This past June, Wafa Samir al-Bis, an aspiring twenty-one-year-old shahida, or “martyr," was apprehended by Israeli guards at the Erez checkpoint in Gaza and found to be carrying 20 pounds of explosives in her underwear. The young woman intended to make a last trip to the Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva, where she had been receiving medical treatment for severe burns incurred in a domestic accident. Her goal this time was to blow herself up and kill as many young people as possible. Asked why she was aiming specifically at children, she replied that she wanted to retaliate for the death of Muhammad al-Dura.Read the whole thing.
Wafa Samir al-Bis is but one in a long line of shahids and would-be shahids inspired by the image of a twelve-year-old Palestinian boy whose death scene was broadcast worldwide at the very onset of the so-called al-Aqsa intifada that broke out in September 2000. Televised images of the boy, reportedly killed by Israeli soldiers, instantly ignited anti-Israel and anti-Jewish passions all over the world, provoking a wave of violence from the lynching of two Israeli reservists in Ramallah to synagogue burnings in France. In the ensuing years, the story of Muhammad al-Dura has attained near-mythic stature in the Arab and Muslim world. In the West, though its essence is largely forgotten, it has fired the political imagination of many who accept it as emblematic proof of Israeli culpability for the outbreak of the armed conflict and even for Palestinian “martyrdom operations" against Israel’s civilian population.
The killing of Muhammad al-Dura is not the only long-lived accusation against Israel in the last five years. Another tale of atrocity, perhaps even better known, is the Jenin “massacre." In the spring of 2002, the Israeli army moved into that West Bank city to wipe out a nest of terrorists responsible for a particularly intense sequence of murder and mayhem. Immediately, Palestinian sources claimed a figure of 5,000 dead (later reduced to a more modest 500) and an entire “refugee camp" bulldozed to rubble. By the time the truth emerged—Palestinians themselves finally confirmed a total of 56 dead, most of them in armed combat, and aerial views demonstrated the pinpoint nature of the Israeli operation—the damage had been done. Still today the Jenin “massacre" endures, out of reach of rational refutation.
But at least there is reliable information on what really happened in Jenin. That is not the case with the death scene of Muhammad al-Dura.
The background can be quickly summarized. In the summer of 2000, even before Yasir Arafat brought down the final curtain on the Oslo “peace process" by rejecting an American-brokered deal at Camp David, reports were circulating of a Palestinian military buildup. The first act of war was the murder of an Israeli soldier by his Palestinian partner on a joint patrol. But this was dismissed as a mere fluke. Instead, the spark that ignited the intifada was alleged to be Ariel Sharon’s September 28 visit to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s most sacred site and also the home of a number of Muslim shrines, including the al-Aqsa mosque.
The next day, September 29, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, riots broke out as Palestinians exiting from Friday prayers in the mosque overran a police post and hurled paving stones, conveniently stockpiled nearby, onto the heads of Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall below. On September 30, Marwan Barghouti, the West Bank leader of Arafat’s Fatah organization, asserted that he could not and would not restrain further expressions of Palestinian protest.
It was later on that same day that a cameraman for France-2, a channel of the state-owned French television network, captured the death of a twelve-year-old Palestinian boy, allegedly shot in front of his helpless father by Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip. A news report, dramatically narrated by France-2’s Jerusalem correspondent, was instantly aired and was offered free of charge to the world’s media.
The effect was immediate, electrifying, and global. Overnight, Muhammad al-Dura became the poster child of the incipient Palestinian “struggle" against Israeli “occupation" and a potent symbol of the genocidal intentions of Israel’s government. A doctored photomontage was soon produced for Arab-Muslim viewers, featuring an imported image of an Israeli soldier apparently shooting the boy at close range.
That the death of Muhammad al-Dura was the real emotional pretext for the ensuing avalanche of Palestinian violence—and a far more potent trigger than Sharon’s “provocative" visit to the Temple Mount—is attested by the immediate and widespread dissemination of his story and of the pietà-like image of his body lying at his father’s feet. Streets, squares, and schools have since been named for the young Islamic shahid. His death scene has been replicated on murals, posters, and postage stamps, even making an iconic appearance in the video of Daniel Pearl’s beheading. His story, perhaps the single most powerful force behind the Palestinian cult of child sacrifice over the last years, has been dramatized in spots on Palestinian television urging others to follow in his path, retold in a recruitment video for al Qaeda, and immortalized in epic verse by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.
But is it true? Although serious doubts were immediately raised about the veracity of the France-2 news report, they were swept aside by the emotions it provoked and by the flare of violence in the last months of 2000. France-2 indignantly turned down all requests to investigate or even to help others investigate by releasing outtakes. To this day, many people believe that even to raise a doubt about the authenticity of the report is tantamount to denying the reality of the 9/11 attacks on New York City.
NEW YORK (AFP) - A British businessman has been jailed by a US court for 47 years for trying to sell shoulder-launched missiles to what he believed to be a terrorist cell.
The jail term was an effective life sentence for Hemant Lakhani, 70, who was found guilty in April of providing material support of terrorism, money laundering, illegal arms brokering and making false statements in support of smuggling.
A former textile salesman, Lakhani was detained in August 2003 after showing a portable Stinger missile launcher to an intelligence agent posing as a member of a Somali-based terrorist group.
He told FBI agents he could supply them with a further 50 rockets, which could be used to shoot down planes on the second anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Lakhani's defence lawyers had argued that he was entrapped by the FBI and portrayed him as a minor league hustler who posed no genuine terrorist threat.
But pleas for leniency were brushed aside by Judge Katherine Hayden as she passed sentence Monday in New Jersey District Court.
"There is overwhelming evidence that Mr. Lakhani was prepared to sell missiles to terrorists to shoot down aircraft which could have killed hundreds of human beings," Hayden said.
"He illustrated a single-minded greed and determination to profit from the arms trade," she added.
Lakhani was born in India, but but had lived in Britain for 45 years.
The latest symbol of China's relentless drive for global superpower status will be unveiled on a street in downtown Vancouver this fall.I'd like to see this discussed at those Confucius centers:
It has a harmless-sounding name: the Confucius Institute. But it represents a dramatic change in China's overseas strategy. Under the guidance of President Hu Jintao, who arrived in Ottawa yesterday, China is shifting to a charm offensive to expand its global influence.
The Confucius Institute, which opens this fall on the Seymour Street campus of the B.C. Institute of Technology, is just one of a far-reaching network of 100 such institutes to be created around the world over the next five years to promote the Chinese language and culture.
Beijing has already opened 27 branches of the Confucius Institute around the world in less than a year, and it has a budget of $200-million (U.S.) annually to teach Chinese to foreigners.