Posted: 27 May 2008 06:42 AM CDT
With court cases and wide debate surrounding the linkage between certain Islamic Charities and the funding of terror organisations, it is interesting to note that even the Palestinian Authority is worried enough to take action.
Ha’aretz reported earlier today: “The [senior Israeli security] source noted that the PA has outlawed 300 charity organizations, most of them affiliated with Hamas, and its security forces have stepped up their monitoring of imams in West Bank mosques.”
And who should know better than the Palestinian Authority on this particular topic?
Posted: 26 May 2008 06:44 PM CDT
By David Nordell
If the sign of having made it as a celebrity is to be featured in the pages of ’Hello!’ or ’OK!’ or some similar gossip rag, best of all on the front cover, then the sign of having done something significant in the real world, or at least being involved in something significant, most surely be to be written about in the ’Economist.’
According to this criterion, the Terror Finance Blog’s own Rachel Ehrenfeld has definitely ’made it’ for her central involvement in something significant, by being written up in an article entitled “Hacks vs Beaks” in the magazine’s 8th May edition, which focuses on the shamefully weak protection that legitimate freedom of speech enjoys in English courts. I don’t say this in order to continue the self-involved navel-gazing that has sometimes become noticeable in our blog’s discussion of the celebrated libel case brought against her in London by Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz, and the subsequent attempts to give legal protection in the USA against libel cases for anyone who in the future tries to blow the whistle on people apparently involved in financing or encouraging terrorism. We may, I fear, already have done the subject of libel tourism to death by giving this one case, important and meritorious though it is, a great deal of attention.
But there is another, broader, aspect of freedom of speech and public interest that underlies the bin Mahfouz vs. Ehrenfeld case. In an article here a few days ago, “Exorcising the ’Saudi Spell’,” I described three ways in which Saudi-financed propaganda was not only brainwashing young Muslims to hate the non-Muslim world and to be willing to sacrifice themselves in the cause of jihad, but also, more insidiously, fosters the belief in the Western societies that are the target of this jihad that it is illegitimate and politically incorrect to criticise Islam or the political ambitions of the Arab world, which necessarily weakens Western defences.
Yet there is a fourth, even more insidious, way in which Arab oil money is destroying the defences of the democratic West, especially in Great Britain, and Rachel Ehrenfeld’s experience is the example par excellence. English libel law, although theoretically protecting the reputations of the innocent against those who have defamed them, is notoriously one-sided: it’s on the side of the rich against the poor (if both sides are rich, so much the better for the lawyers). If you have been defamed, however horrible and baseless the libel, but can’t afford the very hefty fees of good libel lawyers — and I say this from personal experience — you basically shouldn’t even bother sending a pre-action letter, let alone file claim: actually, most good libel lawyers won’t even give you the time of day. But if you’re rich, and the person who you claim has defamed you isn’t, you can usually intimidate him into a grovelling apology, and possibly bankrupt him in the process, even if the facts were on his side. The fact that Rachel refused to apologise or even recognise the court’s jurisdiction in the case is entirely to her credit, but doesn’t change the picture one iota.
The bottom line is this: if, especially after bin Mahfouz vs. Ehrenfeld has set a precedent, some brave journalist or analyst wants in the future to expose the involvement of some individual or organisation in glorifying, financing or recruiting for terrorism, he or she will probably think twice because of the sheer torture and expense of a libel trial in the High Court of Justice, especially if he doesn’t enjoy Rachel’s advantage of living in New York.
What of it? Well, terrorism isn’t only about innocent people being blown apart by suicide bombers or being consumed in the fireball when an airliner is flown into an office building. That’s the terrorism we all recognise. But the terrorism that very few of us recognise is being put in fear of expressing our genuine opinions, of exposing dangerous facts, of revealing the unpleasant truth, by the threat of a libel action in which, at least according to English law, the truth is not always a strong enough defence. Free democratic society can not function without both freedom of information and freedom of expression: so when these freedoms are chilled by the fear of legal action, however vexatious, democracy dies a little bit. The USA at least has constitutional protection for freedom of speech: Britain, however much it prides itself on Magna Carta, the mother of parliaments and all the rest, provides very limited protection; and therein endangers all its other freedoms.
I don’t know if Khalid bin Mahfouz was ever involved in financing what we all think of as terrorism, with blood and charred flesh and TV newsflashes; and for the purpose of this discussion, it doesn’t matter. But he has financed, from his pocket to those of his lawyers, a far more dangerous and destructive form of terrorism, against the basic freedoms that keep Britain a democracy, without shedding a single drop of blood or breaking a single law. It’s called legal terrorism. In fact, doubly legal terrorism: by means of the law, and with the backing of the law. The damage, not only to Britain to the entire free West, is likely to be far greater than that of 7/7 or even 9/11. You read it here first.
Posted: 26 May 2008 02:42 PM CDT
By David Nordell
In the old James Bond film ’Diamonds are Forever’ there is a scene, if I remember well, in which Bond discovers that a coffin flown into the United States for cremation is actually being used to smuggle diamonds for an American Mafia gang. Not just life imitates art, apparently, but terrorism too: according to a blog article I just received today (although it’s two months old), a Belgian-Moroccan terrorist smuggled both weapons and money from Belgium to Morocco in order to help his colleagues there.
The ’Islam in Europe blog’ article quotes from a more extensive article in the Belgian newspaper HLN (Het Laatste Nieuws) that Abdelkader Belliraj hit on the idea of using coffins because neither police nor customs would want to upset Muslim sensitivities by opening them to check their contents. He would therefore break into funeral homes to open up the caskets and hide weapons in them. By the time Belliraj was arrested in Morocco in mid-February, he had been smuggling weapons using this technique for 15 years, since 1993. In some cases, there wasn’t even a dead body in the coffin, said HLN, just money and weapons.
The director of a firm that repatriates some 500 Muslims’ bodies to Morocco every year, Jamal Ben Tahar, told the newspaper that it was impossible to take advantage of his firm for this kind of his smuggling. But it seems more than unlikely that Belliraj acted completely without accomplices: he must have known which coffins to choose to ’pad’ with resources for his fellow gang members, or must have had accomplices at the Moroccan end to open the right coffins after they were unloaded from the aircraft, or both.
But there are two things that are much more worrying about this story than the mere fact of a clever ruse to smuggle money and guns for terrorist use in Morocco. One is that neither the Belgian nor the Moroccan authorities, which have both been aware for years of the potential for the Moroccan émigré community in Belgium to support terrorist activity in both countries, never took the initiative to do at least spot-checks, if not complete screening, of the steady traffic of dead Moroccans to their homeland — and who knows how many other dead bodies are being exploited in this way in other countries in order to increase terrorism’s death toll. From a technical point of view, checking the coffins without opening them may indeed have been problematic: metal caskets would probably not be transparent enough to X-ray scanners to show weapons inside, while even if wooden caskets were used, bundles of banknotes probably wouldn’t show up either. Given the risks involved, maybe it is indeed time for national security authorities to find ways to check the cross-border movements of coffins, even at the risk of giving offence.
The other, according to other HLN reports in the last few days quoted by the blog, is that the Belgian security service knew about Belliraj’s smuggling operation but did nothing to stop him, while the Belgian and Moroccan security services are both accusing each other of withholding vital intelligence information that could indeed have stopped this gang. It can’t be said often enough, especially in the wake of 9/11, that intelligence not shared with the right partners is wasted. In this case, it would seem, the 45 people killed in Casablanca in 2003 by a local terrorist group financed by Moroccan gangs in Belgium bear mute witness to this foul-up, whether or not they were eventually buried in coffins