Thursday, August 27, 2015

27-Aug-15: Sometimes a knife attack is more than just a knife attack

President Mahmoud Abbas sharing the triumph of freshly-released Palestinian Arab terrorists, all of them
convicted, unrepentant murderers - and proclaims them heroes. AFP image from August 14, 2013
How people with power deal with terrorism gets our attention to an extent that some might find surprising. It should not be hard to see why. We have learned that being wrong on how to deal with terror has serious life-and-death consequences. Terrorism has become very personal to us.

Something happened here in Jerusalem last night that has again triggered our need to be heard on the subject.

A young Israeli was stabbed. He is in hospital as we write this, getting treated for knife injuries as a result of an attack on Wednesday evening. That's when (according to Ynet)
a Palestinian man attempted to attack a group of border guards near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. The guards managed to overpower the Palestinian, who stabbed one of them in the leg, wounding him lightly. The suspect was arrested. The wounded policeman was taken by ambulance to Hadassah Medical Center. The suspect in the attack is a 56-year-old resident of Hebron, who does not have a permit to enter Israel... [Ynet, today]
No ordinary "Palestinian", this Hebronite has a stunning back-story. Times of Israel says his name is Muammar Ata Mahmoud, and that he
was released in 2013 as part of an ultimately unsuccessful round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority... [Times of Israel, today]
Peace talks? No, not exactly. As The Daily Beast pointed out in August 2013:
The prisoners were freed as an inducement for the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to participate in the peace talks. Since 2009, Abbas has said he would participate in negotiations only if Israel stopped settlement activity after President Obama imposed the condition on Israel in the first year of his first term. But Abbas has moderated his position at the behest of Secretary of State John Kerry... Some families of victims of prisoners who have been released in the past are now seeking a meeting with Kerry to explain to him what they see as the dangers of pressuring Israel to release to release Palestinians from prison... [The Daily Beast, August 14, 2013]
So was Abbas induced? Again, not exactly. In fact, Abbas himself explained that the freeing of 104 convicted terrorists, absurdly labeled "Pre-Oslo prisoners", all of whom were serving unfinished prison terms for involvement in acts of terrorism-related murder, mostly against Jews and Israelis, actually had nothing to do with that:
...Mahmoud Abbas told a visiting group of (Israeli) Meretz MKs in Ramallah on Thursday… that the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails was unrelated to the launching of the peace talks. ["25-Aug-13: Wake up call for those who thought the terrorists are walking free for peace"]
Don't blame Times of Israel's writers and editors for being wrong on this. Almost everyone was during those dark days of 2013. Over and again, the freeing from Israeli prison cells at the urgent and insistent behest of the US government and Secretary of State John Kerry (though his staff denied this from start to finish) of convicted, unrepentant murderers was said to be for peace - to jump start the peace talks, to show compromise in the name of peace, to trigger a peace eruption.

But not us:
“We don’t see this as a step towards peace,” Arnold Roth, one of the Israelis who helped organize a letter to the secretary of state, told The Daily Beast. “The objection is to the madness of positing the peace process on the prior release of murderers. We support a peace process.” Roth has some experience with the pain of seeing the killer of a loved one go free. His daughter, Malki, was killed in Aug. 9, 2001, in the bombing of a Sbarro pizzeria in downtown Jerusalem. One of the planners of that attack, Ahlam Tamimi, who also broadcast the bombing for Palestinian television from Ramallah, walked free from multiple life sentences in 2011... [The Daily Beast, August 14, 2013]
Two weeks after that, reflecting on how those convicted, unrepentant killers of Jews were received as heroes in Ramallah, their arms held high by Mahmoud Abbas, we wrote here:
Israel's prime minister, in deciding to let the mis-named Pre-Oslo prisoners loose and thereby lifting Abbas's stocks among the Palestinian Arabs, did his calculations the way politicians do. He had a small number of options... The one he chose - freedom for 104 convicted terrorists - must have seemed to him and others in the cabinet as the least bad of several undesirable alternatives. And if this meant the victims of the terrorists would feel betrayed (we can imagine them saying in the cabinet room), so be it. Regretfully, a greater good is served. But speaking as victims of Palestinian Arab terrorists ourselves, we see it this way: justice was trampled, lives and sacrifices were demeaned, public opposition was ignored. In turning a deaf ear to the protests of the victims, our politicians threw down onto the negotiating table the cheapest, most disposable, of the cards in their hand. Not for the first time, we find ourselves saying that decisions like this one will be the cause of much long-term regret. ["27-Aug-13: Justice devalued, lives demeaned, principles cheapened: the high price of freeing murderers"]
It would be nice to think that there are political leaders with backbone, moral fibre and some conscience who might be thinking about regret at this moment. A politician willing to admit to having regrets could be someone worth knowing.

The man who stabbed a young Israeli man last night next to Damascus Gate and the walls of Jerusalem's Old City is the convicted murderer of Professor Menachem Stern.

Prof. Menachem Stern,
murdered in 1989
[Image Source]
Prof. Stern was a renowned historian, a member of Israel's prestigious National Academy of Sciences and Humanities. On the morning of June 22, 1989, he was briskly striding through Jerusalem's Valley of the Cross as he did nearly every day on his way to work at the Jewish National and University Library on the Hebrew University's Givat Ram campus. That day, he encountered this same Muammar Ata Mahmoud, equipped - as he was yesterday - with a knife. Mahmoud and an associate stabbed the historian for reasons that probably made great sense in terms of the savage blood lust and the terrorist creed to which the attackers subscribed. Prof Stern died of his injuries.
A group of first-graders, out for a walk with their teacher, found his body alongside one of the paths. The police came to Professor Stern's house on Tchernichovsky Street, and brought his wife, Hava, with them to the Valley of the Cross to identify the body. The police commander told Hava that he had had the privilege of studying with Professor Stern when he was a student at the university. Thousands came to the funeral, held at the Hebrew University... [Blog of Rabbi Carl M. Perkins, August 6, 2013]
One murder by knifing is never enough if you are that kind of human being. Hence the attack last night, made possible by a chain of awful political decisions based on self-serving logic and a fundamental lack of respect for principles of justice. (Yes, we did say justice - now please read what we said on that subject at the time: "25-Jul-13: Justice and morality and struggling to be healed from the bereavement disease"; and "14-Aug-13: Making 'peace' by celebrating the murders of children and of Holocaust survivors" and "27-Aug-13: Justice devalued, lives demeaned, principles cheapened: the high price of freeing murderers".)

Naturally that's not how it's going to be reported in the news. But it's the truth.

We noted at the top of this post how being wrong on terror has consequences. In that spirit, here is a reminder of an opinion piece Frimet Roth wrote for Times of Israel who published it on December 26, 2013. Less than a week later, yesterday's knife man - the murder of the famous historian - walked out of his Israeli prison cell, free, along with more than two dozen other sociopaths .

Some extracts from "Mr Netanyahu, how’s that working for you?":
Here we go again. The next tranche of terrorist murderer releases is five days away. Most Israelis will pay it no attention. True, polls show that 91% oppose it in principle but it takes more than principles to nudge Israelis off their couches...
We expect that when a prime minister experiments with a new “strategy” – which is what Netanyahu has labeled the releases – he will assess its efficacy at some point.  A drastic move like this – discarding judicial verdicts in favor of a Prime Minister’s preference – demands that. In short, the question that begs asking is: “How’s that working for you, Mr. Netanyahu?” Or, to be more precise: “How’s that working for your people?" ...Have they won Obama’s support against Iran? The releases may even have doomed Netanyahu’s campaign to galvanize the West behind his tough stand on Iran. Netanyahu committed a travesty of justice that those states would never in their wildest dreams entertain. World powers would have rallied around a firm Israeli prime minister. But a spineless leader who crosses his very own red line against releasing terrorist murderers demonstrates that all his ultimatums are shams.
Has it endangered Israelis? Do released terrorists return to terror?
Reports abound of terrorism’s resurgence in the West Bank. Much of it is orchestrated by Hamas – until now considered exclusively Gaza-based...
Bereaved parents grieve until the day they die. Bereaved parents who watch their children’s murderers walk free, grieve and seethe until the day they die.
But we will protest this upcoming release with no illusions.  Netanyahu, who has refused to meet with, speak to or even write to us, is impervious to reason.  He is a junkie of European and American kudos.  And for that coveted pat on the back from Kerry, Merkel, Hollande and co., Netanyahu is emasculating our justice system and destroying our democracy... [Frimet Roth writing in Times of IsraelDecember 26, 2013 - the article appeared less than a week before the release of the convicted murder who carried out yesterday's knifing attack]
Has it endangered Israelis? Do released terrorists return to terror? We have more questions like those. Getting political figures to address just these two could be a constructive start towards stemming the ongoing damage.

27-Aug-15: A midnight rocket attack on southern Israel

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel a little after midnight (Wednesday/Thursday) crashed into open fields in the Eshkol region of southern Israel. Reports say there are no injuries and no significant damage to property.

Times of Israel says residents in the area heard no Color Red incoming-rocket sirens but did hear the sound of the explosion. None of the usual array of heroes who customarily fling explosives over the border to see if they can cause damage or worse has taken credit so far, but we will keep watching for the inevitable claims.

The last such rocket attack down south on which we reported happened about three weeks ago ["02-Aug-15: Violence, incitement, double-talk, more violence"]. That was quickly followed by made-in-Gaza allegations on the fact-challenged social networks that this was just Israelis trying to drum up sympathy ["02-Aug-15: Can't make this kind of shot up"].

Ynet says (but we did not write about it at the time) that the last such incidents of Gazan mayhem occurred when a mortar attack on southern Israel, followed shortly afterwards by two rocket attacks, happened a few days after that, on August 7, 2015. The mortar and the first of the rockets landed in open fields on Israel's side of the border, doing no physical damage (which was of course never the intention of the men doing the attacking). 

That second rocket was a "Fell Short". We will probably never know what harm that caused, since news reports from the Arab side systematically avoid disclosing damage done to life and property by such self-inflicted Arab-on-Arab explosions.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

26-Aug-15: Defiance, activism, jihad and New York Times journalism

Click for the background to this 2013 CAMERA campaign.
The girl in the poster is our murdered daughter, Malk
An article by Diaa Hadid in yesterday's New York Times, a classic exemplification of lethal journalism, reminds us of the extraordinary amorality the paper's editors have demonstrated when dealing with the ideology-driven murderers of Jews and Israelis.

It's a piece about a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist (rooted in a defiant past, she writes) who is at the center of an article we posted here on Friday ["21-Aug-15: Hungering, thirsting, just dying for fresh victims"] and another two days later ["23-Aug-15: Do they understand the price of freeing the hunger-striking terrorists?"].

Hadid repeatedly invokes his quiet, his defiance, his activism. But never his blood-lust or doctrinal hatred of Jews.

She devotes precisely zero words to an explanation of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and its goals ("destruction of Israel through violent means", according to the Council on Foreign Relations) and its status as a client of the Islamist regime in Iran. These are at the very heart of understanding how a man ends up being and doing what he is and does. But it goes unmentioned, unanalyzed.

What she and her editors have created can only be called a hagiography, beatifying a quiet-spoken hero who... thirsts, hungers, to kill people.

But let's start with her words: what did he do before becoming a hunger striker?

Mr. Allan joined Islamic Jihad when he was studying law... in Jenin, said his father... He said his son was energized by the fight against Israel during the second Palestinian intifada. Mr. Allan was first jailed by Israel in 2006 for trying to recruit a suicide bomber to carry out an attack in Israel, and was held for three years. He was briefly detained a second time by Israel in 2011...
We expect some readers will wonder why "trying to recruit a suicide bomber" causes this much angst.

Not for the first time, we want to say here clearly and unambiguously that we hate the expression "suicide bomber". We tried to explain why here: "30-Jun-15: We need to be calling them what they are: human bombs". Here is part of what we wrote then:

Whatever the intentions of those who do them, who engineer them, who plan them and who encourage them, lethal attacks in the nature of 9/11, 7/711-M, the massacre by a Saudi inside a Kuwaiti mosque this past Friday, are never about suicide, and never were. Acts of murder is what they are about, and what they are. The intention of those acts and of the people who do them is to kill. Often, the person doing the killing is completely indifferent to the personal outcome for himself or herself, for reasons that are worth understanding but come down to this: the killing is the reason; the death of the killer is an incidental outcome about which the perpetrators (and those who facilitated the killing by sending the killer on his or her way) have no particular concern.
This has significance. The term "suicide bomber" is used frequently in the mainstream media - almost always inaccurately and usually misleadingly - when what they are in reality describing is human bomb, and a human bomb attack.
Hadid is of course not the problem. Like anyone else, she holds views. At the New York Times, a huge commercial entity, they have people whose jobs including filtering out tendentiousness, subjectivity, hate-filled polemicism masquerading as journalism, and bad, agenda-driven writing. 

And in the case of Ms Hadid's work product about which there is some background here ["The NY Times' Israel-hating Reporter", FrontPageMag, April 28, 2015], it's not really that difficult to know what to watch for if watching is part of what a NY Times person is supposed to do. 

Things like this tirade from 2007:

"I can't look at Israelis anymore. I can't separate your average Israeli citizen from the occupation, I don't want to be friends with them, I don't want to talk to them," says Hadid... ["Diaa Hadid: AP's Propagandist"] 
There's nothing wrong with any of this as long as we agree that people are free, in democratic societies where the human rights of all are respected, to express the most intolerant of viewpoints, and under certain conditions even hatred. But then why would the New York Times decide to give a person with that kind of mindset a job reporting on Israel-hating, murder-minded Islamist terrorists? And, to judge from the by-line of yesterday's piece, to give them the privilege of writing it from the NYT Middle East bureau in the heart of beautiful Jerusalem... where Ms Hadid can't avoid looking at more Israelis than she plainly wants to. Doesn't seem right or fair or smart.

As for the editors at the New York Times, we wish they had reconsidered that extraordinary paragraph we quoted above. Here's how, in our view, it should have been phrased:
Mr. Allan joined Islamic Jihad when he was studying law... in Jenin, said his father... He said his son's Islamist passions, and especially the lust for murdering Jews wholesale was ignited during the terrorist war declared by Arafat in September 2000. Mr. Allan was first jailed by Israel in 2006 for trying to plant a human bomb in a location where many Jewish Israelis would have been blown to pieces (as had happened five years earlier at Jerusalem's Sbarro pizzeria, the credit for the blowing up of which was first claimed by Islamic Jihad before Hamas made a more convincing case to show it was their work.) He was held for three years, an astonishingly light sentence given the effort he had made and the intended carnage that was so narrowly avoided. He was briefly detained a second time by Israel in 2011 on the basis of well-founded fears that he was making another effort to achieve the barbarous aims of the outlawed terror organization to which he had pledged alliegance... 
So do we expect to get any serious attention for this from the New York Times? 

If you are familiar with some of our previous posts about its work ["28-Jun-07: About sweet-faced young women", "5-Jul-07: A Balance of Views?", "17-Mar-13: A little village in the hills, and the monsters it spawns", "30-Mar-13: "To see the NY Times gloss over this travesty of justice is journalism of the most amoral sort", "9-Aug-13: Protesting journalism of the amoral sort", "14-Nov-13: To really understand about terrorism's victims, can't beat the New York Times"], you probably know the answer already.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

25-Aug-15: Hard to ignore how much Iran believes its old goals are the right goals

FARS News home page at this hour
While some parts of the US mainstream media drop heavy (and loaded) hints about Obama White House displeasure at
Netanyahu’s unprecedented interference in domestic U.S. politics... [McClatchy DC, August 18, 2015]
many of us over here in Iran's backyard and target zone are getting more than a little sick of how the unleashing of Iran's nuclear weaponization scheme has come to be sold to American voters as a matter of exclusive US domestic concern.

Israelis like us actually have some large pre-occupations arising from an unsigned agreement (deliberately unsigned, as we pointed out here) that claims to be all about verifying and neutralizing what the mullahs are up to but in reality seems much more about egregiously-misplaced trust and hope

We're aware of the
precipitous drop in support since the agreement was announced in July. Between a half to two-thirds of the American public currently reject the deal. Those numbers were flipped in reverse before the agreement was finalized... [Source]
But we're also aware of the voices that say this is all about finding the way to peace in a difficult time and place and so on. And how there was no better alternative anywhere to be found, none at all. And with rising despair we're reading advice from people who believe
Here's a taste of the problem we have.

Britain's foreign secretary, with Iran's  president Rouhani
yesterday [Image Source]. Headline reads:
"I believe in Iran’s desire for better ties with the West,'
says Philip Hammond after Tehran trip"
Right now (Tuesday, 6:00 pm Jerusalem time), if you were to go the home page of the influential and somewhat authoritative Iranian government-mouthpiece website FARS News as we just did, you would get a sense of what is on our minds. There's a lead story there bearing this headline: "Parliament Advisor: No Change in Iran's Policy on Israel". (It's archived in full here.)
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian Parliament Speaker's Adviser for International Affairs Hossein Sheikholeslam blasted British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond for his interfering remarks, and said Tehran's positions against Israel have not changed at all.
"Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan," Sheikholeslam told reporters in Tehran on Tuesday. After reopening the British embassy in Tehran on Sunday following four years of strained relations between the two countries, Hammond claimed in an interview with the British media that the current Iranian government had displayed a more nuanced approach than its predecessor to a long-running conflict with Israel...
Relations between Iran and Britain hit an all-time low in November 2011, when the two countries shut down their diplomatic missions around Britain's key role in the imposition of a new set of western sanctions against Iran and its repeated meddling with Iran's domestic affairs. But after President Rouhani rose to power, he and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, pursued the policy of detente and started talks with London on the resumption of diplomatic ties and reopening embassies...
Does UK foreign secretary Hammond view "annihilation" as part of that more nuanced Iranian stance? If not, then what does he think it means?

Does he know that Iran says officially that it will simply not follow those parts of the nuclear deal that restrict its military capabilities? You can't just ignore this stuff - it's out there on public display via Reuters for anyone who wants to check.

Meanwhile back to Hossein Sheikholeslam, who brings some classically-Iranian qualifications for the job of adviser on international affairs. He was one of the so-called 'students' in the notorious Iran hostage crisis (depicted in the 2012 movie 'Argo') in which 52 American diplomats and civilians were held by force in Tehran between November 4, 1979 and January 20, 1981. They were let loose only on the day Jimmy Carter's presidency ended (the goal was to humiliate him), an illegal incarceration of 444 days.

Sheikholeslam then rose to become the Iranian Foreign Ministry's director for Arab affairs in the 1980's, a role that, according to this article on the website of Radio Free Europe (from 2004) put him in charge, as coordinator, of the
Islamic Revolution Guards Corps participation in Hizballah operations. He was Mohtashami-Pur's Foreign Ministry contact in connection with the April 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
You could say he's a well-accomplished terrorist with plenty of blood on his hands. And the designated bearer of a message his bosses have chosen to display on one of their most watched front pages.

Sheikholeslam also happens to be the Iranian regime insider we quoted anonymously a week ago [here] when his government
denied a request by Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas to visit Tehran... [and] dismissed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) officials' claims that Abbas will make a trip to Tehran in October. "They requested the visit more than once but we haven’t accepted it yet; they have recently repeated their demand once again but we have not provided them with a positive response," he said, according to the news website. Sheikholeslam also stressed Tehran's full support for the “resistance front”, adding that no one can destroy the friendship and strategic relations between Iran and Hamas. [Israel National News, August 20, 2015]
So just to re-state this: the Iranian official who today, at this very hour, is saying in his official capacity and in the most prominent and public of places that Israel must be annihilated is also the Iranian official who managed his country's strategic involvements with the terrorists of both Hamas and Hezbollah. And it's also he who supervised the Iranian part of the 1983 bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut in which 63 people were murdered - mostly embassy and CIA staff members along with several US soldiers and a US Marine.
It was the deadliest attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission up to that time, and is thought of as marking the beginning of anti-U.S. attacks by Islamist groups... [Wikipedia]
Now tell us again why trusting the Iranians is going to bring peace. And why Israel's existential concerns amount to interference in domestic U.S. politics.

It's hard for us to ignore how openly and loudly Iran states that its old goals - those that earned it recognition as a pariah state - are today's right goals. Does making these points mean we're part of the group the president of the United States has taken to calling "the crazies"? Should it matter that most Americans, most Representatives in the House and a majority of the US Senate agree with us?

Monday, August 24, 2015

24-Aug-15: Honor, shame, technology, crime and how they brought down a good, hard-working boy

A French investigator in protective gear gathers evidence on-board the Thalys intercity train on Friday
[Image Source] The role of officials before and during the attack is considerably less clear
or media-covered
This past Friday evening, as we described here ["22-Aug-15: Carnage on a high-speed European train and the quick-thinking that prevented it"], a massacre on board a busy train traveling between two European capitals was narrowly averted, though the gunman managed to get off several shots. Fast-thinking, selfless action on the part of some of the intended victims made all the difference.

This was not a victory for the governments, the authorities or the people responsible for ensuring public security. Quite the opposite - it was a reminder of what happens when security systems fail. And the huge influence of luck and circumstance.

In the past few days, a little more has become known about the attacker. He started out as a question mark, described in vague terms. Now through media enquiries, we know a little more. Some of it is useful. All of it is helpful to understanding how and why terrorism keeps happening, and will keep on doing so.
  • First and most important, the intending murderer was "a good boy". His father, Mohamed El Khazzani who lives in Algeciras, Spain and who admits to not having had contact with him "for over a year", says so in a Telegraph UK interview.
  • And not only a good boy but a "very hardworking" person who "never talked politics; just football and fishing". In the mosque which his family does not attend, the president of the South Algeciras Muslim community who presides over it knows him. And surprise, surprise, it turns out "He was an ordinary young man, he played football, went fishing, he worked to make a living" [Alarabiya, August 23, 2015].
  • But he's evidently also a "good boy" with a serious grievance. Echoing the days of European slave-trading and its horrors, the son "had been brought to France" (father's words, speaking of an able-bodied son in his early twenties) by "a French telecommunications company... to work on a six-month contract that was terminated early." Imagine. The father of this murder-minded gunman knows a felonious scenario when he sees one: "They're criminals in that company, using people like that... After one month they were just kicked out. So now he's in France, not Spain. What is he meant to do? What is he supposed to eat?" Right. The path from that outrage to dead and bleeding bodies on an inter-city train carriage floor is evident to any thinking person possessed of an honour/shame frame of mind.
  • Then there's the small matter of the fish-loving lad's actual criminal record. Father says his hardworking good boy was arrested twice in Madrid in 2009 on charges of selling hashish though "he was only carrying a little bit". A British report [Mirror UK, August 22, 2015] quoting the Spanish paper El Pais says that in fact he was arrested for "drugs trafficking, in May and December 2009, and a third time in Spain’s north African enclave of Ceuta on a warrant issued by a court in Madrid for a drugs offence." It adds that he is subject today to an arrest warrant issued by a different Madrid court, again for a drugs-related offence.
  • He gave up smoking hashish when he moved back to his parents' home in 2012, and after that "seemed very calm". [Telegraph UK]
  • The father "recycles materials for a living" (meaning he's a scrap dealer, we assume) in Algeciras. He moved there after earlier bringing his family from Morocco to Spain in 2007 and living for a short time in Madrid. Algeciras is a southern port city in Spain with a population of about 120,000. Some 10,000 of them, or about 9%, are Muslims, according to one report [Mirror UK].
  • As for the charges of terrorism-inspired attempted murder, the father says the "hardworking" "good boy" was merely "trying to rob passengers". The young lad "is said to be "dumbfounded" by accusations he was planning a terror attack" [AFP]. Because, we're thinking, that would be so wrong.
  • As for us, we're dumbfounded too. The son, Ayoub El Khazzani, now 25, was not "only carrying a little bit" on Friday when he boarded the train. He was actually packing (and struggled hard to use) a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Luger automatic pistol, plenty of ammunition and a box-cutter with which he came close to slicing off the fingers of one of the men who stopped him.
  • Prior to Friday's murderous attack (or unfortunate attempted robbery, if we engage in fantasies) he had already been tagged "as an Islamic extremist by intelligence services in Belgium, France, German and Spain" [AFP
  • The Mirror report says the French authorities had already decided in March 2014 that his "relationship with radical Islam" justified keeping him under watch. Since he was on a train hurtling towards the French capital when he cocked his high-powered gun and prepared to fire at fellow train travelers, one would be excused for wondering what kind of watch he ought to have gotten. And also whether there might one or two other ladies or gentlemen traveling Europe's roads and tracks at this moment, and who are believed to have a "relationship with radical Islam" that warrants them being watched.
  • Those authorities had had some opportunities to check him out since, as BBC reports, he visited Spain, Andorra, Belgium, Austria, Germany and France in the past 6 months alone, There is some evidence he also went to Turkey and Syria, but his lawyer says that part is untrue. Naturally we're wondering why that's important to either side.
  • Spanish anti-terrorist services are reported [Mirror UK].to have entered Ayoub El Khazzani's data into "the Schengen-area police database" because of a perception that the young man had ties to "religious extremism". Whoever takes care of checking passengers who board international trains in Europe might eventually be asked how the data and the millions of Euros of technology completely failed to trigger any security measures when he board at Brussels South station. 
  • And that's before anyone starts asking about the Kalashnikov assault rifle and the other implements of death and destruction that he brought on-board with him.
  • In that last point, we think the Mirror report means to refer to the "Schengen Information System" or SIS. Let's take a moment on thaty. SIS is a European inter-government database keeping and accessing information on people "of interest" in matters of national security, border control and law enforcement. It's a phenomenally important tool. 27 countries officially use the SIS data: France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Greece, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia.
  • But if, as reported, Friday's would-be massacre-man was listed there, and still got on-board the train with enough fire power to carry out a world-class act of carnage, something might be a teeny tiny bit wrong with this picture. Was SIS down that day? Is using it optional for security officials? Do any security officials work at Belgium's inter-city train stations watching for suspects or trouble? And who watches the watchers?
  • The gunman's lawyer is named as Sophie David by Alarabiya which quotes her saying the client looks ill and malnourished: "[V]ery sick, somebody very weakened physically, as if he suffered from malnutrition, very, very thin and very haggard" but also a person of enormous good fortune who "found the Kalashnikov he had taken onto the train in a park near the Gare du Midi rail station in Brussels where he was in the habit of sleeping..." and, as anyone would, then "decided to get on a train that some other homeless people told him would be full of wealthy people travelling from Amsterdam to Paris and he hoped to feed himself by armed robbery".
This is all probably going to get much clearer soon, especially the part about why it took three quick-witted, selfless and tough travelers to save a carriage full of train passengers while some of the world's most sophisticated anti-terrorism measures - along with the people who operate them and the policies according to which they work - totally and utterly failed

Until it does, we're left to muse about the risks we ordinary people take as we walk into stores, board planes and trains, and generally act as if we live in safe and free societies.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

23-Aug-15: Do they understand the price of freeing the hunger-striking terrorists?

This photo of the notorious PA insider, Issa Karake, appears in a Jordan Times
article [here] under the headline "Palestinians call for release of 
hunger-striking prisoners". The face at the top of his poster
belongs to Abdullah Barghouti. Calling him "hunger striker"
somewhat misses the point. A confessed mass murderer, he wants to add to 
his current tally of 66 innocent victims. Naturally, they want him free.
Flush with the thrill of achievement, the imprisoned Islamic Jihad terrorist who has been waging a campaign against the Israeli authorities is back to making some improbable fresh threats from his Israeli hospital bed.

Muhammed Alaan (about whom we wrote on Friday: see "21-Aug-15: Hungering, thirsting, just dying for fresh victims")
told a Hamas journal: “I am free at the moment. If the Israeli occupation arrests me again, I will return to the hunger strike until they put an end to the travesty I am suffering, as are hundreds of administrative prisoners.” He added that the practice of detaining suspects without trial while refusing them the right to a lawyer and denying them visits from their family must be stopped “immediately.” Allaan was speaking from his hospital bed at Ashkelon’s Barzilai hospital. The High Court of Justice on Wednesday suspended Allaan’s administrative detention — a special anti-terror measure that allows imprisonment without trial on terrorism charges — after tests showed that he had sustained brain damage as a result of his two-month fast. There were conflicting reports as to whether the damage was reversible... Security officials believe Allaan, 31, is tied to the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization. Right-wing lawmakers and ministers reacted furiously to the High Court decision, with some accusing the court of setting a dangerous precedent that would lead to the release of other security prisoners being held in Israel. On Friday Allaan said in a video that his strike had been successful, and thanked his Israeli Arab “brothers” for their support. ["Terror suspect says he’ll renew hunger strike if rearrested" | Times of Israel, August 21, 2015]
It's unlikely to get much media coverage outside Israel (which is a pity), but some observations by an Israeli expert on how to treat prisoners, Orit Adato, emerged in an interview shown on Israel's Channel 1 on Saturday night. They were triggered by the ongoing Alaan case and the absurd and dangerous results it seems to be producing.

Odato, a specialist consultant whose privately-held business focuses on effective ways to manage the imprisoned terrorist population, is Israel's only female three-star army general, and a past commissioner of the Israeli Prison Service.

She said last night that the Israeli authorities have made two serious mistakes that have brought on the current fiasco.
  1. Israel freed hunger strikers several years ago. This conveyed a clear message to the prisoners and their advocates that in Israeli eyes they hold a very effective tool in their hands. If Israel had wanted to release some administrative detention prisoners - and Israel was holding many at the time - it ought to have released several who were not on hunger strike, along with perhaps one or two who were. The point would be to make clear that the hunger strike was not the reason for the releases. Instead, Israel released only the hunger strikers.
  2. The doctors who have refused to force-feed the hunger striking prisoners are utterly wrong. They have an obligation to save lives. They already save the lives of other terrorists who have no interest in living - for instance, human bombs (erroneously called "suicide bombers" - see "30-Jun-15: We need to be calling them what they are: human bombs") who survive. They save prisoners who are found hanged and are freed from the rope before death. The case of a hunger striker is no different from those other cases. 
We have quoted Odato several times in the past (in 2008, for instance). She has expressed some consistently smart views that, in retrospect, pointed in the right direction.

Here, below, is an essay published in 2006 in which she features. It's one of those now-forgotten (and always ignored) pleas we made to the Israeli authorities to re-think their plans to free terrorists from Israeli prisons in order to secure the freedom of Gilad Shalit, a hostage illegally held by Hamas for years.

This particular article was published in Front Page Magazine just before we started blogging here, and fully five years before the catastrophic Shalit Deal was executed. We're still sure it made sense then and feel it's helpful to repost it here, now.
"Reasonable" Suicide | Frimet Roth | | September 12, 2006 
Prepare for another Israeli retreat. The prison gates are about to be flung open again and Hamas handed a victory greater than any territorial concession. Sources say that the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit is imminent. The ransom demanded by Hamas reportedly now stands at 800 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. The absurdly skewed numbers make plain that this will be no exchange. While the first Palestinian to walk through those prison gates will be swapped, the seven hundred and ninety nine who follow him will be handed over gratis.

A mass release of this kind, if it takes place, will be catastrophic for Israelis. In its wake, terrorists would be insane not to carry out more such abductions in order to reap such bonanzas. And past experience shows that released prisoners rejoin the ranks of their terror gangs with redoubled fervor.

Orit Adato, former Commissioner of the Israeli Prison Service, observed, in her 2005 article, "The Issue of Prisoner Release", that some security prisoners "left jail more extreme and better equipped ideologically and professionally." But these sacrifices have long been accepted as the unavoidable price of "bringing our boys home." Israeli soldiers and their families, facing the harsh realities of life here, know that no stone is ever left unturned in our government's pursuit of that goal.

Amnon Zichroni, a veteran negotiator for the release of Israeli soldiers, reflecting on this, said in a recent interview: "Perhaps the other side doesn't have the same attitude as we do to our people." Based on his past involvement in trying to free European hostages held in Iran and Lebanon, he is convinced that even "the Europeans placed less value on their citizens' lives than we [Israelis] do."

This noble attitude should not be tampered with. However, it is essential that candidate prisoners be carefully selected and their release wisely negotiated. Zichroni, a lawyer, has come by this wisdom over several decades. His experience in the field began in 1978 when PM Menachem Begin appointed him to handle the release of Israeli prisoners and hostages in Arab hands. He was also involved intensively with the cases of Ron Arad and the 1982 Sultan Yaakub MIA's.

Successful negotiation, he maintains, demands that government lay the groundwork immediately after the kidnapping. Interviewed by the Bitter Lemons forum shortly after Cpl. Shalit was taken hostage, Zichroni advised the Israeli government to "desist from targeted assassinations and deal instead with targeted kidnappings… of people who are close to the organizations holding Shalit, who could be bargaining cards... Without leverage, we fail."

His advice was not heeded. Prime Minister Olmert's initial public stance was to refuse to negotiate at all. Zichroni says this increased the danger to Shalit's life.

Having since flip-flopped and with no ground-work, Olmert is negotiating from a position of weakness. Consequently, the deal being weighed threatens to be more loathsome than all those preceding it. If closed, it will cross a critical red line that has been observed in all of Israel's earlier prisoner exchanges.

To obtain Shalit's freedom, Israel has reportedly agreed for the first time to hand over prisoners "with blood on their hands." But the deal's brokers and Israel's political leaders are attempting to conceal this with the lulling words "women and children."

The fact is that several of the women and sub-eighteen-year-olds who are candidates for release are no less lethal and murderous than the stereotypical twenty-something male terrorist.

Those who grieve – like me – for loved ones murdered at Jerusalem's Sbarro Restaurant are well aware of the dangers posed by female terrorists. One hot August afternoon five years ago, Ahlam Tamimi, then a twenty-year-old university co-ed, played a central role in the terror attack that took the life of my daughter and 14 other innocents, most of them children.

Tamimi selected the target and escorted the suicide bomber to the restaurant's door. 130 people were injured and maimed in that massacre.

Interviewed in her prison cell four months ago, she told reporters: "I'm not sorry for what I did. I will get out of prison and I refuse to recognize Israel's existence."

Tamimi has served less than five years of her 16 consecutive life sentences. Yet already in March 2006, she proclaimed, "I know that we will become free from Israeli occupation and then I will also be free from the prison."

I appeal to Prime Minister Olmert to resist the pressure of Palestinian and Western diplomats to succumb to the above terms. They are undoubtedly invoking populist comparisons between the IRA and the Palestinian prisoners and pointing to the success of the Good Friday Agreement, signed by the IRA and Britain in 1998. But our situation is fundamentally different.

The Good Friday document took into account several factors absent from the Palestinian case. First, there was no mass exodus of hundreds of Irish convicted terrorists. They were released gradually, in order of the severity of their crimes and the time remaining in their sentences.

In addition, only prisoners belonging to organizations that had signed the ceasefire accord were freed. The others were to be reassessed at a later stage in the peace process. And both sides, the Irish and British governments, were entrusted with re-integrating the prisoners both before and after release.

Clearly, none of those conditions apply in our region. No Palestinian terror organization has signed anything remotely like a cease-fire with Israel. On the contrary, they have reiterated, both in word and deed, their commitment to the destruction of Israel. There is no peace process to speak of.

Consequently, once the freed Palestinians have rejoined the ranks of their terror organizations, the only "re-integration program" they will attend is target practice and advanced Islamist indoctrination.

There is another significant distinction between the Irish and Palestinian experiences. InIreland, the victim families were involved in the process from the start. They were notified of pending IRA prisoner releases and invited to respond. The pain of the Israeli victims has never been a factor in the prisoner release equation.

With Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev still held for ransom by terrorists, prisoner release is a hotly debated issue. Now is the time for the government to reassess this tactic. Once fine-tuned, it can become the key to "bringing our boys home" without being suicidal: without strengthening our enemies, endangering Israel, making a mockery of justice or infuriating the victims.

The question is: Are our leaders up to the challenge?
Nine years later and in the wake of the deplorable events of October 2011, we have the tragic answer. And along with millions of other Israelis, we are left to live with its consequences.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

22-Aug-15: A suspect is named following last week's massive Bangkok bomb massacre

Workers clear up debris and wreckage at the Bangkok shrine
[Image Source]
From SKY News Australia today:
Thai authorities have identified the prime suspect in the Bangkok bombings. He's been named as Mohamad Museyin, who is believed to be the man captured on security footage at the site of the attack just before the blast. Meantime the reward for information leading to the suspect's arrest has been boosted to almost 80-thousand dollars. 22 people were killed and more than 120 people were injured in the explosion at a Hindu shrine. 
They are referring to a fuzzy image of a male in a yellow t-shirt, captured in security camera footage, following a massive bomb blast a few days ago (around 6:30 pm on August 17, 2015) in a Hindu religious shrine located in a central part of Thailand's capital, Bangkok, next door to the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel in the glitzy Pathum Wan district. (The well-known Central World, Amarin Plaza and Gaysorn shopping malls are in the same district.) The Lord Brahma Erawan Shrine attracts a mainly Chinese crowd, and often featured performances by resident Thai dance troupes.

Bangkok is the world's second-busiest tourist destination. TIME says more than half of the casualties in Monday's bomb attack were visitors.

Guests at the Grand Hyatt recounted the horrific moments after the explosion:
Francesco Fabbiani was relaxing with his wife and three children on the fifth floor swimming pool of the Grand Hyatt Erawan hotel in the heart of Bangkok when he heard a loud bang. "I felt the entire building shake and the water was splashing back and forth," the 44 year-old Italian from South Tirol said. "It was actually my son who noticed it at first: small bits of debris and body parts landing in the pool area... There was smoke and screaming..." [Dalje, August 18, 2015]
The bomb was said to be based on about 5 kg of TNT explosive, with an explosive radius of about 40 metres. Two additional suspects have been identified from the same closed-circuit video footage, but have not yet been apprehended.

A Muslim insurgency in Thailand's far south has claimed thousands of lives since it got underway in the early 1960's. Over 6,000 people have died and more than 10,000 were injured between 2004 and 2014 [Wikipedia].

22-Aug-15: Carnage on a high-speed European train and the quick-thinking that prevented it

The attempt at a massacre on board a train on Friday in Belgium
was prevented by three ordinary American guys [Image Source]
The latest high-profile attack on ordinary people traveling in Europe occurred on Friday on board a crowded Thalys train speeding from Amsterdam to Paris.
Travelling at speeds of 300 km/hr. the Thalys high-speed train connects 17 cities across Western Europe, including Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris. Thalys trains are well known for their efficient travel times and their excellent service. If you wish to travel in luxury and save as much time as you can for sightseeing, then the Thalys is your best choice. [From the Eurail website]
That excellent service actually plays a role in what happened.

An attempt at carrying out a rifle-powered massacre on-board was made on Friday by a male described as "a 26-year-old Moroccan" who boarded the high-speed train at the Brussels South station. Whatever security checks are carried out there are evidently inadequate to the task of stopping a determined terrorist equipped, as this "hero" was, with "a Kalashnikov, a knife, an automatic pistol and cartridges." In the end, he was neutralized not by paid and equipped security personnel but by fare-paying travelers who sized up the situation fast enough to do something effective. They are, hardly surprisingly, not Europeans.

Brussels South, the station where the gunman boarded,
is the largest in Belgium's capital city [Image South]
Before being overpowered by the travelers, the gunman managed to shoot one passenger in the head and stab another. Belgium's prime minister Charles Michel in a statement released to the news media on Friday evening called it a "terrorist attack". With that achieved, he consulted with Belgium's Interior Minister and the Chief Commissioner of its Federal Police Service on Friday evening and - suspend the skepticism - something actually came out of that:
It was decided that security will be step up (sic). [Deractie (Belgium), August 22, 2015]
That's an actual Belgian quote. Here's another:
Sources within the security services say that that it is too early to confirm whether the gunman is also known to the Belgian security services. [Deractie]
According to the BBCFrance's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve speaking in a press conference today (Saturday), said the suspect's identity had yet to be confirmed
but it was believed that he had radical Islamist beliefs... [and] had lived in Spain until 2014, and in Belgium this year. Spanish intelligence passed on information about the suspect to France in February 2014, he said... [BBC]
Just to clarify, and quoting that senior French politician: no one is too sure who the Islamist with infidel blood on his mind actually is yet. But we do know enough to say he's a Moroccan who has been under the noses of the Spanish and French anti-terror authorities for some time. Despite this, the clever bugger got onto a train in Belgium where they don't seem to have opened on a file on him till now, equipped with a deadly arsenal serious enough to carry out what every commentator is calling carnage.

The Spanish (according to Telegraph UK) know enough to say his name is Ayoub El Qahzzani and that he traveled to Syria in 2014 from his base in Spain, returning to France soon after that,)

There were 554 passengers on board.

Thalys train [Image Source]
You're wondering about that excellent Thalys service? The French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade (from "I Am a Soldier", "Betty Blue" and "Nikita", and who was slightly injured when he broke the glass window of the alarm to call security on the train) says, according to the BBC which is translating Paris Match, that the
train staff entered a private cabin and locked it when they heard gunshots, leaving the passengers alone. "I thought it was the end, that we were going to die, that he was going to kill us all," he said. "I really could see us all dying because we were all prisoners in that train, it would have been impossible to escape from that nightmare." [BBC]
The real heroes of this appalling tale are a handful of fast-moving Americans, on-board the train as tourists: a US Air Force service man, an inactive member of the US National Guard, and an ordinary American civilian. They came away with box-cutter wounds (including a mutilated hand), and other non-life-threatening injuries, along with the gratitude of countless slower-moving Europeans.

Here's a prediction. The attacker is going to be called a lone wolf, and the involvement of helpers and associates and spiritual advisers and weapons providers and funders and the people making "calls" to devout followers of Islam to show their faith by killing other people will be ignored, or postponed, or downplayed for as long the news cycle permits.

Friday, August 21, 2015

21-Aug-15: Hungering, thirsting, just dying for fresh victims

Image Source
Muhammad Allan, a Palestinian Arab, is widely depicted in parts of the social media right now as a hunger-striker unjustly detained, a veritable "freedom fighter", "courageously resisting tyranny". And of course "gentle, conscientious and well-respected". 

Multi-media campaigns like the one in which he now features usually come with gentle backgrounders ("loved kittens, spoke nicely to his sisters") plus lawyers, mothers and protesters. This one is from that same template, along with media distortions, half-truths and inaccuracies.

A 31-year-old Arab lawyer, the man is indeed a hunger striker and has been since June. He became comatose earlier this week and then regained consciousness in Barzilai Medical Center, Ashkelon, on Tuesday where he has been getting Israeli medical care. The following day, Wednesday, Israel's High Court ordered that he be freed from administrative detention "due to his deteriorating medical condition, including the revelation Wednesday afternoon that his brain had been damaged." More than this, 
Deputy High Court President Elyakim Rubinstein and justices Hanan Melcer and Neal Hendel held that due to his health situation, Allan’s family members could visit him on an unrestricted basis, as if he were not a detainee. [Jerusalem Post]
Once the court had ruled, one of his lawyers told Reuters that the 65-day hunger strike was done: 
"The story is over, administrative detention is canceled, and therefore there is no strike," said lawyer Jameel Khatib. But a hospital spokeswoman said it would not have been possible for Allan to make such a decision, since he was not conscious or aware of his surroundings... [Jerusalem Post]
Hunger striker's mother in the Ashkelon hospital where his life
is being saved by Israeli medicine, despite his best efforts [Image Source]
Internal contradictions happen. No one seems too concerned for factual accuracy when Palestinian Arab figures are being elevated to mythic/heroic status against all the evidence. For us news consumers, we're left to distinguish among the available menu items of fantasy, exaggeration, political spin and ordinary empirical facts.

Naturally, Allan (or Alaan or Alan or محمد علان) is not just a lawyer. And his problems are not the kind that traditionally come from legal practice. 

Quite the opposite: from reliable sources, we understand he's deeply invested in terrorism as both active player and facilitator. Allaan was first arrested by Israeli authorities in 2006 due to his involvement in recruiting a human bomb in advance of a murderous attack. These charges earned him a trial, a conviction, and a sentence of which he served three years in jail. He was arrested again in 2014 on the basis of reliable intelligence regarding his contacts with Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the context of preparing of fresh terror attacks. The evidence was brought before the same High Court that eventually released him on Wednesday, Based on their judicial review at that time, his incarceration under Israel's administrative detention laws got the court's approval - not a foregone conclusion in Israel's strict legal frameworks. At a guess, we think this may have been a "ticking time bomb" case, though no one has said so in the media.

Same mother, same hospital [Image Source]
Alaan's hunger strike is naturally self-imposed, and the physical damage he may have caused to himself is too. 

But setting that aside for a moment, concerned people reading the heart-rending descriptions in the media of what he and his organs went through up until Wednesday might find it hard to avoid feelings of sympathy. It was good to note that one of the judges in Wednesday's hearing, presented with a passionate argument on Alaan's behalf by another of his lawyers that detention was at the root of the problem, pointed out what ought to be obvious:
"This is not a result of his detention, sir. There is damage as a result of his hunger strike that he undertook." - Supreme Court Judge Hanan Melcer, quoted in Jerusalem Post, August 19, 2015
They might even come away with the impression that Israel applies administrative detention widely and indiscriminately. Or that Israel is somehow unique or unusual among civilized states in resorting to it. 

Again, the mother, the hospital, the arms [Image Source]
Reuters, in reporting on Alaan on Monday, framed its version of the narrative in a way that might easily lead a reader to those wrong conclusions:
Israel sees his hunger strike, which began more than 60 days ago, as a powerful challenge against "administrative detention", a practice that has drawn criticism from Palestinians and human rights groups but which Israel calls a security necessity... [Reuters, August 17, 2015]
Human rights people say this, but Israel says that. He says, she says, the human rights people say. It's a common news industry approach with which friends of Israel are familiar, but it's also cheap, unfair and misleading. 

The reality (very rarely mentioned in Alaan-related news reports) is that many states, some of them respectable - including AustraliaBrazilIrelandJordanUnited Kingdom and the United States - all have laws providing for administrative detention. Those laws are in active use when there's a need and the circumstances are appropriate. Considering the intense but little reported acts of terrorism to which Israeli civilians are routinely subjected by their Palestinian Arab neighbours, you could make a strong case that Israel has the need. And the circumstances, according to the widely respected High Court of Justice, are appropriate.

Hunger striking terrorist's mother again. She's in an Israeli hospital
- probably Barzilai - but we can't be sure [Image Source]
To illustrate: we wrote about a rocket barrage that struck northern Israel yesterday ["20-Aug-15: Rockets from Syria slam into Israel's north"]. The IDF says those rockets came from Syrian terrorists acting in the name of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (the PIJs deny it, but the IDF makes a pretty strong case). They're Alaan's colleagues, the people in whose company he hangs when he's not on hunger strike in an Israeli hospital room.

As for how widely administrative detention is used by Israel, the numbers given in this Palestinian Arab news report suggest it's currently applied to about 7% of the Arabs in Israeli prisons.

A word about Barzilai before we end. 

The medical center where the hunger-striking Islamic Jihadist is having his life saved is in Ashkelon, the closest Israeli city to the Islamist-ruled terror-addicted Gaza Strip. Despite the unstinting care it provides to all-comers on a non-discriminatory basis, Barzilai gets routinely attacked by Qassam and Grad rockets ("as many as 140 over one weekend" and here's a fine photo collection to drive the message home) fired at them by Hamas and PIJ. Scarce funds have had to be diverted from the hospital's budget into the construction of underground wards and emergency facilities - an effort that saves lives

We understand the profound cultural and ethical chasm separating us, and don't expect the Alaan clan to give thanks. But it's striking that no mainstream media channel has seen fit to at least mention that the facility which has saved this Islamic Jihad terrorist's life has frequently come under rocket-attack by his fellow savages-in-arms, and almost certainly will again when they can do it.