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Walid Shoebat was born in Beit Sahour in the occupied terroritories/Palestine; he was purportedly engaged in a terrorist action, he was imprisoned, and upon his release he converted to Christianity and became ardently pro-Israel. For some time Shoebat produced a radio program broadcast from a settlement near Ramallah, but has since moved to the United States where he is a regular lecturer or speaker on "jihad ideology" and the anti-semitism of those critical of Israel. Shoebat now even has a "publicist" and "agent", Keith Davies (an Irish journalist) who also boasts the title Executive Director of the Walid Shoebat Foundation.
Beginning in 2003, Zionist groups have taken Shoebat on well-publicized speaking tours at universities and synagogues, and on radio and television shows; Shoebat is presented as a "former PLO terrorist", someone who has forsaken Islam for Christianity, and who is now also a zionist. In appearance hosted by the Berkeley's Bridges to Israel group, "Shoebat donned a kippah and proudly proclaimed Ani Tzioni - I am a Zionist - in Hebrew".
On several occasions the scheduling of Shoebat's lectures coincided close to the date of major events hosted by pro-Palestinian solidarity groups (e.g., Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights brought Norman Finkelstein to Concordia in March 2004; Shoebat's lecture took place a week later). NB: this was after a protracted campaign by local zionists to bar Finkelstein's talk and the removal of event advertisements from the campus walls. On one occasion the title of the lecture presented by Shoebat was very close to that of an alternative event Palestinian solidarity event, and very helpfully posters about the latter talk had been removed. By following the trajectory of Shoebat's lectures, it is clear that these are not determined by proximity to various venues, the trajectory seems to be determined by local events.
- In the 25 years I have been in Washington I have never heard anything so extraordinary and the truth so eloquently told by someone like this [Walid Shoebat]."
Some critical accounts
Chris Hedges comments on the phenomenon of the "useful ideological fools" in general, Shoebat in particular :
Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zachariah Anani are the three stooges of the Christian right. These self-described former Muslim terrorists are regularly trotted out at Christian colleges-a few days ago they were at the Air Force Academy-to spew racist filth about Islam on behalf of groups such as Focus on the Family. It is a clever tactic. Curly, Larry and Mo, who all say they are born-again Christians, engage in hate speech and assure us it comes from personal experience. They tell their audiences that the only way to deal with one-fifth of the world's population is by converting or eradicating all Muslims. Their cant is broadcast regularly on Fox News, including the Bill O'Reilly and Neil Cavuto shows, as well as on numerous Christian radio and television programs. Shoebat, who has written a book called "Why We Want to Kill You," promises in his lectures to explain the numerous similarities between radical Muslims and the Nazis, how "Muslim terrorists" invaded America 30 years ago and how "perseverance, recruitment and hate" have fueled attacks by Muslims.
These men are frauds, but this is not the point. They are part of a dark and frightening war by the Christian right against tolerance that, in the moment of another catastrophic terrorist attack on American soil, would make it acceptable to target and persecute all Muslims, including the some 6 million Muslims who live in the United States. These men stoke these irrational fears. They defend the perpetual war unleashed by the Bush administration and championed by Sen. John McCain. McCain frequently reminds listeners that "the greatest danger facing the world is Islamic terrorism," as does Mike Huckabee, who says that "Islamofascism" is "the greatest threat this country [has] ever faced." George W. Bush has, in the same vein, assured Americans that terrorists hate us for our freedoms, not, of course, for anything we have done. Bush described the "war on terror" as a war against totalitarian Islamofascism while the Israeli air force was dropping tens of thousands of pounds of iron fragmentation bombs up and down Lebanon, an air campaign that killed 1,300 Lebanese civilians.
The three men tell lurid tales of being recruited as children into Palestinian terrorist organizations, murdering hundreds of civilians and blowing up a bank in Israel. Saleem says that as a child he infiltrated Israel to plant bombs via a network of tunnels underneath the Golan Heights, although no incident of this type was ever reported in Israel. He claims he is descended from the "grand wazir" of Islam, a title and a position that do not exist in the Arab world. They assure audiences that the Palestinians are interested not in a peaceful two-state solution but rather the destruction of Israel, the murder of all Jews and the death of America. Shoebat claims he first came to the United States as part of an extremist "sleepercell."
Youmas' observation and commentary about Shoebat:
Walid Shoebat, from Beit Sahour, in the West Bank, is paraded by pro-Israeli organizations on speaking tours, in articles, and radio and TV interviews. An article in Jewish Week announces the secret of his magic: "a former terrorist repents and discusses his metamorphosis on six-city speaking tour." Articles on BBC's website, as well as pro-Israeli organs such as WorldNetDaily and FrontPageMag depict Shoebat on his own terms, as an ex-terrorist now fully supportive of Israel. In Arlene Pecks' words, he went "from terrorist to zionist."
To move on to another point, there is an underlying irony in Walid Shoebat's new found popularity. This celebrated political convert adopted a form of religious fanaticism known for its historical Anti-Semitism. A review of his website, , reveals the roots of his views. His ultimate expectation is that Jewish control of Israel-Palestine is essential for Armageddon. Then, rapture will come. The Messiah will destroy the enemies of Israel, but the "many countries who confess Jesus as their saviour will be amongst God's people, called as his people, and will all personally know the Lord Jesus Christ." In short, the Jews will be forced to accept Christ or perish in hell a deeply and traditionally Anti-Semitic view.
Pro-Israeli groups are relying on a speaker who, first, is motivated by a fundamental Anti-Semitism and, second, has actually perpetrated malicious acts of violence against Jews. These also happen to be the two most significant charges they levy against critics of Israel. With the latter, they very rarely find an outspoken critic of Israel in the US who actually committed any violence themselves, rather they lower the charges to rhetorically supporting terrorism, or in the case of Sami Al-Arian, financing it.
To smear the ISM she quotes Walid Shoebat, a dubious "Zionist Palestinian" who broadcasts from a settler radio station and wears a kippa. To score cheap propaganda points, Zionist organizations have put Shoebat on tour around the US, and Lappen quotes him extensively. Her technique amounts to the journalistic equivalent of quoting the village idiot. Shoebat often talks about the hateful nature of "jihad theology", and Lappen uses this to smear the ISM and its founders:Now, even a group advocating non-violent resistance and dialog with the Israelis is smeared with Lappen's favorite term of abuse. Never mind that most of the leading Palestinian activists of the ISM are Christians and that roughly a third of the overall ISM membership is Jewish (including one of the co-founders, Adam Shapiro) - they still deserve Lappen's "jihadist" scurrilous smear. It is too much for Zionists to acknowledge that there are sensible and courageous Palestinians seeking to defend their rights using non-violent means. Lappen and her FrontPage ilk smear Palestinians in the ISM and all other Palestinians with wide brushstrokes, and in the process demonize and dehumanize all Palestinians.
"Not surprisingly, Beit Sahour is also home to Ghasson [sic] Andoni and George Rishmawi, are the co-founders of the Rapprochement Center. They also co-founded the International Solidarity Movement with Huwaida Arraf and Adam Shapiro. Both organizations appear to be driven by the malevolent jihad ideology that Walid Shoebat describes."
Fadi Kiblawi has some useful insights into why Shoebat has been put on tour in the United States:
Shoebat now tours synagogues around the country professing the evilness of Islam. On his Web site, unbridled with blatantly racist declarations against Islam, you will find such profound assertions as "Our fight is against the spiritual forces of Islam" and "After all, they were unable to comprehend the enemy, Islam." Shoebat continues to explain why most denominations, ranging from Catholicism to Jehova's Witnesses, are "false Christians." Now imagine if a campus Israel group invited Shoebat, also a certified kook and racist, to speak on the savagery of the Palestinian people and the righteousness of Israel. How would the student body react?
Well, fortunately, we need not conjecture this scenario, as we are lucky enough to have Student Alliance for Israel, a group so apparently indifferent to racism that it has decided to host Shoebat as part of its "Orange you glad you stand with Israel" advocacy campaign. According to SAFI's Web site, the theme of this year's Israel Awareness Month, during which Shoebat will be speaking, is "Shake it up for Israel."
I guess hosting Islamophobes and obstinate fanatics with absolutely no credentials to enlighten audiences by attacking Islam as a religion is what SAFI considers a "celebration of diversity." In the same vein, I am left only with the conclusion that "shaking it up for Israel" consists primarily of promoting racism. Conceivably, there is some truth to that, as Israel's policies since its inception in 1948 have been pockmarked with racist exclusion of native Christians and Muslims.
Surely the campus community would in fact benefit more from a moderated debate examining the claims of each of the respective sides of the conflict, rather than a tirade by Walid Shoebat. So why would SAFI choose the latter?
Looking at "The Hasbara Handbook," published by Israel's Jewish Agency and distributed widely to Israel's campus exponents, might shed some light. The handbook prescribes fascinating instructions on manipulating audiences "in ways that engage the emotions, and downplay rationality, in an attempt to promote" Israel.
One section describes the tactic of "transfer," which is done by "taking some of the prestige and authority of one concept and applying it to another… Some of the symbols that might be used in discussing Israel might include… Islamic symbols." So Shoebat, a former Muslim, seems to be the perfect fit for SAFI's attempts to manipulate us. Maybe SAFI believes the student body is dense enough to overlook Shoebat's overt racism and take his commentary on the Palestinian people to be truthful and credible on account of his formerly Muslim background. I, for one, have more faith in GW's student body, and believe this to be a tactical error by the group.
The New York Times reported that a presentation by Shoebat and two other professed ex-terrorists at the Air Force Academy was criticized as "an old time gospel hour — 'Jesus can change your life, he changed mine.' ... That is mixed in with 'Watch out America, wake up America, the danger of Islam is here.' " The Times added:
- Arab-American civil rights organizations question why, at a time when the United States government has vigorously moved to jail or at least deport anyone with a known terrorist connection, the three men, if they are telling the truth, are allowed to circulate freely. A spokesman for the F.B.I. said there were no warrants for their arrest.
The Village Voice adds:
- In response, the men have spent significant time trying to prove that they actually did kill people, and that they used to hate Jews as much as the next Muslim extremist. "I planted a bomb in a bank!" insists Shoebat, whose handler, Keith Davies, has threatened a libel suit against The Times over the article that questioned his claims.
Propaganda of a useful fool
To be generous, Shoebat is an oddball. But for propaganda purposes people like Shoebat are useful fools, and they are taken on tour in the United States, Canada, Ireland and elsewhere in Europe to score cheap propaganda points to denigrate Palestinians in general, smearing all of them with broad smears, and to equate Islam with a "malevolent Jihadist ideology". Shoebat's statements are offensive and smear most Palestinians and Islamic groups with broad denigrating brushstrokes. Often his comments are contradictory, but this is no bar for putting him on an international tour. For example, since Shoebat is billed as a "PLO terrorist" then this would give him some credibility to smear the PLO, but he is also used to smear some Islamic groups, and Islam in general; he also denigrates/smears the ISM (a non-violent solidarity movement run by Christians, Jews, and Muslims) by accusing it of supporting a malevolent and violent jihadist ideology.
Consider the opposite situation where a Palestinian solidarity group were to host an "Israeli Jewish fool" who said denigrating things about Israel or other Jews. This would rightly be considered inflammatory and anti-semitic. However, when the shoe is on the other foot (Shoebat's), where a Palestinian fool is used for crass propaganda purposes, it is considered to be acceptable to insult and smear large groups of people.
Why is it possible
The determination that Shoebat is an oddball (at best) or a propaganda tool (at worst) is very easy just by analyzing Shoebat's website, and it should be trivial for journalists or the editors to determine that he has no credibility. On the other hand, when legitimate and important Palestinians travel via London and seek to appear on BBC, a major investigation including an interview takes place to determine the person's bona fides and after this cumbersome hurdle has been passed it is very likely that the actual interview will include an Israeli embassy spokesperson -- usually justified because of "balance" concerns. An entirely different standard applies when a Shoebat appears on BBC, CNN, etc. Here there is no screening and there is no "balancing" person to retort. Furthermore, an informed public would also reject the appearance of someone like Shoebat for his offensive views and remarks.
The reason that zionist propagandists choose to use a Shoebat has all to do with (1) the state of the media in the US and the UK (with ideological gatekeepers), (2) the public at large is very poorly informed (as demonstrated by Greg Philo) and thus not capable of properly appreciating the implication of statements such as those uttered by Shoebat. Once the propagandists know that they can insert whatever message they want into the major media, then a whole panoply of tools are used: smooth "liberal" commentators to appeal to a more educated crowd all the way to the useful fools like Shoebat who present the crass message (a message that can be rejected if it proves too offensive because of the nature of the speaker). What Shoebat does is:
- smear Islamic groups with the anti-semtic slur and suggests that they are only disposed to violence.
- he suggests that there is no reason to attack Israelis (Jews) and that Zionism is justified.
- he smears other opponents of Israeli apartheid, e.g., the ISM group or the rapprochement group.
Shoebat's message is viewed as effective with an uninformed group, difficult to counter by an uninformed person, and it adopts the approach that the "best defense is offense". Given the woefully ineffective and unsophisticated state of Palestinian and Muslim spokespersons, Shoebat's message is seen as penetrating a segment of the target population -- a population who after exposure to Shoebat's message will encounter information about Palestinians or Muslims with scepticism or cynicism.
Statements by Shoebat
- Some of Shoebat's statements about Islam can be found in the Answering-Islam website (viewed 29 Nov 2006; NB: much of it is quite offensive).
- The Shoebat.com website home page contains a number of disturbing and offensive statements, and these are analyzed here.
- Dennis Prager interviews Walid Shoebat (MP3 audio), 23 May 2004 (available 29 Nov 2006). (remarkable interview in terms of its offensiveness; it harps on the theme that Palestinians and Islam are inherently anti-semitic; and if that weren't enough, Islamic anti-semitism has rubbed off on Palestinian Christians).
- Walid Shoebat press release: Shoebat Fights for Muslim Dissident's Freedom, Journalist on Trial Today, 16 Nov 2006. (It is certainly curious that Shoebat has issued a statement about Shoaib Choudhury because the campaign for the release of Choudhury has been spearheaded by the American Jewish Committee. Choudhury's alleged offense is that "... his writings, which are critical of the rise of terrorism and call for peace and understanding between Muslims and Jews".)
- ↑  (viewed 29 Nov 2006)
- ↑ Chris Hedges, The War Against Tolerance, Common Dreams, 11 February 2008.
- ↑ Will Youmans, A Deal with the Devil: A Palestinian Zionist and the End of the World, CounterPunch, 5 May 2004.
- ↑ Paul de Rooij, "Undermining Civil Society: David Horowitz's Corrosive Projects", CounterPunch, 11 April 2005.
- ↑ Fadi Kiblawi, Pro-Israel students host racist Islamophobe to speak for Israel, Electronic Intifada, 15 April 2004.
- ↑ Neil MacFarquhar, "Speakers at Academy Said to Make False Claims", New York Times, February 7, 2008.
- ↑ Maria Luisa Tucker, "'Reformed Muslim Terrorists' Preach Christ to College Kids", Village Voice, February 19, 2008.
Media Accounts about Shoebat
- Raffi Berg, Palestinian militant turned peacemaker, BBC Online, 26 Jan 2004.
- David Quinn, "Ex-PLO member warns against Islamic militants", Irish Independent, 16 Oct 2004.
- Deaglán de Bréadún, "Palestinian bomber who changed sides in the conflict", The Irish Times, 26 Oct 2004.
- Dany Horovitz, "Terrorist turned Zionist speaks at Concordia", The McGill Tribune, 18 Mar 2004.
- Anderson Cooper, Kathleen Johnson and Drew Griffin, Walid Shoebat and the 'ex-extremist' Industry, CNN, 18 July 2011.
- Chris Hedges, The War Against Tolerance, Common Dreams, 11 February 2008.
- Fadi Kiblawi, Pro-Israel students host racist Islamophobe to speak for Israel, Electronic Intifada, 15 April 2004.
- Will Youmans, A Deal with the Devil: A Palestinian Zionist and the End of the World, CounterPunch, 5 May 2004.
- Paul de Rooij, "Undermining Civil Society: David Horowitz's Corrosive Projects", CounterPunch, 11 April 2005. Contains an analysis of the key Horowitz projects and with specific references to the activities of Alyssa Lappen and her references to Shoebat.
- Neil MacFarquhar, "Speakers at Academy Said to Make False Claims", The New York Times, February 7, 2008.
- Maria Luisa Tucker, "'Reformed Muslim Terrorists' Preach Christ to College Kids", Village Voice, February 19, 2008.
- Richard Bartholomew, "Most Absurd Libel Threat Ever", Bartholomew's Notes on Religion, February 22, 2008.
- Jorg Luyken, "The Palestinian 'terrorist' turned Zionist", Jerusalem Post, March 30, 2008.
- Terry Krepel, "Shoebat's Story", ConWebWatch, May 21, 2008.
- Charles E. Carlson, The Zionist, Messianic-Christian Network Inside Evangelical Churches: Walid Shoebat, His Clones and Enablers, WHTT, Sep 23, 2009.
- Keith Davies, "Shoebat Showdown", New Voices, Oct. 2004.
- Alyssa A. Lappen, The Ravages of the Jihad-Occupied Mind, FrontPageMag.com, 17 Feb 2004.
- Alyssa A. Lappen, Former Terrorist Speaks, FrontPageMag.com, 2 April 2004.
- Joseph Farah, "The unmaking of a terrorist", WorldNetDaily, January 23, 2004.
- Dave Eberhart, "Terror Expert: ‘We Need to Choose War!'", NewsMax.com, July 28, 2006.