At the end of World War II, the Muslim Brotherhood was wanted for war crimes. Their German intelligence handlers were captured in Cairo. The whole net was rolled up by the British Secret Service. Then a horrible thing happened.
Instead of prosecuting the Nazis -- the Muslim Brotherhood -- the British government hired them. They brought all the fugitive Nazi war criminals of Arab and Muslim descent into Egypt, and for three years they were trained on a special mission. The British Secret Service wanted to use the fascists of the Muslim Brotherhood to strike down the infant state of Israel in 1948. Only a few people in the Mossad know this, but many of the members of the Arab Armies and terrorist groups that tried to strangle the infant State of Israel were the Arab Nazis of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Last week's allied offensive in the city of Samarra looks to be a tactical victory, in that insurgents were routed and city offices, hospitals and other buildings retaken. But it will only be a strategic success if the allies keep moving to clean out other terrorist sanctuaries in the Sunni Triangle.Don't Stop in Samarra
The Samarra campaign makes up for what was turning out to be a repeat of April's mistake in Fallujah to trust a deal with former Baathists in the city. That agreement looked hollow when terrorists openly patrolled in Samarra under the flag of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi only days later. This time a force of 3,000 American and 2,000 Iraqi troops was quickly dispatched to retake the city located about 60 miles northwest of Baghdad.
The Iraqi contribution was especially notable, since it included newly trained forces. Once again one of the best Iraqi units was a group of some 300 from the 36th battalion that was put together in 2003 by the much-maligned Iraqi National Congress. It's a shame the State Department and CIA opposed training more such anti-Saddam Iraqi allies earlier.
We hope Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and his interim government conclude that the lesson of Samarra is to continue into Ramadi and Fallujah. One reason the insurgency has been able to increase its attacks is because it has these safe staging areas to retreat to. Another is because Iraqis have begun to suspect that the Iraq government is afraid to respond for fear of a Sunni political backlash. But the far more dangerous backlash will be if Iraqis conclude that Mr. Allawi can't provide security. Notwithstanding the U.S. election, don't stop now.
No one in Ismail Maasawabi's family knew his secret.
The son of an aluminum and glass-shop worker, Maasawabi loved his family, had a lively sense of humor and studied hard in college to become an art teacher.
But Maasawabi also held a dire ambition. He wanted to be something that passes as a hero in this part of the world: a suicide bomber.
And on June 22, 2001, he got his wish. Leaving home that day during final exams, Maasawabi climbed into a jeep wired with explosives. Instead of going to class, he headed for a nearby Jewish settlement, where at age 22 he became a human bomb with all of its tragic consequences.
"He went out that day like any young man," said his father, Basheer, who was stunned to learn of his son's ambition and even more shocked when he heard of his fate. "I was out when I heard the loudspeakers of the mosque announcing, `We give you good news. The virgins of paradise are happily receiving the new groom, the martyr Ismail Maasawabi.'"
That a young man full of promise would willingly take his life to kill others is not, unfortunately, all that rare in this blood-soaked patch of sand and citrus groves along the Mediterranean.
Hardly a week passes without news of a similar death somewhere in the Middle East. And the "martyrs" seem to get younger by the day. One recent survey said that more than one in four children in Gaza want to be "martyrs."
But Maasawabi differs from many of the others in one respect. His case provides a rare glimpse into the psychology of the suicide bomber, a twisted blend of religious piety and victimization that has become the new face of Muslim extremism, a force behind attacks on America and its allies around the world.
The details of Maasawabi's story are not easy to come by. Even asking his neighbors how and why a young man makes the transition from a devout Muslim to a radical Islamic suicide bomber can bring accusations that the inquisitor must have ties to the Central Intelligence Agency, or worse.
He lived in a world of poverty, despair and ignorance where myths are spun from the yarn of rumor, forming a cloak of conspiracy and distortion that blankets the Arab world and makes truth as elusive as peace.
Maasawabi embraced Islam firmly just as the religion became hopelessly entwined with the Palestinian resistance and Hamas, the militant Islamic organization that has grown into the most popular political group in the Gaza Strip. Hamas garners support through its social services, a hard line against Israel and a shrewd application of Islam to legitimize its message and offer hope to the masses.
What was once a nationalistic movement for statehood has become for many Palestinians a religious call to arms. Moderates battle militants in an ideological war in which Hamas has gained the upper hand with a polemic interpretation of the Koran that lures passionate young men inexorably toward violence.
But interviews with his family and others near his Gaza home, a "martyr's will" and a letter he wrote to his family show that Maasawabi was not simply some poor Palestinian youth who didn't know better.
Britain's Jewish Chronicle can make for sobering reading these days. At a time when fanatical hostility to the State of Israel and the related rebirth of anti-Semitism in Europe have become commonplace, the shock value of the latest cemetery desecration or the latest distortion of Israel's actions in the Middle East has become subject to the law of diminishing returns. The more we hear about it, the less it affects us.
But last week's issue of that newspaper contains a story so appalling that it deserves to be heard by all. The author, Mark Scodie, relates the tale of how a 30-year-old Israeli woman, who wants to remain anonymous, was turned down for a job at a London-based Christmas decorations company called Gisela Graham. On rejecting the woman's application, the company's marketing director, Piers Croke, made a few comments in an e-mail to her about the reaction she was likely to elicit from potential recruiters by including on her resume' the fact that she had done two years military service in the Israeli army as a conscript.
The following remarks attributed to Croke were quoted in the Jewish Chronicle: "The natural reaction of most educated Europeans to the information you provide is likely to be 'So it was she who guided those gunships to targeted assassinations and the murder of women and children with indiscriminate bombing and strafing of refugee camps.'"
With this, be warned, Croke was merely warming up.
"A sizable proportion [of Europeans and Americans] doubt the 'right' of Israel to exist. This has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Nor is it racism - that is the kind of disgusting attitude which one might say is inherent in the idea of the State of Israel and, one might say, among a large section of believing Jews elsewhere, who regard the rest of us as inferior, unclean, and not chosen by God. What could be more racist than that?"
Many of us have been disappointed at a rejection letter. But this surely sets something of a world record in the art of kicking someone when they are down.
The case has been referred to Britain's Commission for Racial Equality, the official body charged with combating discrimination on ethnic, national, or religious grounds, and Croke and his company have apologized to the woman in question. But the broader point here is as obvious as it is alarming.
The intellectual atmosphere in Britain has now become so hostile to Jews and Israel that the rantings one might usually expect from extremist political organizations have invaded the mainstream. In normal circumstances, after all, you would hope to be able to tell the difference between a job rejection letter from a respectable company and a tirade from a neo-Nazi fringe group.
What is worse is that this case is no exception. Last year, Amit Dushvani, an Israeli biology student, had his PhD application turned down by Andrew Wilkie, professor of pathology at Oxford University, in the following terms: "I have a huge problem with the way the Israelis take the moral high ground from their appalling treatment in the Holocaust, and then inflict gross human rights abuses on the Palestinians because they wish to live in their own country."
Prof. Wilkie, who was suspended but not fired, went on: "I am sure you are perfectly nice at a personal level, but no way would I take on somebody who has served in the Israeli army."
In May of the same year a motion was proposed at a conference of the Association of University Teachers, a leading union for university professors, calling for a total academic boycott against Israel. The motion failed but was supported by one-third of the delegates.
Why matters have gone so far is difficult to say. In only a slightly toned-down version, such sentiments are commonplace on the BBC and in the Guardian newspaper, two of Britain's most influential media outlets. Perhaps this has helped to legitimize the kind of fanaticism that has worked its way through society. Perhaps also, Jewish groups have not had the support they deserve in trying to combat this garbage.
Apart from the obvious objection that the above examples are based on the kind of collective guilt principles that one would have hoped, that along with its victims, the Holocaust would have buried in Europe forever, a big part of the problem is that vehement anti-Israeli sentiment is usually based on ignorance.
The media that is not already reflexively hostile to Israel is clearly failing to restore balance. The public can perhaps not be faulted, given the coverage of the issue, for not being able to compare Israel's human rights record with that of its neighbors. There is something wrong when the debate is not undergirded by basic facts. For example, although civilians are sometimes killed in Israeli attacks on militants, they are never the target, while the converse applies to Israel's enemies, who proudly maximize their carnage on buses, in cafe's, and other public places.
The case of Croke and his vile rantings against a 30-year-old woman from Israel should awaken us from our slumbers. After all, there are only so many wake-up calls you can ignore before it becomes too late.
The IDF Spokesman's Office disseminated a short video clip yesterday, showing terrorists loading a UN ambulance van with a Kassam rocket. The van was later attacked by an IDF helicopter. The video clip can be seen here on Reuters' "World Channel."
Other clips released by the IDF show terrorists firing Kassams from within the yard of a private house and from within civilian population centers. The films were taken by an Israeli drone (unmanned aircraft).
UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Work Agency) Gaza district chief Peter Hansen responded to the allegations by saying, "We want to get to the bottom of this" - but at the same time denied the accusations. Hansen said that the item seen being placed into the UN ambulance van is not a rocket but rather a stretcher. He said that a rocket weighs close to 50 kilograms [32 kilograms, or 70 lbs. - ed.], and that "only Goliath and not even a weight-lifting champion could lift such a heavy weight and throw it with one hand into the back of the van," as the filmed terrorist can be construed as doing. Israeli sources noted, however, that a simpler version of the rocket, known as the Kassam-1, weighs only 5.5 kilos (12 lbs.), and that it was this weapon that was being loaded.
Israel officially demands Hansen's dismissal, based on this and several other apparent incidents of pro-Palestinian activity by him. A letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan by Israel's Ambassador Dan Gillerman states, "Hansen has ministerial and practical responsibility for the disreputable use of the UN van and the transport of the lethal Kassams... Instead of serving the interests of peace, the UN enlists in Gaza... on the side of terrorism."
Israel has documented UN involvement in past attacks perpetrated by Hamas as well as by Hizbullah. Most significantly, a UN vehicle was used in October 2000 to abduct IDF soldiers from Israel's northern border, leading to the deaths of three soldiers. Other attacks have involved UN vehicles assigned to Arabs living in PLO-controlled areas.
Arnold Beichman, scholar and research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, wrote in the Washington Times in May 2002, "UNIFIL, the U.N. force stationed on the Israel-Lebanon border, hid a videotape of Israeli soldiers being abducted by Hizbullah in October 2000. After finally admitting to having the tape, the U.N. would only show an edited version (in which Hezbollah faces were hidden) to the Israeli government. They claimed they needed to maintain neutrality between a member state and a terrorist group."
Hansen said he believes there are Hamas members on UNRWA's payroll, but they have to follow UN rules on remaining neutral.
"Oh I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don't see that as a crime. Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another," Hansen told CBC TV.
"We demand of our staff, whatever their political persuasion is, that they behave in accordance with UN standards and norms for neutrality," he said.