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August 29, 2016

New ISIS Propaganda Continues to Encourage Easy Attacks

ISIS propaganda video Deter the Enemy from Harming Your State encourages attacks

Promo for the new ISIS propaganda video

Two newly released ISIS propaganda pieces  encourage the group’s supporters in the West to commit attacks using unconventional weapons, a message that has become a standard for ISIS and has increasingly been adopted by Al Qaeda as well.

A 19-minute long propaganda video circulated on August 23 via social media and Telegram made this call clear. Titled “Deter the Enemy from Harming Your State,” the video, created by ISIS’s Khayr Wilayah Media branch, called on followers “who are unable to make hijrah (travel to join ISIS) and join their brothers the mujahidin (fighters) in the Islamic State” to commit attacks using any means available. “Shake off the dust of negligence,” the video’s narrator intones, accompanied by English subtitles, “and do not try to excuse yourself due to lack of weapons or lethal tools, as you have the best example in the blessed attack in Nice.”

Using language that closely paralleled a 2014 speech by ISIS spokesman Abu Mohamed al Adnani – which was the first major instance of such calls – the video’s narrator  states, “If you lack a bomb or a bullet, take a single American or French kafir (apostate), or any of their allies, then smash his head with a stone, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or push him off a cliff, or strangle him, or poison him, but do not slacken or become weak.”

The video also attempts to exploit anti-Israel sentiment to encourage these attacks, a common tactic in terrorist propaganda. While showing video and images of alleged brutality by Israeli soldiers, the narrator criticizes Syrian preacher Ali Al-Halabi and other religious leaders who have argued against the killing of Jewish civilians, and contrasted those moderate views with ISIS’s assertion that all non-Muslims who are not subordinated by ISIS can be killed. By juxtaposing this with the images of Israelis, the video can be seen as implying that only ISIS takes the side of the Palestinians – and that killing civilians on ISIS’s behalf is  the only way one can be on the side of the Palestinians.

In a separate statement on Telegram,also released on August 23, the pro-ISIS media group Nashir Foundation similarly urges the use of unconventional weapons to commit terror attacks in the West. The statement includes a list of nine suggested plots, ranging from  the use of poison and creating dangerous driving conditions, to calling in false threats in order to create panic and waste resources.

This is not a novel call to action. Over the summer of 2016, several attackers in Western countries used commonplace items as weapons;  in  Nice, the perpetrator drove a truck into a crowd of people, while in other European cities and in the U.S., attacks were attempted or carried out with knives, machetes and axes.

ADL has compiled a list of prior examples of terrorist propaganda that encourages attacks with common items

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August 11, 2016

Tunisian BDS Conference Raises Questions About Qatari Involvement

On August 4th, the Qatar-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS) launched a three-day academic conference in Tunisia titled “Boycott as a Strategy to Counter Israel’s Occupation and Apartheid: Present-day Realities and Aspirations.” The conference served as a reminder of BDS activists’ efforts to expand their agenda and further their goal of delegitimizing the state of Israel, but also illuminated potential rifts within the movement.

Panelists at the BDS conference in Tunisia

Panelists at the BDS conference in Tunisia

While ACRPS claims to be an independent research institute, it appears to have strong ties to the Qatari government. This could suggest that individuals closely affiliated to the Qatari government may be interested in playing a bigger role in advancing the BDS movement.

ACRPS registration documents list Sultan Ghanim Al Kuwari, a prominent Qatari businessman, as the founder of the Center. Reportedly, Al Kuwari, who is closely affiliated with Qatar’s royal family, is also listed as the director of several Qatari international media outlets. He is also described as the person in charge of extending the reach of the Qatari soft diplomatic power under the leadership of the Emir of Qatar. Furthermore, reports from previous ACRPS events present the Emir of Qatar Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani as a regular guest of honor at many of the group’s events.

The Qatari connection could raise the hackles of BDS activists who are skeptical of Qatar’s foreign policy positions, and are concerned that the country’s involvement would transform the grassroots movement into a ‘state branding’ project. On the first day of the conference, members of the Tunisian BDS chapter disrupted the session and protested against what they consider as the Qatari government’s connection. They also protested against the director of the ACRPS, Azmi Beshara, because he served as a member of the Israeli Knesset in the past, which the activists consider as an act of treason. An earlier statement on the official Facebook page of the Tunisian chapter of the BDS movement called fora boycott of the conference because the ACRPS and the conference itself “are sponsored by the Qatari government” which, according to the Tunisian chapter, is “one of the Arab governments most active in normalization with Israel.”

This BDS conference was built on a series of previous events hosted by the ACRPS and focused on questions about the objectives of the BDS movement and the role of the Arab states, émigré communities, and Palestinians. One speaker, Osama Abu Irshaid, the National Policy Director of American Muslims for Palestine, said “it is a must to transform the BDS movement into a system and a framework that will go beyond only boycotting corporations that support Israel to the de-legitimization of Israel as well.” ACRPS issued a paper supporting Irshaid’s goals.

Other speakers at the conference included Max Blumenthal, a prominent anti-Israel blogger, Peter Slezak, the co- founder of the Australian-based Independent Australian Jewish Voices, and Richard Falk, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

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July 28, 2016

Rep. Hank Johnson, Your Words Have a History

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

Much has been said and written about our response at the Anti-Defamation League to the recent comments by U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) comparing the Israeli settlement enterprise to “termites” undermining the two-state solution. (You can watch the offending comments here beginning at 34:00). Some appreciated our strong words. Others anguished over our response on Twitter, suggesting that we did not go far enough in condemning him.

This was one of those moments when 140 characters failed to fully convey our feelings.

So I wanted to take the opportunity now to put this issue into full context, to explain why the remarks were so offensive both to Israelis and Jews across the political spectrum and to elucidate what elected officials must do in such instances to assure the public that they do not support the kind of anti-Semitic notions the remark suggested for so many.

First, to the remarks themselves: As I myself tweeted, there’s absolutely no doubt that Rep. Johnson’s comments were both irresponsible and reprehensible, particularly because they played into traditional anti-Semitic canards. The image of “termites” being used to describe Jews has sordid connotations. In the annals of anti-Semitism, from the medieval period to Czarist Russia, and most pronouncedly in Nazi Germany, there is a common leitmotif of Jews being portrayed as subhuman – rats, cockroaches and other undesirable creatures. Even today, depictions of Jews in anti-Semitic cartoons that pervade the Arab press often conform to this legacy.

Surely Rep. Johnson can understand a people’s legitimate sensitivities that emerge from a long history of oppression. And surely there is room for legitimate and balanced criticisms of policy which do not resort to these prejudiced tropes.

In light of the fact that the comment – inadvertently or not – evoked classic anti-Semitic stereotypes, our initial tweet on the remarks calling it an “offensive and unhelpful characterization” did not go far enough in spelling out precisely why it was so objectionable. Indeed, that impelled my subsequent tweet that “yes, there was apology, but no ‘point’ justifies referring to human beings in such an abhorrent, inappropriate manner.”

Our concern about Rep. Johnson’s remarks and those of others whom we have taken umbrage with during the campaign is not about politics—it’s about an expectation of civility in our politics. ADL consistently has spoken out about inappropriate and offensive language made by candidates and supporters of both political parties. This is not new and will never change.

Because this is an election year, people tend to read more deeply into our criticism of candidates and other political pundits, suggesting our statements reflect a “hidden” agenda or trying to pigeonhole us as “left” or “right.”  Let me be crystal clear on this point. For us, it does not matter whether it is a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent. It is the comment itself that justifies our response. This is not about candidates or parties – it is about ideas.

We will call out ideas that run counter to the values we believe in so deeply – civility, pluralism and tolerance – even as we continue to abide strictly by our status as a 501c3 nonprofit which appropriately requires us not to oppose or support candidates for office.

All should understand that Rep. Johnson quickly apologized and subsequently restated his apology to me and to Rabbi David Wolpe. This was meaningful because we have seen others who refuse to demonstrate any public contrition after analogous lapses. But he and others need to know that it is unacceptable to denigrate any group of human beings regardless of one’s views on the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

Considering the where Rep. Johnson was speaking adds additional context to the situation. His remarks were delivered at an event sponsored by the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a group with a one-sided view of this long-standing and deeply complex conflict, who advocate for boycotting Israel and who provide a platform for the most outrageous charges against Israel. Rep. Johnson was playing to a crowd—a crowd that eagerly applauded his remarks.

If we hope in any way to advance the cause of peace and reconciliation, we need to resist demonization of the other side, to desist from incitement and refuse to slide into slander.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an enduring one and its history is complex. It has so far frustrated the attempts of our country’s most able negotiators. Achieving its resolution will not be easy and may not happen soon. But one thing is for sure: assigning blame only to one side fails to move us any closer to that destination.

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