Anti-Semitic Jihad (al-Khazen)

by Jonathan Schanzer
Henry Jackson Society (UK)
September 30, 2007

Why does the Arab world blame an insidious Jewish cabal for America's anti-terrorist or anti-autocratic policies in the Middle East? There are many reasons, ranging from jihadist ideology to vitriolic state-run media. The book The Israel Lobby by professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer has also added recent fuel to the fire.

Here's another reason: Jihad al-Khazen.

Jihad al-Khazen is an anti-Israel, anti-American, anti-Semitic columnist for the London-based al-Hayat, one of the leading newspapers in the Arabic Diaspora. Though al-Hayat is somewhat pro-West on some issues, al-Khazen's ink poisons the editorial page. In a recent column, the Lebanese columnist openly admits, "Throughout my journalistic career I have mainly focused on criticizing the United States and on attacking Israel." His blatant lies and vitriol, in the last month alone, are worth recounting.

On September 19, he wrote a column attempting to explain how American demonstrations against the Darfur genocide are actually a pro-Israeli (a thinly-veiled euphemism for "Jewish") plot.

"Efforts are made by pro-Israeli groups," he wrote, "to divert attention from the crimes Israel has perpetrated against the Palestinians by focusing on Darfur."

He continues by saying that the, "American-Israeli evil cabal is focusing on Darfur to divert attention from American war crimes perpetrated against Iraq."

The prolific but delusional al-Khazen also asserts that Washington's alarm over Iran's nuclear program is a plot hatched by Jews. He claims that the possibility of armed conflict with Iran, which continues to develop nuclear weapons against the wishes of the international community, has been orchestrated by the same cabal.

Advocates for a war against Iran in the George W. Bush administration, he writes, "are led by Dick Cheney whose office includes some pro-Likud American Jews and their main ally Elliott Abrams, the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy. Cheney's Israeli inclinations take precedence over his American inclinations."

Al-Khazen completely dismisses the Iranian threat, ignoring Iran's history of violence and terror, insisting that, "Iran cannot pose a security threat to the United States neither today nor tomorrow. All other talk is tantamount to Israeli rudeness."

He concludes that, "the war cabal in Washington does not want hope, but rather a pretext."

On 9/11 this year, al-Khazen had the audacity to write that, "Al-Qaeda and the war cabal are two sides of the same coin."

He asserts that a "war cabal" led the country into a war that destroyed "Iraq in order to serve Israeli interests and imperial dreams."

Rather than listing the horrible litany of attacks and murders carried out by al-Qaeda in recent years, al-Khazen asserts that it is "undeniable truth" that a "crime against humanity has been committed and for which the war cabal led by American Vice-president Dick Cheney is responsible." He then goes on to say that this cabal includes the high-profile Jews that worked in the Bush administration, including: "Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz Under-secretary of Defense Douglas Feith Richard Perle, a member of the Defense Policy Board Elliott Abrams, the Director of the Middle East Affairs in the White House and Ari Fleischer, former presidential spokesman."

Of course, al-Khazen has the right to publish what he wants, in accordance with the United Kingdom's laws that protect free speech. And al-Khazen would surely insist that his writings are within the boundaries of the law. But this columnist's writings may be beyond the pale. His writings smack of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and they fuel the fire of anti-Semitism in the Arabic-speaking world and its Diaspora.

Al-Hayat should take steps to either have an ombudsman scrutinize al-Khazen's writing or have him removed from the staff of a respected international publication. Should al-Hayat not take the proper steps to correct the problem, the UK should be encouraged to launch an investigation, looking back at all of al-Khazen's editorials, to determine whether al-Khazen is guilty of hate speech. Last year, Home Secretary David Blunkett made the inciting of religious hatred a criminal offence. Al-Khazen's columns may qualify.


The Prospects of al-Qaeda in Hamas-Controlled Gaza

by Jonathan Schanzer
inFocus Quarterly
Fall 2007

"Thanks to the support of Hamas, al-Qaeda is entering Gaza," Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas told an Italian television station in July, just after the violent Hamas takeover of Gaza. "It is Hamas that is protecting al-Qaeda, and through its bloody behavior, Hamas has become very close to al-Qaeda. That is why Gaza is in danger and needs help."

Gaza is undeniably a perfect breeding ground for al-Qaeda. Usama bin Laden's terror network has historically exploited areas of weak central authority and weak states commonly characterized by deteriorating living standards, corruption, and a marked lack of civil society and social services.

With Hamas now firmly in control of the Gaza Strip, but with little evidence of joint attacks by Hamas and al-Qaeda on record, what are the prospects of a partnership?

Shared Ideology

In 2004, according to analysts Yaakov Amidror and David Keyes, Israeli intelligence discovered that Hamas was distributing computer CDs throughout the West Bank and Gaza lauding jihadists in Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Chechnya. The disk reportedly featured a montage of the faces of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin (the late leader of Hamas), Usama bin Laden, and Chechen jihadist Shamil Basayev. In this way, Hamas projected its identification with al-Qaeda and the broader jihadist movement.

Al-Qaeda, for its part, has also demonstrated support for the Hamas cause by attacking Israeli and Jewish targets. In recent years, the global terror network has attacked an Israeli hotel in Kenya (2002), synagogues in Tunisia (2002) and Turkey (2003), and a Jewish center in Morocco (2003).

The jihadist ideologies of the two groups, founded within a year of one another, are inextricably linked. Hamas, founded in 1988 during the eruption of the first intifada, is a breakaway faction of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood. Usama bin Laden and prominent Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood figure Abdullah Azzam founded al-Qaeda the following year, as the Soviet army withdrew from Afghanistan. Subsequent al-Qaeda figureheads, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden's second in command, and Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, were Muslim Brothers.

Unquestionably, al-Qaeda and Hamas both embrace the xenophobic and chauvinistic Muslim Brotherhood-based worldview. Both organizations believe this interpretation of Islam should dominate the globe, and that violence to achieve that end is justifiable. Finally, both groups believe that compromise, particularly with the West, is not an option.

The Recent Rift

The ideologies of the two groups are so intertwined that al-Qaeda publicly chastised Hamas for betraying its Islamic principles by entering a secular, democratic political contest with Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian Authority elections. Zawahiri blasted Hamas, saying it "joined the surrender train," and that it was on "a picnic with the U.S. Satan and his Saudi agent." Similarly, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (killed in June 2006 by U.S. forces) denounced Hamas for taking part in the elections, saying that Palestinians had "other choices" — perhaps a reference to joining forces with al-Qaeda.

After Hamas assaulted and overthrew Fatah's forces in the Gaza Strip this summer, Zawahiri issued an audio message assuring, "our brothers, the Hamas mujahedin, that we and the entire Muslim nation stand along side you." Now that Hamas rejected power-sharing in Gaza in favor of brute force, bin Laden's deputy pledges to help facilitate the "passage of weapons and supplies from neighboring countries" into the Gaza Strip.

Known Ties

This would not be the first time the two groups worked together. In the early and mid-1990s, Hamas members received paramilitary training and even attended Islamist conferences in Sudan that bin Laden and members of his budding network reportedly attended.

When the 2000 intifada erupted in the Palestinian territories, bin Laden reportedly sent emissaries to Hamas on two separate occasions (September 2000 and January 2001). While most analysts believe Hamas rejected al-Qaeda's overtures to assist in the anti-Israel violence, Hamas never closed the door. The Washington Post quoted U.S. government sources confirming a 2003 meeting, "between al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hizbullah figures."

Recent reportage suggests that communication between the two groups continues. In 2006, Hamas operative Muhammad Sayyam reportedly met members of the terrorist organization Hizbul Mujahidin, an al-Qaeda affiliate, in Kashmir. The two groups have little to nothing in common, given the geographic distance that separates them. Kashmir may have been an ideal lawless territory to discuss ideological, and perhaps logistical, cooperation.

It was also reported in the Arab media in 2006 that Hamas chief Khaled Meshal met in Yemen with Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, a man the U.S. Treasury designated in 2004 for his ties to al-Qaeda. Zindani stated that, "the support we can provide [to Hamas] at present is money."

Shared Financing

Zindani is not the only terror financier backing both groups. Fellow Yemeni national Mohammed al-Moayad, a prominent businessman, also claims to have provided funds and materiel to both al-Qaeda and Hamas. Further, the U.S. Treasury designated Saudi businessman Yasin al-Qadi as a terrorist financier in 2001 for funding al-Qaeda and Hamas.

The U.S. Government has also identified several U.S. charities as supporting both groups. The Holy Land Foundation (HLF) and Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), both shut down by the U.S. Treasury, may have had financial ties to both Hamas and al-Qaeda. Bank al-Taqwa, another Treasury designee, has funded al-Qaeda, in addition to facilitating the transfer of some $60 million to Hamas in 1997.

The SITE Institute, a think tank on terrorism, notes an overlap of financial networks between the al-Qaeda affiliated International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and Hamas. Documents uncovered by the Israelis detail "an IIRO program devised to financially compensate the families of Hamas suicide bombers." IIRO was led by bin Laden's late brother-in-law, Muhammad Jamal Khalifa, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. According to a former FBI analyst, IIRO also donated some $280,000 to Hamas charities.

The cases of HLF, Taqwa, BIF, and IIRO prompt questions of whether Hamas and al-Qaeda knowingly cooperate on fundraising. Future Treasury designations, in which sensitive information is declassified for the public, may provide a clearer picture.

Training and Operations

In 2000, Israel uncovered an al-Qaeda network in Gaza, led by Hamas operative Nabil Okal, who trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in the late 1990s. Thus began a long string of alarming discoveries.

In 2003, Israel arrested three Hamas fighters returning from al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. That same year, Jordanian security confirmed to Time magazine that two Hamas members went on a recruiting mission in Afghanistan for al-Qaeda fighters. Israel also learned that British citizens-turned-suicide bombers, Mohammed Hanif and Omar Sharif, may have been recruited by al-Qaeda to carry out Hamas attacks. These men of Pakistani origin were responsible for the April 2003 suicide carnage at Mike's Place, a Tel Aviv bar, that killed three and wounded 50.

About a year after Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar warned the Italian media that al-Qaeda was in the territories, Israel announced in March 2006 that it arrested two al-Qaeda operatives, Azzam Abu al-Ads and Bilal Hafnawy, in Nablus. The two reportedly planned to carry out suicide attacks inside Israel.

In 2006, Hamas Interior Minister Said Sayyam stated that he would not order the arrests of operatives who carried out attacks against Israel. This was tantamount to an invitation for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to join Hamas in its war against Israel. Embattled PA President Mahmoud Abbas has since stated that al-Qaeda maintains a presence in the West Bank and Gaza. Admittedly, Abbas may be playing the al-Qaeda card to frighten the West into supporting his Fatah faction over Hamas, but there is no denying that ties between the two terror groups exist.

The Lebanon Connection

One additional concern is that al-Qaeda has significant interaction with Palestinians in Lebanon, where an al-Qaeda affiliate group called Asbat al-Ansar operates with utter impunity in the Ein al-Hilweh refugee camp. According to the State Department, Asbat "receives money through international Sunni extremist networks and bin Laden's al-Qaeda network." These fighters are as committed to the global vision of al-Qaeda as they are to Israel's destruction.

Nahr al-Bared is another refugee camp in Lebanon that exposes Palestinians to al-Qaeda. The camp made headlines in May 2007, when Fatah al-Islam, a new al-Qaeda affiliate group, clashed with Lebanese forces, leaving dozens dead. The group is led by Shaker Abssi, a Palestinian jihadist linked to the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Both men were sentenced to death in absentia in Jordan for killing U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in 2002. The U.S. designated Fatah al-Islam in August 2007 for its ties to al-Qaeda.

These Lebanese splinter groups expose the already-radicalized Palestinian refugee populations to the broader al-Qaeda network. Since neither Hamas nor al-Qaeda require membership cards, cross-fertilization between these jihadi organizations and Hamas is an obvious concern.

End Game

Hamas and al-Qaeda will always share core ideological tenets. This will inevitably yield individuals and cells sympathetic to both groups. Accordingly, al-Qaeda and Hamas may continue to share financial networks, such as those dismantled by the Treasury Department in recent years.

Similarly, there can be little doubt that Israeli and American intelligence organizations will continue to uncover operational and logistical connections between the two organizations. The most obvious overlaps will likely be observed in Lebanon. But, since Israel's destruction is Hamas' ultimate goal, and al-Qaeda can unquestionably help plan and mount attacks, cooperation is also possible in Gaza.

Still, a significant al-Qaeda presence in Gaza is not realistic. Hamas is a fiercely independent organization. The July 2007 coup handed the terrorist group its own territory, which the group will jealously guard. Hamas would never knowingly allow al-Qaeda to challenge its authority. For this reason, al-Qaeda will likely be contained to limited cooperation with Hamas in attacks against Israel.

Limited cooperation, however, may not mean limited risk. Israel must now be wary of the technology, training, and know-how that al-Qaeda can more easily bring to its doorstep.


A New Weapon in the Arsenal

The War of Ideas: Jihadism Against Democracy
by Walid Phares
NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, 266 pp. $24.95. Hardcover

Reviewed by Jonathan Schanzer
The Journal of International Security Affairs
September 7, 2007

In The War of Ideas: Jihadism Against Democracy, Professor Walid Phares' historical perspective on the growth of the modern jihadist ideology and its offensive against the West, America may have found a new weapon in the war for hearts and minds against radical Islam. This book has the potential to make an impact in the battle over how Islamism and jihadism are taught in America's institutes of higher learning.

The problem on American campuses is a well-documented one. Before September 11, 2001, America's professors predicted the emergence of a Middle East filled with non-violent Islamists. Their approach to Middle Eastern autocracies, violence and the systematic violation of human rights was one of apologia. After 9/11, they continued to insist that the threat of jihadism is overblown.

Needless to say, these academics appear to be agenda-driven. They prefer the old, corrupt regional status quo, and attack policies designed to combat radicalism and promote democracy. Worse still, they have inoculated themselves against outside criticism, and have shut out other academics who don't toe their line.

Enter Walid Phares, a professor of Middle East Studies at Florida Atlantic University for more than a decade. He is also a native of the Middle East (Lebanon) whose first language is Arabic. Phares is an insider—both in the Middle East and in Middle Eastern studies—and his writings cannot be ignored.

The good professor is not bashful about his beliefs. Much like his earlier works, Phares' new book is decidedly pro-democracy and anti-jihadist. As such, it stands in stark contrast to the writings of the multitude of academics and Middle East experts who, either knowingly or by default, have become apologists for radical Islam.

Phares' point is crystal clear. Academia is a vital battlefield in the struggle for hearts and minds now taking place in the larger War on Terror, and he attacks the academic enemies of democracy accordingly. For example, he hammers University of Michigan professor Juan Cole and University of California-Berkeley's As'ad AbuKhalil for spouting propaganda from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim lobby group that defends Islamist figures and ideas. He likewise brands Georgetown University's John Esposito a jihadophile for his consistent apologetics for, and defenses of, Islamism. (Esposito, who runs Georgetown's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, received an award in 2003 from the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) honoring his contribution to the understanding of Muslims.) These and other ivory tower jihadophiles, according to Phares, treat "jihad as a benign spiritual tradition, like yoga." They insist that jihad is not a holy war, but a "spiritual experience."

Phares does more than simply attack those professors who are soft on radical Islam, however. His book is, at its core, a tireless and relentless attack on the ideology of jihadism itself. In a measured, judicious and decidedly professorial tone, Phares demonstrates that the adherents of jihadism are violent, ruthless, anti-democratic, and anti-Western. He makes a strong and persuasive argument that the goal of jihadists is to "defeat all other civilizations" and the "dismantling [of] centuries of human advancement." Phares also systematically and patiently demonstrates how jihadists eschew a host of widely accepted international principles, including human rights, gender equality, and religious equality. He also highlights the antipathy toward pluralism, political parties, an independent justice system, and self-criticism exhibited by Islamic moderates.

Throughout, Phares' masterful grasp of modern history helps the reader to put the ideological struggle between radical Islam and democracy into context. The first phase of this struggle, he outlines, was a period of relative dormancy that stretched from 1945 to 1990, when jihadists chose to wait out the Cold War and amass their strength for the coming battle. The second phase in the war of ideas, according Phares, was the period spanning 1990 to 2001. During this decade, the Middle East emerged as the region of the world most resistant to the global trend of liberalization and democratization heralded by the fall of Communism. The iron-fisted leaders of the Middle East tenaciously refused to liberalize or evolve, holding fast to the notion that no change should happen until the Arab-Israeli conflict was settled. The plight of the Palestinians is the most common excuse across the Muslim world for why the reform has been painfully slow or nonexistent. All the while, Salafism and Khomeinism, the primary Sunni and Shi'ite strains of jihadism, continued to spread unhindered and unchallenged by democratic ideals.

The current phase of the war of ideas, Phares concludes, is the most overt, in which jihadists and democracy advocates openly clash over their interpretations of international relations, the notion of reform, and even the definition of terrorism. He lays bare how Islamic radicals and their supporters have made systematic efforts to numb the United States and its allies to the threat of radical Islam. They have done so by invoking the specter of Islamophobia, Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and other thorny issues to fool the public into thinking that America is in fact the aggressor.

The War of Ideas
is vulnerable to attack on two fronts. First, Phares quotes his own published works and testimonies some fifteen times throughout the book. This does little for his credibility; simply because he said it does not make the argument correct. Moreover, although an Arabic speaker, he rarely cites Arabic sources. This is a serious error, since "native" news and analysis are seen as gospel within the discipline of Middle Eastern studies, and Phares' detractors will almost certainly use the lack thereof against him.

On the whole, Walid Phares has written an excellent answer to the glut of apologias that now permeates the field of Middle Eastern studies. The War of Ideas has an air of academic authority that exudes more credibility than works written by Beltway analysts, which, although they may make many of the same arguments, can be dismissed all too easily as "alarmist." Not so with Phares' writings; given the power of its intellectual reasoning, The War of Ideas is destined to be a broadside that the ivory tower will not be able to ignore so easily.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former intelligence analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is Director of Policy for the Jewish Policy Center. He is author of Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, October 1, 2004).

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