My Friend, the Domestic Terrorist
by Noah Glyn | Rutgers University
At the end of December, during the Jewish holiday Chanukah, two synagogues in North Jersey were vandalized. The vandals sprayed swastikas onto the side of the synagogues and wrote “Jews did 9/11″ on the grass. On January 3rd, another synagogue in Paramus, New Jersey was attacked. Fire erupted after congregants reported the smell of gas. Eight days later, a person threw five Molotov cocktails into Temple Beth El, a Rutherford, NJ synagogue where Rabbi Nosson Schuman and his family lived.
That morning, I co-wrote an article in The Algemeiner newspaper about the attack:
The fire crashed through the bedroom window of Rabbi Nosson Schuman, and it set his blanket on fire. There was a fire extinguisher close to the bed, which he used to put out the flames. Rabbi Schuman heard more bombs going off on the roof of the synagogue, and that’s when he decided to call the police. His family was able to evacuate and no one was hurt.
“I thank God,” Rabbi Schuman told The Algemeiner, “It was the best possible scenario considering what happened.”
Police immediately began an investigation. They found ingredients used to create an incendiary device, which was tracked to a purchase made in a local Wal-Mart. On the night of January 23rd, the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office arrested 19 year-old Anthony Graziano.
At first, police believed Graziano acted alone. After confiscating his computer, however, they discovered that he was in close contact with a friend from middle school, Aakash Dalal. The two teenagers allegedly planned the attacks, and, according to prosecutors, Dalal served as the mentor to Graziano’s student. Dalal reportedly explained to Graziano how to build a Molotov cocktail, how to throw it, and encouraged him to do so. Although he did not actually participate in the bombings, Dalal now faces up to 80 years in jails on charges including arson and bias intimidation. He is being held on $2.5 million bail.
Aakash Dalal also happened to be a friend of mine from Rutgers University.
The Aakash I knew was intelligent, interesting to talk to and fiercely passionate about his beliefs. I never heard him utter an anti-Semitic remark, although I heard him make disparaging remarks about Muslims. He was a loyal follower of Ron Paul, having volunteered for his campaign throughout the early primary states. His views were noxious, as he was an anarcho-capitalist who argued that President Obama, President Bush–and probably every other American President since 1898–were mass murderers. Certainly, I thought this political beliefs were a little out there, but I also always found his radical idealism (that’s what it seemed like at the time) to be refreshing. Kind of. The Aakash in the mugshot is completely different. The photo doesn’t show that Dalal is just a small and scrawny kid. If you met him on the street, you would be surprised to learn that such a tiny person could be capable of so much destruction.
I’ve had a few days to digest the news and to sort out my feelings. His arrest obviously made me upset, but more than anything, I am still shocked. I saw him a couple weeks ago, and nothing seemed to be bothering him. How was I to know that police had already raided his New Brunswick apartment to search for evidence, and that his accomplice, Graziano, had already been arrested? Aakash must have known that police were closing in on him, and that it would only be a matter of days before he too was incarcerated.
Yet nothing. His eyes, which seem so piercing in the mugshot, didn’t display even a glimmer of anxiety or unease. It turns out that he’s not only intelligent and interesting to talk to, but also manipulative. I am now left questioning everything Aakash ever told me, everything he ever claimed. He implied in our conversations that he was in close and constant contact with high level Ron Paul campaign operatives. He also claimed to friends that he planned on leaving Rutgers to attend an Ivy League school. Were all these lies orchestrated by this mastermind?
I’m not going to try to tie this story into some larger narrative. I don’t think there’s much more to the story other than two evil people committing heinous acts. Allegedly, of course. I’m not sure if there are lessons to be learned about the true meaning of friendship. Maybe in the weeks ahead I will think of something. But sometimes, people are just evil, and the truth isn’t that complicated.Noah Glyn is an Agostinelli Fellow at the National Review, and a candidate for a master's degree in public policy from Rutgers University. He writes from a conservative perspective on economic, cultural, political, educational and foreign policy issues.