The Jihad Seller

Back in February I blogged on the most absurd libel threat ever: Walid Shoebat, self-proclaimed Palestinian “ex-terrorist” turned evangelical Christian, was threatening to sue over claims that he hadn’t been a terrorist at all, and had in fact lied about his past. At the end of March the conservative Jerusalem Post also raised doubts:

Shoebat’s claim to have bombed Bank Leumi in Bethlehem is rejected by members of his family who still live in the area, and Bank Leumi says it has no record of such an attack ever taking place.

His relatives, members of the Shoebat family, are mystified by the notion of “Walid Shoebat” being an assumed name. And the Walid Shoebat Foundation’s working process is less than transparent, with Shoebat’s claim that it is registered as a charity in the state of Pennsylvania being denied by the Pennsylvania State Attorney’s Office.

…Shoebat told The Jerusalem Post that this could be because the bank building was robustly protected with steel and that the attack may have caused little damage.

Asked whether word of the bombing made the news at the time, he said, “I don’t know. I didn’t read the papers because I was in hiding for the next three days.” (In 2004, he had told Britain’s Sunday Telegraph: “I was terribly relieved when I heard on the news later that evening that no one had been hurt or killed by my bomb.”)

Questions have also been raised over Shoebat’s claim to have been an Islamic militant in the 1970s, before Islamism became a significant ideology in the West Bank, and his claim of descent from the nonsensical “grand wazir of Islam”. Further:

Visitors to Shoebat’s Internet site are encouraged to make a donation to his foundation to enable him to disseminate his message. However, a notice on the page states that for “security reasons,” the money will not be debited to his foundation, but rather to a company called Top Executive Media. The name Top Executive Media is used by a greetings card firm from Pennsylvania called Top Executive Greetings, a company with an annual turnover of $500,000.

A colleague of mine at Talk to Action, who uses the name “Dogemperor“, has dug further. He notes that “Top Executive Media” used to sell greetings cards, and that, as seen on Whois, the administrative contact is none other than Keith Davies, Shoebat’s “handler”. Further, the address given is an up-market private property. Dogemperor notes that Top Executive is also Shoebat’s publisher, and has also published for Hilmar von Campe, an aged Christian ex-Nazi who is now a walking violation of Godwin’s law, diagnosing Nazism and Communism as the root as everything he dislikes, from “fanatic Islam” through to support for Nelson Mandela and opposition to General Pinochet.

Shoebat is also controversial for other reasons; right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel claims that he plagiarised a couple of paragraphs from her, and that a subsequent complaint was met with an un-Christian “Fuck you, bitch”. Dogemperor also draws attention to an article in New Voices, an American-Jewish student newspaper. While accepting Shoebat’s “former-terrorist” story, the piece questioned his current anti-Palestinian perspective and the way he plays down his religious associations, provoking a denunciation from Davies:

…As an evangelical Christian, Shoebat has a vision that goes beyond annexing the entire West Bank–a vision that he avoids mentioning to his Jewish audiences. In private, though, Shoebat explained that he believes there will be “a great battle at the end…the children of Ishmael versus the Jewish community. Christians believe [the Jews] will…recognize that Jesus is the Messiah in the end.” Then he added, “but that is beside the point, this is not my agenda in the universities.”

…Keith Davies, an Irish Jew now living in Pennsylvania, is Shoebat’s agent and tour manager. Davies has no qualms about sending Shoebat to speak to Jewish groups without mentioning his Christian Zionism: all that matters, Davies says, is Shoebat’s willingness to speak for Israel. But Davies clearly feels that if attention is called to his evangelism, Shoebat’s credibility may suffer: immediately after I interviewed Shoebat and asked about his religious beliefs–particularly pressing him on details of his Christian Zionism–I received a call from Davies instructing me not to mention those beliefs in this article. If I did, Davies warned, it would “hurt Israel.” And Davies is protective of his own image as well; upon being emailed the quotes to be attributed to him in this article, Davies replied, “This is a disgusting article and I will [not] have anything further to do with you.”

…Maneuvering his biography like a Trojan horse, Shoebat gains the ear of liberal Jews. And his status as a “reformed sinner” gives him credence in the eyes of his target audience, overriding other Palestinian perspectives. At the very least, he has the power to lull Jewish audiences into complacency, absolving them of the need to examine their own history and politics.

Also facing unwelcome scrutiny is one Shoebat’s former associates, a Lebanese named Zachariah Anani:

Tom Quiggin, Canada’s only court-qualified expert on global jihadism and a former RCMP intelligence and national security expert, said Anani’s tales of terror and murder just don’t jibe with the time and place he claims to have been killing.

“Mr. Anani’s not an individual who rates the slightest degree of credibility, based on the stories that he has told,” said Quiggin, also a Senior Fellow at the Centre of Excellence for National Security in Singapore.

…”His story of having made kills shortly after he joined and having made 223 kills overall is preposterous, given the lack of fighting during most of the time period he claims to have been a fighter,” Quiggin said. “He also states he left Lebanon to go to Al-Azhar University at the age of 18, which would mean he went to Egypt in 1976. In other words, according to himself, he left Lebanon within a year of when the fighting actually started.”

…He also pointed to a story on WorldNetDaily in which Walid Shoebat, another ex-terrorist and friend of Anani, also claims to have killed 223 people, two-thirds of them with daggers.

“What a coincidence,” Quiggin said.

Quiggin also again raised the problem of the self-proclaimed former terrorist being a Jihadist at a time when fighters were mainly far-left secularists.

This came a few weeks after Anani disassociated himself with the Walid Shoebat Foundation. According to a website which reported on this (again noted by Dogemperior), Anani stated that as a “Spiritually charged Christian” he felt the WSF was too centred on “materialistic achievements”, and that as he had never believed in killing civilians he is an ex-soldier rathan than an ex-terrorist.

There was a previous time during which converts to evangelical Christianity would achieve prominence through tales of a former association with a fanatical and wicked ideology: this was in the 1970s and 1980s, when the likes of Mike Warnke would entrall with lurid stories of life as a Satanist. Warnke and his imitators were eventually shown to be frauds.

Spelling variation: Zacharia Anani