Pretoria Unguarded
Terrorists take refuge in South Africa.
by Jonathan Schanzer
The Weekly Standard
5/28/2007, Volume 012, Issue 35

In early May, South Africa's intelligence minister, Ronnie Kasrils, invited Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas member and prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority, to lead a delegation to South Africa. For good measure, Kasrils also demanded that the international community lift the aid embargo imposed against Hamas since its electoral victory in January 2006. Though sanctions were only to be lifted if Hamas recognized Israel, Kasrils insisted that Haniyeh had gone "a long way to meeting those requirements as we understand them."

This embrace of Hamas should come as no surprise. As long ago as June 2003, South Africa's deputy minister of foreign affairs, Aziz Pahad, met with representatives of Hezbollah. After the meeting, the ministry announced that "clear distinctions" must be made "between terrorism and legitimate struggle for liberation."

Overtures to Hamas and Hezbollah are indicative of Pretoria's utter indifference to the threat of radical Islamic ideologies and violence. The worst consequence of this blindness may be the creation of a safe haven for terrorists in South Africa itself.

According to one reported U.S. intelligence estimate, al Qaeda leaders are operating throughout South Africa. Other reports indicate that terrorists are exploiting the country's banking system, and that South African passports are finding their way to al Qaeda operatives worldwide.

It is only natural, then, that South African jihadists are popping up in terrorist hotspots. In July 2004, Pakistani police arrested two South Africans--Feroz Ibrahim and Zubair Ismail--along with Khalfan Ghailani, who was on the FBI's most wanted list for his role in the 1998 embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Subsequent investigations have revealed that the pair was plotting to attack the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, the parliament complex in Pretoria, and several other high-profile targets in South Africa.

Another South African, Haroon Aswat, was tied to the July 7, 2005, London mass transit bombings. After the attacks, Zambian officials detained Aswat, who reportedly had exchanged a spate of phone calls with each of the four suicide bombers before they carried out their deadly attacks. Further research reveals that in the 1990s, Aswat was an assistant to London-based Abu Hamza al-Masri, a one-eyed, one-handed terrorist ideologue tied to al Qaeda groups in Yemen and Algeria. Aswat worked with al-Masri at the radical Finsbury Park Mosque, where a number of other terrorists received their training, including shoe bomber Richard Reid.

More recently, in January 2007, the U.S. Treasury named two South African cousins--Junaid Dockrat and Farhad Dockrat--Specially Designated Global Terrorists for their support to al Qaeda and the Taliban. Farhad, who had been detained in Gambia for suspected terrorist activity in 2005, was identified as having provided nearly $63,000 to al-Akhtar Trust, a charity that was designated in 2003 for providing support to al Qaeda. Junaid was responsible for raising $120,000 for Hazma Rabia, the al Qaeda operations chief killed in Pakistan by the U.S. military in 2005.

After freezing the Dokrats out of the U.S. financial system, Treasury submitted their names to the Sanctions Committee on al Qaeda and the Taliban for designation by the United Nations Security Council. To the chagrin of Washington, rather than pursuing these terrorists, South Africa's foreign affairs minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, used his country's new seat on the Security Council to put a hold on the U.N. designations. Thus, while American sanctions might freeze any of the Dockrats' assets that reach U.S. banks (the likelihood of that is now extremely low), the terrorist-funding cousins continue to conduct business in South Africa--and everywhere else in the world except America--with impunity, all the while complaining about how the United States has arbitrarily accused them of funding terrorism.

Pretoria appears to have cast its lot with the two terror suspects, rather than the United States. Aziz Pahad voiced concerns about the designation, claiming that the rights of South Africans need to be defended. Pahad and other officials are asking for more information, which is odd, considering a South African Sunday Times report that discussions about the Dockrats has been ongoing between Washington and Pretoria for almost a year.
One cannot say that South Africa is hamstrung by a sizable or influential Muslim population--as is, for instance, France. Whereas some 10 percent of the French population are estimated to be adherents to the Islamic faith, with increasing sway over the Quay d'Orsay (although the election of Nicolas Sarkozy may change this), the Muslim population in South Africa is only about 600,000 out of a population of 44 million, or 1.5 percent.

Even South African Muslim leaders admit there is a problem in their community. As activist Naeem Jeenah writes on his website, "We do have people in our community who are sympathetic to al Qaeda and the Taliban; we do have people in our community who hold the same ideologies as those groups."

Indeed, the problem is more systemic. Pretoria and Washington simply do not see eye to eye on virtually any of the critical international security challenges we face today. They have clashed over Iranian nukes (South Africa maintains friendly ties with Iran), the war on terror (South Africa does not agree with the U.S. definition of terrorism), U.N. reform (South Africa appears to be uninterested), and the Arab-Israeli conflict (Pretoria blames Israel).

Some of these policies can be traced to South Africa's identification with the downtrodden. Its population remembers apartheid, and seeks to redress social injustice. There is a deep distrust of the United States, in light of the fact that the State Department labeled the African National Congress (ANC) a terrorist group until the organization was legalized and became a prominent political party in 1990. The State Department's recent charm offensive through public diplomacy has done little to erase that chapter in U.S. history--even though the ANC was unquestionably involved in terrorist acts and had long-standing ties to the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization, and Nelson Mandela embraced both Yasser Arafat and Muammar Qaddafi as loyal friends and supporters of the ANC.

Given this history, there is a deep distrust of America's Middle East policy, particularly its unwavering support for Israel. When former President Jimmy Carter claims in his latest book that Israel "perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed in South Africa," South Africans sit up and take notice.

South Africa's quest for social justice notwithstanding, a terrorist threat looms inside the country. What has been revealed in the press and in U.S. government actions is likely just the tip of the iceberg. And Pretoria further supports terror by reaching out to murderous groups in the Middle East. As a result, Washington must keep an eye on one more potential source of danger: South Afristan.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center, and author of Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror.


By Jonathan Schanzer
Jerusalem Post (Book Review)
May 14, 2007

The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West and the Future of the Holy City
By Dore Gold
372 pages; $27.95

Jerusalem has long been a lightning rod for conflict among the three monotheistic faiths. For thousands of years, its wheat-colored dust has been drenched with the blood of loyal defenders of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Wearing the hats of historian, archeologist, theologian and political analyst - and wearing them well - Dore Gold provides a short but thorough tour of Jerusalem's complex history. He demonstrates persuasively that the interests of Jews, Christians and Muslims there were always safeguarded best when Jews were the city's custodians. He also persuades that the very thought of the city changing hands again could reignite brutal interfaith bloodshed.

Gold, a former ambassador to the UN, explains the deep Jewish love for Jerusalem throughout history. As the city passed from one kingdom to the next (Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad, Mameluke, Crusader, etc.), Jews maintained it as their eternal capital. Jews face Jerusalem during prayer; they continue to recite from Psalms 137:5 - "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither."

The Fight for Jerusalem explains that while the holy city is also important to Christians, the position is not as unified. Gold cites three main schools within Christianity: The Supersessionists question Jerusalem's significance after the coming of Jesus; the Incarnationalists see it as sacred because it was home to Jesus; and the Restorationists - the Christian Zionists - seek to repopulate it with Jews.

Jerusalem is also the third holiest place in Islam. One hadith (oral tradition) states that "one prayer in the Aksa Mosque is worth a thousand prayers." Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to heaven from Jerusalem to receive the laws of Islam. They even prayed toward the city for a short time.

Gold notes, however, that the Muslim position on Jerusalem is also conflicting. Jerusalem was an obscure backwater during the Abbasid era (750-945). Indeed, it was never the capital of an Islamic empire. Islamic scholar Taqiyy al-Din ibn Taymiyya (1263 - 1328) ruled it inappropriate to pray toward Jerusalem. He stated that whoever "regards the rock as the qibla [direction of prayer] and prays toward it is a renegade apostate."

Broadly speaking, the Muslim world grew enraged over Christian or Jewish attempts to control Jerusalem, but often neglected the city when other religions were uninterested in its conquest. This changed, of course, with the Zionist movement.

GOLD REVEALS the surprising fact that Jerusalem, during the nascent Zionist movement in the 19th and early 20th centuries, had a Jewish majority. Jews comprised nearly 50 percent of the population in 1842 and some 65% in 1914.

One man responsible for making Jerusalem a Muslim rallying cry in the early 20th century was its mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husseini. He falsely claimed that Jews sought to "take possession" of its Muslim holy sites. When he stoked the outbreak of Palestinian riots, the British forced him to flee. After stints in Lebanon and Iraq, he moved to Germany and became, as Gold notes, "a close ally of the Nazi cause."

While Husseini failed to prevent a Jewish homeland, the city had become so contested that the Jewish Agency was forced to accept an internationalized Jerusalem in 1947. The Arab world rejected this, making Jerusalem a zero-sum game.

During the 1948 war, Jordan's Arab Legion evicted the Old City's Jewish population, looted their homes, desecrated synagogues and set the Jewish Quarter afire. Gold cites one Jordanian colonel as saying, "The Jewish Quarter was densely populated with Jews... I embarked, therefore, on the shelling of the Quarter with mortars, creating harassment and destruction." For 19 years, Jerusalem's Jews were barred from the Western Wall, which was under Jordan's control. Indeed, both Christians and Jews found Jordanian rule discriminatory. Gold explains how Christian institutions were prevented from buying land, while their schools were forced to close on Fridays, rather than Sundays.

Jordan's control of Jerusalem ended with the 1967 Six Day War. Israel's leaders hoped King Hussein would sit the war out. However, Jordan launched 6,000 artillery shells into Jewish Jerusalem, again causing indiscriminate death and destruction. Israel captured the entirety of Jerusalem on June 8, 1967, in what can only be seen as a defensive war.

After the war, Israel adopted the Protection of Holy Places Law protecting churches, mosques and synagogues alike. Israel helped rebuild some churches and allowed Jordan to continue administration of Muslim holy sites. Indeed, Gold demonstrates how Israeli laws and practices made Jerusalem a city for all faiths.

WHILE JERUSALEM became a PLO symbol, Gold notes that neither the original PLO covenant of 1964 nor the 1968 version mentioned it. Still, Yasser Arafat, who took over the PLO in 1968, made the city a central cause. Accordingly, it played an important role during the 1978 Camp David Accord negotiations (although its status was deferred) and the Oslo peace process.

When US president Bill Clinton pushed Palestinians and Israelis toward a final peace agreement, the issue of Jerusalem became increasingly thorny. By 2000, Arafat was denying that the Jewish Temple even existed. As Gold explains, he "moved the goalposts of historical truth," making it a "debatable matter of religious belief rather than historical fact." The Palestinian religious authority also excavated illegally inside the Temple Mount, and even planned to import water from the Zamzam well (holy water from Saudi Arabia). As Gold observes, this would have elevated the Temple Mount to "a status comparable to that of Mecca."

In the end, prime minister Ehud Barak and Clinton offered Arafat sovereignty over the Temple Mount (with Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall). They also proposed "shared functional sovereignty over the issue of excavation." But this wasn't enough for Arafat. In 2000, Gold writes, he launched the second intifada, which he tied "directly to the fight for Jerusalem."

Gold posits that once the doors are opened for things long believed to be out of reach, "historical forces are unleashed, often resulting in a furious wave of violence... The Camp David proposals reopened precisely such a historical door."

Things changed when George W. Bush entered the White House in 2001. Bush froze talks as long as Palestinian violence continued. Unfortunately, the damage was already done. The author quotes numerous Muslim extremists today who talk of conquering Jerusalem. The deluded president of Iran held "Jerusalem Day" in 2005, and declared his intent to "wipe Israel off the map." Hamas members declare, "Islam began in Mecca and Medina and will end in Jerusalem." Hizbullah believes, "the liberation of Jerusalem is the preface for liberating the world."

These violent dreams stand in stark contrast to today's Jerusalem, which ensures religious freedom for all inhabitants. Accordingly, Gold asserts that the city must remain under Israeli control because Israel has "already proven its tolerant outlook on Jerusalem and its holy sites." The Fight for Jerusalem argues that the international community should support a stable Jerusalem under Jewish control because it has a "vested interest in assuring that Jerusalem does not turn into a spark igniting the entire region."

The writer, a former US Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center, and author of Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror.

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