Friday, September 12, 2014

Malcolm Lowe: Evaluating Mahmoud Abbas - And How to Relate to Him

by Malcolm Lowe

Everything has now gone wrong for Abbas. The destruction in Gaza matches the destruction of the Second Intifada, precisely what Abbas deplored in respect of Arafat. Hamas exploited the formation of the unity government for a scheme to overthrow Abbas in the West Bank. Haniyeh is projected to defeat him by 61% to 32% in the upcoming election for the Palestinian presidency.
Israeli politicians who propose to renew peace negotiations, with Abbas or whomever, are advised to make two basic stipulations. First, that Israel will negotiate only with a Palestinian government that officially recognizes its obligation to demilitarize Gaza. Second, that no agreements can be signed until the Palestinians hold the projected elections for their parliament and presidency -- and the outcome is known.

The recent hostilities between Hamas and Israel have prompted various Israeli figures, in the governing coalition as well as in the opposition, to advocate an enhanced role for Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority [PA], in an eventual solution for Gaza. The implausibility of this idea has been pointed out elsewhere. What both the proponents and the critics of this idea have not asked, however, is a more fundamental question: To what extent was Abbas complicit in the aggression of Hamas?

For sure, Abbas did once criticize Hamas when the organization began to fire rockets at Israel early in July 2014. Hamas officials thereupon branded him "a criminal" and "a Likud member." From then on, Abbas denounced only Israel. Moreover, the envoys of his PA sought to mobilize international pressure to stop Israel from mounting a ground operation to destroy the tunnels that Hamas had built into Israeli territory. In the intermittent negotiations moderated by Egypt to establish a lasting ceasefire, the delegation from Abbas's Fatah faction endorsed all the preposterous demands made by Hamas upon Israel as a condition for ending hostilities.

Worse than that, Palestinian Media Watch has documented a stream of statements by Fatah officials that expressed identification with Hamas aggression. Criticism of Hamas did not emerge again until Hamas began to execute alleged collaborators without trial. Only then did Abbas aide Tayeb Abdel Rahim denounce Hamas for perpetrating "cold-blooded murders." With good reason: Hamas had confined known Fatah activists under house arrest and these would be obvious targets for summary execution.

When Abbas met Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas supremo, in Qatar during August 21-22, international speculation was that he would plead with Mashaal for a fresh ceasefire. Quite wrong. The meeting ended with a joint call to the United Nations for "a resolution that would define a timetable for the end of Israel's occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state." More significantly, the two leaders emphasized that the Palestinian unity government formed by Fatah and Hamas in June "represents all the Palestinian people and looks after their interests."

Best Frenemies? Mahmoud Abbas (r) meets with the Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal in Qatar, July 20, 2014. (Image source: Handout from the Palestinian Authority President's Office/Thaer Ghanem)

That is, this became a meeting of the founders of the unity government, in order to review developments and make further joint plans. It confirms that the decision of Abbas to form the unity government was the starting point for all subsequent developments. In order to evaluate Abbas's motives for taking that decision, let us recall three well-established facts about him.

First of all, he is Dr. Mahmoud Abbas, having in 1982 earned a doctorate in Moscow with a PhD dissertation denying the Holocaust, which was published as a book in 1984. Here he claimed that the Holocaust was a product of Nazi-Zionist collaboration aimed at driving Jews out of Europe into Mandatory Palestine. He also suggested that the number of Jewish victims may have been under a million, but that the Zionists inflated the figures in order to gain support for Israel. More recently he has made statements deploring the Holocaust as an "unforgivable crime against the Jewish nation," yet without repudiating his doctoral thesis.

Second, Abbas regarded Yasser Arafat's decision to launch the Second Palestinian Intifada in September 2000 as a ghastly mistake that inflicting great suffering on the Palestinian population without making significant political gains. But thirdly, Abbas and the Fatah movement in general have never differed from either Arafat or Hamas about the ultimate aim of Palestinian nationalism: the disappearance of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian state in the whole area of Mandatory Palestine.

As explained elsewhere, all the Palestinian factions are agreed upon three fundamental "national issues": 1) Israel must withdraw to the lines preceding the Six Day War; 2) a Palestinian state must be created with Jerusalem as its capital; 3) all the Palestinian refugees of 1948 and 1967, together with their millions of descendants, must be allowed to return to where they were living up to 1947. Of those three Palestinian "issues," the so-called "international community" is obviously sympathetic to the first two but does not take the third one seriously, regarding it as absurd.

For the Palestinians, on the other hand, the return of the refugees – which implies the creation of an Arab majority in Israel – is the most important issue. Hamas and its Islamist confederates long ago drew the conclusion that all peace negotiations with Israel are futile; at most an armed truce with Israel for a fixed period of time is permissible. Abbas and his Fatah faction did believe that negotiations with Israel could be useful if they led to a "two-state solution" in which the first two issues are decided in favor of the Palestinians, but without a Palestinian renunciation of the "right of return." That would enable the Palestinians to establish an internationally recognized state whose supreme aim would be to work for the return of the refugees, whether in international forums or by a return to violence.

The counter-strategy of the Netanyahu government was to demand that in a peace settlement the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state, a demand that implicitly excludes the Palestinian "right of return." By March 2014, Abbas realized that his strategy had failed. Previously, he had been using security collaboration with Israel to weaken Hamas, his chief rival. Now he chose the reverse tactic: by forming a Palestinian unity government supported by Hamas as well as Fatah, he hoped to use Hamas to weaken Israel to the point of succumbing to his demands.

This was a catastrophic miscalculation on the part of Abbas. Hamas had its own reasons for joining a unity government. Above all, Hamas had been made bankrupt by the Egyptian decision to eliminate the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, so it relied on the promise that the unity government would pay the long overdue salaries of its 40,000 civil servants. When that failed to happen, Hamas was left with nothing but its massive arsenal of weapons, to which it desperately resorted. For fifty days it mounted an attack upon Israel while proclaiming an absurd list of demands for a ceasefire, above all the payment of those salaries.

Everything has now gone wrong for Abbas. The destruction in Gaza matches the destruction of the Second Intifada, precisely what Abbas deplored in respect of Arafat. Furthermore, as the Israeli Security Service (Shin Bet) has discovered, Hamas exploited the formation of the unity government for a scheme to overthrow Abbas in the West Bank, while brutally injuring Fatah operatives in Gaza. Indeed, when Abbas was plotting further tactics against Israel with Mashaal in Qatar, he simultaneously moaned to the Emir of Qatar, the financial godfather of Hamas, about Mashaal's plots against himself.

Worst of all, an opinion poll shows that the Palestinian public -- in its characteristic mode of collective insanity -- accepts Hamas's claim of "victory" over Israel. Whereas until recently Abbas enjoyed clear superiority over Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh in opinion polls, now Haniyeh is projected to defeat him by 61% to 32% in the upcoming election for the Palestinian presidency. Remember that the agreement to form a unity government stipulated that fresh elections for both the Palestinian parliament and the presidency should take place within six months. The same poll ascribes even greater popularity to Haniyeh in the West Bank than in Gaza (66% versus 53%) and predicts that Haniyeh would also defeat the erstwhile Palestinian favorite, imprisoned terrorist murderer Marwan Barghouti.

In another misjudgment, Abbas finally opened his mouth to denounce Hamas's responsibility for the destruction of Gaza just days before that poll was published. That is, he was silent when the destruction could have been prevented, but chose to criticize it precisely when the broad Palestinian public had euphorically decided that it was a price worth paying.

Obviously, Abbas is a man whose policies have failed, who is out of touch with his own people, and who is due to be replaced -- probably by a Hamas candidate -- within months. Why should any Israeli vainly negotiate with him in these circumstances?

The answer is to be found in an article published by Gatestone Institute on June 13, before Hamas started its rocket campaign. In view of the formation of the Palestinian unity government on June 2, it was pointed out:
"The essential point that Israel needs to grasp, and to make understood internationally at every opportunity, is this: President Abbas will not become responsible for rockets in Gaza only when they are fired; he has made himself responsible for those rockets -- and for their elimination -- now. The new Palestinian government restores the rule of the PA to Gaza. So under its jurisdiction fall the rockets in Gaza and – for that matter – also the network of tunnels that Hamas has built with the aim of penetrating into Israel and kidnapping more Israelis."
The conclusion drawn was that any financial support from abroad for the unity government should be predicated on its agreement to eliminate the rockets and tunnels under international supervision, on the model of the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons. In other words, this was the first formulation of what is now called the "demilitarization of Gaza" – a recommendation made already weeks before the hostilities erupted. (The demand was repeated in articles published on June 24 and July 16.)

In mid-July, the demand was adopted by the Israeli government. It was subsequently endorsed by two meetings of the foreign ministers of the European Union and by the U.S. President, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense in various statements.

Unfortunately, their statements have mostly taken the form of demanding the disarmament of all the terrorist groups in Gaza, but without explicitly saying who should be responsible for doing it. Regarding Syria, the demand was pinned upon its President Assad, who was told to expect very unpleasant consequences if he rejected it. Therefore, in the present instance the demand should be imposed upon the Palestinian unity government. Moreover, neither the EU nor the US needs to commit a single soldier or airplane to imposing that demand: they can -- as was pointed out in the recent Gatestone articles -- promise unpleasant consequences by threatening to suspend financial support for the Palestinian government.

Israel, as it happens, has already embarked in this direction by withholding money from the tax revenues that it collects and passes on to the Palestinian Authority, ostensibly to cover unpaid bills to Israeli utilities. Israel just has to hint that this will continue until the Palestinian government acknowledges its obligation to demilitarize Gaza.

This is all the more urgent, since the Palestinian government has now recommitted itself to paying the 40,000 Hamas officials in Gaza in addition to the 70,000 PA officials who have been receiving salaries in Gaza since 2007 without actually working. In other words, the proposal is to pay 110,000 employees for the work that is currently done by 40,000 – and this out of a Palestinian budget that is already (as usual) in deep deficit.

As for Israeli politicians who propose to renew peace negotiations, with Abbas or whomever, they are advised to make two basic stipulations. First, that Israel will negotiate only with a Palestinian government that officially recognizes its obligation to demilitarize Gaza. Second, that no agreements can be signed until the Palestinians hold the projected elections for their parliament and presidency -- and the outcome is known.

All the above might also deflate the Palestinian public's delusions of victory. Palestinians will sober up only when they grasp that they reduced Gaza to ruins in vain and that without disarmament they will just have to live in those ruins. To allow them reconstruction before that will merely encourage fresh outbreaks of militant folly.

Malcolm Lowe


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Matthew Vadum : Patriots Vow to Fight on for Benghazi Answers

by Matthew Vadum

Questions about the Obama administration’s decision to let helpless Americans die in the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya two years ago won’t go away anytime soon. 

But that won’t stop former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who desperately wants to be the next president, from trying to make the whole Benghazi episode that happened under her watch go away. So far the Clinton operation isn’t working.

Charles Woods, father of Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, who died trying to fend off the Islamist attack, said he can’t understand why the Obama administration won’t answer even the most basic questions about what happened in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012.

“When a mission is compromised, the warriors, they know they will be extracted,” said Woods, who was also a Navy SEAL himself. “During all of the hours that this attack happened, there was no attempt made to rescue.”

The Obama administration’s refusal to launch such a rescue mission stands in stark contrast to its willingness to swap Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier who defected to the Taliban in Afghanistan, for five members of the terrorist high command. The White House and Secretary of State John Kerry justify the cynical Bergdahl transaction by loudly proclaiming that it is U.S. policy never to leave a man behind.

But to President Obama, it is standing policy to leave Americans to their doom when a rescue mission interferes with reelection plans. At the time of the attack, the Obama White House made a conscious, calculated decision to let American officials perish overseas, fully expecting the incurious pro-Obama media to ignore what really happened.

In the midst of a heated reelection campaign, Obama had claimed al-Qaeda was decimated and on the verge of annihilation. When it turned out the terrorist organization was doing just fine, he decided to scapegoat a YouTube video instead of admitting that al-Qaeda was roaring back, stronger than ever, under his watch.

For two weeks after the attack the Obama administration said over and over again that the incident in Benghazi was inspired by a low-quality anti-Islam video on YouTube. The American resident who made the video that virtually no one watched was jailed on the thinnest of legal pretexts after then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed to grieving relatives over the flag-draped remains of the four dead men to get the video maker she claimed caused the attacks. White House adviser Susan Rice went on TV to back up the administration’s lie that the assault was related to a video. Eventually the administration acknowledged it was a terrorist attack.

During the attack, U.S. forces were in place in nearby Sicily, an hour or so away by air, but the order to fly to Benghazi in an attempt to rescue the besieged staff at the complex never came. That order was never issued by President Obama, because he knew it would reveal his policy of appeasement towards Islamic totalitarians to be in shambles as the Middle East and North Africa fell into the hands of America’s enemies.

“We still do not have the answers we need — the truthful answers we need as to why these American heroes were left to die,” Woods said at a press conference yesterday just outside the U.S. Capitol.

Today is the second anniversary of the election-season terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The White House has been stonewalling ever since the attack started in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, first advancing the false narrative that the assault had something to do with an anti-Islam video nobody saw. After the lie that incensed locals spontaneously came together to hit the consulate fell apart, the Obama administration has been blame-shifting furiously.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said the controversy won’t go away till answers are forthcoming.

“Now some are tempted to ask, ‘What difference at this point does it make,’” Gohmert said, echoing the infamous comment uttered by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she attempted to deflect responsibility for the deaths of four Americans killed during the Benghazi attack.

“And the answer should come swift and clear anytime it’s asked, because until we know what happened, we can’t avoid the same mistakes in the future,” he said.

The Obama administration “is following the example that was learned in the Clinton years, that if you keep refusing to provide documents, keep refusing to give answers, then eventually you can get to the point where you can say that’s old news,” Gohmert said.

“And the mainstream media can sometimes be compliant and say ‘Well it is old news,’” he said. “Well, it’s not old news because we still don’t have the answers.”

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said internal State Department documents have surfaced that show that three months before the Benghazi attack security guards were fleeing their posts “out of fear of their safety.” Those documents consisted of emails obtained by Judicial Watch under the the Freedom of Information Act, which is “at this time, is the best way to get information out of this administration — an administration that is committed to secrecy and stonewalling on something that would have taken down previous administrations,” Fitton said. “Which is the lying by a president and his officials, to protect his reelection, about a terrorist attack that killed four Americans.”

In an exclusive interview with FrontPage magazine after the press conference, Fitton said the narrative invented by White House aide Ben Rhodes after the attack “was used to guide [Ambassador] Susan Rice in her appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows” after Sept. 11, 2012.

The Rhodes narrative was crafted to make the president look good, not to provide an honest accounting of what happened in Benghazi, Fitton said.
“But other emails also released along with the Rhodes email show as the attack was happening, the State Department, presumably Susan Rice and people around her, were getting real-time information, they were concerned about a kidnapping, there was talk of an attack, no talk of demonstrations, no talk of videos.”
“It was what it was, which was an attack,” he said. The government had intelligence at the time that someone using the ambassador’s phone, issued by the State Department security operation, who was calling from the hospital saying that Stevens was alive and well.”

If the ambassador was alive and well at the hospital, why wasn’t an attempt made to rescue him, Fitton asked rhetorically.

“That piece of information is as outrageous as anything else we found, including the Rhodes email, because it showed the State Department had intelligence the ambassador was alive and nothing was done to rescue him we now know.”

And the American people still don’t know what Chris Stevens was doing in Benghazi, helpless and far away from his home base in the capital city of Tripoli.

One plausible theory is that Stevens may have been overseeing some kind of covert Obama-authorized weapon-smuggling operation in Libya.

Stevens was “gun-running to jihadists,” investigative reporter Aaron Klein told radio host Michael Savage yesterday. Klein is author of the soon-to-be-released book,The Real Benghazi Story: What the White House and Hillary Don’t Want You To Know.

How Stevens died remains a mystery. Although last month the Obama administration rushed to order a completely superfluous federal autopsy on the body of teenaged hoodlum Michael Brown that added nothing new to what was known about how the Ferguson, Mo.-based cop-attacker died, the Obama administration hasn’t released autopsy results for Stevens.

Like the deposed Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, the ambassador was savagely sexually abused and murdered by adherents of the so-called religion of peace, according to news reports at the time that the Obama administration has not refuted.

Whether Americans will ever find out the truth while President Obama remains in power remains an open question.

Matthew Vadum is an award-winning investigative reporter and the author of the book, "Subversion Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts Are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers."


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Michael Curtis: Prevailing over the Islamic State

by Michael Curtis

What’s in a name?  That which we call ISIS by any other name would smell as foul.

It is puzzling that President Barack Obama has preferred the appellation "ISIL."  It does make a difference.  The variously named terrorist group began in 2003-4 as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), after the invasion of Iraq by the U.S.  Its original leader was killed in an air strike in 2006, and he was succeeded in 2010 by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.  A new name, ISIS, was adopted in April 2013, reflecting what was supposed to be the merger of AQI with the Syrian based al-Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front.  A break between the two groups took place a few months later.  

Translating Arab phrases into English has its pitfalls, but it is generally agreed that ISIS means the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Syria).  Most commentators used this definition.  However, President Obama on numerous occasions, especially his speech at West Point on June 19, 2014, has referred to the group as ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).  There is an obvious political reason why he prefers “the Levant” to “Syria.”

Obama’s use of the term “Levant” is surprising in view of its wide ramifications.  The word, used by English speakers to refer to the Eastern Mediterranean and nearby islands, is less used than it once was for referring to the politics and societies of Middle East systems.  Though precise definitions have varied, "Levant" usually implies an area from the border of south Turkey to Egypt, including Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Palestinian-controlled territories, and Cyprus.  The terrorists are concerned with this area.

Both ISIS and ISIL are less meaningful or irrelevant since in June 2014 the group’s name was changed to “the Islamic State” (IS).  This reflected its territorial conquests in Mosul, Tikrit, and other areas of northern Iraq.  At the moment, the Islamic State controls areas, about 12,000 square miles (the size of Belgium or the state of Maryland), in west Iraq and in north and east Syria.  About eight million Iraqis and Syrians live in areas it controls.  It is the richest terrorist organization in the world.  Its resources come from a variety of sources, including oil sales from the oil and gas fields it controls, criminal activities such as robbing banks, intimidating businesses or blackmail or racketeering, getting protection money from non-Muslim groups, genuine business transactions, and collecting ransoms for release of kidnapped or captured Westerners.  Its army numbers at least 10,000 militants.

All this and its belligerent formal statements make the Islamic State the greatest threat to peace in the world.  Its leader, al-Baghdadi, has made himself the Islamic caliph of the new entity.  There is no secret about the nature and intentions of the State.  It says that the sun of jihad has risen from Aleppo to Diyala.  Muslims must gather around the caliph so that they may return to what they once had been for ages, the kings of the earth and knights of war.
In ominous words, the world is informed that the legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organizations will become null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority and the arrival of its troops into their areas.  One can therefore expect that the caliphate will extend not only over the whole of the Middle East, but also to Spain.  With extravagant ambition, it may extend to the whole world.

Western countries and Middle East states have all now recognized that the Islamic State is a formidable, ruthless foe, with its universal ambitions and strong military force enhanced by its captured equipment such as U.S. Humvees and Russian T-55 tanks.  The Middle East states finally appreciate the problem.  For some time President Assad, wanting to defeat and eliminate the Free Syrian Army opposing him, did not challenge ISIS and even supported it to some extent.  Thus, Assad aided the growth and success of ISIS, which, in return, captured territory from the FSA and imposed its rule on the area.  Finally, the Assad regime is more willing to act against the major threat and has carried out a number of airstrikes against some of IS's headquarters.  Similarly, Arab states and wealthy Sunni individuals in the Gulf area have substantially reduced if not totally ended any funding to the IS. 

That flow of money from the Arab states must be ended.  They know that their regimes are in danger from IS.

The Obama administration, if belatedly, understood the threat, and carried out airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq.  Yet Obama has been unwilling, so far, to carry out similar strikes against the ISIS positions in Syria.  Even if one does not see or admit that Iraq and Syria are failed states, no real border exists between them.  Politically, one can understand that for the United States, Syria is a more complex problem than is Iraq.  Nevertheless, the argument for striking Syria is as good as for striking Iraq.  Does Obama need congressional approval for action in Syria?  Though the legal position is not altogether clear, the U.S. Authorization Act of 2011, which authorizes funding for the defense of the U.S. and its interests abroad, would justify the decision of Obama and Congress to use military force there, as it has been used in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

The United States perforce has to lead the fight against the Islamist threat.  It has to go beyond humanitarian relief operations and protecting the 1,200 U.S. personnel in Iraq.  It is almost certain to undertake more airstrikes against the IS command centers, supply lines, and bases, and strikes that will help the Iraqi forces.  One can envisage action by Special Operations Forces, training, intelligence, and giving military weapons to the Kurds, and to Syrians, both the Assad regime and some of his moderate opponents.

It appears that a coalition formed by the U.S. of at least nine countries is in formation to counter the IS threat.  It is disconcerting that no Arab state has yet joined that coalition.  Nor have the Sunni tribes in Iraq, some of which supported ISIS because of their resentment against the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, joined the coalition.

In all of his speeches, President Obama has made clear that U.S. action will not be unilateral.  Now, in spite of difficult political problems, the U.S. must help in forging alliances among improbable and sometimes formerly feuding associates, be they Arab Gulf States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kurds, and even Iran, and lead in the most urgent fight today – that of Islamist extremism.  It is not a simple task, but it is an essential one.

Michael Curtis


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Arnold Ahlert: Terrorist Recruiters in America

by Arnold Ahlert

A federal grand jury investigation going on all summer in St. Paul, Minnesota has been focused on a group of 20-30 Somali-Americans allegedly conspiring to join the fight with ISIS in Syria. Most of the youths being investigated have been going to the Al Farooq Youth and Family Center and mosque in Bloomington, where sources told the Star Tribune that 31-year-old Amir Meshal, an American of Egyptian descent, may have influenced them to join the jihadist movement.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been aware of Meshal for quite some time. The native New Jerseyan was detained and interrogated by the agency in 2007 in Kenya, following his escape from Somalia. Meshal admits he attended a terrorist training camp in Somalia, but insists he isn’t a terrorist, claiming he went to that war-torn nation to enrich his study of Islam.

A 2009 lawsuit filed by the ACLU on his behalf alleged that after being arrested in a joint U.S.-Kenyan-Ethiopian operation along the Somalia-Kenyan border, Meshal was transferred between jails in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia without ever being charged or having access to counsel. During that time he was allegedly interrogated by two Supervising Special Agents of the FBI more than 30 times, during which he said he was repeatedly threatened with “torture, forced disappearance and other serious harm” in order to coerce a confession. He was ultimately brought back to the United States and released without being charged.

Despite the ACLU’s contention that Meshal’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights were violated, along with the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, the case was dismissed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on June 13. Despite buying the government’s argument that national security considerations abroad preclude judicial remedies for the mistreatment Meshal allegedly endured, Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, was distressed by the decision. “The facts alleged in this case and the legal questions presented are deeply troubling,” he contended, before conceding his hands were tied. “Although Congress has legislated with respect to detainee rights, it has provided no civil remedies for US citizens subject to the appalling mistreatment Mr. Meshal has alleged against officials of his own government.”

This past summer, Meshal began occasionally showing up at the Al Farooq Youth and Family Center, where hundreds of Muslims show up for prayer on Fridays at one of the largest mosques in the Twin Cities. He was known for having lots of money and driving a fancy BMW. In June, a parent at the center complained about Meshal promoting radical Islam. That aroused the suspicion of mosque director Hyder Aziz, who was so concerned about Meshal’s intentions he went to the police that same month and obtained a no-trespass order. “I made a decision that he needs to be removed from the premises,” Aziz said. “I will call police if he ever shows up and they will arrest him.”

It may be too late. Federal authorities believe that at least a dozen Somali men and three women have traveled to the Middle East to join in jihad directly, or aid the terrorists in some capacity, including two people who attended Al Farooq and disappeared, presumably to Syria. One is a 19-year-old Somali woman from St. Paul who was not identified. The other is 20-year-old Abdi Mohamed Nur who played basketball at the center and attended the Bloomington mosque. He disappeared around the same time the no trespass order against Meshal was issued.

In June the FBI prevented another teen from boarding a plane at the Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport because they believed his final destination was Syria. He had been dropped off at school by his father, after which he allegedly changed clothes and headed to the airport with a suitcase. When the FBI arrested him they made it clear to his family they were less interested in him than who recruited him.

Yet as the grand jury investigation has revealed, the level of distrust among members of the community is impeding the investigation. “The relationship between our community and law enforcement has been, at times, very tense and full of suspicion,” said Omar Jamal, director of the St. Paul-based nonprofit American Friends of Somalia. “We’re improving, but we’re not there yet. Both sides are coming to realize that in order to stop these recruitments, we have to work together. One side can’t accomplish the task without the other.”

Nonetheless, many of those who have been subpoenaed are invoking their Fifth Amendment rights and refusing to answer questions.

Hashi Shafi, director of the Somali Action Alliance in Minneapolis, claims many people want to speak, but are “scared.” Yet Shafi and other community leaders are urging families who have lost children to jihad recruitment to speak up. “We are the victims of this violent extremism so we have to stand up and lead these kinds of efforts,” he explained.

In the meantime, Meshal himself remains at large. The 18-year-old youth stopped at the airport in June has accused him of being his recruiter. The youth’s attorney upped the ante, accusing Meshal of being a double-agent for the FBI and ISIS. The lawsuit filed by the ACLU provides some insight into the accusation: Meshal claimed the FBI tried to turn him into a government informant, taking him off the government’s no-fly list if he cooperated. And while the youth’s lawyer is sticking with that assertion, the teen himself will not testify against Meshal unless he is granted immunity.

Last month two Americans from Minnesota, Douglas McCain and Abdirahmaan Muhumed, aka Abdifatah Ahmed, were killed fighting for ISIS. In a shocking revelation that underscores America’s continuing vulnerability to terror attacks, the Metropolitan Airports Commission conceded that Ahmed held a Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) security badge, granting him airport security clearance and unfettered access to the tarmac and planes to perform his job as an aircraft fueler and cleaner. He performed the jobs intermittently between 2001 and 2011.

Shafi and other area leaders are apparently committed to rooting out the extremism afflicting their community. They have begun holding meetings with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department and Department of Homeland Security’s civil liberties division. An additional meeting is being planned with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and airport administrators. U.S. Attorney Andy Luger is also meeting with local imams on a regular basis “to develop strong personal and professional relationships with leaders in the Somali community,” in an effort to stop those “who seek to recruit Somali and other youth into a life of crime, violence and terror.”

Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann will introduce legislation aimed at preventing any citizen who goes overseas to engage in jihad from returning to America. “In my opinion, they should lose their American citizenship,” she explained. “Because at that point, you have turned against the United States. ISIS has declared the United States as their enemy. Once you join an enemy army … you should, by definition, lose your American citizenship, therefore your passport. You should have no ability to get back into the United States.”

All of these efforts are well-intended and may also be effective—up to a point. “For some, terrifyingly, the jihad has become a badge of radical chic,” writes journalist Alex Massie. “A lifestyle choice like any other.”

It is doubtful that the Obama administration is up to the task of deterring people from this lifestyle. Obama’s newfound commitment to take seriously the threat of ISIS has a troubling backdrop — namely, the administration’s ongoing determination to avoid identifying the threat as Islamic terror, Obama’s initial dismissal of ISIS as a “javee” organization, and a 2012 purge of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Analytic Lexicon, eliminating the words “Muslim,” “Islam,” “Muslim Brotherhood,” “Hamas,” and “sharia” in the process.

Absent a radical change of direction by this president and his administration, America will remain fertile ground for terrorist recruiters and their willing followers. Amir Meshal is ostensibly one of them. It is virtually certain there are many more.

Arnold Ahlert


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Burak Bekdil: Confusion over "Jihad"

by Burak Bekdil

Shortly after he founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, Hassan al-Banna made very clear what jihad was about: "It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations and to extend its power to the entire world."
No idea how an inner struggle can be achieved with stones and missiles.
The "Turkish jihadist" is a part-time jihadist, playing the jihadist at home for domestic consumption and the blessed peacemaker in front of major world powers.

Although it is a common male name in Turkish (Cihat), the Turks, and apparently many others too, have a confused mind about the Arabic word "jihad." Most Turks have felt contempt for "the jihadist terrorists" of al-Qaeda. They feel the same for the "jihadist/Salafist" Islamic State that captured large swathes of Syrian and Iraqi territory this summer, and took hostage 49 Turks, including the consul general, at their consulate compound in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on June 11. At the same time, thousands of Turks identified themselves as "jihadists," just like the IS's men, when they took to the streets to protest Palestinian casualties and attack Israeli diplomatic missions in July and August.

In 2013, now Prime Minister (then foreign minister) Ahmet Davutoglu sanitized jihad when he said that: 1) There is no connection between jihad (literally, "struggle" in Arabic) and terrorism, 2) Jihad is the name of fighting for our honor, and 3) For us, jihad is a sacred notion. Apparently, the Turks had a jihadist for a foreign minister.

Davutoglu's understanding of jihad was probably about how the Quran mentions it 41 times and what the word referred to a millennium ago: an inner, spiritual struggle combined with an outer physical struggle for salvation. In modern history and today, however, jihad is a physical struggle against the enemies of Islam, and it can be violent (just jihad) and non-violent (diplomatic jihad, for instance).

Davutoglu said in 2013 that "any attempt to link jihad to violence and terror would be using it like neo-cons and pro-Israelis in America use it."

Ironically, more or less on the same day as Davutoglu denied any connection between jihad and terror and warned everyone "not to taint this notion," a prominent Islamist visiting Istanbul reminded everyone what jihad meant. Mohammed al-Hindi, Islamic Jihad's leader, said: "Our jihad began with stones, and goes on with state-of-the-art missiles." It would be more sensible to vouch for al-Hindi than for Davutoglu, as al-Hindi's organization even seems to have a copyright on the sacred notion that jihad is "Islamic," and it fights for jihad.

Shortly he founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 (31 years before Davutoglu was born), Hassan al-Banna made very clear what jihad was about: "It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its laws on all nations and to extend its power to the entire world."

Al-Banna was certainly not modest in his goals, and his followers seem no less ambitious. One of political Islam's founding fathers and prominent ideologues, Sayed Qutb, also a Muslim Brotherhood member, declared all non-Muslims to be "infidels" -- a term which justified fighting them.

More recently, a 2004 fatwa by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi simply made it a religious obligation for Muslims to abduct and kill U.S. citizens in Iraq. The fatwa advocated a war of Arabism and Islamic jihad against the British and the Jews.

Who is the authority on the meaning of "jihad" -- Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna (left), its current spiritual leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi (middle), or Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu?

And, according to Hamas's charter, "the only way to engage in the [inherently irreconcilable struggle:] jihad between Judaism and Islam, between truth and falsehood is through Islam and by means of jihad until victory or martyrdom."

It should be clear to anyone with a primary school education that the gentlemen al-Banna, Qutb, al-Qaradawi, and the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, are not referring to a spiritual inner struggle for salvation. No idea how an inner struggle for salvation can be achieved with stones and missiles.

Last January, thousands of Erdogan fans waving colorful placards filled rally-grounds. One placard read, "You'll never walk alone;" another greeted "Our hero Erdogan." And one particularly popular slogan, accepted with smiles and thanks by Erdogan, was "Jihadist Erdogan" which prompted this columnist to write an op-ed piece, "Jihadist Erdogan." One could have gone to jail for calling Erdogan "a jihadist," but his party loyalists had now perfectly legitimized the description.

But once again I was wrong to assume when Turkish Islamists like to be called jihadist and when they do not. I had angered the foreign minister. He told a TV interviewer, without naming names, why I had called Erdogan by the name that the prime minister greeted with smiles and thanks: "This is the crusader's mentality. Or a reflection of the neo-orientalist mentality. This is an explicit attack, not only on the prime minister, but also on the Islamic civilization and faith."

Furthermore, "It is an assault," Davutoglu asserted, "to cause our prime minister to be mentioned by a different code, especially by translating that word [the original Turkish word –'mücahit'] into English as 'jihadist.'"

So, it was a compliment to call the prime minister by an adjective, but an explicit assault on him -- and the whole Islamic civilization --by referring to him with one of the only two possible English translations of the same adjective. Clearly, this was not a case of "lost in translation."

Could the problem be about being a jihadist? No. I have known hundreds of proud Arab jihadists who love to be called jihadists. What makes the case of a "Turkish jihadist" unique, then? Could the problem be about being called a jihadist in English only?

The pragmatic and shrewd Turkish jihadist is programmed to maintain a delicate equilibrium where he feels that he maximizes political benefits: He loves to be called a jihadist at home and on the Arab Street, but not on the Western Avenue. He is, instinctively, a part-time jihadist, playing the jihadist at home for domestic consumption and the blessed peacemaker in front of major world powers.

Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily News and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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Dan Margalit: You can't win with B'Tselem

by Dan Margalit

Chief Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni said the Israel Defense Forces would investigate the alleged crimes that Israeli troops committed during Operation Protective Edge. Who was the first to dismiss this move and ignore the fact that the Military Police was already investigating two criminal cases? Human rights group B'Tselem. How surprising. This organization, whose director, Hagai El-Ad, has essentially become a Hamas apologist by refusing to call it a terrorist group, is convinced the IDF is at fault. He called the new probe a cover-up. 

By assuming this posture, B'Tselem says that the U.N. panel that was appointed to investigate the operation is more credible than the IDF investigators. This, despite its anti-Israeli chairman, William Schabas. In fact, B'Tselem has not come out against Schabas in any discernible way. 

B'Tselem is one of the senior members of an anti-IDF coalition. Its members include Haaretz contributors. When Gideon Levy, a columnist at the paper, penned a piece that criticized Israeli Air Force pilots ("Lowest Deeds from Loftiest Heights"), many readers said they would end their subscription. Another Haaretz reporter, Amira Hass, recently wrote that Hamas would be wise to reject Israel's demands during the Cairo cease-fire talks. 

Another member of the coalition is J Street. Although it calls itself a pro-Israel lobby, it said the U.S. should punish Israel for appropriating 4,000 dunams (1.5 square miles) in Gush Etzion. Yes, this move was ill-conceived and wrong, but I am still baffled by J Street's reaction. How can a pro-Israel lobby seek punitive steps against the very state it is lobbying for? Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must be telling himself, "My work here is done." 

On one end of the spectrum, you have Jeremy Ben-Ami, the founder and President of J Street, advocating punitive action toward Israel. On the other end, there is the EU, which said that despite its disapproval of the Gush Etzion decision, an economic boycott was off the table. What a fascinating dissonance. As usual, "Your destroyers and they that made you waste shall go forth from you" (Isaiah 49:17).

El-Ad and Co. have every right to make their views heard. To quote Voltaire, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." But they are guided by a flawed logic. El-Ad, Levy, Hass and Ben-Ami all want Israel to shirk its duties when it comes to investigating Operation Protective Edge. They would rather Israel wait for a hostile verdict by those who could not care less about the plight of displaced Gazans and who want to inflict harm on Israel. El-Ad and Co. have hurt those good people here in Israel who would like to see the IDF uphold moral standards during wartime. 

We can at least take comfort in the fact that we do not rely on El-Ad and Co. Neither are we dependent on the right-wing extremists who say that upholding the rule of law and exercising self restraint is debilitating left-wing ideology. They too have been critical of Efroni. 

Back in the day, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion recited a Nathan Alterman poem about an immoral IDF soldier who killed an innocent Arab woman during the War of Independence. The poem lambasts the Israeli fighter for shooting the woman in the heat of the battle. Those words, delivered from the Knesset podium, set a moral code for Israel to follow. Israelis have to uphold ethical standards so that their conscience is free, not because they would like to counter a malicious U.N. secretary-general who is bent on embarrassing them. 

We need to investigate Operation Protective Edge for two reasons. The first, to make sure we shed our immorality. The second -- to determine the exact number of fake U.N. buildings that served terrorists. These supposed "health facilities," which housed the entrances to the tunnels that were used to kill our beloved soldiers, were made to look as if they were run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.

Dan Margalit


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They aren't who they say they are, really.

by James Longstreet

It has been said that “All wars are religious.”  In some instances this point is difficult to make. But in so many others, it is glaringly obvious. To suggest that religion is not integral to the current conflicts in the Mideast is folly of the highest degree. To stand before a nation and assert that ISIS is not acting on their beliefs is a gross misrepresentation.

There are some things in this world that seem to hold, and one such item is that terrorists tell you exactly why they are doing what they are doing. Their “cause” is of the utmost to them and they will do all to make certain that the “cause” is advertised in full. One does not have to believe they are correct or justified.  However, it is indisputable that they always want their “word” to be accurately portrayed. It is fundamental to their mission.

ISIS declares themselves soldiers for Islam. They seek a caliphate controlled Mideast, a state. To declare, as the President has declared, that something less is true belongs in the wishful thinking column. Just as Obama declared that the world owes so much to the Golden Age of Islam, he can’t grasp the fact that this war is a religious one.
Recall how we were told by Obama that the world, civilization, owes a “debt to Islam."

The debate on whether we in fact do or do not is one for a different time. But not so debatable is the fact that “if” there was some type of “golden age” in the Muslim world, it halted  long ago, abruptly and for inexplicable reasons.  Those who descended from the “golden age," as the President refers, routinely rely on a hole in the ground for a toilet, treat their women like an NFL running back does in an elevator, and decapitate non believers for video consumption.

President Obama has declared that ISIS (ISIL) is not really Islamic and that they really don’t have a “state." Apparently we are being prompted to drop those notions. 

We should know by now, almost 100 years after the Mideast countries were drawn up by fatigued post WWI authorities, that those of the region have little regard for lines drawn by unauthorized European heathens and infidels. For the President to declare ISIS has no state is to assume some definition of “state” that these people have little regard.

Obama suggests that Muslims, ISIS, making war in the name of religion is not the case in this instance.  What is the case, however, is that merely because the idea that ISIS is religiously driven is incompatible with the President’s belief system, it does not make it untrue.  Below is a list of Muslim conquests and dates.

The conquest of Syria, 637, The conquest of Armenia, 639, The conquest of Egypt, 639, The conquest of North Africa, 652, The conquest of Cyprus, 654, The conquest of North Africa, 665, The first Arab siege of Constantinople, 674–678, The second Arab siege of Constantinople, 717–718, Conquest of Hispania, 711–718, The conquest of Georgia, 736, The conquest of Crete, 820, The conquest of southern Italy, 827

One must wonder where Obama went to school.  He must have missed this lesson.  Muslims making religious war is nothing new to the world, and to pretend that this is not yet another instance is unrealistic.  The pretending that Major Nadal Hassan was not religiously motivated in his murders is now joined by another misguided imaginary perception. 

James Longstreet


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Israeli Government seeks to intensify anti-terror enforcement

by Edna Adato, Yori Yalon and Israel Hayom Staff

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes special meeting on Islamic State group's potential threat to Israel • Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to introduce legislation aggravating counterterrorism measures taken by Israel's law enforcement agencies.

"We will do what needs to be done to protect ourselves against terrorism," says Justice Minister Tzipi Livni
Photo credit: AP

Edna Adato, Yori Yalon and Israel Hayom Staff


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