Arab-Israeli Conflict

The Al Qaeda Connection

The Daily Dish – Andrew Sullivan

IHH denies this; Washington says it has no evidence; the IDF conceded that:

“We don’t have any evidence. The press release was based on information from the [Israeli] National Security Council.” (The Israeli National Security Council is Netanyahu’s kitchen cabinet of advisors).

The source for Stephens’ assertion, however, is this Danish Institute study (PDF) that does indeed persuasively show links between IHH and al Qaeda in the 1990s:

An examination of IHH’s phone records in Istanbul showed repeated telephone calls in 1996 to an Al-Qaida guesthouse in Milan and various Algerian terrorist operatives active elsewhere in Europe – including the notorious Abu el-Ma`ali, who has been subsequently termed by U.S. officials as a “junior Osama Bin Laden.”

During the later Seattle trial of would-be Al-Qaida Millenium bomber Ahmed Ressam, federal prosecutors called French magistrate Bruguiere to the stand as an expert witness. Bruguieretestified that IHH had played “[a]n important role” in the Al-Qaida Millenium bomb plot targeting LAX. Under repeated questioning, Bruguiere insisted that “[t]here’s a rather close relation”:

The IHH is an NGO, but it was kind of a type of cover-up… in order to obtain forged documents and also to obtain different forms of infiltration for Mujahi- deen in combat. And also to go and gather[recruit] these Mujahideens. And finally, one of the last responsibilities that they had was also to be implicated or involved in weapons trafficking.

It’s important to note the Islamist ties of IHH, and its past relationship with al Qaeda. What we cannot say is if any al Qaeda members were on board the ship, the Mavi Marmara. In fact, we simply have no evidence to back that up at all. One might have thought that taking the word of Cheney’s Netanyahu’s kitchen cabinet  about al Qaeda links might be a little radioactive after the Iraq war. But no. We’re back where we were.

Helen Thomas Dropped By Speaking Agency, Under Fire For Remarks On Middle East

Huffington Post

Under fire for controversial remarks she made (and apologized for) about the status of Jews in Israel, longtime White House scribe Helen Thomas was dropped on Sunday by her speaking agency.

“It is with a heavy heart that Nine Speakers, Inc. announces its resignation as the agent for Helen Thomas, Dean of the White House Press Corps,” read a statement from Diane Nine, president of the agency. “Ms. Thomas has had an esteemed career as a journalist, and she has been a trailblazer for women, helping others in her profession, and beyond. However, in light of recent events, Nine Speakers is no longer able to represent Ms. Thomas, nor can we condone her comments on the Middle East. Nine Speakers will continue to enthusiastically represent all of our other current and future clients.”

“We no longer represent Helen for books or lectures or anything else,” Nine added in an email to the Huffington Post.

Thomas caused a stir late this week when a video was released of her declaring that Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine” and go back to Germany and Poland. She has since apologized for the remarks, saying they did not properly reflect her position on the conflict of the Middle East. But the criticism has been scorching ever since. Late Friday night, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer called for Thomas’ firing from Hearst news service, where she serves as a columnist.

Former Clinton adviser and consummate political “centrist” Lanny Davis released a statement on Sunday that was even more condemning, calling Thomas, among other things, an “anti-Semitic bigot.”

“[H]er statement that Jews in Israel should leave Israel and go back to Poland or Germany is an ancient and well-known anti-Semitic stereotype of the Alien Jew not belonging in the ‘land of Israel’ — one that began 2,600 years ago with the first tragic and violent diaspora of the Jews at the hands of the Romans,” Davis’ statement read, in part. “If she had asked all blacks to go back to Africa, what would the White House Correspondents Association’s position be as to whether she deserved White House press room credentials — much less a privileged honorary seat?”

Hearst has so far declined to weigh in on Thomas’ status as a columnist with its news service. But the growing sentiment within the larger media world is that she should, at the very least, have her privileged status at the White House revoked. Davis himself argued for the suspension of “all privileges in the White House press room” in addition to her nationally-syndicated column. Meanwhile, on Sunday, Time Magazine‘s Joe Klein penned a post for the website arguing that Thomas should no longer be able to sit in the front row at daily press briefings — albeit because she was an editorialist as much as for her incendiary remarks.

Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent, had been fairly upfront on her position of the Israel-Palestine crisis prior to the most recent comments surfacing. But the videotape released on Friday has placed her viewpoints in a much sharper and critical light and raised uncomfortable questions and coverage about her position within the White House press corps.