International Committee of the Red Cross, Hamas Guardians. (On Fish & House Guests II)

In September 2010 I wrote here about the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and it’s too ready inclination of sympathy towards Hamas, to the extent that it gave sanctuary to three wanted Hamas fugitives, Ahmad Attoun, Khaled Abu-Arafa and Muhammad Totah. 

The three had been ordered to leave East Jerusalem having had their residency permits revoked when they refused to renounce their ties with Hamas.  As I noted in my previous article, the Hamas members were openly supported by Uri Avneri and others on the extreme left in Israel, who visited them at the ICRC’s headquarters in the Sheikh Jarrah building in East Jerusalem. 

The Red Cross, despite their statement that the Israeli police could have arrested them whenever they wanted, aided and abetted them to break Israeli law by making them comfortable there.    

According to the Jerusalem Post (Hamas MPs hiding in E. Jerusalem Red Cross arrested, Jan. 23) all of the fugitives were provided with a room inside the building where they could sleep and keep their belongings, a bathroom, and electricity for their protest tent together with a water cooler.  Readers will agree that these are hardly the actions of unwilling hosts towards wanted men.  We are told that the men met with overseas dignitaries, and even held a press conference there.  Family members came daily to bring food and clothing.   All this is in contrast to the ICRC’s passivity and its lack of effort to gain access to Gilad Shalit while he was being held by Hamas.

It seemed then that the ICRC’s house guests, like the fish in the proverb, would soon begin to smell but it transpired not.  Ahmad Attoun was arrested several months ago, having been lured onto the street by Israeli police.

The police seemed unsure what to do about Abu-Arafa and Totah, but undercover police finally went into the building and arrested the two, who put up no resistance.

It seems that the ICRC’s actions are the only things that smell, because, in spite of its protestations that it is involved only in humanitarian issues, it did not force these Hamas supporters to leave their premises.  

Its “we are involved only in humanitarian efforts” excuse also rings rather hollow in the light of recent revelations that it has provided first aid training to the Taliban, the impact of which it tried to minimise by staying that it had also provided training to Afghani civilians “to ensure that everyone is treated humanely” and …”as fairly as possible.” 

People might wonder, and rightly, whether that first aid to non-combatants included how to relieve the pain and prevent further harm to people who have had a limb chopped off or acid thrown in their faces.

Now I would not put it past the Taliban to have the cheek to demand/request these favours from the politically and morally paralysed – oops, I mean “neutral” – ICRC, but the moral equivalence which accompanied the meeting of that demand/request beggars belief, as do the ICRC’s excuses for providing it.

Guardian’s favorite Jihadist: Former al-Qaeda member Moazzem Begg published for 18th time at CiF

I’d truly like to understand the moral logic which guides those who believe that a man who associated with the most violent, hateful, misogynistic and reactionary movements in the world can be considered a voice for human rights.

Moazzem Begg, former member of Al-Qaida and the Taliban, who attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan to “assist in waging jihad against enemies of Islam” has published his 18th essay at CiF, “We demand the truth about British involvement in torture“, Jan 12.

Begg, a  British Pakistani Muslim, was detained by the Pakistani military in 2002 due to evidence linking him with al-Qaeda, was shortly turned over to the U.S., and spent two years in Guantanamo Bay before being released after pressure from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw – albeit over the strong objections of The Pentagon.

Bryan Whitman, U.S. Defense Dep’t spokesman, said after Begg’s release that there was no question he has strong, long-term ties to terrorism—as a sympathizer, as a recruiter, as a financier and as a combatant.”

Whitman added, quoting an eight-page confession that Begg made while incarcerated, that Begg admitted:

I was armed and prepared to fight alongside the Taliban and al-Qaeda against the U.S. and others, and eventually retreated to Tora Bora to flee from U.S. forces when our front lines collapsed…. [I] knowingly provided comfort and assistance to al-Qaeda members by housing their families, helped distribute al-Qaeda propaganda, and received members from terrorist camps knowing that certain trainees could become al-Qaeda operatives and commit acts of terrorism against the United States

After his release, Begg became an advocate for the rights of terror suspects, and, as Director for Cageprisoners, continues to speak around the country, lecturing on imprisonment without trial, torture, and anti-terror legislation, and has been promoted by Amnesty International.

True to form, Begg, in his latest CiF post, lashes out against allegations of extrajudicial detention, and torture, of terror suspects,  by the UK.

Yet, it would take truly exceptional mental tricks not to question the moral authority of a polemicist with proven ties to the Taliban, a group whose brutality and savagery, to both combatants and civilians, is exceptional even by the standards of Islamist terror groups.

Does it at all strike Guardian editors as odd to continually commission essays on the subject of “human rights” by a Jihadist associated with a group which engaged in simply horrendous repression of women and girls,  issued edicts which forbade women from being educated, and publicly beat women for running afoul of the regime’s morality police?

It would be impossible to do justice to the degree and quantity of Taliban atrocities, but, in addition to conducting nothing short of an extermination against the Hazara minority in the 90s, Afghanistan under the Taliban had, by any measure, one of the worst human rights records in the world.  They systematically repressed all sectors of the population, denied even the most basic individual rights, and literally enslaved the female population.  As Christopher Hitchens noted, “the Taliban does not violate human rights, but entirely lacks the concept of their existence.”

Astonishingly, Begg, the “human rights advocate”, wrote, in his autobiography that the Taliban had made “some modest progress—in social justice and upholding pure, old Islamic values forgotten in many Islamic countries.”

In fact, Begg’s support for terror hasn’t waned in recent years.

In an article in the Irish Times, when asked if the actions of the Taliban, and the resulting deaths British soldiers and foreign aid workers, were justified, he answered:

“If you are asking me what are my feelings towards people fighting occupation, the answer is I completely support them. I believe in the inalienable right to defend yourself against foreign occupation.”

In fact, in a recent essay published by Begg, titled ‘Jihad and Terrorism: A War of the Words’, he glorifies violent Jihad, writing:

“The Quran also describes both jihad and qitaal as a transaction for which the ultimate prize is achieved by paying the ultimate price: Indeed Allah has purchased from the believers their lives and their wealth in return for Paradise. They fight in the Way of Allah, they kill and are killed.”

And:

“O you who believe! Shall I guide you to a commerce that will save you from a grievous torment? That you believe in Allah and His Messenger and you perform jihad in the way of Allah with your wealth and your lives.”

In the very next paragraph, he writes that Jihad is the duty of every Muslim and condemns those who refuse to do this, as a ‘major sin’.

“According to the consensus of the Islamic schools of thought (mathaahib), jihad (with wealth and in person, in the military sense) becomes an individual obligation, like prayer and fasting, on Muslim men and women when their land is occupied by foreign enemies or when an invasion is imminent.

Moazzem Begg: former member, recruiter, propagandist and combatant for reactionary, murderous terrorist groups, believer that violent Jihad is required of every Muslim, and supporter of attacks against his nation’s own citizens.

And, “human rights” commentator at ‘Comment is Free’.

Are suicide bombings acts of “Altruism”? Another Guardian moral inversion

A guest post by Mitnaged

The CiF article by Aditya Chakrabortty is quite up to the usual standards of Comment is Free.  Those of us who are acquainted with The Guardian world view (Islamism good = opposition to Islamism, particularly by Israel and Jews = bad) might be forgiven for believing that the headline alone – “Are al-Qaida and the Taliban driven by a desire to help others” – is an attempt to sanitise the murder and mayhem by Al-Qaida and the Taliban in the wake of the hunting down and killing of Osama bin Laden.

True, Chakrabortty asks the question of whether two of the most barbaric terrorist organisations are driven by altruism rather than states it as fact.  However, the article lacks the depth to examine the answers fully.  It cherry-picks from research into terrorism but in such a way as only to lean towards its tendentious thesis, and as usual uses the end results of that selectivity to argue that bin Laden’s death is the single biggest distraction from a serious analysis of the roots of terrorism.  It is not.  That serious analysis is still ongoing.

The author says that “some” researchers view suicide bombers/jihadis as desperate but rational human beings, operating in wrecked countries.  He refers to Ariel Merari, whose work has provided valuable insights into the mindsets of suicide terrorists, notably that they are not depressed or suicidal, by and large, and neither are they insane.

Chakrabortty goes on to quote from what I believe to be a cursory, and therefore over simplistic interpretation of Eli Berman who provides a predominantly economic explanation for the growth of suicide terror and argues that cutting their funding can undermine them fatally.  Chakrabortty says that the Taliban and Hamas also provide vital social services which they can use to bring people to their cause (or equally to threaten by deprivation of them, or to distribute them unevenly as does Hamas in Gaza).

But altruism?  How like CiF to batten onto that word, so positive in its connotations, and yet so misplaced in the way Chakrabortty and The Guardian want us to believe it means.   Can any rational, intelligent person believe that men, women and children who walk into crowds of civilians anywhere in the world, and blow themselves and the surrounding crowds to smithereens do so out of their own altruism?   And can we really argue that the motives of the sociopaths who recruit them are altruistic as it is defined below* and as most of us might construe it?

The psychological explanations of suicide terror, whether they result in a personality typology or not, are, in my opinion, most illustrative of the lack of altruism of the bomber’s mindset.  Can a person who possesses no altruistic motivation be talked into it?  The poor fools whose heads have been ideologically conditioned to further the Islamist cause may not be altruistic at all.  True, they may well have been told that their deaths will serve the greater good, but that is a calculated ploy on the part of their handlers to get them to perform the deed:

According to Dr Ami Pedahzur (2006) terrorists seeking to recruit suicide bombers look for individuals who are personally committed to a leader, group or ideology or who have suffered a personal crisis brought about by the suffering of family, friends or community members with whom they feel a deep sense of identification. Furthermore, they must be in an environment that supports suicide terrorism.  Such people, although sane, are emotionally vulnerable and have potential to be inspired by the network’s goals.  They may be recruited by family members, close friends or even casual acquaintances.

More recently, in Iraq, another type of suicide bomber, female, has entered the scenario, women who have been deliberately raped and forced to become human bombs to save their and their families’ honour.  What we see here is cynical, sociopathic exploitation, the reduction of these women to mere “means/ends” objects rather than evidence of the altruism of their recruiters and trainers who are sending them to certain painful death, while they themselves remain safe.

Once identified, training the suicide bomber can occur very quickly sometimes in a matter of hours.  The trainers convey the basics about the operational side of the mission, and ensure the recruit’s mental preparedness for the mission so as to reduce the chances that he or she will change his or her mind at the last-minute.   

While Islam condemns suicide just as many other religions do, terrorist recruiters position the act as “self sacrifice” for a supreme cause—a sacrifice that brings the individual honour and respect and guarantees him or her eternal salvation (see here for various Islamic rulings on the permissibility of suicide bombing, the use of prisoners as human shields, etc). This may further complicate matters for people like Charkrabortty who appear all too willingly to believe that those regimes who willingly send people to blow themselves up among innocent people are motivated by “altruism”.

The indoctrination process into suicide terrorism generally includes showing the recruit persuasive thematic material that supports the effort and exploiting charismatic images to help them internalize the cause. Recruits also are often shown final testimonials from “successful” suicide bombers that reinforce the commitment to die for the cause. The conditioning process may occur in such a manner that the recruit is not even aware of what group he or she is acting on behalf of.

A unique and seminal insight into the process, from recruitment onwards can be found here .   From this and from other articles I have read, it seems that any altruism possessed by these “dead men walking” is introjected from the pretence of their handlers and then bedded in by their training.  Note particularly the warning to the reporter that she must not refer to these operations as “suicide” operations because suicide is forbidden by Islam.  The suicide bomber recruitment process is almost identical to that employed by the Moonies and other cults, even down to the distortion of language it uses.

But, returning to the theme of “altruism”,  from a psychological perspective, in psychology and psychiatry, altruism is considered to be one of the healthiest types of psychological defence mechanism, and is *defined as “constructive service to others which brings pleasure and personal satisfaction.”  Note the “constructive”.   Altruism may be a way of turning one’s bad impulses into behaviour which is positive and pleasurable to the self and others, it cannot be said to be the driver for nihilism and murder.

Now, there seems to be little reason to doubt that every explosion of a human bomb among Israeli civilians or soldiers in Afghanistan is pleasurable to the people who ordered it, and in the case of Palestinians and others who react with joy to the murder of Israelis.  However, to assert that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda and their offshoots in infamy are acting from altruistic motives is to make the worst sort of category mistake,[1] as well as, given that this is after all published on CiF, almost certainly a deliberate attempt to mislead.


[1] Category mistake is a term introduced by English philosopher Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) for cases where we talk of something in terms appropriate only to something of a radically different kind.

Guardian cartoon serves up ultimate insult to Britain’s War dead

A guest post by Tom Wilson.

In honour of the admirable way in which the small Wiltshire market town of Wooton-Basset has received Britain’s war dead her Majesty the Queen is to bestow Royal status on this much deserving community.

Since 2007 the people of this town have with great dignity and respect been lining their high street to observe the repatriation of Britain’s fallen.  Young men and women who lost their lives defending the security of not only this country but also many other European countries who have made no such similar contribution or sacrifice in the West’s struggle with global terrorism.  And, of course, members of Britain’s armed forces also gave up their lives defending the safety, freedom and democracy of the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, formerly under the oppression of Saddam Hussein, formerly under the assault of the Taliban.

But what was the Guardian’s response to this?

No article of congratulation, of that at least perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.  But instead the Guardian’s website simply featured Steven Bell’s despicable cartoon, mockingly titled ‘The war on language’, the town’s name pathetically changed to ‘Wooton-deathfest’, a cheap jibe to imply the people of this town have enjoyed and relished the sight of seeing men and women in their early twenties paraded through the town’s centre in wooden boxes.  And in the background of all of this is a ridiculous billboard depicting Cameron with a Condom pulled over his head, now seemingly a signature mark of Bell’s childish doodlings.

Further, take a few moments to read over the comments on the website where Guardian readers, quite characteristically, have offered up their wholehearted praise for Bell’s shameless drawing.

Few would be naive enough to imagine that there’s any respect left for this country down at the offices of the Guardian, but one might have at least hoped that respect for the dead and regard for human dignity might have carried some weight with these people, but apparently not.

(Tom Wilson is studying for a PhD in Israeli politics at London’s UCL.  As well as being Co-Chair of the UCL Jewish Society, Tom is also a researcher for Beyond Images and is the London representative for the conflict resolution and democracy promotion group StandforPeace.)

The historical inventions of CiF Belief columnist Scott Atran

The following is a guest post by By Elliott A. Green

(Green’s post is a response to an essay in the Belief section of CiF, 0n Nov. 29, by Scott Atran, titled: The Taliban’s Expat Jihadists. Among the many extraordinary claims made by Atran – in an essay which attempts to downplay and rationalize Taliban Islamic extremism – was was his allegation that “[ancient] Jewish partisans carried out suicide attacks to incite Roman retaliation against the civilian population and so increase popular support for the rebels’ cause.”)

The name “partisan”, which probably stems from the resistance of the Parthian people to Roman occupation 2,100 years ago, was first systematically applied to Jewish zealots and other “terrorists” just after the time of Jesus. Jewish partisans carried out suicide attacks to incite Roman retaliation against the civilian population and so increase popular support for the rebels’ cause. – Scott Atran

They say that paper is the most tolerant thing in the world; it will bear anything, including Scott Atran’s inventions. If Atran’s references to ancient history have no grounds and no weight, then what he writes about contemporary events concerning Israel should be seen as having similar unreliability. And the publication where he writes such fanciful tales ought to be likewise seen as unreliable.

To start with the word “partisan.” He claims that it comes from alleged ancient Parthian “resistance.” The respected Random House American College Dictionary tells us that the word means “an adherent or supporter of a person, party or cause,” or “a member of a party of light or irregular troops…,” and that it came into English from French and into French from the Italian partigiano. The  French Dictionnaire Pratique du Francais (Hachette 1987) agrees on the origin, while the French Le Petit Larousse does not indicate an origin but adds the meaning: “A voluntary combatant. . . fighting for a national, political or religious ideal.” Finally, Il Grande Italiano 2008 (Hoepli) basically concurs on the meanings, while telling us that partigiano comes from the word “parte” (= side, faction or party, as in a soccer match or lawsuit, among other meanings). No mention of Parthians.

Be that as it may, were the Parthians an oppressed people fighting colonial occupiers? Hardly. They were a dynasty of rulers emerging from what is now northern Iran. Most importantly, they were imperial rivals of Rome with which they fought several wars.

There was a competition between empires, not a struggle for self-determination or liberty on the part of Parthians.

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Why hasn’t this been deleted?

There were hundreds of comments beneath the thread in response to the CiF pieceBurqas and bikinis(an utterly breathtaking display of rationalizing terrorism and hatred for the West) by Priyamvada Gopal.  Gopal’s essay was inspired by that now iconic photo of an 18-year-old Afghan girl whose ears and nose were sliced off by the Taliban, as punishment for running away from her abusive in-laws.  Her narrative suggested a moral equivalence between the violent misogynistic brutality of The Taliban and the treatment of women in the U.S. and other democratic countries.

Among the comments to the piece was this thinly veiled, threat (still not taken down by CiF editors at the time of this writing) by “Khoda Saadi,” in response to a commenter critical of Gopal’s piece.