Saturday, October 27, 2007

Giving Voice to Terror Victims - the Congressional Forum

Several years ago I was asked to testify before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee. The hearing was organized to investigate the US government's cooperation or lack of cooperation with terror victims as they sought justice in the American judicial system.
Here is my testimony in that hearing.
Testimony Before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, October 27,1999,
Stephen M. Flatow

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center- A midwife of terrorism?

Terrorism is not something that just bursts into flame by spontaneous combustion. It has roots that grow from a seed. Unlike the American legend of Johnny Appleseed who planted seeds for good, terrorism's seeds are planted by those who wish to upset the world's apple cart through horrific acts of murder and mayhem. Sometimes they are planted and nurtured by organizations with fancy names.
The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby writes about one of those organizations, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, in an article published on October 21, 2007, "Criticism Gone Too Far." In it he details Sabeel's anti-Semitic use of the centuries old charge of Deicide directed against the Jews and, by implication, the State of Israel.
How does the world react to the apparently well thought out and truthful sounding claims made by Sabeel and its leader the Anglican cleric Naim Ateek? Well, as outlined by Jacoby, some parts of the world greet those remarks with open arms and fall victim to lies.
Will Sabeel, Ateek, and their supporters one day acknowledge the harm they cause?

Criticism Gone Too Far

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Terror in Pakistan - Democracy's Enemies At Work

The world's silence in the face of the horrific bomb attack in Pakistan is telling. It is reflective of the belief held by terrorists that human life is cheap, if not worthless, that another man or woman's opinion is worthless, and that those who strive in the fight to bring democracy and democratic institutions to all corners of the globe are their enemy.

Are the people of Pakistan content to allow more than 130 people die without demonstrating through peaceful means that terror is not sanctioned? Are they content to let Al Qaeda and the home grown terrorists off the hook? When will the Pakistanis say "enough is enough?"

From The New York Times--
Bomb Attack Kills Scores in Pakistan as Bhutto Returns
Published: October 19, 2007
Local news stations said today that 134 were killed and about 400 wounded when two bombs exploded Thursday near a truck carrying the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

Click here for full story.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A way to fight terrorists

Here is a well thought out essay in the on-line edition of the Wall Street Journal on how to bring the Iraqi war to the terrorists who are now attacking outlying villages and towns. It's called "Al Qaeda's War of Villages; Signs that the terrorists are losing in Iraq" and is written by Omar Fadhil.
His take is straightforward-- have troops positioned in such a way that attacks, which cannot be prevented, are responded to quickly and decisively by overwhelming military force.


Saturday, October 6, 2007

More on New Jersey Homeland Security's Poor Choice

Last month, in New Jersey's Obscene Invitation, I commented on the inclusion of Prof. John Esposito on a New Jersey Department of Homeland Security panel on radicalization. Here's more on the story from the New Jersey Jewish News:

Critics blast scholar's inclusion at NJ homeland security confab
by Robert Wiener
NJJN Staff Writer

A West Orange attorney and a journalist who monitors Islamic fundamentalism are attacking the inclusion of a Georgetown University Islamic studies professor at a state-sponsored conference on counterterrorism.

Stephen Flatow, the attorney, and Steven Emerson, the journalist, say John Esposito is an apologist for violent Muslim extremists and that he denies they pose a threat to the United States.

Esposito is a professor of religion and international affairs and Islamic studies at Georgetown University and the founding director of Georgetown's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

He was one of eight men scheduled at press time to appear Oct. 3 at a daylong counterterrorism conference sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security at the Trenton War Memorial. He was booked to appear on a four-member panel discussion, "To What Extent Is Radicalization a Concern in the U.S.?"

Emerson quotes Esposito in a speech last August saying, "The reality of it is there is no major significant threat in the mosques in America."

"I don't think it's appropriate," Emerson, who has written critically about Esposito's inclusion at the conference on his blog, told NJ Jewish News.

"If you have a race relations conference, you don't bring in David Duke," added Emerson, referring to the former Ku Klux Klansman from Louisiana.

Emerson charges the Georgetown professor with being an apologist for Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian computer engineer who pleaded guilty of conspiring to help Islamic Jihad after being acquitted on eight of 17 federal charges against him in 2006.

According to Emerson, Esposito praised Al-Arian in August during a banquet held by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Dallas. Emerson quoted Esposito as saying, "Sami Al-Arian's a very good friend of mine. And you know, God help Sami Al-Arian in terms of this administration and any others who have to live through this," referring to Al-Arian's prosecution. "The reality of it is there is no major significant threat in the mosques in America."

Emerson also scored Esposito for including Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, an Egyptian-Muslim cleric, among those who are engaged in a "reformist interpretation of Islam and its relationship to democracy, pluralism, and human rights." According to Emerson, Qaradawi "has sanctioned suicide bombings against American troops in Iraq, calling those who die fighting U.S. forces รข€˜martyrs,' and civilians in Israel, referring to such terrorist acts as a "'just' and a 'divine destiny.'"

Islam distorted

Alisa Flatow, Stephen Flatow's daughter, was killed in a Gaza bus bombing in 1995 in an attack orchestrated by Islamic Jihad.

"It seems that Esposito blames everyone but those actually responsible for much of the mayhem in the world — Islamic extremists and those who support them," said Flatow, a former chair of the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ.

Interviewed by telephone as he vacationed in Israel, Flatow told NJJN that Esposito "advances the Islamist line of thought that everyone has to become a Muslim by following the precepts of the Koran, which include violence. Is this the kind of person we want to lecture about terrorism to New Jersey's first responders? I don't think so — and I hope the folks who invited him have second thoughts about that invitation."

Both Flatow and Emerson have also criticized Esposito for supporting the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Although CAIR states emphatically on its Web site that it has "consistently and persistently condemned terrorism and the killing of innocent civilians," the group has been attacked repeatedly by Emerson as an organization that is "dragging the American-Muslim community down its maximalist, pro-Hamas path."

"Esposito thinks CAIR is good," Emerson told NJJN. "He has no place at a counterterrorism conference. He may be appropriate for other conventions but not appropriate for a conference whose stated mission is to fight terrorism. It is inappropriate to have someone like this, six years after 9/11, who defends Islamic extremist groups and discounts the threat of radical Islam. If this was a privately sponsored counterterrorist conference, I wouldn't have a problem with it."

A spokesperson for the NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness defended Esposito's inclusion at the symposium.

"I can't speak to Emerson's views, but Esposito is a person on a diverse panel," said Roger Shatzkin. "Those invited are there to hear a variety of views. Esposito is a fairly well-known author."

According to Shatzkin, the conference "is a working session open to law enforcement, academics, and people in the mental health field. It poses a question as to whether radicalization is an issue here. It is being asked in a lot of different places. This is really a preliminary discussion to see what next steps might be necessary — if they are necessary."

Esposito's fellow panelists include Dr. Brian Fishman from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point Military Academy; Daniel Sutherland, director of the office of civil rights and civil liberties at the federal Department of Homeland Security; and Frank Cilluffo, associate vice president for homeland security at George Washington University.

Neither Esposito nor any others on the panel returned NJJN's phone calls seeking comment. In an e-mail, the professor's executive assistant, Denisse Bonilla-Chaoui, said Esposito was "currently teaching and will be meeting with students" and would be unable to answer questions before the newspaper's deadline.

Esposito has tussled with Emerson in court. Earlier this year he filed an affidavit in which he sought to defend the Islamic Society of Boston from charges leveled by Emerson and others that the organization has ties to radical Islamist groups.

In an article for the Washington Post's Web site, Esposito wrote that true Islam has been distorted both by extremists and their critics.

"Terrorists like Osama bin Laden and others go beyond classical Islam's criteria for a just jihad and recognize no limits but their own, employing any weapons or means," wrote Esposito. "They reject Islamic law's regulations regarding the goals and legitimate means for a valid jihad: that violence must be proportional, only the necessary amount of force should be used to repel the enemy; that innocent civilians should not be targeted; and that jihad must be declared by the ruler or head of state."

Fighting hate at home and abroad

The fight for terror victims' rights continues on...

New Jersey Jewish News

The U.S. Senate passed two important measures this week, one addressing the consequences of hate in this country, the other focusing on hate directed at Americans abroad.

The Senate overcame objections largely from conservative lawmakers to approve legislation to expand federal hate crimes laws. The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act will permit the Justice Department to assist local hate crime prosecutions and, where appropriate, to investigate and prosecute cases in which bias violence occurs because of the victim's race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. "Sexual orientation" was a sticking point for opponents, but the majority stood up for equal rights and common decency when it voted 60-39 to end a filibuster against the bill.

The Bush administration has threatened to veto the legislation, and Jewish groups are vowing a fight. "We will work hard to convince the President that the time has come for this important legislation," the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement.

In a separate measure, the Senate passed legislation giving victims the right to sue state sponsors of terrorism and allowing them to seek compensation through the seizure of hidden commercial assets belonging to terrorist states. The bill has strong New Jersey ties: Its sponsor was Sen. Frank Lautenberg, and the legislation is based on the 1996 Flatow Amendment, named in honor of Alisa Flatow, the young woman from West Orange killed by a Palestinian bomber in 1995.

In hailing the legislation's passage, Lautenberg quoted Lynn Smith Derbyshire, a Virginian whose brother was among the 241 victims of the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. "The passage of this bill," she said, "will bring justice by holding the criminals accountable for their crime. And I believe it will mitigate future terrorism. This bill is a huge statement of support for victims of terrorism, and a powerful way to fight terrorism without the use of military force."

Like the hate crimes measure, the compensation act is included in the Department of Defense Authorization bill and must now be reconciled with the House and signed by the president.