Same old United Nations, Sarkozy [hearts] Israel, Gilad Shalit turns 21 in captivity

Groups Assail U.N. Conference

A U.N. conference under way in Geneva is as bad as expected, watchdog groups say. In reports from Switzerland, two major U.N. watchdog groups said the conference – the first in a series of preparatory meetings for the follow-up to 2001’s notorious anti-Semitic Durban conference against racism – was following the path of its predecessor.

Anne Bayefsky, editor of the Eye on the U.N. Web site, called the meeting’s opening session “a slap in the face to every state and nongovernmental organization that really cares about equality and nondiscrimination.”

Egypt, speaking Monday on behalf of the African group, singled out Israel for its “continued occupation of Palestine and violations arising there from.” Pakistan, speaking for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, urged the conference to “move the spotlight on the continued plight of Palestinian people” and accused critics of waging a “smear campaign” against the gathering.

The conference is intended to combat racism and discrimination. Even before the conference began, critics warned that the process could lead to a repeat of the 2001 Durban conference, where an event ostensibly aimed at fighting discrimination became a platform for the dissemination of anti-Semitic propaganda and the singling out of Israel.

Sarkozy Reaffirms Pro-Israel Stance

French President Nicolas Sarkozy reaffirmed his affection for Israel and hostility toward Hamas.

“I have the reputation of being a friend of Israel, and it’s true. I will never compromise on Israel’s security,” he said Monday in his first foreign policy speech since taking office in May.

While he said France would continue to cultivate rich ties with the moderate Arab world, Sarkozy drew a line at engaging Hamas or allowing Iran to procure nuclear weaponry. He described the Gaza Strip as “Hamastan” – a term seldom heard outside Israeli political circles – and said the Islamist Palestinian group must be curbed, lest it take over the West Bank as well.

Sarkozy, who was speaking to French diplomats, further urged Iran to abandon its nuclear program or for effective international sanctions to be imposed on Tehran. Otherwise, he hinted, there could be military intervention.

“This tactic is the only one that allows us to escape from a catastrophic alternative: an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran,” he said.

Captive Israeli Soldier Turns 21

Israelis marked the 21st birthday of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Supporters of Shalit held a rally in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the conscript sergeant’s second birthday in Palestinian captivity. Newspapers and other media carried fresh coverage of his family’s ordeal.

Shalit was abducted in a June 25, 2006, cross-border raid by Hamas-led gunmen in the Gaza Strip. Two of his comrades were killed in the incident.

His father, Noam, said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was not doing enough to recover his son from Hamas, which wants a prisoner exchange. Olmert has signaled a willingness to bargain for Shalit’s return but has ruled out the lopsided swap demands by Hamas.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said Monday that a deal was almost clinched to trade Shalit for 350 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, but that it fell through over the types of prisoners the Olmert government would release. Israel has said it will only release prisoners not involved in killings.

YouTube Under Fire in Germany Over Hate Videos

The Central Council of Jews in Germany has joined the call to punish YouTube for failing to remove hate material from its Web site. YouTube, the online video sharing portal, has been accused of spreading neo-Nazi material.

According to a report in the ARD television magazine, anti-Jewish propaganda from the Third Reich and music by the banned neo-Nazi group, Landser, can be viewed unhindered on YouTube. Such material is illegal in Germany. The report said some of the material had been online for several months.

The federal Ministry of the Interior has recommended filing charges. German officials reportedly have warned YouTube more than 100 times to remove the material but without a response. The vice president of the German Jewish Council, Salomon Korn, has asked that Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Justice Ministry intervene to stop the online publication of offending video clips.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, is based in California and thus beyond Germany’s legal reach. But German officials could come down harder on Web companies with operations in Germany.

Israeli Holocaust Assets Listed Online

Israeli assets believed to have been left behind by Holocaust victims can now be claimed by their heirs over the Internet. The Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets, which was set up in 2006 following disclosures that Israeli banks hold many accounts and properties that have gone unclaimed since World War II, has set up a Web site with the names of some 7,000 original owners believed to have perished at the hands of the Nazis.

Heirs of those who appear on the list can apply for restitution at The site is in Hebrew with English translation. The site does not deal with living persons or properties and accounts outside of Israel.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegrapic Agency.

Power, Politics And People

J.J. Goldberg writes regularly for The Jewish Journal.


The Cities Aren’t Safe

During his bizarre, self-incriminating appearance on the witness stand at the close of his terrorism trial in Brooklyn federal court last month, 24-year-old Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer freely admitted nearly every accusation thrown at him by prosecutors. But not the knife.

Yes, the Hebron-born Abu Mezer said, he came here to “punish” America for supporting Israel. Yes, he built five pipe bombs from supplies he bought in a North Carolina hardware store. Yes, he wanted to kill Jews — “as many as I could take.” And, yes, he had talked with a friend about blowing up a subway line because it was frequented by Jews, though he insisted that he dropped that plan.

But when asked if a knife found in his shabby apartment was meant to “get people away from you when you blew up your bomb,” he gave a flat “No.” The knife, he said, was “just in case, for safety. New York is not a safe city, so you have to keep something with you.”

He should know. When he was arrested with a roommate in a pre-dawn raid on July 31, 1997, Abu Mezer was allegedly just hours away from setting off a cache of deadly bombs that could have killed and maimed scores of New Yorkers. Only a last-minute tip to police by a third roommate prevented catastrophe. Unsafe, indeed.

Convicted on July 23, Abu Mezer probably faces life in prison. (His co-defendant, fellow Hebronite Lafi Khalil, 23, was acquitted of the bomb charges, but convicted of immigration violations that could bring five to 20 years.)

Once sentenced, Abu Mezer will become the 20th person imprisoned in this country for plotting or carrying out deadly acts of Middle East-related terror and mayhem here, mostly in New York City. Several more suspects are awaiting trial or deportation. And one of the perpetrators killed himself on the spot.

Some of those implicated are Palestinian, others Egyptian, Sudanese, Pakistani. One is American-born. All are Moslems. Some belonged to Islamic extremist groups. Others appeared to be lone operators.

At least seven such attacks have been planned or executed since 1990, in which the primary motive appeared to be either killing Jews or “punishing” the United States for supporting Israel. The incidents include:

* The 1990 assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane. Toll: one dead.

* The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Toll: six dead, 1,000 injured.

* The planned 1993 bombing of four major sites in New York City, including the United Nations, FBI headquarters and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. Toll: aborted by arrests.

* The 1993 shooting spree by a Pakistani national outside Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Virginia. Toll: two dead.

* The 1994 shooting of a vanload of Chassidic students on the Brooklyn Bridge. Toll: one dead, one maimed.

* The 1997 shooting spree on the observation deck atop the Empire State Building. Toll: one dead, seven wounded, plus the shooter, dead by his own hand.

* The planned 1997 bombing of a Brooklyn subway. Toll: aborted by arrests.

Not on our list are at least 16 Arab Americans in six states — Florida, Texas, California, Illinois, Virginia and New York — under investigation or facing deportation on suspicion of gathering aid in America for overseas terrorist groups such as Hamas. Also not included are at least five Middle Easterners imprisoned here for terrorist acts against Americans abroad.

No, today’s lesson involves just one thing: the deadly war being waged by Islamic militants on American soil against Jews and their American allies.

Most of the incidents have certain common threads. Two of them, the World Trade Center bombing and the 1993 bomb plot, were the work of a single group, the followers of the blind Egyptian cleric, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. He is now serving a 240-year sentence for his role in the second plot.

Two other incidents are linked more loosely to Sheikh Rahman and his group. Kahane’s assassin, El-Sayyed Nosair, had close ties to the group. Abu Mezer apparently had Sheikh Rahman in mind when he prepared his subway bombing; a note demanding the sheikh’s release was found with the bombs in his apartment.

Standing apart are the Brooklyn Bridge, Empire State Building and CIA shootings. All were committed by apparent loners. Two of them, the New York shootings, were treated by police as homicides rather than terrorism. In both, there was clear evidence that the shooters wanted to show support for the Palestinian cause by shooting Jews. Both succeeded.

At the Brooklyn Bridge, a Lebanese cabbie opened fire on a vanload of Lubavitch students a day after the 1994 Hebron massacre. One student was killed, and another suffered permanent brain damage. The shooter reportedly had visited a mosque just before and after the shooting.

At the Empire State Building, retired Gaza schoolteacher Ali Hassan Abu Kamal opened fire on a crowd of tourists, killing a Danish rock musician and maiming his American Jewish bandmate. Abu Kamal left a letter in which he railed against Jews, Israel and Western imperialism.

The incidents have something else in common: They’ve failed to sink in. Except for the World Trade Center bombing, the cases received spotty press coverage in New York — still less nationwide — and have largely faded from memory. The result: each new incident appears as an isolated case rather than part of what is actually a growing series.

To a handful of Jewish activists who track the terror, the low-key reactions reflect reluctance by American leaders to face facts. Steven Emerson, an investigative journalist specializing in Islamic extremism, believes the problem is a “politically correct” unwillingness to single out Moslems. Devorah Halberstam, whose son was killed at the Brooklyn Bridge, believes Washington has purposely muted reactions, to prevent panic and to preserve public support for the Oslo peace process.

The truth may be more banal. News organizations are trained to lead with pictures of blood and gore. Bombs that don’t explode get buried inside. Outside New York, mayhem in the Big Apple tends to run together in a blur. Even the 1996 arrest in Pakistan of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing, went largely unnoticed. For most readers, it was old news.

As for those watchdogs devoted to tracking Middle East terror — from the Anti-Defamation League to Emerson himself — their eyes have been trained on the Middle East for too long to refocus readily. The landmark anti-terrorism legislation passed by Congress in 1996, after furious lobbying by Jewish organizations, ignored terrorism on these shores entirely.

Equally important, the watchdogs have good reason to downplay anti-Israel terror at home. They don’t want voters thinking too hard about the price we might be paying for America’s alliance with Israel. Better to talk of “deranged gunmen” and “anti-Western” plots.

The fact is, as long as there’s an Israeli-Arab conflict, there will be anti-Israel terrorism. It was only a matter of time before it reached these shores. Now that it’s here, there’s precious little that can be done to stop it. And it won’t stay in New York. We’ll all have to learn to live in cities that are, as Abu Mezer said, not safe.