Can you change the mind of a jihadist?


Of all the things I’ve read about the latest jihadist terror attack from London, one line in particular from Prime Minister Theresa May stood out.

Terrorism will only be defeated, she said, when we make young people “understand that our values, pluralistic British values, are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.”

But at the same time, May spoke about the need to crack down harder on those “young people” and the extremism that feeds them.

So, on the one hand, May wants to get tougher with the killers, while, on the other, convince them that British values are superior.

Maybe that represents, in a nutshell, the dilemma of fighting jihadist terrorism. To really win the war, you have to fight them physically and psychologically, but when you’re so busy with the physical, who’s got time for the psychological?

The focus in England right now clearly is on security, on preventing the next attack. Is there anyone on May’s team working on her goal of influencing values? I doubt it. The mood in the country is to stop the bad guys from killing — not to change their values.

But let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that, simultaneous to the crackdown, May would hire a marketing agency to create a campaign that might positively influence the bad guys. What would that look like?

One of the first things you learn in the advertising business is never to use the word “impossible.” There’s always the “best possible” answer to a problem, however unlikely it is that you can solve it. It’s about moving things forward — will the campaign make things a little better? Will it improve the odds of success?

Something else advertising teaches is to boil everything down to its essence — a few words, an image, a single thought. The goal is to light sparks, plant seeds, break the ice.

In our case, a key question is: How would you plant seeds of doubt in the mind of a jihadist who believes he’s doing God’s work when he slices the neck of a woman enjoying a beer in a British bar, or runs over pedestrians strolling happily on a Saturday night?

The easy thing to do would be to throw our hands up and give up. If someone thinks killing is holy, how do you counter that? But, like I said, this is a thought experiment. If the prime minister of England wants an ad campaign to influence the minds of religious extremists, what do you recommend?

In my mind, I see only one thing: We must fight holy with holy. They say killing is holy? We say life is holy.

The idea would be to rally leaders across all cultures and religions — especially Muslim leaders and preachers — to launch a “Life is Holy” campaign. The advertising would provide the sparks, but community leaders would preach the message on the ground.

A pervasive “Life is Holy” movement will, at the very least, put killers on notice that they no longer own holiness.

The campaign would reclaim holiness on behalf of life. We would promote the holiness of life with the same passion religious killers promote the holiness of killing. Instead of playing defense, life would play offense.

A “Life is Holy” message has some clear benefits: It’s true, believable, simple and passionate.

Of course, no marketing campaign can solve the problem of jihadist terrorism. There are too many jihadists who are moved by verses in the Quran that speak of killing the infidels, and too many preachers who feed this violence.

What marketing can do, however, is provide an aspirational vision. It can tell future generations of potential jihadists that real holiness lies in life, not killing. If enough Muslim preachers throughout the world reinforce this message in their sermons, we might begin to make a dent.

In her remarks, Prime Minister May spoke of cracking down on “safe spaces” online and in self-segregated Muslim communities that can harbor extremism.

If she is serious about doing this, she must infiltrate these extremist “safe spaces” with messages that promote the holiness of life — with billboards and memes, for example, that show the faces of people of all colors and religions as being worthy of holiness. Most critically, she must enlist local Muslim preachers to lead the way.

In sum, a “Life is Holy” campaign, if done right, can ignite an in-your-face pushback to the culture of death that infects the minds of jihadist killers. The “Life is Holy” message must be ubiquitous — it must be on T-shirts, street corners and social media. It must be loud enough to marginalize anyone who doesn’t support it.

In combination with a serious security crackdown, a pervasive “Life is Holy” movement will, at the very least, put killers on notice that they no longer own holiness.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is criticizing YouTube for allowing the proliferation of videos such as this one, posted by an account associated with the terrorist group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

YouTube, Google graded poorly on hate, terrorism by Wiesenthal Center


The video-sharing site YouTube and its parent company, Google, fared poorly in the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s annual social media report card for their handling of hate- and terrorism-related material.

The Wiesenthal Center, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that fights hate speech, says YouTube is being exploited by terrorists to encourage acts of violence and instruct would-be attackers in their methods. The site received a C- in the category of “terrorism” and a D for “hate.”

“Google/YouTube is rightfully under fierce criticism for placing digital ads from major international brands like AT&T and Johnson & Johnson next to extremist videos celebrating terrorist attacks that should never have been allowed on its platform in the first place,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Wiesenthal Center’s associate dean, said March 28 at the media briefing where the grades were unveiled. It took place at the New York City comptroller’s office, four blocks from ground zero.

DTH grades17_Poster

Courtesy of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

He said the Wiesenthal Center awarded YouTube its low grades for allowing terrorism “how to” videos to proliferate on its platform, and for failing to take down thousands of posts by hate groups. He pointed to a number of videos posted on the site in the wake of a recent terrorist attack outside the Houses of Parliament in London, praising the attack and encouraging others to follow suit.

YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A more in-depth report, “Digital Terrorism + Hate,” available at digitalhate.net, details the ways in which terrorist groups use social media to recruit, network and instruct potential attackers. The report names a number of accounts, tactics and pages associated with terrorism.

“Frankly, one of the things that we need is for the companies to be more responsive to their responsibilities,” Cooper told the Journal. “Almost all the companies set rules, and some try a lot harder than others to live up to them.”

He lauded recent changes at Twitter, whose grades have improved since the Wiesenthal Center began issuing the report cards in 2015. The company’s grade for “hate” rose from a D to a C since last year. Cooper said the change was due to Twitter’s move to deactivate hundreds of thousands of accounts associated with terrorism and hate speech.

Facebook received the highest marks because of its “sophisticated in-house system of blocking” objectionable accounts and content, according to Cooper. Other platforms, such as YouTube and Twitter, are reactive rather than proactive, he said.

But in general, Cooper said Silicon Valley has demonstrated a lack of leadership when it comes to fighting hate online. He said the Wiesenthal Center hopes to convene social media companies to comprehensively address the problems of digital hate speech and web use by terrorists. Failing that, the nonprofit would look into other, more drastic measures.

“If they don’t get a handle on this, we can be looking at the horrible R-word — regulation,” he said in the interview. “I’m not particularly enamored with that solution. It’s always messy when you go to Washington.”

However, he said he will be educating public officials about the trends highlighted in the report.

At the press conference, Cooper also announced that the Wiesenthal Center will be offering tutorials for high school students “to empower young people to deal with the tsunami of hate.” The center plans to pilot the tutorials with teens in New York City.

He told the Journal, “Since they usually see [online hate speech] before the adults anyway, we’re going to do our best to try to empower them with some guidelines about how to deal with it.”

Hillary Clinton to Israeli TV: Jihadists are praying for Donald Trump to win


Hillary Clinton told an Israeli TV news show that Islamist extremists are praying for a Donald Trump presidency, prompting an enraged rebuke from the Republican presidential nominee’s campaign.

Clinton, the Democratic nominee, speaking to Israel’s Channel 2, was responding to a question about why she does not use the term “war on radical Islam” favored by Trump and other conservatives.

“Bringing Islam into the definition of our enemy actually serves the purpose of the radical jihadists and there’s a lot of evidence of that,” she said, citing a Time magazine op-Ed by Matt Olsen, formerly a director of the National Counterterrorism Center under President Barack Obama.

“I found it even surprising how clear and compelling the case was, where he quoted ISIS spokespeople rooting for Donald Trump’s victory because Trump has made Islam and Muslims part of his campaign, and basically, Matt Olsen argues, that the jihadists see this as a great gift, they are saying, ‘Oh, please Allah, make Trump president of America!” Clinton said in a preview of a longer interview embedded on Israeli news websites. ISIS is one of several acronyms for the Islamic State terrorist group.

“I’m not interested in giving aid and comfort to their evil ambitions,” she said. “I want to defeat them, I want to end their reign of terror, I don’t want them to feel as though they can be getting more recruits because of our politics.”

The Trump campaign addressed the clip in its daily email to reporters, taunting Clinton for her relative paucity of news conferences.

“It’s no surprise she’s resorting to unhinged and dishonest attacks, including claiming on Israeli TV that terrorists are praying for Mr. Trump to win,” Jason Miller, a campaign spokesman, said in the email.

Separately, Clinton and Trump appeared Wednesday evening on the NBC network in a “commander in chief” town hall forum answering national security questions.

Clinton again affirmed her support for the deal reached last year between Iran and six major powers, led by the United States, rolling back nuclear development in exchange for sanctions relief. She said the deal freed the United States to focus on other Iranian malfeasance.

“What I am focused on is all the other malicious activities of the Iranians — ballistic missiles, support for terrorists, being involved in Syria, Yemen and other places, supporting Hezbollah, Hamas,” Clinton told Matt Lauer, the NBC interviewer convening the town hall. The question did not come from military veterans in the audience.

“But here’s the difference, Matt. I would rather as president be dealing with Iran on all of those issues without having to worry as much about their racing for a nuclear weapon,” she said. “So we have made the world safer; we just have to make sure it’s enforced.”

Why are we afraid to talk about Islam?


If a white, homophobic Christian fundamentalist had murdered 49 people in a gay nightclub, would we go out of our way not to mention his religion for fear of offending all Christians?

Mass murderer Omar Mateen, the man who went on a rampage in an Orlando nightclub, is not just a “hater” or a “homegrown extremist,” as President Barack Obama characterized him. He’s a Muslim terrorist who called 911 and pledged allegiance to an Islamic terror group while committing his slaughter.

As FBI Director James Comey told reporters on Monday, “There are strong indications of radicalization by this killer and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations.”

But if these “foreign terrorist organizations” are indeed Islamic, as we all know they are, why can’t Comey just come out and say it? What is he afraid of?

Since 9/11, according to the website Jihad Watch, 28,589 deadly terrorist acts have been committed around the world in the name of Islam. Why can’t we talk about that? How can we treat a disease if we don’t identify it?

Omar Mateen was radicalized by Islamists like Abu Taubah, a man whose teachings are described in the Daily Beast as “virulently homophobic.”

Of course, if Mateen needed any Islamic inspiration for his homophobic act, all he had to do was watch a video of gays being thrown off rooftops in Iraq by ISIS terrorists, or one of Shiek Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a Muslim preacher who has given sermons in the Orlando area and has called for gays to be executed.

“Death is the sentence. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about this,” the shiek says in one of the videos. “We have to have compassion for people. With homosexuals, it’s the same. Out of compassion, let’s get rid of them.”

It’s easy to dismiss all this hate speech as a “perversion” of Islam, as the president and many others have done. But the holy texts of Islam contain some genuine bile against homosexuals and even specify the punishment: “Execute the one who does it and the one to whom it is done.”

This may help explain why homosexuality is so reviled in Muslim-dominated countries. As a 2013 Pew study reported, over 90 percent of people surveyed in predominantly Muslim countries like Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Indonesia and Pakistan say homosexuality should be rejected.

When such religious-based homophobia leads to violence, our politically correct reflex is to separate the religion from the interpretation, and say, “This is not Islam, it’s only a twisted interpretation.” This helps us move on and talk about things more in our comfort zone, such as gun control.

But if the twisted interpretation leads to violence, why should we dismiss it? Why should an instrument (guns) be taken more seriously than a motivation (religious hate speech)? If we condemn a Christian or Jewish preacher for inciting violence, why not a Muslim preacher?

Judaism frowns on separating interpretation of text from religion.

“Interpretation is as fundamental to any text-based religion as is the act of revelation itself,” Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks writes in his book, “The Great Partnership.”

“No word, especially the word of God, is self-explanatory. Exegetes and commentators are to religion what judges are to law. They are essential to the system, and they can make all the difference between justice and injustice, right and wrong.”

Instead of dismissing the hateful interpretations of Islam, we must confront them directly and candidly and counter them with humane and scholarly interpretations that would distinguish right from wrong and bring honor to the faith.

Fortunately, such a movement exists — it's called the Muslim Reform Movement.

This is an initiative started in late 2015 by a dozen Muslim scholars and religious leaders in the United States to spawn a more liberal and tolerant Islam for the next century. The movement, which I wrote about last December after the terror attack in San Bernardino, has yet to gain traction with the mainstream media. I hope that changes.

The group’s manifesto reinterprets Islamic texts and calls for many things we take for granted, such as “secular governance, democracy and liberty.” It also asserts that “every individual has the right to publicly express criticism of Islam.”

It rejects “bigotry, oppression and violence against all people based on any prejudice, including ethnicity, gender, language, belief, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression.”

Most importantly, the authors call on the Muslim world and others to sign on and help the movement grow and flourish globally.

Everyone on the planet who believes in freedom and human rights should sign on. Every Muslim preacher and leader who believes Islam is a religion of peace should get behind the movement.

We need to create a world where all present and future Omar Mateens will enter their favorite mosque and hear about an Islam that doesn’t tolerate homophobia or bigotry or misoginy of any sort. An Islam that brings honor to Islam.  

That world would be good for the LGBTQ community, and for all of humanity.

Islamic State can draw on veteran jihadists, ex-Iraq army officers for leadership


Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, one of the world's most wanted men, is counting on veteran jihadis and former Iraqi army officers who form the core of the militant movement to take over if he is killed.

New questions arose over Islamic State's leadership structure and who might succeed Baghdadi after Iraq's military said on Sunday air strikes had hit a convoy carrying him, though Iraqi security officials later denied this.

Baghdadi, who rarely appears in public and delivers few audio speeches, makes the vast majority of decisions, including which of the group's enemies should be killed.

His approval is needed even for decisions taken by the five-member Shura Council, which runs Islamic State and will elect a new a new leader if Baghdadi is killed, and he rules over a decentralized network of emirs in the field who run the everyday activities of the caliphate he has declared.

Baghdadi does, however, lean on a small circle of senior Islamic State aides such as Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, the group's official spokesman, as he pursues a mission which his fighters describe as “part of God's path to create a strong Islamic State that will rule the world.” 

Born in 1977 in Idlib, Syria, Adnani has delivered Islamic State's main messages, including its declaration of a caliphate, which was distributed in five languages.

The most important operatives include Abu Muslim al-Turkmani, a former general and military intelligence officer under Saddam Hussein who can provide Islamic State fighters with training and direction.

Baghdadi is also said by followers to rely heavily on Abu Omar al-Shishani, a senior commander in Syria. Born in 1986 in Georgia, which was then still part of the Soviet Union, he has a reputation as a great military mind and has long been at Baghdadi's side.

RUTHLESS AND SECRETIVE 

Sunday's air strike was at least the third attack on Baghdadi's entourage.

Despite his power – and a $10 million U.S. reward for information leading to his capture – little is known about a man who for his own survival has shunned the spotlight.

But it is clear he will go to all lengths to achieve his goals, as evidenced in Islamic State videos depicting the violent deaths of those who stand in its way.

Opponents have been beheaded, shot dead, blown up with fuses attached to their necks and drowned in cages lowered into swimming pools, with underwater cameras capturing their agony.

According to the U.S. reward notice, which depicts a round-faced, brown-eyed man with closely cropped beard and short dark hair, Baghdadi was born in the Iraqi town of Samarra in 1971.

The United States, which is bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, first came across Baghdadi in Iraq in 2004 when it detained him at the Camp Bucca. He was later released.

A follower of al Qaeda during the early years of the U.S. occupation, he later branched out on his own, helping establish Islamic State.

When he seized tracts of Iraq and Syria and declared a so-called caliphate he hopes will span the Muslim world, he drew militants from around the globe to Islamic State, creating a diverse pool of fighters eager to rise up the jihadist ladder.

Baghdadi and his aides have thrown an already fractured Middle East deeper into turmoil and delivered a shock to global security on a scale not seen since the heyday of al Qaeda.

Baghdadi's followers' killings of Shi'ites on the Arabian Peninsula deepened divisions in the Muslim world and their brutality helped spur Russian military involvement in the region and worsen the most severe refugee crisis since World War Two.

Baghdadi has exploited conflict in Syria and Iraq to topple al Qaeda from its primacy in trans-national militancy, a huge loss of prestige for a group whose hijacked plane attacks killed nearly 3,000 people in New York's World Trade Center, Washington and Pennsylvania. 

The recruiting drum he beat was loud and clear: summoning followers to a pitiless jihad against Shi’ite heretics, Christian crusaders, Jewish infidels, and Kurdish atheists. He berated Arab despots for defiling the honor of Sunni Islam.

FAR-REACHING AMBITIONS

Islamic State became the first militant group to defeat an army when it swept through northern Iraq last year.

“Islam was never for a day the religion of peace; Islam is the religion of war,” he said in a speech released on May 14.

This year he set his sights on Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam, and his group launched an online magazine for Turks, who volunteered for his jihad in hundreds if not thousands.

Unlike al Qaeda, which focuses on hit-and-run attacks and bombings, Islamic State is more concerned with seizing and holding on to territory for the caliphate, acquiring tanks and weapons left by fleeing Iraqi soldiers along the way.

Stolen oil sold on the black market provides revenues as Baghdadi seeks military self-sufficiency.

Baghdadi's ambitions stretch far beyond the Middle East, where his men control large swathes of Iraq and Syria and rule over perhaps 10 million people. He has established a presence in Libya, enjoys support from militants in Egypt's Sinai desert and his suicide bombers have attacked a variety of targets in war-

Baghdadi has opened the door to foreign fighters, mostly Europeans and Americans who have latched on to his call for holy war and are able to return home with their passports to stage attacks. He also accepted a pledge of allegiance from Nigerian Islamists Boko Haram. 

Many young Islamists who were of school age at the time of the Sept. 11 2001 attacks on the United States now look for inspiration not to al Qaeda, whose leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, is in his mid-60s, but to Baghdadi, a generation younger.

Man sentenced to 20 years in suicide bomb plot at Kansas airport


A man who plotted a suicide car bomb attack at a Wichita, Kansas, airport in 2013 was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on Monday.

Terry Loewen, 60, had access to secure airport areas because of his work as an avionic technician, according to federal officials, who dubbed the bomb plot an attempted terrorist attack.

He was arrested trying to enter the ramp area of the airport known then as the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport with what he believed was a vehicle loaded with explosives. He had planned to detonate the explosives next to a terminal and die in the blast, according to federal officials. The airport was recently renamed the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport.

Loewen pleaded guilty to one count of attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction, and entered into a plea agreement reached with prosecutors calling for the 20-year prison sentence, followed by lifetime supervision.

The sentence required the approval of U.S. District Judge Monti Belot, which he granted at a court hearing on Monday.

Charges of attempted use of an explosive and attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization were dropped under the agreement.

Prosecutors said at the time of his arrest that Loewen had proclaimed himself a Muslim and had talked of committing violent jihad on behalf of al Qaeda. Loewen said he was inspired by the teachings of Osama bin Laden and Anwar al-Awlaki and had downloaded thousands of pages of information on jihad, according to federal officials.

A joint terrorism task force had Loewen under investigation for months before his arrest. Loewen believed he was working with a member of a Yemen-based militant group and another individual in plotting the bombing, but both were undercover FBI agents, a criminal complaint said.

The agents helped Loewen with construction of the device, which was not active, the complaint said.

In September 2013, Loewen sent photos of airplanes on the ramp at the Wichita airport and commented that he could have “walked over there, shot both pilots … slapped some C4 on both fuel trucks and set them off before anyone even called TSA,” according to federal officials.

In a statement following his sentencing, Loewen apologized to his family.

“I do not ask for forgiveness because I deserve none,” he said.

Islamic State urges followers to escalate attacks in Ramadan


Islamic State urged its followers on Tuesday to escalate attacks against Christians, Shi'ites and Sunni Muslims fighting with a U.S.-led coalition against the ultra-radical group.

Jihadists should turn the holy month of Ramadan, which began last week, into a time of “calamity for the infidels … Shi'ites and apostate Muslims”, Isalmic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said in an audio message. He urged more attacks in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

“Muslims everywhere, we congratulate you over the arrival of the holy month,” he said. “Be keen to conquer in this holy month and to become exposed to martyrdom.”

Adnani also called on Sunnis in Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia to rise against “tyrannical leaders” and warned them against advancing Shi'ites, pointing to the treatment of Sunnis under a Shi'ite-led government in Iraq and in Syria under the Alawites, the Shi'ite offshoot to which President Bashar al Assad belongs.

He said his group was undeterred by the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, which has seized large areas of Iraq and Syria and proclaimed a caliphate.

“We will continue, God willing, in our path and will not care even if many nations gang up against us or how many swords we are struck by,” he said.

Adnani also warned U.S. President Barack Obama that Islamic State would retaliate for the attacks against it.

“Obama and your defeated army, we promise you in the future setback after setback and surprise after surprise,” he said.

Sunni tribes in Iraq were joining the militants after the Iraqi government and the United States had failed to bring them into Iraq's political process, Adnani said.

“The Sunni people are now behind the jihadists … the enemies have been petrified by the daily pledges of allegiance by the chiefs of tribes to the Mujahideen,” he said.

In response to the pleading of Iraqi tribal elders, Adnani said, Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi had given Sunnis working with the U.S.-led coalition and those who were still in the Iraqi army one last chance to repent.

In recent weeks, several major Iraqi tribes in the restive Anbar province announced their allegiance to the militants in recorded videos.

Adnani devoted the bulk of his 29-minute speech to an appeal to Iraqi Sunnis. He said their enemies were Western infidels and Shiites, who wanted to expel them from Iraq and turn it into a Shi'ite state. Iraqi Sunnis were being evicted en masse from areas taken over by Shi'ite militias supported by the Iraqi government, he said.

“Needless to say, you all know the kidnappings, evictions, killings of Sunnis that happen every day in Baghdad,” he said. “Thousands and thousands” were already jailed in prisons in the predominantly Shi'ite provinces of southern Iraq, he said.

Adnani also called on those insurgents fighting the militant group in north and northwestern Syria to stop battling them or face the consequences.

New rule: Fanatics can’t use Twitter


Each week, we are forced to bear witness to hideous acts of terrorism committed on a piece of barren sand thousands of miles away, then transmitted to our eyeballs via miracles of modern technology, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, the Internet.

Evidently, fanatics don’t do irony.

Beheadings right out of the Middle Ages come to us via futuristic satellites. We hear jihadi claptrap calling for the destruction of the West via devices the West invented.  

It turns out, not only are these people murderers, they’re hypocrites.

I’m aware consistency is not a major concern of terror groups. These self-styled defenders of Islam have killed far more Muslims, from Pakistan to Syria to the Muslim victims of 9/11, than they have people of other faiths.

But there’s something about the terrorists’ rejection of all things Western—except our technology — that confounds me.

Haifa University Professor Gabriel Weimann has been studying the use of digital media by terrorists for 16 years. In an interview in June with NationalJournal.com, he pointed out the obvious contradiction that the Internet and social media were created by the West.

“And who is using it against the Western model of society?” he said. “Those groups that come from societies and religious beliefs that criticize the West … they never developed anything about the Internet or its many platforms. Never — not even an inch of progress. They only learned — and very fast — how to adopt our own devices against us.”

I understand we shouldn’t expect people who crucify children, kidnap 300 schoolgirls and behead humanitarian relief workers to fight fair. But using tools developed by a free society that draws on the strength of all its citizens, of all backgrounds and beliefs, in order to destroy that society seems, at the least, bizarre.

“[Nigeria] is proof that even those groups like Boko Haram — that are very traditional, extremely traditional groups [whose cause] is going back to the old rules of Islam — are using the most advanced, non-religious tools of the Internet,” Weimann said.

A United Nations report this year on terrorism and the use of the Internet found that terror groups relied on cutting-edge social media both to spread their message of terror to the rest of us, as well as to lure in new recruits.  

The Internet is a virtual palace for the dispossessed, where the anti-social can find any number of siren calls to extremism. 

There are some 9,000 terror group sites on the Web — in addition to countless social media entries. The downside for international law enforcement agencies is, that is a vast amount of data to sift through. The upside is that their dependence on the Web leaves a trail to follow.

The challenge is that, in general, terror groups have been more adept and sophisticated than their trackers at using social media.

This is all especially bizarre when it comes to Jews and Israel. Hamas uses social media to proclaim a great victory in their quest, as their charter says, to kill Jews wherever they find them. ISIS and Al Qaeda also make a point of singling out Jews for death. The fact that they let us know this on Facebook, Twitter, the Internet, instant messaging — inventions all developed in whole or part by Jews in America and Israel — doesn’t seem to give them pause.

It should be a rule that you can’t kill people whose inventions you depend on or enjoy. That goes for vaccines, movies, surgical procedures, hardware, software, whatever —  if you like it, want it or need it, and it came from a hated Westerner or, even worse, a Jew, you are forbidden from using it. Ever. Those things you and your children need were created by men and women nurtured by the very societies you despise and seek to destroy. No memory sticks — developed at Tel Aviv University — to keep a record of your decapitations. No instant messaging — also developed in Israel — to instruct your next suicide bombers.

One source of hope is that the same weapon that terrorists have turned against us can be turned against them. In Nigeria, the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls galvanized public reaction to the Boko Haram kidnappings. This week, Muslims around the world showed their disgust at ISIS by imitating the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with the Burning the ISIS Flag Challenge. That can put a crimp in recruitment.

And it’s important to understand that the Internet itself is ultimately a progressive force in the Muslim world. A 2013 Pew Research Center study found that Internet use among Muslims coincides with more open views of Western culture.  

“Holding all else equal,” the study reported, “Muslims who use the Internet are much more inclined to like Western movies, music and television, and they are somewhat less inclined to say that Western entertainment is harming morality in their country.”

The answer may be more connectivity, not less. 

After all, the Internet cuts both ways. It was through it that we all learned that Osama bin Laden’s room was full of porn DVDs — which may be all the explanation we need for why terrorists just can’t resist our technology.


Rob Eshman is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. E-mail him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter @foodaism.

Al-Qaida announces India wing, renews loyalty to Taliban chief


Al-Qaida leader Ayman al Zawahri on Wednesday announced the formation of an Indian branch of his militant group he said would spread Islamic rule and “raise the flag of jihad” across the subcontinent.

In a 55-minute video posted online, Zawahri also renewed a longstanding vow of loyalty to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, in an apparent snub to the Islamic State armed group challenging al-Qaida for leadership of transnational Islamist militancy.

Zawahri described the formation of “al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent” as a glad tidings for Muslims “in Burma, Bangladesh, Assam, Gujurat, Ahmedabad, and Kashmir” and said the new wing would rescue Muslims there from injustice and oppression.

Counter-terrorism experts say Al-Qaida's ageing leaders are struggling to compete for recruits with Islamic State, which has galvanised young followers around the world by carving out tracts of territory across the Iraq-Syria border.

Islamic State leader Abu Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calls himself a “caliph” or head of state and has demanded the loyalty of all Muslims.

The group fell out with Zawahri in 2013 over its expansion into Syria, where Baghdadi's followers have carried out beheadings, crucifixions, and mass executions.

As well being an indirect repudiation of Islamic State, the announcement could pose a challenge to India's new prime minister, Narendra Modi. He has already faced criticism for remaining silent about several incidents deemed anti-Muslim, underscoring fears that his Hindu nationalist followers will upset religious relations in the majority Hindi nation.

However, while al-Qaida is very much at home in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area, due to influential contacts and a long presence there, it is a minnow compared to local militant groups in terms of manpower and regional knowledge.

SAFE HAVEN

Over the years Zawahri and his predecessor Osama bin Laden, killed by U.S. forces in 2011, repeatedly pledged allegiance to Mullah Omar, in return for the safe haven he granted their followers in Afghanistan.

The statement did not mention Islamic State or Baghdadi, but it appear to take a subtle dig at the group's efforts at administering areas it has seized in Iraq and Syria.

Islamic State's effort at state-building is something never attempted by al-Qaida's central leaders, who traditionally have preferred to plot complex attacks on targets in the West.

Zawahri called for unity among militants and criticised “discord” – echoing a common al Qaeda complaint against Islamic State's record of clashing with rival Islamist groups in Syria.

The statement also warned al-Qaida's new wing against oppressing local populations – another complaint levelled against Islamic State by critics in Iraq and Syria.

“If you said that you are doing jihad to defend the sanctities of the Muslims, then you must not transgress against them or their money or honour, and not even transgress your mujahideen brothers by word and action,” he said.

“Discord is a curse and torment, and disgrace for the believers and glory for the disbelievers,” he said. “If you say that by your jihad you do not want but the pleasure of Allah, then you must not race for governance and leadership at the first opportunity.”

Muslims account for 15 percent of Indians but, numbering an estimated 175 million, theirs is the third-largest Muslim population in the world.

Centuries of rule by medieval Muslim invaders drove a wedge between Hindus and Muslims. Tensions have grown since Pakistan was carved from Muslim-majority areas of India in 1947, a violent partition in which hundreds of thousands were killed. In the era of Washington's “war on terror”, some Indian Muslims have begun to sympathise more with hardline pan-Islamic groups and causes.

Editing by Alison Williams

Israeli strike injures bystanders after missing Islamic Jihad operative


An Israeli airstrike missed its target — an Islamic Jihad operative in the Gaza Strip — and injured bystanders.

The operative was riding a motorcycle with a passenger on Wednesday who reportedly was about to launch a rocket attack on Israel. The Palestinian Maan news agency put the number of wounded at seven.

Following the attack, three rockets fired from Gaza landed in southern Israel. One of the rockets hit the Erez border crossing between Israel and Gaza, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The airstrike came as Fatah and Hamas, the ruling parties in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively, signed a reconciliation and unity agreement.

Florida man pleads guilty to attempting to join al Qaeda group


A 20-year-old Florida man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiring to travel to the Middle East to join an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group and receive military training as part of a holy war, or jihad.

Shelton Thomas Bell admitted he recruited an unnamed juvenile and the two flew to the Middle East in 2012 with the intention of joining the Ansar al-Sharia group, according to his plea agreement.

The two traveled to Amman, Jordan, in an effort to reach Yemen but were deported by Jordan to the United States.

“If you ask me if was going for jihad in Yemen, I say yes,” Bell told federal agents when he returned, according to a statement from prosecutors.

Bell faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. In the plea deal, the federal prosecutors offered to recommend a lighter sentence to the judge because Bell took responsibility for his actions.

Justice Department spokesman William Daniel said he did not know details of what the sentence recommendation might be. No date has been set for sentencing.

According to prosecutors, Bell devised a plan to travel to Yemen to join Ansar al-Sharia, a group that swears allegiance to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the United States regards as one of the most dangerous militant groups in the Middle East.

Before traveling overseas, Bell, the juvenile and another unnamed individual participated in their own version of combat training for two months in Jacksonville, prosecutors said.

Bell inspired the group with the call of Al Qaeda spokesperson, Anwar al-Awlaki, for all young people to go to Yemen “take up the fight.” Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen in 2011.

According to prosecutors, Bell and the two individiuals watched Awlaki videos, looked at pictures of dead Muslims and went on a nighttime “jihadi training mission” to destroy religious statues in a non-denominational cemetery in Jacksonville.

Other training missions took place on a gun range and involved the burning of an American flag.

Bell and the juvenile departed in September 2012 for Yemen by way of Poland and Israel, which deported them back to Poland.

From there, they flew to Jordan and bought airline tickets to Oman with the intention of walking across the border to Yemen, but were stopped by Jordanian officials, prosecutors said.

Reporting by Barbara Liston; Editing by Kevin Gray and Andrew Hay

Israeli airstrike retaliates against Gaza terrorists, reportedly killing 3


A retaliatory airstrike by Israel killed three Islamic Jihad terrorists in the southern Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians were members of the Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported following the deadly strike on Tuesday afternoon.

“They were in confrontation with the occupation trying to stop the progress of Israeli military vehicles which were approaching the area,” said a statement issued by the Al-Quds Brigades.

Israeli infantry and engineering corps were performing routine work in the border area, according to reports, when they were fired on by a mortar shell.

“Terrorists must know that there is a price to pay when participating in aggression,” the Israel Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said.

The incident occurred several hours after an Israeli Air Force drone crashed in southern Gaza in what is being called a technical malfunction. Members of the Islamic terror group Hamas reportedly retrieved the wreckage.

Palestinian who planned Tel Aviv bus bombing killed in shootout


A Palestinian terrorist who Israel said was behind a 2012 bus bombing in Tel Aviv was killed in a shootout with Israeli security officials trying to arrest him.

Mohamed Aatzi, 28, was killed Tuesday morning during an exchange of gunfire in the West Bank Palestinian town of Bil’in during a joint operation of the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Security Agency, or Shabak.

Aatzi was among the planners of the Nov. 21 bus attack during Operation Pillar of Defense that wounded 29 passengers, according to a statement released by the IDF and Shabak.

He had been involved in activities of the Islamic Palestinian Jihad terror organization. Aatzi had been in hiding since the bombing and reportedly was planning another attack against Israeli civilians or army forces.

Two Palestinian men alleged to be Aatzi’s assistants, who have been jailed in the past for their involvement with the Islamic Palestinian Jihad, were arrested by security forces on Monday night and held for questioning.

“The outcome of this operation emphasizes that terror does not pay,” IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said in a statement. “Terrorists must know that there is no eluding the extensive intelligence and operational capabilities of the IDF, we will continue to seek out those that attempt to undermine and defy our way of life.”

Al-Qaida-affiliated terror group says it’s resuming holy war against Jews


A terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaida that claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on northern Israel said it has resumed a jihad, or holy war, against the Jews.

The Lebanon-based Azzam Abdullah Brigades said the rocket attack last week was carried out “as part of the resumption of the jihad against the Jews.”

“We’ve frozen the activity for the sake of the blessed Syrian revolution,” read the statement posted Monday on the Twitter account of a radical Salafist cleric.

Azzam Abdullah Brigades, an offshoot of al-Qaida in Iraq, claimed responsibility for firing four long-range missiles into northern Israel, including two that fell in residential areas, causing damage to houses and cars in Nahariya and Acre.

The “green light given by Israel and the Western countries to Hezbollah in the fight against our people in Syria, so that Israel could safeguard its security, will not provide it with security,” the statement said. “Rather, it will bring it closer to the fire of the jihadi fighters and make it much more exposed to them.”

The attack gives the “Jewish conquerors an indication of the quality of rockets in our possession,” it said. “Haifa should be decorated with the most magnificent shrouds to greet our rockets.”

At least one rocket in the attack was intercepted by an Iron Dome anti-missile battery deployed in the area, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Suspected London terror attack signifies no special risk for Jews, security unit says


British Jews are no more at risk from terrorism than they were before the slaying of a British soldier by suspected terrorists, British Jewry’s security unit said.

“For the Jewish community security, the primary lessons remain unchanged,” CST wrote Thursday on its website. “Rather than living in fear, we should be alert to the full picture of terrorist activities and rhetoric here in Britain, whether it be Jihadist, far Right or whatever.”

British police wounded and then arrested two men suspected of using a large knife to kill a soldier in the Woolwich district of London in a daylight attack. One of the assailants was recorded on video at the scene saying, “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day. This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

Mark Gardner, CST’s director of communications, told JTA that “there is no concrete evidence to suggest that Wednesday’s attack was connected to British Jews.”

Notwithstanding, CST’s statement read, “We are keenly aware that the same Jihadists who want to kill soldiers may well also want to kill Jews. This happened in Toulouse, in March 2012, when Mohamed Merah’s murder of French soldiers was the prelude to his killing three Jewish children and a rabbi at the Otzar HaTorah school. That morning, Merah apparently set out to kill a policeman. He failed, so simply switched targets.”

CST’s Muslim counterparts are “already reporting a wave of violence and intimidation against random Muslim targets throughout Britain,” the statement said. “This racist violence is as stupid and counterproductive as those waves of anti-Semitism repeatedly suffered by Jews in Britain (and elsewhere) since the Year 2000.”

“Looking forward,” the statement continued, “the risk of actual far Right terrorism against a Muslim target is surely heightened; as is the danger of other Jihadists trying to copy the Woolwich murderers, using the most basic of easily available ‘cold weapons. ‘ ”

The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Vivian Wineman, said in a statement, “Our thoughts are with the victim of the horrific and barbaric murder. We stand with other faith groups in deploring violence in the name of religion.”

Also Thursday, Israeli President Shimon Peres sent a letter of condolence to the family of the dead soldier and the people of Britain in the wake of the attack.

“Terrorism is a global threat and one the world must face together,” Peres wrote. “I know that the people of Britain will stand strong in the face of this threat and the State of Israel stands side by side with them.”

‘I’m a Jew’


My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Jewish, I’m Jewish.” Those are the words uttered by American journalist Daniel Pearl in the moment before he was murdered by jihadis in 2002. Those same words were recalled last week by Judea Pearl as he lit a flame in his son’s honor in Jerusalem.

As I read Daniel Pearl’s words, I thought back to a story I’d heard a few days earlier from 95-year-old Edna Weiss.

In the living room of her high-rise apartment in Westwood, Weiss told me something that happened 85 years ago in the multiethnic Angeleno Heights neighborhood where she grew up in the 1930s.

She remembered every detail of the story, from the sugar sack that held the baseball bats to the faces of two Dutch children who tricked her into going up a hill.

“We never went to a synagogue or did anything religious,” Weiss told me when I asked about her Jewish connection. “But we spoke a lot of Yiddish. My mother was from the Warsaw Ghetto, and she always told me that if anyone ever called me a dirty Jew, I should stand up straight and say, ‘I’m a Jew and I’m proud of it.’ ”

That advice would come into play one summer when she was about 10. It was an ordinary hot day, and Weiss was on the street looking for her friends to play their regular game of baseball. Before she could find any of them, she was invited by two other kids to “come play baseball with us.”

Weiss, who was carrying baseball bats and balls in a sugar sack her grocer dad had given her, said “Sure, why not?” 

When they got over the hill, out of view from her street, the two children took the baseball bats out of the bag and began hitting Weiss.

They hit her all over her body, yelling, “You dirty Jew.”

Weiss tried to protect her head as she rolled on the ground. The blows kept coming, and the cries of “dirty Jew” pierced her ears.

Sobbing and in terrible pain, she managed to escape and started running back toward her house to see her mother. Then, as if a force overtook her, she stopped, turned around, and, still sobbing, looked at the two kids and said: “I’m a Jew and I’m proud of it.”

The story froze for me with that one image: A 10-year-old Jewish girl sobbing and in pain saying: “I’m a Jew and I’m proud of it.”

At that point, the mood in the living room got uncomfortable. The memory was still so fresh to Weiss that she was about to start sobbing again, and she didn’t want to do that in front of me. 

She quickly recovered her composure and said: “The truth is, I was very lucky. They hit me everywhere except for my head. Had they hit me in the head, I probably wouldn’t be here now.”

As my friend Rabbi Benjamin Blech wrote recently on Aish.com, “What has always marked anti-Semitism throughout the ages was its fundamental resistance to reason.”

What good reason was there to hate sweet souls like Daniel Pearl and Edna Weiss?

“We are hated not because we are bad,” Blech writes, “but because we persist in reminding the world of what it means to be good.

“The Talmud perceived this idea in the very name of the mountain on which the Torah was given. Sinai in Hebrew is similar to the word sinah — hatred. It was the Jews’ acceptance of a higher law of morality and ethics that was responsible for the world’s enmity.

“Anti-Semitism stands in opposition to the very idea of civilization. It detests Jews because it acknowledges that Jews are the conscience of humanity and the lawgivers of ethical and moral behavior.”

The truth is, no matter how we try to understand it, anti-Semitism is a complicated, irrational evil. Its defining characteristic seems to be that it will always find a reason to exist.

Perhaps the best response, then, to this irrational evil, is to follow the leads of Daniel Pearl and Edna Weiss and simply continue being good Jews.

Daniel Pearl embodied this simplicity when he said, “I am Jewish,” just before being murdered.

Edna Weiss embodied it when she remembered to express her Jewish pride, even though she was sobbing and in deep physical pain.

We often talk about great Jewish values like tikkun olam, observing the commandments and living an ethical life.

Pearl and Weiss showed us another value that’s essential to being a good Jew: not being afraid to say who you are.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Syrian withdrawal from Golan alarms Israel


The Syrian government has reportedly withdrawn thousands of troops near the buffer zone between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights, leaving a power vacuum that Israel is concerned could be filled with jihadist forces ready to turn their guns on the Jewish state.

Syria has redeployed divisions in the Golan to the area around Damascus to battle anti-government forces near the Syrian capital, according to a report in the British newspaper The Guardian on Sunday.

The redeployment near the Golan border was the most significant in 40 years, Western diplomats told The Guardian. Israel is concerned that the jihadist groups hostile to both Syrian President Bashar Assad and the Jewish state could move to fill the power vacuum in the Golan, creating a battlefront with Israel.

Four elite Syrian divisions made the Golan border Israel’s quietest for the past four decades, but tensions have simmered on the Golan Heights in the last few months. Last week, a mortar shell fired during fighting between Syrian rebels and loyalist troops landed in Israel. Errant explosives have landed several times in Israel-controlled Golan territory, and some cross-border incidents have prompted return fire from Israeli army patrols.

Israel is concerned that Assad’s weapons stockpiles, which include chemical weapons and advanced anti-aircraft missiles systems, could fall into the hands of either Shiite Hezbollah in Lebanon, which is loyal to Assad, has links to Iran, and is very hostile to Israel, or Sunni Islamist groups in Syria with links to international terrorist groups, which seek Assad’s ouster and are no friendlier to Israel.

On Sunday, an Israeli colonel told visiting Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird on a helicopter tour of the Golan that Israel is increasingly concerned about foreign, Sunni jihadists who have flocked to Syria to fight Assad, according to Canadian news outlet The Globe and Mail.

To show Baird the difficulty of assessing who is in control in the Golan, the colonel pointed to a Syrian village just beyond the border that is controlled by rebels but surrounded by Syrian troops who have cut off all access roads. When Israeli troops were fired on last month, Israel fired back at the Syrian position. Israel didn't say whether the fire on its troops had come from Assad loyalists or rebels.

Syria’s southern region saw the beginning of the Syrian uprising when protesters took to the streets in Deraa in March 2011, but the Golan region, located just west of the Deraa governorate, remained largely quiet as fighting moved to Syria’s north and east. Now, fighting has returned to the south. Rebel groups took over an artillery base in Syria’s Quneitra governorate near the demilitarized buffer zone in the Golan near Israel in late January. Jordan closed a border crossing with Syria after fighting increased in the Deraa governorate. The United Nations is now predicting that there could be some 1.2 million Syrian refugees by the end of this year. More than half a million people currently reside in Jordanian refugee camps.

The U.S. has reportedly begun training Syrian rebels in order to battle Assad and subvert the increasingly powerful Islamist groups, such as the al-Qaida-aligned Al-Nusra Front, in the Golan, The Guardian reported.

As Syrian troops move out of the Golan, the future of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights is also thrown into question. The states that make up the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights are reconsidering their commitments. Croatia already withdrew its troops last February.

“It’s clear UNDOF is having very serious problems in meeting its challenges,” an Israeli official said, according to the report in The Guardian. “But Israeli national security figures are very skeptical as to the real utility of international forces in dealing with our security issues.”

Israel has contacted the UN’s New York headquarters to discuss possible scenarios should the UN peacekeeping forces in the Golan dissolve, including sending replacements for contingents that pull out, according to the report.

Israel to build security fence on Syrian border


Israel will erect a security fence along its border with Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

“We know that on other side of our border with Syria today, the Syrian army has moved away, and in its place, Global Jihad forces have moved in,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the regular Cabinet meeting. 

The fence, which will be nearly identical to the one erected on the border with Egypt, will defend the border with Syria “against both infiltration and terrorism,” Netanyahu said.

In defending the necessity of the fence's construction, Netanyahu added, “I also submit to the Cabinet the fact that the Syrian regime is very unstable, that the question of chemical weapons here worries us, and that we are coordinating our intelligence and readiness with the U.S. and others so that we might be prepared for any scenario and possibility that could arise.”

Israel has stayed out of the deadly civil war going on in Syria, but several Syrian mortar shells have crossed into Israeli territory in recent months. Israel responded with warning shots fired into Syria.

Al-Qaida places bounty on head of Jewish U.S. envoy to Yemen


Al-Qaida in Yemen has placed a bounty on the head of the U.S. ambassador in Sanaa, Gerald Feierstein.

In a message posted on terrorist websites, al-Qaida offered three kilograms worth of gold, or about $160,000, to anyone who kills the ambassador, who is Jewish.

The group also offered cash for the killing of American soldiers inside Yemen. Both offers are valid for the next six months, according to The Associated Press.

The statement called the awards a way to “inspire and encourage our Muslim nation for jihad,” the statement reportedly said.

Feierstein has been ambassador to Yemen since September 2010. He formerly served as deputy chief of mission in Islamabad.

The Daily Beast quoted an unnamed Yemeni government official as saying that Feierstein is “very well protected” and that the “threats are taken seriously, and he is the most secured diplomat in Yemen.”

Al-Qaida in Yemen called on Muslims to kill U.S. diplomats working in Muslim countries following the release of a trailer of an anti-Muslim film showing the Prophet Muhammad in a negative light in September. Four U.S. diplomats, including the ambassador to Libya, were killed in Benghazi in September.

Gaza militants signal truce with Israel after rockets


Palestinian militants indicated they were ready for a truce with Israel on Monday to defuse a growing crisis after four days of rocket strikes from the Gaza Strip into the south of the Jewish state.

There was no immediate response from Israel which has warned it is ready to ramp up its air strikes and shelling if the rockets do not cease.

Leaders of Hamas, the Islamist faction that controls Gaza, met with Islamic Jihad and other groups on Monday night and said they would respond according to the way Israel acted – a formulation used in previous flare-ups to offer a ceasefire.

“If (Israel) is interested in calm they should stop the aggression,” Sami Abu Zuhri of Hamas told Reuters.

The Palestinian people were acting in self-defense, he said.

“The ball is in Israel's court. The resistance factions will observe Israel's behavior on the ground and will act accordingly,” said Khaled Al-Batsh of the Islamic Jihad group.

Throughout the day, Israel warned it was ready for stronger action. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened foreign ambassadors in what an apparent move to pre-empt international censure should Israel, whose 2008-2009 Gaza offensive exacted a high civilian toll, again go in hard.

Netanyahu briefed the envoys in Ashkelon, a port city within range of some Palestinian rockets. “None of their governments would accept a situation like this,” he said.

He was due to convene his close forum of nine senior ministers on Tuesday to decide a course of action. Israel Radio said Defence Minister Ehud Barak and military chief Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz had met with Netanyahu on Monday night to present possible attack scenarios.

Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, an influential member of Netanyahu's Likud party, said the briefing was meant to prepare world opinion for “what is about to happen”, adding there might be a major Israeli escalation within a few hours.

“Hamas bears responsibility. The heads of Hamas should pay the price and not sleep at night. I expect to see not just a return to targeted killings, but also to very wide activity by (the army),” he told Israel Radio.

Hamas took part in some missile launches at the weekend but it did not claim responsibility for attacks earlier on Monday, suggesting it was looking to step back from the brink.

The Israeli military said Palestinians had fired 12 rockets on Monday, and a total of 119 had been launched since Saturday.

Netanyahu said a million Israelis – around one-eighth of the population – were in danger. Israel has been deploying its Iron Dome rocket interceptor, air raid sirens and blast shelters, but eight people have been wounded by the rockets.

Six Palestinians, including four civilians, have been killed by Israeli shells fired on Gaza since Saturday, and at least 40 have been wounded.

EGYPT IN THE PICTURE

A Palestinian official who declined to be named said Egypt had been trying to broker a ceasefire and although no formal truce was in place, Hamas understood the need for calm.

Monday's launches were claimed by smaller groups, including a radical Salafi organization that rejects Hamas's authority.

Israel has shown little appetite for a new Gaza war, which could strain relations with the new Islamist-rooted government in neighboring Egypt. The countries made peace in 1979.

But Netanyahu may be reluctant to seem weak ahead of a January 22 election that opinion polls currently predict he will win.

Israel said the latest flare-up started on Thursday with a fierce border clash. On Saturday, a Palestinian missile strike wounded four Israeli troops patrolling the boundary, triggering army shelling of Gaza in which the four civilians died.

In turn, dozens of mortars and rockets were launched at Israel, which carried out a series of air strikes in Gaza.

Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem, Editing by Ori Lewis, Douglas Hamilton and Andrew Heavens

French spy service ‘failed’ to see Merah was dangerous, report finds


French security “failed” in assessing the danger posed by Mohammed Merah, the French Interior Ministry said in a report.

The 17-page report, which was submitted Tuesday, confirmed that the French domestic intelligence agency DCRI had been monitoring Merah since last November, four months before he gunned down three French soldiers and killed four at a Jewish day school in Toulouse.

Among the “various objective failures” noted in the report, the domestic spy service was unaware that Merah, who had at least 15 previous criminal convictions, had attacked a neighbor with a sword in June 2010 after she complained that he had shown her son a jihadi video depicting decapitation.

The report by IGPN, the French police comptroller, said the security service “identified the change in Merah's profile very late” despite repeated warnings that he had radicalized in France and abroad.

Had the change been observed, the service may have increased surveillance on Merah, who turned into an Islamist hardliner in prison in February 2008, the report found.

Merah's transformation to a radical only became apparent to the agency two years later.

His departure to Pakistan in August last year also went unnoticed because he passed through Oman, which is not on the French intelligence's 31-country outbound travel watch list.

At the Omar Hatzolah School in Toulouse, Merah killed three Jewish children and a rabbi.

Jewish groups join coalition against anti-Muslim subway ads in D.C.


Some national Jewish organizations joined a coalition of religious groups calling on the Washington Metro system to donate profits from an anti-Islam ad to charity.

“The placing of offensive, anti-Muslim ads in the D.C. Metro system is an important opportunity to affirm our commitment both to free speech and to a society that deplores hate and hate speech,” said Rabbi Batya Steinlauf, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington’s director of social justice and interfaith initiatives, and president of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington.

“We are all part of one community,” she said.

The ad, currently running in four train stations throughout the Washington area, reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” It was sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

Monday’s news conference was organized by the 28-member Shoulder-to-Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims, Upholding American Values and United Methodist Women. The coalition of Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups released a letter signed by 168 religious clergy members.

The letter states that the “ads espouse inaccurate and inflammatory stereotypes about American Muslims. These ads equate generalized 'savages' with 'jihad,' dangerously painting all Muslims as savages and suggesting that these generalized 'savages' must be defeated.”

Major Jewish organizations participating include Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Union for Reform Judaism.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority had sought to delay posting the four ads, calling for a one-month cooling-off period following the worldwide violence that followed the showing of the film “Innocence of Muslims.”

However, a U.S. District Court Judge in Washington cited the First Amendment’s right to free speech in denying Metro’s request.

Israel hit by more Palestinian rockets, kills al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists


Two rockets fired by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip exploded in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council on Sunday, causing no damage to property or injuries, Army Radio reported.

Also on Sunday, Israeli Air Force (IAF) planes targeted a terrorist cell in the southern Gaza Strip that was preparing to launch a rocket into Israel, the Israel Defense Forces said. One Palestinian was killed and another wounded in the airstrike, according to Palestinian hospital officials.

Sunday’s Israeli response came a day after two Global Jihad operatives were killed when an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the motorcycle they were riding on in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip. The two men were said to be involved in planning an attack on Israel.

On Monday, Israelis living in communities in southern Israel around the Gaza Strip were told to stay within a 15-second distance of bomb shelters and safe locations due to the possibility that terrorists will launch rockets into Israel.

Meanwhile, Egyptian security officials told the Palestnian news agency Ma’an that Cairo warned its troops based in northern Sinai to be on alert for booby-trapped cars approaching any security installation.

Following the Israeli airstrikes in Gaza that killed three terrorists on Saturday and Sunday, including Hisham Saedni, one of the most influential al-Qaida leaders in the Strip, Israeli security forces were already on high alert along the borders with Egypt and Gaza to thwart potential attacks emanating from Sinai.

Since August 2011, when terrorists infiltrated from Sinai along Highway 12 and killed eight Israelis, Israeli forces stationed on the border with Egypt have been on a constant state of alert. There have been a number of incidents along the border since that attack, and several rockets have been fired toward Eilat from Sinai.

In Sinai, where the Egyptian military says it is working to dismantle terrorist infrastructure, armed men seized an Egyptian military vehicle in the northern Sinai city of el-Arish on Sunday. The armed men, riding a pick-up truck, stopped the army car, forced out an officer and a soldier then drove into the desert, according to Ma’an.

According to Reuters, the two Gaza terrorists killed by Israel on Saturday were the most senior al-Qaida affiliates in the Palestinian enclave, and one had links to jihadi networks in Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, sources said on Sunday. Saedni and Ashraf al-Sabah, the other person killed, were ultra-conservative Salafi Islamists. Armed Salafis, while a fringe presence in Gaza, have been stepping up violence against Israel while at times clashing with the Palestinian Hamas government. They also operate in the neighbouring Egyptian Sinai.

Saedni and Ashraf al-Sabah were leaders, respectively, of the Tawhid wa-Jihad and Ansar Al-Sunna groups, two Salafi sources told Reuters. The movements share al-Qaida’s vision of global jihad and opposed the more “pragmatic” Islamism espoused by Hamas and Cairo’s politically dominant Muslim Brotherhood.

“Their blood will be a light to guide the holy warriors through the right path and will be fire that will burn the Jews,” one of the sources told Reuters, saying reprisals would not be limited to the short-range rocket launches that are Gaza terrorists’ favored mode of attack on Israel.

Residents of communities in the western Negev, meanwhile, were becoming increasingly agitated in light of the lack of practical steps being taken to end the rocket fire, while reiterating their ongoing demand to complete the construction of fortified spaces in their homes. Netivot Mayor Yehiel Zohar asked the defense establishment to redeploy the Iron Dome rocket interception system in the area, after a home was damaged Oct. 12 after a rocket exploded in its yard.

“The Global Jihad is stepping up its efforts to target us, and we will continue to interdict it with aggression and might, in terms of both response and pre-emption,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli cabinet in Jerusalem on Sunday.

In a sign of Salafi assertiveness in Gaza, about 500 mourners attended Saedni’s and Sabah’s funerals on Sunday. Some wore the smocks typical of the al-Qaida bastions in Pakistan and Afghanistan but relatively uncommon among Palestinians.

The “council” has been promoting a radical brand of Salafist jihadism for years, and Saedni was incarcerated for a prolonged period by Hamas authorities due to his activities as a member of Islamic Jihad. Since his release from a Hamas prison in August, Hamas has reportedly been planning a multipronged attack on Israel from the Sinai Peninsula with the help of Gaza Strip- and Sinai-based operatives.

An IDF spokesman said, “The IDF will not tolerate any attack on Israeli citizens and soldiers and will continue to operate with resolve and force against anyone who conducts terrorist activities against Israel. The Hamas organization is the address and they are responsible.”

‘Savage’ jihad ad debuts in New York City subway


An inflammatory ad equating Islamic jihad with savagery was posted Monday in 10 New York City subway stations, even as much of the Muslim world was still seething over a California-made movie ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad.

The ad, sponsored by the pro-Israel American Freedom Defense Initiative, appeared after the Metropolitan Transit Authority lost a bid to refuse to post it on the grounds that it violated the agency's policy against demeaning language. In July, a federal judge ruled it was protected speech and ordered the MTA to place the posters.

The ad, featuring mostly black-and-white lettering on 46-by-30-inch cardboard posters, will remain posted for a month, MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said.

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man,” the ad reads. “Support Israel/Defeat Jihad.”

Pamela Geller, executive director for the ad's sponsor group, rejected the MTA's assertion the posters were demeaning.

“There's nothing either hateful or false about my ad,” Geller said in an email.

Despite the controversy, most subway riders who passed the ad in a tunnel at the Times Square station Monday failed to notice it. Those who did were generally critical.

“Where is the protection of religion in America?” wondered Javerea Khan, 22, a Pakistani-born Muslim from the Bronx. “The word 'savage' really bothers the Muslim community. But it's hard for me to look at this poster and take it seriously.”

Mel Moore, 29, a sports agent, said: “It's not right, but it's freedom of speech. To put it on a poster is just not right. But it caught my attention and I support freedom of speech, so you got to live with it.”

Australian tourist Peter Johnson, 50, who had just visited the memorial to the Sept. 11 hijack plane attacks, said he felt it was “a bit harsh to call someone a savage, but I do think that extremist Muslims seem happy to kill anyone regardless of their race or religion.

“I would have used the word 'barbaric.'”

Anders, the MTA spokeswoman, said the agency had not received any reports of vandalism against the posters.

The American Freedom Defense Initiative gained notoriety when it opposed creation of a Muslim community center near the site of the Twin Towers, which were destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Reporting By Chris Francescani; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Palestinians committing to jihad as kindergarteners


A recent article posted online by the Al-Quds Brigades—the military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group—details how children of Gaza set out on a mission of violent resistance against Zionism as early as kindergarten, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported.

The children, according to the article, are raised “on the love of jihad, of resistance and of Palestine, and on the massacres and crimes of the Zionists—to the point that their lives, even in kindergarten, have become similar to those of the resistance fighters, in all domains, and it is hoped that they [too] will become jihad fighters.”

In the story, a kindergarten teacher is quoted as saying she aims to raise “commanders who will defend the soil of Palestine and Jerusalem,” and a little boy says he plans to carry out a martyrdom operation against Zionists on a bus.

Kindergarten Jihad


I remember my kindergarten graduation. We wore crowns on our heads and had big smiles on our faces. We sang songs, cute songs about the changing seasons and growing up. And then we received our diplomas, had an ice cream party and were hugged and kissed by our loved ones.

It was a traditional early childhood graduation, replayed over and over, year after year, in almost every school.

But then, I didn’t grow up in the Palestinian Authority or Gaza.

Traditions are different in the Palestinian Authority and Gaza. In Gaza this graduation season like in years past, three, four and five year old children marked their big day with ceremonies depicting Palestinians becoming martyrs and by dressing up as Israelis who torture Palestinian men, women and children. Certainly, an educational message was being presented, as it should be at every graduation, but not a positive message. Here it is a message of murder.

These young Palestinian graduates performed plays about slaughter, marched with weapons and wore traditional bandanas. They sang songs of love and they glorified murder. No Palestinian graduation from pre-school through high school is complete without stories, performances and songs about the killing of Israelis.

It is a part of the general Palestinian curriculum and it is a major theme at graduation time. In one school a teacher was quoted as saying: “At every kindergarten graduation ceremony we focus on the children to represent the role of struggling and resistance in the way of Allah so they will grow up to love the resistance and serve the cause of Palestine and Holy Jihad, as well as to make them leaders and fighters to defend the holy soil of Palestine.” That same school’s kindergarten director took it even further: “It is our obligation to educate the children to love the resistance, Palestine and Jerusalem, so they will recognize the importance of Palestine and who its enemy is.”

Even at a tender age, the message is not lost on the students. In their own, translated, words from Ynet (http://www.ynetnews.com/ articles/0,7340,L-4241588,00. html we hear children saying: “When I grow up I’ll join Islamic Jihad and the al-Quds Brigades. I’ll fight the Zionist enemy and fire missiles at it until I die as a shahid and join my father in heaven.’ And: “I love the resistance and the martyrs and Palestine, and I want to blow myself up on Zionists and kill them on a bus in a suicide bombing.”

That’s just one example. The internet and Youtube are full of other examples, some posted by media outlets like Ynet, others posted with pride by Hamas and by general Palestinian Authority sources.

Kindergartens in Gaza are sponsored by Islamic Jihad. But it would be wrong and narrow minded to believe that only Hamas and Islamic Jihad engage in this kind of war mongering cum education, wrong to think that only they transmit this hateful educational message. PA sponsored schools in the West Bank are on board with Muslim extremists when it comes to glorifying resistance and martyrdom – catch phrases for murderous attacks against Israelis and Jews. It is a part of their curriculum, too, it is enshrined in their school books.

Israelis teach about peace and coexistence as a formal part of their curriculum. But for the Palestinian educator, it is easier to teach hatred than to talk about peace. Idealizing mass murderers and calling them defenders packs much more emotional punch than does talk about co-existence. And when Palestinian children march with toy guns and accompany mock coffins, when during their ceremonies they play ‘Kidnap an Israeli Soldier’ they are cheered on by older children they admire and by adults they respect.

It is hardly education. It is indoctrination. And what happens when these educational goals and objectives are challenged? What happens to the

Palestinian family that does not think that the only good Israeli is a dead Israeli? They are labeled as collaborators, as people who have sold their heritage for money. They often have to seek refuge and sanctuary outside the Palestinian Authority, they are no longer welcome within.

Graduations, we are told, do not signify the end, they embrace a new beginning. We do not conclude, we commence. How frightening.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. His latest book is “Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder” (Thomas Nelson)

Soldier, Palestinian die in Gaza border shootout


A Palestinian gunman and an Israeli soldier were killed in a shootout on the Gaza Strip-Israel border.

The Israeli army said the gunman breached the fence at about 5 a.m. on Friday.

A border patrol detected the breach and confronted the gunman.

He opened fire and killed a solider, and was himself killed in return fire.

The army said the gunman intended an attack on civilians.

Neither Hamas nor Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the infiltration.

“The IDF will act against any entity that operates against the State of Israel,” said an Israeli army statement quoted by Haaretz. “The army views Hamas as responsible for all that occurs in the Gaza Strip.”

Air force planes later struck open fields in Gaza, the newspaper said.

Israeli soldier, Gaza gunmen killed in clash


A Palestinian gunman broke into Israel on Friday and killed a soldier before being shot dead himself in a rare cross-border attack that Israel blamed on the Islamist group Hamas.

Israel hit back, with a missile-strike killing one militant and wounding two others in the southern Gaza Strip. Militants also fired rockets out of the Palestinian enclave, but they did not cause any damage, the Israeli army said.

Sources in Gaza said the gunman killed in the cross-border attack was affiliated with the Islamic Jihad. However, the faction, which operates independently of Hamas, denied responsibility, suggesting the infiltrator might have been acting alone.

Hamas, which governs Gaza, had no immediate comment.

The Israeli army said the gunman crossed through the border fence with the intention of killing civilians and had ambushed soldiers sent to intercept him.

Palestinian witnesses heard an explosion and shooting near Abassan, a border village that is also close to the Egyptian frontier shared by Israel. They said Israeli forces set off smoke bombs to obscure the view as helicopters circled.

Though hostile to Israel, Hamas has largely sat out recent cross-border fighting and has appeared unwilling to rock the boat. Rather, it is focused on power-sharing talks with its Palestinian rivals and is monitoring developments in Egypt.

Reporting by Dan Williams and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Crispian Balmer

Opinion: Burn books or kill people?


Imagine being the mother of one of the U.S. soldiers murdered last week in Afghanistan in retaliation for the burning of Korans on a U.S. military base there. First, you discover that the Korans had already been desecrated by the jihadist prisoners themselves, who purloined the holy books with what U.S. authorities described as “extremist inscriptions” meant for covert and violent purposes. In fact, that’s why the Korans were seized in the first place — they were considered a security threat.

Next, you learn that although U.S. authorities had good reason to destroy these books, they did so inadvertently. As Andrew C. McCarthy reports in National Review Online: “The soldiers dispatched to burn refuse from the jail were not the officials who had seized the books, had no idea they were burning Korans, and tried desperately to retrieve the books when the situation was brought to their attention.”

Then, after learning that your son was killed because of this American “mistake,” you read about the reaction of President Barack Obama. The president didn’t defend America’s position or make a passionate appeal against murdering innocents in the name of religion. Instead, he offered an apology to the Afghan president: “I wish to express my deep regret for the reported incident. … I extend to you and the Afghani people my sincere apologies.”

No mention of the murder of your son. No public condolences to the families of those murdered.

Now, if you are the mother of one of those boys, how are you supposed to feel? The world shows its empathy for the followers of a burned holy book but seems utterly indifferent to those murdered by some of those very followers.

What am I missing here?

Can you imagine if religious Jews had gone on a murderous rampage after Palestinians destroyed Torah scrolls while desecrating Joseph’s tomb a few years ago in Nablus? Can you imagine if Buddhist or Christian or Hindu groups murdered people every time someone desecrated their religion? Would anyone apologize to the offended religious groups even though they killed people in retaliation — as we are doing now with Muslims — or would they condemn the murderers, as well they should?

Why are we so silent at this blatant double standard?

Why do we patronize Muslims by treating them so differently, as if we can’t expect the same behavior from them that we do of other religious groups? What are we saying, that they love their religion more than we love ours? That they’re more fiercely protective of their holy books? That they’re not as “civilized” as we are?

This is insulting to Muslims and to the very idea of religion. The beauty of religion is that it’s supposed to add goodness to our lives and help us value the supremacy and divinity of human life. How is our cowardly reaction to the murder of God’s children honoring Islam or any other religion?

Murder is not just a morally depraved act, it’s also a serious crime. Why are human rights groups not up in arms over this double crime against humanity and religion?

And please don’t tell me we can’t speak up because it will “trigger” the Muslim street, as if Muslims are machines that get “triggered.” How dehumanizing. Speaking the truth is a sign of respect, and in this case, the truth is this: Religious fanaticism that leads to murder is an insult to all religions, including Islam, and it must never be tolerated.

Of course, it is perfectly appropriate to protest offensive acts, whether those acts are cartoons that mock Muhammad, Moses or Jesus, or whether it’s the burning of holy books. But protesting an act and murdering people are two completely different things. If we can’t draw a big thick red line at the taking of human life, what kind of civilization are we?

In fact, I have this idea for a “performance art” exhibit that would dramatize this thick line between holy paper and human life. Let’s set up a one-day “burning station” outside the White House and burn books — not holy books, just regular books — as expressions of extreme love for human life. The portable exhibit would be called “Life Is the Holiest Book” and would include pictures and stories of the four U.S. servicemen who were murdered in Afghanistan last week for “holy reasons.”

Yes, the burning of books would be offensive to many people, myself included. But that’s the point. We need to make a shocking statement to the world that being offended for any reason whatsoever can never justify murdering people, and that the very idea of murder is the ultimate desecration of religion.

Let’s demonstrate to religious fanatics everywhere that the only thing worth being fanatic about is the defense of human life.

I can think of a few grieving mothers who wouldn’t mind burning a few
holy books if it would help bring their sons back.


David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Israeli airstrikes kill Islamic Jihad member


Israel’s Air Force killed a Palestinian gunman in Gaza.

The Islamic Jihad member was killed, and five comrades wounded, after midnight Wednesday in airstrikes that Israel said prevented terrorists from firing rockets across the border. The Palestinians said Israeli ground forces also carried out a brief foray over the border, east of Gaza City.

Israel and Islamic Jihad have traded fire recently while Hamas, which controls Gaza, has appeared to prefer staying on the sidelines. The prisoner swap in mid-October under which Israel repatriated captive soldier Gilad Shalit deprived Hamas of what was widely seen as “insurance” against Israeli targeting its leadership in military retaliations.

Hamas, the dominant Palestinians Islamist movement, which in the past has proposed, with heavy conditions, a truce with the Jewish state, is also biding its time as the kindred Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt gathers political power in Cairo.