AJC Westchester Blog

Project Interchange – Counter-Terrorism Trip – Day 3

with 2 comments

Retired Colonel Eitan Azani from Herzaliya’s Interdisciplinary Center offered us an excellent briefing this morning on the global jihad.  It was just a taste.  After an hour, we stopped him, as our next presenter had arrived, and he said something about his presentation normally running 5 hours.  He works at the International Institute for Counter Terrorism at IDC, and the group was uniformly impressed with him.

He immediately told us that this is a war, not a criminal activity, and we are only in the middle.

At the Institute, they live by the important  adage – know your enemy.  The more you follow the internal discourse, the more you will know.  He remarked that the discourse shows that global jihadists are in a weaker position than they were just 2-3 years ago.  The death of Bin Laden is part of this.

Once you know your enemy, you design the policy and execute it.  This is not always easy.  You must have the support of the public to do so, and until they feel threatened, they may not allow the necessary intrusions on their freedom for you to realize your strategy.

Some aspects of the enemy that he focused on are the degree to which their culture values honor, language and clothing; the social structure which is completely built around the family and the clan; community solidarity; and ultimately being part of the Uma – the global religious community of Islam.  He spoke about Dawa and Jihad – the former meaning furthering Islam through softer means, i.e., missionary work of education, medicine, and food; and the latter meaning through violence.  He also spoke about the value placed on patience – waiting until just the right opportunity comes along that will further your aims.

Lastly, he mentioned the recent fatwas (religious edicts):   1) taking part in Arab spring is not permissible, 2) Muslims killing innocent Muslims is gaining permissibility, 3) weapons of mass destruction are permissible, 4) killing Arab Christians is permissible, 5) using dollars meant for charity for Jihad is permissible.

He repeated yesterday’s presenter’s words about the suicide bombers:  they really, really believe that if they do this, they will go straight to heaven, where 72 (yesterday, he said 70 – not sure it really matters 😉 virgins will await them.

Our next presenter was from the National Security Council, and she spoke about money laundering.  That’s about all I can say.  She allowed no pictures and no video, she collected all paperwork handed out, and she requested that we publish nothing.  All that I can say is that following this money is a serious global issue, and if we can get a better handle on it, we will greatly be able to curtail global terrorism.  Also, shame on the first world countries who have still not declared Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization.

The late morning and early afternoon was spent on a driving tour through Tel Aviv and wandering around old Jaffa.

We stopped at Independence Hall where Ben Gurion declared independence in May 1948, as well as Rabin Square, where Rabin was assassinated.  The group seemed very interested in the details surrounding this and the mood of the country at the time.

Jaffa is becoming more gentrified every time I go there.  Multi-million dollar apartement buildings made to fit in with the Ottoman-style architecture – and with magnificent views of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean —  are now popping up everywhere.  As one can imagine, this causes animosity with the poorer, long-time residents, many of whom are Muslim and Christian Arabs.  The group loved walking around the alleyways and photographing the gorgeous views. The Old City in Jerusalem provides a richer experience in terms of the alleyways, and I am sure that they will love that.  In the meantime, they snapped away.

We ended our tour at Dr. Shakshuka – the famous restaurant  in Jaffa.  We were rushed to get to our next appointment, so it was simply shawarma for all – a good Israeli experience, which they seemed to like.

The rest of the day and night was spent with the Tel Aviv Police who seemed to love comparing notes with their counterparts.  Here are the highlights:

  1. As we arrived, the group was excited to take pictures with the police cars and motorcycles with Hebrew on it.  I had already taught them “mishtara” – the Hebrew word for police.
  2. We had a full presentation of all of their bomb squad equipment from the bomb squad.  The group felt that much of the equipment was similar, in terms of robots, containment vehicles, protective helmets/vests, etc.  One member of the group remarked that it seemed that they took commonly used items and retrofitted them for their needs, which is exactly what police departments do in the U.S.
  3. We enjoyed a presentation on the Police Department.  Again, much of this is confidential.  What I can say is that there are 1.3 million residents living in Tel Aviv and another million who come in daily to work.  I can also say that most crime is down over the past few years.  We spoke at length about how they deal with the Muslim populations, which is clearly done with great sensitivity to the cultural norms of their society, as well as great creativity.  Force is a last resort, but used if necessary.  This impressed the group.
  4. We took a tour of the police department, including the dispatch room, which handles millions of calls a year.
  5. We took a tour of south Tel Aviv with the police.  This is the area where the refugees from Eritrea, Sudan, etc. are living in very close quarters.  They live in poverty, and there is crime.  This was frankly a side of Israel I have never seen before, and the policemen in our group compared it to the ghetto areas in their towns.  There is one main difference here.  I would imagine that the refugees are grateful that Israel is not throwing them out.  Many fled war-torn areas for their lives.  The fact that Israel lets them simply be is a blessing for them.
  6. Finally, we had dinner with about 9 policemen in a lovely Moroccan-French restaurant in Jaffa.  The group loved connecting individually with policemen.  Many came out and simply said “that was just great.”  Wine was not included in tonight’s meal, but the policemen insisted on buying wine for all of us to celebrate.  One conversation that my group had was about prisons and how the U.S. generally imposes harsher sentences and subjects their prisoners to harsher conditions, a fact that our law enforcement officials confirmed based on their knowledge of where the U.S. stands with the rest of the world.  We are supposed to visit a prison later this week, though that still depends of the timing of the release of the rest of the prisoners connected to the Gilad Shalit swap.

Throughout the day, the guide and I tried to impart bits and pieces of the general culture.  One aspect that is novel for the group are the many places from which Jews came to this country, especially the countries of the Middle East.  I explained that our first speaker this morning understands the mentality of the Arab population because his parents are from Yemen, and he grew up surrounded by people from Yemen.  At dinner tonight, the policeman with whom my group was sitting had a mother from the Kurdish region of Iran and a father from the Kurdish region of Iraq. 

I have tried to teach the group a few Hebrew words along the way.  Their growing vocabulary now consists of the following:

Shalom – Hello/goodbye
Boker Tov – Good morning
Erev Tov – Good evening
Lila Tov – Good night
Toda – Thank you
Aluf – General
Naim Meod – Nice to meet you
B’seder – O.k.
Sababa – Cool o.k.
Mishtara – Police

With that, I will say lila tov and pack for our trip to the Golan Heights tomorrow.

Some pictures from the day are below:


Written by Scott Richman, AJC Westchester Director

October 31, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Scott, you are amazing. Thank you for keeping us posted like this in spite of your overpacked schedule with the group. Shalom. Musa.

    Musa Yenni

    November 1, 2011 at 10:35 am

    • WOnderful – yet this highlights the very complicated and truly amazing level at which the Israelis must live. All this – and what’s going on at the UN. The nazis wanted to create the super race – well, it seems that the very people they tried to exterminate are fast approaching that state.

      Thank you for taking the time to send these.

      Judith Soffer

      November 4, 2011 at 9:03 pm

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