Category Archives: TOI

Why Jamal Khashoggi’s Islamism matters

Would Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul be any less horrific if it were more widely acknowledged that he was indeed an Islamist? It seems that’s how a lot of people feel – and if you disagree, you risk being denounced as a fanatic right-wing supporter of Trump and a cynical apologist for the cruel and oppressive Saudis regime.

I’m not a Trump supporter, and I would find it very hard to think of anything good to say about the Saudi royals. But I also can’t quite see the political wisdom of reducing Khashoggi to the last year of his life and pretending that he was just some sort of liberal Saudi dissident who was writing op-eds for the Washington Post. What I do see instead is that these efforts to whitewash Khashoggi’s political views inevitably benefit the Islamists with whom he spent the last days of his life.

It’s true that – as a CNN article put it – “Jamal Khashoggi was a journalist, not a jihadist,” but it’s also true that Khashoggi collaborated to his last day with people who advocate jihad and that he was quite open about his support for the Hamas jihad against Israel.

When the news about Khashoggi’s disappearance at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul first broke, I noticed that many of the reports featured a photo showing Khashoggi in front of a banner advertising the Middle East Monitor (MEMO). From my work on anti-Israel activism and anti-Semitism, I knew what MEMO is, and I started to wonder why a Washington Post columnist would associate himself  with a disreputable Islamist organization like MEMO.

Khashoggi tweets MEMO                  

As it turned out, Khashoggi spent his last weekend in London, visiting his old Islamist comrade Azzam Tamimi and attending a conference organized by MEMO. While this fact has been noted in some media reports, there has been a marked reluctance to acknowledge the fact that MEMO is a British news site notorious for its “pro-Hamas and pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance.” As British antisemitism researchers have pointed out, MEMO frequently promotes “conspiracy theories” about Jewish or Zionist machinations as well as “other classical antisemitic canards and tropes.”

So the main benefit of getting your news from MEMO is that you quickly realize that whenever something bad happens in the Middle East, it’s the fault of the evil and illegitimate Jewish state – indeed, at MEMO, even Khashoggi’s disappearance can somehow be connected to Israel.

As Khashoggi certainly knew, MEMO is part of an extensive network of groups and organizations that was patiently built up based on an initiative first conceived in 2003 by two former al-Qaeda members in Saudi Arabia. In 2009, one of the groups affiliated with the network attracted critical attention with its so-called “Istanbul Declaration” which reflects an event with the Orwellian title “Global Anti-Aggression Campaign” where reportedly “speaker after speaker called for jihad against Israel in support of Hamas.”

MEMO director Daud Abdullah was one of the signatories of the “Istanbul Declaration.”

Abdullah is reportedly also “a leader of the Brotherhood-linked British Muslim Initiative.” A decade ago, he faced sharp criticism for insisting that the Muslim Council of Britain should boycott Holocaust Memorial Day.

It would be hard to overstate how much MEMO has benefitted from the free advertisement provided by prestigious media outlets that cited its association with Khashoggi without divulging its political agenda.  

MEMO cleverly seized the opportunity to further enhance its completely undeserved legitimation by organizing a memorial event for Khashoggi at the end of October. MEMO director Daud Abdullah opened the event which was live-streamed by the Washington Post. Senior Human Rights Watch official Sarah Leah Whitson also saw fit to legitimize MEMO by attending this event and promoting it energetically to her almost 50,000 followers on Twitter.

SLW at MEMO

SLW RTs MEMO Khashoggi

Those who are now so eager to legitimize MEMO in the wake of Khashoggi’s assassination are particularly disingenuous when they deny that he was a lifelong Islamist who cheered Hamas and whitewashed the record of the extremist Muslim Brotherhood clearic Yussuf Qaradawi.

It is after all thanks to MEMO’s reporting about Khashoggi and the translation of some of his columns to English that it is now so easy to document some of Khashoggi’s rather unsavory views.

One of the noteworthy examples is a MEMO report from last February – i.e. when Khashoggi was already writing for the Washington Post. According to the report, Khashoggi told his audience during a speech in Istanbul that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s “talk about moderate Islam” should be dismissed as worthless as long as the Saudi royals remained hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood. Khashoggi asserted that it was Muslim Brotherhood clerics like Yusuf Qaradawi who “introduced the term moderate Islam” and he insisted that “Bin Salman is confused about the proper choice for moderation […] The Muslim Brotherhood are moderates, but he does not want to admit that.”

Let’s contrast Khashoggi’s praise of the notorious Qaradawi as a paragon of “moderate Islam” with what the Washington Post reported on Qaradawi just a few months before the paper hired Khashoggi.

Citing a US counterterrorism expert, the paper described Qaradawi as “one of the most public figureheads of the radical wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.” Other US officials characterized the Muslim cleric as “a man whose beatific smile and folksy speaking style belie a history of defending suicide bombings in Israel and condoning violence against U.S. troops in Iraq.” The report also highlights the fact that Qaradawi sometimes used his popular sermons and his TV show to express support for Hamas and that he “has suggested that the murder of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany was ‘divine punishment’ for historical transgressions. He has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, including the killing of civilians.”

Qaradawi’s precise comment on the Holocaust during an Al Jazeera program in January 2009 is worth quoting:

“Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.”

It is hardly less alarming that Qaradawi also believes in a divinely ordained end-of-times battle between “all Muslims and all Jews.”

The fact that Qaradawi’s well-documented fanaticism didn’t bother Khashoggi is most likely due to his own intense hostility to Israel, which is clearly reflected in some of his Al Hayat columns published by MEMO in English translation.

In an article from July 2014 entitled “Palestine, the occupation and the resistance for beginners”, Khashoggi asserted that Israel’s “existence is outside the context of history and logic […] it came into being by force, it will live by force and it will die by force.”

While Khashoggi is now widely portrayed as a sophisticated Middle East analyst who shared important liberal values, he meant it quite literally when he claimed that Israel exists “outside the context of history and logic.”

Khashoggi’s shocking denial of Jewish history is evident from a Twitter exchange [archived] that took place in October 2015 [emphasis added; the tweets were first highlighted by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre].

Khashoggi first posted a tweet asserting that the “Grave of Al-Nabi Yusuf [Joseph’s Tomb] which was attacked by demonstrators yesterday is a Jewish fabrication. It is a grave built in the Turkish period, and the Jews turned it into a school of extremism and claimed that it is [the grave] of Joseph.”

He then followed up explaining:

The Jews have no history in Palestine. Because of this, they invented the Wailing Wall, which is a Mameluke structure. After 67 they noticed Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus and they decided that it is [the grave] of Joseph, and they took it over.”

Another Twitter user (@JawadAlhashimy) objected: “The Jews without history in Palestine!!! It seems professor that your honor’s knowledge of history is like my knowledge of the Korean language!! Greetings.”

Khashoggi responded: “Go and dig with them Jawad Al-Hashimi, maybe you will find a grave or remains that they can ask blessings from. [The Jews] dug all over [Palestine] and they didn’t find anything, maybe you have [more] experience.”

Jawad Alhashimy replied: “For your knowledge professor, we Muslims took from the Jews even the name ‘Al-Quds’. [The Jews] called Jerusalem ‘Beit Hamikdash’ and we stole it and called it Bayt Al-Maqdis.”

In response, Khashoggi wrote: “@JawadAlhashimy shame [on you]… The Muslims didn’t steal anything from the Jews. I consider you to be a Muslim who is proud of your identity, do not provoke me anymore.”

Jawad Alhashimy insisted again: “Yes, they [the Muslims] did. They stole its Hebrew name ‘Beit Hamiqdash’ which means ‘Holy House’ and they gave this name to Iliya [Arabic version of the Roman Aelia Capitolina] in the days of the conflict between the Omayyads and Ibn Al-Zubayr.”

Khashoggi’s denial of Jewish history clearly reflects his commitment to rather extremist Islamist ideology, which he also betrayed with his evident hope that Israel “will die by force.”

It is thus hardly surprising that Khashoggi was also an ardent admirer of the terror group Hamas.  In an article written in July 2014, Khashoggi begins with what reads like a bitter lament that the Arabs have never waged “a jihad” against Israel. Implicitly rejecting negotiations with Israel, Khashoggi asserts that the divinely ordained “price” for freedom was “blood and death.” He then heaps praise on Hamas for accomplishing the “miracle” of procuring rockets and explosives; he expresses great admiration for the “distinguished combat performance” shown by Hamas and the building of “the huge network of tunnels that extends for miles under Gaza and the borders with Israel and Egypt” which – as Khashoggi notes with undisguised delight – “were used brilliantly to inflict unprecedented losses on the enemy.”

But the perhaps most chilling sentence comes when Khashoggi concludes: “All of this proves that the movement [i.e. Hamas] wasted no time while ruling in Gaza.”

All too obviously, Khashoggi felt that Hamas should be applauded for turning Gaza into a heavily armed terrorist enclave instead of taking advantage of Israel’s withdrawal in 2005 to develop the territory into a model for a Palestinian state. But praising this as a miraculous accomplishment of Hamas makes sense only for someone who fervently hopes that one day, Israel “will die by force.”

As vile as some of Khashoggi’s views may have been, they obviously don’t justify his assassination. Yet, his undisguised hatred for Israel should not be whitewashed by portraying him as a quasi-liberal writer who just wanted a few freedoms for the Middle East. Khashoggi also wanted a Middle East where Islamist forces like the terror group Hamas would vanquish the hated Jewish state. Precisely because Khashoggi’s many Islamist friends are fully aware of this fact that is so inconvenient for his western friends, the efforts to downplay what Khashoggi’s Islamism entailed could all too easily be construed as tacit approval.

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Translation from Arabic courtesy of Ibn Boutros.

A slightly different version of this post was first published at my Times of Israel blog.

Teen terrorists made in Palestine

Note: This is an updated version of a post first published in November on my TOI blog.

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“Child Sacrifice Brings No Honor to the Palestinian Cause” was the title of a recent Ha’aretz op-ed by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie. It’s 2015, and one might have hoped there would be no need for an op-ed with such a title. But sadly, there is even a Wikipedia entry for “Child suicide bombers in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict,” and the recent stabbing attacks by Palestinian teenagers – including a boy as young as 11 – are only another reminder of the abusive indoctrination and exploitation of children practiced by Palestinian society for decades.

Long before Hamas officials boasted in recent years that their efforts to train a “true generation of martyrdom-seekers” were so successful that “Palestinian youngsters … fight and quarrel over performing a courageous suicide operation,” a Life Magazine cover story on “Palestinian Arabs” in 1970 included a photo showing a group of very young boys with guns and the caption: “The ‘Tiger Cubs’ train at a camp in Jordan.”

Life Mag 1970 cover

Why Palestinians considered it useful to train child soldiers was explained by the prominent cartoonist Nagi Al-Ali in an article published in 1985, where he first denounced Israel’s 1982 campaign against Palestinian terror groups in Lebanon and then gloated:

“I saw for myself how afraid the Israeli soldiers were of the children. A child of ten or eleven had sufficient training to carry and use an RBG rifle. The situation was simple enough. The Israeli tanks were in front of them and the weapon was in their hands. The Israelis were afraid to go into the camps, and if they did, they would only do so in daylight.”

More than three decades have passed since then, but Palestinians still believe that the same Israeli soldiers they regularly denounce as brutal and trigger-happy are “afraid” of children – which of course means they know full well that Israeli soldiers don’t want to shoot kids. Sadly, that in turn only means Palestinians find it very useful to involve their children in protests and violent provocations.

The deeply cynical game that Palestinians like to play was illustrated a few months ago, when a video showing the attempt of an Israeli soldier to arrest a seemingly frightened boy for rock-throwing went viral. The fully armed soldier was quickly attacked and forced to retreat by a group of women and girls from the Tamimi clan of Nabi Saleh – a small village near Ramallah, which has become a popular destination for international activists who are attracted by the weekly efforts of the Tamimis to provoke clashes with the IDF.

The boy in the video elicited all the more sympathy around the globe because he had one arm in a cast. His parents, Bassem and Nariman Tamimi, proceeded to tell the media various stories about how their son had broken his arm, and needless to say, all the stories blamed the brutality of Israeli’s army. However, when I decided to look into the matter, I found out that Facebook posts by the Tamimis revealed that their son Mohammad (aka Abu Yazan) had broken his arm when he stumbled while throwing stones at an army jeep – for which his parents not only praised him to the high heavens, but which they also encouraged him to continue. When a Facebook friend expressed concern and suggested it might be better to stop these provocations, Mohammad’s loving mother coldly responded: “Either victory or martyrdom; and everything is going to be OK.”

For the Tamimis everything was more than OK when the video of the attempted arrest of their son went viral. They greatly enjoyed the global media attention and shared countless reports condemning Israeli brutality against an innocent helpless little boy on their Facebook pages. But they also shared a revealing cartoon that illustrates their cynical exploitation of their own children: the ostensibly terrified boy with the broken arm, who was exhibited to the world as the victim of a brutal assault by a heavily armed soldier, is transformed into a little superman who needs just one arm to toss a monstrously huge Israeli soldier into the air; the triumphant caption reads in English: “Shatter the myth of the Zionist army at the hands of the children of Nabi Saleh.”

Tamimi kids shatter IDF mythWhile the Tamimis gloat that it is child’s play to “shatter the myth of the Zionist army,” they also happily spread current versions of the medieval blood libel, including accusations that Israeli soldiers shoot Palestinian children for fun or arrest them to harvest their organs.

BTamimi Pal kids stolen organs

It’s arguably worthwhile to ponder for a moment how it must feel to grow up in such an environment: on the one hand, your parents and adult family members push you relentlessly to provoke Israeli soldiers and praise you when you do so; on the other hand, your parents and adult family members say that the Israeli soldiers you are supposed to provoke kill kids for fun or arrest them to harvest their organs.

Add to this frightful demonization the pervasive glorification of terrorism in Palestinian society with the clear message that there is nothing more heroic than being killed while killing – or at least trying to kill – Israeli Jews, and it’s no longer such a mystery why even young Palestinian teens would grab a knife and go out to stab a Jew.

So it was no surprise that the Tamimis cheered the recent stabbing attacks – even when the attacks were thought to be carried out by 15-year-olds.

MTamimi 15yo hero stabs settler

In this case, the attacker turned out to be actually 19, and the victim was a yeshiva student; but as I have shown in a detailed documentation published recently by The Tower Magazine, the Tamimis had been rooting for a “third intifada” for years and could see nothing wrong when it seemed that this long-hoped-for “third intifada” might be brought about by knife-wielding Palestinian teenagers stabbing Jews on the streets of Israel’s cities. Since the Tamimis had long promoted the use of children in violent confrontations with the IDF, they were now ready to hail teenaged terrorists as “heroes” if they were arrested, and as “martyrs” if they were killed while killing or trying to kill; at the same time, they were shameless enough to claim repeatedly that the “martyrs” were innocent victims executed in cold blood by the evil Zionists.

Sadly, the Tamimis are quite representative of mainstream Palestinian support for violence and terrorism, which is well-documented in surveys that go back more than two decades.

What makes the Tamimis’ support for terrorism – along with their openly displayed Jew-hatred and their frank rejection of a peacefully negotiated two-state solution – noteworthy is that they have the unwavering support of Amnesty International. At the end of the second intifada, Amnesty eventually got around to issuing a belated statement criticizing “Palestinian armed groups” for using children. But apparently, Amnesty sees nothing wrong when the Tamimis insist that even children have the “duty” to “resist.” Indeed, when Bassem Tamimi recently faced criticism for trying to indoctrinate American Third Graders during a US-speaking tour that was co-sponsored by Amnesty, an official of the organization rejected the criticism and emphasized that Amnesty had “adopted his village of Nabi Saleh as a community-at-risk” and that “AI groups globally work on behalf of the village long term.”

It’s supposedly an African proverb that says “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” As I have shown in The Tower Magazine documentation, children in the Amnesty-supported village of Nabi Saleh are raised by adults who push them relentlessly to put themselves in danger in order to fulfill their “duty” to “resist;” the children see their parents cheer teenagers who went out to stab Jews, and they grow up among adults who feel that Israel’s Jews deserve to be killed because they are all bloodthirsty “settlers” and “Zionists” who want global strife. And as soon as the children are on Facebook, they will be “friends” with one of the most notorious Tamimi-clan members: Ahlam Tamimi, the mastermind of the 2001 Sbarro massacre in Jerusalem.

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Update:

About a month after The Tower Magazine published my documentation, Amnesty International decided to show again its support for the Tamimis and organized a campaign on Twitter that was joined by numerous regional and local Amnesty branches all posting tweets with the hashtag #NabiSaleh.

Amnesty’s continued support for the Tamimis is shameful, all the more so since in the meantime, some Palestinian journalists and intellectuals have begun to speak out against the indoctrination and exploitation of children in confrontations with the IDF and terror attacks. To quote one voice repudiating the kind of views promoted by the Tamimis:

“Do not send your children into the fray, even though the occupation does not distinguish between children, youth, and adults… We must not bring our children into the cycle of violence… Even the Prophet Muhammad refused to bring children into battle… We should keep our children away from the demonstrations in the areas of conflict and clashes so they can experience their childhood. Even if it is a difficult [childhood], it is better than the childhood of the injured, the prisoner, or the martyr who is [completely] bereft of a childhood.”

[…]

“Do not cheer [the stabbing children] and do not take pride [in them], since this has become a game of blood. Those who scream and roar, congratulating a child for pulling out a knife or a schoolgirl for taking up a pair of scissors, should see them as though they were their own children. Would they agree to throw their son into this furnace?”

However, a recent poll shows overwhelming support for the current wave of Palestinian terror attacks, though most do not want “young school girls” to commit stabbings.

Happy New Year and a belated Merry Christmas from Palestinian Jew-haters

For several years, I have documented how Palestinians exploit Christmas as yet another occasion to deny the historic Jewish connection to the ancient Land of Israel and to present Israel as illegitimate and evil. The installment of this past Christmas is cross-posted below from my Times of Israel (TOI) blog; Legal Insurrection has a much more comprehensive post aptly titled “Guide to How Anti-Israel Activists Hijack Christmas.”

But in the meantime, there was also a noteworthy New Year’s greeting of sorts posted on January 1st by Radio Bethlehem on their Facebook page, where the post has garnered more than 1400 “Likes”. The page is very popular and has been “liked” by more than 2,3 million people; I scrolled through several dozens of posts and saw that, while there are some viral posts “liked” by thousands, most posts get several hundred “Likes” – so this one was fairly popular.

Radio Bethlehem Happy2016

A Palestinian Christmas tree for terrorists

Based on the stories associated with the annunciation of the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, Christians everywhere view Christmas as the season of peace and goodwill to all. Unfortunately, in the environs of what the Gospel of Luke describes as “the town of David” – i.e. Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus – Palestinians have long been trying to establish a very different tradition. This Palestinian Christmas tradition exploits Christianity’s most popular holiday as yet another occasion to deny the historic Jewish connection to the land where Jesus was born and to fan the flames of hatred against Israel.

Three years ago, an utterly tasteless op-ed in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida asserted: “Jesus is a Palestinian; the self-sacrificing Yasser Arafat is a Palestinian; Mahmoud Abbas, the messenger of peace on earth, is a Palestinian. How great is this nation of the holy Trinity!”

Two years ago, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) produced a YouTube clip showing Santa’s trip to Bethlehem threatened by various symbols of the occupation; the short text posted with the clip explained that on Christmas, “Palestine celebrates the birth of one of its own, Jesus Christ.”

One year ago, there was apparently no official attempt to claim Jesus as a symbol of Palestinian nationalism, and the Christmas clip posted by the PLO focused on contrasting how wonderful it would be for tourists to be able to visit Bethlehem in the State of Palestine as opposed to having to pass countless security checks on their way to occupied Bethlehem.  However, for those familiar with Palestinian demands, the clip’s title “All I Want For Christmas Is Justice” hinted at much more than the desire to have an independent state, since “justice” as understood by Palestinians includes the imaginary “right of return” of Palestinian refugees and millions of their descendants to Israel.

While I haven’t seen any official Palestinian message for this Christmas, I noticed in early December that “pro-Palestinian” activists on Twitter were eagerly sharing a picture showing a “#Xmas tree in o’#Jerusalem decorated with pictures of 108 martyrs killed by the Israeli occupation since 1 Oct 2015.”

Christmas terror tree

I was first not entirely sure if the claim that the tree was decorated with pictures of “martyrs” – which usually means terrorists killed during an attack – was correct. After all, it is obviously quite an outrageous idea to decorate a Christmas tree with pictures of terrorists – a bit like decorating a table for the nightly Ramadan meal with a pig’s head. However, Israeli journalist Gal Berger also tweeted a picture of the tree, noting that it was a Christmas tree at Al Quds University in Abu Dis and confirming that it was indeed decorated with pictures of terrorists.

In the meantime, the Hamas mouthpiece MEMO also reported on this incident under the title “‘Martyrs’ Christmas tree at Al-Quds University angers Israelis.” According to this report, the Christmas tree was “decorated with photos of ‘martyrs’ killed by Israeli settlers and security forces” and it “was unveiled on the Abu Dis campus in a ceremony attended by the university’s President, Imad Abu Kishk, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna and the Mufti of Bethlehem, Sheikh Abdul Majid Amarna.”

The event was reportedly “praised and welcomed widely by Palestinian students” and was seen as a demonstration of “the unity and cohesion between Christians and Muslims at the university.” This inspired Quds Open University in Jenin “to follow suit by putting up its own ‘martyrs Christmas tree’.”

Of course, Christmas is pretty much the only time of year when Palestinian Christians in the West Bank can hope for positive attention and praise if they are willing to demonstrate “unity and cohesion between Christians and Muslims.”

But Palestinians envision their future state as designating Islam as “the official religion in Palestine,” and the “principles of the Islamic shari`a” are supposed to be “a main source for legislation.” Indeed, a poll published last year shows that a shocking 24% of Palestinians view the savagely brutal terror group ISIS positively.

However, it is of course Israel that is usually blamed for the difficult situation of Palestinian Christians. But as Michael Oren once pointed out in a related article, Bethlehem provides a good example of what is really going on:

“The church in Bethlehem had survived more than 1,000 years, through wars and conquests, but its future now seemed in jeopardy. Spray-painted all over its ancient stone walls were the Arabic letters for Hamas. The year was 1994 and the city was about to pass from Israeli to Palestinian control. I was meeting with the church’s clergy as an Israeli government adviser on inter-religious affairs. They were despondent but too frightened to file a complaint. The same Hamas thugs who had desecrated their sanctuary were liable to take their lives.”

According to Oren, Bethlehem’s Christian population grew by 57% under Israeli rule. But since the Palestinian Authority took over in 1995, “those numbers have plummeted. Palestinian gunmen seized Christian homes—compelling Israel to build a protective barrier between them and Jewish neighborhoods—and then occupied the Church of the Nativity, looting it and using it as a latrine. Today, Christians comprise a mere one-fifth of their holy city’s population.”

For sure, a Christian like Father Gabriel Naddaf who openly dares to criticize Abbas for the preposterous claim that Jesus was a Palestinian wouldn’t fare very well under Palestinian rule. Perhaps not all Christians in the West Bank feel comfortable with a Christmas tree celebrating those who tried to kill Israeli Jews, but speaking out against it would obviously be very risky.