Ibrahim, the Shin Bet Wants You to Join Qaida

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Mon Dec 16 14:40:59 MST 2002


Ibrahim, the Shin Bet wants you to join Qaida

PA unveils Israeli intelligence scheme, denies Gaza links to bin Laden

By Danny Rubinstein

Early last week, Rashi Abu Sba, head of the preventive security
apparatus in Gaza, the equivalent of the Shin Bet, accused the
Israeli security service of tricking young Palestinians into
conducting missions in the name of Al-Qaida. Last Tuesday, a young
man named Ibrahim was presented to reporters in Gaza. Ibrahim hid his
face behind a mask, and told what happened to him.

He said that a year ago he sent in a personal, with his photo and
phone number, to East Jerusalem's Posta, a cultural-entertainment
weekly with a personals section. Three months later, the Gazan
received a phone call from an older man, who introduced himself as a
merchant named Ahmed, who told Ibrahim that his photo reminded him of
his son. They spoke on the phone a number of times, with Ahmed asking
Ibrahim about the situation - and if he was a devout Muslim.

During one of the conversations, Ahmed told Ibrahim that he wanted to
help Gazans in economic distress and began sending money - cash in
dollars and Jordanian dinars - through the Nablus branch of the
Cairo-Amman bank. Ibrahim told Ahmed that he had never been arrested
nor involved in any political organization. Then, in one of the
conversations, Ahmed said he was working for Osama bin Laden's
Al-Qaida organization, and Ibrahim was meant to be one of its
organizers in northern Gaza since the group already had an
infrastructure in the south. Ahmed gave Ibrahim a list of people,
mostly Hamas activists, and was told to collect information about
them and follow them so they could also be drafted for the Al-Qaida
cause.

The two never met, but at a certain point during their telephone
contact, Ibrahim became suspicious. He contacted a preventive
security officer in Gaza and told him the whole story. The officer
looked into the matter and told Ibrahim that Ahmed was an Israeli
Shin Bet agent, and Ibrahim should immediately cut off any contacts
with him.

Palestinian sources said last week that the case was not unusual, and
they reported it, as well as similar cases, during a security meeting
with top-level U.S. security officials.

Ahmed from the Shin Bet

The incident was revealed against the background of the terror
attacks on Israelis three weeks ago in Mombasa, Kenya - the first
Al-Qaida operation aimed specifically against an Israeli target after
the group had attacked a Jewish target, the synagogue on Jerba
Island, off the Tunisian coast. In the wake of the Mombasa attack,
Israeli intelligence circles began revealing information about
Al-Qaida operatives in Lebanon trying to recruit Gazan Palestinians.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon spoke
about it, and hinted that bin Laden is tightening his grip in Lebanon
and among Palestinians.

Those hints startled PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and his people. From
his office in Ramallah, Arafat told reporters, "Israel's accusations
tying Palestinians to Al-Qaida are meant to justify the
intensification of attacks against our people." An official
Palestinian Authority statement added: "We vehemently deny the
Israeli falsehoods about Al-Qaida being in Gaza." This was followed
by Abu Sba's revelations about the Ibrahim episode, which,
irrespective of the specific case, is common practice among
intelligence services worldwide.

The attempt to link Palestinians to Al-Qaida causes real anxiety
among Arafat's people. So far, there have only been a few cases of
Palestinians involved in international Islamic terrorism. The list of
terrorists published by the Americans after 9/11 included Saudis,
Egyptians, Pakistanis, Chechnyans, and a few Lebanese, Yemenites,
Sudanese, and some from the Gulf. Palestinian spokesmen explained
that the Palestinians have enough troubles of their own, and they do
not need to waste their energies on a world Islamic revolution.

But there was at least one Palestinian whose name came up - Sheikh
Abdullah Azam. Born in 1941 in the village of Silat al Hartiye, near
Jenin, he left the West Bank in 1966 to study Islam in Damascus and
Cairo. In the 1970s, he took up residence in Amman and taught Islam
at Jordan University. His specialty was jihad, and some of the books
he wrote on the subject are still available in bookstores in the
territories. At some stage, Azam spent a lengthy period of time in
the United States, and then was among the first to volunteer to fight
alongside the mujahideen in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden was impressed by Azam, even going so far as to call him "my
Palestinian mentor" in a number of interviews he gave to television
reporters. In 1989, Azam was killed in Afghanistan - the
circumstances are unclear - but was not forgotten. Over the years,
some of the Hamas cells have called themselves the Sheikh Abdullah
Azam Shaheed Brigades.

There are names of a few other Palestinian students who studied in
Pakistan, where they became known to bin Laden's people and were
recruited into Al-Qaida, One is Nabil Ukal of Gaza, who was caught by
the Shin Bet at the Rafah junction two years ago and put on trial.
His verdict is expected in the near future.

Taken out of their hands

But Palestinian involvement in Al-Qaida has been the exception to the
rule, and the rule is that so far, Palestinian involvement in
international Islamic terror has been very marginal. The great fear
is that groups spawned by bin Laden's organization could put the
Palestinian issue high on their agenda, drawing increasing numbers of
Palestinians to their ranks.

That worries both Israel and the Palestinians. The Israeli fear is
self-evident. The Palestinian fear needs an explanation. Those
worried on the Palestinian side are the elite and the veteran
national leadership headed by Arafat. They conducted a decades-long
campaign for national liberation, and many Christians were in their
ranks. Now they watch with trepidation how Islamic fanatics are
taking the campaign out of their hands. It is not merely a question
of leadership; it is about the Palestinian agenda: Is the struggle
for liberation a secular national or religious-Muslim one? Judging by
Arafat's statements and those of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin,
the question is whether the campaign is to establish a Palestinian
state in the West Bank and Gaza or to liberate all the holy lands of
Palestine, making it a single Islamic wakf. True, Hamas and Al-Qaida
so far have different agendas, but bin Laden's growing involvement
among Palestinians could change that very quickly.

Nearly all members of PLO and PA institutions were students between
the 1950s and 1970s when leftist movements and "revolutionary"
regimes flowered in the Arab world. Many studied and trained in the
Soviet Union and its allied countries. Like regime leaders in Egypt
and in many Arab countries, the Palestinian national leadership has a
hard time dealing with the Islamic zealots.

The collapse of the peace process and the violence of the intifada
have greatly weakened the Palestinian national leadership. This week
in Cairo, the group's representatives plan to renew dialogue with
Hamas in a desperate attempt to forge a cease-fire and an end to the
terrorist attacks. Weaving connections between Al-Qaida's terrorists
and the Palestinian terrorists will not calm the intifada. On the
contrary, it will intensify the attacks. Arafat and his people know
that, of course. They have enough trouble with Hamas, and they can
see where the Islamic fanatics have taken their campaigns elsewhere
in the world. The last thing they need is Al-Qaida in Gaza, Ramallah,
or anywhere else in the West Bank.

<http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=241042&contrassID=2&subContrassID=5&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y>
--
Yoshie

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* Student International Forum: <http://www.osu.edu/students/sif/>
* Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osu.edu/students/CJP/>

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