More on ?Walid Shoebat? and his allies and competitors in the ?reformed terrorists? scam

Several readers have asked for more information on the “reformed terrorist” scam and the conman who sometimes calls himself “Walid Shoebat,” and sometimes doesn’t, and on the entire phenomenon. There are a few more interesting things worth pointing out about these sordid people and their dirty dealings that weren’t touched on in my last blog posting, which was prompted by revelations that yet again the federal government, in this case the Department of Homeland Security, had paid this man $5000 to help “train” security officials. Of course, I was only encouraged by a Tweet by a defender of “Shoebat” who produced this masterpiece: "you just stay out of the truck stop restrooms cause I know who you are and what you do I saw you. Leave Walid be you closet cas." [Sic on all that]. It could hardly have been better calculated to make me want to revisit the subject as soon as possible. The first point is to re-establish how truly dangerous unrestrained, hysterical, hate speech on the order practiced by “Shoebat” can truly be. His sentiments frequently veer towards the genocidal. For instance, he recently stated, “I would wish that the whole Muslim world would listen to Mr. Bakri and fight by the sword literally. This way the nukes will take care of the whole problem once and for all." So now that we’re all back on the same page, here’s some more about “Shoebat” and his partners in robbing credulous churches and ignorant, incompetent government agencies with the nonchalance of the most accomplished burglars.

Thom Cincotta recently authored an extremely revealing report about this hate-speech cottage industry called “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace” for the group Political Research Associates. It begins by documenting “what one official involved in homeland security said was how she understood the underlying theme of a speech by Walid Shoebat at an anti-terrorism training in Las Vegas in October 2010.” The report states, “Our investigator had turned around after Shoebat’s speech and asked the woman seated one row back what she thought was the solution offered by Shoebat. ‘Kill them…including the children…you heard him,’ was the full response.” Of course this doesn’t mean that the official was endorsing this view, but it certainly was her understanding of his message. I’m not sure I could’ve summed it up anymore neatly myself. Since “Shoebat” insists that Islam is not only evil and demonic but is itself “the devil,” such an interpretation of his message seems wholly justifiable. The report reasonably suggests that given how extreme his language tends to be, “Shoebat may be the most outlandish example of the coterie of anti-Islamic bigots and fear mongers who are training law enforcement officials and anti-terrorism agents.” The report also helpfully notes “Shoebat’s financial remuneration for his appearances is obscured in complicated financial arrangements he claims are needed to protect him from terrorism.” In other words, somebody tried to look into this and found it deliberately obscured and not worth getting to the bottom of. Suffice it to say, the man is making a living, and almost certainly a tidy one, from spreading this poison around our society.

“Shoebat” frequently partners with Zak Anani, another purveyor of particularly gigantic tales. In the most extraordinary "coincidence," this self-described “former terrorist” and former mass-murderer, claims to have killed no less than 223 people during the Lebanese civil war, “two-thirds of them by daggers.” (Exactly the same claim, word-for-word, attributed to “Walid Shoebat,” as cited in my last blog posting.)  How and why they claim to have killed exactly the same number of people, in exactly the same way, at around the same time, in two different places, and two separate wars, has never been explained. It would be interesting to know who the ghostwriter or coach behind these laughable fabrications is, since they clearly got it from the same set of fantastical talking points. I will not bother to dwell on how ridiculous these claims are, even considered in isolation from each other, in the first place.

Anani claims to have joined “an Islamist militia” in Lebanon in the early 1970s, at age 13 (naturally he does not specify which militia that was, and it is hard to think of a group that would have fit this description in Lebanon at the time). As usual with “reformed terrorists” and self-styled, for-profit “ex-Muslims,” there is a profound anachronism in his claims to have been raised in a climate of militant jihad in a place and time in the Arab world where such rhetoric was extremely rare if not completely unknown. He claims to have not only killed an astounding number of people, but also to have been subjected to extreme persecution in Lebanon, where he says he was “almost beheaded by an Islamist gang.” He ended up in Canada where “his house and car have been burnt, his family attacked.” Not surprisingly, Canadian police flatly deny these claims.

Canadian authorities and experts have also dismissed Anani’s tall tales of former terrorism, with noted expert Tom Quiggin, formerly of the RMCP, correctly observing that, “Mr. Anani is not an individual who rates the slightest degree of credibility, based on the stories that he has told.The Windsor Star quotes Quiggin as saying that, "Anani has said he's 49 years old, which would mean he was born in 1957 or 1958.  If he joined his first militant group when he was 13, it would have been in 1970 or 1971.  But the fighting in Lebanon did not begin in earnest until 1975.  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.  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 added, “It appears to be that Mr. Anani is nothing more than an extremist who is trying to create an imaginative history from a contemporary set of fears and stories.” In other words, just like with “Shoebat,” Anani’s account is a transparent, inane fiction that announces itself as an absurdity on first glance to anyone with the least knowledge of the subject under discussion.

As my friend Omar Baddar pointed out in response to my recent posting, the Jerusalem Post also noted that following the by-now thoroughly debunked imaginary bank bombing that “Shoebat” claims he conducted on behalf of the PLO in the late 1970s, “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.’)” So, he couldn’t even keep his stories straight about whether he was in hiding and incommunicado for three days after the fictional “attack” that never happened, or whether he was listening to the news that very evening. He recently resorted to describing the author of this damning Jerusalem Post story as the “Holocaust-denial supporter Jorg Luyken” on the basis that the author has criticized laws criminalizing Holocaust denial and urging combating it with historical facts, since “the evidence of the Holocaust is irrefutable,” rather than through laws criminalizing stupid and offensive speech of this kind.

Yet, along with a crew of other shameless frauds, these individuals are making a repulsive career out of telling lies about themselves and spreading fear and hatred against entire communities and identity groups. Naturally, there is no honor among thieves. The falling outs have been vicious and most telling. The most amusing is the apparent war between Brigitte Gabriel, the most successful and ambitious of the Arab professional Islamophobes (who I have dissected in some detail in an earlier Ibishblog post) and “Shoebat,” Anani and another huckster called Kamal Saleem. According to Franklin Lamb, as she felt these three upstarts beginning to encroach on her lucrative territory, Gabriel exploded, "Not only are these creeps Arabs, but two of them are Palestinians!" Chris Hedges — who calls the three “Curly, Larry and Mo” — says that by 2008 “Shoebat,” Anani and Saleem were telling their audiences that “the only way to deal with one-fifth of the world’s population is by converting or eradicating all Muslims.” By trying to outbid Gabriel and everybody else in their degree of Islamophobic hatred, according to Lamb, “Shoebat… recently chortled, ‘let the spoiled brat from South Lebanon top that!’ following an appearance on Tovia Singer's radio show.” But as things have played out, Gabriel has proven to have a longer reach and a wider audience on the political extreme right, by emphasizing pure anti-Arab and Islamophobic hatred and downplaying apocalyptic, dispensationalist evangelical Christianity.

“Shoebat” also had an interesting falling out with a former collaborator called Simon Altaf. According to religion writer Richard Bartholomew, the two co-authored a book called “Islam: Peace? or Beast?” which preposterously claimed that the early text of the Book of Revelation in the Codex Vaticanus reveal the “mark of the beast” not to be the Greek symbols for 666 or 616, but rather the Arabic script for Allah. Bartholomew points out that the original text of the Codex Vaticanus does not include the Book of Revelation at all, and the supplement in question was added more than 1,000 years later than the original text. Moreover, the claim is ludicrous on every possible grounds. The two also cofounded the “Abrahamic Faith” website which, when it was first launched, according to Bartholomew “as well as pushing hardline Christian Zionism, it originally attacked other Christian groups, including Evangelicals and Charismatics, Billy Graham, and the Pope.” Bartholomew also points out that the site contained “an early version of Shoebat’s conversion narrative, in which he describes himself as having been involved in anti-Israel rioting during the Intifada, but which doesn’t mention any PLO membership or bomb-planting.

The split between the two apparently occurred when Altaf was ordained as a Rabbi by the Bnai Yahshua Synagogue in Florida, which apparently believes that “non-Jewish followers of Jesus have physical descent from Ephraim” (trust me, you don’t want to know…). “Shoebat” thundered that “Simon Altaf… turned polygamist and cultist of the first order.” An indication of how demented the whole argument was on both sides can be found here. Altaf shot back that “Shoebat’s real name is ‘Walid Salameh’” and that his “handler,” one Keith Davies, was originally employed by an ardent ex-Nazi. Altaf’s totally unverifiable tirade against “Shoebat” can be read here, on the site they originally cofounded.

The latest target of Shoebat’s avaricious wrath is Mosab Hassan Yousef, a.k.a. “Son of Hamas,” who spied on the Palestinian extremist group for Israel before moving to the United States and converting to Christianity. “Shoebat” originally endorsed Yousef, but has now written a tirade against him accusing him of being “more double agent than turncoat.” Presumably, this racket ain’t big enough for both of us, yet again. In an effort to dissuade American churches from hosting (and therefore paying) Yousef, “Shoebat” insists, “Mosab did not convert to what the West would recognize as Christianity, but to a fiery, Palestinian brand of the faith that is vehemently anti-Israel. According to Mosab, his main goal in coming to the U.S. is to infiltrate the main source of international support for Israel: the American church.” It’s about as subtle as when Shoebat’s most prominent patron and defender, Daniel Pipes, demanded I be banned from television after a series of severe drubbings I delivered him in televised debates (he later complained that he couldn’t get on television anymore because he refused to appear with me and therefore I was on and he wasn’t). Most tellingly, “Shoebat” accuses Yousef of “duping pro-Israel churches for his own personal profit.” Takes one to know one. "We are doing our best to warn the church," Shoebat’s handler, Keith Davis, explained. I’ll bet they are!

Yousef was defended by his Shin Bet handler, one Gonen ben Itzhak, who thinks, “Mr. Shoebat is playing a dirty game,” and that “Unlike Walid Shoebat, Mosab did not commit fictitious crimes against Israel,” and “Mosab served hard time in prison and paid for what he did.” Most pointedly he tells “Shoebat,” that because of his background in intelligence and experience, “I can smell a fraud and recognize a fake hero on the spot.” Yousef has also accused Keith Davis, on behalf of “Shoebat,” of trying “to recruit me [as a speaker] to use my story to raise money”.

Yousef says he didn’t respond to this e-mail and the worst that can be said of his veracity is that he has exaggerated his story — not invented it out of whole cloth like “Shoebat” — and his relationship with Israel and the Palestinian cause are complex to say the least. Whether he can be seen as an opportunist or not, even though he might be threatening to Shoebat’s racket, there isn’t any clear evidence yet that he is trying to mimic it. On the contrary, Yousef’s complex, ambivalent and often hard to reconcile and idiosyncratic stances make him far less appealing a speaker on ideological grounds to credulous pro-Israel fundamentalist churches than Larry, Curly and Moe. But clearly the fact that his story is based in fact and not fiction, and that he actually knows something about the subject he is addressing, makes him a very serious threat to the total frauds peddling complete fictions, absolute certainties and uncompromising hatred. The effort to take him out of the equation is extremely revealing about Shoebat’s motives and methods.