Extremism & Terrorism » ADL Blogs
December 9, 2015 4

ISIS Videos Underscore Anti-Semitic Backdrop to Terror

Child executioner in the new ISIS video

Child exe­cu­tioner in the new ISIS video

Last week, ISIS released a video titled “To the Sons of the Jews” that depicted chil­dren mur­der­ing alleged cap­tured Syr­ian sol­diers. The video con­tained mul­ti­ple threats against Jews and Israel.

ISIS inten­tion­ally ties the vio­lence of its chil­dren – its next gen­er­a­tion of fight­ers – to future threats against Israel and Jews. The adult instruc­tor in “To the Sons of the Jews,” for exam­ple, stated, “The ambi­tion of those cubs will not be lim­ited to lib­er­at­ing Syria or Iraq…but it is to raise high the ban­ner of the Prophet…over the White House in Amer­ica and in the heart of Tel Aviv.”

The chil­dren made the same point; before com­mit­ting their mur­ders, each said, “We have been raised to con­quer the East and West, and we will restore al-Aqsa (Jerusalem) and al-Andalus (Spain), Allah per­mit­ting.” One of the chil­dren said, “O Obama, we will cut your neck and we will do the same to you and all the Jews.”

The video closed say­ing, “O sons of the Jews, know that when­ever we cut off the head of an apos­tate, your death comes closer.”

The same theme runs through prior ISIS videos fea­tur­ing child executioners.

In March 2015, ISIS released a video fea­tur­ing a child mur­der­ing an indi­vid­ual whom the group alleged was a Mossad spy. The video threat­ened both Jews and Israel; quotes included, “O Jews, Allah has gifted us with killing your fol­low­ers in your own strong­hold in France,” and, “So we fight in Iraq and our eyes are on Jerusalem.” The con­clu­sion of the video depicted the child exe­cu­tioner stand­ing in front of an image of Jerusalem.

Another video, released in July 2015, depicted a child who appeared to be the exe­cu­tioner of a cap­tured sol­dier, fol­lowed by the state­ment, “Every day we kill and cap­ture your sol­diers and offi­cers. …and what is com­ing is more cun­ning and bit­ter. Our eyes are not only on…Homs nor Dam­as­cus, but our eyes are on Beit al-Maqdis [Jerusalem] and on Rome.”

Child executioner in ISIS video from March 2015

Child exe­cu­tioner in ISIS video from March 2015 in front of Jerusalem

But ISIS’s claim that their chil­dren will kill Jews and over­throw the State of Israel is only part of a larger strat­egy shared by nearly all Islamic extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions that exploits pop­u­lar anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel to recruit and moti­vate adher­ents and to encour­age fol­low­ers to act in the group’s interest.

Just as ISIS threat­ens Jews while exe­cut­ing Syr­ian sol­diers, Al Qaeda and its affil­i­ate groups reg­u­larly urge fol­low­ers to attack the U.S. as an (alleged) way to hurt Jews and Israel. ADL has doc­u­mented these calls, and more, in our report Anti-Semitism: A Pil­lar of Islamic Extrem­ist Ide­ol­ogy.

Oth­ers have noted sim­i­lar links. In a recent arti­cle in Tablet Mag­a­zine, Liel Liebowitz noted that Jews and Israel serve as a sort of canary in the coal mine of inter­na­tional ter­ror­ism. In Israel, France, and else­where, Jews are often the first vic­tims of ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions that go on to attack West­ern sites more broadly. Pay­ing atten­tion to extrem­ist threats against Jews is not only impor­tant to com­mu­nal secu­rity; rather, it is essen­tial for national security.

Some reports have also indi­cated that San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook was “obsessed” with Israel. ADL has doc­u­mented mul­ti­ple instances of U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror­ist plots and activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism who reg­u­larly expressed ani­mos­ity toward Israel and Jews; a list of recent exam­ples is avail­able in the ADL report.

Of course, not every­one who espouses anti-Semitic beliefs or hatred of Israel will be a ter­ror­ist. But the link between the two is an inten­tional ele­ment of ter­ror­ist strat­egy, and the impact of that strat­egy on Amer­i­can and West­ern secu­rity is significant.

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December 3, 2015 0

Bonnie and Clydes Rare—But Not Unheard Of—In Violent Extremism

Syed Farook

Syed Farook

Back­ground infor­ma­tion on Syed Farook and Tash­feen Malik, the mar­ried per­pe­tra­tors of the tragic mass shoot­ing at the Inland Regional Cen­ter in San Bernardino, Cal­i­for­nia, is still sparse, as is clar­ity con­cern­ing the motive behind the vicious attack that left 14 dead and 21 wounded.

How­ever, accord­ing to media reports from the in-progress inves­ti­ga­tion, there is grow­ing con­cern among law enforce­ment offi­cials that the shoot­ings may have had a con­nec­tion to Islamic extrem­ism or that there might have been a mixed extremist/workplace motive behind them.  The FBI has said that it is now treat­ing its inves­ti­ga­tion of the killings as a counter-terrorism investigation.

One thing that is exceed­ingly rare in tra­di­tional work­place shoot­ings is for there to be mul­ti­ple per­pe­tra­tors, as there was in this case.  As one law enforce­ment offi­cial told The New York Times, “You don’t take your wife to a work­place shoot­ing, and espe­cially not as pre­pared as they were.  He could have been rad­i­cal­ized, ready to go with some type of attack, and then had a dis­pute at work and decided to do something.”

Mul­ti­ple per­pe­tra­tors are cer­tainly com­mon in extremist-related crimes, of course, despite the exis­tence of the “lone wolf” phe­nom­e­non.  Women are also fre­quently involved in extremist-related crim­i­nal activ­ity in almost every extrem­ist move­ment in the United States.

How­ever, when one exam­ines recent crim­i­nal cases in the U.S. involv­ing domes­tic Islamic extrem­ists, one finds that female part­ners of male perpetrators—even when them­selves involved in crim­i­nal activities—have not typ­i­cally engaged in vio­lence.  Over­seas, women have some­times taken on more vio­lent roles, includ­ing as sui­cide bombers.

If an Islamic extrem­ist motive is con­firmed in the San Bernardino shoot­ings, the fact of husband-and-wife shoot­ers would be a new wrin­kle in the his­tory of the vio­lent tac­tics of that move­ment in the United States.

Extremist-related vio­lence involv­ing hus­bands and wives—or non-married partners—is actu­ally not unheard of in the United States, but it tends to come from a very dif­fer­ent source:  right-wing extrem­ism.  Though not what one could call a com­mon phe­nom­e­non, such vio­lent “Bon­nie and Clyde” cou­ples do emerge with reg­u­lar­ity from within both the white suprema­cist and anti-government extrem­ist move­ments in the United States.

In fact, right-wing extrem­ism even pro­duced an exam­ple of the exceed­ingly rare phe­nom­e­non of a mar­ried cou­ple both of whom were on death row:  anti-government extrem­ists Linda Lyon Block and George Sib­ley.  In 1993, the two sov­er­eign cit­i­zens non-fatally stabbed Block’s ex-husband, then while on the run mur­dered an Alabama police offi­cer in a shootout.  Both were exe­cuted in the 2000s.

In more recent years, extrem­ist cou­ples have been involved with every­thing from stand­offs with police to hate crimes to ter­ror­ist con­spir­a­cies.  But some of the most shock­ing “Bon­nie and Clyde” inci­dents have involved mul­ti­ple homi­cides com­mit­ted by white suprema­cists and anti-government extremists:

  • Jerad and Amanda Miller, a young mar­ried cou­ple who adhered to the anti-government ide­ol­ogy of the mili­tia move­ment, tar­geted two Las Vegas police offi­cers for assas­si­na­tion in June 2014, killing them at a pizza restau­rant as they ate their Sun­day lunch.  The cou­ple crossed the street to a Wal-mart in antic­i­pa­tion of a final shootout with first respon­ders, where Amanda killed an armed civil­ian try­ing to stop them.  As they had intended, they did both die dur­ing a shootout with law enforce­ment at the store, with a wounded Amanda killing her­self after Jerad was shot.
  • Jeremy and Chris­tine Moody, white suprema­cists from Union County, South Car­olina, killed a nearby mar­ried cou­ple in July 2013 in a par­tic­u­larly grisly dou­ble homi­cide in which both vic­tims were shot and stabbed.  The Moodys had tar­geted the vic­tim because they wanted to kill a reg­is­tered sex offender and found the male victim’s name and address on the Inter­net.  They killed his wife because she had mar­ried a sex offender.  Both pleaded guilty to mur­der in 2014, receiv­ing life sen­tences with no parole, but were unre­pen­tant, with Chris­tine Moody call­ing the day of the mur­ders “the best day of my life.”
  • Holly Grigsby and David Ped­er­sen, a white suprema­cist cou­ple from Ore­gon, embarked upon a multi-state mur­der spree in 2011 that totaled four killed before police could find and stop them.  The pair trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton to mur­der Pederson’s father and step­mother, each killing one vic­tim, then killed a young man in Ore­gon to steal his car and because they thought he might be Jew­ish.  They killed an African-American man in north­ern Cal­i­for­nia in another car­jack­ing attempt, though they did not end up tak­ing the vehi­cle, then were finally appre­hended by the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Patrol.  Grigsby told the arrest­ing offi­cers that they were to Sacra­mento to “kill more Jews” when they were stopped.  Both pleaded guilty to a vari­ety of crimes and received life sentences.

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December 3, 2015 0

Searching for Motives in the San Bernardino Shooting

Investigators at the scene of the shooting in San Bernardino

Inves­ti­ga­tors at the scene of the shoot­ing in San Bernardino

The motive for yesterday’s shoot­ing in San Bernardino, CA remains unknown. In the spec­u­la­tion for causes, though, sev­eral details stand out.

That one of the alleged shoot­ers, Syed Rizwan Farooq, appar­ently tar­geted his pro­fes­sional col­leagues, might indi­cate an instance of work­place vio­lence, as does the rel­a­tively non­de­script, apo­lit­i­cal and pri­vate nature of the loca­tion tar­geted. How­ever, the degree of prepa­ra­tion that went into the shoot­ing appears more in line with polit­i­cally or ide­o­log­i­cally moti­vated vio­lence. More­over, inci­dents of work­place shoot­ings rarely ever involve mul­ti­ple per­pe­tra­tors but there were appar­ently two shoot­ers in San Bernardino.

Future evi­dence will be nec­es­sary to under­stand whether or not extrem­ism, or extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda may have played any role in the San Bernardino shoot­ings; at this time, it is entirely pos­si­ble that there is no link at all, although inves­ti­ga­tors are indi­cat­ing that Farooq had links to sus­pected extrem­ists abroad.

A com­bi­na­tion of work­place vio­lence and extremist-inspired vio­lence has played out in the U.S. in the past.

In Sep­tem­ber 2014, Okla­homa res­i­dent Alton Nolen was sus­pended from his work­place, a food pro­cess­ing plant. Nolen, who had a prior crim­i­nal record that included vio­lent inci­dents, went home and then returned to the food pro­cess­ing plant with “a large bladed knife,” with which he beheaded a for­mer col­league and attacked a second.

Nolen’s social media feed indi­cated an inter­est in vio­lent extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda, and par­tic­u­larly the vio­lence asso­ci­ated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), even as it became clear that he had no actual links to extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions or com­pre­hen­sive adher­ence to extrem­ist ideology.

His online activ­ity sug­gested that his inter­est in extrem­ist vio­lence may have informed his deci­sion to under­take a behead­ing, rather than another form of vio­lence, and spoke to a sec­ondary effect of vio­lent extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda. His activ­ity did not appear to be polit­i­cally moti­vated and he was not respond­ing to ter­ror­ist calls for vio­lence, but he was nonethe­less influ­enced by vio­lent extrem­ist con­tent that he found online.

A sim­i­lar case indi­cat­ing sec­ondary effects of ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda took place in New Jer­sey in August 2014. The accused per­pe­tra­tor in that case, Ali Muhammed Brown, had a pre­vi­ous crim­i­nal record and is also accused of killing three indi­vid­u­als in Cal­i­for­nia in June. In August, he was allegedly engaged in a rob­bery when he shot a man in a car. When appre­hended, Brown claimed that the mur­der was revenge for U.S. actions in the Mid­dle East.

Pres­i­dent Obama has sug­gested that there may be a com­bi­na­tion of motives in yesterday’s shoot­ing although, again, more evi­dence needs to be found to uncover the per­pe­tra­tors’ actual rationales.

But the Nolen case teaches that vio­lence and ratio­nale are not singularly-faceted issues, and that vio­lent pro­pa­ganda online has the poten­tial to influ­ence peo­ple who may not them­selves be extremists.

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