Thursday, May 28, 2015

28-May-15: A subjective glance at the FIFA tumult

Already iconic, a news photo of FIFA executive committee officials
being led away by police via side exit of a luxurious Swiss hotel
on Wednesday morning, with bed sheets serving to ward off
the public eye [Image Source]
We know as much (or little) about the explosive scandals at FIFA as anyone else who relies on open-source information. What has caused to stay tuned to developments at "the world’s most powerful and loathed sports organization" is not so much the "beautiful game" as the repulsive role played in FIFA's affairs by one of the world's major funders of Islamist terror [see "30-Jul-14: Is Qatar's stupendous wealth connected with Hamas' ongoing terrorism?"].

And as we have written here dozens of times during the past decade, we remain astonished (and appalled) at how one of the world's most influential sources of news and analysis gives a distorted, understanding, even empathetic, platform for the dissemination of the terrorism-friendly views [for instance, "01-Apr-15: A question for Jeremy Bowen and his morally-challenged BBC handlers"] espoused by Hamas and by its principal funder.

Thus our feelings, as we look at the news of a massive unfolding criminal investigation ["US indicts 14 over ‘rampant’ FIFA corruption", Financial Times, yesterday] are probably more narrowly focused than those of others.

That's why we post below links to two reports focused on just one of the senior FIFA figures now in the hands of police. Naturally, like all the other men arrested yesterday or about to be brought into custody, he is entitled to his day in court and the presumption of innocence.

First, from our friends at the BBC, a tweet posted this morning:

Click to see the Twitter source for this May 28, 2015 item

And for some not-so-irrelevant context, a report that's almost four years old and in our view at least as ignominious. Since it's from Reuters, there is little doubt it is, and ought to be, part of the news record. But let's absorb the fact that the existence of the news report below, including its startling headline, has gone un-noted (other than by people with interests like those on which we blog here) in the dramatic news coverage of the past 24 hours: 
Source: Reuters, October 17, 2011
Trinadadian Warner says in a letter to the Trinidad Guardian, which will be published in full on Tuesday, he intends to speak out on the affair and highlighted who he felt was to blame for his downfall. "I will talk about the Zionism, which probably is the most important reason why this acrid attack on Bin Hammam and me was mounted," Warner told the newspaper.
(Austin "Jack" Warner hardly faded into the background after his FIFA chapter ended in suspension and then resignation four years ago. He is today a member of the parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and has been the head of the Independent Liberal Party (ILP), which he formed, since 2013.)

This week's BBC reporting on the FIFA man's "downfall" makes no mention of Zionism ("the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel"). Nor, as far as we can see, has Reuters (or any other mainstream news source) taken the opportunity to follow up that 2011 story by putting Warner's ignominious accusations against Zionism (!) into the context of the vast money-and-influence-buying scandal unfolding this week.

Perhaps they should. Then again, sports and news reporting, like history, are no longer what they used to be, and probably never will be again.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

27-May-15: Amnesty shines light on fabrications and deletions in last summer's Gaza fighting

In the Gaza Strip, the authorities (Hamas) have their customary ways
of dealing with rivals [Image Source]
A major report by Amnesty International into the shadowy workings of the terror organization Hamas was released yesterday (Tuesday). It reveals how - in the midst of the massive rocket war launched against Israel by Gaza's Islamist rulers last summer - the Islamists conducted a vicious Arab-on-Arab blood-letting campaign directed at their fellow Gazans.

At the time it was underway, the Hamas savagery received scant news media attention (and as far as we know, no photographs) from the numerous reporting teams sent to cover the fighting with Israel. It's by no means clear this will now change.

As Philip Luther, director of its Middle East and North Africa Programme, and no friend of Israel, describes it, the Hamas ruling clique seized 
"the opportunity to ruthlessly settle scores, carrying out a series of unlawful killings and other grave abuses... In the chaos of the conflict, the de facto Hamas administration granted its security forces free rein to carry out horrific abuses including against people in its custody. These spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes, were designed to exact revenge and spread fear across the Gaza Strip... Not a single person has been held accountable for the crimes committed by Hamas forces against Palestinians during the 2014 conflict, indicating that these crimes were either ordered or condoned by the authorities."
A few excerpts [the full text is here as a PDF]:
  • Hamas forces abducted, tortured or attacked members and supporters of Fatah, their main rival political organization within Gaza, including former members of the Palestinian Authority security forces. 
  • As well as carrying out unlawful killings, others abducted by Hamas were subjected to torture, including severe beatings with truncheons, gun butts, hoses and wire or held in stress positions. Some were interrogated and tortured or otherwise ill-treated in a disused outpatient’s clinic within the grounds of Gaza City’s main al-Shifa hospital.
  • "Hamas authorities and leadership have continuously encouraged and facilitated these appalling crimes against powerless individuals. Their failure to even condemn the unlawful killings, abduction and torture of perceived suspects leaves them effectively with blood on their hands," said Philip Luther.
  • [Quoting the Gazan brother of a Gazan victim of the Hamas barbarians:] "Even if he had been sentenced to death, there would have been an appeals process and other alternatives. What they have done is nothing to do with justice, it’s just criminal..."
  • Many of these unlawful killings were publicly billed as attacks against people assisting Israel during the July and August 2014 conflict as part of an operation, codenamed “Strangling Necks”, to target “collaborators”. However, in reality, at least 16 of those executed had been in Hamas custody since before the conflict broke out. Many had been awaiting the outcome of their trials when they were taken away from prison and summarily executed...
The specific case of Ayman Taha gets special treatment in the Amnesty report itself. Taha's father had been one of the founders of Hamas and the son was Hamas' representative to Egypt’s intelligence authorities. It's interesting that what follows below is barely mentioned in today's news coverage of the report. 

News reports on August 7, 2014 (an example is below) said Taha's body had just been brought to al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. But that's not exactly right. Amnesty provides the previously-missing background: Taha had been detained by Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades on January 23, 2014 and since that time had been in a state of "totally disappeared". In fact, Taha's body had turned up at al-Shifa three days before those August 7, 2014 news reports dumped at the hospital's front door with bullet wounds to the head and chest. Then (keep track) it disappeared for a few days - no explanation is offered - and then turned up a second time which is when the reports appeared in the Arab papers. Hamas had conceded back on February 22, 2014 that "it was holding him on charges of misconduct, corruption and profiteering", though Amnesty points out that it knows of no formal charges having been brought against him. 

Here's what the news industry had been told, and dutifully repeated. It's the text of an AFP news item from August 7, 2014
Amnesty shows that the August 2014 AFP report
blaming Israel for Taha's death is fabricated [Image Source]
A former spokesman for Hamas was found dead Thursday in a neighbourhood of the city that was heavily bombed by Israel, the movement said. Ayman Taha was killed when Israeli forces “targeted him in the apartment where he was with several others in Gaza City” in the Shejaiya neighbourhood, the group said in a statement... He was severely wounded and died later, the statement said. The body of Taha, who was living in the Bureij refugee camp in the centre of the enclave, “arrived at Shifa hospital in Gaza City before it was transferred to his family’s home in the Bureij camp,” a medical source said. [AFP, August 7, 2014]
Thanks to what Amnesty has disclosed, and no other media outlet till now, it is fairly plain that Hamas was inventing stories to cover its acts of score-settling, rival-eliminating murder. A pity the global news syndication agencies (including AFP) skipped over that part of Amnesty's document in today's news items.

Luther again:
"The Hamas leadership repeatedly calls for rights and justice for Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere... Hamas forces have displayed a disregard for the most fundamental rules of international humanitarian law. Torture and cruel treatment of detainees in an armed conflict is a war crime. Extrajudicial executions are also war crimes... [T]he Hamas authorities are dragging the name of justice through the mud and condoning these appalling crimes..."
AFP, in its coverage of the Amnesty indictment, adds
A March report by Amnesty found that rockets fired during the war by Gaza militants killed more Palestinians than Israelis.
And for readers waiting patiently for Hamas to change its nature in the wake of the Amnesty revelations, the response of a spokesperson, quoted in the New York Times, blames Israel (hard to believe, no?):
for creating a “situation of chaos” during the war. Mushir al-Masri, a spokesman for Hamas, said that Israel had attacked the Gaza security services, preventing them from managing Palestinian internal affairs properly. "The Amnesty report about Hamas needs to be more precise," Mr. Masri said in a telephone interview.
Stand by for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, condemnation of Hamas by the UN Human Rights Council, and flying pigs.

27-May-15: The cheque for Gaza is in the mail, or whatever

The headline from Aljazeera's coverage of
the October 2014 donor conference in Cairo posed a question
to which we now have the answer [Image Source]
Money, who has it and who does not, the corruption that accompanies it, and the frequent silliness of those providing it, plays a key role in the terrorism that has long been at the heart of the Arab/Israel conflict.

Exactly half a year ago, we wrote ["23-Nov-14: Gaza's wealth and where it is - and is not - going"] that Hamas had emerged as the world's second wealthiest terror organization; its annual income is on the order of a billion US dollars. 

Along with the wealth controlled by the organization itself, its kleptocratic, blood-stained leadership [details here: "27-Jul-14: Gaza's death toll keeps rising but for Hamas insiders it's all worth it"] has made out like thieves - in particular Mousa Abu Marzouk and Khaled Mashaal who despite their lowly origins are generally reckoned today to be personal billionaires. As we said last November, invoking one of the world's wealthiest despots, Arafat would have admired their cynical brazenness.

An  International Donor Conference convened in Cairo on October 12, 2014 to tap into the willingness of Gaza's (and Hamas') friends to fund a full recovery. As the BBC reported back then ["Gaza reconstruction facing obstacles despite aid"], the fund-raiser was an incredible success. The organizers had hoped to raise $4 billion, but ended with pledges to Gaza of an incredible $5.4 billion, 
a powerful signal that help was at hand... [A]bout half has been earmarked for the direct repair of war-damage - the reconstruction of buildings, roads, electricity supply lines and sewerage systems. It is not immediately clear how the rest of the money will be spent - but Gaza has no shortage of needs.
Whether clear or not, the Donor Conference website took a shot, so to speak, at clarifying the goals of the money-raising effort which were
to strengthen the basis of the ceasefire and improving political solution prospects for the conflict through (i) Strengthening the Palestinian government's ability to assume its responsibility in the rehabilitation of Gaza Strip. (ii) Enhancing the existing UN mechanism for import and export of goods and materials to and from Gaza. (iii) Providing the financial support required for reconstructing Gaza Strip.
Worthy ambitions. And you have to take your hat off in recognition of the donors' selfless generosity. Some of them may be astronomically wealthy but let's give credit where it's due: they really wanted to help. Their fraternal ties to the Arabs of the Gaza Strip provided a powerful incentive to do the right thing. As we noted, major pledges of funding came from Qatar ($1bn). Saudi Arabia ($500m), Turkey ($200m), United Arab Emirates ($200m), the European Union ($568m), the United States ($212m) and the United Kingdom ($32m).

Now it's six months later, and here's what we know. It comes from IRIN, an agency that used to be part of the United Nations, and is now an independent provider of 
unique, authoritative and independent reporting from the frontlines of crises to inspire and mobilise a more effective humanitarian response.
In a report datelined May 22, 2015, it updates us on what happened to all that Gaza-bound generosity.
As of late April, donors had given only 27.5 percent of the promised $3.5 billion, or $967 million... Gulf Arab states and Turkey have spectacularly failed to fulfill their pledges to Gaza...  Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Kuwait between them have handed over just over $50 million of the $900 million they pledged, according to a new World Bank report... IRIN asked Saudi Arabian, Qatari and Kuwaiti representatives for comment, but had not received responses by the time of publication... The release of the World Bank’s numbers comes a month after UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, said that not a single one of the more than 5,000 completely destroyed homes in Gaza had been rebuilt...  [IRIN, May 22, 2015]
Qatar is spending tens of billions of dollars on getting ready to host the 2022 FIFA soccer World Cup. Of the $1 billion it pledged to its Gazan brothers, it has delivered 10 percent. The Saudi Arabians have produced just one-tenth of the $500 million they promised. Turkey pledged $200 million and has sent $520,000. Kuwait, not to be outdone, also pledged $200 million - and has not sent a penny.

Such vast failure; such trivial media coverage [Image Source]
The unimaginably rich United Arab Emirates said it was giving $200 million; the World Bank says it has no data for how much arrived. But the United States which pledged $277 million has handed over 84% of that. The European Union promised $348 million, and 40% has shown up so far which, compared with the Arabs, is not too shabby.

(Essentially the same thing happened when the previous Gaza donor conference took place in 2009. See "10-Aug-14: Only a fraction of the Gaza reconstruction cash arrived last time, says Hamas insider".)

This might be a good time to remind ourselves of who does, and who does not, fund the world's strangest refugee organization, UNRWA: see "20-Nov-13: It's Wednesday. Time for yet another UNRWA funding crisis". Clue: if you're looking for Arab participation in the sharing of the financial burden, bring a magnifying glass. It's an open scandal, and an education for anyone wanting to comprehend the rank hypocrisy that has been part of the Arab world's "support" for the Palestinian Arab side in the conflict for the past several generations.

Which brings us to this evening and the fact that all of Israel came to a very nervous standstill this evening (Tuesday) around 9:00 pm when incoming-rocket sirens suddenly wailed all over our tiny country's south, indicating a rocket attack from Gaza.

Impoverished or not, money that enables the building of rockets, tunnels and luxury homes for the arch-terrorists who control the place is, was and probably always will be available in generous servings because, at the end of the day, they are what Hamas stands for.

Not for the first time, it's evident [as this post of ours makes plain: "6-Jul-14: For Hamas, Fatah and the PA, those rockets are about money, power, foreign aid and (naturally) corruption"] that the death and mayhem that results from Islamist hatred and jihad has cash at its heart.

And what of the rights, the interests, the well-being of the Gazans? We estimate they rank about as high up the ladder of Arab concern as the safety and security of  the Syrians, the Iraqis and the Libyans and the countries they lived in until mind-numbingly vicious Arab-on-Arab savagery descended upon them.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

24-May-15: Another Jerusalem stabbing attack

Damascus Gate, called Sha'ar Shechem in Hebrew [Image Source]
Pentecost, which we know by its Hebrew name Shavuot, ended a few hours ago as the sun set on a gorgeous Jerusalem Sunday.

Coming exactly seven weeks after the start of Passover, it's the day (two days if you happen to live outside Israel) we mark as the anniversary of receiving the Torah at Mt Sinai. The Jerusalem community in which we live, like Orthodox Jewish communities the world over, honours the occasion by having all-night learning sessions focusing on Jewish themes and, in our case, the presence of guest speakers.

As dawn approaches, there is a widespread practice to then walk to the Old City and to take part there in early morning prayers (Vatikin) in the Kotel plaza. as the sun starts to rise.

That's the background to some disturbing news.

Two as-yet-unidentified Jewish youths, making their way to the Kotel in the early hours of this morning (Sunday) in order to take part in that once-a-year mass gathering at dawn, were stabbed by an assailant from behind and suffered moderate stabbing injuries to the back and upper torso. The attack took place, according to Ynet's report, on Chabad Street (we have also seen reports that it was on Sultan Suleiman Street) near East Jerusalem's Sha'ar Shechem, Damascus Gate. That's the Old City entrance most accessible to pedestrians making their way in from Jerusalem's north side.

The two injured boys were given first aid at the scene by members of a Magen David Adom first-responder ambulance team and then rushed to Hadassah Medical Center for treatment. Thankfully, they are said to be in fair, stable condition.

The attacker was identified via security cameras installed in the area. Police found him and the knife inside his home, located within the walls of the Old City. Age 19, he is now under arrest.
Braided between the oldest sites in history is one of the most modern security systems on Earth – “Mabat 2000” – a complex network of visible surveillance cameras in Jerusalem’s Old City, established at the turn of the century. Sixteen staff members are assigned to different cameras in the Old City’s Observation and Intelligence Center, with special attention paid to the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Temple Mount... According to National Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, there is a reason the area has approximately one camera for every 125 permanent residents. “Over 40,000 people live in the area of the four different quarters,” he said during a tour of the facility Monday afternoon. “This doesn’t include the thousands of tourists each day.” ["The eyes of the Old City" | Jerusalem Post, June 18, 2013]
Though news coverage outside Israel is thin, Jerusalem has been the site of a rising tide of violent, murderous attacks in recent months. Click here to review our past posts about recent such incidents. Most people we know are surprised to see just how much Arab-on-Jew violence, much of it lethal or intended to be, is happening - and how little impact this is having on news reports about events here,

Friday, May 22, 2015

22-May-15: Yet another Australian "normal guy" joins barbarians as government announces passport-driven counter-strategy

The Islamist propaganda video features an Australian
doctor urging Moslem health workers to join him in Syria
[Image Source: Screen shot captured from ISIS video]
Australia's Border Force Counter-Terrorism Unit says it has stopped nearly 300 people deemed national securit­y risks from leaving via its airports over the past nine months. Those individuals earned the attention of the authorities by being identified as "foreign fighters, jihadi brides and those involved in financing terrorism".

Not all were stopped, however. A glitzy 15-minute long recruitment video (featured here), published in April by one of the most blood-lusting of the various Islamist groups building a new Middle East "stars" a Australian-trained doctor raised in a Perth home where he "attended Al-Hidayah Islamic School in Bentley and Lynwood Senior High School, both in Perth’s eastern suburbs".

Now he regales in the nom-de-slaughter Abu Yousef Al-Australi from a new home somewhere in the killing fields of Syria. Pointedly ignoring the reality of the torrential Arab-on-Arab carnage going on hourly in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and the fact that he himself has now become a willing participant, the man - real name Tareq Kamleh - declares that despite what we might think, it's Australia that has blood on its hands:
"I saw this as part of my jihad for Islam, to help the muslims ummah (community) in the area that I could, which is the medical field," Dr Kamleh says in an Australian accent... [B]eing in IS-controlled territory made him "very happy". "I wished that I'd come a lot sooner." [Sydney Morning Herald, April 25, 2015]
Australians who knew Tareq Kamleh before he came a lot sooner are portraying him in ways familiar to anyone who follows media coverage of Islamist terrorists once they are outed. Australian news reports quote him as "a pretty normal guy"; "no signs of holding extreme Islamic views"; "a womaniser who regularly drank alcohol" (according to a woman friend); "seemed to be sound and focused on the care of his patients"; and so on.

There are also those who know the son of a Palestinian father and a German Catholic mother ("who converted to Islam and became ultra-religious") from Thornlie, a Perth, West Australian suburb, as "a lazy doctor who would flirt with his patients and use his charm and good looks to get nurses to do his work". And (naturally) he's also called "a bit of a lost soul" with a "massive ego" [Brisbane Times, April 29, 2015].

(Is he connected to another Australian Kamleh convicted of murdering a prostitute 15 years ago - see this legal note? We don't know - no one seems to have mentioned it in the media yet.)

Australian media: Trying to make sense of the lunacy
[Image Source]
Setting to one side for a moment the self-delusional aspect of this fellow's moment in the media spotlight, the sociopathic pre-occupation of the ISIS Islamists with doctors is in fact a known reality. Just a month ago, it was reported that ISIS foot-soldiers
executed 10 doctors who refused to treat wounded members of the terrorist organisation. The jihadists sustained injuries while fighting in the Hammam al-Alil area and required medical treatment. However, the doctors were unwilling to support the terror group's activities, and refused to treat them. They were shot in the head for their defiance. Graphic photographs of their final moments were released on social media, while Al-Sumaria satellite television reported the details of the doctors' murders in the northern Iraqi desert... IS fighters routinely carry out such horrific executions in accordance with their radical interpretation of Sharia law. [Source]
Kamleh, speaking directly into the camera, expresses his disappointment that greater numbers of Moslem professionals, especially in the health fields, have not already made the religious decision he did and join the jihad. He reiterates what a very happy camper he is in his new home, a move he calls "very well educated and calculated", by promising he does not intend to return. This might be a popular decision to judge from the viewpoints widely posted on Australian forums and discussion groups in the wake of his appearance.

But he might not even have that choice. Once he and his fellow savages have had their fill of massacre, beheadings and rape (and assuming he remains alive that long), he may need to give creative consideration to his future in Australia.

An article in The Australian yesterday explains why:
Second-generation Australians involved in terrorism face being stripped of their citizenship, along with dual nationals, as part of the Abbott government’s efforts to tighten national security laws. The Australian understands the government is examining ways to revoke or suspend the ­citizenship of hate preachers and foreign fighters, including Australians who have one or both parents born overseas, in a bid to tackle the growing threat of homegrown jihadi­sts. The government is actively considering whether it would be possible to strip them of their Australian citizenship, forcing them to take out citizenship in the country of their parents’ birth... National security agencies are watching a large number of radic­alised second-generation Australians... Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said yesterday there was a “determination by the government to keep our population as safe as we possibly can, particularly with the current threats, particularly given the amount of radicalisation that is taking place in back rooms, in kids’ bedrooms”... "It’s hard for me to walk down the street without people saying: ‘Why do we allow these people to come back into the country if they are going off to fight in a foreign land? Why do we allow them to return to Australia even more radicalised to do harm to us here?' ...Under the Australian Citizenship Act, the minister has the power to revoke citizenship... The government wants to modernise the citizenship laws to deal with Australians going to Syria or other terrorist zones and taking up arms with jihadis... “We work now with the Islamic leaders and we identify radical threats,’’ the Immigration Minister said. “We want to work even more closely with them in regards to any proposed changes around citizenship."...Mr Dutton said: “It is a privilege to be an Australian citizen even by birth and if people are involved in terrorist activities the government is examining what options might be available in terms of suspension of privileges..." [The Australian, May 21, 2015]
There has been a scattering of mild, soft-focus condemnations of the doctor in the recruitment video by Australian Muslims (like these worthy words from an imam in outback Australia). And spokespeople from the Australian medical profession who have spoken out in clear, measured terms expressing revulsion at the direction Kamleh's life and profession have taken.

So far, however, we have found nothing meaningful or unambiguous from the West Australian school (in particular) that educated Kamleh or from any of the numerous (and flourishing) Islamic representative bodies in Australia in condemnation of Kamleh's call to do jihad with his ISIS savages or taking any position on it. (It's difficult to be sure about things you can't locate. We will of course be happy to be corrected. Everyone wins if we are wrong on this.)

22-May-15: Tough, crucial questions at Europe's borders

Nice Moroccan boy wanting to spend more time with immigrant mother
in Italy? Or murder-minded gunman with no problem shooting
dozens of tourists in the back? [Image Source]
Go back and take a look at our comments on the most recent random murder attack on people in Tunisia ["19-Mar-15: In Tunisia, terrorists target tourists... again"] and you can see that there were all manner of speculations about what triggered the terror attack on a busload of foreign tourists (from Italy, Japan, France, Spain, Colombia, Australia, Britain, Belgium, Poland and Russia) exiting a bus to visit a museum in Tunis. Two dozen victims lay dead, most of them shot in the back by two masked gunmen, before the shooters were done.

A key suspect has been arrested. Here's what's known today:
  • He was arrested in Gaggiano, Italy, a few kilometers south of Milan. His mother and two siblings have lived there legally for "many years". It's a known tourist town.
  • His name is Abdel Majid Touil. He's a Moroccan national, age 22. How much he actually appreciates tourism and tourists is now an open question.
  • Italian police are saying he arrived in Italy on a so-called "migrant boat" loaded with 90 others, that set sale for Italy from somewhere in North Africa in February. Photographs of the freshly arrived migrants are above and below.
  • How did a "migrant", desperate enough to sail across the Mediterranean to rejoin his mother and siblings (who have been residing in Italy for years at that point), manage to then leave Italy within a few weeks, go back to north Africa, take part in a shooting attack on unarmed people, killing nearly two dozen of them, then slip (march?, parachute?) back into Italy in time to be arrested there for terrorism and murder? The Wall Street Journal asked officials at Italy's Interior Ministry: they say they don't know. [Source: "Tunis Attack Suspect Arrested with Migrants", Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2015]
  • AFP says Touil is wanted "for premeditated murder, kidnapping and terrorism" on an international warrant. The arrest was executed by Italy’s counter-terrorism DIGOS police.
Other people are probably asking larger questions, like: if there are boatloads of "migrants" arriving on Europe's shores and it turns out one or more of them has terror, murder and mayhem on his mind, what ought to be done? Who checks them? How cautious ought European society to be?

An Italian newspaper report from yesterday drills down on the outlook and attitudes of people living in Gaggiano ["a characterless series of streets, buildings, and link roads"], and their views of what has been going on in the "four-storey 1960s building of 16 apartments at 14 Via Pitagora... inhabited by pensioners and blue-collar workers" where the suspect lived. For neighbours:
judgment has already been passed. For them, the Moroccan is guilty, no doubt about it. What they remember about the Touil family is “€32,000 of unpaid condominium charges,” and rubbish, including nappies and sanitary towels, “thrown out of the window”. They had to call in a special cleaning firm, “not once, but twice”, to “deal with the pigsty on the top floor” inhabited by the family. Six people are crammed into a 60-m² apartment, with a living room, kitchenette, bedroom and bathroom: the mother, Fatima, the eldest son with his partner and daughter, one of Fatima’s two daughters, and lastly, Abdel Majid... In Via Pitagora, neighbours say that the Touil family are squatters, who broke down the door to take possession of their house...  [Corriere della Serra, May 21, 2015]
As for the suspect himself
Instead of going to the mosque, he spent his time in the local bars, such as Novella 73, frequented by pensioners, with whom he used to spend the evenings chatting. When he went further afield, it was only to attend Italian lessons in Trezzano sul Naviglio, which is where he was the week of the attack in Tunis; according to the school’s teachers and principal, Abdel Majid was in class. However, the youth had not been seen for the last two weeks. According to his mother, there was nothing strange in this, since “he had been ill.” Apart from Novella 73 and the school, Abdel Majid Touilin seems to have led a quiet life. His brother has a criminal record for drug pushing, but since becoming a father may have changed his ways. [Same Italian source]
And the plot?
Early in February, his father and sister, who lived with him in Morocco, near Casablanca, are reported to have taken him to the airport. On this first leg of his journey, Abdel Majid allegedly flew to Tunisia with a low-cost airline. In Tunis, he is thought to have stayed for three days in a hotel, and from there to have moved on to Libya, where he boarded a boat of migrants heading for Sicily, to be subsequently rescued on 15th or 16th February. He may be the victim of a terrible mistake by the Tunisian authorities, or perhaps has been confused with somebody else with the same name. Alternatively, Abdel Majid Touil may be a well-trained terrorist, who first of all deceived his own mother, or even “enlisted” her, getting her to cover for him and provide an alibi. It was in fact his mother who failed to report the disappearance of her son’s passport to the police until two months after the event. The idea of enrolling in an Italian course may also have been a bluff, aimed at showing his willingness to integrate. [Same Italian source]
There's more. According to the occasionally-reputable Daily Mail UK
Touil arrived in Porto Empedocle in Sicily on February 17 using the alias Abdullah after being rescued by Italian authorities on a migrant boat in the Mediterranean. But he received an expulsion order demanding he leave Italy within 15 days.
They publish these photos today leaving readers to wonder whether the face and attitude belong to a skillful traveling-shooting-murdering terrorist thug they call "ISIS fanatic" or just a well-meaning son wanting more time with his mother:
The suspect [Image Source]
 Little doubt they're pleased - but about what, exactly? [Image Source]
Not surprisingly, there are those focusing on the smirks and the triumphant V-for-Victory raised hands and trying to interpret the mindsets behind them. 

But there are larger and serious issues at work here. Should European authorities be driven by the notion that some unknown proportion of the hundreds of thousands of Arabs making their way into Europe by sea on open boats and avoiding conventional migration channels (like the 900 or so received on Wednesday) have terrorism on their minds?

Or should they be considered hard-luck cases looking for a better life until proven otherwise? 

Whatever they conclude, there's no room for doubting any more that Europe is in the cross-hairs of some highly ideological killers and planners. Getting this wrong is going to come at a very high price. The issues are anything but theoretical, even if arriving at the answers calls for some unpleasant checking, thinking and acting. Either way, there are concrete consequences.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

21-May-15: Why is this man still free? Human rights, the Qataris, dignity and football

2010 announcement by FIFA that Qatar was the successful bidder
to host the 20122 Mondial. That's the previous Qatari emir
beaming on the left.
Something about terrorism - it's clearer to us as the years go by - makes rational, otherwise intelligent people act irresponsibly and strangely. They may have a well-developed sense of right and wrong, of lawful and illicit, of moral and bestial. But once terror is added to the reality with which they cope, odd results follow.

And this is as true of governments and major international organizations as it is of prominent people and ordinary folk. And individuals throughout the length and breadth of the mass media and the news reporting industry. The engineer of the massacre that ended our daughter's life is living proof (see at the end of this post).

We focused some blog attention here on Qatar earlier this week. Our two posts looked at the outrageous arrest there of a BBC reporting team and the connection this had to one of the world's richest and most watched sporting events, the FIFA World Cup which (at least for now) is going to be hosted by Qatar in seven years. See "18-May-15: As the Qatari thug says, Disneyland it's not" and "18-May-15: Peeking behind Qatar's genteel, manicured and increasingly disastrous public relations".

Negative mass-media news about Qatar is not so common. Partly, this seems to be a function of the branding for which Qatar's management seems to have a considerable appetite. In itself, it's a subject worthy of close attention (and here's a good methodological starting point).

Qatar had been our minds before this too, mainly because of the way it's widely treated as a country while acting like a family business (there are numerous such states in the Arab world). And also because Qatar is perceived by people whose views we take seriously as a global player in the business of terrorism. It has stood close to the Hamas thugs for years, side-by-side, giving them protection, money, cover, a conduit to the civilized world, and a safe haven for its leading figures (who make no secret of it) to set up personal luxury residences and live - comfortably and well.

Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, is greeted by President
Obama at White House, May 13, 2015 [Image Source]
Yet watch some of the world's major television networks - especially CNN International and BBC World - and advertisements for Qatar itself, for its airline, for its tourist attractions (2006; 2011, 2012) and its businesses, seem to appear at a rate and frequency ridiculously out of proportion to a country that has a mere 300,000 citizens. Then of course there's Qatar's own home-grown global network, the fully-owned-by-Qatar Aljazeera. Confidential US State Department cables exposed by Wikileaks said [see The Guardian] it had "proved itself a useful tool for the station's political masters". The reference is to the owners of Qatar, the Al-Thanis.

Those advertising funds that find their way to CNN and other outlets seem to deliver nice returns on investment. See "On CNN International, the ‘news’ isn’t always the news" [Columbia Journalism Review, October 28, 2014] for an indication of how that process works.

Looking at Qatar and its acceptance in polite circles around the world gets a person thinking. Being frank, that's especially so when you are the parents of a child murdered by the pampered proteges of Qatar's owners and operators [see  "30-Jul-14: Is Qatar's stupendous wealth connected with Hamas' ongoing terrorism?"]. In fact, the more we learn about aspects of the role Qatar and its dealings play on the rest of the world, the sharper is the somewhat bizarre picture that emerges. 

Qatar's Al-Nu'aymi: Man of many parts,
still walking and living free
It's unlikely most readers will immediately recognize the name Abdurrahman bin Omair Al-Nu'aymi. (Eleven different ways to write it appear in this US government press release). He's a Qatari with a distinguished profile: a one-time professor of history at Qatar University (though we don't see his name there now); an advisor to the Qatar government and well-connected to its ruling elite; a one-time president of the Qatar Football Association; an activist for a certain sort of human-rights; and, in Islamic terms, a conservative. So much so that...
When the Emir decided in 1998 to give women the right to vote, protests were heard from Islamists. One of these was Dr. Abd al-Rahman bin Umayr al-Nu’aymi, professor of history at Qatar University. He was so vocal that the emir had him arrested and put in jail, although they were friends. After a thousand days without a trial, Dr. Nu’aimi was released, but he still expresses his conservative Islamic views and heads an important intellectual center. [Source]
Prison seems not to have been an obstacle to his rise. In 2004, Al-Nu'aymi went on to co-found al-Karama (from the Arabic word for dignity), a Geneva-based NGO that purported to "uncover human rights violations in the Arab world and to help victims", and became its top official. It has a strange Wikipedia page that clearly was written, in part, by its own officers, and claims that it sought:
to contribute to an Arab World where all individuals live free, in dignity, and protected by the rule of law. With this goal in mind, the founders decided to address the most serious violations of human dignity, physical integrity and freedom, namely extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention... [and] contribute to a better understanding of human rights and raise awareness of the UN's human rights protection mechanisms in the Arab civil society... Alkarama's action, documenting and denouncing violations, has made many States in, or with interests in the region resent its work, which has led to reprisals against our organisation (smear campaigns, trials and arrests of members, accusations that the organisation was pro-Israeli, pro-Qatari, protecting terrorists or supporting political groups and other contradictory accusations)... Alkarama unambiguously and irrevocably denies all these accusations... [Wikipedia]
Along the way, Al-Nu'aymi became deeply involved with money.

The Al-Karama body went on to forge ties with the United Nations, with multiple UN organs, and with notable players in the human rights industry including Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Gulf Center for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights and others [one sourceanother source]. As the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor noted [here, December 23, 2013], this raises troubling questions regarding "the lack of due diligence and professional judgment of NGOs when selecting allies... [T]hese organizations have an obligation to review the status of the officials responsible for such collaborations, alliances, and affiliations."

When terrorism charges were leveled at its president, Al-Karama found itself profiled in a Swiss business magazine article in December 2013 ["President of Swiss foundation al Qaeda's banker?"] (The article claims Al-Nu'aymi stepped down as head of the organization once the allegations were out in the open. But the same Wikipedia profile cites a source ["Press Release by the Council of the Alkarama Foundation, 8 January 2014, retrieved 16 January 2014"] claiming the board rejected his resignation.)

What was he alleged to have done?

In November 2014, a detailed expose in the UK's Telegraph newspaper ["Terror financiers are living freely in Qatar, US discloses" | The Telegraph UK, November 16, 2014] called him one of "al-Qaeda’s most senior financiers". Al-Nu'aymi was added to the US sanctions list and identified as a terrorist at the end of 2013. The British only got around to doing the same ten months later [source].

The claims are [see "Money Trail: Terrorists for Human Rights", Eli Lake in The Daily Beast, December 20, 2013] that as a major source of funding for Islamist terrorists, Al-Nu'aymi
oversaw the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars to al Qaeda and its affiliates in Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen over the last 11 years. In 2013, the [US government's announcement] says, al-Naimi ordered the transfer of nearly $600,000 to al Qaeda via the group’s representative in Syria... If the Treasury Department’s allegations are correct, the story of al-Naimi, who until Thursday was the president of al-Karama’s board, illustrates how sometimes human-rights advocacy can also be used as political cover for jihadist networks... [The Daily Beast]
Qatar's Emir Al-Thani, is greeted by Queen Elizabeth II
in London, October 29, 2014 [
Image Source]
The Telegraph quotes some very damning statements about the man and even more so about Qatar, coming from David Cohen, the US Treasury under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Mr Cohen has accused Qatar and its near neighbour Kuwait of being “permissive jurisdictions for terrorist financing” but until now the fate of a number of money men — identified as Specially Designated Global Terrorists by the US government — has not been known.Qatar has refused to say what has happened [to al-Nuaimi and another terror-funder who are] accused of raising millions of dollars for al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups... The revelation casts serious doubt on the Gulf state’s insistence that it does not support terrorists, including jihadists in Syria and Iraq... Al-Nuaymi, a former president of the Qatar Football Association, is accused of being one of the world’s most prolific terrorist fundraisers, accused of sending more than £1.25 million a month to al-Qaeda jihadists in Iraq and hundreds of thousands of pounds to Syria. He was designated a terrorist in the US last December and added to a British sanctions list only in October this year. [Qatar] introduced a designated terrorist list but to date not a single individual has been put on it... The US treasury believes countries such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have clamped down on jihadist financiers in recent months whereas Qatar and Kuwait have failed to tackle the issue — much to the frustration of Washington. The US... is wary about the Qatari government’s overt support for Hamas and also for the Muslim Brotherhood... Mr Cohen added: “There’s more work to do both in Qatar and Kuwait. We have been deeply engaged with both countries for a number of years. We have seen others make really substantial progress in combating terrorist financing.
It then quotes a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank, who believes Cohen's revelation
proves meaningful cooperation behind the scenes [between Qatar and the West] is virtually nonexistent. “It suggests maybe the Qataris are quite happy being a permissive jurisdiction for terrorist finance. It may also bear noting that the previous emir of Qatar has reportedly praised Nuaymi as his old friend. Arrests, indictments and convictions are only one dimension of whether Qatar is taking the fight against terrorism seriously, but historically it is one of several dimensions in which the [ruling] al-Thani family has miserably failed the test. [David Weinberg, The Telegraph UK, November 16, 2014]
Qatar's response to this is more interesting than we might have expected:
In his only broadcast interview the current emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, said “We don’t fund extremists” and explained that terrorism was “not acceptable in our culture and our religion”. [Then adds:] “There are differences between some countries, of who are the terrorists and who are the maybe Islamist groups, but we don’t consider them as terrorists.” [The Telegraph UK]
And that is what this is all about.

Qatar is not so different from most places. "You may say these people are terrorists but we disagree." The UK knows the man is central to the world of Islamist terror but finds it hard to actually do anything about it. Might this be connected to the phenomenal wave of Qatari investment that has found its way into the London property market, and into UK business in general?

A very partial description of Qatar's investment portfolio includes significant ownership stakes in British Airways, the Barcelona soccer teamVolkswagen, PorscheBarclays Bank, Sainsbury's, Miramax, Canary WharfRoyal Dutch Shell, London's Chelsea Barracks, London's Savoy Hotel, the luxury Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, One Hyde Park ("the world’s most expensive apartment block", the London Stock Exchange, as well as complete ownership of Harrods, Credit Suisse's London headquarters, the French football club Paris Saint-Germain, the famous London office tower The Shard, the US embassy building in Grosvenor Square, and a long list of London's choicest real estate trophies as catalogued by the Daily Mail UK. It funds religious institutions in Europe that propagate a message of "radical Islam", and is a major funder worldwide of the work of the Muslim Brotherhood. On the far side of the Atlantic, it provides lavish funding for the hugely-influential Washington-based Brookings Institution, and signed colossally-large arms-purchase agreements with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing and other US suppliers in March 2014. The list goes on and on.

Direct from friendly, supportive Qatar: Proud, unrepentant
celebrity terrorist interviews happy (and free) fellow
convicted murderers of Jewish children [Screen capture from video]
A recent item in New Statesman ["How Qatar bought London"] quotes a British trade union source warning that "Britain has to ensure that it never falls out with Qatar, or one day we might wake up and find this Gulf state has us at its mercy".

But as we have learned to our sorrow, it's not only in Qatar that people look the other way when Islamist terrorists walk freely in their midst.

For the record, our daughter's murderer had no difficulty going to Qatar in 2013 from her home base in Jordan and basing herself and her team there to film an episode of her weekly television show - the one that exists to rejoice in the killing of Jewish children and the 'heroism' of her fellow terrorist savages. Click on this YouTube clip to watch as she giggles and beams her way through an hour of interviews with other freed Shalit Deal murderers living in Qatar with their new, young families.

As with so much else in the Qatar story, the evidence is plain for anyone who wants to see.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

20-May-15: Car-ramming attack again in Jerusalem

It's a beautiful, sunny morning here in Jerusalem. But there are reports of yet another deliberate car-ramming attack done by a Palestinian Arab for an evidently-terrorist motivation. This time, it has happened at the A-Tur junction on Jerusalem's north side, close to the Hebrew University’s Mount Scopus campus and the Mount of Olives. So far, we know of two Israelis, uniformed police, who are injured.

Times of Israel says the driver was shot by police and in critical condition and that he is being treated for his wounds at the scene. But both Haaretz and Ynet say, in updated reports, that he is dead. According to Ynet, immediately after running down his victims
he tried to "confirm the kill" by reversing back over the wounded officers. He was then shot by police... Bystanders hurtled stones at security forces as they arrived at the scene. There were also riots reported at the site. [Ynet]
The weapon in this morning's attempted killing in A-Tur,
Jerusalem [Image Source]
In an 11:30 am update, Ynet says the attacker is a 41-year-old male resident of Jabel Mukaber, a neighbourhood of Jerusalem (abutting Talpiot) whose population have permanent resident status, courtesy of Israeli law, and are entitled to hold blue Government of Israel identity cards which give them "wide freedom of movement within Israel, and... access to health care, unemployment and other benefits" [Wikepedia]. Worth noting that the SUV driven by the alleged, suspected militant attacker is considered expensive and prestigious in Israeli terms. Let each us make of that what we will. (Some might want to note that entering the search term "Jabel Mukaber" and clashes delivers 45,000 Google hits.)

The Haaretz report, providing some context and perspective, says
Jerusalem Police Chief Moshe Edri who arrived on the scene said that "the Border Patrol officers acted as was expected of them, neutralized the terrorist and prevented further harm to innocent people."
Our most recent previous report on a similar attack is just five days old: "15-May-15: Attempted murder by vehicle: yet another Palestinian Arab attack on pedestrians".

A couple of weeks before that, a similar vehicle-borne attacker struck at almost the same spot in Jerusalem's A-Tur. We wrote about here: "29-Apr-15: Almost entirely unreported, violent Arab attacks in and on Jerusalem". It's highly likely today's attack will get minor media coverage outside Israel, if any.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

19-May-15: Days of our lives: As most of the Middle East hurtles into chaos, questions about the driver's seat

President Obama and his deputy national security adviser
[Image Source]
Without an additional word of commentary, below is Bret Stephens with a dramatic wake-up call for those not yet comprehending how rapidly and completely the Middle East with all its conflicts and dangers is changing shape for the worse in front of our eyes. 

Everything Is Awesome, Mideast Edition | It takes a special innocence to imagine that the chaos unfolding in the Middle East can be put right | Bret Stephens | Wall Street Journal | May 18, 2015

Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, has been offering a reassuring view of the Iranian nuclear deal in the face of some Arab skepticism. “If you can diplomatically and peacefully resolve the nuclear issue in a way that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he told reporters last week, “we believe that will lead to a much more stable region.” Mr. Rhodes also contends that with a deal “there will be no need to see [a] regional arms race.”

So what’s more frightening: That Mr. Rhodes believes what he’s saying? Or that he does not?

Just for Mr. Rhodes’s benefit, here’s a refresher course on stability and the arms race in the Middle East since April 2, 2015, the day Mr. Obama announced his framework nuclear agreement with Iran.
  • April 2: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif immediately accuses the U.S. of “spin” and contradicts Mr. Obama’s key claims regarding the terms of the deal.
  • April 12: A Swedish think tank reports that Saudi Arabia registered the biggest increase in defense spending in the world.
  • April 13: Moscow says it will deliver the S-300 air-defense system to Tehran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei later boasts that the U.S. “can’t do a damn thing” militarily against Iran.
  • April 14: Iran announces agreements with Russia and China to build additional nuclear reactors.
  • April 17: Iran dispatches an armed convoy of ships, believed to be destined to resupply pro-Iranian Houthi rebels in Yemen in contravention of a U.N. arms embargo. The convoy turns back after the U.S. deploys an aircraft carrier to the region to shadow the ships.
  • April 20: Jason Rezaian, the American-born Washington Post reporter imprisoned in Iran since July, is charged with espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments” and “propaganda against the establishment.”
  • April 20: The British government informs the U.N. panel monitoring sanctions on Iran that it “is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network” associated with two Iranian companies that are under international sanctions.
  • April 22: Saudi Arabia resumes airstrikes in Yemen despite administration pressure to maintain a cease fire.
  • April 28: Iran seizes the 837-foot long Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands flagged cargo ship with 34 sailors aboard, as it transits the Strait of Hormuz along an internationally recognized route. The ship is released a week later after Maersk pays a fine of $163,000.
  • April 29: Former Saudi Intelligence Minister Turki al Faisal tells a conference in Seoul that the kingdom will match Iran’s nuclear capabilities with its own. “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too.” The prince also accuses Mr. Obama of going “behind the backs of the traditional allies to strike the deal.”
  • May 8: Reuters reports that inspectors have discovered traces of sarin gas at an undeclared military research site near Damascus. The report puts paid to administration boasts that its diplomacy effectively solved the Syrian chemical crisis.
  • May 11: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman withdraws from the Arab summit meeting with Mr. Obama. The king of Bahrain follows suit, preferring instead to attend a horse show with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.
  • May 13: Reuters reports “the Czech Republic blocked an attempted purchase by Iran this year of a large shipment of sensitive technology usable for nuclear enrichment after false documentation raised suspicions.”
  • May 14: Iranian patrol boats fire upon a Singapore-flagged oil tanker with machine guns as it transits the Strait of Hormuz. The ship makes it safely to Dubai.
  • May 17: Citing senior U.S. officials, the Sunday Times reports that “Saudi Arabia has taken the ‘strategic decision’ to acquire ‘off-the-shelf’ atomic weapons from Pakistan.”
  • Also on May 17, Islamic State fighters in Iraq seize the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. This is after Mr. Obama crowed in February that “our coalition is on the offensive, ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose.” Now the Iraqi government will turn to Shiite paramilitaries under Iranian control to try to retake the city, further turning the Baghdad government into an Iranian satrap.
President Obama and his deputy national
security adviser [Image Source: Pete Souza, White Press
via NY Post
I recount these events not just to illustrate the distance between Ben Rhodes’s concept of reality and reality itself. It’s also a question of speed. The Middle East, along with our position in it, is unraveling at an astonishing pace. Reckless drivers often don’t notice how fast they’re going until they’re about to crash.

We are near the point where there will be no walking back the mistakes we have made. No walking away from them, either. 

It takes a special innocence to imagine that nothing in life is irreversible, that everything can be put right, that fanaticism yields to reason and facts yield to wishes, and that the arc of Mideast history bends toward justice.

Ben Rhodes, and the administration he represents and typifies, is special.