Iraqi official wishes “shana tova” to the Israeli people

September 15, 2004

Iraqi official wishes "Shana Tova" to the Israeli people – is then sacked; his family in Baghdad forced to go into hiding.



1. "Shana Tova to the people of Israel"
2. The Media and Terrorism
3. Schily: "Fight Anti-Semitism as well as Terrorism"
4. Eiland reveals in public for the first Time: Israel's Criteria for "Targeted Interceptions"
5. Arafat sends New Year wishes to Israelis, and dispatches suicide bomber to kill them at the same time

[Note by Tom Gross]


This week Mithal al-Alousi, a senior official in the new Iraqi government, stepped up onto a podium in Herzliya, Israel, and wished "Shana Tova [Happy New Year] to the Israeli people". (The Jewish New Year begins this evening.)

Al-Alousi, who is director general of the Supreme Iraqi National Commission for DeBathification in Baghdad, has called for a new open, honest and tolerant beginning for the Arab peoples.

Al-Alousi was in Israel to speak at an international conference on Counter-Terrorism at the ICT (International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism) a think tank housed at the IDC (Interdisciplinary Center) in Herzliya.

His visit marks the first time that a senior Iraqi official has publicly visited Israel. Furthermore, al-Alousi flew to Israel (from Ankara, Turkey) on El Al Israel Airlines.

I was also a speaker at this conference and had an opportunity to talk privately to al-Alousi, who was on his first visit to Israel, and who comes across as a pleasant man who genuinely wishes for peaceful relations between the Arab world and the Israel.

Al-Alousi said "many intellectuals in Iraq know that Israel must be taken into account as an existing fact and that generations of people have been born here. It is in Iraq's interests to have diplomatic relations with everyone, and that is what we want."


He added that he came to Israel "because it is such a vital component in the Middle East".

I wasn't going to write on this list about al-Alousi's visit, but after details of his visit were reported on by journalists for the AP and Reuters, it has been reported upon by dozens of Arab news outlets.

Al-Alousi has now been fired by the Iraqi National Congress after an emergency meeting of its leadership in the wake of reports of the visit, and his family, facing death threats, have had to go into hiding.

Al-Alousi said he was aware of the risk of coming to Israel but with so many other threats against him already, he said he was used to threats to his life.

Al-Alousi is (perhaps) ahead of his time. On Sunday, the Arab Web site Illaf published a report stating that Iraqi Foreign Minister Hishiyar Zibai is the most prominent of an important group in the Iraqi government pushing for an end to the state of war between Iraq and Israel.

According to Illaf, quoting Iraqi diplomats in Amman, last week there was a meeting in Amman of senior Iraqis with Israelis. Jordanian government sources said there are contacts between Israelis and Iraqis, though usually it is business people, not government officials. The sources said the Iraqi defense minister also favors a thaw in relations with Israel, but Iraqi President Iyad Alawi is opposed, arguing that the Iraqi government should concentrate on rehabilitating the country.

-- Tom Gross


The ICT conference brought together about 800 experts on terrorism (intelligence officials, politicians, policy-makers, military officials, academics and some journalists) from about 33 countries. It began (deliberately) on September 11, and ended yesterday evening.

I was asked to speak at the conference on the "Media and terrorism." More specifically, I spoke on the way in which terrorist groups, while rejecting western values and society, are experts at skillfully exploiting the western media to help further their political aims, and this has led to western intellectuals (and many journalists) sympathizing with not just their aims but their tactics (i.e. mass murder). Terrorists and their sympathizers lie to their teeth, knowing they can rely on western journalists to uncritically print their lies and rely on western politicians (particularly in Europe) to lap them up. They are "useful idiots," as Lenin described those in the west taken in by Communist propaganda.

Other speakers at the conference included:

* Moshe Ya'alon, the chief of staff of the Israeli army
* Shabtai Shavit, the former Head of the Mossad, and Chairman of the ICT Directors
* Vladimir Vasilyev, Chairman of the Duma (Russian Parliament) Committee for Security
* Otto Schily, the Interior Minister of Germany
* Gennady Tarasov, Russian ambassador to Israel
* Rohan Gunartna, from Singapore, who is regarded as the world's leading academic expert on Al Qaeda
* Anne Bayefsky, an expert on the UN discrimination against Israel and others

There were several other speakers from Russia, China, Germany, Denmark, Australia, India, Georgia, as well as a number of Israeli-Arab leaders.

American speakers including officials from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

Other speakers on the media included:
* Shalom Kital, the head of Israel Channel Two news
* Yon Feder, the Chief Editor of Ynet, Israel's largest Internet news portal
* Yossi Melman, intelligence correspondent for Ha'aretz



Otto Schily, the Interior Minister of Germany, called the fight against terrorism a "new world war" and said "we cannot discuss terrorism without mentioning anti-Semitism as well – it provides the foundation on which terrorism often builds."

He added: "No nation has suffered under the scourge of terrorism longer and harder than Israel... we see a dreadful trail of blood over the years and decades caused by Islamist terrorism. Islamist terrorism has become the most dangerous threat to the whole civilized world in the 21st century."

Tom Gross adds: Schily was originally a leftist German politician, who rose up through the ranks of the Green Party and was sympathetic to the PLO. Today, as interior minister, he is taking a much firmer line on terror groups and has recently banned Hamas and PLO front organizations from operating in Germany.




Speaking at the conference, National Security Adviser Maj.-Gen. Giora Eiland revealed that the IDF had four criteria that had to be met to carry out a targeted interception.

1. There was no way to possibly arrest the person, without dozens of civilians dying in gun battles. Eiland indicated that targeted interceptions were very rarely used in the West Bank, where the IDF pretty much has free reign in the past few years. Eiland also noted that during this time security forces had arrested over 1,500 people.

2. Interceptions are only approved when the intelligence was completely reliable, and no mistake could be made about the intended target's identity. Eiland, who was head of the Operations Division during much of Israel’s recent conflict with the Palestinians, said the IDF carried out about 150 attempted interceptions in the past four years. "There was not one single case of mistake in identity. Sometimes we missed or caused damage beyond what we expected. This is a 100 percent record," claimed Eiland.

3. The target was "important enough."

4. It had to be done with the minimum probability of causing innocent casualties. "There have been dozens, if not hundreds of times that we had good operational opportunity to do something but did not because it did not meet all four conditions," Eiland said.



Tom Gross writes:

Ever the master of manipulation of the media, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat yesterday sent a New Year's message on his own behalf, that of the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian people to the people of Israel.

In extending his best wishes Arafat also expressed the hope that Israelis and Palestinians can begin to live in security and attain a long-awaited peace "for the betterment of your children and our children and a promising future for the whole region."

The message was also signed in his capacity as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

At the same time he was sending the message, gunmen in Ramallah working for Arafat's Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, murdered Rami Yaghmour, 28, suspected of collaboration with Israel. Yaghmour had been arrested last month by the Palestinian Authority's Special Forces security apparatus and PA security sources claimed that he had confessed during "interrogation". Yaghmour is the sixth suspected collaborator killed in Ramallah in recent months.

Also at the same time that Arafat told Israelis that he wished "for the betterment of your children and our children and a promising future for the whole region," Arafat's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades dispatched a suicide bomber to kill them. The Palestinian suicide bomber on a bicycle blew up at a West Bank crossing, wounding three Israeli soldiers, one seriously (his injuries are life-threatening, according to doctors). The bomber blew himself up at the checkpoint after he failed to get into Israel proper.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.