Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Israeli Arab Victims of Jewish Terror Cannot Receive Government Support

The Israeli Ministry of Defense (MOD) ruled today that the families of the four Israeli Arabs murdered on August 5 by Eden Natan-Zada, a 19-year-old member of the Israeli Defense Forces, are not eligible to receive the monthly payments other victims of terrorism are because there killer was Jewish and not an "enemy of the state," as required by Israeli law. The families will instead be offered a one-time payment, in an amount that has not been publicly specified.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called Natan-Zada's attack "a despicable act by a bloodthirsty terrorist." He even requested that the victims be treated as terrorism victims.

The Israeli MOD's decision has strong hints of prejudice against the country's Arab population (which numbers over 1 million or 1/5 of the state's citizens). It also brings into question what exactly the Israeli government considers Jewish terrorists if not "enemies of the state." Do the actions of religious fundamentalists like Natan-Zada not threaten the Israeli state or its reputation?

For more information, see:

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Jewish Settler Murders 4 in the West Bank

Asher Weissgan, 38, an Israeli Jewish settler from the West Bank town of Shvut Rahel murdered four Palestinians that he worked with and wounded two others near the major settlement of Shiloh. Weissgan was overpowered by a security guard and then arrested by the Israeli police. He declined to say why he opened fire on the group of Palestinians, but did deny that his actions were connected with the ongoing Gaza withdrawal.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon quickly condemned Weissgan's actions, calling them an "exceptionally grave Jewish act of terror." Representatives from the settlements of Shiloh and Shvut Rahel also condemned the murders. Amihai Braverman, head of the Shiloh Council, said, "This is a grotesque act. We want good neighborly relations."

Despite the settlers' public condemnation, the senior leadership of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said it was too weak and called on settler rabbis to issue a stronger condemnation. According to IDF officers quoted in Ha'aretz, "It is time for the settler leadership to assume responsibility. This is the second time in two weeks that a settler from the area has murdered innocent people."

The Palestinian militant group HAMAS said that it would consider retaliating for Weissgan's terror attack. Currently, HAMAS has agreed to abide by a self-imposed ceasefire, however Sami Abu Zohari, a HAMAS spokesman in the Gaza Strip said that his group would avenge the deaths in the West Bank. However, Shaykh Hassan Yusef, a senior HAMAS leader in the West Bank, said: "We are in favor of quiet and continue to be committed to it but will not permit it to be unilateral."

Weissgan's victims have been identified as Muhammad Mansour, 48; Bassam Tauase, 30; Halil Salah, 42; and Osama Moussa Tawafsha, 33.

For more information on today's Jewish terrorist attack, see:

Meanwhile, in the Gaza Strip, IDF soldiers and Israeli police continued to forcibly remove radical Jewish settlers and their supporters who refused to leave voluntarily. In the settlement of Kfar Darom, at least 100 settlers barricaded themselves in a synagogue and had to be dragged out. These settlers, among the most radical in Israel, have vowed to resist being removed and have claimed that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews and no part of it can be sacrificed, even for peace.

For more information about the continuing Gaza withdrawal, see:

Monday, August 15, 2005

Israel Begins Pulling Jewish Settlers Out of Gaza

Today, 40,000 members of the Israeli military and police delivered evacuation orders to the 9,000 radical Jewish settlers [right] who live in the Gaza Strip and successfully oversaw the evacuation of Ganim and Kadim, two settlements located in the northern Occupied West Bank. In northern Gaza, the majority of settlers have agreed to leave by midnight on Tuesday, with an ultra-radical fringe refusing to leave voluntarily. Settlers residing in Gaza's ultra-radical settlements, such as Neve Dekalim, today resisted Israeli soldiers and police who were attempting to deliver evacuation orders. Settlers used physical force and barricades in their efforts to halt the inevitable. Religious fundamentalist settler factions prayed for God to prevent the evacuation of Gaza, to no avail.

Settlers have two days to leave of their own volition, after which force will be used to remove them and they will then stand to lose up to one-third of their government-funded compensation package (of which a large part will be drawn from monies provided by the United States, to the tune of several billion dollars.)

Israeli Jewish settlers, many of whom also hold American citizenship, are dominated by radical ideologues [right] who believe that God gave all of present-day Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip to the Jews. This notion of Eretz Yisrael or "Greater Israel" also includes portions of present-day Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq. Radical religious settlers believe that under no circumstances can any land be traded for peace and that the Palestinian Arabs should be forcibly expelled or exterminated, should they refuse to leave.

To view an excellent episode of PBS' Frontline that covers the radical Israeli settler movement (Israel's Next War?) and to see in-depth Interactive coverage, see:

In a speech to the Israeli public on Monday night, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon [left], the longtime champion of continued illegal Jewish settlement activity in Gaza and the West Bank, presented his case: "It is no secret that I, like many others, believed and hoped that we would be able to hold onto Netzarim and Kfar Darom forever, The changing reality in the country, the region, and the world required a different assessment and a change in [my] position...This act is essential for Israel. Believe me, the pain I feel with this act is the full realisation that we must do it," Sharon said. "We cannot hold onto Gaza forever, more than a milion Palestinians live there... crowded in refugee camps, poverty and hotbeds of hatred with no hope on the horizon..."

Sharon vowed to use the "harshest response ever" against Palestinian militants, should they decide to attack settlers or the Israeli military and police forces. "The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] will redeploy in defensive lines behind the security fence. Those [Palestinians] who continue to fight us will be met by the IDF and the security forces in their full force. The world is waiting for the Palestinian response-a hand stretched out to peace or the fire of terror. To an outstretched hand we will respond with an olive branch."

For more on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's speech, see:


Approximately one thousand radical settlers and their supporters planned to march toward the Gaza Strip today in protest of the impending withdrawal. The Yesha Council of Settlements, the major representative body for West Bank and Gaza settlers, planned a massive demonstration today in Jerusalem today to protest the withdrawal. However, only a few hundred people showed up, a drastic decline from the estimated 100,000 that gathered in Tel Aviv a few weeks ago and the tens of thousands that prayed at the Western Wall recently.

For more on the response of Israel's radical right to the Gaza withdrawal, see:



Today, 100 Jewish extremists attempted to storm Jerusalem's Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount, the site of the ancient Jewish Temple and currently the location of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest sites. It is believed that the radicals hoped to ignite violence between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, in a bid to disrupt or even halt the Gaza withdrawal with violence. Israeli police dispersed them before they could enter the Haram, arresting one person.

For its part, the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) of President Mahmoud Abbas has deployed 7,500 police to prevent militants from attacking Jewish settlers, soldiers, and police. A rejuvenated HAMAS [right] has vowed to continue fighting against Israel, even after the Gaza withdrawal is completed. However, at the moment, the militant organization seems to be more focused on maintaining its strong base of support in Gaza City and throughout the Gaza Strip.

For more on HAMAS' public statements about the state of its after operations after the Gaza withdrawal, see:

The U.S. government has said that it is cautiously optimistic about the chances for a renewed peace process after the Gaza withdrawal is completed.

For more on the U.S. government's views on the chances for new peace talks, see:

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ha'aretz Study Finds That Jews Are No Longer the Majority West of the Jordan River

Alth0ugh I have not done this in the past, because of the technical nature of the information and my desire to ensure the accuracy of its presentation, I have decided to reprint in its entirety the Ha'aretz article. I have not edited the article's contents.


For the first time since the establishment of Israel, the proportion of Jews living in territories under the country's control has dropped below 50 percent, standing slightly more than 49 percent, according to a probe conducted by Ha'aretz. The results are based on figures supplied by Israel and the Palestinian Authority's official statistics bureaus. According to the figures, following the upcoming disengagement, the proportion of Jews in territories under Israeli control will jump to 56.8 percent. As a result of this development, demographic expert Prof. Sergio Della Pergola of the Hebrew University said the country is ensured of a Jewish majority within its territories for the next 20 years.

Ha'aretz's probe concurs with Della Pergola's findings, who says "it appears we are at a historical moment of symbolic import, where the scales shift from one side to the other." Some 5.26 million Jews and 1.35 million Arabs, live in Israel today, according to figures published by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS). In addition, there are 185,000 foreign workers and 290,000 non-Jews who immigrated under the Law of Return and are officially defined as "others." These immigrants are viewed by most of the public as Jewish, but are not recognized as such by the rabbinical establishment, and are not listed as Jews by the Interior Ministry. Some 3.8 million Palestinians, including 1.4 million in the Gaza Strip, live in the territories, according to figures recently published by the PA's central statistics bureau.

For the purposes of Ha'aretz's probe, 230,000 Palestinians who are residents of East Jerusalem were deducted from the total, since they are counted as Israeli Arabs by the CBS. Ha'aretz has reported in the past month attempts by various researchers to present the PA's figures as "inflated." An Israeli-American team headed by Ben Zimmerman and Yoram Ettinger says that the true number of the Palestinian residents of the territories is only 2.4 million. Prof. Arnon Sofer favors the IDF estimates, which put the number of Palestinians in the territories between 2.8-3 million. After reviewing their claims, the PA's central bureau of statistics decided to reduce its estimates by 200,000 in November 2004.

In recent Knesset discussions, CBS representatives supported the figures presented by the PA. At a Knesset State Control Committee meeting, Prof. Shlomo Yitzhaki said "we have no reason to suspect the figures from the central statistics bureau of the Palestinian Authority." He noted that the 1997 population census, upon which the estimates are based, was carried out according to the rules and in the presence of international observers. Combining the data produced by both research bodies leads to the conclusion that the proportion of Jews living between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea is 49.3 percent of the entire population.

Della Pergola's data leads to a similar conclusion, which is that at the end of last year, the core Jewish population (not including non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union - A.B.) came to 50.3 percent of the entire population within that same area. He believes the current rate of the Jewish population's shrinkage is just over 0.5 percent a year, which would bring the percentage of Jews to 50 percent or even a bit less.

Della Pergola says that Zimmerman and Ettinger's estimates are not realistic, but he does not rule out the plausibility of the IDF and Sofer's numbers. "It's important to understand that we cannot arrive at 100 percent credible data for the number of Palestinians, and therefore, estimates may vary by as much as several hundred thousand people. The trends, however, are incontestable. Therefore, even if we accept the minimalist premise of three million Palestinians, within a few years there will be fewer than 50 percent Jews," Della Pergola says.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Finance Minister Binyamin Natanyahu Resigns To Protest Gaza Withdrawal; Blasts Sharon in Speech

On August 8, Israeli Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (right), an influential member of the right-wing Likud Party, resigned his post to protest the Gaza disengagement plan, which will commence on Monday, August 15 and last for two days until all 9,000 radical Jewish settlers are forced to leave 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu, a former Israeli prime minister (1996-1999), announced his resignation minutes before the Cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, current head of Likud, voted to continue the disengagement as scheduled.

Netanyahu, a well-known Israeli hardliner, has been a strong critic of Sharon's disengagement plan, arguing that it is a reward for Palestinian terrorism rather than the possible key to new peace talks. In his letter of resignation, Netanyahu said, "I cannot be a part of this irresponsible move that divides the people and harms Israel's security and will in the future pose a danfer for the wholeness of Jerusalem. A unilateral withdrawal without anything in return [from the Palestinians] is not the way [to peace.]"

For more information, albeit biased, on Binyamin Netanyahu from his supporters, see:

Sharon (left), who reacted coldly to the latest political moves of his rival Netanyahu, who most analysts believe is preparing to openly challenge the prime minister for the leadership of Likud before the next Israeli national elections, has said that the disengagement will continue as planned. In the end, 17 Cabinet ministers voted to begin the disengagement this Monday, with 5 ministers opposing the plan.

Netanyahu, a former member of one of Israel's elite commando units, earned a bachelor's degree in architecture and a master's degree in management studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also studied political science at MIT and Harvard University.

During the First Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991, Netanyahu, who is fluent and as comfortable in English as he is in Modern Hebrew, served as a spokesman for the Israeli government, then led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a former LEHI terrorist.

When he was prime minister, Netanyahu was plagued by allegations of corruption, which were later dropped, and, under intense pressure from the U.S. administration of President William J. Clinton, he relented on his belief that trading "land for peace" was not they key to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. This would not be the last time that Netanyahu would take a strong stance on an issue before quietly reversing himself. During the latest debate over the Gaza disengagement, he publicly opposed the plan, but voted for it anyway when it was first introduced.

Today, Netanyahu delivered a fiery speech at the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, presenting himself as an alternative Likud leader and lambasting Sharon's decision to leave Gaza and force out its Jewish settlers (left), some of the most radical and fundamentlist in the country. "The ones who really understand what I am saying are the [Palestinian] terrorists," he said. "And they are cheering because we [Israel] are letting them set up an independent terrorist base [in Gaza.]"

Sharon responded in kind in a television interview, calling Netanyahu's resignation "an act of fleeing." Perhaps Israel's greatest general and one of its most controversial leaders, Sharon said of Netanyahu's departure, "He backed the disengagement plan once or twice. One thing I can say: Quitting a week before the most complex, most difficult move in the State of Israel's history, the disengagement plan, I would not say this evasion warrants a medal of honor."

A recent poll conducted by the Israeli newspaper Maariv, suggests that, if a national election was held today, Netanyahu would decisively defeat Sharon, 42.1% to 27.7%, for the leadership of Likud. In a poll conducted by Ha'aretz, Israel's premier daily newspaper, Netanyahu would garner 35% of the vote to Sharon's 29%.

For more information on Binyamin Netanyahu's resignation from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government, see:


Netanyahu's decision was praised by Israeli and Jewish hardliners throughout the world. The World Zionist Organization (WZO), in a press release, said it "praised [him] for his decision to leave the Sharon government in order to make clear his opposition to the Gaza withdrawal/expulsion plan. Netanyahu proclaimed this misguided Plan “will strengthen the forces of terror...will allow the Palestinians to open a sea port that will be open to terror boats...will bring rockets to Judea and Samaria...endanger the security of Israel, divide the Nation...and will create an Islamic terror base...and is against that mandate received from our voters.” In his press conference, Netanyahu criticized the Bush/Condoleezza Rice demand for Israel to give guns and ammunition to Palestinian Authority saying, “we are once again talking about giving them guns, it is unbelievable...the Plan strengthens Hamas and it leads them to eventually reach Jerusalem.” The WZO also called Sharon's plan a danger to "the West."

To read the complete press release from the World Zionist Organization on Binyamin Netanyahu's resignation, see:

The disengagement, which is set to begin in less than one week, will evacuate all Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and from four West Bank settlements. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (right) and other senior members of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) have pledged to ensure an orderly Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. The two largest Palestinian militant organizations, al-Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya, better known as HAMAS ("The Islamic Resistance Movement"), and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have hinted in recent weeks that they will not interfere either.

On Tuesday, Shaykh Jamal al-Bawatna, a PNA-appointed Palestinian mufti (senior cleric) in the Ramallah District, issued a religion legal opinion (fatwa) that forbids any Muslim from committing an act that would prevent the Israeli withdrawal: "Anyone who causes the delay of the withdrawal of the occupation, or prolongs its existence on Islamic soil, is committing a crime according to Islamic law." The fatwa goes on to say, "Mahmoud Abbas is the elected president ... and there is a religious obligation to obey his orders. Disobeying is an attempt to weaken his authority, which is considered a severe sin according to all the parameters of Islamic law."

For more information on Shaykh al-Bawatna's legal opinion, see:

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Russia Restricts ABC News for Airing Basayev Interview

On July 28, ABC News' Nightline broadcast segments of an interview conducted by Russian reporter Andrei Babitsky with Chechen terrorist and militant commander Shamil Basayev (right), dismissing strong protests from the Russian embassy in Washington, D.C.

Basayev has admitted being the mastermind behind the September 2004 Beslan school siege, which resulted in the deaths of 330 people, half of them children. He has also admitted planning the October 2002 Moscow Theater hostage crisis, which ended in the deaths of 130 civilians, only two of them at the hands of the terrorists with the others dying as a result of chemical gas pumped into the theater by Russian security forces. Basayev has also admitted that he has played a major role in a host of other terrorist attacks inside Russia, as well as deadly attacks on Russian military and security forces inside the war-torn nation of Chechnya, which has long been occupied or invaded by Russia/the Soviet Union. The Russian government is offering $10 million for information that leads to the capture or killing of Basayev.

For more information on Chechen terrorist and militant commander Shamil Basayev, including atrocities committed by his fighters, see:


After the program aired, the Russian embassy reiterated its outrage, stating that it did not know how the U.S. government could "allow" an American news organization to broadcast an interview with an admitted terrorist. In a curt response to a reporter's question on July 29, U.S. Department of State Spokesman Sean McCormack said, "With respect to the issue of the broadcast of this interview, the U.S. Government has had no involvement in ABC's decision to air the interview. The U.S. Government has no authority to prevent ABC from exercising its constitutional right to broadcast the interview...[It] is a constitutional right of an American media outlet to broadcast an interview and we did not have any role to play in the decision to air the interview."

On August 2, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it would place severe restrictions on the access ABC reporters and news staff in their country. ABC staff would not have their accreditations renewed and they will be banned, at least for the temporarily, from speaking with Russian government officials. The Foreign Ministry accuses ABC of "helping to propagandize terrorism." Foreign Ministry Spokesman Boris Malakhov alleged that ABC "demonstrated its outrageous disregard for the standards of journalists' responsibility and common human values."

It is strange that the Russian government, which has long trampled the rights of journalists and has committed atrocities in Chechnya for years (left), is so concerned with journalistic responsibility and human values.

In his final thought during the July 28 show, Nightline host Ted Koppel defended ABC's decision to broadcast segments of the interview and said that they were news-worthy: "It is of real value only because it guarantees us access to the unpopular espousing the unacceptable. Then we can reject or accept it, condemn it or embrace it. No one should have the authority to make that decision for us. Not our own government; and certainly not somebody else's."

During the show, Basayev's role in terrorism against Russian and Chechen civilians was clearly stated.

The Russian government also announced that they plan on investigating the legal status of Babitsky, to see if he was supposed to be in Chechnya when he interviewed Basayev. Babitsky, a veteran Russian reporter, has covered the two Chechen wars (1994-96; 1999-To Present) and is often critical of the brutal tactics used by the Russian military against Chechens, both militants and civilians. The human rights abuses and war crimes committed by the Russian military have long been condemned by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the U.S. government, and European governments.

Atrocities have been committed by both Russian forces and certain Chechen militant groups (right), though the U.S. Department of State continues to recognize that not all Chechen separatist groups are engaged in terrorism. Foreign fighters, including Arabs from the Persian Gulf states, have also come into Chechnya, leading to the steady radicalization of the Chechen independence movement. The Russian government has tried to convince the world that all Chechen separatists are terrorists, something that other world governments and non-governmental organizations have continued to reject.

For more information on Chechen terrorist groups, see:

To view a web site highly sympathetic to Chechen terrorist groups, see:

To read a Human Rights Watch Report, issued on March 10, about Russian abuses, see:

To read a July 1 report from Amnesty International on Russian human rights abuses in Chechnya, see:

The Committe to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in response to the decision of the Russian government: "This action reflects the Kremlin's growing intolerance of any kind of criticism, especially in regard to its actions in Chechnya." CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said in a statement that the Russian government is "clearly trying to intimidate foreign journalists into censoring their news reporting on the war in Chechnya. We call on the (foreign) ministry to reverse its decision immediately."

To read the Committee to Protect Journalists' (CJP) official letter of protest to the Russian Foreign Ministry for its decision to place restrictions on ABC News, see:

To read the section of the CJP's Attacks on the Press 2004 report on Russia, see:

Over the last several years, Russian society has become increasingly restricted as the government's power steadily increases. Under President Vladimir Putin (left), the Russian government has waged a campaign against critics and political opponents of the regime. Putin also ordered the re-invasion of the breakaway republic of Chechnya in 1999, allegedly in response to "terrorism" in Moscow, though his claims have never been conclusively verified. A notorious autocrat and former KGB officer, Putin has come under increasing pressure from the European Union and U.S. President George W. Bush to halt his move toward a totalitarian Russian state. However, his decision to place restrictions on ABC and his continuation of the consolidation of his own power at home clearly show that Putin has no intention of moving Russia toward true democracy.

For more information on the spat between the Russian government and ABC News, see:



Friday, August 05, 2005

Jewish Terrorist Opens Fire on Israeli Arab Bus

On Thursday, in the Israeli Arab town of Shfaram in the northern Galilee region, an AWOL Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldier Eden Natan-Zada, 19, opened fire inside a civilian bus, killing four people and wounding at least 12. He was then killed by an angry crowd that gathered soon after the shooting began. According to some reports, Natan-Zada was lynched. The shooting lasted for approximately five minutes.

Natan-Zada was a resident of the Jewish settlement of Tapuah, located in the occupied West Bank, which is a known stronghold of followers of the late radical, racist American-born Rabbi Meir Kahane. According to a report in Ha'aretz, Israel's premier English-language daily newspaper, Natan-Zada, who has been AWOL for a month, was also a member of the outlawed terrorist organization Kach, founded by Kahane.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called Natan-Zada's attack "a sinful act" that was committed "by a bloodthirsty terrorist." Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also condemned today's attack, which comes less than two weeks before the Israeli police and military are scheduled to begin evicting the approximately 7,500-8,000 Israeli Jewish settlers (many of them Americans) from the Gaza Strip. Extremist Israeli Jews (right), most of them members of the settler movement, have threatened to unleash a wave of violence in response to the eviction. Others have promised non-violent resistance. Still others have threatened to commit mass suicide. Some Israeli extremists have even prayed for the Angel of Death to come and kill Prime Minister Sharon.

Israeli police fear that the attack could lead to angry protests from Israel's approximately 1 million Arab citizens, who live mostly in the Galilee region and near the Golan Heights and the Lebanese border.

Although the Yesha Council's chairman, Bentzi Lieberman, condemned the attack as the actions of a "madman," his organization still tried to explain Tzuberi's actions. A spokesman for the Yesha Council of Settlements, the main organization representing the settler movement, in an attempt to justify or explain today's terrorist attack, said that the upcoming Gaza disengagement "had led individuals to lose their head."

According to early reports, the Israeli Hebrew-language media initially referred to the attack as a "shooting" as opposed to a terrorist attack. Angry Israeli Arab leaders, including members of the Knesset, have been critical of this. Public protests in the Galilee region are planned for later this week.

For more information on Thursday's terrorist attack, see:





For an analysis of Thursday's terrorist attack by Ha'aretz, see:

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said on Friday that Natan-Zada (left) would not be buried with military honors. Mofaz said that Natan-Zada was "unworthy of being buried next to the fallen soldiers of Israel's wars." His announcement was soon followed by statements from the mayors of Natan-Zada's hometown of Rishon Letzion and his place of residence, Tapuah, prohibiting his burial in either municipality. Natan-Zada's family says that they will petition Israel's High Court in an attempt to have Mofaz's decision overturned. The Israeli military command in the West Bank has also banned his burial in the West Bank, after members of Kach expressed a desire to see the terrorist buried in Hebron.

For more information on the burial debate of Natan-Zada, see:

Initial investigations by the IDF and the Israeli internal security services, the Shin Bet, have revealed that although there was a wealth of information on Natan-Zada and his ties to Jewish terrorist groups, there was inadequate sharing of that information between government agencies.

For more information on the Israeli investigation, see:

Two of Natan-Zada's victims were buried today in the Galilee, as thousands of Israeli Arabs turned out to mourn and show their anger. The victims were identified yesterday as: Michel Bahus, 56; Nader Hayak, 55; Hazar Turki, 23; and Dina Turki, 21.

The Anti-Defamation League issued a press release, calling Natan-Zada a "Jewish terrorist" who carried out an "unspeakable act."

To the Israeli government's credit, Prime Minister Sharon has pressed for the categorization of Thursday's attack as an act of terror, so the families of the four victims will be eligible to receive funds from a government-run fund.

Meir Kahane (left), a former member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, before his party was declared a terrorist organization and banned, was killed on November 5, 1990 by an Egyptian radical in New York City. His son, Binyamin, was killed in 2000 by Palestinian militants near the Jewish settlement of Ofra in the occupied West Bank. Father and son both advocated the forcible expulsion of all Arabs from Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Their followers, who number in the hundreds or low thousands, currently form the most radical elements of the Israeli Jewish settler movement. Kach and a splinter Kahanist group, Kahane Chai ("Kahane Lives") are considered terrorist organizations by the U.S. and Israeli governments. Despite this, Kahanist groups are known to raise funds from among radical Jewish-Americans in the U.S.

For a taste of Kahanist extremism, see:

Monday, August 01, 2005

Saudi Arabia's King Fahd Dies

Fahd ibn 'Abd al-Aziz ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Sa'ud (b. 1923) [pictured right] king of Saudi Arabia since 1982, died today of medical complications reportedly related to stress. Although he was nominally the head of the Saudi state, King Fahd, who suffered a stroke in 1995, had left the day-to-day operations of the kingdom to his brother, Crown Prince 'Abdullah ibn 'Abd al-Aziz ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Sa'ud (b. 1924). King Fahd will be buried tomorrow. After midday prayers on Wednesday, King 'Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan will hold a public meeting, where prominent tribal leaders and government officials will come to pledge their allegiance to the kingdom's new rulers.

To view the official statement from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C. on the death of King Fahd, see:

As news of King Fahd's death spread, official news outlets in the kingdom played recitations of the Qur'an and the country's chief official clerics offered prayers. Crown Prince 'Abdullah (left) assumed the throne.

In an official written statement, U.S. President George W. Bush referred to the new Saudi King, 'Abdullah, as "my friend," going on to say, "I have spoken today to the new king, and the United States looks forward to continuing the close partnership between our two countries." Condolences from political leaders around the world continued to come in throughout the day on Monday.

The conservative and influential Prince Sultan ibn 'Abd al-Aziz ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman al-Sa'ud (below right) was named the new heir apparent. Crown Prince Sultan (b. 1928) [pictured right]was also named the new Deputy Prime Minister of the kingdom and keeps his previous posts of Minister of Defense, Inspector General, and Minister of Aviation.

The incoming Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Turki al-Faisal, himself a son of a former king, told Reuters that he did not expect any major changes in U.S.-Saudi relations: "I cannot imagine there will be any particular change in [foreign] policy undertaken by the late King Fahd."

During King Fahd's reign, Saudi Arabia enjoyed an unprecedented level of economic wealth. As the ruler of the world's most oil-rich nation, he used the billions of dollars pouring into government coffers for a variety of purposes, including the massive expansions of the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina, which bolstered his reputation as "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" among the world's Muslims. According to official Saudi government figures, the two projects cost an estimated $11.2 billion.

During his reign, King Fahd also supervised the expansion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, which currently brings over 2 million Muslims a year to the cities of Mecca (left) and Medina. He also donated substantial amounts of money for the restoration of the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Through government-sponsored and controlled religious organizations such as the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and the World Muslim League (WML), King Fahd's government spent millions of dollars to propagate Saudi Arabia's official interpretation of Sunni Islam, known commonly as "Wahhabism," but more accurately referred to as "Salafi." The Saudi government donated monies to a variety of religious charities, rebuilding mosques (albeit in the Saudi style) destroyed by the Serbs during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, and paying for the construction of hundreds of Islamic centers and mosques throughout the world.

Critics of the Saudi regime have alleged that under King Fahd, the worldwide propagation of conservative Salafi thought reached an all-time high. Some pundits, such as Stephen Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, have even alleged that the Saudi government under King Fahd was responsible for the rise of radical terrorist groups such as al Qaeda. Other observers have argued that the Saudi government, in an attempt to direct the attention of radical Salafis away from royal family, paid for the export of such ideology to other countries and regions, including the U.S., Europe, Africa, Central Asia, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up a puppet communist government, King Fahd, in partnership with the U.S. and Pakistan's ISI intelligence services became an ardent supporter and supplier of the Muslim mujahideen ("holy warriors"), who fought Soviet forces for 10 years. Saudi and U.S. monetary support, much of it funneled to Afghan guerilla organizations by the ISI, allowed the mujahideen to keep up a constant level of pressure on Soviet forces, who were eventually forced to withdraw in 1989. As many people in the West now know, it was during the Afghan jihad against the Soviets that radical groups, including the forerunners of al Qaeda, were able to build up their forces. Both Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's operational chief, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, (both pictured right) as well as bin Laden's Jordanian mentor, Shaykh 'Abd Allah Azzam, came to Afghanistan to participate in the jihad against the Soviets.

In 1991, King Fahd angered many ultra-conservative Saudis, including influential Salafi clerics not connected to the government, when he allowed tens of thousands of foreign, non-Muslim troops (mostly from the U.S. and the United Kingdom) to set up bases in the kingdom in order to prepare for a Operation Desert Shield against then Iraqi President Saddam Husayn al-Tikriti. Even after Iraqi forces were expelled from Kuwait, which they had occupied since August 1990, U.S. forces remained for over a decade.

Osama bin Laden and a host of radical Salafi Saudi clerics criticized the monarchy, headed by King Fahd, for allowing non-Muslim troops to remain in the "holy lands" of Islam, namely the Arabian Peninsula, where Islam rose in the mid seventh century. However, Shaykh 'Abd al-Aziz ibn 'Abd ar-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah bin Baz (b. 1909) [pictured left], the grand mufti (chief cleric) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for decades until his death in 1999, was able to reign in even the radical Salafi elements within the country. Bin Baz's successor as head of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Da'wa and Guidance, Shaykh Saleh ash-Shaykh (right), a descendant of the 18th century conservative preacher Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab, does not have the same level of influence over the country's religious elite or the radical independent clergy.

During First Gulf War, it also became clear that despite spending tens of millions of dollars on its military, the Saudi army and airforce was incapable of defending the kindom's territory from aggressive Iraqi military units, who briefly invaded.

Under King Fahd, Saudi Arabia became one of the few countries to recognize the Taliban government of Mullah Muhammad Omar in Afghanistan.

Despite the troubled legacy of his religious/Islamic policies, King Fahd ushered in a new age of modernization and prosperity to the desert kingdom, expanding the country's education system, solidifying the oil wealth, and garnering a prominent place for the kingdom among the Arab and Islamic world, as well as the wider world. However, it was throughout the Arab and Muslim world that Saudi Arabia under King Fahd had the most influence. For example, in 1989, he oversaw the negotiation and eventual signing (on October 22, 1989) of the Taif Accord, which ended, at least officially, the brutal Second Lebanese Civil War, which broke out in 1975.

For more information on the death and legacy of King Fahd, see:


To view comments from prominent world leaders on the death of King Fahd, see:


To view an analysis from the Financial Times on the opportunities now open to King 'Abdullah, see:

To view a CNN Interactive profile on King 'Abdullah, see: