Friday, October 24, 2014

24-Oct-14: Attacks on security personnel and what we do and don't know

Canadian parliament building under attack on Wednesday [Image Source]
From The Economist ["Terror in Canada", October 25, 2014]
It was a sombre Stephen Harper who addressed Canadians on October 22nd. A lone gunman had fatally shot a young soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in the capital, Ottawa, and then entered Canada’s parliament building where he was killed. The prime minister linked the shooting to the murder earlier in the week of another Canadian soldier. Both, he said, were a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the type of terrorist attacks seen around the world. His government would redouble its efforts to work with its allies in fighting terrorist organisations abroad, the Conservative prime minister vowed. It would also “take all the necessary steps” to identify and counter threats at home...
Two things gave this week’s strike added impact. It badly frightened MPs, most of whom had gathered for weekly caucus meetings in rooms on either side of the corridor where the gunman exchanged fire with security officers. They used furniture to construct makeshift barricades and had to remain shut away for hours. Second, it took place amid a heated debate over the Conservative government’s decision to increase anti-terrorist powers at home and to join the military campaign led by the United States against Islamic State in Iraq.
Mr Harper chose to interpret the shooting as part of a broader bid by terrorist groups to bring “their savagery to our shores”... It was unclear... whether the gunman, a Canadian named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, had links to any terrorist group, but he was described by a person who met him at a mosque in British Columbia as having a “disturbing” side, suggesting mental-health problems. Nor was there any sign of a link to Martin Couture-Rouleau, shot dead by police on October 20th after he struck two soldiers with his car, killing one, near a military academy in Quebec. Mr Couture-Rouleau was under sporadic surveillance and his passport had been seized because he was one of an estimated 130 Canadians whom the security services suspected of terrorist leanings.
Making sense of what Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau, the two men named here as the attackers (or the alleged attackers), sought to do or what motivated them is on the minds of many.

Reuters (without saying much about its sources) said yesterday that
some U.S. government sources said the shooter was born Michael Joseph Hall but changed his name to Zehaf-Bibeau. Two U.S. officials said that U.S. agencies have been advised that the shooter was a Canadian convert to Islam. 
CNN describes Zehaf-Bibeau as the son of a Libyan father and and a mother who is Canadian and the deputy chairwoman of the immigration division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. She has been a refugee protection officer, legal adviser and manager of operational support, among other roles. It is her very moving words of apology that we quoted here yesterday. Her son, according to CNN, had a criminal record "related to drugs, violence and other criminal activities".

Canada's National Post ["‘He seemed like a typical and fairly boring convert': Inside Martin Rouleau’s rapid descent to extremism"] says that country's police, the RCMP
had been working with Martin Rouleau to help him overcome his extremist thinking and met with him just 11 days before he allegedly ran down two Canadian Forces members with his car in an apparent act of terrorism. At a news conference in Montreal, the Mounties outlined their four months of dealings with the 25-year-old radicalized Muslim convert, who came to RCMP attention in June when he began posting messages on Facebook suggesting he wanted to fight in Syria... The RCMP seized his passport, but there was not enough evidence to charge him and he was released... [National Post, October 21, 2014]
What is concrete among the various matters in doubt at at this point is that
  • two uniformed Canadian security men are dead, and
  • as we noted here two weeks ago ["13-Oct-14: Knowing there are people among us who exult in acts of terror, how concerned should we be now?"], there are well-publicized Islamist voices in the air right now calling for believers to "strike their police, security, and intelligence members... Embitter their lives for them and busy them with themselves. If you can kill a disbelieving American... 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, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be. 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.
The weapon used in yesterday's
New York hatchet attack
We are aware of the news reports from New York City this morning about a non-verbal axe-wielding man who tried to kill several policemen yesterday, Is there a connection? Too soon to know. 

But it's worth asking whether the coyness of the mainstream media about the current threats and their source is more conducive to people's safety or less.

24-Oct-14: When not knowing what to say can be the most powerful message

The victim, standing guard, just
minutes before he was killed
[Image Source]
It doesn't take carefully crafted speeches. Expressing sincere remorse for terrorism when the perpetrator is someone from your country, your faith, your community or (as in this case) your family can be an astonishingly effective thing.
The mother of the man accused of killing a soldier at Ottawa's war memorial then storming Parliament before being shot dead says she is crying for the victims of the shooting, not her son. In a brief and tear-filled telephone interview on Thursday, Susan Bibeau said she did not know what to say to those hurt in the attack. Just before 10am on Wednesday local time (1am AEDT Thursday), a gunman shot and killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo and then opened fire on the country's Parliament buildings. "Can you ever explain something like this?" she said. "We are sorry." [The Age, October 24, 2014]
The power and clarity is breathtaking.

(Corporal Cirillo was standing guard at Canada's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier War Memorial in Ottawa on Wednesday when he was shot and killed by a masked gunman. There were two dramatic shootings in Canada's capital that morning, the second one occurring inside the Parliament.)

24-Oct-14: Imagine if the NYTimes knew how to sincerely apologize

The infant Chaya Zissel Braun
of blessed memory
Jodi Rudoren
New York Times Jerusalem Bureau
Jerusalem, Israel

Dear Mrs Rudoren

We are writing to you for the first time. It's about something quite shocking you published on your Twitter account this morning.

You Tweeted about an article penned by one of your Jerusalem NYT colleagues. It relates to a sickening attack - one that epitomizes what most people think about when they call an act 'cowardly' - by a violent Palestinian Arab man, Abdel Rahman Al-Shaludi, with a demonstrated commitment to terror and violence, driving a car. But someone in your newspaper tacked the words "police say" onto the headline. So reasonable people are going to know that there's no compelling reason to believe it was what the police say at all.

But what we know is Al-Shaludi very deliberately, and at devastatingly high speed, veered off Jerusalem's Route 1 on which he was traveling on Wednesday evening and drove directly into a cluster of ordinary Israelis standing on the platform of a Jerusalem Light Rail stop, the public transport system that makes it so simple - finally - for Arab Jerusalemites to head into the center of town comfortably, cheaply and often, which they do in large numbers.

The unsuspecting Israelis were mowed down like skittles. All, that is, apart from one, a tiny, pretty girl baby of three months old. She was flung violently into the air, we heard, but what was done to her tiny body is irrelevant to us at this point. Her grieving parents buried her last night.


Was there any room, at any point in the past 24 hours, for doubt about the malevolence of the driver's intent? And if you say yes, then we will humor you by saying it's par for the course that the ideological zealots of a minor Arab news channel will quote "witnesses... [who] stressed that the incident appeared to be an accident", and the killer's family will insist the former security prisoner didn't have a political bone in his body.

You will surely agree that smart reporters for big metropolitan newspapers know how to look right through those tissues of self-serving narrative, right? But since that did not happen in this case - at least not at the NYTimes - can we point you to what the security cameras at the location picked up?:



If this fails to clarify matters, then perhaps one of these reports can help put the killing of an infant into a somewhat sharper perspective:
  • The Fatah organization which is the largest component of the Palestinian Authority and is headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president, glorified the killer today by posting a flowery obituary on its Facebook page: "The Palestinian National Liberation Movement [Fatah] Silwan branch accompanies to his wedding [a euphemism for funeral] the heroic Martyr Abd Al-Rahman Al-Shaloudi who carried out the Jerusalem operation, in which settlers in the occupied city of Jerusalem were run over. Rest in peace, we are loyal to you..." [PMW, today].
  • An official Hamas statement that borders on self-parody (but is tragically consistent with many previous such Islamist grotesqueries) calls Chaya Zissel Braun, the baby killed in the attack, a "female settler". Here's the context: "The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas praises its son, the hero martyr Abd al Rahman Idris al-Shaludi (23 years) implementer of the operation of running over the settlers in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied Jerusalem, which led to the death of a female settler and the injury of 8 others..." [Source: Investigative Project, today] 
But to be honest, what prompted us to write now is not to quote Arab reports to you but rather a fierce desire to hear you say something contrite. Like this for instance:
"Yes, friends, for a moment my colleagues and I here in Israel's capital and in our company's editorial suites in Manhattan, did indeed lose our moral compasses again last night. But we're better now. We realize we should not have resorted to those cheap and nasty weasel words "police say" when that headline was composed. We ought to have made it clear that something breathtakingly ugly and dangerous was done last night, and anyone with eyes could and can see it for what it is. The cruel attack in north Jerusalem fits a pattern, it stems from ongoing incitement, it does no good for anyone and it cripples and damages Arab society at least as much as it does the Israeli side - and probably more so. At the Times, we like to pretend that we don't judge, so we "adopt" what the police or a judge or some official source said and then say it in their name when it suits us. That way we look like it was not us reaching conclusions. But actually, we know you have noticed that we have no difficulty at all in engaging in moral judgement of horrible human behaviour. It's part of what made us journalists in the first place. The trouble is, we don't feel we can do it when the horrible human behaviour is done by the jihadist side. Why not? Too hard to explain just now. But since the video showing the Palestinian Arab mowing down the poor Israeli victims on the light-rail platform was published today, there's no reason for us to continue the silliness. So for the record - of course this was terror, and of course it's appalling - but not at all surprising - that both parts of the failed Palestinian Arab state rushed to glorify his sickening deed in their time-honored, customary fashion. And unless and until something really fundamental changes on the Arab side, we despair of where their addiction to terror is taking them. And yes, we do feel much better now that is off our chests.
It will be perfectly alright for you to change the words to suit your own style. And we don't need you to do it publicly. Being bereaved parents ourselves, we know how uncomfortable some people can become in our presence. And we have learned how very hard it can be for people in the news reporting industry to face up to unpalatable realities that clash with the spirit of the times or the policies of their employer. So it's enough if you just say it in a private email sent to thisongoingwar@gmail.com. We will be happy to respect your privacy.

Sincerely,
The bloggers at This Ongoing War

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

22-Oct-14: Headlines often say more about the editors who compose them than about the news they report

BBC [Source] earlier this evening

BBC [Source] later this evening. Check out the video of the 'attack' at the
foot of this post and see if you understand why those apostrophes are there

Reuters [Source]

New York Times (with uncorrected spelling mistake) [Source]. No terror, no Arabs, no Israelis.
At the Times, they know how to avoid seeming judgmental.

Plain and unadorned at Israel National News [Source]

Aljazeera [Source]. Think about what must have gone through their photo editor's mind
as she sifted through the dozens of graphic and detailed news-agency photographs
of tonight's terror attack before making this odd and disturbing choice
The headline writers at Associated Press have gotten more than the usual degree of attention this evening. Here's Jonah Goldberg, writing a short time ago ["Anti-Israel Bias in One Headline (or Three)"] on the National Review's website:
So earlier today the Associated Press ran a story with the headline “Israeli police shoot man in east Jerusalem.” Then they changed it to “Car slams into east Jerusalem train station.” Finally, after widespread outrage on social media, they changed it to "Palestinian kills baby at Jerusalem station"... So it begins with the villain being the Israeli police. Then, in a nod to fairness, it’s changed to an evil car. Then finally, it’s a murderous Palestinian. It’s progress, I suppose. 
And here (below) is the actual video (probably from a camera pointing at the security video) of the vehicle mowing down the Israelis on the passengers-only platform at the Ammunition Hill Light Rail Station in northern Jerusalem tonight. There's little doubt, from watching it, that this was no accident. We also know now that the driver of the car has served time in prison for terror offences.


More information when we have it. Meanwhile as we write this there is large-scale rioting in several of the Arab neighborhoods of north and east Jerusalem.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

21-Oct-14: Trivialization pursuits

Denmark's iconic Little Mermaid statue, draped in a hijab (background
is here via Al Arabiya)
The New York Metropolitan Opera, in a co-production with the English National Opera, began a run of John Adams' 1991 opera The Death of Klinghoffer last night in Manhattan with a standing ovation and mixed reviews. Death is an artistic interpretation of the actual murder of Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly Jew confined to a wheelchair, who took a cruise with his wife in 1985 on the Achille Lauro in celebration of their wedding anniversary. Armed Palestinian Arab terrorists in the service of the Palestine Liberation Organization hijacked the ship as it sailed between Alexandria and Port Said, Egypt. In pursuit of their Palestinian liberation, the Arabs shot the disabled Jew at point blank range in the forehead and in the chest. Then they hurled the body, along with the wheelchair, into the Mediterranean. Wikipedia  provides a useful summary of the opera's culturally-uplifting contents, its entertaining narrative and its so-delightful musical innovations.

Five years after Klinghoffer's murder, Mahmoud Abbas who succeeded Yasser Arafat as head of the PLO, explained that
the seizing of the cruise ship in 1985 was a mistake, and apologized for the killing of disabled U.S. passenger Klinghoffer. [CNN, April 24, 1996]
The US State Department immediately rejected the Abbas statement. The creators of the opera on the other hand neither apologized nor ever seemed to quite understand why so many people told them their theatrical event was a mistake.

An angry crowd, mainly of Jews, assembled outside the performance's opening last night at the Lincoln Center in New York City, holding placards and chanting messages reflecting fury at the glorification of terrorists and the trivialization of the murder of a helpless man. The late Mr Klinghoffer's children joined their voices to those of the protesters decrying the cruel and cynical exploitation of their father's murder.
The cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1987 [Image Source]

This surprised the man who wrote it who offered this rather disingenuous comment to an interviewer:
“I expected there would be some pushback,” Mr. Adams said by phone recently. “But to see posters saying the opera is pro-terrorist, it’s really kind of shocking.” ["An Opera Under Fire", New York Times, October 16, 2014]
So lots of shock to go round. But really he's not that shocked. The opera has attracted criticism from the outset, most particularly because of the way it normalizes terrorists and attempts to understand them better. Or in the words of Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, the way its creator "rationalizes, romanticizes and legitimizes" their father's killing. The show runs, by the way, until November 15.

There's a great deal of silliness on display about the protests (from this twit, for instance), much of it revealing something we learned to our sorrow more than a decade ago: most people (by far) fail completely to comprehend (a) how terror differs from other forms of sociopathic behaviour and (b) how real the danger that it constitutes is to their own lives.

Outside the Met last night [Image Source]
We were going to offer some words of condemnation of the chain of decisions that led to the show going on. But they are already all over the web today. Instead, we want to point out how the trivialization of terror and terrorists works and where it takes us.

Sunday's edition of the Washington Post (and The Independent UK too) carries a stunning piece of reporting from Scandinavia, headlined "Denmark tries a soft-handed approach to returned Islamist fighters". Here's how it starts:
AARHUS, Denmark — The rush of morning shoppers parted to make way for Talha, a lanky 21-year-old in desert camouflage and a long, religious beard. He strode through the local mall with a fighter’s gait picked up on the battlefields of Syria. Streams of young Muslim men greeted him like a returning king. As-salamu alaykum. Wa alaikum assalaam. In other countries, Talha — one of hundreds of young jihadists from the West who has fought in Syria and Iraq — might be barred from return or thrown in jail. But in Denmark, a country that has spawned more foreign fighters per capita than almost anywhere else, the port city of Aarhus is taking a novel approach by rolling out a welcome mat. In Denmark, not one returned fighter has been locked up. Instead, taking the view that discrimination at home is as criminal as Islamic State recruiting, officials here are providing free psychological counseling while finding returnees jobs and spots in schools and universities. Officials credit a new effort to reach out to a radical mosque with stanching the flow of recruits. Some progressives say Aarhus should become a model for other communities in the United States and Europe that are trying to cope with the question of what to do when the jihad generation comes back to town... “I know how some people think. They are afraid of us, the ones coming back,” says Talha, a name he adopted to protect his identity because he never told his father he went to fight. “Look, we are really not dangerous”...
As we said, that's how it starts. How it ends is unlikely to be operatic or artistic.

There are no replacement moral compasses for those, like the town elders of Aarhus, who have lost theirs. When it's called discrimination to view jihadist savages as threats to the peace and lives of the public, and when that 'offence' is placed on the same level as the signing up of fresh foot soldiers for the killing fields of Syria and Iraq (at least), we are reaching the end of the show.

Monday, October 20, 2014

20-Oct-14: Sincere wishes for a complete and thorough recovery as soon as possible

Haniyeh: The power to ensure he is always
just a phone call away from arranging whatever
needs to be arranged [Image Source]
Generally, if you have some authoritative information about another person's medical condition or treatment, you keep it to yourself. Everyone is entitled to privacy when it comes to such things. But this note is about an exception.

Not for the first time, it's been revealed via media reports in the past day that the immediate family of one of the inner-circle Hamas families who have the Gaza Strip in their iron-fisted grip benefited from access to world-class Israeli medical care.

The details:
An Israeli hospital confirmed Sunday that it had treated the daughter of Hamas’s top leader in the Gaza Strip, weeks after a brutal war between Israel and the Islamist terror group. Avi Shushan, a spokesman for Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, said the daughter of Ismail Haniyeh was hospitalized for “a number of days” this month. He did not disclose what she was treated for. A spokeswoman for the Israeli military also confirmed the hospital stay. Hamas officials were not immediately available for comment... Haniyeh’s daughter was treated in Israel following complications during a standard medical procedure in Gaza, Reuters reported Sunday. [Times of Israel, October 19, 2014]
Haniyeh was, maybe still is, prime minister of a major part of the Palestinian political entity (see Wikipedia). It's complicated because in their world, reality is what the powerful demand it to be, and does not always fit well with the facts.

Happy, satisfied men [Image Source]
This hospitalization is not an isolated incident:
...Both Haniyeh’s mother-in-law and baby granddaughter were treated in Israel in the last year alone. On June 3, Maj. Guy Inbar, an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman, said the terror group leader’s mother-in-law, 68, was allowed to enter from the Gaza Strip to receive cancer treatment at a Jerusalem hospital. [Times of Israel, October 19, 2014]
And
Last November, Haniyeh’s one-year-old granddaughter was evacuated to an Israeli hospital in critical condition, but was returned to her family in Gaza after her condition was deemed incurable, an Israeli military spokesman said. The girl later died of her condition. [Times of Israel, October 19, 2014]
And
In early 2012, Haniyeh allowed his sister, Suhila Abd el-Salam Ahmed Haniyeh, to accompany her critically ill husband to Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, Israel, for emergency heart treatment. After successful treatment and care, the couple returned to Gaza without incident. Word of the unusual visit was released only four months later. It remains to be seen how this special treatment for the leader's relatives will be regarded by Gazans. [Wikipedia, and an earlier post of ours "29-Oct-12: File away for use when Haniyeh is next depicted as partner for peace"]
First, we wish the daughter a speedy recovery. Ditto for the mother-in-law and the grandmother and the other members of the clan. Going to an Israeli hospital means getting access to highly professional and caring treatment, by far the best within a radius of thousands of kilometers for reasons the Palestinian Arab insiders know better than almost anyone else (hint: it's connected with decades of willfully walking away from tough political decisions about whether to invest the torrent of foreign aid money at their disposal in medical care and education, or in weapons and ammunition.)

Mashaal, Haniyeh: In the Arab world, few understand
better how poorly the Gazans are served by
their Islamists overlords than these two [Image Source] 
For the rest of us, not so involved in worrying about the health and welfare of the Haniyeh family but very concerned about the well-being of our own family, friends and neighbours, there are some strikingly clear dimensions to this that we wish were better understood by outsiders and commentators. (And let's note in passing how very little news coverage this spate of hospitalizations has gotten in the mainstream news media).

We referred to them here last year ["18-Nov-13: When Hamas insiders need the best care around, to which Zionist Entity do they turn?"] via these Haniyeh sound bites:
  • “The Hamas movement has always stressed the need to oppose and combat all forms of official and popular normalization with the Zionist enemy" [Official Hamas statement quoted in Times of Israel, November 1, 2012]
  • Hamas would never acknowledge the Israeli state, said Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the Palestinian movement in Gaza, on Friday in Tehran. "They (West) want from us to stop resistance and acknowledge Israel but I herewith announce that this will never happen...  [Haaretz, February 11. 2012]
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh thanked Egypt and Iran on Thursday for their support in helping make “Israel scream with pain...”  [Times of Israel, November 22, 2012]
  • The only path in the Palestinian struggle against Israel is the path of armed resistance, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said during a visit to Iran on Monday, adding that the "gun is our only response to Zionist regime." [Haaretz, February 13, 2012]
It makes sense to us that the medical care given to another Haniyeh gets reported and discussed. Medical privacy is a high value. But there is a significant learning moment here - one which, if properly publicized to the Gazan Arabs and their Palestinian Arab kin might radically change the suspicions, conspiracy-spinning and hatred they channel at us. 

A man who knows what comes first [Image Source: Reuters]
We again wish the people of Gaza better times, better health, better lives. And we also wish them - and ourselves - a complete and rapid separation from that iron-fisted, ideologically-crazed cursed Islamist leadership which never hesitates to impose cruel hardships, high infant mortality, horrible medical care and massive managerial indifference on their own society while reserving to its own well-connected insiders the privilege of efficiently engaging with the Zionist Entity when it suits them personally.

And a final thought: when thugs like Haniyeh scream to the outdoor rallies and - from the underground bunkers they have arranged for themselves in the hidden bunkers buried deep within the concrete bowels of Gaza's own miserable hospitals - whips up the frenzies of the men with the guns and the rockets, do they want their downtrodden masses to know how really ineffective the Zionist genocide machine is? 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

19-Oct-14: Human bomb intercepted by IDF near Jenin? [UPDATE: He was not armed]

A news flash from the Jerusalem Post, the substance of which is unconfirmed as we write this (Sunday, 12:20 pm):
Defense Ministry personnel arrested a suspicious Palestinian at the Jalameh crossing near Jenin in the West Bank on Sunday. Police sappers were on the scene checking if a device that the suspect was wearing on his person is an explosive device.
Times of Israel has more:
Israeli security forces arrested a Palestinian man Sunday near the northern West Bank city of Jenin on suspicion that he was planning to carry out a suicide bombing attack in an Israeli city across the Green Line. The man was apprehended at a checkpoint next to the Palestinian town of Jalameh on the northern border of the West Bank, after security forces noticed what appeared to be an explosive vest strapped to his torso, Israel Radio reported. Sappers were attempting to dismantle the device while police interrogated the man at a facility adjacent to the checkpoint, according to the report. The checkpoint was closed to traffic and security personnel were searching the area for additional explosives.
And here's an update as of 2:30 pm Israel time, Sunday:
The Jalama crossing north of Jenin was closed after a Palestinian wearing a suspected explosive device arrived at the area. Investigators from the Ministry of Defense, responsible for the crossing, examined the suspect, while police dealt with the device. However, it was eventually revealed that the man was in fact unarmed. [Israel National News]
Sidenote: While this may read like a strange narrative for those unfamiliar with daily life here and the phenomenon of "hefetz hashud" (Hebrew for suspicious object) - and the turmoil that follows - this kind of thing happens often. Most people here realize being constantly alert implies being wrong some or even much of the time, which works out far better than failing to identify those not-quite-sure-about-them dangers. But beware of media sources that report suspicions as certainties.

19-Oct-14: Saudi Arabia's sense of where it fits in the war against the terrorists

Today's forward-looking Saudi Arabia [Image Source: BBC, October 2013]
Saudi Arabia "is at the forefront of combating terrorism" and believes strongly in "the need to take steps to spread the spirit of peaceful coexistence across the globe".

These and other startling revelations appear in an article entitled "Kingdom backs tough steps against terror" in Saturday's Arab News ("Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper... founded in 1975"), published in Riyadh. The report summarizes a speech delivered by by Dr. Ahmed Al-Salem, undersecretary at the Saudi Ministry of Interior, to the Crans Montana Homeland and Global Security Forum in Geneva this past week. (Here's a partial list of attendees.)

We don't mind admitting that we don't know much about Crans Montana or the Forum itself. It was established in 1986 and, though it is a Swiss entity, it is run from Monte Carlo, Monaco. The website of the organizers says:
Do not be surprised if after so many years you have not heard of the Crans Montana Forum – or very little. Indeed we do not invite the press and do not want media coverage in order to preserve the freedom and the quality of exchange of ideas that we organize... The Crans Montana Forum offers an alternative way to create, expand and deepen knowledge and business relationships in a unique and friendly atmosphere you will appreciate... Forums are not publicized. ["Crans Montana Forum: What makes us different"]
Notwithstanding the absence of the press, here is what the Saudi press says about the Saudi delegate's speech on the Saudi approach to terror. Given Saudi Arabia's deep, long and rich involvement in terror, these are comments worth noting (all direct quotes):
  • “From our experience, it has become crystal clear that terror has no religion, no ethnicity and no nationality,” said Ahmed Al-Salem, undersecretary at the Ministry of Interior. “Fighting against terror ideology is as important as any other method adopted to combat terror... Terror is the scourge of the 21st century that has left a catastrophic impact on the security and prosperity of human societies across the world...”
  • The Kingdom is at the forefront of combating terrorism as it has been the target of a number of violent attacks, he pointed out. Since 2003, the Kingdom has suffered 147 terror attacks in which 95 innocent civilians lost their lives and 569 people were wounded. Foreign employees and visitors were also among the casualties. Security forces foiled 250 plots to blow up domestic and foreign facilities and murder citizens and foreigners... He put the number of the security officers who were killed in terror attacks at 74, adding that 657 officers sustained serious injuries
  • “The situation demands that all countries intensify their efforts to combat and root out the menace and bring terrorists to justice wherever they might be,” he said. This can only be achieved with reinforced international, regional and bilateral cooperation, he said.
  • He also stressed the need to take steps to spread the spirit of peaceful coexistence across the globe.
  • ...The Kingdom had developed a comprehensive strategy over the past years to combat terrorism, focusing on the prevention of terror activities and rehabilitation of reformed terrorists. These efforts, he said, aim at fortifying and protecting the community from extremist ideologies by way of anti-extremist campaigns through the media, lectures and seminars. A unit to deal with terror has been set up in collaboration with educational, religious and social establishments, he said. 
  • The Kingdom’s efforts against terror also include signing a number of regional and bilateral agreements to cooperate in the combat, participation in the drafting of the comprehensive charter to fight international terrorism, besides urging other countries to set up a center to combat terror with a donation of $100 million.
A recent op ed in The Guardian takes a robustly different view of where the Saudis stand on defeating terror. Its title somewhat gives away the author's thesis: "To really combat terror, end support for Saudi Arabia" [Owen Jones, The Guardian, August 31, 2014]. Among his sharply critical points (all direct quotes):
  • Much  of the world was rightly repulsed when Isis beheaded the courageous journalist James Foley. Note, then, that Saudi Arabia has beheaded 22 people since 4 August. Among the “crimes” that are punished with beheading are sorcery and drug trafficking. Around 2,000 people have been killed since 1985, their decapitated corpses often left in public squares as a warning. 
  • Shia Muslims are discriminated against and women are deprived of basic rights, having to seek permission from a man before they can even travel or take up paid work. Even talking about atheism has been made a terrorist offence and in 2012, 25-year-old Hamza Kashgari was jailed for 20 months for tweeting about the prophet Muhammad. 
  • This human rights abusing regime is deeply complicit in the rise of Islamist extremism too. Following the Soviet invasion, the export of the fundamentalist Saudi interpretation of Islam – Wahhabism – fused with Afghan Pashtun tribal code and helped to form the Taliban...
  • Chatham House professor Paul Stevens says: “For a long time, there was an unwritten agreement... whereby al-Qaida’s presence was tolerated in Saudi Arabia, but don’t piss inside the tent, piss outside.” 
  • Although Saudi Arabia has given $100m (£60m) to the UN anti-terror programme and the country’s grand mufti has denounced Isis as “enemy number one”, radical Salafists across the Middle East receive ideological and material backing from within the kingdom. According to Clinton’s leaked memo, Saudi donors constituted “the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”.
He's writing for a British publication, so it's not surprising that he reminds Guardian readers how "Saudi Arabia is the British arms industry’s biggest market, receiving £1.6bn of military exports. There are now more than 200 joint ventures between UK and Saudi companies worth $17.5bn." His point, in our words, is that while ending terror ought to mean breaking off with the Saudis, that's just not going to happen.

And about that reference to "rehabilitation of reformed terrorists", the photo below was published by the Saudi government in 2009. The faces in it are of Saudi Arabia's 85 “most-wanted” terrorists. They include 11 former Guantánamo detainees, all of whom were in that Saudi Arabian rehabilitation program: plainly not such a huge success.

Saudi Arabia's "Most Wanted" List, February 2009 [Image Source]
That mention of "Clinton's leaked memo" probably means "WikiLeaks cables portray Saudi Arabia as a cash machine for terrorists", a report published in The Guardian  on December 5, 2010. It opens with these blunt claims:
"Saudi Arabia is the world's largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba – but the Saudi government is reluctant to stem the flow of money, according to Hillary Clinton. "More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups," says a secret December 2009 paper signed by the US secretary of state. Her memo urged US diplomats to redouble their efforts to stop Gulf money reaching extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide," she said.
A leaked State Department document published on that same date, "US embassy cables: Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists raise funds in Saudi Arabia", asserts that Lashkar-e-Taiba "fundraises in Saudi and the Gulf though charitable donations and front companies". Lashkar, generally thought to have been the party that executed the bloody 2008 Mumbai terror attacksis "one of the largest and most active terrorist organizations in South Asia, operating mainly from Pakistan".

All in all, the notion that the Saudi government claims to be at the "forefront of combating terrorism" raises some questions about what the word forefront could possibly mean when they use it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

18-Oct-14: If UK travel is in your plans... Part 1

Hassane, an aspiring
doctor [Image Source]
For anyone contemplating a visit to the UK in the near future, some food for thought in the wake of what we reported here ten days ago ["07-Oct-14: In the UK, more arrests today and it's all about Islamist terror"] about arrests made under Britain's Terrorism Act 2006 (the detailed charges are listed here):

Via AFP, October 17, 2014:
London: Four men appeared in a British court on Friday charged with an alleged terror plot to shoot to kill police officers or soldiers on the streets of London, and with allegedly pledging allegiance to the Islamic State organisation. The men, who are all from the capital and were arrested earlier this month, are accused of scoping out a police station and army barracks and obtaining a handgun and ammunition. A fifth man appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court at the same time charged with firearms offences... The men, all dressed in grey, prison-issue sweatshirts and trousers, were brought to court under heavy security as a helicopter flew overhead, and they appeared in the dock flanked by 10 police officers. Their lawyers did not apply for bail and they were all remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey central criminal court on October 27.
Majeed, MSci Physics student at Kings
College London: "The KCL community
has been shaken to its core
by the news
" of the arrest [Image Source]
Via BBC, October 17, 2014:
Five men have appeared in court charged in connection with a terror plot "to shoot, to kill, police officers or soldiers on the streets of London"... The men, who have been jointly charged with the intention of committing acts of terrorism, or assisting others to commit such acts, between 8 July and 7 October, are: Tarik Hassane, 21, of Dalgarno Way, West London; Suhaib Majeed, 20, of Church Street Estate, North West London; Nyall Hamlett, 24, of Great Western Road, West London; Momen Motasim, 21, of Hallfield Estate, West London...  A fifth man, Nathan Cuffy, 25, from London, faces firearms offences.
Prosecuting, Mark Dawson, told the court the case revolved around an alleged plot "to shoot, to kill, police officers or soldiers on the streets of London." He said 21 details within the terror charge related to different individuals, but did not give specific details about which parts of the charge related to which accused. The five men had appeared in the dock flanked by 12 police and security guards...  The charges also allege the men conducted reconnaissance of Shepherd's Bush police station and White City Territorial Army barracks... A woman, 19, has been released on police bail until next week pending further enquiries, police said. "These are some of the most serious charges of recent years, and the security reflected that," reports Daniel Sandford
And this via DailyMail UK, October 17, 2014:
A gang of British terror suspects laughed in the dock yesterday as they were charged with plotting to kill policemen and soldiers in London drive-by shootings... The young men, some of whom attended Westminster City School in London, were all born in Britain. Yesterday, when they appeared in court for the first time charged with intending to commit acts of terrorism, they were surrounded by 14 policemen and security officers, many wearing stab vests.
Hassane (according to The Telegraph, October 8, 2014) is
believed to be a medical student who was offered a place to study at one of the UK’s top universities. Tarik Hassane, 21, who is reportedly dubbed “The Surgeon”, was offered a place to study medicine at King’s College London. However, in an online discussion he wrote that he “missed out by a couple of grades” and was instead offered the chance to study biomedicine but it “didn’t fit in with his future plans”. He also said he believed that those who killed in Allah's name would be rewarded. [He] eventually chose to study in Sudan... The student lived at Princess Alice House, an estate near Ladbroke Grove, West London, with his mother, 56, a teaching assistant, and his younger sister, since 2010, according to The Sun. The family is believed to be of Moroccan origin.
None of these individuals has been convicted at this stage - naturally we are obliged to think of them as innocents, and to ignore their laughter in the accused's dock of the court. 

18-Oct-14: If UK travel is in your plans... Part 2

Shortly after the August 2001 massacre that took the life of our daughter Malki, a student union at a university located just a few kilometers north of Jerusalem where we live created a chilling replica of the scene of the savagery. Its purpose was to celebrate the killings of the innocent victims, most of whom were children. And to honour the life and death of the human bomb who exploded inside the Jerusalem Sbarro pizza shop, killing 15 people immediately, leaving a 16th (a young mother, whose two year old daughter survived) unconscious from that day until today, and grievously maiming some 130 other visitors to the shop and passers-by.

Here's how Mohammed Daraghmeh of Associated Press described what he saw in a syndicated report ("Palestinians recreate Sbarro bombing") of a visit to the university campus in September 2001:
...Palestinian university students opened an exhibition Sunday that included a grisly re-enactment of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Wearing a military uniform and a black mask, a Palestinian set off a fake explosion in a replica of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, where a suicide bomber killed himself and 15 other people last month. It was one of the deadliest attacks in a year of Mideast violence and drew widespread international condemnation. The exhibit at Al-Najah University in Nablus was put on by students who support the militant Islamic movement Hamas, which carried out the Jerusalem attack. Support for Hamas traditionally runs high at the university, which is a hotbed for Palestinian militants and has produced a number of suicide bombers. Thousands of people, most of them university students, visited the exhibit, which is to run for a week in the university cafeteria.
On the campus of Al-Najah National University. Nablus:
a student-initiated replica of the scene of a massacre.
Unmistakable message: support for the killers
and joy over the (mainly children) dead victims
[Image Source: Getty]
The student/terrorist cell at Al-Najah abandoned any pretensions to subtlety or political correctness in mounting their cultural/political shrine: it included
not only gnawed pizza crusts but bloody plastic body parts suspended from the ceiling as if they were blasting through the air... Inside are toppled stools, pizza crusts, police tape, broken glass, as well as photographs of the actual scene of carnage and of the young Palestinian, Izzeden Masri, who carried into the restaurant some 20 pounds of explosive reportedly hidden in a guitar." ["An Exhibit On Campus Celebrates Grisly Deed", New York Times, September 26, 2001]
Photographs of the innocent children blown to pieces that day were not part of the show because this was an event that existed in order to celebrate murder and murderers.

No indications of a serious internal Palestinian Arab debate over whether to condemn the perversity and barbarism of the event and those who put it together and attended it has ever emerged. The sickening exhibit is as close to an authentic snapshot of the opinions of the people who make up the Al-Najah community as any one could expect to find. And if - which we very strongly doubt - we are wrong on this, here is an official and open request from us to you: if you know that any segment of Palestinian Arab society felt wretched and/or betrayed by the notorious Al-Najah replica of Israeli children being deliberately and consciously murdered in this Hamas attack on Sbarro Jerusalem, write and tell us.

Now this: The student union at University of Manchester is going to hold a vote for a week starting October 24 on a proposal by its Socialist Workers Society to twin with Al-Najah National University and its Student Union for the next 3 years. This proposal, intended as a practical mark of solidarity with the Palestinian Arab institution, is being voted on at a time when Manchester's students have gotten plenty of information about the passion for terrorism embodied by Al-Najah and its students over many years. This hasn't stopped the initiative; as far as we can tell, it barely registers as a problem for the proposal's promoters.

Britain, 2014.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

15-Oct-14: Things we learned (or should have) during the last 3 years about dealing with terrorists

October 19, 2011: The convicted mass murderer who engineered the bombing
of the Sbarro pizza shop in Jerusalem arrives in Amman, Jordan, fresh from
her Israeli prison cell and about to embark on the high-profile life (continuing
until this very day) of a 'celebrity' murderer/terrorist [Image Source
In the next few days, three years will have passed since the consummation of the Shalit Deal. 

It's a theme to which we have returned often, here on our blog and other websites, on television and radio, in newspapers, via face-to-face meetings in far-away countries and here. We make no bones about it: that transaction, and the price Israel paid then and since, makes it a watershed, a learning moment. Tragically, the learning has been scant, and involves far too few public figures in this country. 

We do feel the Israeli public, which has gone through significant travails in these past three years, has undergone a significant change of heart away from supporting such trades. But clearly there is still much learning to be done.

Frimet Roth has a brief essay on the Times of Israel website, that went up in the last few minutes. Here's the first part of it.
Ten lessons the Shalit deal taught us   
FRIMET ROTH | Times of Israel | October 15, 2014
This week we mark the third anniversary of the Shalit Deal. On that day, October 18, 2011, my husband and I felt as though our child, Malki, murdered in the notorious Sbarro massacre of August 2001, was killed a second time. The anguish and torment we felt as we watched her released murderer, Ahlam Tamimi, triumphant and joyous, hug family and admirers celebrating her arrival at Amman airport were unbearable.  
How can that be compared to Malki’s actual murder? There are no expert psychological delineations of a normal reaction to such an experience. That’s because no other leader in the world has ever overturned 16 life sentences in one fell swoop to free a mass murderer, as prime minister Netanyahu did. No other leader freed scores of murderers and handed them back to their terror groups. No other leader trampled the rights of victims of terror the way he did. There are, therefore, no other instances of this torture to compare to ours. So please just take our word for it. Malki was indeed murdered twice.  
1. A stint in an Israeli prison rarely rehabilitates a terrorist. It punishes them and isolates them from bombs and missiles. But prison is where they belong for as long as our court deemed, just for our own and our children’s good. 
2. Terrorists who are freed from Israeli prison prematurely and return to terrorism are more dangerous than novices. This refutes the Shalit-camp contention that it’s immaterial whether terrorists remain in prison; there will always be a terrorist threat regardless, they say. But the fact is a released terrorist is the most lethal sort. 
3. Sending freed terrorists into exile does not render them harmless. They are equally capable of murdering while residing there as they would be in the West Bank or Gaza. Exile simply places them out of the reach of the IDF or other arms of Israeli security. Tamimi, the woman who engineered the massacre that killed my daughter, was “exiled” (in the government of Israel’s language) to the land in which she was born and raised, Jordan. Jordan is the very comfortable base from which she now travels and broadcasts freely throughout the Arab world, exhorting her audiences to respect and emulate the murderous actions of terrorists like herself...
The rest is at the Times of Israel. It makes some points worth sharing. If you have comments, please write them there. Also, please Tweet and Facebook it. We greatly appreciate the help of all who contribute to getting this message out as widely as possible.

Monday, October 13, 2014

13-Oct-14: Knowing there are people among us who exult in acts of terror, how concerned should we be now?

Islamist protest turned to riot in downtown Sydney,
September 15, 2012 [Image Source]
An article today (Monday) in The Australian gives exposure to the "worldwide action" against "crusaders" currently sought by the jihadist terrorists of ISIS or Islamic State as they now style themselves. It's based on the latest edition of Dabiq, a glossy English-language magazine that serves as one of its official voices to the world. Quotes:
  • The release of the magazine followed last month’s speech by the group’s official spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, in which the first public calls for attacks in specific countries were made. All terrorist attacks should clearly be attributable to “patrons” of Islamic State so they cannot be described by media as “random killings”, the new article said.
  • “It is very important that attacks take place in every country that has entered into the alliance against the Islamic State, especially the US, France, Australia and Germany,” an article in the magazine said. “Every Muslim should get out of his house, find a crusader, and kill him... It is important that the killing becomes attributed to patrons of the Islamic State who have obeyed its leadership ... otherwise, crusader media makes such attacks appear to be random killings.”
  • The article contained warnings not to include too many people in the planning of the attack, and to not over-analyse plans to the point they are aborted. Secrecy should be followed when planning and executing any attack. The smaller the numbers of those involved and the less the discussion beforehand, the more likely it will be carried out without problems,” it said. “One should not complicate the attacks by involving other parties, purchasing complex materials, or communicating with weak-hearted individuals. “‘Rely upon Allah and stab the crusader’ should be the battle cry for all Islamic State patrons.”
Published by ISIS.
Full content online here
A quick browse through Issue Number 4 of the ISIS magazine (full content online here) shows a pornography-like obsession with dead foes. They call them apostates, and heretics, and "quasi-jihadists, and mock mujāhidīn [who] exposed their duplicity and hypocrisy once again for no sincere Muslim to be left in the dark with doubt".

Though there is constant reference to Americans, Europeans, Australians and other "crusaders", mostly what the ISIS people kill is Arabs and Moslems, often in front of people holding high-definition digital cameras. 

As many observers have noted, these terrorists understand the power of the social media, as well as of detailed video and still-shot coverage of men mercilessly hacking the head off a helpless, bound, living, gasping prisoner, and of other men executed and then crucified.

They also understand how to convey simple, straightforward messages to Moslems living in the West:
...Do not let this battle pass you by wherever you may be. You must strike the soldiers, patrons, and troops of the tawāghīt. Strike their police, security, and intelligence members, as well as their treacherous agents. Destroy their beds. Embitter their lives for them and busy them with themselves. 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, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be. 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.” [Dabiq, Issue No. 4, page 9]
Anjem Choudary, the UK-resident Islamist preacher of whom we have written here recently, says he thinks the message ISIS is propagating makes sense. A month ago, a carefully-phrased profile of Choudary in The Guardian called him a man of "large claims and small following [who] has often been derided, not least by fellow Muslims, as a joke figure of no significance". But it went on:
Last year a report by the anti-racist organisation Hope Not Hate said that the network of groups run by Choudary has become "the single biggest gateway to terrorism in recent British history" and had "facilitated or encouraged" hundreds of young Muslims across Europe to join the more extreme militants fighting the Assad regime in Syria. While the report noted that there was no evidence that Choudary had instigated any terrorist plots, he was, it said, "a serious player on the international Islamist scene". [The Guardian]
Choudary managed to persuade The Guardian's interviewer that 
a motivated minority of young Muslims share his views... He dismissed all allegations of Islamic State (ISIS) atrocities, defended the use of crucifixion, and acknowledged ISIS leader... as "the caliph of all Muslims and the prince of the believers"... He refuses to condemn the executions [and beheadings of Westerners] or say whether he supports such brutal deeds...  His one certainty in this respect is that responsibility for the murder of Foley and Sotloff lies with the American government... Choudary speaks in the same matter-of-fact way in defence of crucifixion, stoning to death and, indeed, eternal hellfire, which he believes is the fate of everyone who does not accept the Qur'an as the literal word of God. It's a style that has provided him with a cartoonish media image as the go-to Muslim for incendiary declarations...  [The Guardian]
Choudary [Image Source: The Telegraph UK]
Perhaps like this one:
"I don't know how misinformed you are, but if I were even to consider going to Turkey, let alone Syria, not only would I be arrested and my passport confiscated but my wife, my mother and children would be harassed and my accounts frozen. You'll basically be treated as a criminal. We have an apartheid system in this country. Muslims are imprisoned over here. We can't travel abroad." At other times in our conversation he mentions that he has recently been to Spain and Denmark... [The Guardian]
Then as if acknowledging the misplaced excessive 'understanding' that advocates of terror frequently enjoy in liberal democracies, the interviewer from The Guardian notes:
There is a tendency in public discussion of Islam in Britain either to dismiss Choudary's type of scriptural literalism out of hand or to recast it as a product of alienation, oppression, marginalisation and racism. The idea that anyone sincerely wants to live in a society that exults in horrific executions and religious control of all aspects of public life is one that seems too far-fetched for mainstream society to accept. [The Guardian]
A Daily Mail UK profile of Choudary from September 26, 2014, shortly after he was briefly arrested on terrorism charges, has more quotes:
‘In the Koran it is not allowed for you to feel sorry for non-Muslims. I don’t feel sorry for him.’ Choudary also said the Islamic State was building the sort of society he would ‘love to live in’ with his family. But the father of four, who has spent years living off state benefits, said he would not leave Britain because he was born here. [Daily Mail UK]
We frankly find it hard to look at the full-frontal shots promoted in the ISIS magazine and think of one of ISIS' most prominent shills as "cartoonish". But that's not the only part of this that's hard for us to understand. The Daily Mail expressed it well:
Experts expressed amazement that it had taken so long for police to take action against the outspoken firebrand preacher. But the operation was launched only after careful consideration of Choudary’s recent public comments against the backdrop of a lifetime of incitement... Choudary has been an inspirational figure for a generation of Muslim extremists, including the fanatics behind the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich. He led Al- Muhajiroun, which was repeatedly rebranded in a bid to evade attempts to proscribe its activities. Members gathered under a series of names including al-Ghuraba, Islam4UK and Muslims Against Crusades, but their Islamist mission has always remained the same. Campaigners welcomed the arrests but said they should have been made sooner." [Daily Mail UK]
As the Washington Post, in a major article on Sunday ["In Britain, Islamist extremist Anjem Choudary proves elusive"], pointed out, Choudary is currently free, having been held by the police for just one night. The Telegraph UK says he is out on bail with a next court date only in January 2015.