The fate of a $655 million judgment against the Palestinian Authority (PA) is in the hands of a federal appellate court.
Judges at New York's 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Tuesday in the case of Sokolow v. PLO, et al., in which jurors found the PA and the Palestine Liberation Organization liable for a series of terrorist attacks in 2001-2004 that were part of the Palestinian intifada.
Those attacks killed or wounded members of 11 American families who filed the lawsuit under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). During a six-week trial last year, jurors saw internal PLO and PA records showing payments to terror cells that were part of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which was created by the PLO. Families of PA and PLO employees killed carrying out terrorist attacks, or who were imprisoned after attacks, also received monthly payments.
The PA's defense hinges on an argument that U.S. courts do not have the jurisdiction to hear such a lawsuit. The United States does not recognize Palestine as a sovereign state, they argued, and the PA's activities here fail to meet the standard for being "at home."
In arguments Tuesday, PA attorney Mitchell Berger said the Manhattan district court was "plainly wrong" to hear the case.
"Their own experts said the brunt of the injury, which is the key question, was on Israel, not the United States," he said. In his brief, Berger also pointed to three similar lawsuits that were dismissed by federal judges in Washington, D.C. for a lack of jurisdiction.
Attorneys for the victims say the PA is within reach of U.S. courts because of its activities here. They also point to internal records which made it clear that the attacks were waged in part to influence American policy. In addition, the PA "chose to enter" the United States and "can be charged with knowledge of its laws" because it appointed a representative under the Foreign Agent Registration Act ('FARA')."
Overturning the judgment threatens to turn the ATA into "a dead letter, inapplicable to the very fact pattern Congress designed it to address. Under Defendants' theory, they may come to the United States to extract funds from our government on the understanding that they will live up to their promise to renounce terror, open a lobbying office in Washington, D.C., then murder U.S. citizens and support U.S. designated FTOs to provide teeth to their U.S. lobbying efforts— and yet avoid facing justice in the U.S. courts. That position is as meritless as it is offensive, and this Court should reject it."
Pamphlets left at London's Stockwell Green Mosque threaten death to Ahmadiyya Muslims unless they convert to mainstream Sunni Islam. Opponents have accused this mosque of helping promote acts of terror and hate in Pakistan in 2011, prompting a denial from a mosque trustee.
The mosque lists itself on official United Kingdom government documents as the official "overseas office" of Khatme Nabuwwat, a Pakistani Islamist movement known for its strong anti-Ahamdi sentiment, the BBC reports. It also is listed as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Muslim Council of Britain.
Ahmadis suffer intense persecution in Pakistan and are regarded as heretics due to their belief that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed of Qadian, was a prophet after Muhammad. They also differ from Sunnis by rejecting offensive jihad and believing that military jihad no longer is applicable in the modern world. In a 1983 ruling, the sheikh of Al-Azhar, one the most highly respected authorities in Sunni Islam, declared the Ahmadis "apostates."
The English-language Khatme Nabuwwat pamphlets found at the Stockwell Green Mosque derisively refer to the Ahmadis by the epithet "Qadiani" and say they should be killed as apostates.
"Those who refuse to convert to mainstream Islam within three days should face a 'capital sentence' — or death penalty," a pamphlet cited by the BBC says.
"Khatme Nabuwwat do not inflict violence themselves, but they provide an enabling environment for a number of actors to do so," Human Rights Watch official Saroop Ijaz told the BBC.
"There are enough violent groups in Pakistan, enough radical population in Pakistan, that if accusation is made enough times and loudly enough – that is murder. Khatme Nabuwwat do this with the very clear desire of leading to that outcome."
The mosque denied placing the pamphlets in its literature rack, with a spokesman saying they may have been planted by someone with malicious intentions.
The pamphlets' discovery comes in the wake of the murder of Asad Shah, an Ahmadi, in Glasgow last month. Tanveer Ahmed of Bradford, England, said he killed Shah for disrespecting Islam and falsely claiming to be a prophet.
The MCB responded to the attack against Shah, saying that Muslims should not be forced to classify Ahmadis as Muslims if they do not wish to do so and for Muslims to "respect all people irrespective of belief or background."
The MCB statement represented the sentiments that fueled the growth of intolerance and extremism in Pakistan, an Ahmadi spokesman said in response.
Hamas criticized the Palestinian Authority (PA) Monday for coordinating with Israel after the PA arrested three suspected terrorists prior to an imminent attack targeting Israelis. "The cooperation between the PA and Israel in arresting the three fighters is a serious escalation in the coordination between them," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
Hamas official Hussan Badran also denounced the arrest and claimed that "the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah are working openly to thwart the popular uprising."
Over the weekend, PA security forces arrested three suspected Hamas operatives west of Ramallah. The terrorists, who were missing since March 30, were found in possession of a large quantity of weapons including, hand grenades and a submachine gun.
The terrorists' families filed a report with the PA security forces after the three men vacated their shared Ramallah apartment and got rid of their cell phones, ID cards, and laptops.
One of the terrorists, 23-year-old Muhammad Harb, sent a text message to his mother: "I want to be alone for a week or two. I might deactivate my Facebook account. Don't worry."
These developments indicate that Hamas is continuing efforts to expand its base of terrorist operations in the West Bank. The terrorist organization is also actively seeking to reinvigorate and hijack the recent popular wave of Palestinian terrorism targeting Israelis, which has largely remained in the realm of individual initiatives.
While PA security forces are reportedly credited with foiling several Palestinian terrorist plots, senior political Fatah and PA officials – including President Mahmoud Abbas – engage in active violent incitement against Jews and Israelis. Increased Palestinian incitement and glorification of terrorism from across the political spectrum largely fueled the latest popular uprising.
Another secular writer has been murdered in a hacking attack in Bangladesh.
Nazimuddin Samad, a law student, was walking home in Dhaka Wednesday when four masked men on a motorcycle yelling "Allahu Akhbar" started hacking him with machetes. As he fell, one of the attackers shot him.
"It is a case of targeted killing," said deputy commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan police Syed Nurul Islam.
While police say they have no suspects, the killing fits the pattern of those killed before him.
Samad was part of a secular activist group called Ganajagran Manch, and his writings often criticized Islamists. "Evolution is a scientific truth," he wrote on Facebook. "Religion and race are invention of the savage and uncivil people."
In an apparent effort to prove they were not savage and uncivil, radical Islamists set upon Samad with machetes.
"He didn't kill anyone. To me he's a good person. He didn't do anything wrong," Mustakur Rahman, a friend, told The Guardian. "He wrote something about a particular religion. I'm a believer, but he wasn't a believer and maybe he was trying to express what he thinks about religion. It is a free world, why should he be killed?"
Samad's murder on a Dhaka street "is a grave reminder that the authorities are failing to protect people exercising their right to freedom of expression," Amnesty International said in a statement.
Bangladeshi officials have not adequately condemned the ongoing slaughter, the statement said, noting they have instead acted to curb actions and statements which might "gravely hurt religious sentiments."
"There can be no justification for the brutal killing of Nazimuddin Samad, who has apparently paid with his life for nothing but being brave enough to speak his mind," said Amnesty International South Asia Director Champa Patel. "This is not just a senseless murder, it is a blatant attack on the right to freedom of expression."
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas continues to deny Israel's right to exist by referring to the entire Jewish state as an "occupation," reports Palestinian Media Watch.
"We have been under occupation for 67 or 68 years (i.e., since Israel's establishment in 1948). Others would have sunk into despair and frustration. However, we are determined to reach our goal because our people stand behind us," said Abbas on official PA TV on March 11.
Click here to watch the video clip.
Abbas' latest comments come amid reports that the Palestinian president is willing to resume peace negotiations with Israel.
Abbas is notorious for double speak – saying two completely different messages to different crowds. While he consistently denies Israel's right to exist to the Palestinian street, Abbas claims to support the two-state solution to international audiences.
"We strive for peace through the establishment of the Palestinian state, which will live in peace and stability alongside Israel...despite all that is happening, we still hold our hand out to you, in order to establish peace and put an end to the loathing and [spilling] of blood between us. Therefore, we are trying to hold dialogue with all groups of the Israeli society," Abbas told a Jewish delegation, reported by official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on March 29.
However, Palestinian Media Watch extensively reported on Abbas's consistent referral to all of Israel as "Palestine."
In addition, this month's edition of Zayzafuna, a PA-funded youth magazine, features notable Palestinian symbols, including the PA map of "Palestine" that all of Israel represented by the Palestinian flag. The cover also includes a cartoon slingshot and a stone, as well as a key symbolizing the "return of Palestinian refugees" to Israel.
Zayzafuna often demonizes Israel, glorifying jihad and encouraging martyrdom operations against Jews for Allah.
Palestinian officials, including Abbas, systematically praise terrorists who kill Israelis and actively incite others to follow suit, fueling the ongoing Palestinian terrorist campaign over the last half year.
A U.S. naval vessel intercepted a large Iranian weapons shipment, seizing massive quantities of arms and sophisticated weaponry destined for Yemen, the Pentagon announced Monday.
The seizure occurred in the Arabian Sea on March 28, officials said, marking the third interception of an Iranian weapons shipment in recent weeks. The ship was carrying 1,500 AK-47 rifles, 200 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, and 21 .50-caliber machine guns. They were en route to Houthi insurgents battling in Yemen's civil war at Iran's behest.
The U.S. Navy let the crew go after seizing the weapons, in line with current rules of engagement, according to a U.S. official speaking with Fox News.
This incident marks another major development in a string of recent Iranian provocations, indicating growing belligerence among the Islamic Republic's decision makers.
Last month, Iran tested missiles in violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution associated with the nuclear deal, which prohibits Iran from developing its ballistic missile program for eight years.
Iran also continues to expand its presence throughout the Middle East in line with its regional hegemonic ambitions.
On Monday, Iranian General Ali Arasteh said that the Islamic Republic deployed special forces to Syria as "advisers." Last month, Arasteh revealed that Iran may deploy commandos and snipers from its regular armed forces as military advisers in Iraq and Syria.
Iran expert Ali Alfoneh told the Jerusalem Post that "the regular army has begged for some time to get involved in Syria because it would be a source of prestige and funding."
The deployment indicates a shift in the army's constitutional mission focused on ensuring Iran's territorial integrity, writes Iran expert Amir Toumaj of The Long War Journal.
These developments support critics of the nuclear deal who argue that financial sanctions relief emboldens Iran to increase its sponsorship of terrorism throughout the region and worldwide.
Update, April 5: Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon described the reports about the U.S. granting Iran better access to U.S. dollars as false "rumors" during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
The Obama administration is considering relaxing financial restrictions that prevent the use of U.S. dollars in transactions with Iran, according to U.S. officials speaking with the Associated Press.
The Treasury Department has created a general license allowing offshore financial institutions to access U.S. dollars for currency trading in conjuncture with legitimate business transactions with Iran, even though this practice is currently illegal.
Some lawmakers are furious, considering Iran's increasingly belligerent behavior. Moreover, the proposed policy was not part of last year's nuclear agreement signed with Iran.
"These reports are deeply concerning, to say the least...As Iran continues to undermine the spirit of its nuclear agreement with illicit ballistic missile tests, the Obama administration is going out of its way to help Tehran reopen for business. The president should abandon this idea," House Speaker Paul Ryan said Thursday in a statement.
Since the U.S. dollar is the world's dominant currency, it is frequently used in global financial transactions and conversions. Sanctions prevent Iran from exchanging the money on its own, while international banks are threatened with heavy fines and potential cut off from the American financial market if caught facilitating Iranian transactions involving U.S. currency.
Senior administration officials justify additional assistance to Iran.
"We do believe that they are complying [with the nuclear accord]...Ballistic missiles, support for terrorism, destabilizing activities in the region, that's not the nuclear deal...It's a separate set of issues in which we have the ability to respond," Ben Rhodes, President Obama's deputy national security adviser, told reporters on Thursday.
Top Democrats also objected to the new proposal.
In a letter to the president, U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Cal., argued that allowing the dollar for business transactions with Iran "is clearly not required" by the nuclear agreement and would encourage the Iranians to demand more concessions.
"I do not support granting Iran any new relief without a corresponding concession. We lose leverage otherwise, and Iran receives something for free," added Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No.2-ranked House Democrat.
The proposal violates an administration promise to preserve non-nuclear penalties on Iran following the nuclear deal. Critics argue that the large influx of money will help Iran increase its sponsorship of terrorism worldwide and enhance its regional expansion. In light of recent sanctions relief, Iran continues to invest in the murder of Israelis and anti-regime critics abroad.
A private Islamic school in the United Kingdom is propagating radical Islam, promoting anti-Semitic propaganda and teaching that British customs are prohibited, Sky News reports.
In a leaflet, Mufti Zubair Dudha, the founder and head of the Islamic Tarbiyah Academy in Dewsbury, quoted the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notoriously anti-Semitic forgery which accuses the Jews of trying to conquer the world.
Dudha hails from the orthodox Deobandi Muslim sect, which is believed to control half of the Islamic schools and mosques in the United Kingdom.
Other disseminated materials assert that all mixed-gender institutions are evil and prohibit Muslims from watching television. The extremist messages also dictate that women should not work and should be fully covered when leaving the house.
Dudha also calls for Muslims to engage in violent jihad and prepare to "expend...even life" in order to establish a world operating "according to Allah's just order."
Dewsbury, about 35 miles northeast of Manchester, has a history of Islamist radicalization among its youth. Britain's youngest suicide bomber, its youngest convicted terrorist, and one of the bombers from the July 7, 2005 (7/7) attacks all came from Dewsbury.
"After what we have seen in Paris and in Brussels and the way in which the Muslim community has come out so strongly in favour of peace and tolerance, I think these kinds of leaflets serve no purpose but to divide in a poisonous and totally reckless way," Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told Sky News.
Members of Parliament are investigating radicalization and the government said that it will seek to regulate madrassas.
"These serious allegations are under investigation. While it would be inappropriate to comment on the specific investigations of these institutions, we are clear that extremism has no place in our society and we are determined to protect children from it," the Department for Education said.
In response, Dudha said he believes the radical publications were "misrepresented to link the Academy with extremism."
The U.K. has grappled with Islamic radicalism among some of its schools in the past, as evidenced by the 2014 "Trojan Horse" teaching scandal in Birmingham. Back then, the U.K.'s Office for Standards in Education confirmed that hardline Islamists attempted to take over some state schools. The report found that staff and teachers felt "intimidated" and bullied in order to conform to strict Islamist teaching principles.
An ISIS commander with a reliable presence on Twitter claimed to be in Scotland or elsewhere in the U.K. this week.
Abu Amer al-Jazrawi posted a photo March 24 under a now-deleted account "Jazrawi_Dar3a," showing Japanese food he claimed he was eating.
Three days later, al-Jazrawi posted a tweet from a different account, "Jazrawi_Joulan" claiming he was in Scotland along with a picture of a barren landscape similar to Scottish moors. "Scotland yesterday. No kuffar around," he wrote. "Just my family and the creation of Allah."
"Journey took 8 hours by plane," he wrote in a separate tweet.
Wednesday, al-Jazrawi tweeted a notice of a meeting for Muslim converts in Crewe, England, which is located 36 miles south of Manchester.
Al-Jazrawi does not appear in the photos, and it is not known whether he was telling the truth about his location. But his tweets come at a time when the world is on alert against the threat from ISIS infiltration of Europe.
The task we face is not unlike that faced by Western intelligence agencies that must pore through thousands of pieces of information looking for facts.
Al-Jazrawi is believed to be a Saudi who, according to Italy's Il Tempo newspaper, is part of an effort by ISIS to transfer operations to Libya with a goal of attacking Europe.
"Among the team of prominent jihadist elements there would be Abu Amer al-Jazrawi, a Saudi commander in the organization," Il Tempo reported in February.
Al-Jazrawi was described by the Libyan newspaper Libya Herald described as ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's personal representative in Sirte, Libya.
Last year, ISIS announced that it created a continent-wide jihadist network to help slip jihadis undetected in and out of Europe, which the Investigative Project on Terrorism reported in December. Intelligence sources have since corroborated much of what ISIS announced in its "Black Flags" publications, evidenced by a New York Times report published this week.
The IPT has observed a pattern of bragging from al-Jazrawi, who tweeted during the Paris attacks last November, "Syrians were sent by Islamic state as special undercover sleeper cell agents."
As it turned out, several of the members of the Paris/Brussels cell fought in Syria and infiltrated the flow of Syrian refugees into Europe.
Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proclaimed that the Islamic Republic would prioritize its missile program over negotiations, Fox News reports.
"Those who say the future is in negotiations, not in missiles, are either ignorant or traitors," Khamenei said in a speech intended for Western negotiators and posted on his official website.
This declaration comes after Iran's Revolutionary Guard test-fired two ballistic missiles earlier this month, violating a United Nations Security Council resolution in support of the Iran nuclear deal.
The missiles were launched while Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel and the slogan "Israel must be wiped out" was written on the missiles in Hebrew.
Khamenei justified Iran's missile program to improve the country's bargaining position.
"If the Islamic Republic seeks negotiations but has no defensive power, it would have to back down against threats from any weak country," said Khamenei.
However, Iran continues to openly threaten Israel's existence without provocation. The latest missile tests are an attempt to enhance Iran's credibility and bolster its threatening belligerence by demonstrating improvements to capabilities that could one day destroy the Jewish state.
Hard-liners in Iran's military have fired rockets and missiles despite U.S. objections since the deal, and have shown underground missile bases on state television.
In recent months, Iran fired rockets near U.S. warplanes and deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle over a U.S. aircraft carrier.
In light of recent sanctions relief, Iran continues to invest in the murder of Israelis and anti-regime critics abroad. Anticipated financial flows have encouraged Iranian hardliners to consolidate more power domestically and increase support for terrorist proxies, including Hizballah, in the region.