The Slatest

Steven Sotloff Held Israeli Citizenship, but ISIS Apparently Didn’t Know About It

Sotloff, center.

Photo by Etienne de Malglaive/Getty Images

Israel’s foreign ministry says Steven Sotloff, the journalist whose execution was captured on video by ISIS, held dual American-Israeli citizenship. Sotloff’s connection to Israel had been kept secret in an effort to protect him, and it’s not believed that his captors even knew he was Jewish. From Reuters:

The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, quoting a former fellow captive, said Sotloff had kept his Judaism a secret from the Islamist insurgents, pretending he was sick when he fasted for the Yom Kippur holiday.

The Times of Israel writes that Sotloff moved to the country in 2008 to study government at the Interdisciplinary Center. His mother’s parents were Holocaust survivors.

A journalist named Oren Kessler who kept up an email correspondence with Sotloff says that he did not discuss Israel or Judaism when working:

Sotloff, Kessler said, never shared his Jewish identity with anyone in the field, opting instead to tell locals that he had been raised Muslim but secular, without mosque affiliation. He sometimes even chose to tell people that he was of Chechen origin, and that Sotloff – a name that rings decidedly Jewish to those familiar with Jewish names – was actually a Chechen name.

President Obama, speaking in Estonia after news of Sotloff’s killing broke, said that the United States will “degrade and destroy” ISIS. “Those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget and that our reach is long and that justice will be served,” Obama said.