‘Israel taking Bin Laden’s threats seriously’

(AFP) — Israel is taking seriously a threat issued by the head of the Al-Qaeda network Osama Bin Laden in which he vowed the “liberation of Palestine,” a government spokesman said on Monday. “We take seriously the threats of Al-Qaeda just as we take seriously threats by all terrorist organisations,” Mark Regev told AFP. “We have observed Al-Qaeda activities near Israel, notably in Lebanon, Jordan and in the Sinai” peninsula of neighbouring Egypt, he said… Click for full article

It’s not entirely clear when Bin Laden is pandering to the Palestinian cause and when he is serious, though Israel should remain concerned about this threat. Bin Laden began to champion the Palestinian cause in some of his speeches especially after 9/11 when passions were on fire in the Middle East and beyond, but offered no real support to them — not with his money weapons or fighters. Only propagandists like the authors of the Israel Lobby Report Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer took Bin Laden’s previous statements on the Palestinians at face value because it nicely suited their thesis, which argued that United States’ support for Israel has been detrimental to American security (more so than, for example, arguing that the United States’ foreign policy has been detrimental to itself). Of course an honest look at the conflict between Bin Laden and the Unites States makes clear that Bin Laden’s real grievance was and is that the Saudi government allowed the United States to station its troops and air bases inside the Saudi Kingdom (in what he saw as holy Muslim land) after the first Gulf war. Bin Laden’s international Jihadist campaign was also inspired by a world view in favor of reinstating the Islamic Caliphate. His grievances against Israel may not have even ranked as secondary or tertiary in significance. With a wherewithal like Bin Laden’s, he could have made his enmity towards Israel felt there, had this truly been his cause over the years, and had he backed Palestinian militant groups with his full thrust. I have offered my critique on this before. But there may be something more to Bin Laden’s latest threats against Israel because they are unusually direct. Generally speaking, analysts regard Bin Laden’s threats as credible, and look to his speeches for signs of a change in policy.

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Lebanese army soldiers patrolling the destroyed Nahr al Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon. AP [File]

Also there were reports last week that the militant group Fatah al-Islam — which you may remember as the group holed up in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon over the summer, where they waged a drawn out battle in Lebanon and against the Lebanese army — had escaped with its remaining members and moved to Gaza recently. But this report is based solely on statements by Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a top aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, without further evidence, so we don’t really know. One has to be naturally skeptical of the source as it may reflect Fatah — Hamas factionalism and Fatah efforts to scare the international community about Hamas’ conduct in order to further isolate the group. Abdel Rahman blames Hamas’ violent takoever of the Gaza Strip last June for creating chaotic conditions there — not without merit — and for welcoming Fatah al-Islam into the territory. Yet I find it difficult to believe, that even while Hamas and Fatah al-Islam are fellow Sunni radical organizations, that any Palestinian group would embrace Fatah al-Islam with open arms after the group’s conduct last summer resulted in the utter destruction of the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, and many Palestinians lost their homes and livelihoods because of it. Or do they solely blame the Lebanese army for that destruction? It is hard to tell — for example, during the first few days of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, many Lebanese were furious at Hezbollah for instigating a war with Israel, though once Israel began the bombing campaign they quickly rallied around Hezbollah as heroes and re-directed their ire at Israel. Even if the reports of Fatah al-Islam’s re-emergence in the Gaza Strip were true, the threat from Fatah al-Islam is not as serious as the threat from al-Qaeda (if the the Lebanese armed forces could crush their uprising this summer, the IDF can, to be sure). Fatah al-Islam is a singular organization inspired by al Qaeda but finite in size and capability, while al-Qaeda has become a much more dangerous and decentralized movement (and an ‘ism’) with widespread appeal. These may be signs of a much larger menace coming from Gaza in the future.

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