Indian intelligence warns of possible terror attack on Israeli targets

Intelligence agencies in India have warned of a possible terror attack on Israeli targets in the country.

Potential targets include the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi or Israeli tourists, according to reports. New Delhi police have beefed up security around the Israeli Embassy, The Statesman reported.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced recently that he will visit Israel this year amid deepening ties between the two countries.

Israeli security officials told the Israeli media that the warning is “routine.”

An Israeli diplomat’s wife was injured by a car bomb in New Delhi in February 2012.

In November 2008, six Jews were killed at a Mumbai Chabad house during attacks on several sites throughout the city by a Pakistani terrorist group that left 166 dead and hundreds wounded.

Gaza Terrorists Target Americans

Any doubts about the close link between the war on terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have gone the way of a U.S. jeep loaded with diplomats on a dusty Gaza highway.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Wednesday’s roadside bombing, which killed three American security agents and wounded a junior official from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. But it had all the hallmarks of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli vehicles, and it set a new precedent for Palestinian violence.

President Bush blamed the Palestinian Authority for not cracking down on terrorist groups, despite numerous pledges to do so.

"Palestinian authorities should have acted long ago to fight terror in all its forms," Bush said in a written statement Wednesday. Their failure to do so, he said, "continues to cost lives."

An unwillingness to reform P.A. security forces and dismantle terrorist groups "constitutes the greatest obstacle to achieving the Palestinian people’s dream of statehood," Bush said, blaming P.A. President Yasser Arafat for hindering reforms.

The dead Americans were identified as John Branchizio, 37, of Texas; Mark Parson, 31, of New York; and John Martin Linde, 30, of Missouri. The three were on contract to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv through the defense contracting company Dyncorp, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said.

U.S. officials expressed outrage at the bombing.

In a phone call with P.A. Prime Minister Ahmed Karia, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the Palestinians could not move toward statehood "without eliminating violence and terrorism."

FBI investigators are being dispatched to the region, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer told reporters in Tel Aviv.

The Israeli army sent tanks and armored vehicles, under cover of a helicopter gunship, to help the Americans evacuate the wounded man and the bodies of the victims.

Embassy officials who arrived on the scene to document the wreckage had barely managed to pull out their cameras when they were attacked by stone-throwing youths from the nearby Jabalya refugee camp. The Americans beat a hasty retreat as Palestinian police fired in the air to disperse the crowd.

Kurtzer’s cultural attaché was in the convoy, which was on its way to meet with Palestinian candidates for Fulbright scholarships to U.S. universities.

"It remains to be seen" if the program will be suspended in Palestinian areas, Kurtzer said.

According to Palestinian sources, Fulbright alumni in Gaza had been instructed not talk to the press as a probe began. That was an indication that authorities were covering all angles of an ambush that clearly targeted U.S. diplomats, a first for this round of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Arafat called the bombing an "ugly crime" and pledged to find the culprits. So did Karia.

Analysts did not expect the attack to affect U.S. commitment to the "road map" peace plan. But, they said, if the Palestinians fails to find the culprits, it could erode any remaining U.S. confidence in P.A. anti-terror efforts.

Palestinian terrorist groups sought to distance themselves from the attack.

"We view it as inappropriate to target Europeans, Americans or any nationality other than the occupation forces [of Israel,]" an Islamic Jihad leader, Nafez Azzam, told Reuters.

While Washington weighed its options, Israeli officials made clear that they do not consider this a random act of bloodshed but, if anything, a blood bond between two old allies.

"It’s not just because of U.S. support for Israel as such, but it is because of what Israel and the United States both together stand for," Sharon adviser Ra’anan Gissin said of the motives for the attack.

"They stand for life, for liberty, for democracy here, for pursuing peace," he said. "These victims are victims because of the gallant and very courageous policies that President Bush has been carrying to try and promote peace and hope to the people of the Middle East."

Trying to Talk

Relations between Southern California’s 600,000 Jews and 500,000 Muslims, which have been marked by roller coaster-like ups and downs over a 50-year history, have hit near bottom in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

With more than 200 hate crimes against Arab Americans reported nationally since then, some here are trying to decrease tensions between the Muslim and Jews communities.

The most recent attempts at building bridges between leaders of the two communities — named the Jewish-Muslim Dialogue — was already on hold before Sept. 11, in the wake of the bitterness engendered by the intifada.

But the dialogue returned to the news last week after a prominent Muslim participant suggested that Israel be considered a suspect in the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca convened his own version of Oslo to help address fears and prejudices.

Baca enlisted the support of Rabbi Stephen Jacobs of Kol Tikvah and Dr. Nazir Khaja of the Islamic Information Group to bring members of the Jewish and Islamic communities together and open the dialogue between faiths.

“It ultimately has to come from the hearts and minds of the people,” Baca said.

In 1999, Khaja, a Palestinian American, negotiated alongside Jesse Jackson for the release of four Americans being held hostage by Slobodan Milosevic.

“Out of 1.2 billion Muslims, 80 percent are non-Arab,” Khaja told The Journal. “They live in Southern Asia and the Far East. They don’t speak Arabic; have very little knowledge of it. Yet the authentic source of Islam is in Arabic. They are left to rely solely on second-hand teaching from leaders who have gained the knowledge of Arabic and teach these masses their own version of Islam with their own agendas attached.”

Since his move to the United States in 1972, Khaja trained at Harvard University-affiliated hospitals in Boston and then moved to Los Angeles, where he has been a clinical assistant professor at UCLA School of Medicine. Realizing there was very little information about Islam in Los Angeles, Khaja founded the Islamic Information Service. On the way to Belgrade, Khaja met Rabbi Stephen Jacobs.

“If there is a positive to this huge tragedy, it is the relationships that can be built and mended, as well as a recognition of the Arab Americans in this country,” Khaja said.

On the eve of Rosh Hashana, in front of some 2,500 congregants, Jacobs shared a letter written by Usman Farman, a young Pakistani man from New York. A Chassidic Jew rescued Farman as he lay in front of the World Trade Center. “Help came from the least expected place, and goes only to show, that we are all in this together … regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. Those are principles that this country was founded on,” Jacobs said.

But that coming together was jolted less than a week after the initiation of interfaith meetings when Arab American leader Salam Al-Marayati told KCRW radio host Warren Olney that Israel is a state which might ultimately benefit from the terrorism in New York.

According to the show’s transcript, Al-Marayati said at one point, “If we’re going to look at suspects, we should look to the groups that benefit the most from these kinds of incidents, and I think we should put the State of Israel on the suspect list because I think this diverts attention from what’s happening in the Palestinian territories so that they can go on with their aggression and occupation and apartheid policies.”

Al-Marayati subsequently told the Los Angeles Times that the quotation was accurate but taken out of context, and he sent a “clarification” to Jewish leaders.

These actions did not mollify David Lehrer, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, who told the Times, “I’ve had a long relationship with Salam, and I am so disillusioned with what he has done in the past week as to not be interested in engaging in a dialogue with him.”

Rabbi John Rosove of Temple Israel of Hollywood, a veteran dialogue participant, labeled Al-Marayati’s statement “so offensive and provocative that I am in crisis as to whether I am going to stay in the dialogue.”

Further raising Jewish ire were several anti-Zionist articles in the local Muslim magazine, Minaret. The publication went to press before Sept. 11, but angered Jewish leaders, who noted that the editor, Aslam Abdullah, was a longtime dialogue partner and so-called moderate.

Muslims, in turn, protested when the Simon Wiesenthal Center posted a photo on its Web site showing cheering Palestinians as they celebrated the suicide attacks on New York and Washington.

Charging that the photo fanned “the flames of ethnic and religious hatred,” a handful of Muslims held a brief press conference in front of the Wiesenthal Center.

The photo was removed from the Web site after the Associated Press, which had sent out the picture, removed it from circulation, said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean.

Into this heated arena, a somewhat unexpected peacemaker has come to the front: Lee Baca, sheriff of Los Angeles County.

Baca, a Latino elected public official, brought together spiritual leaders from five synagogues and five mosques shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

A second interfaith meeting, convened by Baca on Thursday, Sept. 20, drew elected officials and some 70 participants, representing the spectrum of the county’s religions. The Journal was the only media present.

In contrast to past Jewish-Muslim dialogues, in which the Jewish representation heavily outnumbered the Muslim one, the situation was reversed at the Baca meeting.

Gov. Gray Davis, Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky and County Mayor Mike Antonovich sat beside Baca at the meeting.

Addressing religious leaders from Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups, Davis asked them to “make your views known in a strong way.” Urging leaders to “prove to ourselves and the state, if we live here, we are Americans and all one people. We must condemn violence against any group.”

Many leaders pleaded with officials to stop media outlets and other groups from making the situation worse. “The message resonates more fully when it comes from the clerics and community members to which it was directed. My words are not as useful or as powerful as yours,” Davis responded.

Yaroslovsky discussed the “nervousness in the Jewish community,” asking leaders to “protect civil liberties and not scapegoat issues.”

Baca asked the leaders to “come in with a kinder heart. Don’t think privately and speak out publicly to unveil your prejudices to the public. What we say here can’t be minimized by other actions in other forms in other places. If I did that as sheriff, it would be a breach of my responsibility to protect. I ask you to reach that level of agreement with yourself.”

Rabbi Leonard Beerman, a longtime participant in Jewish-Muslim dialogue, said: “We can’t expect to agree on some of the critical issues. It doesn’t mean we cannot see the humanity of the other people.

“The discussion should focus on the fact that Jews and Muslims have a right to be who they are. If we could try to keep our eye on the ball and the central issue, we would see that Israelis and Palestinians have a right to their own identities,” Beerman added.

Rabbi Marc Dworkin of Leo Baeck Temple said one way to keep dialogue going is to keep discussion local. “The task at hand is to heal our community. People are traumatized,” he said. “Pakistani Muslims are afraid to send their kids to school. Human civil rights are for everyone. Once there is a relationship between people and trust, we can take on the difficult issues.”

Coordinating Terrorism

As the United States and other Western powers try to reduce Israeli-Palestinian tensions, Iran moved this week to fan the flames.

In a bid to become the hub for anti-Israel activities, Iran invited Arab terror groups — including Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad — to a two-day meeting in Tehran to coordinate strategy against Israel.

The view from Tehran is that the anti-Israeli front should intensify its activities to take advantage of Israel’s present “state of instability and weakness.”

The conference brought together a “Who’s Who” of Israel’s enemies, yet it was greeted with relative indifference by Israeli officials. As far as they are concerned, Iran’s role as a backer of militant groups has been clear for some time.

Just the same, the militant powwow represented something of a success for Tehran.

A non-Arab country, Iran has for years tried to shift the focus of the struggle against Israel from the Arab world to the broader Islamic world and has positioned itself as Israel’s archenemy.

Until now, many Muslim countries have distanced themselves from Iran and its fundamentalist regime. At a conference of Islamic states last November, for example, Iran failed to get the attendees to take steps to isolate Israel on the world stage.

This week, however, lawmakers from 30 Islamic countries — including Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Yemen — attended the conference, which intended to increase coordination among the rejectionists instead of competition and make the struggle against Israel more effective.

Salim Zanoun, chairman of the Palestine National Council, and Ikrami Sabri, the top Palestinian Authority-appointed Muslim cleric in Jerusalem, were on hand at the Tehran conference to look after the P.A.’s interests.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, opened the conference Monday with a declaration that combat, not dialogue, was the way to deal with the Jewish state.

“The strength of Islamic resistance lies in its ability to wreak crushing blows against Israeli actions and not in relying on diplomatic efforts and mediation of others,” he said. “Supporting the Palestinian people is one of the important Islamic duties.”

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, often described as a relative moderate on domestic issues, showed that he is little different from the ayatollah when it comes to Israel.

“The oppressed people of Palestine,” he said Monday, are “the victims of Zionist discrimination and aggression.”

The organizer of the Tehran conference was Ali Akbar Mohtashami-Poor, a former Iranian ambassador to Syria who is considered one of the founding fathers of Hezbollah.

Menashe Amir, head of the Persian department of Israel Radio, said Mohtashami-Poor is a close associate of Khatami, whom Amir in turn described as “just as hostile toward Israel as the radicals in Tehran.”

While the Iranians were busy this week trying to make themselves the central address for attacks on Israel, they may have competition from an unexpected corner.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Ra’anan Gissin, claimed Tuesday that billionaire terrorist Osama bin Laden is trying to establish a “terrorist” infrastructure among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Gissin made the claim after Israel arrested a Gaza lawyer it suspects of involvement with bin Laden, whose terror operations are based in Afghanistan.

If true, this could represent the opening of a new chapter in terrorist attacks on Israel.