Zahra Billoo is at Sanders' left, dressed in purple.
Last month, we focused on Sanders' reliance on Linda Sarsour as a campaign surrogate. Sarsour also is a Palestinian activist with a history of vitriolic anti-Israel statements. "Nothing is creepier than Zionism," she wrote on Twitter about the idea that Jews can return to their ancestral homeland as a refuge from global anti-Semitism. To Sarsour, that ideal is racist.
Memorial Day weekend's approach brings to mind another prominent Sanders supporter, Zahra Billoo, who has repeatedly expressed discomfort with the holiday. "Many of our troops are engaged in terrorism," she wrote in June 2012.
Billoo heads the Council on American-Islamic Relations' (CAIR) San Francisco office. CAIR has roots in a Hamas-support network created by the Muslim Brotherhood in American, internal documents and eyewitness accounts show.
Two weeks ago, Billoo made it clear her views about American troops have not changed, questioning the holiday's value: "You think we should honor people who commit war crimes?" she asked an incredulous questioner. She "proudly stands by" her opinion, she also wrote.
Despite these extreme views, or perhaps because of them, Billoo appears to be playing a significant role in the Sanders campaign. Her social media accounts are filled with pro-Sanders messages – including repeated reminders about the registration deadline to be eligible for June 7 California primary. She was granted backstage access to a Sanders rally last week in San Jose where she was photographed with the candidate.
Billoo also has argued that American citizens who move to Israel and join the army are no different from those who join ISIS. "Is one genocidal group different than the other?" she asked last year.
Billoo's extremism applies to domestic policy, too. She casts FBI counter-terror investigations as illegitimate and even corrupt. She blasted the conviction of five former officials from the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation after records showed they illegally routed millions of dollars to Hamas. And, in the wake of a Portland man's arrest for plotting to blow up a Christmas tree lighting ceremony crowded with children, she suggested to a reporter that the FBI hyped the threat.
"The question is, are we looking to stop radicalization and stop extremism before it becomes a problem or do we want a sensational story?" Billoo asked. "And I'd really argue here that the FBI was looking for a sensational story."
The suspect, Mohamed Mohamud, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Among the evidence against him was a recording in which he said, "I want whoever is attending that event to be, to leave either dead or injured."
Billoo's opinions hold steady regardless of the facts. Maybe that's why she's comfortable being involved in campaign politics.
Hamas is stealing nearly all of the cement Israel sends into Gaza for civilian reconstruction efforts in order to rebuild the organization's terrorist infrastructure, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Speaking to the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on Tuesday, Israel's Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold described how Hamas is "cynically exploiting" Israel's assistance to Gaza in order to "rebuild [the terrorist group's] military capacity."
"From our own investigations we found that out of every 100 sacks of cement that come into the Gaza Strip [from Israel], only five or six are transferred to civilians...a hundred sacks is what is necessary to rebuild a home, the rest are confiscated by Hamas and used for military purposes," Gold said.
In addition to allowing the building materials into Gaza, hospitals in Israel's south have also treated injured Gaza residents, Gold said, including family members of Hamas terrorists.
Israel faces an important dilemma on this front, trying to provide humanitarian aid intended for a civilian population, while Hamas diverts the vast majority of the assistance for terrorist activities targeting Israel.
"Since October, Israel has let into Gaza 4,824,000 tons of building materials...but these have often times been seized and used to build new attack tunnels penetrating Israeli territory," Gold said.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continues its campaign to uncover cross-border attack tunnels leading into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Recent discoveries confirm that Hamas maintains underground capabilities dedicated to the kidnapping and murder of Israeli civilians.
Since the 2014 summer war ended, Hamas has openly invested significant amounts of resources to the reconstruction of its offensive tunnel capabilities at the expense of Gaza's civilian population. The terrorist organization devotes roughly 1,000 operatives – working 24 hours a day, six days a week – and millions of dollars per month solely on its underground tunnel network.
Palestinian Authority (PA) media continue to glorify terrorist Bashar Masalha who attacked civilians in Tel Aviv and murdered an American tourist on March 8, Palestinian Media Watch reports.
Masalha went on a stabbing spree which killed U.S. citizen Taylor Force and injured 11 others, before being killed by Israeli police.
After the attack, Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction and the PA glorified Masalha as "the heroic Martyr."
Since Israel returned the terrorist's body to the PA last week, official Palestinian media outlets devoted considerable coverage to praising the terrorist's actions.
PA TV referred to the terrorist as "Shahid" (Martyr) 11 times while reporting on his funeral, where hundreds of Palestinians participated.
"His family, friends, and people of the region took it upon themselves to ensure that this [burial] would be a large national wedding befitting of Martyrs... The Martyr was accompanied to his last resting place in the cemetery for Martyrs in Hajja," said a PA TV reporter on Saturday.
On the same day, the official PA daily – Al-Hayat Al-Jadida – also praised the terrorist as a "Martyr" for killing a U.S. citizen. "Masalha died as a Martyr on March 8 , after carrying out a stabbing operation in Jaffa, in which he killed an American tourist," Al-Hayat reported.
Through official educational and media institutions, the PA systematically teaches that becoming a martyr is the most prestigious achievement in Islam that entails vast rewards in the afterlife, including 72 virgins in paradise. Such violent incitement encourages younger Palestinians to emulate notable terrorists, fueling violence against Jews and Israelis.
By praising the murder of Taylor Force, the Western-backed Palestinian government makes it clear that U.S. citizens are also legitimate targets for terrorism.
The March 8 terrorist attack occurred while Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel. When Biden pressed Abbas to condemn the terror attack, Abbas refused, and "offered condolences" instead.
Force, 29, of Lubbock, Texas, had served with the U.S. Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn (Iraq), and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). His wife was also severely injured in the attack outside Jaffa.
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has a reputation for maintaining a blatant anti-Israel bias. Gross violators of human rights often serve on the Council, devoting a disproportionate amount of attention to alleged Israeli human rights abuses without substantive discussion dedicated towards other nations with far worse records.
Marking the Council's 70th anniversary on May 17, Hillel Neuer – executive director of United Nations Watch – outlined the shocking hypocrisy characterizing the UNHRC in testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
While the Council's founders intended for the body to uphold the principle of human dignity for all, Neuer describes how brutal dictators like Libya's ruthless leader Muammar Qaddafi hijacked the UNHRC over the years.
Countries like China and Russia, which frequently stifle dissent and freedom of speech, have been exempt from a single resolution or special session. Instead, both countries sit on the Council.
"In Saudi Arabia, women are subjugated, Christians are arrested for practicing their religion, democracy blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and a thousand lashes, and beheadings are at an all time high," Neuer said. "The Council's response? Silence. A recent attempt to investigate Saudi Arabia's carpet bombing of Yemeni civilians was quashed. On the contrary: Saudi Arabia, too, was elected a member."
Neuer continued to outline blatant human rights abuses associated with countries such as Algeria, Congo, Cuba, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela – all of which were elected as Council members. In fact, 62 percent of current UNHRC member states fail to meet the minimum standards to be considered free societies. There are fewer democracies on the committee than ever.
Instead of focusing on real human rights abuses, the Commission's rights violators devote much of their time to praising each other. Neuer recalled being present when China commended Saudi Arabia for respecting religious freedom and the following day Saudi Arabia praised China for upholding minority rights.
Beyond self-praise, the UNHRC focuses a disproportionate amount of attention on condemning the world's sole Jewish state.
"Despite the promise of ending selectivity, the Council's pathological obsession with demonizing Israelis, and denying their human rights, has never been worse. Since its creation, the Council has adopted 67 resolutions condemning Israel—and only 61 on the rest of the world combined," confirmed Heuer.
Now, the Council instituted a U.N. black-list of Israeli businesses, adopting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to punish Israel's economy and its citizens.
While Neuer applauded U.S. officials and ambassadors for calling out UNHRC hypocrisy, real reform of this U.N. body is unlikely to be realized in the foreseeable future.
Read Neuer's remarks here.
Norwegian police arrested a former Syrian al-Qaida fighter who sought asylum in Norway, the UK's Daily Express reports.
Police arrested the 26-year-old man Friday at an asylum center after officers received a search warrant. Anne Karoline, a lawyer representing the Norwegian police, confirmed the arrest but could not provide further details concerning the indictment. Her client admitted to being a former operative of Jabhat al-Nusra – al-Qaeda's branch in Syria – when he sought asylum in 2015, Karoline said.
The suspect came to Norway with his underage brother and denies any wrongdoing. Norwegian police are trying to keep the former al-Qaida fighter in custody for a month.
Many critics of Europe's refugee policy argue that radical jihadist organizations, including the Islamic State and al-Qaida, could attempt to infiltrate the West by planting operatives among waves of Middle Eastern refugees.
In a December 2015 white paper, the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) explored gaps in the American Immigration system which could enable terrorists to enter the country as refuges, to apply for asylum once in the U.S., or to enter as passport holders from the 38 countries in the Visa Waiver Program.
Weaknesses in the U.S. system include the tendency to offer refugees and asylum seekers the benefit of the doubt in their accounts of their plight and background; the rapid speed with which lawful permanent resident status is granted to asylees and refugees; the problems that arise concerning refugees who cannot provide documentation of their birth dates; inconsistency in the vetting process; and inadequacies featured in various application forms.
Click here to read the IPT's white paper and its recommendations.
Palestinian terrorist groups continue to exploit Israel's relaxation of Gaza's naval blockade to smuggle weapons meant to strike the Jewish state, Israel's domestic intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, said in a Times of Israel report.
Israel's Navy detained a Hamas-affiliated operative last month, accused of smuggling weapons and outlawed building materials into the Gaza Strip. Under interrogation, Salim Jamal Hassan Naman admitted that he helped smuggle in "materials used in the production of rockets, like fiberglass resin," Shin Bet said.
In April, Israel allowed Gaza's boats to operate up to nine nautical miles from the shores, extending the permitted distance from six miles. Naman was detained after deviating beyond the new threshold. Though the operative is most closely aligned with Hamas, he acknowledged that the smuggling operation involved supplying weapons to various Palestinian terrorist organizations.
Naman also revealed Hamas' plans to exploit Gazan fisherman as a "camouflage" for the group's terrorist operations.
"The information revealed in this interrogation, along with the interrogations of the other Hamas terror operatives who have been arrested recently, reveal another aspect of the numerous efforts made by Hamas in order to prepare itself for advancing its violent terrorist actions. This time, it's through taking advantage of the relief provided by Israel for the population of Gazan fisherman," the Shin Bet said.
Hamas continues to focus its efforts on enhancing its terrorist capabilities to confront Israel militarily and terrorize its population. Instead of utilizing the extra nautical miles off the coast to the benefit of Gazan fisherman, Hamas squanders the opportunity to improve the Strip's economic situation. Whether by rebuilding its underground tunnel infrastructure or exploiting naval smuggling opportunities, Hamas clearly prioritizes its violent Jihad against Israel over the well-being of its citizens.
The University of Michigan's public radio group – Michigan Radio – denied one of its donors the ability to wish Israel a "Happy 68th Birthday" to mark the country's independence on air, reports Deadline Detroit.
Lisa Lis and her husband, Hannan Lis, donate $40 per month to the radio station, allowing the couple to sponsor a day's broadcast to have a message read on air six times.
Michigan Radio claims that it is "the state's most listened-to public radio services... with a broadcast signal that reaches 80% of Michigan's population."
Initially, the radio station claimed it could not air the Israel birthday wish because it required notice two months in advances. Then the station admitted to rejecting the message because it "could imply advocacy."
"We have determined that this message would compromise the station's commitment to impartiality and that it crosses over into advocacy, or could imply advocacy," wrote Alison Warren, associate director of development, in an April 26 email.
Lisa Lis was baffled such a simple message was seen as too political.
"It's sad. There's plenty anti- Israel messages out there, and they won't allow something for Israel," she said.
The couple argued their point in several emails, forcing the station to revise its policy on such issues to "make it clearer for individuals."
When pressed, the station said it would not allow birthday wishes to other countries.
"The answer to your question about whether or not we would allow a 'Happy Birthday Norway' is no. . . We would not air such a message. Harmless as it may seem, it forces us to make the choice between which countries or political bodies are worthy of on-air recognition and which are not," wrote Michigan Radio development director Larry Jonas.
The station's earlier response argued that offering well wishes to Israel "would compromise the station's commitment to impartiality and that it crosses over into advocacy, or could imply advocacy." It is difficult to fathom a similar situation unfolding, however, if Norway was replaced with Israel in this context.
While dozens of countries remain embroiled in political conflicts, the level of scrutiny surrounding anything Israel related, even a basic "Happy Birthday," is unparalleled.
A radio transmission between the commander of an Islamist brigade with ties to the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) and a Kurdish man contained a chilling message threatening to slaughter Kurdish civilians in Syria.
"My fighters are just like lions, and you know the people of Homs and that they always meet their words with action. We will crackdown on their mothers, sisters, fathers. We will target women before men. Do not talk to me anymore, and you can keep our martyrs with you," the commander said in Arabic.
"We will deal with you in our own way, and we will find the Kurds wherever they go, in Aleppo or anywhere else."
The exchange came in the retaliation for a video showing Kurdish forces parading the bodies of hundreds of FSA fighters killed after attacking the Kurds on the back of a trailer truck through a Kurdish town north of Aleppo. Representatives of the Kurdish factions condemned the incident as did the U.S. State Department.
A pro-Kurdish Twitter account @FuriousKurd published the exchange threatening the lives of Kurdish civilians on Saturday. The exchange originally was released by a pro al-Qaida account on Telegram.
Jaysh Al-Sunna, the commander's faction, also is part of the Army of the Conquest (Jaish al-Fateh), a coalition of Islamist and other rebel factions supported by that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar that includes Al-Qaida's affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. News reports show that CIA-backed groups have cooperated with Jaish al-Fateh. The FSA also has received CIA support.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism examines trends in the Islamic State's propaganda since the Paris attacks in an upcoming article.
A pro-Islamic State (ISIS) hacking group calling itself "Cyber Kahilafah" released a step-by-step video in Arabic Sunday showing how to build a suicide vest.
It appears to be a mashup of earlier videos, borrowing its beginning from a January video that showed the ISIS Paris attackers engaging in beheadings and other brutal activities. That video was produced by the ISIS-controlled Al-Hayat Media. Cyber Kahilafah's video is grainier and cruder than typical Al-Hayat productions.
Arabic instructions are superimposed over earlier ones written in the Cyrillic alphabet, likely in Russian.
The video shows how to build the bomb vest using Semtex, a plastic explosive that has military and construction applications. It is a favorite of terrorists due to its light weight and ease of concealment. The Libyan operatives who destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 used Semtex, which is readily available for sale on the dark web.
A raid in the Czech Republic last year netted 220 lbs. of the explosive that was slated to be sold on the black market.
In the video, Arabic instructions give the user a step-by-step guide to assembling the suicide vest's components, including detonating cord, buckshot, switches, wires, a trigger button, cardboard, LEDs, a nine-volt battery and a detonator housing. At the same time an instructor assembles the components, while an Islamic nasheed (chant) is heard in the background singing about jihad against the unbelievers.
This isn't the first time jihadis have showed how to make a suicide vest online. Back in 2004, an unknown jihadist group produced a similar video for a bomb vest using a different design.
This is the latest example of ISIS supporters trying to show potential terrorists how to make improvised weapons. If terrorists are determined they can find just about everything they need on the Internet.
Israel's Tax Authority says it intercepted roughly four tons of ammonium chloride – enough to produce hundreds of rockets – that were being smuggled into the Gaza Strip.
The chemical was hidden in salt shipments to Gaza early last month which were transported through the Nitzana crossing between Egypt and Israel.
"Ammonium chloride is defined as a dual-use substance and its passage into the Gaza Strip requires a permit since it is liable to be used by Gaza-based terrorist organizations – such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad – in the production of long-range rockets," a Tax Authority statement said.
The Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence agency, believes the salt importer has "ties to the Hamas military wing" and "sought to bring the material into the Strip for use in Hamas's production facilities."
Israeli authorities have thwarted dozens of attempts to smuggle prohibited material into Gaza. This latest interdiction reinforces the fact that Hamas and other terrorist organizations in Gaza continue trying to smuggle material intended for terrorist activities cloaked as goods meant for Gaza's civilians.
Despite deeply concerning smuggling activities, Israel plans to reopen the Erez crossing into Gaza following eight years of closure.
"It is in our interests that a significant amount of truckloads of food continues to go to Gaza...It is our interest that Gazans live in dignity. Both from a humanitarian point of view and because this is a way to protect the peace, in addition to existing security deterrents," a spokesperson for Israel's defense minister Moshe Ya'alon said in a statement.
The Defense Ministry revealed that 513 trucks of humanitarian and commercial goods entered the Gaza Strip on Sunday alone.
Many in the international community demands that Israel open all border crossings and end the blockade of Gaza. Unfortunately, many of the individuals and states pressuring Israel overlook the fact that Gaza's rulers exploit existing border entry points to enhance their terrorist infrastructure at the expense of local reconstruction efforts.
Until Hamas' ceases to prioritize its jihad against Israel over the well-being of its citizens, Palestinians in Gaza will continue to suffer. In the meantime, the overwhelming evidence confirms that Israel is going above and beyond to balance its legitimate security considerations with humanitarian concerns in Gaza.