Thursday, October 30, 2014

30-Oct-14: Violence on Jerusalem's streets rises while poll shows support among Pal Arabs for more of it is growing

Arab 'protestors" on Jerusalem's streets in September [Image Source]
A motor-cycling gunman rode up to the political activist, Rabbi Yehuda Glick, on the streets of Jerusalem last night (Wednesday) and shot him in the chest at point-blank range.
Glick, 50, was shot in his upper body by a motorcyclist during an annual event organized by the Temple Mount and Eretz Yisrael Faithful Movement. Magen David Adom paramedics evacuated him to the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in critical condition with injuries to his chest and abdomen. He was operated on and was in stable condition. Doctors said he will have to undergo an additional operation in the morning. [Ynet]
Sometime in the morning hours today, the shooter appears to have been killed in a police chase:

Given the steady drumbeat of calls to violent acts in Jerusalem from Palestinian Arab quarters, and from key people in the PA itself, over the past six weeks in particular, how surprised should we be by an assassination attempt mere meters from the gates of the Old City?

Not very, as a public opinion survey released on Tuesday by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, a Palestinian Arab organization from East Jerusalem, shows. Some key findings:
  • A majority of Palestinian Arabs (52.4%) still assert that they believe in the value of peace negotiations with Israel, the proportion of them who favor armed conflict with Israel rose from 31.5% to 42.7 percent in October. War moves public opinion, only not the way we usually think.
  • In a further sign that open terrorism offers a winning political hand in this demographic, a clear majority (57%) say they believe Hamas won the war they fought against Israel in June/August. The heavy Arab losses, including massive infrastructure, housing destruction and photos of wailing Arab women and pristine children's toys carefully placed in the center of news photographs of destroyed apartment buildings and mosques, does not seem to affect their judgement on this.
  • Moreover, support for Hamas overall rose from 17% before the disastrous fighting to 26% after it. That's a significant jump.
  • Backing for Fatah, which is fronted by the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas (serving "the 10th year of a four-year term") and routinely called "moderate" in parts of the news-reporting industry, went from 41.7% before the great summer "victory" to 35.1% after it. So whether it's truly in favour of peace, moderation and just getting along, the Palestinian Arab street wants it less now that they have had their smashing win on the battlefield.
  • Support for firing still more rockets at Israelis remains sky-high: 80% of all Palestinian Arabs, and 72% of Gazans. This raises an interesting dimension: Avi Issacharoff ["Large rise in Palestinian support for armed struggle against Israel", The Times of Israel, October 28, 2014] points out that "In general, on all questions and matters of current affairs, the residents of the West Bank showed a more extreme point of view compared to those in Gaza." Keep in mind it's those Palestinian Arabs living in the so-called West Bank who live closest to us, who work among us in many cases, and who are seen as the keystone for the two-state-solution so beloved of observers far away from here, who hold the hardest-line pro-violence opinions. The fact that support for Israel-pointing rockets runs slightly less (though still sky-high) among the Gazans whose homes, bodies and children act as human-shields for the rocket men and their vast arsenals should not surprise. What should - if the Arab world were a more rational place - is why ordinary Gazan Arabs seem so comfortable with and accepting of the idea that when those rockets are fired from their residential neighbourhoods, their own leaders are safely tucked away in tunnels, hospital basements and luxurious residential suites in Qatar and Dubai, safe from Israeli fire.
Polls like this week's - which when you analyze them are very, very upsetting for those of us yearning for peaceful relations - reflect reality. Op eds from Paris, London, New York and Tel Aviv that demand we Israelis should love peace and harmony even more - and therefore embrace the terror-addicted people on the other side - do not.

Our prayers are with Rabbi Yehuda Glick for a full and rapid recovery from his critical injuries (and note that the attack on him led to Arabs dancing in the streets and handing out celebratory candies). Our hopes are also with our readers and their friends that they should understand even better what it means to have an enemy who loves terror more than it wishes for life itself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

29-Oct-14: Could an opinion editor at the NYTimes have blown their cover?

NYT resource portal [Image Source]
Matt Seaton was a comment editor at The Guardian for seven years before leaving (in a kind of job swap) to do a similar job at the New York Times. In that role, he proudly announced an op ed today with (in our opinion) a bitter and twisted view of the lives lived in Israel by Arabs.
This caught Tamar Sternthal's attention. She's with CAMERA ("the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America... a media-monitoring, research and membership organization") which follows the excesses at the New York Times - especially what we would term the agenda-driven hostility it exhibits towards Israel - closely:

A fatuous response from NYTimes' Seaton:

Next, Tamar's riposte

Seaton drops the bomb

Uh, did we hear that right?

As far as we know, Seaton has stayed silent. We politely enquired
and got no answer.

So we directed our question to the people who put the NYTimes together

It's not so common for the facade to be dropped as Seaton of the NYTimes did today. You would think that management at the great metropolitan newspaper would want to clear up any possible misunderstandings. Their objectivity in the reporting of Middle East events is right at the top of the list that keeps many of its readers subscribing. But no, no clarifying statements have issued forth from them so far,

And if - as we think Seaton's slip confirms - they are not being objective at all, does anyone imagine the NY Times is the only mainstream news source that is okay with holding the Palestinian Arabs - for whatever idiotic, artificial or imagined reason - to a lower standard [here, for instance] when it comes to matters of racist hatred, malice and prejudice?

We can hardly wait to find out.

29-Oct-14: Truths about Jerusalem and its Jews - and the stones that tell them

We snapped this on the Mount of Olives
We buried a dear friend yesterday.

An outstanding professor of law, a brilliant legal mind, an energetic and effective advocate for human rights, a man of sincere piety, gentle ways, modesty and huge achievements, a child of parents who survived the Holocaust, and a cherished friend for decades, his untimely passing in the United States was a tremendous shock.

He was a gentleman who knew better than most how to arrange his affairs, and had purchased (as we learned just two days ago) a burial plot in the ancient cemetery that spills down the slopes of Jerusalem's Mount of Olives.

Family and friends accompanied his coffin on its journey from a Connecticut hospital to New York to Israel. Then, after the briefest of ceremonies on Tuesday in Jerusalem (because our friend had stipulated that there were to be no eulogies, and this was respected - to everyone's loss), several groups of us drove through the eastern part of our nation's capital city and then along the increasingly tense roads that lead up to Har Hazeitim, the Mount of Olives.

Did we say ancient? We meant it. Jews - including some of the most influential figures in the history of Jewish scholarship - have been buried there since time immemorial. In Wikipedia's words, it "has been used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years". Have you been to any other location on the face of the earth that has served one task, one people, for three millennia? And as we can testify, it is in active use today.

In fact, it has been in use down through all the ages except for the very black period when it fell into the control of the Arab Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan between 1948 when their British-led military over-ran it during Israel's War of Independence, and 1967 when they were defeated and uprooted by the Israelis.

In the course of those nightmarish 19 years, Jordan carried out a process of massive vandalism, desecration and destruction of this inexpressibly special site including the deliberate uprooting of ancient, historically invaluable tombstones. These they "used as paving stones for the new hotel and for Jordanian army camps". In a formal sense, this was a breach of legal obligations, since "the framework of the 3 April 1949 Armistice Agreements [required Jordan] to allow "free access to the holy sites and cultural institutions and use of the cemeteries on the Mount of Olives" [Wikipedia]. This was, of course, never even remotely observed. Respect for other people's sacred traditions became a reality in Jerusalem only when Israel took control after the Six Day War.

The photograph above is a reminder of something else for which Jerusalem and its Mount of Olives stand. We snapped it yesterday. It shows the fresh grave, dug just a day earlier, of a young woman from Ecuador whose passion for being part of the Jewish people brought her to Jerusalem, and to an embrace of Jewish tradition and peoplehood that ended when a Palestinian Arab terrorist equipped with a speeding vehicle mowed down a crowd standing at a Jerusalem tram stop. We wrote about it here: "27-Oct-14: Another quiet, decent life whose tragic end fails to merit news reporting".

October 27, 2014: Funeral service for the young woman,
an Ecuadorian victim of terror,
who embraced Judaism [Image Source]
Her name is Karen Yemima Mosquera (the memorial service in Jerusalem is the subject of the photo over there to the right), and the world from which she and her forebears came is different in almost every respect from the one in which we were raised and with which we are familiar.

Notwithstanding those profound differences, for as long as there continues to be a Jewish cemetery on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives, the young woman's place of eternal rest will be just two or three meters away from the grave of our dear friend.

Hers is in the foreground of the photo below, just stones and dirt and a simple marker for now until a tombstone is prepared; his, seconds after the interment and made of the same simple materials, is in the background.

We wrote yesterday that her mother, speaking to Ha'aretz from the Jerusalem hospital while the struggle to save her daughter's life was still going on, said: "People always say things against Israel in the news, but when you come here you see the truth." Karen's life, and the deplorable news-reporting of her murder-by-terrorism at the hands of a Hamas agent, underscore the reality of her mother's insights.
Mount of Olives, Tuesday: Our friend's grave at the back; the young woman's
in the foreground

Monday, October 27, 2014

27-Oct-14: In Gaza, the electricity is flowing again no it's not yes it is

A Gulf State newspaper published this picture in March 2014 with
a caption saying it show a Gaza City power station
shut down "due to a lack of fuel from Israel", without explaining
that "lack of fuel" in Gazan real-politik is almost invariably
self-inflicted by the Hamas regime for political advantage [Image Source]
Remember how Gaza's only power station was "destroyed" by you-know-who in July 2014? (Here's The Guardian's report from then.)

Reuters ["Gaza power plant resumes operations, director says"] this afternoon reports on something that borders on a miracle (but is not):
Gaza's only power plant has resumed operation far sooner than expected after being damaged during last summer's war between Israel and Palestinian militants. Rafiq Maliha, general director of the facility, told Reuters its generators went back online on Sunday, producing 90 megawatts out of a total potential capacity of 140 MW. The plant provides power to around half of Gaza's 1.8 million people. The Gaza Company for Generating Electricity, which operates the plant, said an Israeli tank shell hit the main fuel tanks during the war, taking out almost all capacity. It originally estimated that repairs could take as long a year.
So we can say bye-bye to reports (and photos) of Palestinian Arab Gazans struggling to live lives devoid of electric power, right? Not so much.
Maliha said the plant could be switched off again on Tuesday unless more fuel is supplied by the Palestinian Energy Authority. At peak demand, the Gaza Strip needs around 280 MW of power. Beyond what is produced locally, Israel supplies around 120 MW by electricity lines and Egypt around 17 MW, meaning there is always a shortage. Most Gaza residents have had to adapt to six hours of electricity a day since the plant stopped. Sources at the company said they expected rolling blackouts to continue, with power going on and off every eight hours.
We took a look at this more than two years ago ["2-Apr-12: More darkness in and from Hamas-controlled Gaza, and this time the price is paid in the silent, unnoticed deaths of children"]. We said then news reports from Gaza falsely depicted Israel cold-heartedly cutting off power to Gaza's teeming masses. The claims were not new; we referred to several earlier posts along similar lines:
We added numerous more posts after that, including these
These posts from the past reflect an absurd situation where Hamas, true masters of darkness, inflict power shortages on their own people through calculated manipulation of energy supplies including deliberately firing on the Israeli power station in Ashkelon that used to deliver some 70% of their electricity. 

The truth of the bizarre situation was that even as the terrorist gunmen and rocket-firers of Gaza, under Hamas inspiration and control, were trying to bring the Ashkelon plant to its knees, Israeli power workers inside the Ashkelon plant continued to work round the clock supplying electricity to the Gazans even while they were under constant Qassam fire.  At the simple human level, this is a non-trivial point. The head of the Israel Electric Corporation workers' committee chairman, Miko Zarfati, said it as plainly as you would want back at the time (here, in 2008, and in our post , but (and this can be checked) his words were barely quoted anywhere.

This is shocking. Instead of facing up to the blatant manipulation of Hamas, news-agencies throughout the civilized world swallowed the bait and published self-evidently-dishonest news photos like the one below showing politicians sitting in the dark in Gaza:

It is indeed deeply dark inside Gaza's political quarters, but only when you first close
the curtains in the middle of the day [Image Source: Reuters]
Hamas, let's say it clearly, has the capacity to produce enough electric power to ensure Gazans do not lack. But it's not a priority for them - quite the contrary. In 2012 [source], Gaza's power outages were
due to a deliberate policy of Hamas, which opposes import of fuel from Israel. As a result, the Gaza power station is operating at 20% capacity
Today's Reuters report (above) says they are generating "90 megawatts out of a total potential capacity of 140 MW". Why? And why are they not challenged on this by the expert reporters who cover the Gaza beat? Could it be that keeping people in the dark is more popular than we might have thought?

One final thought: the creation of electric generation, transmission and distribution capabilities is one of the core functions that every population needs and that government is supposed to provide either directly or by empowering an independent supplier. That's part of the ABC of running a country. Since the Hamas regime has the financial backing of Qatar, and it's known that in the Arab world in general, oil (to fuel those generators) is a commodity not exactly in short supply, we can understand why they want to blame Israel with whom they see themselves as being in a perpetual war. 

But is there a government anywhere that slips out from under public scrutiny of its own failures more often and more successfully than Hamas? Who is really in the dark? Perhaps some enterprising MSM reporters might want to theorize.

27-Oct-14: Palestinian Arab report says the Egyptians plan to keep the Gazans far away for now

Simpler times: A section of the Egypt/Gaza
border in 2009 [Image Source]
Here, unedited, is the full text of a Palestinian Arab news site's report on major changes announced by Egypt to address its perception of lethal challenges facing it from the Gazan side. It comes from Palestinian News Network, and went up in the past hour. There are some obvious problems with the report (like spelling, and the notion of a buffer zone that's nine miles high, which is 14 kilometers) but those are small details. We will add our own commentary later.

Egypt to build buffer zone on Gaza borders
Published on Monday, 27 October 2014 15:18
PNN/ Cairo

Egyptian authorities tody announced the decision to build buffer zone on its borders with Gaza, with the depth of 500 meters, and a height of 14 KM, to hinder terrorist groups from entering Sinai, that recently resulted in killing 33 Egyptian soldiers.

The buffer zone construction will result in displacing thousands of bedouins in the Sinai desert, that Egypt vowed to relocate and give compensations before beginning the construction.

The Egyptian soldiers were killed during an attack on a checkpoint on Friday in the Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel and Gaza. The assault bore the marks of attacks claimed by Egypt's most active militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.

Egyptian president, Abdul Fattah Sissi, promised taking "many measures" in the border, that it is likely to be expanded in order to pursue militants and stop them from entering Egyptian land.

Sissi expected help from the US to stop "terror" in Egypt.

As a result of the attacks on Egyptian soldiers, the indirect negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli delegations, which were decided to take place last Monday,  have been postponed until the second half of November.

The people who put PNN together describe themselves as
a group of independent Palestinian journalists and editors who work on a strictly professional level without favoring one political party over another or any religion over another. We report from a Palestinian perspective as we see that the media is rife with Israeli sources.
Wikipedia says their efforts are part of
the charitable organization the Holy Land Trust and is based in Bethlehem...

27-Oct-14: Another quiet, decent life whose tragic end fails to merit news reporting

Second victim of the terror attack on passengers waiting for
a Jerusalem tram [Image Source]
The ever-more-heartbreaking account of innocent people caught up in the vile blood-lust of men and women with terrorist savagery on their minds grew by one more name this morning.

In addition to Chaya Zissel Braun, whose terribly brief life was forfeited in Jerusalem this past Wednesday evening to the murderous intentions of a Palestinian Arab man armed with a car, there is another. As Times of Israel reports today, a young woman from Ecuador, Karen Yemima Mosquera, had come to Israel to convert to Judaism after discovering she was descended from Conversos, Spanish Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholicism in the course of the Spanish Inquisition in the fifteenth century.

Karen suffered critical injuries in the terror attack when Abdelrahman Shaludi rammed his car into Jerusalem's Ammunition Hill Light Rail station. He fled the scene on foot immediately after completing his jihadist mission, and was shot dead by police who pursued him. The young woman struggled with her injuries until Sunday evening at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem before succumbing to them. The funeral took place (as happens often in this city) after midnight in the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives. Hundreds attended:
Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday flew in Muscara’s [we think their spelling is wrong] parents after she suffered head wounds and was seriously injured in the attack. Her mother said Sunday that her daughter’s dream had been to come to Israel and build her life here, but her life was cut short. [Times of Israel]
Haaretz (only) has this striking quote:
Speaking at Hadassah Medical Center, where Mosquera died, the mother added: "People always say things against Israel in the news, but when you come here you see the truth."
But not everyone does. As far as we can tell this morning in the wake of her death, only a handful of non-Israeli media reports mention the murdered young woman by name. The terrorist who killed her, by contrast, is all over the web, as are sympathetic photos of his grieving sisters, grandmother and other family members. His hero status, certified by both Palestinian Arab regimes (the Mahmoud Abbas-led PA and Hamas), is assured.

27-Oct-14: Can ordinary folk encourage the news-reporting media to live up to their own standards?

Link to the CAMERA
event announcement
If you are reading this post, it's likely you are concerned with issues like these. Hamas boasts it won the media war that raged on alongside the military battle. Did major foreign media outlets echo the Hamas story-line? Were journalists intimidated? Were the New York Times and the BBC impartial? How does the Israeli media effect international coverage? And what can we do to promote responsible and accurate coverage?

Those questions come from an event ad that describes a CAMERA public forum, "War By Other Means: Israel, Hamas and Media Coverage of Gaza", scheduled for the evening of Sunday November 9, 2014 at Jerusalem's Menachem Begin Heritage Center. We urge readers who are going to be in Jerusalem to be there.

The panelists are: Prof. Richard Landes of Boston University, the man who showed the world how the Pallywood industry (about which we first blogged in 2006) works; Ben-Dror Yemini, one of Israel's most-respected veteran journalists, now a Yediot Aharonot columnist and author of "Industry of Lies" (2014, Hebrew - very shortly to be released in English); Tamar Sternthal who heads CAMERA's Israel office; Hadar Sela, managing editor of CAMERA'S excellent BBC Watch affiliate; Gidon Shaviv, Senior Research Analyst at Presspectiva, the CAMERA unit that addresses the Hebrew-speaking sector. Arnold Roth, one of this site's bloggers, will chair.

Registration is necessary and can be done online here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

26-Oct-14: Egypt declares its price for the Sinai terrorist savagery

2010 Reuters photo of a Gaza/Sinai
tunnel [Image Source]
We wrote here last night ["26-Oct-14: The ongoing savagery just over the border"] about the jihadists of the Sinai desert and the many lives they managed to take in a couple of terror attacks on Egyptian security forces on Friday. Now Egypt pushes back:
Egypt closed its borders to a high-ranking Hamas delegation to talks with Israel on Sunday, accusing Palestinians of involvement in a deadly terror attack in Sinai Friday... Sissi said on Saturday that “foreign hands” were behind a suicide car bombing that killed over 30 soldiers at a checkpoint near the northern Sinai town of el-Arish, declaring a three-month state of emergency in the peninsula. But Egypt’s deputy interior minister, Samih Bashadi, was more specific on Sunday, accusing “Palestinian operatives” of involvement in the attack[Times of Israel, today]
According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel has not yet been officially told of today's developments.

Ynet reports today, referring to the key role played by tunnels in and out of Gaza, that
The Egyptian government said it was considering establishing a three-kilometer security zone along its border with the Gaza Strip... Samih Bashadi, an interior ministry official, told the Egyptian newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday that Palestinians were involved in the attack and said the solution to the situation in the Sinai Peninsula was the establishment of a buffer zone. Security and local sources told the Egyptian paper that the Egyptian military decided to launch an extensive offensive against terror cells in northern Sinai that will include the use of Apache combat helicopters.

26-Oct-14: Standing up for jihad in Minnesota

The Getty Images caption reads: "Somali Muslims pray during a Somali Week soccer tournament championship game at the Hamline University stadium on June 26, 2011, in St. Paul, Minn." [Image Source]
In Minneapolis (but it could just as easily be almost anywhere else in the world), they are agonizing over how it could possibly be that three local girls decided to get up one day and travel to the Middle East in order to hook up with the terrorists of ISIS. According to AP, they have some strong leads: (a) social media; and (b) an online predator.

The local authorities quite rightly are saying their "biggest concern is for the safety and well-being of these girls". But fewer people, it appears from this distance, are saying the next biggest concern is what to do with Islamist-terror-minded people living in their midst.
Three teenage girls being investigated for trying to join Islamic State forces in Syria were victims of an “online predator” who encouraged them, a school official said Wednesday, as U.S. officials tried to determine how they made it to Europe without anyone knowing and whether terrorists’ appeal is deepening among vulnerable youth. The southeast Aurora girls — two sisters ages 17 and 15, and their 16-year-old friend — were detained at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, and sent home over the weekend. They were interviewed by the FBI and returned to their parents in suburban Aurora. Those in the tight-knit east African community where they live said the sisters are of Somali descent and their friend is of Sudanese descent...
“Social media has played a very significant role in the recruitment of young people,” said FBI spokesman Kyle Loven in Minneapolis, home to the largest Somali community in the U.S. Authorities there have been concerned about terror recruiting of the young for years.  “What it indicates is we have to be really careful about people in impressionable years and what they’re doing on the Internet,” said Jim Davis, former special agent in charge of the FBI in Denver.
At least one of the girls was communicating with someone online who encouraged the three to travel to Syria, said Tustin Amole, a spokeswoman for the Cherry Creek School District where the girls attend high school. Fellow high school students told school officials on Monday that the girls had been discussing travel plans over Twitter, Amole said... The girls’ parents reported them missing Friday after they skipped classes. They had taken passports and $2,000 in cash...
Amole said the school district was being “extra vigilant” in light of the FBI’s concerns that the girls’ friends or classmates might have similar intentions...
Terror recruiting has been a problem for years in Minneapolis. Since 2007, roughly 22 young Somali-Americans have traveled to Somalia to take up arms with al-Shabab, an al-Qaida linked group. Those were all men. Within the last year, a handful of people from the community left Minnesota to join militant groups in Syria, and this time, there are fears that women might have been targeted...
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Denver would not say whether prosecutors plan to charge the girls with a crime. State prosecutors said they have no imminent plans to charge the girls. Amole said they will not face discipline. “Our biggest concern is for the safety and well-being of these girls...” [AP, October 23, 2014]
Online predators and social media are frightening factors, no doubt about it. But how about these?
  • "Minnesota is home to an estimated 70,000 Somalis -- the largest Somali concentration in the country. Generally speaking, Somali girls growing up in America are thriving. In the culture, parents often take a more protective attitude toward girls, believing that their reputation upholds the dignity of the family..." [Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 21, 2010]
  • On the other hand: "... [T]he problems Somali girls face are a reflection of a larger issue -- a lack of programs for Somali youth, and especially for girls. "The problem is there are no activities for the girls," said Hussein, the youth and girls program coordinator for the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota. Although as many as 40 percent of the 70,000 Somalis living in Minnesota are 18 years old or younger, there are only a handful of programs for girls, she said." [Minneapolis Star Tribune, November 21, 2010]
  • "The wide-reaching sex-trafficking operation, controlled by Somali gangs, preyed on girls from the Twin Cities, including some who were 13 or younger... For more perspective on Monday's indictment, MPR's Tom Crann talked with Abdirizak Bihi, the executive director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center in Minneapolis. Bihi has worked with Somali-American girls who have been caught up in prostitution, and he said many of those girls face similar social situations..." [MPR News, four years ago]
  • "The latest ISIS recruit from Minnesota is a 19-year-old woman who told her family she will be taking care of wounded fighters in Syria. Somali-American leaders say they know of at least two other young women who have also left, and they believe at least 15 Minnesotans are among at least 100 Americans who have joined ISIS from around the world. No one is quite sure when the 19-year-old woman left Minnesota for Syria..." [CBS Minnesota, September 4, 2014]
  • "Reports of Americans fighting for the group [ISIS] have raised concerns about the radicalization and recruitment of young men from immigrant communities throughout the United States, and particularly those in the large Somali American community in Minnesota... " ["Somali Americans Linked to IS Shock Minnesota Immigrant Community" VOA News, September 4, 2014]
  • "As Minnesota teenagers growing up in the 1990s, Troy Kastigar and Douglas McAuthur McCain shared almost everything. They played pickup basketball on neighborhood courts, wrote freewheeling raps in each other’s bedrooms and posed together for snapshots, a skinny white young man with close-cropped hair locking his arm around his African-American friend with a shadow of a mustache... They converted to Islam around the same time and exalted their new faith to family and friends, declaring that they had found truth and certainty. One after the other, both men abandoned their American lives for distant battlefields. “This is the real Disneyland,” Mr. Kastigar said with a grin in a video shot after he joined Islamist militants in Somalia in late 2008... Today, both are dead. While their lives ended five years and over 2,000 miles apart, their intertwined journeys toward militancy offer a sharp example of how the allure of Islamist extremism has evolved, enticing similar pools of troubled, pliable young Americans to conflicts in different parts of the world... “Troy and Doug fit together in some ways,” Mr. Kastigar’s mother, Julie Boada, said at her home here. “They’re both converted Muslims. They both have had struggles.” ["For Jihad Recruits, a Pipeline From Minnesota to Militancy", NY Times, September 4, 2014]
  • Before all of these, a not-so-thoughtful op ed from Fox News, March 19, 2007: "Minnesota: America's First Somali-Muslim State?"
  • And this from Minnesota Public Radio in June 2014: "Over the past few months, as many as 15 young Somali-American men from the Twin Cities have traveled to Syria to join radical groups trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad's regime, according to the FBI. One of the men, Abdirahmaan Muhumed, told MPR News through a series of Facebook messages that he is fighting alongside the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria... "A Muslim has to stand up for [what's] right," Muhumed, 29, wrote in a Jan. 2 post. "I give up this worldly life for Allah." Muhumed, who claims he wants to save the global Muslim community, said if that causes others to consider him a terrorist, he is "happy with it." He asked Allah to forgive him and to "make my mom strong for the decision that I made." ["Jihad in Syria lures Somalis from Minnesota", MPR, June 11, 2014]
There are some positive reports out there too, but their impact is not so obvious, and their focus is impossibly narrow. For instance
Members of Minnesota’s large Somali community gathered Sunday to condemn the recruitment of youth by terrorist groups and urge collaboration to find solutions to address the problem. About 100 people attended a town hall meeting to denounce groups such as the Islamic State and al-Shabab, which together have recruited more than two dozen fighters from Minnesota since 2007. U.S. Attorney Andy Luger told the crowd he’s working hard to bring more resources to the community to address the root causes of the problem. ["Minnesota Somalis Condemn Islamic State Recruiting", September 28, 2014] 
And then there's the role of the highest of high-profile Islamic groups in America. This report quotes Abdirizak Bihi, the executive director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center in Minneapolis, whom we mentioned above:
"Bihi has been working to stop radicalization of Somali-Americans for years. He has testified before Congress about the dangers of radicalization in the U.S. Somali community, working alongside the FBI and the Justice Department. His involvement is personal. Bihi’s nephew was radicalized by al-Shabaab and joined the group in 2008. He was killed the following year. But he told The Daily Caller the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has blocked his efforts for years, telling law enforcement agencies by telling them that he doesn’t know the Somali community and calling him “an Islamophobe” in a recent report. “They say that I am a bad person, that I am anti-Muslim, and that I don’t represent a hundred percent the Somali community,” Bihi said. “They lie about my life most of the time and try to destroy my character, my capability, and my trust in the community.” [He] also says CAIR has tried to bring Somalis into the organization and denies the threat that terrorism poses. ["Somali-American leader: ‘I tried to warn America’ about homegrown radicalization", September 23, 2013]
Simple but effective solutions are always going to be in short supply. But ignoring the role that religious culture and identity is playing in this unfolding lethal drama, and ascribing the unchecked phenomenon of home-grown jihadists to such vague factors as "social media" and predators is a guarantee that things will get worse before they get better.

Ad to be clear about what we mean by "things" in that last sentence: we mean the social imperative of keeping innocent people alive and unharmed.

26-Oct-14: The ongoing savagery just over the border

The entrances to smuggling tunnels (foreground) are seen on the border between Egypt
and the southern Gaza Strip, near Rafah August 8, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
From The Independent (UK), October 25, 2014:
Two attacks in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula killed 33 security personnel, security sources said, in some of the worst anti-state violence since Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown last year... Thirty people were killed in the first attack in the al-Kharouba area northwest of al-Arish, near the Gaza Strip, the sources said. Military helicopters transferred the dead and wounded to Cairo. Among them were several senior officers from the Second Field Army based in Ismailia, security sources said. The car bomb attack targetted two armoured vehicles at a checkpoint near an army installation, the sources said. They said the big explosion and high death toll were likely due to the vehicles being loaded with ammunition and heavy weapons. Security officials gave conflicting accounts of the first attack, with one Sinai-based official saying a rocket-propelled grenade was used. More than 25 people were wounded.
Hours later, gunmen opened fire on a checkpoint in al-Arish, killing three members of the security forces, officials said.
Wikipedia gives the context:
The Sinai peninsula has long been known for its lawlessness, having historically served as a smuggling route for weapons and supplies. Security provisions in the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty of 1979 have institutionalized a diminished security presence in the area, enabling militants to operate with a freer hand. Moreover, the limited government-directed investment and development in Sinai has discriminated against the local Bedouin population, a population that values tribal allegiance over all else. The combination of Sinai's harsh terrain and lack of resources have kept the area poor and hence ripe for militancy
And an update ["Curfew and state of emergency in North Sinai follows deadly attacks"] via Mada Masr, an independent Egyptian news site, from Saturday:
On Friday night, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued Presidential Decree No. 366 (2014), which stipulates that large swathes of North Sinai (including Arish and Sheikh Zuwayed) be placed under a three-month state of emergency, along with a curfew from 5 pm to 7 am each day, until further notice. Violations of the curfew are punishable by imprisonment...
In a statement to the newspaper, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb said, “The state will take strict measures to confront this dirty war,” adding, “lowly acts of terrorism will not keep us from realizing our political roadmap.”
Authorities also decreed the indefinite closure of the Rafah border crossing, the only legal access point into or out of Egypt from, the Gaza Strip as of Saturday. The exact reasoning behind this closure was not explained by Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or other state officials.
The Chinese news agency Xinhua said on Saturday:
The Gaza-based Corporation for Crossings and Borders said in an emailed press statement that Egyptian authorities have officially informed the Palestinian side on the closure of the main crossing for the coastal enclave. "Egypt informed us today morning that it shut down Rafah crossing until a further notice due to the deteriorated security situation in Sinai," said the statement.
Though these reports don't say it, most of the frequent bombing attacks on Egyptian security forces, on Egyptian public facilities, on Egyptian politicians and on the Egypt-to-Jordan gas pipeline have been ascribed to the Salafist jihadists of "Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the most active militant group in Egypt". Since 2011, its terrorists have also repeatedly fired rockets [source] into southern Israel, including the resort city of Eilat.

Friday's assault was "the biggest loss of life in decades for Egypt's army, which has been carrying out an offensive against jihadists in northern Sinai". The Egyptian campaign has involved their forces destroying (they claim)
more than 1,600 tunnels connecting the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, most of them since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year. The Islamist group Hamas, the main power in the blockaded Palestinian enclave, uses the tunnels to smuggle in arms, food and money. [AFP, September 20, 2014]
Egypt's Al-Ahram says the number of tunnels destroyed by Egypt is larger than that, and hints at Egypt's grievances against Hamas:
Egypt's military has destroyed a total of 1,813 smuggling tunnels in the Sinai Peninsula since January 2011, state news agency MENA reported. The network of smuggling tunnels connects the desert region with the Palestinian Gaza Strip, controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement. Egypt's army has been waging an offensive in North Sinai to counter a rising jihadist militancy that has left hundreds of police and army personnel dead in the last two years. The military has raided suspected sites and has routinely announced the killing or arrest of militants. Egypt has accused Hamas of interfering in its internal politics. Hamas has vehemently denied such accusations... Hamas is an ideological offshoot of Egypt's now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group, from which ousted president Mohamed Morsi hails. Relations between Egypt and Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 until recently, have been tense since Morsi's ouster in July, 2013. [Al-Ahram, October 9, 2014]
Here in Israel, there are some less sanguine opinions about the effectiveness of Egyptian efforts to shut down those Sinai-Gaza tunnels:
For their part, the Bedouin smugglers acknowledge that the Egyptian crackdown has forced them to think smaller. The massive tunnels that used to accommodate cars and trucks have been destroyed, but many of the one- to two-meter-wide corridors have survived. One Bedouin guide told Reuters that smugglers had built up to 200 more such tunnels in the last two years, bringing the total of working tunnels up to 500. Comparatively, before the crackdown, there were some 1,500... ["Smuggling between Sinai and Gaza still thriving", Times of Israel, August 22, 2014]

Saturday, October 25, 2014

25-Oct-14: The hatchet attack on New York cops and its previously unstated Islamic terror background

Seconds after the axe-attack in Jamaica, Queens [Image
Source: NY Daily News]
We wrote yesterday ["24-Oct-14: Attacks on security personnel and what we do and don't know"] about several almost simultaneous attacks on law enforcement officials in the US and Canada that happened this past Wednesday and Thursday. One of them involved a non-verbal axe-wielding man who tried to kill several policemen, a man whom a friend (interviewed on television here) called "a great guy".

Here's an update:
A hatchet attack on New York police officers was a "terrorist act" carried out by a self-radicalized Muslim convert who had been in the military and browsed Al-Qaeda websites, police said Friday.
"This was a terrorist act," police commissioner Bill Bratton told a news conference on Friday, one day after the attack, saying he was "very comfortable" describing it as a "terrorist attack." Police said Zale Thompson, who was 32, unmarried and unemployed, appeared to have acted alone and was not affiliated to a particular group, but that the investigation was ongoing. A loner who spent hours locked away in his bedroom, he had looked at websites about groups such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State, and watched beheadings and Wednesday's deadly attack in Canada..
In an attack that lasted just seven seconds, Bratton said Thompson charged with a hatchet in his hand, striking two officers before he was shot dead by the two other officers, who were uninjured... A 29-year-old female bystander was accidentally shot and is also in hospital in a critical but stable condition, Bratton said.
Police said Thompson converted to Islam two years ago and that relatives described him as a "recluse" and "lately depressed." An axe and a large hunting knife were recovered from his home and Thompson made anti-Western, anti-government and in some cases anti-white statements on social media, police said. He visited websites that focused on terror groups such as Al-Qaeda, the IS organization and the Shebab Islamists in Somalia. [AFP, October 24, 2014]
The attacker via security camera [Image Source]
And from a different source ["NYPD chief: Hatchet attack was Islamic terror"]:
In recent postings on social media, he ranted about injustices in American society and oppression abroad, but the postings didn’t point to any affiliation with a terror group or direct influence of radical Islam, they said. In one comment posted in response to a YouTube video, however, Thompson wrote that “If the Zionists and the Crusaders had never invaded and colonized the Islamic lands after WW1, then there would be no need for Jihad!
But evidently there is a need for jihad. And a clear and unsatisfied need for effective measures against the jihadists.

Friday, October 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Mrs Rudoren

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

You Tweeted a link to an article penned by one of your NYT Jerusalem colleagues. It relates to a sickening attack - one that epitomizes what most people think about when they call an act 'cowardly' - by a violent Palestinian Arab man, Abdel Rahman Al-Shaludi, with a demonstrated commitment to terror and violence, driving a car.

But someone in your newspaper tacked the words "police say" onto the headline. So reasonable people are going to know that there's no compelling reason to believe it was what the police say at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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