Back in the 1980s, the IDF felt it needed to create a counterbalance to the strength of Fatah in the Territories so it created the hated (by Palestinians) Village Leagues (for more on this read this Counterpunch article) a group of quiescent Palestinian sheiks and local leaders ready to shill for the Israelis. In return, the IDF showered on these quislings a whole host of benefits and favors. The Leagues were a grand failure and it was in response to this failure that the IDF turned to Islamic fundamentalists as a buffer against Arafat’s secular movement. And presto–Hamas was born (doesn’t it remind you of how the U.S. sought to create a buffer to the Soviets in Afghanistan by encouraging Islamic militants who in turn became Al Qaeda–our own worst enemy?). For more on the birth of Hamas through Israel’s collusion read the Counterpunch article linked above.
Seattle Jewish Transcript ad for Shoebat speaking engagement: how lurid can you get??
Apparently, Christian Zionists too are on the prowl for Palestinians they can convert to fundamentalist Christianity. And they’ve found a small group of turncoat oddities like Shoebat who are happy to do their bidding. This week’s Seattle Jewish Transcript contains an ad for a talk by Walid Shoebat at the University of Washington Hillel on February 8th. The Jewish community too has been hoodwinked into believing that these sad individuals represent some kind of trend among Palestinians and Muslim to finally ‘see the light’ and accept not only Israel’s right to exist, but also to admit the ‘failures’ of Palestinian nationalism.
Walid Shoebat–from Palestinian terrorist to Zionist?
Shoebat’s Media Campaign
Will Youmans’ Counterpunch essay, Deal with the Devil: A Palestinian Zionist and the End of the World (I am shocked that no other progressive publication has devoted any ink to unmasking this guy, but I’m grateful that Youmans has done so much good work on this topic and much of this post relies on his journalism), outlines Shoebat’s background and how he has manipulated some in the media:
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.”
Shoebat and his comrades remind me of Greystoke, the film about the British explorer who (if memory serves) captures an African “savage” and returns him to Europe to amuse his social circle. After teaching him table manners and proper etiquette, he brings him before a public hungry for titillation, amusement and novelty. The savage is a roaring success. He has been “tamed” and “improved” and taught the proper ways of a 19th century gentleman. But will it bring him happiness? Does it prove the superiority of European culture to African? Of course not.
Walid Shoebat is an aberration. He represents nothing except a man looking for a community to take him in and make him feel welcome after he left the Mideast and settled in America. Apparently, his third wife (in ten years) helped convert him to Christianity by daring him to “find a mistake in the Bible” (whatever that means). When he couldn’t (so the story goes), he converted. Here’s how Shoebat’s website bio describes this incident:
In 1993, Walid studied the Tanach (Jewish Bible) in a challenge to convert his wife to Islam. Six months later, after intense study, Walid realized that everything he had been taught about Jews was a lie. Convinced he was on the side of evil, he became an advocate for his former enemy.
No doubt, his conversion was facilitated by Christian evangelicals who took him in (literally and figuratively). But turning against his past and his people does not make him an exemplar. It makes him a curiosity. The six-fingered man on display at the circus does not prove that all humanity will shortly add another digit to their appendages. He merely proves that there are weird aberrations of human biology. So Walid Shoebat and his conversion does not prove the supremacy of Christianity over Islam or the supremacy of Israel’s claims over the Palestinians’.
Shoebat the Terrorist
Will Youmans outlines Shoebat’s crimes against Israel:
He describes openly his past crimes and his jailing by the Israeli authorities. He admits to stoning Jewish worshipers at the Kotel (the western wall), having “worked with Fatah bomb makers in Jerusalem,” and even going on a bombing mission to destroy a branch of Bank Leumi. Shoebat abandoned it after noticing that Palestinian children were nearby. He speaks of the time he and other rioters mauled an Israeli officer. They “clubbed and pounded his head with a nail-studded stick, until the officer became a bloody gore.”
After immigrating to the United States, he continued to be a “hard-line PLO activist.” He raised funds and recruited for the PLO on college campuses.
Attempts by Christian Zionists like Pat Robertson and their Jewish stooges like Dennis Prager to proclaim a victory in converting Shoebat from his supposedly terrorist past and Muslim religion are pathetically misguided. As Youmans writes in Counterpunch:
Shoebat represents the ominous collusion between Christian fundamentalists and supporters of Israel; a recipe for disaster…His talks demonize Palestinians and Islam in the kind of language that only affirms the pro-Israeli community’s more ignorant misconceptions. He talks about the inherent hate of Islam, being taught to oppose violently Jews and Israel, and the eternal Jewish right to the land. None of his points give audiences the slightest perspective into the movements for peace among Palestinians, nor the substance of their claims against a state that occupies and controls their daily lives.
His goals are deadly. Clearly, he seeks to further polarize Palestinians and Jews with his extremist positions. As with the overall influence of Christian fundamentalism [on the conflict], his theological tenets make reconciliation less likely. Peace forestalls the End of Times, which some Christian fundamentalists look forward to enthusiastically. His personal and religious stake is in helping speed along Armageddon. I fear that in their ideological zeal to defend Israel against criticism, American Zionists are making a deal with the devil.
In this article, Youmans raises another fascinating point: if indeed Shoebat is guilty of the crimes he claims for himself, then why has the Department of Homeland Security not moved to deport him? Countless Muslims in this country have been arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for “crimes” which injured no one. Shoebat claims to have targeted Israelis with deadly force and indeed spent time in an Israeli prison. How did such a person get entry into this country? And once our government found out about his checkered past, why did we not move to bar him? This is a case of selective treatment and favoritism. As Youmans says, imagine a Palestinian nationalist (even one who converted from Islam to Christianity) who comes to this country preaching resistance to the Israeli occupation. Would our government have welcomed this person as readily as Shoebat?
Shoebat the ‘Zionist’
Again from Youmans:
Taking the word of the Bible as literal, he subscribed to the view that “the Jews have the Biblical right to the Holy Land, Israel.” In his public campaign he not only defends Israel across the board, on every account, but espouses positions widely held as extreme. For instance, he told a crowd at the University of Toronto that Israel should “Please take back the holy Temple Mount” despite the obvious implication that such a total measure against a Muslim holy site would provoke a holy war.
A review of his website, Abrahamic-Faith.com, 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 [including Jews] 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.
Some would expect that a warm embrace of a religiously extreme anti-Semite by pro-Israeli groups would be embarrassing. However, leading advocates of Israel’s… policies welcome this arrangement given the power of Christian fundamentalism in the American polity. Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said that American Jews should be “highly appreciative of the incredible support” from such religionists, even if their support looks forward to the vast conversion or eternal damnation of all Jews. Their views, he reasoned, “speak to an unknown future (indeed one that Jews do not envision).” He also argued that ADL polls show that Christian fundamentalists harbor no more anti-Semitism than the American population at-large. The one area of concern he shared was with Evangelical efforts to convert Jews.
So Christian fundamentalists are allies of convenience for those like Foxman. Despite the fact that evangelicals only embrace Israel for the sake of a vision of a triumphalist future in which Christians subsume Jews into their fold, we need these people says Foxman. This type of moral temporizing disgusts me. It’s certainly not as severe as the views of right-wing Zionists and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who embraced Hitler because he was the arch-enemy of the colonial occupier, Britain. But the analogy is a little too close for comfort if you ask me.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.