New bin Laden documents show a suspicious, pressured al Qaeda

Al Qaeda's leaders were increasingly worried about spies in their midst, drones in the air and secret tracking devices reporting their movements as the U.S.-led war against them ground on, documents seized in the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistani hideout and reviewed by Reuters reveal.

The cache of 113 documents, translated and declassified by U.S. intelligence agencies, are mostly dated between 2009 and 2011, intelligence officials said.

The documents – the second tranche from the raid to have been declassified since May 2015 – depict an al Qaeda that was unwavering in its commitment to global jihad, but with its core leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan under pressure on multiple fronts.

U.S. President Barack Obama has said drone strikes and other counter-terrorism operations depleted al Qaeda's original leadership, culminating in bin Laden's killing by U.S. Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011. In the years since, the organization has proved resilient from Afghanistan to North Africa, and its ideological rival, Islamic State, has grown and spread.

In one document, bin Laden issues instructions to al Qaeda members holding an Afghan hostage to be wary of possible tracking technology attached to the ransom payment.

“It is important to get rid of the suitcase in which the funds are delivered, due to the possibility of it having a tracking chip in it,” bin Laden states in a letter to an aide identified only as “Shaykh Mahmud.”

In an apparent reference to armed U.S. drones patrolling the skies, bin Laden says his negotiators should not leave their rented house in the Pakistani city of Peshawar “except on a cloudy overcast day.”

While the document is undated, the hostage, Afghan diplomat Abdul Khaliq Farahi, was held from September 2008 to late 2010.

Another, fragmentary document acknowledges that al Qaeda executed four would-be volunteers on suspicion of spying, only to discover they were probably innocent, according to senior U.S. intelligence officials authorized to discuss the materials in advance of their public release.

“I did not mention this to justify what has happened,” wrote the undated letter's unidentified author, adding, “we are in an intelligence battle and humans are humans and no one is infallible.”

In a May 11, 2010 letter to his then second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al Rahman, bin Laden urged caution in arranging an interview with al Jazeera journalist Ahmad Zaidan, asserting that the United States could be tracking his movements through devices implanted in his equipment, or by satellite. 

“You must keep in mind the possibility, however, slight, that journalists can be under surveillance that neither we nor they can perceive, either on the ground or via satellite,” he wrote.


Even as al Qaeda came under growing pressure, bin Laden and his aides planned a media campaign to mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, the documents show. They plotted diplomatic strategy and opined on climate change and the U.S. financial collapse.

In a undated letter “To the American people,” the al Qaeda chief chides Obama for failing to end the war in Afghanistan; and accurately predicts that the U.S. president's plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will fail.

On April 28, 2011, just four days before his death, bin Laden was editing a document he had written on the Arab Spring revolutions.

Al Qaeda's leaders also urged further attacks on the United States. “We need to extend and develop our operations in America and not keep it limited to blowing up airplanes,” says a letter, apparently written by bin Laden, to Nasir al-Wuhayshi, head of al Qaeda's Yemen branch.

Bin Laden “was still sort of thinking in very kind of grand schemes, and still … trying to reclaim that 9/11 'victory',” said one of the senior intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But he was “somewhat out of touch with the (actual) capabilities of his organization,” the official said.

The documents show the strains of managing al Qaeda's external networks, including identifying capable leaders and finding resources to fund operations abroad. 

One associate, who signed his 2009 note simply as “Your beloved “Atiyah,” acknowledged troubles replacing an ineffective leader for external operations, saying some of the best candidates were dead.

“There are new brothers, perhaps some would be suitable in the future, but not now,” he wrote.

Suspicion of tracking devices pops up again and again in the group's writings. The concern may have been merited – the United States conducts extensive electronic surveillance on al Qaeda and other Islamic militant groups.

Abu Abdallah al-Halabi – who the U.S. Treasury has identified as a name used by bin Laden's son-in law Muhammad Abdallah Hasan Abu-Al-Khayr – writes in a letter to “my esteemed brother Khalid” about intercepting messages of “spies” in Pakistan, who he said would facilitate air strikes on al Qaeda operatives by marking cars with infrared streaks that can be seen with night vision equipment.

In another, bin Laden, writing under the pseudonym Abu Abdallah, expresses alarm over his wife's visit to a dentist while in Iran, worrying that a tracking chip could have been implanted with her dental filling.

“The size of the chip is about the length of a grain of wheat and the width of a fine piece of vermicelli,” he wrote.

The letter ended with this instruction: “Please destroy this letter after reading it.”

Daniel Pearl killer’s jailbreak foiled, Pakistan army says

Pakistan’s military said it had foiled a prison break bid aimed at freeing a British-born terrorist awaiting execution for the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Three terror groups — al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan — were working together on the plot to spring death-row inmate Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh,  military spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said Friday, adding that the plan to attack Hyderabad Central Jail was close to execution, AFP reported.

“A deputy leader of al-Qaeda in the subcontinent named Mussanah was mastermind of the plan and was arranging all the finances while he was aided by the deputy chief of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Naeem Bukhari,” Bajwa told a Karachi press conference.

Mussanah, Bukhari, and a man said to be their handler, named Huzaifa, were later paraded before the media in handcuffs.

Bajwa said the perpetrators had prepared two explosive-laden vehicles, which they were supposed to ram into the gate of the prison.

He added the plotters had a list of prisoners that they were supposed to kill after gaining access to the jail, while freeing around 100 prisoners including Sheikh.

Pearl, a 38-year-old American-Jewish journalist, was the South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal when he was abducted and beheaded in Karachi in 2002, while researching a story about Islamist militants.


FBI investigating California massacre as ‘act of terrorism’

The FBI is investigating this week's massacre of 14 people by a married couple in California as an “act of terrorism,” officials said on Friday, noting that the female shooter had pledged allegiance to a leader of the militant group Islamic State.

Tashfeen Malik, 27, a native of Pakistan who lived in Saudi Arabia for more than 20 years, and her U.S.-born husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, were killed in a shootout with police hours after the Wednesday attack during a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center social services agency in San Bernardino, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.

If the investigation does prove that the attack was the work of people inspired by Islamist militants, it would be the deadliest such attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.

Malik had pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an online post, David Bowdich, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Los Angeles office, said at a news conference.

“Based on the information and the facts as we know them, we are now investigating these horrific acts as an act of terrorism,” Bowdich said.

Asked about a reported Facebook post by Malik on the day of the attack pledging loyalty to Islamic State, Bowdich said, “Yes, there was a pledge of allegiance.” 

But a U.S. government official said there was no evidence that Islamic State even knew who the shooters were.

Islamic State, which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq, took claim for the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris in which gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130.

Farook family attorneys said there was no evidence that either suspect had been associated with any terrorist group. 

They said Farook was an isolated individual with few friends, and there was no evidence that either suspect had extremist views. 

The family was aware that Farook owned two handguns and said coworkers had made fun of his beard, the attorneys said.

The family described Malik as a “caring, soft-spoken” housewife.


The couple had two assault-style rifles, two semi-automatic handguns, 6,100 rounds of ammunition and 12 pipe bombs in their home or with them when they were killed, officials said.

“The investigation so far has delivered indications of radicalization by the killers and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organizations,” Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey told reporters in Washington. “We have no indication that these killers are part of an organized larger group or form part of a cell. There is no indication that they are part of a network.”

Bowdich also said the FBI was examining crushed cellphones found near the shooting scene.

The couple may have been planning an additional attack, he added.

Farook, born in Illinois to Pakistani immigrant parents, worked as an inspector for the San Bernardino County Department of Environment Health, the agency whose holiday party he and Malik are accused of attacking on Wednesday.

Investigators are looking into a report that Farook had an argument with a co-worker who denounced the “inherent dangers of Islam” prior to the shooting, a U.S. government source said.

The couple's landlord in the town of Redlands opened their townhouse to media on Friday, leading to a flurry of reporters and camera crews surveying the scene. The landlord later asked media to leave.

The FBI's search of the home turned up no evidence to suggest they had been working with any foreign militant group, a U.S. government source said.


Pakistani intelligence officials have contacted Malik's family in her homeland as part of the investigation, a family member said. 

“I only found out about this tragedy today when some intelligence officials contacted me to ask me about my links with Tashfeen,” Malik's uncle, Javed Rabbani, said in an interview. “I had heard in the news that this tragedy had taken place but I could never even imagine that it would be someone from my family. Of course, we are in shock.”

He said his brother, Malik's father, had become considerably more conservative since moving with his family to Saudi Arabia a quarter century ago. 

Tashfeen Malik had not come to the attention of authorities while living in Saudi Arabia, according to a source close to the Saudi government. She had moved back to Pakistan five or six years ago to study pharmacy, Pakistani officials said.

Christian Nwadike, who worked with Farook for five years, told CBS that his co-worker had been different since he returned from Saudi Arabia.

“I think he married a terrorist,” Nwadike said.

Twenty-one people were wounded in the attack, the worst gun violence in the nation since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

Farook had not been under surveillance by the FBI or any other law enforcement agency, Bowdich said, adding that there was no evidence that additional threats lingered following the shooting.

Drones, Jews and morality

My address to the first interreligious conference on the morality of drone warfare didn’t go over particularly well.

This happened last Saturday afternoon at Princeton Theological Seminary, where I was among 150 clergy, theologians, academics and peace activists gathered to discuss what makes our newest way of killing one another different from all other ways of killing one another.

The organizers invited me because I wrote a cover story for the Journal titled “The Torah of Drones” two years ago. The handful of Jews who have written on Jewish law and drone warfare — actually, it’s just two — likely didn’t attend because their level of Shabbat observance precluded it. So, I warned the audience, they’d have to hear from the bad Jew.

The sad truth is that the Jewish community has not wrestled in any meaningful way with a technology that history will remember was first deployed, advanced and disseminated by Israel, the Jewish state.

In fact, as I told the conferees, the only Jews I know forcing us to confront the morality of drones are the writers and producers of the TV show “Homeland,” whose most provocative plotlines have revolved around errant drone strikes.

The religious leaders gathered at Princeton also saw drones as categorically different from missiles, bombs and other long-distance killing machines. Drones’ relative low-cost and lack of direct human operator have made them a weapon of first, rather than last, resort. These factors also contribute to their fast, nearly unchecked, spread around the globe, without, as yet, any international standards regarding their use.

The result has been hundreds of nameless, dead innocents, and every indication that, as a Pakistani journalist once told me, every drone kills one terrorist and creates two. In fact, the most affecting part of the weekend was not something I heard, but something I saw: a quilt sewn by various church groups for the Drones Quilt Project, with each square inscribed with the name of a Pakistani child killed in an American drone strike. Upward of 984 civilians — including 200 children — have been killed by American drone strikes in Pakistan, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

“We need to bring religious voices to this dialogue, because certainly industry voices are there,” said Maryann Cusimano Love of The Catholic University of America.

Most of the religious voices at the conference called for an end to the strikes altogether. Mine wasn’t among them. It was a strange experience for someone often derided as too dovish to be the most hawkish in a room. But as I explained in my talk, Jewish teaching commands us to kill in self-defense. I urged the audience to try to empathize with an Israeli mother who would prefer to send in a drone, rather than her son, to stop a Hamas rocket. There was thunderous silence: This was not what you call a pro-Israel crowd. 

At the end of the conference, the attendees drafted a statement calling for a halt to drone strikes until issues of accountability and transparency have been established. The Mennonites, Quakers and others in attendance went along grudgingly — as one Mennonite leader explained, he’d rather die than kill.

My own feeling about drones was better summed up by Rabbi Charles Feinberg of Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C., the only other Jew qua Jew at the conference. “Jewish tradition — and, indeed, many religious traditions — require proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an attack is imminent before pre-emptive action is justified,” he said. “Too often, America’s use of drone’s falls short of this requirement, and that is why the religious community must come together and seek a change.”  

But Jews face an additional moral question, which is this: Is it right to be spreading this technology, unchecked?

Israel began to develop drones following the Six-Day War as a way to circumvent Egyptian air defenses. It pioneered the use of weaponized Unmanned Aerial Vehicles during the first Lebanon War in 1982, selling the United States its first drone — the Pioneer — shortly afterward. Today, an estimated 41 percent of all weaponized drones sold around the world come from Israel. 

“If you scratch any military drone, you will likely find Israeli technology underneath,” Mary Dobbing and Chris Cole wrote in the Drone Wars U.K. briefing “Israel and the Drone Wars.” 

I often write in this column that the world must be mindful that bigotry and terror often start by being directed at Jews and Israel but spread from there to the rest of the world. 

In the case of drones, I’m afraid, the process is exactly the reverse.

We Jews are spreading a technology to the world that one day might very well be used against us, in Israel or elsewhere.

This is a strange problem to confront as we commemorate 70 years since the liberation Auschwitz. We have gone from wielding no weapons in our defense to selling some of the most deadly weapons the world has ever known. We have turned the tides — now how do we stop them from drowning us? 

We are rightly consumed right now with the debate over how to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of one state, Iran. But we should also take note that, meanwhile, Israel is rushing headlong into propagating technology that can provide deadly force to every state and nonstate actor on the planet.

You don’t have to be Mennonite to want to resist that.

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

Charlie Hebdo: High-impact, low-tech tactics add chilling dimension to attacks

In the aftermath of 9/11, the biggest fear that haunted U.S. counter-terrorism officials was that al-Qaeda or its allies would somehow get hold of a weapon of mass destruction: a biological agent or a nuclear bomb.

As a series of more recent attacks have shown, notably in Mumbai, India, in 2008, and Wednesday in Paris, a handful of committed volunteers can send shockwaves around the world with tools no more sophisticated than an assault rifle.

[RELATED: Horrorism in the Middle East]

In this age of the lightly-resourced, self-starting urban guerrilla, the jihadists have discovered a formula that lends a chilling new dimension to their trade. Not only can anyone be a victim, but with such a low bar to entry, anyone might be a perpetrator too. The brothers who shot dead 12 people at the satirical weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, planned their killing spree in plain sight.

Add to this the high drama that Mumbai- and Paris-style attacks generate — televised scenes of manhunts, special forces and sieges — and they begin to look like an even more attractive force-multiplier. For the aim is never simply to kill for the sake of killing. Such attacks are always planned with broader political goals in mind. The key to defeating the extremists lies in seeing past the horror and understanding their logic.

The stakes have seldom been higher than they were in Mumbai in 2008, when a group of 10 volunteers trained in Pakistan held the city hostage for four days by staging a series of bomb and gun attacks on targets including hotels, a cafe and transport terminal in which 166 people were killed. Images of smoke and flames billowing from the ornate Taj Mahal Palace Hotel transfixed a global audience. But the greater danger lay in a spike in tensions with Pakistan, which India blamed for harboring Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group that orchestrated the attack. With the two countries locked in a nuclear stand-off after three wars, a small team of gunmen armed with AK-47s might have sparked a clash between armies.

In Paris, the goals of the militants were different, but parallels remain. As in Mumbai, where the perpetrators were carefully groomed by a large umbrella organization, it seems that at least one of the Paris attackers had received training abroad. According to Western intelligence, Said Kouachi, one of the brothers, had spent months at a camp in Yemen run by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group’s most active affiliate.

Militants enmeshed in trans-national networks are often easier to identify than unmoored individuals imbibing propaganda on Islamist websites. The problem in Paris was not in spotting Said and his brother Cherif — both were under police surveillance — but in pre-empting their plan. The failure to stop them has stoked a growing sense in Europe that more such killing sprees are inevitable. Andrew Parker, the head of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, admitted as much this week when he warned that although security agencies were doing their utmost, they could not hope to stop every incident.

How then to respond? In the wake of Mumbai, a more devastating episode even than the appalling massacre in a Paris newsroom, the Indian government showed admirable restraint that curbed any risk of a hot war with Pakistan. In France, the jihadists nurse more insidious goals: stoking a cycle of suspicion and prejudice that will leave Muslim communities feeling increasingly isolated, and therefore more liable to yield them fresh recruits. Amid the outrage and grief, an already difficult atmosphere for Muslims in France could become even more poisonous. Strong emotions are not supportive of nuanced debate. An ‘us-versus-them’ mentality is precisely what the gunmen hope to impose.

French President Francois Hollande has already sought to defuse such a prospect by making a statesmanlike appeal for unity. Muslim leaders have used Friday prayers to urge their followers to join countrywide protests against the attack. Yet it is too soon to say whether France’s political class will have the wisdom to hold an honest debate about the widening divisions and growing xenophobia in their country, and why such a large number of French citizens have joined aspiring European jihads flocking to Syria and Iraq.

Nor is the question of how to neutralize the urban terror threat that spurred the attacks in Paris and Mumbai purely a conundrum for Western governments or Pakistan’s neighbors. As David Kilcullen, the counter-insurgency expert, has argued in his 2013 book “Out of the Mountains,” we will see more violence erupting in increasingly contested and over-crowded cities in central America, Africa and the Middle East, fuelled by a growing nexus of conflict and organized crime. There is always a choice as to how to respond. As the West has learned from the price it paid during a 13-year war in Afghanistan, launched within weeks of the collapse of the Twin Towers, it rarely pays to react in haste. 

What Pakistan wants: its people or terrorists

Museum of death

Rows and rows of men stood in straight lines, hands folded in front of their chests, offering a Namaz-e-Janaza (prayer before burial) on Wednesday.  Some held their chests tighter as if to push back something that wanted to burst out; a howl, or a murmur or an injured heart. Some pretended to be strong and stood erect, ignoring the sound of those who wept through the prayers. Peshawar became a city of small coffins, too heavy to be buried.

The school walls were numb with thousands of bullet marks, and blood sprayed across. ‘These used to be freshly painted walls,’ a military officer showing me around said. The teachers' office was black like charcoal. One teacher was set on fire as she tried to stop militants from hurting the children, a student Ahmed who witnessed and survived his injuries at the Lady Reading Hospital said. ‘Blood dripped from her body, as her body was enflamed,’ he said. He said the militants also tried to slit throats of children. The principle of the school was shot and her throat was slit.

[12-year-old survivor: 'I witnessed the Peshawar massacre']

In the auditorium where most of the children were killed, broken chairs were strewn across the floor, slippery with blood. Books were wet in blood. School bags red with blood. Pencils boxes, broken eyeglasses and school shoes had been tossed around; a sight that preserved scenes from the assault. In one corner, there was a large dirty cloth with a heap of body parts; tiny fingers, portion of a palm, a small foot and some parts unrecognizable.

The military officer, who was helping a select group of journalists tour this place, broke into tears and said, “we have failed our children.” Too little, too late, I thought and said, “yes you have.”

Taliban released a statement saying they attacked Army Public School because these children were to grow up to become soldiers in Pak Military. The fact is although the Army Public School chain – with many branches across the country – is run by the military, it works like a private school. Many of its students are not children of military officials, but doctors, engineers, journalists, laborers and daily wage workers. They come from all kinds of backgrounds and aspire to all kinds of careers ahead of their school years.

One survivor, Ahsan Ali, 14 year old said he wanted to be an astronaut. He was shot in the leg and shoulder. After three bullets and a lot of bleeding, he lost consciousness, but he recalls the last scenes before that. “My friends and I hid behind the door, but they saw us, grabbed us by our arms and threw us on the ground. Then started shooting,” he said all his friends died, and being the only one saved among his friends, he has a renewed purpose in life. “I will take revenge from the Taliban. I will murder them, like they murdered my friends.”

Last week after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, when Malala Yusufzai saw her blood stained uniform again displayed at Oslo's Nobel Peace Centre, she broke into tears. There are more than 130 such uniforms stained with blood now. But their story is different from Malala's. Many mothers in Peshawar told me their children are too afraid to go to school. ‘Mama please don’t ask us to go to school,’ they say. The fear among younger children and anger among the teenage boys may be temporary, but the trauma has transformed their minds. Malala's campaign for child education has bigger challenges in countries where children are used as weapons of war. 

Pakistan’s inexcusable security failure

Their beards, long thick curls are easily identifiable in a city like Peshawar. No one can pull off that appearance without turning heads. They came with heavy weapons and suicide vests, at an un-busy hour. It isn’t very difficult to spot terrorists looking like that in a city that has strict security check point at every corner, including the neighborhoods.

One of my friends who lives in the Cantonment area has to present his National ID card at a security point every day when he goes home. They know his face, his name, his car number, but still ask his identification every day.

These efficient check posts did not notice large men with appearances uniquely like that of the Taliban when eight of them walked down the street from their vehicle to the school, where they climbed the walls, shot the guards and broke in.

One excuse for this security overlaps the state Military presented was that the militants had set fire to their vehicle before entering school, to distract security personnel nearby.

That excuse shows sheer lack of efficiency. Pakistan has no dearth of experience in facing sudden, large-scale attacks in unexpected locations, and the military soldiers took about 7.5 hours to handle half a dozen militants.

On the day of 148 funerals – mostly for children ages 6 to 17 – Pakistan’s PM lead an All party conference bringing together political players across the board, including his staunch opponent Imran Khan. Khan, who dramatically rose to popularity in Pakistan, is said to be under the wing of the country’s military and has spent several months bringing hundreds of thousands of supporters to the streets protesting to oust Sharif for corruption. Since their coming together on one table seemed unlikely only days ago, this meeting was taken optimistically by many Pakistanis who are frustrated with political instability in the country. 

Unfortunately the meeting did not produce much, except a plan to form a counter-terrorism team. Many such teams have been formed before, during many such debilitating times, and none have been effective. Such horrific attacks require quick remedies not tedious commissions or brainstorming sessions that in the past have proven to waste time. Despite the fact that the prime minister said he will make no distinction between good, and bad Taliban, he did not present any plan to deal with all the banned terrorist groups the state has been harboring for more than a decade. It did not call out on militant groups like LeT, JuD, LeJ, JeM, SSP and ASWJ, which are responsible for anti-India sentiment and sectarian violence of massive scale. That was supposed to be the first and foremost step. Of course, it’s not easy to kill your own creation, but Pakistan needs to choose its friends and enemies.

As all of India mourned with Pakistan, from Indian Prime Minister Modi sharing his condolences, to India’s school children who observed two minutes of silence during school assemblies, to Bollywood celebrities who went on social media calling out on Taliban brutality in bold tweets and letters, a Pakistani court granted bail to Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the man accused of masterminding the most brutal attack on India in Mumbai, in 2008, that killed 166 people. It’s a gross kind of response from Pakistan.

Later, television channels that are often accused of biasses towards military interest ran back to back panel discussions, twisting facts to accuse India, Israel and the U.S. for sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan. One TV anchor, Mubashir Lucman, displayed an image of a New York Times correspondent Adam B. Ellick, calling him an American agent and one of the terrorists in the Peshawar school attack. These kind of conspiracy theories have emerged from every horrific incident in Pakistan, and they efficaciously fuel confusion among the masses, dividing the country between pro Taliban and anti Taliban sentiment. Weakening their hearts and minds to see with clarity and keep them from uniting against terrorism.

To question the ills, one needs a will

Pakistan, in it’s thick and thin, has proven to be a terrorism apologist state. Politicians do it for politics and the military does it to maintain their strategic assets. What the Pakistani military needs to be asked is why are these strategic assets needed? If India is a threat, is Pakistan's military so weak that it cannot handle the threat on its own? With a budget of $6.98 billion in a crumbling economy, where common man suffers sparing a piece of his bread, a portion of his shelter to make a contribution to the military, what kind of security does the military give back to its people? Why does a nuclear state need to harbor terrorists and proxies as strategic assets? Can Pakistan as a state justify its failures?

Pakistani politicians, military and public administration has successfully been able to dissolve public anger and has dissipated important questions, by making sentimental statements, blaming the US, blaming India, blaming Israel, blaming the ‘bad Taliban’, playing as apologists for either the ‘good Taliban’ or the good militants.

Pakistani military claims to have killed scores of terrorists in the recent operation called Zarb-e-Azb, has released no names or identification of these terrorists. This military operation has not worked, just like other military operations after which militants in the country have always reemerged from a new place with new capacities to disrupt the state. Two major attacks including Karachi Airport attach and the Peshawar school attack both after the operation in Waziristan are the proof.

On Thursday, Pakistani Taliban – the group that took credit for the massacre – released a statement saying they will target more children and continue to attack all civilian in Pakistan. Ofcourse they will. It’s easy for them in a country where the state has yet not decided whether it wants its people or its terrorists.

Survivor in Pakistan: ‘I witnessed the Peshawar massacre’

This is the testimony of 12-year-old Ali, survivor of the Peshawar massacre, as recorded by journalist Kiran Nazish. This transcription has been edited for clarity.

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Salam, my name is Ali. I am twelve years old. 

We were in between lessons during our first class, when we suddenly heard the sound of shooting. It was very aggressive noise. We did not have time to even imagine what it could be.

Within moments as the noise got closer to our class room our teacher told us to hide beneath our desks.

“Get under your desk, fast, get under your desk,” she said. Some of us cowered. Some of us stood confused and panicked. The whole classroom started asking our teacher “what is happening”.

Screaming children from the classrooms next door shocked us. It scared me so much, I could not even scream.

Our teacher was just about to lock the door when three militants stormed in the door.

They were already shooting, and I saw my teacher and class fellows immediately get hurt. Some of my friends started falling down (after being hit). Many of us went under our tables.

I knew I was going to die and started crying. Everyone was crying but no one (in my class) tried running away.

They shot my class fellows in the head, in the chest, on their arms, on the legs and in the stomach. Everyone was on the ground. Maybe, they knew many of us were alive. Then they started shooting straight in the skull. 

Bullets went over our heads. My best friend and class bench partner Irfan Ullah told me, “pretend we are dead.” I was shaking with fear. Our seats are in the last row of the classroom.

“Lay still, Ali, Lay still” he whispered to me. I was turned upside down. Everything happened very fast. I knew it was the terrorist. I knew it was Taliban.

My friend also got hit with bullets. I don't know which parts of his body but he didn't speak. I could hear him breath next to me.  

One terrorist screamed to the other, “Is that one dead?” and then I heard bullets and more shots. I felt like I was dead. 

They spoke in Pashto and were wearing shalwar kameez. All of them had long brown beards.

When they left the room, I whispered to Irfan, but he didn't respond. I thought he is playing dead. I continued (to play dead).  

I was very scared they will come back. I don't know when my friend died. He saved my life. 

I thought I was dead but my heart was beating very fast. I couldn't move.

I played dead for several hours. When the soldiers came to rescue, I could not move and remained still. I did not know if they were real soldiers. And I could not speak. I was very scared.  

I heard constant noise of bullets outside my class but didn't have the strength to open my eyes. There was a huge explosion. I thought the world will explode today.  

When someone picked me up I kept my eyes closed. It was the army soldiers.

I started crying. They took me to my parents.

I have come here to the hospital. So many of my schoolmates are here who are short of blood. I am offering my blood for donation.  

My parents insisted that we should go home. They are worried about me. They are sad. They are scared. I am scared too. But I am worried about my brothers and sisters who are at the hospital too.

These Taliban are evil. 

I can't believe I am alive.

If my country needs me, I am here to offer my life.

I will fight these terrorists who killed my friends. I will not forgive them. God is watching.

Rage, tears and broken childhoods as Pakistan reels from massacre

Mehran Khan, a mild-mannered 14-year-old survivor of this week's massacre at a Pakistani school, says he will not rest until the meaningless deaths of his classmates have been avenged.

Shot with three bullets – in the hand, leg and back – Khan said from his bed at Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital that cricket used to be his main passion before the attack. His life has changed forever.

“I am angry,” he said, his voice weak from pain. “I'm a physics student but now I don't want to be an engineer. I want to get out and take revenge for all the deaths. The ones who killed, my friends. I will not rest until I finish them.”

[12-year-old survivor: 'I witnessed the Peshawar massacre']

The dark day of Dec. 16, when Taliban militants slaughtered more than 130 pupils, methodically gunning down children, ended the childhood innocence of the traumatized survivors.

The elite, military-run Army Public School, known for its British-style green uniforms, mainly serves the offspring of Pakistan's powerful military class.

After the attack, the hardline Islamist Taliban declared that all of those children deserved to die because they were part of the military establishment.

Reuters interviews with young survivors revealed the lives of children deeply scarred by their near-death experience.

Ahmed Tahir, 14, is head prefect at his school. Speaking after the funeral of one of his friends, he said he and his mates managed to hide and slip outdoors into a nearby cemetery as soon as the shooting began.

“I finally glanced back and behind me there was a line of dead bodies,” he said.

“Only when we stopped at the graveyard to catch our breath did we realize that we were covered in blood. Not our own blood but the blood of our friends left behind.”

Wearing a perfectly ironed shalwar khameez – a long cotton tunic worn over a pair of baggy trousers, Tahir said his best friend had rushed back to try to rescue his trapped brother. Once inside, the friend was shot dead by the Taliban.

“I went to the CHM (hospital) yesterday and saw my principal's dead body,” Tahir went on. “She was shot dead but the terrorists also slit her throat. They wanted to send a message to working women, I guess.”

Before the massacre, Tahir and his friends gathered every morning before classes to play basketball. Afternoons were reserved for cricket and soccer. Now, returning to the school will be an ordeal.

“School is where we go everyday. It's like home, where we feel safe. Now it is littered with the memories of all those who died. They were all my brothers. It will be hard to go back.”

He started sobbing when asked about his friend Azaan Khan.

“What hurts is that he had escaped too but he went back. How could I let him? You know, that day he died he was going to give us all a treat at the canteen during break because he won the local badminton championship,” Tahir said.

“We had planned to go to Islamabad to watch (the film) Fast and the Furious 7 at the cinema. But now he's not here.”


Peshawar is a chaotic, teeming city – one of Pakistan's biggest. It lies not far from the Afghan border and a lawless mountainous area from where al Qaeda-linked militants plot their attacks.

But for many at Army Public School, a neat pink brick-and-stone campus that is a local landmark, life had long been insulated from the world of Islamist-inspired violence.

Daniyal Khan, a bookish, bespectacled 11-year-old, was lucky to escape the massacre unscathed. He crawled to safety through the playground outside the building.

“I left behind my blue lunchbox and my school bag,” Khan said. “I don't think I will get them back.”

He brightened when asked about his hobbies: computer games and equations. Khan also likes to read – his favorite book is Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

“I want to be an eye doctor,” he said with a smile. “I will fix my brother’s eyes and mine. Jibran wants to be a pilot and, you see, you need perfect eyesight to be a pilot. So I have to fix his eyes.”

Khan's smile disappeared when he is asked if he would go back to the school.

“Not that school,” he said quickly. “Everyday when we go to school the army guards check our bags and use body scanners to check us. If a boy has keys in his pockets, the machine beeps and they ask him to empty his pockets. Everyday this happens. So how did the terrorists come in with guns and grenades?”

Many in Pakistan, where army-related buildings tend to be heavily fortified, asked the same question. Witnesses said the militants, some wearing army uniforms to trick the guards, broke in using a less guarded back entrance.

Aamir Ameen, 18, was at a chemistry exam when the attack started. He fainted after taking a bullet in his hip but avoided being shot again. The assailants left him for dead.

“When I woke up, everyone around me was bleeding and dead. I stayed silent and lay there quietly for hours. When I saw army officers run past I started screaming and they rescued me.”

Ameen, whose father owns a fish shop in London, is an aspiring fashion designer. Unlike some boys who yearn for revenge, he said he wanted to focus on helping others.

“I want to get better and get out and help people. All the people who helped save my life, I want to do something for them,” Ameen said. “But I don't know what I will do without the friends who have died. I will miss them.”

Anger and grief as Pakistan buries students massacred at school

A shocked Pakistan on Wednesday began burying 132 students killed in a grisly attack on their school by Taliban militants that has heaped pressure on the government to do more to tackle the insurgency.

People across the country lit candles and staged vigils as parents bade final farewells to their children during mass funerals in and around Peshawar, the volatile city on the edge of Pakistan's lawless tribal belt where the school was located.

Grief mixed with anger as people looked to the authorities – long accused of not being tough enough on extremists – to stem spiraling violence in a nation which has become a safe haven for al Qaeda-linked groups.

At a vigil in the capital Islamabad, Fatimah Khan, 38, said she was devastated by the atrocity.

“I don't have words for my pain and anger,” she said. “They slaughtered those children like animals.”

Sixteen-year-old Naba Mehdi, who attends the Army School in the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi, had a message of defiance for the Taliban.

“We're not scared of you,” she said. “We will still study and fight for our freedom. This is our war.”

When asked what the government should do, her mother interrupted: “Hang them. Hang them all without mercy.”

In apparent response to public opinion after what may have been the deadliest militant attack in Pakistani history, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced he had lifted a moratorium on the death penalty.

The focus was also on Army Chief Raheel Sharif as he visited Afghanistan, where two sides whose relationship is strained after decades of mistrust were to discuss how to crack down on militants hiding on their common border.

Pakistanis may be used to almost daily attacks on security forces but an outright assault on children stunned the country, prompting commentators to call for a tough military response.

In all, 148 people were killed in the attack on the military-run Army Public School, according to the army.

The school's sprawling grounds were all but deserted on Wednesday, with a few snipers manning the roofs of its pink brick-and-stone buildings. Army vehicles and soldiers wearing face masks and carrying rifles were deployed by the entrance.


A Reuters tour of the school revealed a place shattered by hours of fighting, its floor slick with blood and walls pockmarked with bullet holes. Classrooms were filled with abandoned school bags, mobile phones and broken chairs.

One wall was smashed where a suicide bomber blew himself up, blood splattered across it. His body parts were piled nearby on a white cloth. The air was thick with the smell of explosives and flesh.

A day after the attack, Peshawar appeared subdued as people digested the tragedy. More details of the well-organized attack emerged as witnesses came forward with accounts.

“The attackers came around 10:30 a.m. on a pick-up van,” said Issam Uddin, a 25-year-old school bus driver.

“They drove it around the back of the school and set it on fire to block the way. Then they went to Gate 1 and killed a soldier, a gatekeeper and a gardener. Firing began and the first suicide attack took place.”

Sharif has announced three days of mourning, but people's anxiety focused on what the authorities can do to protect them.

Sharif came to power last year promising to negotiate peace with the Taliban, but those efforts failed, weakening his position and prompting the army to launch an air-and-ground operation against insurgents along the Afghan border.

The military staged more air strikes there late on Tuesday in response to the school attack, security sources said, but it was unclear what the target was.


Despite the well-publicised crackdown, the military has been accused of being too lenient towards militants who critics say are used to carry out the army's bidding in places like the disputed Kashmir region and Afghanistan.

The military denies the accusations.

“People will have to stop equivocating and come together in the face of national tragedy,” said Sherry Rehman, a former ambassador to the United States and an opposition politician.

The Pakistani Taliban, who are fighting to impose strict Islamic rule in Pakistan, are holed up in mountains straddling the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

They are allied with the Afghan Taliban as well as al Qaeda and other foreign fighters, andPakistan has long accused Afghanistan of not doing enough to crack down on their bases.

Afghanistan, for its part, blames Pakistan for allowing militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network to operate freely on its territory.

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper quoted a source saying the militants were acting on direct orders from their handlers in Afghanistan and that prominent Taliban commander Umar Naray was the ultimate mastermind of the attack.

Taliban go on killing spree at Pakistan school, 132 students dead

At least 132 students and nine staff members were killed on Tuesday when Taliban gunmen broke into a school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar and opened fire, witnesses said, in the bloodiest massacre the country has seen for years.

More than eight hours after militants slipped into the heavily guarded compound through a back entrance, the army declared the operation to flush them out over, and said that all nine insurgents had been killed.

The attack on a military-run high school attended by more than 1,100 people, many of them children of army personnel, struck at the heart of Pakistan's military establishment, an assault certain to enrage the country's powerful army.

Wounded children taken to nearby hospitals told Reuters most victims died when gunmen, suicide vests strapped to their bodies, entered the compound and opened fire indiscriminately on boys, girls and their teachers.

“One of my teachers was crying, she was shot in the hand and she was crying in pain,” said Shahrukh Khan, 15, who was shot in both legs but survived by hiding under a bench.

“One terrorist then walked up to her and started shooting her until she stopped making any sound. All around me my friends were lying injured and dead.”

The Taliban, waging war against Pakistan in order to topple the government and set up an Islamic state, immediately claimed responsibility.

“We selected the army's school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females,” said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani. “We want them to feel the pain.”


As night fell on Peshawar, a teeming, volatile city near the Afghan border, security forces wrapped up an operation that lasted more than eight hours and involved intense gun battles. The military said about 960 pupils and staff were evacuated.

The Taliban said the gunmen had been equipped with suicide vests and at least three explosions were heard inside the high school at the height of the massacre.

Outside, as helicopters rumbled overhead, police struggled to hold back distraught parents who were trying to break past a security cordon and get into the school.

Officials said 121 pupils and three staff members were wounded. A local hospital said the dead and injured were aged from 10 to 20 years old.

A Reuters correspondent visiting the city's major Combined Military Hospital said its corridors were lined with dead students, their green-and-yellow school uniform ties peeping out of the white body bags.

The gunmen, who several students said communicated with each other in a foreign language, possibly Arabic, managed to slip past the school's tight security because at least some of them were wearing Pakistani military uniforms, some witnesses said.

Pakistanis, used to almost daily militant attacks, were shocked by the scale of the massacre and the loss of so many young lives. It recalled the 2004 siege of a school in Russia's Beslan by Chechen militants which ended in the death of more than 330 people, half of them children.

The United States, Pakistan's ally in its fight against Islamist militants operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan, swiftly condemned the attack.

“This act of terror angers and shakes all people of conscience … the perpetrators must be brought to justice,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.


The Pakistani Taliban have vowed to step up attacks in response to a major army operation against the insurgents in the tribal areas.

But despite the crackdown this year, the military has long been accused of being too lenient toward Islamist militants who critics say are used to carry out the army's bidding in places like Kashmir and Afghanistan.

The military denies the accusations.

So far the Taliban have targeted mainly security forces, military bases and airports, but attacks on civilian targets with no logistical significance are relatively rare.

In September, 2013, however, dozens of people, including many children, were killed in an attack on a church, also in Peshawar in Pakistan's northwest.

The assault on a school where officers' children studied could push the armed forces into a more drastic response.

Army chief Raheel Sharif's first public remarks after the attack reflected rising anger.

“These terrorists have struck the heart of the nation. But our resolve to tackle this menace has gotten a new lease of life. We will pursue these monsters and their facilitators until they are eliminated for good,” he said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif used similarly strong words.

“We will take revenge for each and every drop of our children's blood that was spilt today,” he said.

In India, Pakistan's long-time rival, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his shock. The Afghan Taliban, which are separate to the Pakistani Taliban, put out a statement condemning the attack as “against the basics of Islam.”

Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai, joint winner of this year's Nobel peace prize for education campaign work and survivor of a Taliban attack in 2012, said she was devastated.

“I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold-blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us,” Malala, who now lives in central England, said in a statement.

Suspect in Daniel Pearl murder released in Pakistan

A suspect in the execution-style murder of Jewish-American journalist Daniel Pearl in Pakistan was released by a Pakistani court due to lack of evidence.

Qari Hashim was arrested in 2005, three years after Pearl’s murder. He was accused of introducing Pearl to British-born terrorist Omar Sheikh, who was sentenced to death in 2002 by a Pakistani anti-terror court for being the mastermind behind Pearl’s kidnapping and execution. Three others accused of involvement in Pearl’s abduction were sentenced to life in prison.

Hashim was released by a Pakistani anti-terror court in the southern city of Hyderabad on Friday

Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia bureau chief, was researching a story about Islamist militants when he was kidnapped in Karachi in January 2002. He was murdered a month later. His body was found in May 2002.

His final words as he was about to be beheaded — an act that was captured on camera and widely distributed — were “My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish.”

Obama says Nobel Peace Prize choice a victory for human dignity

President Barack Obama congratulated Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian campaigner against child trafficking, for winning the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, calling it a victory for those who uphold human dignity.

“Today's announcement is a victory for all who strive to uphold the dignity of every human being,” Obama, himself a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said in a statement.

“In recognizing Malala and Kailash, the Nobel Committee reminds us of the urgency of their work to protect the rights and freedoms of all our young people and to ensure they have the chance to fulfill their God-given potential, regardless of their background, or gender, or station in life.”

Yousafzai, aged 17, was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for advocating for girls' right to education. Obama said he and his wife, Michelle, had been awestruck by her courage.

“Malala and Kailash have faced down threats and intimidation, risking their own lives to save others and build a better world for future generations,” Obama said.

“Even as we celebrate their achievements, we must recommit ourselves to the world that they seek – one in which our daughters have the right and opportunity to get an education; and in which all children are treated equally.”

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by David Storey and Richard Chang

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, 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 You can follow him on Twitter @foodaism.

Ruth and Judea Pearl on James Foley, Daniel Pearl and the pragmatic fight against evil

As the online video of an ISIS militant’s murder of American freelance journalist James Foley went viral on the Internet last week, the gruesome scene recalled another journalist’s murder more than 12 years ago. In 2002, al-Qaida member Khalid Sheikh Mohammed killed Daniel Pearl, an accomplished foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. Pearl had thought he would be meeting an interview source in Karachi, Pakistan, but instead was targeted for being a Jew.

He did not die in vain. As soon as his parents, Judea and Ruth Pearl, and sisters, Tamara and Michelle, learned about Danny’s murder, they turned their sorrow into an effort to promote peace and understanding by creating the Daniel Pearl Foundation. In addition to a global network of concerts on the theme of “Harmony for Humanity,” they support U.S. fellowships for Muslim journalists from the Middle East and South Asia, who come here to work in newsrooms in the United States, including spending a week at this Jewish newspaper.  

The Pearls spoke with the Journal at their Encino home about their continuing work with the foundation, the resonance for them of Foley’s murder, and their views and experiences of the Muslim world today.


Jewish Journal: What would you say to James Foley’s parents if you were to speak to them now?

Ruth Pearl: Find comfort in the beautiful memories you have of him, as a young man and as a committed journalist; no one can take those memories from you.

I miss Danny every day. But any time I think of him, as a child or an awe-inspiring, beautiful young man, or look at his pictures or talk to his old friends, it gives me warmth and comfort. 


JJ: You’ve thrown yourselves into creating a foundation that promotes peace and understanding, creating a new legacy in your son’s name. Would you suggest to the Foleys doing the same?

RP: Given the shock and outpouring of support from the public, it was impossible not to go for it. Danny was killed not only for being an American journalist, but also for his religion, and that presented us with the mission of promoting tolerance and East-West understanding. I can’t be sure if we are making a difference, but the fact that it’s keeping me so busy, evidently, is keeping me from feeling sorry for myself. I miss Danny every second; it doesn’t change. Observing our journalism fellows’ achievements, as they return to their home countries, is inspiring and rewarding. Our fellows come from a culture of seeking revenge and are deeply impressed by our inviting them to join us in tikkun olam, not revenge.  If the Foley family decides to take this path, they should be aware of the enormity of the task. 


JJ: When Danny traveled to places like Pakistan, did you ever say to him, “Don’t go”? As parents, did you ever try to stop him?

Judea Pearl: Constantly, we worried. And constantly, we would tell him, “Be careful.” And he was careful, and as a matter of fact, he wrote a protocol for safety for the Wall Street Journal. But as a journalist, this was his interest, and his commitment, so we trusted his judgment.

RP: I’ll tell you a story. One time, when Danny was about to go to Iraq, we were especially concerned, as I was born in Baghdad. So we thought, under the Saddam Hussein regime, he might be targeted. Danny agreed not to go but told us, “This is my job, so please don’t ask me again.”


JJ: When we spoke recently about the death of Foley, you said, “The only answer for democracy is journalism.” Why do you believe that? 

JP: As the family of Daniel Pearl, we found solace in journalists. They identified with Danny’s story, they identified with our mission, and we felt we had a listening ear within this community.

But who cares about democracy today? When [President George W.] Bush went into Iraq in the name of democracy, many laughed at him, and for a good reason. The recipient side is not interested in receiving it, and the giving side is ashamed of offering it. I still believe in it — that democracy is the solution, and that journalism is the vehicle through which we can achieve it. But it doesn’t sell anymore.

Listen to what ISIS is saying: “We don’t need your democracy.” And not only them, the Muslim Brotherhood has been saying it for the past 80 years.


JJ: When journalists take risks — like Danny or Foley did — their mission is often to tell the stories of the humanity on the other side, as well. 

JP: Journalists are our only means of communicating with the “other side.” Remember, normal journalistic channels are choked now, because many journalists’ guilds, even from Jordan and Egypt, forbid their members to report from Israel, or visit Israel, or even associate with Israeli journalists. Given this, Muslim readers have no channel to Israel, and yet Israel is the litmus test for Muslim moderation — so, in effect, they have no channel to moderation.


JJ: You came up with this notion for the foundation within a week of learning Danny had died?

JP: We were devastated, of course, but everybody said, “You have to start a foundation.” It was natural to do it. You have to capitalize on what you have. We had Danny’s legacy, and we felt pressure to leverage it and to fight the hatred that took his life. He could not just disappear from the world. So it was very natural; we didn’t think twice.

We also had a vision that, because Danny had so many friends in the Arab world, they would help to keep his legacy alive; they would be our friends, and they would help us share his vision among their peers. It was the wrong assumption. His friends in Al Jazeera abandoned us immediately. They were probably afraid. Because in their world, he became somewhat suspect. After all, maybe he was an agent for the CIA?

Listen to the BBC now, on the story of James Foley. It’s the same: The callers, British Muslims said, “We don’t even know if he was combatant, or not.” One said, “We don’t even know his political views.” This is the mentality among BBC listeners.

Ruth and Judea Pearl. Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images

JJ: So do you still believe you’re fulfilling Danny’s legacy, as you’d hoped to?

JP: Between him and us, there is perfect agreement. But whether it’s accomplishing more than just a drop in the bucket, I don’t know. 


JJ: But what about the saying in the Talmud: “Save one life, save the world”?

JP: Yes, and here’s another one: You don’t have the option of stopping what you’re supposed to do. You do your share and let others judge if it’s a drop in the bucket, or more.

What makes it even more complicated is that we keep being reminded that people need us. They tell us: “You give us the empowerment for optimism. Danny reminds us of the nobility of the profession. He makes our music sound better; you’re reminding us that there’s a purpose to society.” It doesn’t always translate into help, but it does translate into an emotional pressure to continue, because we owe it to them.


JJ: Most people these days criticize or put down journalism and the media. Fox News, for example.

JP: Let’s talk about Fox News. In the past week, I got more requests to be interviewed on Fox News than from the “enlightened media.”


JJ: Why is that?

JP: First of all, they want to speak out against terrorism, and they feel comfortable doing it. CNN doesn’t know how to do that. They are afraid of offending someone. 


JJ: I’ve known you for some years now, and despite everything, you still surprise me with your optimism, and also with your anger.

JP: I am not angry. I’m just pragmatic. I was trained as an engineer, and I want to be effective. So if I’m angry, I’m angry for missing an opportunity to do something effective that I could have done.

In this instance, I’m angry at Al Jazeera, because I think it’s the world’s largest recruitment camp for terrorists, and the world’s largest school of combustible, anti-Western anger. I’m angry at the journalist community for treating Al Jazeera like just another TV channel and not putting them in their place for featuring arch-terrorists like Samir Kuntar and Khaled Mashal as role models for Arab youth. 

Ruth said, “Everyone should write to CNN and tell them not to show James Foley in his orange outfit.” Show the executor, but show a separate picture of Foley as he was as a reporter. Do not put them side by side. Let the world see the difference, but at the same time, don’t show Foley that way. You do not show rape. It’s not right to show a person facing a barbaric execution. We fought against it when a photo from Danny’s video was displayed by the Boston Phoenix. We explained and explained that this is serving the cause of the perpetrators. We said, “It’s not for Danny or for us; it’s for your children.” The eye can scar the mind, and the mind will scar the soul.

Beheading projects weakness and defeat, and I don’t want your children to feel defeated. That’s what I told the editor of the Boston Phoenix, who was the first to display it. “Don’t let your children feel defeated, and they will. It’s a very primitive but effective technique.”

With Danny, they ran it in Saudi Arabia to get recruitment. We Westerners fail to understand that half of mankind today is aroused by cruelty.

I’ll tell you something: I almost canceled this conversation today because I could not think about Foley without thinking about Daniel Tragerman, the 4-year-old Israeli boy killed by a mortar attack from Gaza last week. I watched him on Israeli television — the way he danced, the way he smiled, he really got my heart.

I realized, it’s a triangle here — James Foley, Daniel Pearl and Daniel Tragerman — three torches of man’s inhumanity to man. Why is it that only when terrorists behead someone we notice that inhumanity? In Sderot, they have been showered with rocket attacks for years, which is a “war crime” by any legal standard. And yet, [United Nations Secretary-General] Ban Ki-moon says, “We need to urge both sides.” “Both sides” connotes symmetry and indicates a failure of the United Nations and its leadership to distinguish a “crime” from a “side.”

Daniel Tragerman, a 4-year-old Israeli boy, was killed Aug. 22 by a mortar attack from Gaza in southern Israel.

JJ: So, in the triangle of Daniel Tragerman, Daniel Pearl and James Foley, what do you see?

JP: We have lost our moral compass. Danny’s story used to remind people that there is a crisp distinction between good and evil in the world. And now, so does Foley. But, unfortunately, Daniel Tragerman did not. We’re not supposed to say that Hamas is a terrorist organization. It might offend their supporters-bankers in Qatar. We need to put Daniel Tragerman in this triangle, because he is a victim of the same evil. And if I risk offending His Majesty, so be it.

Israel is the only society in the world that has managed, not to eradicate, but to curtail terrorism, and everybody is angry with her, because she reminds the world of its impotence.


JJ: Do you think what you’re doing with the Pearl journalist fellows has an effect?

JP: First of all, the fellows come to America and see what America is all about. Of course, when asked in their country, they’re not going to say, “America is all good.” But they are going to resist the tendency of their peers to put down America as the great Satan. They won’t accept the prevailing street norm that America is evil; that it’s against Muslims and that it has one intention in mind: to oppress Islam.

I think our fellows, when they go home, will offer more nuanced views to their readers. And that’s good enough. 


JJ: Have you seen results?

JP: We know of their achievements and publications. But we don’t know what goes on in the newsroom or at editorial meetings. We don’t know whether they moderate their peers or succumb to peer pressure. But it’s the best we can do. They seem to have a spine, and on that basis, the investment pays off now, and it will pay off over many years.


JJ: So, putting aside the immediacy of pragmatism for a moment, can you answer one last question, this time about the future? In light of what is happening in the Arab world now, are you frightened or hopeful?

RP: To see a beautiful human being shining and then slaughtered, it kills your hope. On the other hand, meeting our fellows gives you hope.

Moving and Shaking: 12th annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture, Rabbi David Baron honored

The 12th annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture, honoring the life and legacy of the Wall Street Journal reporter murdered by Islamic extremists in Pakistan in 2002, was held on Feb. 23 at UCLA. Samantha Power, United States ambassador to the United Nations, delivered the lecture and spoke out against the longtime exclusion of Israel from U.N. regional groupings. The diplomat was introduced to the audience of some 600 listeners by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The United States firmly opposes any boycotts of Israeli institutions and products “as disruptive of the peace process,” Power declared. (Her complete remarks on BDS are at

She went on to hail the Jewish state’s admission earlier this month to the U.N.’s JUSCANZ group of 15 democratic countries, including the United States, Japan, Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Norway and New Zealand.

Her generally non-controversial talk drew some unexpected media attention when she tweeted afterward that “Daniel Pearl’s story is a reminder that individual accountability and reconciliation are required to break cycles of violence.”

The tweet drew puzzled or indignant responses instantly, with some asking whether Power believed that Pearl himself was responsible for his own death.

Early Feb. 24, Power posted a correction, which explained that her reference was to the global outreach of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, established by the slain journalist’s parents, Ruth and Judea Pearl.

Power added, “As I said last night, the men who murdered Daniel Pearl did so because he was an American and, most of all, because he was a Jew.”

Although the Irish-born Power came to her U.N. job with a reputation as a feisty journalist, author and academic, as President Barack Obama’s chief representative to the international body, she delivered her remarks on current world problems with considerable circumspection. She did become visibly moved while describing the civil war in Syria as an unmitigated human disaster.

— Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor


From left: Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) CEO Randy Schwab with JBBBSLA honorees Weston Cookler, Shoshana Kline, John Shane and Aaron Levy.  Photo by Vince Bucci

Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) honored John Shane, Weston Cookler, Aaron Levy and Shoshana Kline on Jan. 30 at the Beverly Hills Hotel during an evening dubbed “The Big Event.” 

Shane, a recipient of the organization’s Spirit Award and a member of the organization’s board of directors, has funded JBBBSLA camperships and more. He practiced law for more than 20 years and also has worked as a real estate developer. He previously served as chairman of the board of the JBBBSLA non-denominational Camp Max Straus.

Cookler, Levy and Kline were named the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of the Year.

Cookler, who joined the JBBBSLA board in 2013, has served as a mentor for the organization since 2008. He is vice president of Avalon Investment Co.

Levy serves on the organization’s board of directors, the scholarship committee and on the match activities committee. He became a JBBBSLA mentor in 2008 and is a manager at Lodgen, Lacher, Golditch, Sardi, Saunders and Howard.

Kline began mentoring in 2010. Her efforts include aiding adults with special needs. She is director of operations at Irmas Financial Holdings.

“The mission of Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles is to assist children and young adults in achieving their full potential through innovative, impactful programs,” according to the organization’s Web site.

From left: Meir Fenigstein and Bob and Greg Laemmle. Photo by Abraham Joseph Pal

The 28th Israel Film Festival honored Rabbi David Baron of Temple of the Arts; Laemmle Theatres co-owners Robert and Greg Laemmle; and Israeli actor Sasson Gabai during a luncheon on Feb. 12. The event was held at the London West Hollywood and raised funds for the coming festival, which will take place f Oct. 23-Nov. 6. 

IsraFest, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit and organizer of the annual film festival, recognized Baron’s leadership of a synagogue that serves members of the entertainment industry with the IFF Community Leadership Award. It honored the Laemmles with the IFF Community Partnership Award for running a company that, among other things, exposes audiences to Israeli films. The IFF Career Achievement Award celebrated the career of Gabai, whose work includes the acclaimed film “The Band’s Visit.” 

The event also spotlighted a milestone for the Laemmle Theatres. Last year, the theater chain celebrated its 75th anniversary.

The Israel Film Festival “has grown to become one of the most important Israeli cultural events in America and the largest showcase for Israeli films in the United States,” according to its Web site. Los Angeles is one of three cities that host it every year. The others are New York and Miami. For more information about the festival, visit

From left: Jane Zuckerman and Jeffrey Popkin. Photos courtesy of ETTA.

ETTA announced this month that it has brought on Jane Zuckerman to be the organization’s director of development. Zuckerman is the nonprofit’s first employee to hold this position.

Zuckerman’s work experience includes serving as executive director of Temple Israel of Hollywood, director of resource development at Temple Beth Am and development director for Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles’ SOVA Community Food and Resource Program.

In a press release, Zuckerman expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to work with ETTA, which provides support to people living with special needs.

“ETTA is a vital agency to our city — no one else provides the range and type of services they do for our Jewish population,” Zuckerman said. “I am very excited to be a part of this team and help the organization grow.”

Additionally, the organization has taken on veteran special-needs professional Jeffrey Popkin as its new director of operations. Popkin, whose hiring became effective Feb. 10, said that ETTA’s track record of meeting a diverse set of needs for an oft-neglected community makes him excited to be joining the organization.

“I look forward to be beintg part of the ETTA team, which is meeting the goal of providing additional quality, community-based living arrangements,” he said.

Popkin previously served as associate director of Kern Regional Center, which coordinates services for Californians with developmental disabilities. 

From left: L.A. City Councilman Bob Blumenfield, Ryan E. Smith, Susan Freudenheim, Wendy Coleman Levin, Armin Szatmary, Leon Shkrab, Sidonia Lax, Stephen M. Levine, Councilman Paul Koretz. Leslye Adelman.  Photo by Paul  Michael Neuman

The Jewish Journal and subjects of its 2014 Mensch List were honored at Los Angeles City Hall on Feb. 14. A plaque was presented to the Journal’s editorial staff on behalf of the City of Los Angeles by L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz.

The community newspaper’s annual Mensch List profiles volunteers who do great — often unheralded — work on behalf of others. Representing the publication at the ceremony, which took

place in the council’s chambers, were Susan Freudenheim, executive editor, and Ryan E. Smith, associate editor. 

Members of Los Angeles City Council and honorees from this year’s 10-member Mensch List were present as well.

Moving and Shaking highlights events, honors, simchas and more. Got a tip? E-mail

Polio virus strain in Syria confirmed as being from Pakistan, WHO says

Polio that has crippled at least 13 children in Syria has been confirmed as being caused by a strain of the virus that originated in Pakistan and is spreading across the Middle East, the World Health Organisation said.

Genetic sequencing shows the strain found in Syrian children in Deir al-Zor, where an outbreak was detected last month, is linked to the strain of Pakistani origin found in sewage in Egypt, Israel and Palestinian territories in the past year.

“Genetic sequencing indicates that the isolated viruses are most closely linked to virus detected in environmental samples in Egypt in December 2012 (which in turn had been linked to wild poliovirus circulating in Pakistan),” the United Nations agency said in a statement on Monday.

Closely-related strains of the wild poliovirus of Pakistani origin have also been detected in sewage samples in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip since February 2013, it said.

Polio virus has been confirmed in 13 of 22 children who became paralysed in the northern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor. Investigations continue into the other 9 cases. It is Syria's first polio outbreak since 1999.

No children in Egypt, Israel or the Palestinian territories have been hit by polio thanks to high immunisation rates and a strong response to the alert, WHO spokeswoman Sona Bari said.

Polio virus is endemic in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria despite a 25-year-old campaign to eradicate the disease, which can paralyse a child in hours.


Islamist fighters from countries including Pakistan are among groups battling to oust President Bashar al-Assad, leading to speculation that they brought the virus into the country.

The WHO says it is unlikely that adults, who generally have higher immunity, carried the virus into Syria and that its mode of transmission will probably never be known.

Syria's immunisation rates have plummeted from more than 90 percent before the conflict to around 68 percent. Polio mainly affects children under five and cannot be cured, only prevented.

“All the children (paralysed) are under two years old, so they were all born after immunisation services fell apart,” Bari told Reuters. “No doubt the outbreak will be large.”

Children living in unsanitary conditions are especially vulnerable to the virus, which spreads via faecal-oral transmission and contaminated food and water.

More than 20 million children, including 1.6 million in Syria, are to be vaccinated in Syria and neighbouring countries over the next six months, U.N. agencies said last week.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Andrew Roche

The Torah of drones: Examining the complex morality of drone warfare

In 2009, an Israeli drone flying over the Gaza Strip transmitted back to its command station an image of a telltale rocket trail streaking toward Israeli territory. Many kilometers away, a young Israeli operator, Capt. Y, quickly maneuvered the unmanned aircraft to get a look at the young Palestinian who had just launched the deadly missile. Y’s drone squadron already had authorization to take him out. In an instant, a rocket struck the hidden launch site, followed by a flash of fire.

When the smoke cleared, Y saw images of the shooter lying flat on the ground. Twenty seconds passed. And then Y saw something even more remarkable — the dead man began to move.

Severely wounded, the Palestinian began to claw his way toward the road. Y could clearly see the man’s face, and in his youth and determination Y must have recognized something of himself. So, now Y and his team had a decision to make: Would they let the wounded terrorist escape, or circle the drone back and finish him off?

Y told me this story in the lobby of the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. He is 23, wiry and intense. When I arrived for our interview, arranged through the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, Y was sitting in a small atrium, getting in a last smoke.

For security reasons, I cannot use his real name, so I agreed to refer to the captain as Y, and to his fellow drone operator, a lieutenant, as M.

M is calmer. She is 25, has large blue eyes and wears her blond hair pulled back into a ponytail — Scarlett Johansson’s tougher twin sister.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, as drones are otherwise known, have been in use militarily since World War I. In 1917, the Americans designed the Kettering “Bug” with a preset gyroscope to guide it into enemy trenches. In World War II, the Nazis deployed “the Fritz,” a 2,300-pound bomb with four small wings and a tail motor. But it is only in the past few years that UAVs have made almost-daily headlines. These days, the United States, in particular, has widely employed UAVs in the far reaches of Pakistan and Afghanistan in its fight against terrorists. As recently as Nov. 1, a U.S. drone strike killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, demonstrating once again the deadly effectiveness of, and the growing reliance upon, these weapons of war.

But like all revolutionary new weapons, this success comes at a price, and it’s a price we in America prefer not to check. Just a day before I met with the two Israelis in late October, two influential human rights groups released reports asserting that the number of civilian deaths resulting from America’s largely secret “drone wars” was far greater than the government had claimed. Human Rights Watch reported that since 2009, America’s anti-terrorist drone strikes in Yemen had killed at least 57 civilians — more than two-thirds of all casualties resulting from the strikes — including a pregnant woman and three children. In Pakistan, Amnesty International found that more than 30 civilians had died from U.S. drone strikes between May 2012 and July 2013 in the territory of North Waziristan.

To Americans, news of anonymous civilians dying in faraway places may not resonate deeply, even if we are the ones who killed them. But these two humanitarian groups’ reports point to the rapid increase in the United States’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles as weapons of war, and they underline the lack of clear international ethical codes to guide that use.

Who gets to use drones? How do commanders decide whom to target, whom to spy on? If a drone operator sitting in a command room in Tampa, Fla., can kill a combatant in Swat, in northern Pakistan, does that make downtown Tampa a legitimate military target, as well?

I wanted to learn more about the morality of this advancing technology, so I talked to people who have studied drones, who have thought about their ethical implications, and who, like Y and M, actually use them. I hoped that through them I might come to understand how we, as a society, should think about the right way to use these remarkable, fearsome tools. 

I wanted to know if there exists, in essence, a Torah of drones.

From 12,000 feet up, the Heron drone Capt. Y was piloting that day during Operation Pillar of Defense offered a perfect view of the wounded Palestinian.

“You see everything,” Y told me. “You could see him lying on the ground, moving and crawling. Even if you know he’s the enemy, it’s very hard to see that. You see a human being who is helpless. You have to bear in mind, ‘He’s trying to kill me.’ But, in my mind, I hoped somebody would go help him.”

Y’s father is French, and his mother is Israeli. He lives in Beersheba, where his wife is a medical student. Y’s brother was killed in the Second Lebanon War by a Hezbollah rocket while he was piloting a Yasur combat helicopter. Y was 18 at the time.

“I believe some of the way to mourn is to go through the same experience of the man you loved,” Y said.

Lt. M’s parents both are French immigrants to Israel, staunch Zionists, and, she said, she always knew one day she’d be an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer.

In Israel, those who cannot complete pilot-training very often enter the drone corps. It may not hold the cachet of becoming an Air Force pilot, but both of these soldiers believe drones are the future.

“I like the idea that every flight you do, you’re helping your fellow citizens,” M said.

“We feel we contribute more than other people,” Y said. “But today, in the modern day, you don’t have to take risks. If you risk your life, it doesn’t mean you contribute more.”

In the United States and Israel, where the reluctance to put boots on the ground is at a high point, the fact that drones offer significant military capabilities with far less risk accounts precisely for the tremendous increase in their use.

Israel, in fact, has led the way. Its effective use of drones during the 1982 Lebanon War rekindled American interest in UAVs. During America’s first Gulf War, in 1991, the U.S. Navy bought a secondhand Pioneer drone from Israel and used it to better aim heavy artillery. At one point during that war, a squad of Iraqi soldiers saw a drone overhead and, expecting to be bombarded, waved a white sheet. It was the first time in history soldiers had surrendered to a drone.

Today, the United States increasingly uses drones for both civilian intelligence — as in Yemen and Pakistan — and militarily. Currently, some 8,000 UAVs are in use by the U.S. military. In the next decade, U.S. defense spending on drones is expected to reach $40 billion, increasing inventory by 35 percent. Since 2002, 400 drone strikes have been conducted by U.S. civilian intelligence agencies. 

At least 87 other countries also have drones. Earlier this year, Israel announced it was decommissioning two of its combat helicopter squadrons — to replace them with drones.

“We’re at the very start of this technological revolution,” Peter Singer, author of “Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century,” told me by phone. “We’re in the World War I period of robotics. The cat’s out of the bag. You’re not going to roll it back. But you do want to set norms.”

Singer’s book, first published in 2009 when the public debate over drone ethics was nonexistent, is still the best road map to a future we all have reason to fear, but must face, in any case.

I called Singer to see where he stands on the ethical issues raised by civilian drone deaths.

Actually, he pointed out, his book dealt largely with military use of these technologies. Even he wouldn’t have predicted such widespread use of drones by surveillance agencies that are unversed in the rules of war and that operate without the safeguards built into military actions.

That, for Singer and others who parse the ethics of drones, is the rub. In the military, there are rules of engagement. There is the risk of court-martial. Strategic training is better in the military than in intelligence agencies.

“One group goes to war college,” Singer said, “the other doesn’t. And it’s very different when you’re a political appointee, rather than a military officer. Some tactics would not be allowed in a military operation.”

I asked Singer for an example. He chose one from the CIA operations just now under scrutiny by human rights groups.

“Double-tapping,” he said. “That would never make its way past a military officer.”

Double-tapping is when an aircraft, manned or not, circles back over a targeted site and strikes a second time — either to finish off the wounded or to take out forces that have rushed in to help. Exactly the ethical question Capt. Y. faced.

When Y saw that he hadn’t killed the Palestinian the first time, he and his team faced one of the most difficult, urgent questions of drone combat: Should they double-tap?

Ethical issues in drone combat come up all the time, M said — in training, in operations and, afterward, in frequent debriefing and analysis.

“I have so many examples of that, I can’t count,” Y told me.

A landmark Israeli Supreme Court decision on targeted killing provides the ethical framework for IDF drone operators.

In 2009, the court found there is nothing inherently wrong with a targeted killing — whether by an F-16, Apache helicopter or unmanned drone.

But, the court added, in order for the action to be acceptable, the soldiers must satisfy three questions:

The first is, what is a legitimate target? The target, the court said, must be an operational combatant seeking to do you harm — not a retired terrorist or someone you want to punish for past sins.

Second, has the target met the threshold level of intelligence? The drone team must have a deep knowledge that its target meets the first condition, verified by more than one source.

Finally, who is the supervising body? There must be independent oversight outside the hands of the drone operators and the IDF.

To professor Moshe Halbertal, these three conditions form the basis for the moral exercise of deadly drone force.

Halbertal is a professor of Jewish philosophy at Hebrew University, the Gruss Professor of Law at the New York University School of Law and one of the drafters of the IDF’s code of ethics.

Shortly before Halbertal came to Los Angeles to serve as scholar-in-residence Nov. 1-3 at Sinai Temple, I spoke with him about Israel’s experience with drones. From what he could tell, he said, Israel has a more developed ethical framework.

In the American attacks, Halbertal said, “The level of collateral damage is alarming.”

In Israel, he said, “There is a genuine attempt to reduce collateral killing. If this were the level of collateral damage the IDF produces, it would be very bad.”

The fact that drones are less risky is not what makes their use more prone to excesses, Halbertal said.

“Because military operations involve more risk, there is more care in applying them,” Halbertal said. “But, on the other hand, soldiers make mistakes out of fear in the heat of combat that drone operators don’t.”

The danger with drones, he said, is that because the political risks of deploying them, versus deploying live troops, are much less, they can be used more wantonly.

I asked Capt. Y if he’d had experience with collateral damage.

“It’s happened to me,” he said. “We had a target and asked [intelligence officers] if there were civilians in the area. We received a negative. Later, we heard in the Palestinian press that there were casualties. We checked, and it was true — a father and his 17-year-old son. What can we do? I didn’t have a particular emotion about it.”

The people who know the people getting killed do have emotions about it. And that grief and anger can work to undo whatever benefits drone kills confer.

“I say every drone attack kills one terrorist and creates two,” Adnan Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, told me. In the Swat Valley, where he lives, the fear of American drones and the innocent lives they’ve taken has been one of the extremists’ best recruiting tools, Rashid said.

If that’s the case, better oversight and clearer rules for drones may be not just the right thing to do but in our self-interest as well.

No war is ever clean. But that doesn’t mean drone use should increase without the implementation of the kind of national, and international, norms Singer now finds lacking.

If the United States doesn’t adopt the kinds of oversight Israel already has in place, at the very least, Singer believes, we should move the drone program from the intelligence agencies to the military. 

It’s a call that has increasingly vocal support from America to Pakistan. Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well as the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, argued Congress could exercise better oversight of a drone program operated by the military.

 “Since when is the intelligence agency supposed to be an Air Force of drones that goes around killing people?” McCain said recently on Fox News. “I believe that it’s a job for the Department of Defense.”

Pakistani protesters from United Citizen Action shout anti-U.S. slogans during a protest against the Nov. 1 killing of Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike. Photo by S.S. Mirza/AFP Photo/Newscom

 “The killing is creating more anger and resulting in the recruitment of more people to pursue revenge,” former Pakistani Minister of State Shahzad Waseem told me. “The minimum you can do is to come up openly with some kind of treaty or set of rules to give it a legal shape, mutually accepted by all sides.” 

Will Americans rise up to make a stink over this? That may be a tall order for a populace that seems to take each revelation of intelligence community overreach — from drone deaths to National Security Agency spying — with a collective yawn. Will the international community begin to create a framework that at least sets standards for drone use and misuse? 

Unfortunately, humans, particularly in developing technology, have a way of advancing faster on the battlefront than on the legal or moral fronts. It took the Holocaust, Singer pointed out, for humanity to come up with the Geneva Conventions of 1949. What fresh hell must befall us before we at least attempt to codify behavior for the Age of Drones?

And even if we set standards and nations abide by them, it seems inevitable that the very nature of drones one day will allow non-state actors — the likes of al-Qaeda — to follow the lead of Hezbollah in using them, as well.

If, in the 1940s and ’50s, the best and the brightest scientific minds went into nuclear physics — and gave us the atomic bomb — these days, those talents are all going toward artificial intelligence. At the high end, a future filled with autonomous, intelligent killing drones awaits us.

At the low end, consider this: Singer also serves as a consultant for the video game “Call of Duty,” for which he was asked to envision a homemade drone of the not-too-distant future. He and others came up with a Sharper Image toy helicopter, controlled by an iPad and mounted with an Uzi. A promotional team actually made a fully functional version of this weapon for a YouTube video, and 17 million hits later, the Defense Department telephoned, perturbed.

“Unlike battleships or atomic bombs,” Singer told me, “the barriers to entry for drones are really low.”

That doesn’t mean we should give up on establishing ethical norms for nations — or people — but we do need to keep our expectations in check.

We may be heading toward a world of what Halbertal describes, in the Israeli context, as “micro wars,” where each human is empowered with military-like capacity and must make his or her own ethical choices on the spot.

Cap. Y made his own moral choice that day during Operation Pillar of Defense. He watched as the wounded Palestinian man managed to get to the road, where a group of civilians came to his aid.

Why didn’t Y “double-tap”?

 “He was no longer a threat,” Y told me, matter-of-factly. “And several people gathered around him who weren’t part of the attack.” That was that: The rules of engagement were clear.

In a micro-war, a soldier in combat — not just generals at a central command — must determine in the heat of battle who is a terrorist and who is a civilian, who shall live and who shall die.

In his book, Singer envisions a future in which artificial intelligence will also enable us to provide ethical decision-making to the machines we create. It would be our job to program Torah into these machines — and then let them do with it as they will.

Much like Someone has done with us.

The two Muslim narratives

The Muslim world finds itself amidst a battle of two narratives — one of oppression and one of justice.

The oppressive narrative enforces death for blasphemy and/or apostasy and wants government that rejects the democratic ideal of separation of mosque and state. It relegates women to second class status and likewise, seeks to establish a Khalifa to unite Muslims in their oppressive cause.

The just narrative uses service to humanity and the pen to present Islam’s true essence. It presents no shortage of scholarly literature to repudiate oppressive interpretations of Islam; see this brilliant work by a twentieth century Islamic scholar and another brilliant work by a former UN President and President of the International Court of Justice. Likewise, the just narrative inspires Muslims to remain at the cutting edge of service to humanity through organizations like Humanity First and the “Muslims for Life” annual blood drive. It inspires women to pursue higher education and become leaders in science, scholarship, and yes, motherhood. This demonstrates that the justice based narrative is not just some theological exegesis of Qur’anic interpretation and theory, but instead it is based in hard reality.

But the oppressive narrative is certainly influential. In a recent Pew survey 75% of Pakistanis replied that Islam needs blasphemy laws and that the government must punish blasphemers. Before his ignoble demise, Pakistan’s Dictator General Zia built and enforced these blasphemy laws with dreams of becoming the Khalifa. Since, this narrative has spread as far east as Indonesia and far west as Canada. Yes, even in Canada clerics like Mullah Tahir ul Qadri, while claiming to be a moderate, teach that blasphemers and apostates must be executed. Women suffer under unconscionable illiteracy, poverty, and abuse. This narrative is not necessarily comprised of monolithic Muslims, but it is united in this oppressive ideology and in the desire to galvanize that oppression with a Khalifa.

So what does the just narrative on Islam have to say about this?

Contrary to the oppressive narrative, the just narrative implores pluralism and democracy. It actively rejects the medieval notions that Islam in any way approves any punishment for blasphemy or apostasy, or that Islam allows mixture of mosque and state. It champions free speech and free expression while imploring self-control, personal civility, and universal service to humanity. It elevates women to an equitable status, ensuring above all the right to self-determination. This just narrative is also not necessarily comprised of monolithic Muslims, but is united in the cause of justice and democracy. Incidentally, many Muslims supporting this narrative welcome a Khalifa to spiritually unite Muslims on the tenets of justice — not oppression.

Maintaining our theme of practical solutions rather than abstract theory — the reality is that such just Muslims are increasingly uniting under a Khalifa who upholds justice and democracy.

His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, Khalifa of Islam and head of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is not only the world’s only Khalifa, but also continues an unbroken chain of peaceful progress through Khilafat that spans over 120 years. Indeed, Muslims in over 200 nations worldwide find unity under the Khalifa’s leadership. His Holiness continues to open and fund numerous educational institutions for young children, especially girls, of all faiths and backgrounds. Likewise, His Holiness continues to advocate for a moderate Islam while logically and practically refuting irrational, extremist, and unjust interpretations. When asked just a few days ago on whether his spiritual office of the Khalifa and influence over tens of millions of Muslims worldwide is compatible with secular democratic governance, His Holiness emphatically replied, “Khilafat has no relation to government or politics. When [Islam] Ahmadiyyat spreads far and wide the Khilafat will play no role in government and will never interfere with matters of State. We have no political ambitions or desires. We believe entirely in a separation of religion and matters of State.”

Critics attempt to dismiss His Holiness’ leadership and influence, remarking that he commands no army and rule no nation. Such foolish critics forget, that is the whole point of separation of mosque and state. Without worldly force, His Holiness wields immense influence for the good of humanity by maintaining absolute justice in all affairs and relentlessly serving humanity through altruism.

Ultimately, the oppressive narrative of Islam destroys itself, and any hope of ever establishing a Khalifa. Meanwhile, Muslims who follow the just Islamic narrative create an undeniably progressive present, and an equitable future worthy of envy for all mankind.

Thus, the Khalifa of Islam presents a pristine, practical, and correct example of what Islam represents—personal spirituality, secular based just governance, gender equity, and universal service to humanity.

May the best narrative win.

Qasim Rashid is a national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA and author of the recent book The Wrong Kind of Muslim. Follow him on Twitter @MuslimIQ.

Raheel Raza’s Jihad

If the religion of Islam ever succeeds in eradicating its extremist and violent elements, it will be because of devout Muslim women like Raheel Raza, a long-time human rights activist from Pakistan.

I came across Raza’s name on a piece she wrote last week on the Gatestone Institute Web site about three recent terrorist attacks — in Kenya, Pakistan and Iraq — which she characterized as “pre-meditated terror attacks on civilians … as part of an armed jihad.”

She points her finger, in part, at the “instant knee-jerk reaction of the apologists” such as the OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation], which she writes “has let us down by giving priority to their own agenda on Islamophobia in the West and remaining silent when Muslims indulge in wanton terrorism — in fact, they object to use of the word ‘terrorist’ attached to Muslims.”  

Railing against the West’s “soft stance” against jihadist terrorism, she asks: “How much more bloodshed and carnage do we have to see and endure before we wake up to the reality that something dangerous has taken root in the heart of the Muslims who kill in the name of faith?”

But it’s her rage at the mullahs’ silence over jihadist violence — the murders of Muslims as well as non-Muslims — that struck me the most: “Why is it that there is no voice from the pulpit, and the Sunni majority does not even bat an eyelash about the death squads against Shias and the persecution of Ahmedis?

“Is it because ‘Cyber Mullahs,’ ‘Hadeeth Hurlers’ and ‘Qu’ran Thumpers’ are invoking their interpretation of the Qu’ran, and insisting that armed jihad is valid and needed today while we say it is time to make it obsolete?

“Is it because there are verses in the Qu’ran that can be, and have been, used to justify violence against non-Muslims?

“If this is the situation, then it is time for us to lift our heads out of the sand, and understand that the enemy is within.

“Platitudes about Islam being a faith of peace are not credible anymore. Islam is only as good as the way its followers practice it …”

As I read her piece, I wondered: Is this courageous woman in trouble?

I tracked her down to find out.

“My fear is minuscule compared to the work that needs to be done,” she told me on the phone from Toronto. “If I give in to fear, the extremists win.”

Who are these extremists? She calls them “seventh-century Muslims.”

“Politicization of Islam took place just after Muhammad died,” she said. “Only 60 years later, his own grandson was killed by another Muslim.”

Today, radical Islam comprises three main prongs, which she calls an “insidious triangle”: al-Qaeda (Sunni), “Khomeinists” (Shia) and Muslim Brotherhood (Sunni), with their many offshoots.

They might be at one another’s tribal throats on many issues, but they’re not at odds on using violence or oppressing women in the name of their faith.

“The Qu’ran is a book that is open to interpretation,” she says. “Unfortunately, for 1,400 years, it has been interpreted only by men.”

A just and merciful God, she says, “would never relegate half of humanity [women] to the lower rung of life.”

She doesn’t deny that the Qu’ran can be interpreted in violent ways, especially by  extremists with a radical mission, but that’s precisely why she believes new interpretations are desperately needed from Muslims who have a more human and universal agenda.

As an example of a more humane interpretation, in the Qu’ran, she says, “Men and women are created from one soul,” unlike in the Judeo-Christian tradition, where woman was created from the ribs of man.

“My feminism is not anti-men, it’s pro-equality,” she says. “We come from the same soul.”

“When we pray five times a day,” she adds, “we pray for Abraham and for the progeny of Abraham, who are the Christians and Jews.”

Raza, who wrote the book “Their Jihad … Not My Jihad! A Muslim Canadian Woman Speaks Out,” and is also a poet and playwright, considers herself a “warrior” for the cause of interpreting Islam in the most moderate and humane way possible.

She’d love to see the spiritual and peaceful strains of Islam — such as the Sufi tradition —  become the dominant expressions of the religion she loves. She’s far from naïve or even optimistic on this count, but she doesn’t see a choice other than to fight.

“The reason I am in a battle for the soul of Islam is for the future of our children and grandchildren,” she says. “Children are not born terrorists.”

Above all, she would love to see the more moderate Muslims of the world rise up and fight the battle from within. “The moderate Muslims I know are afraid,” she says.

She certainly isn’t. 

This month, Raza will be one of nine women’s rights advocates featured in “Honor Diaries,” a new documentary that highlights the oppression facing millions of women in Muslim-majority societies.

She’s bracing herself for the reaction. “I have been sued for calling extremists, ‘extremist,’ and I am listed on the 10 ‘World’s Most Hated Muslims’ list,” she says.

“I’m No. 6. I hope to be No. 1.”

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

Daniel Pearl Fellows: Reshaping hate

On the evening of Aug. 22, I had a public conversation with three Muslim journalists, two from Pakistan and one from Bangladesh, at the Los Angeles Press Club. All three were in the United States as Daniel Pearl Journalism Fellows, a program to introduce Muslim journalists to American practices, sponsored by the Daniel Pearl Foundation and Alfred Friendly Press Partners. Here are the three most chilling things they said:

1. The majority of Pakistanis hate America.

2. The vast majority of Pakistanis believe the United States and Israel, not al-Qaeda, were behind the 9/11 attacks. Their “proof”: 3,000 Jews who work in the World Trade Center didn’t show up for work that day.

3. Most Pakistanis agree that the chaos in Syria and Egypt is the result of manipulation by Jews, Israel and/or the United States.

And keep in mind, Pakistan is officially our ally.

Not only have our two countries cooperated to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the United States has given Pakistan more than $21 billion in foreign aid since 2002.

Still, they seem to hate us.  

“We have a saying in our country,” said Khalid Khattak, a staff reporter for the News International in Lahore. “India is the bastard child of Israel, and Israel is the bastard child of the United States.”

Why the hate? A few reasons.

The aid we give is, in fact, part of the problem. 

“There is a lot of corruption,” Khattak said. “It is meant to be spent to help people, but, unfortunately, a lot of it goes into the pockets of those who take it from the United States.” 

“The billions of dollars of aid are being wasted,” said Emran Hossain, a staff reporter at Bangladesh’s first online newspaper,, in Dhaka. “It is being spent on the military and police, or on education that makes people more religious.”

A good part of the blame for the failure of U.S. aid lies with corrupt and inefficient Pakistani bureaucracy charged with spending it — but we are the ones who write the checks. And that just makes many Pakistanis angrier.

Another reason for the anger: drones.

Since 2006, America has launched a carte blanche drone war against targets in parts of Pakistan. While terrorists have been decimated, many innocents have also been killed in collateral damage, and America answers to no one.

“You start the drone strikes now, but the reaction will continue in the years to come,” Khattak said. “There is a saying in the Pashtun language that if a Pashtun takes revenge after 100 years, it’s not too late.”

Vaqaz Banoori, an editor at the Independent Press Network in Islamabad, put it even more bluntly. “If you continue the drone strikes,” Banoori told us, “you are losing the moderates and the liberals. You are giving Pakistanis the message, ‘You are no one.’ ”

The final reason for the antipathy: ignorance. Pakistan has a de facto illiteracy rate of 30 percent, and only 19 percent of its population has access to the Internet. Journalists are freer than in years past to report on corrupt politicians, but intelligence and defense matters remain off limits, as are affronts to the country’s many religious extremist groups. 

“They blame mainly America, and mainly Jews,” Banoori said of his fellow Pakistanis. There are, of course, no Jews in Pakistan. But whether the issue is Kashmir or Palestine, 9/11 or drones, Jews, America and Israel are the go-to scapegoats — just as they are in Syria and Egypt.

I asked Banoori why literate Pakistanis couldn’t just read Wikipedia to get their facts more or less correct. 

“They would say Wikipedia is just run by Jews,” he said.

This would all be deeply depressing were it not for this additional fact: As much as the Pakistanis despise America, they deeply want to come to America.

“There are so many Pakistanis trying to get visas to the United States every day,” Banoori said. “These people want to have a good life, educational opportunities, economic opportunities.”

The negative ideas about America — from our wasted aid, our drone strikes, extremist claptrap — compete with the images everyone sees in popular movies and on TV shows. “Friends” and “Everybody Loves Raymond” are their favorites. They don’t get “Seinfeld.”

In fact, Pakistanis will pay $10,000 for a $160 visa, just to come to the Great Satan.

As I spoke to the journalists, I noticed a tall, thin gray-haired man in the front row of the audience, looking positively unhappy; turned out it was Cameron Munter, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan. 

What the journalists said was painful to hear, but largely true, Munter confirmed. Since leaving the foreign service, he has gone on record calling for replacing official U.S. foreign aid to Pakistan with people-to-people initiatives, from academic and business exchanges to the kind of initiatives that brought the journalists to us last week.

I think he is onto something. 

It stands to reason that we should be doing less of what’s not working and more of what is. Pakistan is ours to lose, but only if we really want to. And the biggest mistake we can make is to outsource the job of winning Pakistani hearts and minds to the government of the United States of America, which has completely bollixed it up.

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

Pakistan’s Malala, shot by Taliban, takes education plea to U.N. [VIDEO]

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban last year for demanding education for girls, marked her 16th birthday with a passionate speech at the United Nations on Friday in which she said education could change the world.

“Let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution,” said Yousafzai, speaking out for the first time since she was attacked.

Wearing a pink head scarf, Yousafzai told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and nearly 1,000 students attending an international Youth Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York that education was the only way to improve lives.

Yousafzai was shot at close range by gunmen in October as she left school in Pakistan's Swat Valley, northwest of the country's capital Islamabad. She was targeted for her campaign against the Islamist Taliban efforts to deny women education.

“They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed and out of that silence came thousands of voices,” she said to cheers from the students gathered at U.N. hall.

“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born,” a confident Yousafzai said.

She wore a white shawl draped around her shoulders that had belonged to former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated during a 2007 election rally weeks after she returned to Pakistan from years in self-imposed exile.

“I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I'm here to speak up for the right of education for every child,” she said.

“I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists,” she said. “I do not even hate the talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me, I would not shoot him.”

Yousafzai presented Ban with a petition signed by some 4 million people in support of 57 million children around the world who are not able to go to school. It demanded that world leaders fund new teachers, schools and books and end child labor, marriage and trafficking.

Ban said that the United Nations was committed to a target of getting all children in school by the end of 2015.

“No child should have to die for going to school. Nowhere should teachers fear to teach or children fear to learn. Together, we can change this picture,” he said. “Together, let us follow the lead of this brave young girl, Malala.”


U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, said Friday's event was not just a celebration of Malala's birthday and of her recovery, but of her vision.

He invoked “her dream that nothing, no political indifference, no government inaction, no intimidation, no threats, no assassin's bullets should ever deny the right of every single child … to be able to go to school.”

Brown described Yousafzai's recovery from the attack as a miracle. The teenager was treated in Pakistan before the United Arab Emirates provided an air ambulance to fly her to Britain, where doctors mended parts of her skull with a titanium plate.

Unable to safely return to Pakistan, Yousafzai enrolled in a school in Birmingham, England in March. Her mother wiped away tears on Friday as she watched her daughter thank all those who helped save her life.

Pakistan has 5 million children out of school, a number only surpassed by Nigeria, which has more than 10 million children out of school, according to the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt on Yousafzai, calling her efforts pro-Western. Two of her classmates were also wounded.

The Pakistan Taliban, formally called the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), formed in 2007, is an umbrella group uniting various militant factions operating in the volatile northwestern tribal areas along the porous border with Afghanistan.

Under Taliban rule in neighboring Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, women were forced to cover up and were banned from voting, most work and leaving their homes unless accompanied by a husband or male relative.

“The extremists were and they are afraid of books and pens, the power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women,” Yousafzai said. “When we were in Swat … we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Vicki Allen and David Storey

Malala Yousafzai: ‘Our books and our pens are the most powerful weapons’

This is a transcription of the speech that Malala Yousafzai gave to the United Nations on 12 July 2013, the date of her 16th birthday and “Malala Day” at the UN.

In the name of God, the most beneficent, the most merciful.

Honorable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, respected president of the General Assembly Vuk Jeremic, honorable UN envoy for global education Mr Gordon Brown, respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters: Assalamu alaikum.

Today is it an honor for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honorable people is a great moment in my life and it is an honor for me that today I am wearing a shawl of the late Benazir Bhutto. I don't know where to begin my speech. I don't know what people would be expecting me to say, but first of all thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me. I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government who have helped me to get better and recover my strength.

I fully support UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his Global Education First Initiative and the work of UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown and the respectful president of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremic. I thank them for the leadership they continue to give. They continue to inspire all of us to action. Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing: Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights.

[VIDEO: Malala speaks on education at U.N.]

There are hundreds of human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for their rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goal of peace, education and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them. So here I stand. So here I stand, one girl, among many. I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.

Dear friends, on 9 October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born.

I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. And my dreams are the same. Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohammed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone.

Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns. The wise saying, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” It is true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. This is why they killed 14 innocent students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they kill female teachers. That is why they are blasting schools every day because they were and they are afraid of change and equality that we will bring to our society. And I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist why are the Taliban against education? He answered very simply by pointing to his book, he said, “a Talib doesn't know what is written inside this book.”

They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would point guns at people's heads just for going to school. These terrorists are misusing the name of Islam for their own personal benefit. Pakistan is a peace loving, democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their daughters and sons. Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. It is the duty and responsibility to get education for each child, that is what it says. Peace is a necessity for education. In many parts of the world, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, terrorism, war and conflicts stop children from going to schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many ways in many parts of the world.

In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labor. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by extremism. Young girls have to do domestic child labor and are forced to get married at an early age. Poverty, ignorance, injustice, racism and the deprivation of basic rights are the main problems, faced by both men and women.

Today I am focusing on women's rights and girls' education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But this time we will do it by ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women's rights, but I am focusing on women to be independent and fight for themselves. So dear sisters and brothers, now it's time to speak up. So today, we call upon the world leaders to change their strategic policies in favor of peace and prosperity. We call upon the world leaders that all of these deals must protect women and children's rights. A deal that goes against the rights of women is unacceptable.

We call upon all governments to ensure free, compulsory education all over the world for every child. We call upon all the governments to fight against terrorism and violence. To protect children from brutality and harm. We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of education opportunities for girls in the developing world. We call upon all communities to be tolerant, to reject prejudice based on caste, creed, sect, color, religion or agenda to ensure freedom and equality for women so they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave, to embrace the strength within themselves and realize their full potential.

Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child's bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education. No one can stop us. We will speak up for our rights and we will bring change to our voice. We believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the whole world because we ware all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness.

Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty and injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of their schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright, peaceful future.

So let us wage, so let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism, let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first. Thank you.

His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad

Before His Holiness Mirza Masroor Ahmad, leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, entered the gilded ballroom of the Montage Beverly Hills last Saturday afternoon, a spokesman took the microphone and explained the rules to the 500 or so acolytes, dignitaries and invited guests. 

First, when His Holiness the khalifa, or spiritual leader, enters a room, it is customary to stand. Moreover, he said, His Holiness will not set foot inside until the audience is fully seated. Not just seated, he added, but quiet.

People sat. They kept still — no one even sipped their iced tea. The only person you could hear whispering was me.

I leaned to my tablemates, both followers of His Holiness, and said: “This is so not a Jewish audience.”

Estimates vary widely about the number of Ahmadiyya Muslims spread throughout the world.  Some experts put the number at 13 million — about the same as the number of Jews in the world.  The group itself claims 70 million followers. Either way it is a fraction of the 1.6 billion Muslims, though, by all accounts, growing. 

The sect was founded in India in 1889, by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani, referred to as Promised Messiah, who preached nonviolence and claimed to be the second coming of the Messiah. 

That belief set Ahmadis at odds with mainstream Muslims, who maintain that no messiah or prophet has succeeded Muhammad.

They are concentrated in Pakistan, Southeast Asia and Africa, with just 30,000 Ahmadis residing in the United States. In Southern California they have two mosques, one in Chino, the other in Hawthorne.

In Pakistan, Ahmadis are not considered Muslims, and they are barred from voting. Attacks on the community in 2010 in Pakistan left 99 dead.  Since 1984 the khalifa, or successor to the Promised Messiah, has resided in London.  Security at the Montage was Israel-heavy.

“This cannot stop us from doing our assigned task,” Ahmad, who is the fifth khalifa, said during a press conference before his appearance. “We are the true Islam.”

On the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks of 9/11, Ahmadis in the United States started a blood drive that collected 12,000 units. Humanity First, a nonsectarian charity created by the fourth khalifa and run by the community as a volunteer organization, performs disaster relief worldwide. In his speeches, the khalifa stresses that “true Islam” equals peace.

Yes, even when it comes to Israel.

On Saturday, the khalifa singled out Israeli President Shimon Peres for praise in his vision of a new Middle East. There is a longstanding Ahmadi community in Haifa, as well. I asked Ahmadi spokesman Nasim Rehmatullah whether the khalifa supports the boycott of Israel. 

“No, we don’t have that policy,” he said. “We treat them as normal human beings.”

Elected officials, eager to join hands with Muslims to demonstrate that they are anti-terror, not anti-Islam, gravitate toward the Ahmadiyya. 

The khalifa was honored with many speeches by many federal, state and local representatives. Both Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti turned up, proving the khalifa’s peacemaking power. 

Still, it’s not clear whether the Ahmadiyya community’s existence is proof that “true Islam” is a religion of peace, or whether their brutal persecution at the hands of fellow Muslims might just prove the opposite.

When the khalifa rose to speak, we rose too, then sat. He wore an ornate white turban and a black Nehru-style jacket. He spoke softly, in heavily accented Pakistani English. His followers were enthralled. 

“I believe in that One God who is the Lord of all nations, all races and all religions, and so it becomes impossible that I could ever develop any hatred in my heart for any nation, any race or any religion,” he said.

No wonder Ahmadis are the West’s chosen Muslims.

In fact, it struck me that Ahmadiyya seems to have as much, or more, in common with late 19th century religious movements as it does with mainstream Islam. 

Like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it has a strict hierarchy; a zealous, upbeat proselytizing effort with sophisticated media; and a healthy system of tithing. 

Like the liberal Jewish movements, Ahmadis stress their save-the-world projects — tikkun olam. They also emphasize secular achievement across gender lines. At my table, I was the only non-Ph.D. 

Like Chabad, the driving force is devotion to one leader. Ahmadis flew in from around the world to see the khalifa in California. They are granted a few minutes in his presence, during which he will answer questions, offer advice, give blessings. 

“I am a scientist,” Dr. Abdus Malik, a nephrologist who traveled from Columbus, Ohio, told me. “But I can’t explain it. Around him you feel a spiritual air. When you meet him you feel you’re being touched by a holy spirit.”

I can’t say I felt that — but I’m not predisposed. As a tribe, we Jews seem to both revere and resist leaders. A Jewish khalifa, a Jewish pope, sounds oxymoronic. With some exceptions, we who proclaim God’s Oneness are leery of Him speaking through one voice. “If we all pulled in one direction,” the Yiddish proverb goes, “the world would keel over.”

But we pay for our lack of blind devotion with constant contentiousness.

I don’t know whose is the “true Islam,” but disputation is, I’m sure, the true Judaism.

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

Pakistani girl shot by Taliban starts at English school

Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani girl who drew global attention after being shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls' education, returned to school on Tuesday in Britain where she has been treated for her injuries.

Yousufzai, 15, has become an international figure as a symbol of resistance to Taliban efforts to deny women's rights and is even among nominees for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

She described her return to school as the most important day of her life.

“I am excited that today I have achieved my dream of going back to school. I want all girls in the world to have this basic opportunity,” she said in a statement.

Accompanied by her father and carrying a pink rucksack, Yousufzai joined other pupils at Edgbaston High School for Girls in Birmingham, central England, close to the hospital where she underwent surgery to reconstruct her skull last month.

“I miss my classmates from Pakistan very much but I am looking forward to meeting my teachers and making new friends here in Birmingham,” she said.

Yousufzai was brought to Britain for specialist treatment after she was shot in the head at point-blank range by Taliban gunmen last October.

She left hospital in February after she made a good recovery from surgery during which doctors mended parts of her skull with a titanium plate and inserted a cochlear implant to help restore hearing on her left side.

Yousufzai will study a full curriculum at the school, where annual fees are 10,000 pounds ($15,100), before selecting subjects for GCSE exams, which are generally taken at age 16.

“She wants to be a normal teenage girl and to have the support of other girls around,” said Edgbaston headteacher Ruth Weeks. “Talking to her, I know that's something she missed during her time in hospital.”

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Mark Heinrich

Pakistan arrests suspect in murder of U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl

Pakistan has arrested a former militant leader in connection with the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, security officials said on Monday.

Qari Abdul Hai, once a leader of the outlawed Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), was arrested on Sunday during a security crackdown in Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi, said the officials.

Pearl, an American, was kidnapped in Karachi while researching a story on Islamist militants in the months after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al Qaeda militant who claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks, said he beheaded Pearl after his abduction.

It was not clear what role Hai was suspected of playing in the abduction and murder.

The LeJ has emerged as a major security threat in Pakistan. It has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings that killed hundreds of Shi'ites this year.

Security officials said Hai was linked to several attacks on Western targets since Pearl's death.

A Pakistani court sentenced British-born militant Omar Sheikh to death for killing Pearl.

Reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Robert Birsel

Report: British lawmaker blames legal troubles on Jewish conspiracy

A British lawmaker has blamed a Jewish conspiracy for his conviction in connection with a fatal car crash.

Lord Nazir Ahmed of the Labor party claimed that his legal problems following the 2007 crash resulted from pressure placed on the courts by Jews “who own newspapers and TV channels,” The Times reported on Thursday. The Labor party has suspended Ahmed pending an investigation, British media reported.

Ahmed, who was born in Pakistan, made the statements during a television interview in Pakistan last year, according to The Times. Ahmed denied he ever gave the interview. The Times said it has sent his lawyer a copy of the transcript.

In March 2009, a court of appeals freed Ahmed from a 12-week prison sentence handed down by Justice Alan Wilkie following Ahmed’s conviction for dangerous driving inf 2007. Ahmed was involved in an accident which claimed the life of 28-year-old Martyn Gombar. Gombar, who reportedly was drunk, collided with Ahmed's car, The Times reported. Ahmed pleaded guilty to dangerous driving at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court in December 2008.

According to the Times, Ahmed alleged that Wilkie was appointed to the High Court after helping a “Jewish colleague” of Tony Blair.

Ahmed also allegedly maintained that the plot stemmed from Jewish disapproval of his support for the Palestinians in Gaza. “My case became more critical because I went to Gaza to support Palestinians. My Jewish friends who own newspapers and TV channels opposed this,” he allegedly said in the interview.

The CST, British Jewry’s security unit and watchdog on anti-Semitism, condemned the statements attributed to Ahmed. “If accurately reported, Lord Ahmed’s allegations about Jews controlling British politicians, judiciary and media, will be the most blatantly anti-Semitic remarks by such a public figure for many years,” CST said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Labor Party said that it would launch an investigation into Ahmed’s comments.

‘Zero Dark’ writer faces the controversy

The time: 2003. The place: Black Site — Undisclosed Location. A battered man strung up by his wrists is being questioned by an interrogator. When he refuses to answer, he is forced to the ground and held down by three men wearing ski masks. A black towel is wrapped around his face, and the interrogator pours water from a pitcher over the towel while shouting questions at his prisoner: “Who is in the Saudi group? What’s the target? When is the last time you saw bin Laden?”  

This is the act of torture that is known as water boarding. And in an Oscar season filled with controversies, it is this scene — which takes place early in the multiple-nominated film “Zero Dark Thirty,” about the hunt for Osama bin Laden — that has created the most heated debates and angry protests, from the halls of the motion picture academy in Beverly Hills to the chambers of Congress in Washington, D.C. At the center of the controversy stands the film’s director, Kathryn Bigelow, and its screenwriter, Mark Boal, the same creative team who produced the 2009 Academy Award winner for best picture, “The Hurt Locker.”  

Boal, who also won the best original screenplay Oscar for “The Hurt Locker,” is nominated again this year for his “Zero Dark Thirty” script, while Bigelow was snubbed in the best-director category. The omission, many believe, may be at least in part due to the film’s appearance of supporting the efficacy of torture.  

Boal, who worked as a journalist for 20 years, moved into the film business when an article he wrote became the basis of the 2007 Iraq War-related film “In the Valley of Elah.” During his time as an embedded reporter in Iraq, he said, he also gained firsthand insights for his work on “The Hurt Locker.” For “Zero Dark Thirty,” however, Boal relied on information from people closely involved in the bin Laden operation, who supplied him with “firsthand accounts of actual events,” as stated at the opening of the film.

A scene from “Zero Dark Thirty.”  Photo by Jonathan Olley/©2012 Zero Dark Thirty

When he began the project, Boal’s script was about the failed hunt for bin Laden in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, but that version was shelved when the terrorist leader was killed by Navy SEALs on May 2, 2011. As a result of the news, Boal started fresh, telling the story that led up to that day.  

As with all feature films based on fact, Boal struggled with the delicate balancing act of staying true to the story while having to create a workable screenplay. “Storytelling is kind of universal, but screenwriting is its own craft,” he explained. “ ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ was based on some research that I did, but it’s also a written document; it’s not a documentary, it’s a screenplay. I talked to a lot of people who were involved in the mission and double-sourced information, but I approached it as a screenwriter. There’s homework and research to do, but I’m writing parts for actors, and, in this case, a story that follows one main character over 10 years.

“There are over 100 speaking parts in the film,” he added. “But, at the same time, it’s doubly challenging because it has to be honest and faithful to what actually happened. In some ways, this story would probably be easier to tell if it was pure fiction.”

Even so, Boal said, “I found it an exciting story to work on because of the dedication and the complexity and the morality and immorality and the excitement of the hunt. All that makes for good drama.” 

The torture scenes depicted in the film have been aggressively attacked from two sides: Some claim the film endorses the efficacy of torture, while others complain that the scenes are presented as more brutal than what actually occurred. 

But Boal thinks both miss the point. “The political point is that this work was carried out by people without regard to politics one way or another. It was carried out by civil servants, not by Republicans or Democrats,” he said. “But of course that’s the last thing they want to talk about in Washington. And the real point is that the country and Washington have to face that they’re culpable for what they did. Rather than bash the movie for depicting the policies that they implemented, they should have a frank discussion about it. The torture that’s in the film is still relevant. To see that these kinds of harsh punishments are still going on — not in the exact same way, but it’s always convenient to bash Hollywood instead of actually doing the hard policy work of going down the hall and seeing what could be done, for example, to stop doing business with countries that torture people.”

The fact that “Zero Dark Thirty” has been the subject of both public and secret investigations by Congress does not surprise Boal, who also believes the attention has helped bring audiences out to see the film. “That’s what they do in Washington. They use things to create publicity platforms for themselves. They’re politicians,” Boal said. “I think at the end of the day I find it gratifying that people go out and see the movie and have a solid or moving movie experience. I can’t change Washington, and I wouldn’t ever begin to try.” 

So far, Boal’s three films — “In the Valley of Elah,” “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty” — all have focused on events surrounding the war on terror. And though he said he has no definite plans to continue exploring that subject matter, he hopes others will continue down that road. 

“I think all three of these movies are important subjects for Hollywood to explore, and I hope there are other movies about them. But what movies can do that other mediums cannot do, is reach a broad public audience, and Hollywood has a responsibility to make films about tough subjects and not just superheroes.”

American gets 35 years for aiding Mumbai terrorists

A federal judge in Chicago sentenced an American citizen to 35 years in prison for helping Islamist terrorists kill 160 people in India in 2008.

David Coleman Headley, a 52-year-old U.S. citizen of Pakistani heritage, was sentenced Thursday after an attack victim appealed on behalf of herself and others for a life sentence, the Associated Press reported.

Headley was arrested in October 2009 and agreed to cooperate with U.S. investigators and intelligence officials and to testify against one of his co-conspirators. He had mapped out the targets for attack, although he did not participate in the actual shootings.

Headley pleaded guilty in March 2010 to all 12 counts in his indictment. The charges included conspiracy to bomb public places in India, conspiracy to murder and maim persons in India, and six counts of aiding and abetting the murder of U.S. citizens in India.

The plea saved Headley from a death sentence, but victims had hoped for a life sentence. The 35-year sentence could see Headley freed on good behavior before he is 80.

Among the dead in the coordinated attack on targets across the city were six American citizens, including Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his pregnant wife, Rivka, the Chabad emissaries in Mumbai, who were killed at the local Chabad house.

Among calling for a tough sentence were Kia Scherr, whose husband Alan and daughter, Naomi, 13, were killed. Her message was read by Linda Ragsdale, who was wounded in the attack.

Ragsdale and Alan and Naomi Scherr had been staying at a retreat targeted in the attack.

Pakistani girl shot by Taliban leaves British hospital

A Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating girls' education has been discharged from a British hospital after doctors said she was well enough to spend time recovering with her family.

Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousufzai, who was shot by the Taliban in October and brought to Britain for treatment, was discharged on Thursday but is due to be re-admitted in late January or early February for reconstructive surgery to her skull, doctors said.

The shooting of Yousufzai, in the head at point blank range as she left school in the Swat valley, drew widespread international condemnation.

She has become a an internationally recognized symbol of resistance to the Taliban's efforts to deny women education and other rights, and more than 250,000 people have signed online petitions calling for her to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her activism.

Doctors at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham where Yousufzai was treated said that although the bullet hit her left brow, it did not penetrate her skull but instead travelled underneath the skin along the side of her head and into her neck.

She was treated by doctors specializing in neurosurgery, trauma and other disciplines in a department of the hospital which has treated hundreds of soldiers wounded in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Malala is a strong young woman and has worked hard with the people caring for her to make excellent progress in her recovery,” said Dave Rosser, the hospital's medical director.

“Following discussions with Malala and her medical team, we decided that she would benefit from being at home.”

Yousufzai has already been leaving the hospital on a regular basis on “home leave” in recent weeks to spend time with her parents and younger brothers, who have a temporary home in central England, Rosser said.

“During those visits assessments have been carried out by her medical team to ensure she can continue to make good progress outside the hospital,” Rosser said.

Yousufzai's father said in October he was sure she would “rise again” to pursue her dreams after medical treatment.

Editing by Robin Pomeroy

How much collateral damage is too much?

That is a question that should be asked regarding America’ drone operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but it cannot be answered except episodically because nothing about those operations is available for public scrutiny.  It is also a question which must be asked of Israel in connection with its futile bombardment of Gaza.

The Israeli army has stated that it is working to reduce as much as possible any harm to Palestinian civilians as part of its operations in Gaza. The IDF has emphasized that people in areas that the army attacks are sent warnings via text message, phone calls and leaflets telling them to stay away from Hamas militants.  But that did not help the Jamal Dalu, whose sister, wife, two daughters, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren ages two to six, four children and five women, along with two neighbors, an 18 year-old and his grandmother, were “mistakenly” attacked by Israeli bombs on November 18.  [I put “mistakenly” in quotes not because I think that Israel intended the death of a whole family of civilians but because in the course of the kind of attack Israel has mounted against Hamas, mistakes are virtually inevitable.  That is what is meant by “collateral damage.”]

According to the Israel Defense Forces, “the IDF mistakenly bombed the home of a Palestinian family, apparently due to a technical error while targeting a senior Hamas militant in charge of the group's rocket firing teams.” Ha’Aretz reports that according to the IDF, “the source of the error was either the failure to paint the target of the attack on the correct site or that one of the munitions in the strike misfired.”

Which is, of course, the point.  These kinds of things happen, no matter the efforts made to avoid them.  It is no comfort at all the loved ones and the neighbors of the dead family to explain to them that the deaths were unintentional.

Now some will argue that Israel had no choice, given the barrage of rockets that were launched in Gaza and aimed towards Ashkelon and even Tel Aviv – and yes, even Jerusalem.

The question that must be asked is whether Israel’s attempt at a military solution to the rockets short of a re-occupation of the entire Gaza Strip is a plausible outcome of Israel’s actions.  Given the history of Israel’s relationship with Gaza, and its continuing siege of Gaza, military action cannot and will not solve the chronic problem. That is why I have said that Israel’s current bombardment of Gaza is futile.  Observers of the current events who have not just tuned in for the first time experience a sense of déjà vu.  It is as if an endless tape were being played and replayed.

What then?  If military action is a dead end, then, obviously, what is left is political action.  Even if the current violence is contained in the coming days, we may be confident that it will burst out of its containment again and then again.  At some point, as distasteful as it may be, Israel will have to talk with Hamas and Hamas with Israel.  It must do that both because that is the only way the chronic violence might be ended and also because it is for sure the only way collateral damage can be avoided.

It is no help to explain that Israel is justified in a harsh response to Hamas attacks launched from Gaza, that it is merely exercising its legitimate right of self-defense.  That may be so, but so what?  Are legal formulas persuasive?  Meaning: Do they bring the violence to an end?  Patently, they do not.

In fact, a former head of Israel’s National Security Council, retired Major General Giora Eiland said in an interview with Ha’Aretz on Sunday, November 18, that “The Israeli government will need to make political compromises in order to reach a security arrangement that will ensure the end of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.” This sort of agreement would include “a mutual cease-fire and an Egyptian guarantee of not just quiet, but also that no weapons will enter Gaza, and would be guaranteed by additional parties, for example, Qatar and Turkey.”

Specifically, Eiland listed among the political compromises that could be made in exchange for such a security arrangement lifting the naval blockade of Gaza “so that the European Union member countries could send under supervision dinghies into Gaza’s port.”

In the meanwhile, Gaza remains a territory under siege, and that is a recipe for continuing unrest.  It is a recipe for periodic outbursts of lethal violence and for more collateral damage.  One need not be a dove or a peacenik to see that; one need only load the tape once more.

A close friend in Israel, one who loathes Prime Minister Netanyahu, tells me that the country has never been as united as it is now.  That, as Israeli elections draw close, may help explain Israel’s behavior. But be the motives for that behavior benign or malignant, their result is both lethal and barren.