 worshipers taking part in Shabbat morning services. Seven Jews survived. The murderers used rifles and grenades. The two terrorists, who died in the attack, were never identified. Neve Shalom was the city's largest Sephardic synagogue. Libya was accused of supplying the weapons, while Syria enabled the training and Iran provided the suicide attackers and funding, according to reports at the time. Interior Minister Yildirim Akbulut told The New York Times that the attack was a "highly professional operation," meaning it had foreign support. The synagogue erected a large clock with the names of the dead, its hands stopped at the moment the attack began.
1994 - Buenos Aires suicide attack
July 18: Buenos Aires, Argentina. A suicide bomber linked to Iran and Hezbollah drove a car into the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) building, murdering 85 people. It was the largest attack in Argentina's history. For more than two decades, Argentina's politicians and police attempted to investigate the attack in various forms until the government signed a deal with Iran to jointly investigate the mass murder. The president of Argentina criticized Jewish leaders in the country for not supporting the work with Iran. Alberto Nisman, a federal prosecutor involved in the case, alleged that the government was covering up those responsible for the attack and was murdered in January 2015. It wasn't until August 2016 that the last victim of the bombing was named, due to DNA evidence. Of those killed, most were Jewish.
2002 - Ghriba synagogue bombing
April 11: Djerba, Tunisia. The El Ghriba synagogue bombing was carried out by Niser bin Muhammad Nasr Nawar in Tunisia. He drove a truck full of explosives through a security barrier near the ancient synagogue, detonating it to kill 14 German tourists, two French tourists, and three Tunisians. Although Jews were not the main victims in the attack, it damaged the synagogue, and the authorities helped pay to restore it.
2003 - Casablanca bombing
May 16: Casablanca, Morocco. Twelve terrorists targeted Jewish sites in Casablanca. One killed three people next to a Jewish cemetery, two others tried to attack the Jewish community center but killed only themselves. Another bomber targeted a restaurant known to be owned by Jews, killing two people. In all, 33 civilians were killed along with 12 perpetrators. Al-Qaeda was thought to be behind the attack.
2003 - Istanbul suicide bombings
November 15: Istanbul, Turkey. Suicide bombers driving two trucks bombed the Bet Israel and Neve Shalom synagogues in Istanbul, murdering 23 people, most of them Muslims. Jews at Neve Shalom were having a bar mitzvah the morning of the attack and 300 people were present. Security helped prevent the attack, while one woman and her granddaughter were among the Jewish victims as well as two security guards. The bombings were part of an attack five days later that targeted a bank and the British Consulate, an attack which killed another 30 people. Turkey charged 74 people in connection with the attacks and accused al-Qaeda of masterminding it.
2008 - Mumbai terror attack
November 26: Mumbai, India. Pakistan-linked Lashkar-e-Taiba attacked the Nariman house, one of several targets of a large terror attack in Mumbai. Over a three-day siege, they murdered six Jews, out of the 168 who died throughout the city. Chabad emissaries Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg were murdered, along with four others. The two-year-old son of the Holtzberg family was saved. The center didn't reopen until six years later. In 2017 Pakistan, an ally of the US and UK in the war against terror, released the mastermind behind the murder.
2012 - Toulouse Jewish school shooting
March 12, 2012: Toulouse, France. Mohammed Merah murdered four people at Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse. He shot a teacher and three children. The Chief Rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, said he was horrified by the attack. Those killed included Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, two of his children, and eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego. It was the worst attack on a school in recent French history. A fifth Jewish boy was injured in the attack. Merah was located on March 22 and died in a standoff with police. The perpetrator had numerous firearms, including an AK-47, pistols and a shotgun. Merah filmed himself murdering the Jewish children using a GoPro and sent the footage to Al Jazeera. French President Nicolas Sarkozy described the attack as the work of a "madman. These crimes were the work of a fanatic and a monster."
2015 - Attack on Paris kosher market
January 9, 2015: Paris, France. Amedy Coulibaly attacked the Hypercacher Kosher market in Porte de Vincennes. He was linked to the Charlie Hebdo terror attackers who had attacked the magazine. People were buying groceries when Coulibaly began shooting them with a rifle, killing four. The perpetrator recorded the attack on a GoPro and then emailed the footage during the attack. Police laid siege to the market, rescued some hostages and killed Coulibaly in a shootout. US President Barack Obama condemned the attack, noting "a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris." He did not mention that it was an antisemitic attack, although the White House later sought to clarify that it was. ISIS was linked to the attack.
Seth Frantzman is The Jerusalem Post's op-ed editor, a Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a founder of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.