Israel Report

August 2001         

Rolling Back the Forces of Terror

By Daniel Pipes and Steven Emerson - August 13, 2001
JERUSALEM -- The pizzeria is located on one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in Israel and it was bustling with families when the Palestinian terrorist inconspicuously walked in last Thursday. Deliberately positioning himself among the children and babies, he detonated an explosive pack full of nails and ball bearings, shredding to death himself and 16 Israelis, as well as mutilating more than 100 others.

Less than two hours later, both the Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorist groups had claimed credit for the massacre. And later in the day, thousands of Palestinians joyously demonstrated in Ramallah in celebration of the carnage. To prove its sponsorship, Hamas released a photo of the bomber brandishing a Kalashnikov rifle in one hand and a Koran in the other.

History of Restraint

Thursday's massacre, and yesterday's bombing at a restaurant in Haifa, follow about 80 suicide bombings or attempted suicide bombings by Palestinians against Israeli (and American) civilians since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Last week's killings pushed the total of Israeli deaths by Palestinian terrorists since September 1993 to more than 450.

This violence blatantly contravenes the Oslo accords -- in which the Palestinians renounced the use of force and promised to use only political means to achieve their goals. Worse, the Palestinian Authority has sponsored a terrorist infrastructure of frightening proportions, where appeals to suicide bombers are a regular feature on the television programming and an arsenal of automatic weapons, hand grenades, mortars, Katyusha rockets and anti-tank missiles is in place.

Recent months have shown that the PA's own forces (Tanzim, Force 17 and Fatah fighters) are targeting Israeli civilians right alongside such illegal organizations as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Osama bin Laden, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Despite this surge in violence, most Israelis have continued to hope they could make a deal. Indeed, as recently as May -- when the last large-scale suicide bombing took place, killing 21 Israeli teenagers -- the authorities in Jerusalem did nothing in response, still hoping to reach a settlement. Even the Israeli actions last Friday -- closing down some Palestinian buildings in Jerusalem and destroying a completely empty police station -- were more symbolic than they were a serious effort to rebuild the country's security.

One has to admire the Israeli restraint, then and over the past eight years. But one also has to wonder: When is the government going to begin more actively to defend its citizens?

The U.S. government, for its part, should stop repeating the old mantra about going back to the bargaining table (as Colin Powell just did in response to the Jerusalem suicide bombing). Instead, it should give Israel a green light to protect its citizens, encouraging it to take steps against terrorist savagery.

The time has also come for the U.S. to support Israel in rolling back the forces of terror. The U.S. has other connections to the pizza parlor bombing. It's not just that the restaurant was part of a New-York based chain. Nor that at least two victims are American, including a pregnant school teacher from Passaic, N.J. The American connection goes much deeper: The very existence of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad is largely attributable to organizing and funding from individuals living in the U.S.

This may sound shocking or unbelievable. But here are several aspects of the Islamic Jihad and Hamas American connections: Like other Islamist terror groups, Islamic Jihad has set up Web sites from the safety of the West. Its two primary sites are registered and hosted in Houston, Texas (by an outfit called Web Site Source, Inc.) and Toronto, Canada. The U.S.-based site provides the group's military communiques, including those taking responsibility for terrorist operations. In addition, includes a call to arms: "Our struggle with the sons of Israel in Palestine is on civilization, ideology, history, and existence. Our war with them is long and difficult. Our base is the Qur'an; our way is the Jihad." Other sections are more explicit, calling for killing Jews and attacking Americans.

Most brazenly, Islamic Jihad solicits donations on this Web site for its violent jihad (sacred war) against Israel. In user-friendly fashion, it provides three addresses for donations to be sent in towns controlled by the PA -- the Charity Association in Gaza, the Charity Association in Jenin, and the Charity Association in Bethlehem. In each case, bank numbers and other details are helpfully provided. A top PA official has testified in an American court that the Charity Association is a front for Islamic Jihad. The Web site explicitly states the purpose of the donation: "Donate money for the military Jihad." This is the official Web site of Hamas, maintained and operated from Florida, although officially hosted from Lebanon. It contains claims of credit for terrorist attacks, detailed listings of Hamas's "glorious record" of terrorist attacks, fatwas approving suicide bombings, interviews with Hamas leaders, bios of suicide bombers, and virulent calls to attack Jews.

Islamic Association for Palestine, and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. These two U.S.-based organizations (with offices in Texas, Illinois and New Jersey) support Hamas politically.

Islamic Committee for Palestine, and the World and Islam Studies Enterprise. ICP was one of several U.S.-based "charities" directly connected to Islamic Jihad. (On this basis, it was closed down by the FBI in 1995). A tape made public by the Immigration and Naturalization Service shows Fawwaz Damra, an imam from Cleveland, proudly announcing that ICP "is the active arm of the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine." He added that in the U.S., "for security reasons," it is called the Islamic Committee for Palestine. William West of the INS describes the ICP, along with another organization, the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, as "fronts for the purpose of fund-raising activities for the Islamic Jihad and the Hamas terrorist organizations."

Mr. West also notes that these two organizations have another role: to bring foreigners "into the United States who are leaders and/or operatives of the Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other terrorist organizations." He is referring to the fact that ICP and WISE arranged for entry visas into the U.S. for the entire three-man leadership of Islamic Jihad.

Of special note is Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, who for several years worked as a professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, but since 1995 has lived and served in Damascus as none other than the top leader of Islamic Jihad.

Meanwhile, the person in charge of ICP and WISE was also a tenured professor at the University of South Florida named Sami Al Arian. Despite what has been known for years about the ICP and WISE, he remains in good standing at his university and has even attended four White House events in the past four years.

Trivial Camouflage

It doesn't take a genius to figure out what the U.S. government should do, starting with excluding the leaders of terror front groups from the White House. Once that's done, the federal authorities should use the tools it already has for closing down these Web sites and organizations. A 1995 executive order signed by the president authorizes them to prohibit any financial transactions in the U.S. by 12 groups, two of which are Islamic Jihad and Hamas. A 1996 law gives Washington the power to freeze the assets of such groups.

Despite these laws, almost nothing has been done to shut down the front organizations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The reason is embarrassingly simple: Both groups are smart enough not to register under their own names. This trivial camouflage works; the U.S. government finds itself stymied and leaves the groups alone.

The time has come to close down terrorist organizations in the U.S., even if they don't conveniently carry their full, formal names.

Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum
Mr. Emerson is director of the Investigative Project.

©2001 - Wall Street Journal

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