By Maidhc Ó Cathail / Intifada Palestine
On June 3, in an al-Qaeda video rather loftily titled “You Are Held Responsible Only for Thyself,” al-Qaeda’s California-born spokesman, Adam Gadahn, urged followers to commit violent acts of jihad by exploiting alleged weaknesses in U.S. gun laws and the gun background check system. “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms,” he said. “You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check and, most likely, without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?”
Around the same time, a “hit list” of American executives, officials and companies appeared on jihadist websites. “Security analysts,” reported FoxNews.com, “believe the two messages are related and underscore a shift in terror strategy—from top-down, mass-casualty events to smaller-scale attacks taken up, in some cases, by freelancing, lone-wolf jihadists.” According to one of Fox’s security analysts, Aaron Weisburd, the founder and director of the revealingly named Internet Haganah, the discussion originated on a password-protected, members-only site, to which he has access, known as the Shumukh forum. Describing Shumukh—which bears an uncanny resemblance to the Yiddish word for “idiot”—as “the number-one Al Qaeda-supporting website on the Internet today,” Weisburd suspiciously added that it was “most frequented by Palestinians.”
On the very same day that Gadahn’s video was released, the Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) coalition issued a press release in response. New York City Mayor and MAIG founding co-chair Michael Bloomberg said that Gadahn’s statement was “absolutely accurate,” adding that the video “may help Washington understand that weak gun laws aren’t just a crime problem, they’re a national security threat.” Helpfully pointing out that legislation had already been introduced to address the problem, Bloomberg, an uncritical supporter of Israel’s seemingly unlimited “right to defend itself,” urged Congress to pass the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2011 and the Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2011. Then on June 16, Ben Rattray’s Change.org breathlessly alerted subscribers to its MAIG-sponsored “Stop Al-Qaeda From Exploiting Gun Law Loopholes” online petition. This was followed by a June 17 editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times entitled “Terrorists buying guns? There ought to be a law.”
In fact, it was Mayor Bloomberg’s coalition that had initially proposed the legislation to fix gun background checks. On February 23, Bloomberg and his New York Police Commissioner, Ray Kelly, had joined Israel’s self-described “guardian” in the Senate, Charles Schumer, to announce the introduction of legislation that would provide greater reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for individuals with mental illness, domestic violence records, and drug abusers, by increasing the penalties for states that fail to adequately turn over records for those who are prohibited from owning a gun. The legislation would also require that all gun sales, including those by private sellers, be subject to a background check, effectively ending the so-called “gun show loophole.”
On May 12, the 550-member Mayors Against Illegal Guns (more than three-quarters of whom come from California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York) issued a statement decrying the House Judiciary Committee’s vote that day against an amendment to close the “Terror Gap” by giving the Justice Department discretion to deny gun and explosive sales to terrorists. “Hopefully, last night’s arrest in New York City of two terrorists plotting an attack using guns and explosives,” Mayor Bloomberg said in a statement, “will help convince Congress that this is a national security issue and they need to do the right thing and pass this legislation.”
On that same day, at a high-profile City Hall news conference, the New York Mayor and his steadfast NYPD Commissioner accused Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh of “planning to blow up the largest synagogue in Manhattan and to kill as many Jews as possible.” The FBI, however, had their doubts about the police undercover who investigated the two alleged “lone wolf” terrorists and refused to get involved in the case. Those doubts were confirmed on June 15 when a grand jury rejected the top terrorism charge against the two Muslim immigrants from North Africa. “This is a political case, brought by political people, for their own political purposes,” Elizabeth Fink, a lawyer for Ferhani, said outside court.“You will see that this case is bogus.… It’s total entrapment.” She added that Ferhani had a history of mental illness and had been institutionalized up to 30 times, and that the police were aware of this because of 911 calls his mother had made to subdue him.
The grand jury’s rejection of the NYPD’s exaggerated claims of a dastardly anti-Semitic plot came just days after the White House announcement of the Jewish Federations’ new partnership with the Department of Homeland Security (a post 9/11 goldmine for the Israeli security industry) “dedicated mainly to the state of threats posed to American Jewish institutions.” Notwithstanding the strong evidence pointing to FBI entrapment as the source of earlier media-hyped “synagogue terror” plots, Michael Gelman, chair of the Executive Committee of the Board of The Jewish Federations of North America, said: “The American Jewish community and the places we gather are, unfortunately, often targets for terrorists. This new partnership with the Department of Homeland Security will empower us to counter this threat as we become more actively involved in our own protection.”
And given Mayor Bloomberg’s support for legislation to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns, it’s also worth noting that the “Manhattan synagogue” plot is far from being the only instance in which the NYPD has used people suffering from mental illness to make terrorism cases. In 2004, police arrested a Pakistani immigrant, Shahawar Matin Siraj, and charged him with plotting to bomb the Herald Square subway station on the eve of the Republican National Convention at nearby Madison Square Garden. After paying an informant $100,000 to spend more than a year encouraging Siraj in the plot, the police persuaded his schizophrenic co-defendant, James Elshafay, to testify against Siraj. Despite being described by acquaintances as “borderline retarded,” Siraj was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
In spite of the fact—or perhaps because of it—that investigators couldn’t find a connection between Siraj and Elshafay and any terrorist organization, the NYPD’s deputy commissioner for intelligence, David Cohen, later described the mentally ill pair as “lone wolves” who were “homegrown, but inspired globally.” After a brief 2001 stint at insurance giant AIG (a $40 billion beneficiary of the increased demand for bonds in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks), Cohen had been tapped for the newly created position at the beginning of 2002. Despite his extreme unpopularity and a less than reassuring record in a 35-year career at the CIA—he once wrote a report, later dismissed by an internal CIA review, blaming the Soviet Union for the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II—Cohen’s appointment was warmly endorsed by Mayor Bloomberg. Describing his role as chief of the NYPD’s Intelligence Division, Cohen later said, “It’s like starting the CIA over in the post-9/11 world.”
Indeed, it seems that Cohen set about starting over not only the CIA but the FBI as well—the latter’s investigations on occasions being frustrated by his Intelligence Division’s “Lone Cowboy behaviour.” But cowed by post-9/11 criticism from Congress and the media, the Feds passively watched the creation of a troublesome rival. Early on, Cohen suggested to Commissioner Kelly that New York police officers be assigned overseas. By 2005, NYPD Intelligence had seven detectives deployed in cities around the world, including London, Singapore and Tel Aviv, which perhaps predictably received the NYPD’s first foreign liaison. While Cohen’s man in Tel Aviv, Mordecai Dzikansky, had virtually no contact with his American counterpart from the FBI, which opposed the creation of the post, the Orthodox Jew and former IDF volunteer enjoyed close relations with his Israeli hosts. A few months before her 2005 “resignation,” Judith Miller wrote in the New York Times: “[A]s the New York detective walks through the corridors of police headquarters in Jerusalem, home to Israel’s 27,000 police officers, he is invariably greeted as Morty, in the Hebrew he now speaks fluently, with a quip and a smile.”
Although most liberals would be inclined to support calls for tighter gun control, the source of those calls should give them pause for thought. It’s more than a little ironic that the most ardent advocates of gun control for Americans such as the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League are the very same people who demand that American taxpayers continue to lavish Israelis with as much weaponry as they desire “to defend themselves,” i.e. by slaughtering Palestinian and Lebanese civilians with impunity. Leaving aside arguments over the relative legitimacy of state terrorism versus non-state terrorism, one can hardly imagine the likes of Bloomberg and Schumer advocating background checks as passionately for Israeli settlers to prevent a Jewish extremist like Baruch Goldstein from acquiring a gun to massacre Palestinian civilians.
So, how do we account for such blatant double standards? Could it be that Israel’s fifth columnists are worried that if enough Americans ever become aware of how much their “unbreakable bond” with Israel has cost them in blood, treasure and credibility, they might have an American Intifada on their hands? Better, then, to preempt the possibility of such “domestic extremists” coming up with their own “hit list” by closing the “Terror Gap” now, while they still can. In the meantime, the fear and loathing of America’s maligned Muslim community engendered by scary tales of “lone wolf” jihadists ensures the perpetuation of America’s wars for Israeli hegemony in the Greater Middle East for the forseeable future—or at least till they completely bankrupt the country.