Sunday, September 28, 2014

28-Sep-14: Just another armed young man who slipped through the fence looking for victims

Children of the Kibbutz Alumim community doing art therapy,
August 2014 [Image Source]
No one was killed. And even more significantly, no Israeli killed any Arab. But this is still a news story of significance because it makes concrete the danger of living side-by-side with millions of people who are, daily, fed a cultural diet of "Thou shalt kill because this is what is expected of you".

From the Times of Israel this afternoon (Sunday):
An 18-year-old Palestinian male armed with a knife and a pick was arrested Sunday near Kibbutz Alumim in the Sdot Negev Regional Council. A security coordinator from a local community caught the Palestinian about seven kilometers from the Gaza border fence, which he is believed to have crossed near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. According to Sdot Negev security coordinator Raphi Bibian, local security chiefs received an alert that there had been an infiltration from Gaza, and closed in on the intruder from three directions. The Palestinian man surrendered without a fight. [Times of Israel]
He's not a threat any more...
for now [Image Source]
The brief report might have made a larger mark on the world's news headlines if an Israeli "security coordinator" on the frontier settlement's perimeter had been looking in the wrong direction at the critical moment, or if, instead of taking the armed and motivated 18 year old into custody, the security forces based in the Israeli communities close to the Gaza border had eliminated the threat in the customary way of militaries.

Those are not the things that happened. So this young man will be held in custody for a while and then freed. If he plays his cards right, he may yet get to fulfill the lethal ambitions that others in his world have for him.

Meanwhile those who believe Israel is engaged in "a war of genocide perpetrated against the Palestinian people", as Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president, called it before the UN General Assembly on Friday, will ignore such events. And those who depend on the mainstream news media for an understanding of life in the Arab/Israel conflict will continue to be oblivious to its realities.

(For those interested to see a slice of life in the Alumim kibbutz community, here's a video clip from two months ago.)

27-Sep-14: People drowning at sea, and the bottomless, money-driven, Arab-on-Arab contempt behind it

Protesting outside the Red Cross in Gaza,
September 22, 2014 [Image Source]
Several reports, like the one carried by a Palestinian Arab newsagency, Ma'an, in the past week have described tragic deaths at sea of hundreds of "migrants to Europe".
More than two weeks after a boat carrying migrants to Europe sunk off the coast of Malta, none of the bodies of Palestinians who are thought to have drowned at sea have been recovered by search teams. Eight Palestinians are known to have survived the Sept. 6 shipwreck that killed around 500 migrants, and they are being cared for between Italy, Greece, and Malta... Dozens of family members of the missing migrants on Sunday demonstrated outside the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Gaza City, urging authorities to give them more information on the whereabouts of their missing loved ones. ["Gaza families mourn amid failure to find missing shipwreck victims", Ma'an, September 25, 2014]
This is not a conventional ship-sinks-at-sea report. Nor does it appear to be an ordinary story about migration. We're also wondering why boat-people are called refugees everywhere else, but when it's about Palestinian Arabs who have embraced the 'refugees' label for the past 60+ years, they are called migrants? Why is there no name for the boat that carried 500+ people, the vast majority of whom are now dead? And why is the shipping company not named? Why does Ma'an's report skip providing even the most elementary background ?

The family members are protesting the tragedy, and getting media coverage for their agony, but why are those protests held in front of the Red Cross and not outside the locked gates of the shipping company, or the immigration ministry, or the prime minister's office in either Gaza or Ramallah? Why are they not demanding action by UNRWA?

What's actually happening in this odd story?

Since it involves the victimhood of Palestinian Arabs, it's almost certainly futile to look to Palestinian Arab sources for transparency or usable information. But the ever-reliable and very-well-plugged-in Khaled Abu Toameh, whom we have quoted here many times over the years, has uncovered some astonishing facts ["Palestinians and the "Death Boats" Scandal", Gatestone Institute, September 27, 2014]. By contrast, the reports we have seen in the Palestinian Arab media raise far more questions than answers.

Here's the core of the story: Palestinian Arabs, fed up with living under the Islamist Hamas regime, are paying extortionate sums of money to people-smugglers to get them out of the Gaza Strip and into Europe. It's a phenomenon that has been going on for some time, with "a dramatic increase since the end of the fighting in late August", according to Abu Toameh.
               
Hamas and its vast circle of parasitic thugs who prey, and grow wealthy, on the misery they have inflicted on the society in which they live [see "1-Oct-12: Hamas corruption: More-than-keeping-up with the Fatah kleptocrats" and "30-Aug-12: How close to hell is Gaza? Depends whom you want to believe"], are right at the center of this. But they are not the sole actor in this catastrophe. As Abu Toameh writes:
Both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority bear responsibility for the tragedy of the Palestinian immigrants. The two rival parties have failed to improve the living conditions of their people in the Gaza Strip.  Instead of creating job opportunities for young men and women, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have spent the past seven years fighting over money and power. Now, the two parties are blaming each other for the tragedy
Abu Toameh sketches out the key elements:
  • Thousands of dollars are being paid to Hamas officials and Egyptian smugglers. The PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki quotes $1,000 as the price handed over to Hamas personnel at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Abu Toameh says it's as much as $5,000 per person. [And we found an Al-Monitor report here quoting the price as "$3,000-$5,000 per head".]
  • "Hamas and the Palestinian Authority... are now busy planning how to lay their hands on the millions of dollars that are supposed to go to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip..."
  • Abu Toameh: "Most of the immigrants left the Gaza Strip through a two-kilometer tunnel belonging to a senior Hamas operative. Survivors told a Palestinian Authority Commission of Inquiry that when they reached the Egyptian side of the border, Egyptian gangsters intercepted them and robbed them of their money."Hamas gangsters worked in cooperation with gangsters on the Egyptian side of the border," said a senior Palestinian Authority official involved with the inquiry commission. "They operated like a real mafia..."
  • He quotes sources who say "Some 13,000 Palestinians have already fled the Gaza Strip to Europe with the help of the gangsters. Most left through Hamas's smuggling tunnels or by bribing its security officials at the Rafah terminal. Another 25,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have applied to various European countries for immigration."
  • Hamas is denying any involvement with the exodus, but Abu Toameh says they have set up "special offices to register those wishing to start a new life in Europe", and "are providing the emigrants with forged visas and travel documents to enable them to enter Europe".
  • Those boats did not sink for random, unfathomable reasons: "Some reports have suggested that rival gangs deliberately sunk the boats. The gangs are fighting for the cash the Palestinians are prepared to pay to leave the Gaza Strip. Palestinians refer to the situation as their "Death Boats" scandal."
There's some startling information about those "rival gangs" in a report issued by the Euro-Mid Observer for Human Rights organisation, based in Geneva and Gaza, pieced together from eyewitness accounts by the handful of survivors:
On the afternoon of Wednesday, 10 September, the smugglers ordered the passengers to move to yet another boat... An argument ensued. Less than an hour later, another small boat suddenly appeared with the name of Al-Hajj Rizk – Damietta. Five to 10 men were on board, and they yelled at the passengers with an Egyptian accent. The small boat then began to deliberately ram the passengers’ ship, despite their screams and waving. The side of the ship ruptured, allowing in seawater, which mixed with oil and fuel. The men waited to make sure the refugees’ ship was sinking, laughing as they watched, then left. The Maltese Navy confirmed that the ship was in international waters at the time, about 300 nautical miles (555 km) southeast of Malta. Most of the passengers drowned relatively quickly. [Euromid]
The UN High Commission for Refugees (again: not UNRWA) was looking into the possibility that there had been no fewer than five separate shipwrecks and that what was happening was "without any doubt the deadliest weekend ever in the Mediterranean" [during which] at least 500 were dead or missing in the last three days." That's according to a news report in The Guardian published on September 15, 2014.

And for those innocents who take at face-value the irresponsible, politically-based hyperbole of certain public figures with radical agendas (for instance "Noam Chomsky: My Visit to Gaza, the World's Largest Open-Air Prison"), here's how one Palestinian Arab resident of Gaza referred to the cash aspect in an Al-Monitor article from a week ago:
They tried to find jobs in Gaza to make a living, but there was nothing. They had no money for food, milk for the babies, diapers. They sold everything they had and managed to come up with $3,000. You know how it is. People in Gaza keep gold for a rainy day and that day has come. They were tempted by an offer to escape from Gaza through a tunnel and gave the smugglers everything. [Al-Monitor]
We're waiting to see if any part of the mainstream news media frame these hundreds of Arab-on-Arab deaths as a story of Palestinian Arabs willing to sell up everything they have, to put everything including their lives on the line, just to get out from under the jihad of Hamas.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

24-Sep-14: Forward-looking statements (and reflections on the past) about the new year that starts tonight

Screenshot from the new Malki Foundation Blog. Clicking there
brings up the electronic version of the new brochure for
The Malki Foundation
We don't make a secret here that we are passionate promoters (unpaid and non-executive) of a charity that bears our murdered daughter's name and that does really good non-sectarian, strictly non-political work very efficiently. It's a small not-for-profit whose ethical standards match our expectations (we defined them when we founded the organization) and which we wish more people actively supported. An honest charity that achieves what it says it wants to do is never something to be taken for granted.

Tonight marks the end of a rather difficult and challenging year, according to the Jewish calendar. The new year, 5775, starts at sunset.

In Jewish tradition, new year is a time not only for making resolutions (which it is) but for thinking back on what happened in the year just ended and how we ourselves coped. Introspection is a serious value, and Judaism places considerable emphasis on it. Not to get too philosophical about it, but the mood set by our tradition is about "How can I do better?" Actually, how can we all do better?

Now we're very aware that not everyone who reads this blog of ours is Jewish or celebrates the new year in the middle of September. We also know that, as much as we would want people to know about our daughter's beautiful life - the one stolen from her and us by the murder-obsessed Islamist thugs of Hamas in August 2001 when she was just fifteen years old - most of our readers have just a passing familiarity with Malki, our daughter, and with The Malki Foundation that bears her name.

That's exactly as it ought to be.

Those for whom the story resonates will find their way to the source material. Those who come here because of an interest in the threat posed to all of us by terrorism are very welcome, and please don't feel that we're demeaning your interest. Quite the opposite - we appreciate it hugely and are grateful for the steady growth in readership that This Ongoing War has had in the past two years.

Apple and honey: the most symbolic of
Jewish new year customs
But for everyone who reads these words, we have a new year's eve request. Please pay a brief visit to a new blog we have just set up, called The Malki Foundation Blog. Nothing political, nothing contentious, but it's still going to be interesting to those who wonder about how being at the receiving end of an act of incomprehensible hatred can get a person to wake up and start doing something that brings a little more good into the world.

Please, in particular, take a look at a beautiful new brochure that has just been mailed out to the charity's supporters around the world, and that can be viewed online here. Pointing your friends to it would be hugely appreciated. Thank you. And may this be a wonderful new year for all of us who cherish peace, family life and mutual respect. Shana tov, ketiva vehatima tova (translation: a prayer that you be inscribed and sealed for a good year כתיבה וחתימה טובה - שנה טובה).

24-Sep-14: Some questions not yet asked of today's incarnation of Lincoln

Abbas - the New York City edition, speaking on Monday
at NYC's Cooper Union [Image Source]
The president of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas is visiting New York City today. 

On Friday, during the Jewish New Year festival, he will address the United Nations General Assembly. The audience there may hear echoes of a speech he made at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (co-sponsored by Churches for Middle East Peacejust this past Monday in which he outrageously compared "the Palestinian struggle for statehood with historical civil rights struggles in the United States":

“This great hall has been instrumental in suffrage, in Abraham Lincoln’s call to end slavery, in the civil rights movement and the Native American rights movement,” Abbas said, calling upon students to take up the Palestinian cause on campuses across the US. [Times of Israel]
Sadly, tragically, Abbas' UN audience is likely to be as passive and uncritical in the face of his anti-historical account as the Cooper Union crowd were. (The full text of it is here.) If any of Cooper Union audience saw the irony of a political figure eyebrows-deep in personal corruption, presiding over a political entity that routinely honours the confessed murderers of other people's innocent children, speaking from "the venerated New York podium from which Abraham Lincoln catapulted to the presidency two centuries ago" [source], they managed to keep it to themselves.


Abbas - the Ramallah version, arms aloft honouring freshly-released
convicted murderers in October 2013 [Image Source]
With considerably more confidence, we predict Abbas will be utterly silent about the use of human shields by the jihadists of Hamas, his political nemesis/partner; about the massive rocket bombardments on Israeli communities by the pseudo-military forces of Hamas and his own Fatah military throughout this past summer; about how Hamas has stored, and probably still stores, its weapons including rockets and other forms of explosive material in UN schools, in hospitals and in mosques; or about the Hamas-sponsored abduction and murder of three Israeli boys in June.

This is odd because those are precisely the current issues on which outsiders can have an impact for good, and which make all those narcissistic, ghost-written Abbas speeches totally worthless.


Elder of Ziyon posted some sharp questions over on his blog yesterday that highlight some of the many other matters on which Abbas - elected to a presidential term that ended in 2009, and who remains in power via self-issued decrees and endlessly postponed elections - is chronically silent. His suggestion, which we wholeheartedly endorse, is that concerned citizens should send the list to any of the numerous reporters likely to cover any of his various New York appearances. As he writes: "It is way past time the media stops giving him a free pass." He's absolutely right.



Abbas with his Moslem Brotherhood, jihad-addicted
Hamas business partner Haniyeh [Image Source]
Among the questions that EoZ suggests ought to be put to Abbas: Why does the PA name institutions after terrorists who targeted innocent civilians? Isn't that inconsistent with the message you are giving to the West?
   
  • Why is there still daily incitement on PA TV against Israel? 
  • Do you consider the Mufti of Jerusalem who collaborated with Hitler to be a hero?
  • If you are so interested in peace, why did you go out of your way to meet with child-murderer Samir Kuntar?
  • What, specifically, have you done to prepare your people for peace with Israel? And this followup: Twenty years after Oslo, 60% of your people say the five year goal of the PA should be the destruction of Israel. Isn't this from your own state-run media and school curricula?
  • Do you believe, as Arafat did, that there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem? Do you realize that this position is at odds with what Muslims said openly before 1967?
  • Describe your position on "normalization" with Israelis today. Can Israeli pro-peace groups visit Ramallah? Would you allow a Palestinian-Israeli sports camp?
  • Why did you threaten your citizens who dared to shop in a Jewish-owned supermarket that has low prices?
  • Recently you said that you believe that the Holocaust occurred. You wrote a book that claimed that it was exaggerated. Were you lying then, or are you lying now?
  • Do you really believe that Hamas would accept Israel's existence if you reconcile with them? Do you believe that Hamas still subscribes to its charter? Why or why not?
  • As leader of Fatah, why do the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group still exist? How do they get funded? Why didn't you denounce their shooting hundreds of rockets to Israeli civilians? Aren't you against that? And if they do not report to you, then why do you not distance yourself from them? Why did you say they were dismantled when they clearly weren't? Why did you allow them to hold an armed parade recently in Ramallah?
  • Do you agree with the Fatah platform that terrorism is legal under international law?
  • Why does some 6% of the PA budget go towards terrorist prisoners and released terrorists? What percentage of the PA budget goes, directly or indirectly, to Hamas?
  • You have publicly praised terrorists released from Israeli prisons, even embracing murderers. How do you reconcile that with your claims to be against terror?
  • Why did you, last week, praise a terrorist who targeted Jewish children at a circus?
  • Why are there still Palestinian "refugee" camps in the West Bank? Do you not consider their residents to be full citizens of Palestine? Are you keeping them away from having permanent homes in your country for a reason? (In 1950, Israel told UNRWA that it would be insulted to have an outside organization be the primary support for refugees, and it mainstreamed Arabs into becoming full citizens within a couple of years, negating their need for perpetual UN support. Do you disagree with that sentiment?)
And here are three more questions of our own:
Abbas: Is this the face of a politician who lets
reporters' questions get in the way of a pleasant hotel stay in
the Big Apple? [Image Source]
  • As uplifted as we admit we are by the Lincolnesque calls Abbas made for peace and brotherhood in New York City, does the great man have anything at all of a peace-like nature to say to his own electorate back in Ramallah? After all, more than 60% of them said in a Palestinian poll conducted just in the past month that they favour "an armed intifadeh". Does Abbas believe the proper place for the hard work of making peace is Manhattan? If so, does he plan to finally walk away from the high political office he has held since 2005? Yes? Good. How soon?
  • In a speech he made in the Arabic language to an Arabic-speaking non-diplomatic audience in July 2014 and reported on the This Ongoing War blog, Abbas invoked the Quran to justify war i.e. turning to religious Islamic grounds to explain why war is good and essential. Was he taken out of context? Was the Arabic translation wrong? Or is he actually the kind of Arab leader who thinks nothing of basing himself on religious arguments when whipping up the masses for more killing, usually of their own people?
  • And how about a response or two about secret bank accounts and those incredible sweetheart deals that appear to have fallen into the laps of his sons [detailed here: "12-Jul-12: Secret bank accounts, sweetheart deals for insiders, incredible riches for the president's sons: why would any Palestinian Arab politician ever give this up for... peace?"]? Does the Palestine president have anything he can say that will restore confidence in a leadership that most people familiar with its character believe is hopelessly flawed, patently corrupt and incapable of bringing anything good to his own people? Or to put it in the words of a notably courageous and independent Arab journalist with an uncommon familiarity with the workings of the Palestinian political echelon: "Even if [Abbas] were to bring home an agreement that includes 100% of his demands, most Palestinians would still receive it with full skepticism because it would be coming from a leader who does not have a mandate to make even the slightest concession. Under the current circumstances, the wisest thing to do would be to maintain the status quo until the emergence of a new Palestinian leader who would have the true courage to make peace with Israel." These words were written in 2012. Does Mr Abbas think they have any application today?
Enough questions for now. How lovely it would be if a reporter worth his/her pencil would take them up, even just one or two of them, and sit there until Abbas actually answers.

24-Sep-14: More on the Islamist knifing attack on police in Melbourne

Portrait of Abdul Numan Haider from his Facebook page
[Image Source]  
In Melbourne, Australia, additional details are emerging about yesterday's police shooting of an attacker ["23-Sep-14: Knifing attack on police in Australia: attacker is now dead"]. 

The 18-year-old attacker, Abdul Numan Haider, a recent graduate from Springvale Islamic College, "planned to behead officers and post the images online". While his attack on the police was done with a small knife, he had a larger knife as well as an Islamic State flag on his person. He was shot to death by police from the Joint Counter Terrorism team (blending Victoria Police and the Australian Federal Police) after he stabbed two of them.

Quotes from the Melbourne Age report today:
  • Police say he was part of a small group of Islamic Melbourne men who have been sharing violent hate messages. His passport was cancelled as police became concerned although they chose to meet him outside a police station to avoid inflaming the situation...
  • Police believe the plan was to follow instructions from the international terror group Islamic State and behead the officers, cover the bodies in the flag and then take photos to post via the internet.
  • He had been the subject of police investigations for the past three months as he had become increasingly radical.
  • Schoolfriends said he showed no signs of violent behaviour in secondary college.
Abdul Numan Haider again
via Facebook
According to an ABC report today (also quotes):
  • Haider, whose family are from Afghanistan, had also been associated with the radical Islamic group called Al-Furqan... Based in Springvale, in Melbourne's south-east, associates of Al-Furqan were the targets of terrorism raids by Victoria Police and the Australian Federal Police in 2012.
  • Chief Commissioner Lay said Haider attacked a police officer who tried to shake his hand outside the station, and then stabbed another officer, about 7:40pm (AEST) on Tuesday. "When our police members have approached this young man, one's extended his hand to shake his hand and the response has been he's been stabbed in the arm," he said. "The attacker then turned on the second police member and stabbed him three or four times in the body and in the head. The first wounded member has then shot and killed the young man."
So is this about a young man in the grip of Islamist kill-mania? Or just one big misunderstanding? Here's how the premier of the Australian state of Victoria sees it:
  • Premier Denis Napthine said it was important that the incident did not divide the community. "Let me make it very, very clear, one of the greatest strengths, one of the greatest assets we have here in Victoria is our harmonious, diverse, multi cultural, multi-faith community," Dr Napthine said. "We shouldn't let a single incident divide that. We need to show each other respect, be tolerant and remain united...  It is imperative that we do all that we can to reassure all members of the Victorian community that everything is being done to protect our safety and making sure that our community continues to work together as a whole Victorian community..." [source]
And the response of  Melbourne's Islamic community leadership?
  • Leaders of Melbourne's Islamic community have criticised police over their investigation into the fatal shooting. Gaith Krayem from the Islamic Council of Victoria said police were quick to jump to conclusions... "There needs to be a proper process as there always should be when police are involved in a fatality. What we do know is that there's an 18-year-old young man who is dead this morning, there are two police officers in hospital, there is a family who is grieving." Mr Krayem said the public needed to reserve their judgement until a full and objective investigation has taken place. [source]
  • "Unfortunately we've had inappropriate language coming from very senior politicians, including the prime minister... It increases the tension." [source]
  • "Immediately, individuals such as this unfortunately are given these labels of a radical, or a terrorist, or an extremist," he said. "Unfortunately, because of the environment we're in, as soon as you label somebody like that, people don't want to then question what occurred. We don't know really what happened when this young man arrived at the police station." [source]
The Al-Furqan centre in Springvale South, a Melbourne
neighbourhood: "Islamic Centre promoting Tawheed (monotheism)
based on the Quran and Sunnah (According to the way of the
Prophet (Peace be upon him), his companions and
righteous predecessors)
" [website]
From this distance, we are certainly in favour of people questioning what happened. We wish the Islamic leadership did the same. And having done that, that they then promptly share their findings with the rest of the community. They are in a better position than most of their neighbours to put one Islamist-flag-waving teenager with a knife - and a desire to stab people to death - into a meaningful context. Giving someone the "labels of a radical, or a terrorist" has consequences of the most serious kind. If the label happens to be accurate, it's something that ought to be done as soon as possible so that other people can be safer, and the life-and-death threat identified and addressed in the right way.

Several reports today say Haider was part of a radical community called Al-Furqan led by Harun Mehicevic, also known as Abu Talha. The Al-Furqan sheikh's background [source]:
  • He came to Australia from Bosnia as a young adult in the mid-1990s, and... has a Pakistani-born wife and six children... Somewhere along the way, Mehicevic turned to a conservative and purist form of Islam known Salafism. He became a follower of hardline Melbourne cleric Sheikh Mohammed Omran, and associated with Abdul Nacer Benbrika, who is serving a 15-year jail term for planning a terrorist attack in Melbourne in 2005. 
  • Sources within the Islamic community have described him as a ''cult leader'' and ''charismatic but totally delusional''. They say he has gathered a multi-ethnic group of 20 to 30 young men around him, and they are fiercely loyal to him. ''He tells them exactly what they want to hear,'' a source said. ''Hate the kuffar [unbelievers]; hate the system.''
  • Although some of [his followers] are of Bosnian origin, they wear clothes of Pakistani or even Saudi Arabian appearance as a way of proclaiming their hardline beliefs.
  • Some families were so concerned about the hold Mehicevic had over their children they moved overseas to get them away from his influence.
As of this morning, Sheikh Mehicevic/Abu Talha declines to confirm (or deny) Haider’s alleged involvement in the group. But:
Speaking outside a Springvale flat near the Al-Furqan bookshop, the controversial sheik said the group was working on a statement to be released later today. [Melbourne Herald-Sun, today]

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

23-Sep-14: Arab Bank terror funding case raises side-issue about what the US knew and when

From the home page of a prominent
New York legal affairs website [source]
As we wrote here yesterday ["22-Sep-14: Arab Bank found liable today for knowingly supporting terrorism"], a long-running civil litigation matter reached a decision in New York on Monday with a jury finding that Arab Bank is liable to the victims of Hamas terror attacks.

Media sources are calling this the first instance of a financial institution being held civilly liable for supporting terrorism.

The Jerusalem Post sums it up today:
The Arab Bank trial took place in a federal court in Brooklyn for the last five weeks and revisited some of Hamas' worst terror attacks, including the August 2001 Sbarro suicide bombing in Jerusalem killing or wounding 130 and a range of 24 horrid terror attacks during the Second Intifada. 297 plaintiffs who were injured or are family members of those murdered in the 24 terror attacks from 1998-2004 financed via Saudi Arabia and Hezbollah’s al-Shahid Foundation sued the bank in 2004 for allowing itself to be used as a conduit for the terror funds.
Along the way, the US Supreme Court was petitioned. It and/or other appellate courts may yet be involved again if Arab Bank appeals the verdict, as its lawyers say they will. In addition, the US Departments of State, Justice and Treasury were subjected to efforts by the Kingdom of Jordan [as we wrote: "23-Apr-14: Litigation against bank accused of funding terrorism is "splitting" US government"] relating to the Arab Bank litigation.
Jordan told the US Supreme Court that Arab Bank is so crucial, that a billions dollar judgment that tanks the bank could lead to economic and political instability and devastation, possibly damaging crucial US-Jordan counter-terror cooperation. Commentators have written that if Arab Bank was held liable for being a conduit for funds which eventually reached terrorists, the precedent could shake the international banking system to its foundations as many major banks may use their size and looking the other way to dabble in such transactions. [Jerusalem Post today]
One of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs says the implications go beyond banking:
“Every bank, every company and every government in the world now has to decide whether it is willing to continue doing business with an institution proven to have knowingly supported terrorism,” [Gary M. Osen] said in a statement.[Financial Times, London, today]
Evidence put before the court by the plaintiffs showed how Arab Bank served as the conduit for a Saudi Arabian charity created in October 2000 called the Saudi Committee in Support of the Intifada Al Quds. The plaintiffs asserted that the people receiving money at the far end of that conduit were the families of Palestinian Arab human bombs and prisoners. For its part, Arab Bank does not agree with that characterization, and has said (and created a website to say it more clearly) that
"The Saudi Committee is an internationally recognized humanitarian organization sponsored by the government of Saudi Arabia. Specifically, the Saudi Committee was established to provide relief to thousands of families in need, including widows, orphans and those who were wounded, left homeless or lost wage earners..." [From "Arab Bank Facts"]
It turns out that the US government view things differently. It warned the Saudis about the Saudi Committee's true nature eleven years ago. But that fact itself was evidently not known. The Jerusalem Post article describes what happened next:
According to an unclassified U.S. State Department memorandum released after the jury [in the Arab Bank litigation] began deliberations, “In 2003, the United States provided evidence to Saudi authorities that the Saudi al Quds Intifadah Committee (“Committee”) founded in October 2000, was forwarding millions of dollars in funds to the families of Palestinians engaged in terrorist activities, including those of suicide bombers.”

“The timing of the State Department’s disclosure raises deeply troubling questions,” said Plaintiffs’ trial counsel Michael Elsner, who requested the records. “Obviously, the jury reached the same conclusion about the Saudi payments in finding Arab Bank guilty for its support of Hamas, but this last minute disclosure of this evidence six years after we requested it and hours after the jury began its deliberations is telling." 
"We don’t expect the State Department to take sides in a civil case, but by withholding critical evidence until the jury began its deliberations, the State Department continues its unfortunate pattern of siding with foreign interests against American victims of terrorism," said Elsner.
To clarify: the plaintiffs' lawyer asked the State Department in 2008 what the US government knew about what the Saudi Committee had been doing. The State Department reply took six years to arrive. And - entirely by coincidence we have to assume - the reply reached the lawyers this past Friday, just hours after the jury in the Arab Bank case had retired to consider its verdict.

There are more details about this in a Reuters piece published yesterday: "Did U.S. State Department hide document to protect Arab Bank?" Other than that, the matter appears to have gotten almost no news coverage.

If the State Department has anything to say in response about what the Jerusalem Post article or the Reuters piece say, we will write about it here. We ourselves don't have a great track record in getting them to respond to anything we ask [see for instance "14-Sep-13: Memo to Secretary of State Kerry: Your staff need some urgent guidance"; and "29-Dec-13: Tweeting with the State Department"], and we have certainly been asking.

Still, this might yet become an issue that produces a reaction. We'll be watching.

23-Sep-14: Knifing attack on police in Australia: attacker is now dead


Breaking: There is a follow-on from Melbourne to the heightened state of terror alert in Australia. We wrote that here this past Thursday ["18-Sep-14: In Australia, massive police raids today seek to prevent beheadings"] and noted that there are
more questions than answers at this stage about what ABC calls Australia's new "emerging reality" . There is media speculation now that the police activity is likely to be extended to Melbourne.
This report about events that have unfolded in the past few hours in Melbourne comes from Australia's national broadcaster, ABC:
Melbourne shooting: Man who made threats against PM shot dead after stabbing two officers outside Endeavour Hills police station 
Updated 24 Sep 2014, 1:03am | An 18-year-old man who made threats against the Prime Minister was shot dead after he stabbed two police officers from the joint counter terrorism team in Melbourne's outer south-east. The ABC understands the dead man, who recently had his passport cancelled, was considered a "person of interest" by authorities and was being investigated over terrorism. AFP Commander Bruce Giles said officers were looking into unconfirmed reports the man had been seen with an Islamic State flag before he was shot... 
The incident occurred as the man arrived at a police station on Heatherton Road in Endeavour Hills about 7:40pm (AEST) on Tuesday. He had been asked to attend an interview as part of an investigation. Police would not go into detail about why they wanted to speak to the man. An altercation between the man and the two officers took place outside the station. He produced a knife and stabbed the policemen. The 18-year-old was then fatally shot by an officer. 
One of the injured officers is from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the other is a Victoria Police member. They were both rushed to hospital and one remained in a serious but stable condition in the early hours of Wednesday...
Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius stressed the man came to the station of his own freewill.
"It's absolutely clear to us that our members had no choice other than to act in the way in which they did," he said. "This is not an exercise in police seeking to single out particular individuals in the community... It appears this individual was acting on his own and was not acting in concert with other individuals."
A large number of uniformed and plain clothes officers attended the scene late on Tuesday night, with officers interviewing witnesses from a nearby shopping centre. The incident has occurred amid heightened tensions following last week's counter-terrorism raids in Sydney and Brisbane.
On Monday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned Australians the balance between freedom and security "may have to shift", given the current "troubling" and "darkening" security situation. In Canberra on Tuesday AFP officers armed with assault rifles could be seen outside Parliament House. The decision to post the heavily armed police officers outside Parliament House was taken by Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and President of the Senate Stephen Parry based on advice from security agencies.
It also comes after the Federal Government released its proposed anti-terrorism legislation targeting so-called "foreign fighters".
A reporter for the Herald-Sun, a major Melbourne newspaper, writing in the wake of the attack by the knife-wielding suspect, offers this:


We can hope he has that back-to-front. Time will tell,

Monday, September 22, 2014

22-Sep-14: Beheading is just the start

Triumphant ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State activist militants make
their presence felt in Syria's Northern Raqqa province, August 2014
[Image Source]
The chief spokesperson for a sickeningly brutal strand of Sunni Islamist terror, the so-called Islamic State (or Da'esh or ISIL or ISIS) for whom the public beheading of journalists is among their better-known strategies, delivered a speech in the form of an audio recording that was distributed globally yesterday (Sunday), attracting considerable attention. A published version of the full text in English translation is here.

The man doing the talking is identified as Abu Muhammad al Adnani. The audio recording, framed in religious-sounding terms and invoking Islamist concepts, is entitled (in one English-language translation) "Indeed your lord is ever watchful". Its core message is that Moslems ought to take violent action against "disbelievers" by any means necessary.
O America, O allies of America, and O crusaders, know that the matter is more dangerous than you have imagined and greater than you have envisioned. We have warned you that today we are in a new era... If you can kill a disbelieving American or European, especially the spiteful and filthy French or an Australian or a Canadian or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, kill him in any manner or way however it may be. [From a USAtoday report]
Abu Muhammad al Adnani is the speaker's nom de guerre. Reportedly born in a village near Aleppo, Syria, in 1977 as Taha Sobhi Falaha, he was last month declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 [see the State Department's press release here]. That same week, he was also named to the UN's Al-Qaida Sanctions Regime as "a significant tool in combating terrorist activity". Without offering an explanation as to why, the UN's announcement says the arch-terrorist has several additional names: Yaser Khalaf Nazzal Alrawi, Jaber Taha Falah, Abou Khattab, Abou Sadeq Alrawi, Tah al Binchi, Yasser Khalaf Hussein Nazal al-Rawi, Abu Baker al-Khatab, Abu Sadek al-Rawi, Taha al-Banshi, Abu-Mohammad al-Adnani al-Shami, Hajj Ibrahim, as well as the name he received at birth, Taha Sobhi Falaha.

The Islamist threats are directed widely. In Australia, where the government last week carried out the largest-ever crackdown by police and security forces on terrorist elements [see "18-Sep-14: In Australia, massive police raids today seek to prevent beheadings"], the interpretation by the news media is that this is "the most concrete threat yet to Australia by the group's leadership".

A major report in the Sydney Morning Herald today ["Islamic State followers urged to attack Australians by any means possible"] calls it "a chilling exhortation posted online by the militant group's chief spokesman". The following are direct quotes:
  • Over 11 pages, the statement unrestrainedly urges followers towards martyrdom, telling them they are "like predatory warriors" who "face death with bare chests"... "Do not ask for anyone's advice and do not seek anyone's verdict. Kill the disbeliever, whether he is civilian or military, for they have the same ruling. Both of them are disbelievers."
  • Disturbingly, the statement attributed to al-Adnani also offers itself as a final declaration, telling followers they need no further permission from a Muslim cleric.
  • It calls US President Barack Obama a "mule of the Jews" and Secretary of State John Kerry an "uncircumcised old geezer".
  • The statement threatens not just to beat back any military campaign in Iraq and Syrian but also to go on the offensive, even if it takes generations... "We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted... If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market."
  • "We have warned you that today we are in a new era, an era where the State, its soldiers, and its sons are leaders not slaves. Being killed – according to their account – is a victory. This is where the secret lies..." [and urges] Islamic fighters in various countries who are American allies to take up arms.
ISIL emerged, as did Hamas, from the Moslem Brotherhood, "the world’s first Islamist group dating back to the late 1920s in Egypt". But what's their power base today? Who stands behind the jihadists of Islamic State in 2014? A recent analysis in The Telegraph UK offers this:
Islamic State (ISIL), with its newly conquered territory, oilfields and bank vaults, no longer needs much foreign money. But its extraordinarily swift rise to this point, a place where it threatens the entire region and the West, was substantially paid for by the allies of the West. ISIL’s cash was raised in, or channeled through, Kuwait and Qatar, with the tacit approval and sometimes active support of their governments.
Just last Tuesday, Qatar announced a freshly minted law that purports to regulate charities that are "involved in politics, as well as those that sent money abroad or received foreign financing... amid growing concern in the West over funding received by Islamic State militants" [Reuters, September 16, 2014].

A sense of that "growing concern" came a few days earlier when
German Development Minister Gerd Mueller accused Qatar on Wednesday of financing Islamic State militants... "You have to ask who is arming, who is financing ISIS troops. The keyword there is Qatar..." Qatar has denied that it supports Islamist insurgents in Syria and Iraq. Diplomats and opposition sources say that while Qatar supports relatively moderate rebels also backed by Saudi Arabia and the West, it also has backed more hardline factions seeking to set up a strict Islamic state [meaning ISIL]. In March, David Cohen, the U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, cited reports of Qatari backing for Islamist fighters in Syria and described this as a “permissive jurisdiction” for donors funding militants. Qatar has also strongly backed Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed since the Egyptian military overthrew an elected Islamist president in 2013, and has given refuge to many foreign Islamists including from Hamas and the Taliban. [Reuters, August 20, 2014]
The German Minister's charges were quickly "explained" by his own government, who
said German diplomats in the Qatari capital Doha had met with Qatari officials to reassure them that Berlin considers the country a partner and that "if there were misunderstandings then we regret this..." [Associated Press, August 24, 2014]
Lots of questions and uncertainty - but not about the danger. Give credit to the jihadists issuing the threats; they are making quite sure the rest of us suffer from no misunderstandings about the things that make their hearts sing.

22-Sep-14: Arab Bank found liable today for knowingly supporting terrorism

A major legal decision has just been announced in the Arab Bank litigation:
Arab Bank Found Guilty of Supporting Terrorist | By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD | New York Times | SEPT. 22, 2014 
A federal jury on Monday found that Arab Bank was liable for knowingly supporting terrorist efforts that were connected to 24 attacks in the Middle East. The closely watched case, in New York City, was the first civil case brought against a bank under the Anti-Terrorism Act to go to trial, and the verdict was expected to have a broad impact on similar legal efforts to hold financial institutions responsible for wrongdoing by their clients, even if the institutions had followed banking rules. 
Arab Bank, a major Middle Eastern bank with $46 billion in assets, said that it followed compliance procedures, and that any transactions conducted on behalf of terrorists were executed in error. 
The plaintiffs in this case, about 300 victims of terrorist attacks in and around Israel, said that the attacks had been carried out by Hamas, and accused Arab Bank of supporting the organization by handling transfers and payments for Hamas members. 
The burden of proof was high: The plaintiffs had to prove that the terrorist attacks were indeed conducted by Hamas, and that the bank’s support of Hamas was the “proximate cause” of the events. In addition, the plaintiffs had to demonstrate that their injuries were “reasonably foreseeable” as a consequence of the bank’s acts. 
After 10 years of litigation and a five-week trial, the jury apparently found that the plaintiffs met the legal threshold, and ruled that the bank was liable. A separate hearing will be held to determine damages.
More details when we know. Meanwhile there's some background here ["9-Aug-14: Terrorism financing case against a bank due to go to trial this week in New York"]

Saturday, September 20, 2014

20-Sep-14: Iran is not commenting but Kenya may have just thwarted another Iranian terror attack

Kenya's Daily Nation breaks the news [Source]
Reuters reported on Friday about worrying terror-related events unfolding in East Africa:
Kenyan anti-terror police have detained two Iranian men using forged Israeli passports to enter the East African country, on suspicion that they may have been involved in a plan to carry out an attack there, officials said on Friday.
Kenyan security agencies have been on alert following several gun and grenade attacks and the killing of 67 people in an attack by Islamist gunmen on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall last September.
Mwenda Njoka, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, said the two Iranians had passports identifying them as Israeli nationals and had tried to enter Kenya through its main airport on Thursday. "The Iranians are suspected to be terrorists, either coming here as their final destination or in transit to another destination. The matter is being handled by the anti-terror police and Interpol," Njoka told Reuters...
They seem to be saying ("involved in a plan to carry out an attack there") that the attack would have been in Kenya. But when you look at the Israeli reports, like this one from Ynet ["Iranians caught in Kenya carrying fake Israeli passports"] they imply the attack would have been in Israel, and that one of the suspects is not a male:
Two Iranians in their early 20s, a man and a woman, were arrested in the Kenyan capital Nairobi earlier this week when they were discovered using fake Israeli passports and going by the names Adi and Avshalom. This is not the first time Iranian nationals are caught abroad with Israeli passports. These passports are very popular in the world because of the relatively extensive freedom of movement they grant their owners. The difference this time, however, was that the two did not intend to use the passports to move freely in the western world, but in order to enter Israel. The two tried to board a Brussels Airlines flight to Belgium, and from there board a flight to Tel Aviv. They were arrested at the Nairobi Airport and taken to the Kenyan immigration office, which informed Israeli authorities of the arrest. The arrest was also reported to the Israeli Embassy in Kenya.
Haaretz recalls previous terror attempts in other places in which Iranians were apprehended with Israeli passports:
In 2013, an Iranian man was arrested at the Israeli embassy in Nepal, after he was found using an Israeli passport to scout out potential terror targets. An Iranian agent was deported from India in 2012 for spying on the Chabad House in Koregaon Park and other Jewish targets; an additional Iranian spy ring was likewise discovered in Turkey.
And Reuters reminds us of some relevant Kenyan background,and again Iranians:
Two Iranian men were sentenced to life in prison by a Kenyan court in May last year for planning to carry out bombings in Nairobi and other cities. They have appealed their sentence. The two were found guilty of planning attacks and possessing 15 kg (33 lb) of explosives. Kenyan investigators said at the time it was unclear whether they had ties to al Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia or were part of another network.
A Kenyan source adds that on the same day and in the same place
Two Syrians were also arrested at JKIA for using forged Bulgarian and Greek passports. The two were also in possession of fake Algerian and Moroccan passports. [Daily Nation, Nairobi, Kenya, yesterday]
The same Kenyan source says the suspects are aged "between 19 and 20 years".

When we posted here 16 months ago ["3-May-13: Kenya discovers it is hosting a "vast network" of terrorists; convicts two Iranians and hopes for the best"] about the conviction of those two Iranian would-be bombers in Kenya, we referred to a BBC news report which managed to describe the threat and the crimes and the dangers - but without once calling the Iranians terrorists, which of course they are. 

However at the end of that 2013 report, the BBC's editors slipped in some startling news that others had not mentioned: the Kenyan police investigations showed that the convicted Iranian terrorists (though that's not what the BBC called them)
have a vast network in the country meant to execute explosive attacks against government installations, public gatherings and foreign establishments," said Sgt Erick Opagal of Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit... [BBC]
We have noted here over and again (for instance, "24-Mar-13: Seed of evil: Whitewashing terror at the BBC" and then again this past Thursday - see "18-Sep-14: Is it activism when they say they need to behead you?") about the scandalous way in which the BBC's editors seem to be so shy about calling terrorists 'terrorists'. In reality, it's not shyness but a mendacious and foolish kind of political correctness that does far more harm than any possible good. That BBC policy is online here: "BBC: Language when Reporting Terrorism"]

That 2013 BBC report also failed to point out what other sources at the time, like Associated Press, had mentioned: that the Kenyan police discovered the two convicted Iranian agents
are members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, an elite and secretive unit... Iranian agents are suspected in attacks or thwarted attacks around the globe in recent years, including in Azerbaijan, Thailand and India. Most of the plots had connections to Israeli targets.
The BBC Persian Service reported on the arrests today,
noting that Iran has not reacted [Source]
At the time (May 2013), we pointed out that Iran's normally garrulous English-language mouthpiece PressTV ("the first Iranian international news network, broadcasting in English on a round-the-clock basis... staffed with outstanding Iranian and foreign media professionals") had published not a word about the Iranian agents or their criminal conviction for terrorism. 

We have just checked there again tonight. Unsurprisingly, not a word, as far as we can tell, about any Iranians being arrested in Kenya

Readers of the BBC's Persian-language news service can read all about it here. Interestingly the Persian text does mention terror. Could it be that those deplorable BBC's guidelines don't apply when Persian-speaking audiences are being addressed?

Naturally, those Iranians with the forged Israeli passports are innocent until proven guilty. They are also not assumed to be members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force until otherwise determined. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

18-Sep-14: Is it activism when they say they need to behead you?

Once, in a more innocent era, beheading was
dismissed as just a word. Placard-carrying
youth at a Sydney Moslem protest, 2012
[Image Source]
It's right and appropriate that Australia's ABC use the word terror in connection with today's reporting of the country's largest counter-terror activity in history. But for how long?

When Islamist sociopaths in the Sydney 'burbs threaten to murder and/or behead Australians, that's terror, and the people doing it are terrorists. But when they or their cousins in their Middle East villages threaten the very same to Israelis or to Arabs who pray in a different direction or whose view of their shared religion is different in some big or small way, why are they then called militants or activists?

The head of Reuters in the days right after 9/11 said the reason is "that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" [Sydney Morning Herald, 2004]. But we, and that includes the media, have to get this right. There is a way to know terror, to define terror, to classify certain actions and people as terrorist. Getting this wrong has huge life-and-death consequences. The senior people at the BBC don't agree, and say instead that using the word "terrorist" "can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding":
...we don't change the word "terrorist" when quoting other people, but we try to avoid the word ourselves; not because we are morally neutral towards terrorism, nor because we have any sympathy for the perpetrators of the inhuman atrocities which all too often we have to report, but because terrorism is a difficult and emotive subject with significant political overtones. [BBC: Language when Reporting Terrorism]
That's one of the reasons people who think the way we do have for years tried to publicly shame the BBC's policy guidelines [full text online here] on how and when to use "terror".

If Australian news reports this evening referred to the people who threaten to behead other Australians by calling them militants or activists, most members of their Australian audience would be outraged.

But as Israelis, we have gotten used to the reality of reporters and their editors engaging in walking-on-eggshells terminological acrobatics in order to disgracefully avoid using the one accurate descriptor: terrorist.  
Same protest, same Sydney public park, even
younger
 supporter of beheading for the sake
of Islam [Image Source]

A seminal article by Daniel Pipes in the New York Sun ten years ago surveyed the state of the euphemisms-for-terrorism art. His listing included activists (Pakistan Times).assailants (National Public Radio), attackers (Economist), bombers (The Guardian), commandos (Agence France-Presse which also called them "membres du commando"), criminals (Times of London)extremists (United Press International), fighters (Washington Post), group (The Australian), guerrillas (New York Post in an editorial), gunmen (Reuters), hostage-takers (Los Angeles Times), insurgents (a New York Times headline), kidnappers (The Observer), militants (Chicago Tribune), perpetrators (New York Times), radicals (BBC), rebels (Sydney Morning Herald), separatists (Christian Science Monitor), 

(A good thing suicide bomber is not on his list: if we had our way, no one would ever use that term. Those people are human bombs.)

A year ago, we wrote here about how

George Carlin, the great and late, joked that people once used to get old and die but not any more. Nowadays they become pre-elderly; then turn into senior citizens; then pass away in a terminal episode or following a negative patient care outcome or in response to a therapeutic misadventure. The world is poorer with him gone. But with the greatest of respect (non-euphemistically, that would be: recognizing the utter foolishness of what people routinely do), it's not at all humorous when the authorities hijack our language in order to advance policies which, if they had to explain them, would be offensive, repugnant and unacceptable.
The terrorists are a serious threat to just about everyone, and it's ludicrous to think "we" have "them" on the run. The terrorists can do immense harm, turn people's lives upside down, inflict huge pain and destruction. But unless we let them, they cannot change the shape of society. Those euphemisms and the fuzzy, agenda-driven thinking behind them, however, can do immense harm to the ability of civilized countries to keep their people and their achievements safe. What we do with words really does make a difference.