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Why The King Hearings On Terrorism Are Necessary
Mon, 02/21/2011 - 19:00
Special To The Jewish Week

Congressional hearings on homegrown terrorism, focusing on how al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations seek to radicalize Muslims in the U.S., are a welcome development. This initiative by Rep. Peter King (R-L.I.), who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, does not come out of the blue.

Earlier this month, Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said the overall terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland is now “at its most heightened state since 9/11.” The “most striking elements of today’s threat picture is that plots to attack America increasingly involve American residents and citizens,” Napolitano testified on Capitol Hill, adding that 50 of the 88 individuals involved in 32 major terrorism cases linked to al Qaeda and similar ideology over the past decade were U.S. citizens.

A recent study by the New York State Intelligence Center, cited by Secretary Napolitano, indicates that 70 percent of homegrown terrorists were born in the U.S., and that most of them based their actions on extremist Islamic ideology.

King’s hearings are not the first to examine a national security threat born on U.S. soil. Following the Oklahoma City bombing in April 1995, the Senate held hearings on the threat posed by militias, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) held another separate hearing later that year. At the time, King joined with Schumer in calling for the militia hearings and viewing the situation as a matter of national security.

Some organizations, Muslim as well as others, have objected to the upcoming hearings, raising the specter of McCarthyism and claiming that the hearings target the entire Muslim community rather than an aberrant extremist minority. They, and others, have demanded that the hearings be broadened to include all extremists in all communities.

But, as in the case of the militias, there is no reason to expand a hearing regarding particular extremists currently posing a threat to our national security to such an extent that the proceedings would lack the focus necessary to understand the scope and nature of the problem. The hearings should shine a light only on those who support, legitimize and promote Islamic extremist ideology that leads to terrorism, not the entire Muslim community.

Lost in the debate over the scope of the hearings is the effect of ongoing terrorist recruitment within the Muslim American community. For example, 20 young Somali Americans in Minneapolis have been recruited into Al-Shabaab, the Somali branch of al Qaeda. One became a suicide bomber, another was killed when he reportedly tried to leave Somalia to return to his family, and the others’ whereabouts are unknown. Family and friends of the young men and other community members, already outraged over the loss of their children to Al-Shabaab, say they deeply resent efforts by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to keep them from cooperating with law enforcement in finding out what happened to the young men and in preventing further recruitment. They have mounted a demonstration against CAIR.

We, as Jews, also need to recognize that the homegrown Islamic extremist terrorism threat specifically targets us and affects the security of our community. Its ideology is intrinsically anti-Semitic and has repeatedly incited terrorists to target Jews and Jewish institutions.

The best-known incident was the 2009 plot to blow up Jewish institutions in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Similarly, in 2005 Muslim extremist converts in Los Angeles calling themselves Jamiat Al-Islam Al-Sahih plotted attacks against synagogues, the Israeli Consulate, and the El Al ticket counter at LAX airport. Less well known was the secondary targeting of Jewish communities in 2009 by Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who intended to assassinate three rabbis in Tennessee and attack a series of Jewish institutions throughout the Northeast.

As both Americans and as Jews, we cannot afford to ignore the increasing threat of homegrown terrorism to our country and community. The recruitment of terrorists on American soil affects innocent Muslims, first and foremost, but ultimately endangers us all. Even as we must be ever vigilant against discrimination, whether against our Muslim fellow citizens or anyone else, we must also remain focused on the very real threats that imperil our nation’s security.

Yehudit Barsky is director of the American Jewish Committee’s Division on Middle East and International Terrorism.

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As a formerly frum Jew, I can't help but recall how insular and self-obsessed even the brightest Jewish minds tend to be. This article is a prime example of that trait. It baffles me how in one century Jews have gone from being the victims of crimes against humanity to advocates and at times (let's face it) perpetrators of some of the most inhumane and immoral actions taking place today.

The American and Israeli military forces have been ruthless in their treatment of Muslim civilians, and THAT has been better recruitment for terrorism than the Osama bin Ladin, al-Qaeda, and all other terrorist groups combined. The idea that we should start treating our Muslim neighbors with more consideration is not a matter of "open-mindedness" as the last poster ironically objects to; it's a matter of waking up to the futility of the archaic Judeo-Christian practice of "an eye for an eye" ('leaving the whole world blind' as Gandhi so poignantly noted).

What if the US had begun a multi-billion dollar campaign to improve the image of the United States by helping impoverished regions of the Middle East rather than sending troops to bomb Afghanistan and Iraq (WTF?). Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan women and children have perished over the past decade...and the US claims that to be a justified response to the actions of 19 members of al-Qaeda. Give me a break.

Yehudit Barsky's article on why the anticipated House Committee on Homeland Security hearings on the homegrown terrorism threat is well taken. His observation regarding the connection between homegrown jihadists and anti-semitism is accurate. Two of the plots mentioned in the article, the 2009 plot to blow up synagogues in the riverdale section of the Bronx and the 2005 plan to attack Jewish sites in Los Angeles were indeed motivated by individuals with a vehement hatred for the Jewish people. What is not mentioned is that all of the conspirators in those crimes were former inmates who converted to a radical form of Islam while in prison. The threat of radical Islamic recruitment in the prison system must be included in a thorough examination of the threat of homegrown terrorism. Sincerely, Patrick Dunleavy - author of "The Fertile Soil of Jihad" (

I am Jewish, but I think what Rep. King is doing is a witch hunt. It would be interesting to know how many Muslim Terrorist plans were prevented vs Right Wing Extremists in America. My grandfather liberated France, and I remember him telling me stories of the horror that took place, and he informed me that the German population pretty much ignored what the Nazis were doing. Should we ignore what is going on. The call from the right is that if you are not a Christian, then get out. If we don't stand up for others, who will stand up for us when our turn comes?

THese are NOT hearings on "terorrism", they are not hearings on "Home grown terorrism"...heck, they are not even hearings, they are just summary witch-hunts. Were they hearings on terorrism, they would be taking into account, the many other acts of terorrism. Wer they heraings on "Home grown Terorism" they would have pleanty of other, non-Muslim events to look into. However, as King said, he does not wish to "dilute" his focus of bigotry. It does Jews and Jewish organizations and media, great disservice to support actions aimed at one group, especially one faith-group. It is worth thinking about what will happen after Muslims are "removed"...who do you think will be left to target then?
If he were talking about terrorism, these hearings would be fine. But he's not. These hearings as they are currently structured are McCarthy-esque sessions aimed at painting all Muslims as dangerous threats to America. Shame on you, Mr. Yehudit Barsky, for buying into this nonsense.
apparently the MUSLIM parents of boys that have been radicalize disagree with you and since they are the ones that are bearing the pain of loosing their children i think you should have the decency to listen to them
Shalom Yehudit! I, as a Muslim American, wanted to let you know that I, as well as my community (Ahmadiyya Muslim Community hold no ill-will or animosity against Jews or harbor any type of anti-semitic thoughts. We too are affected, as you echoed, negatively by these so called Extremist "Muslims". Our mosques have also been targeted (notably, the Taliban attacks in Lahore on May 28, 2010 which left over 80 Muslims dead and over 100 injured while they were engaged in Friday prayer, can you believe that?!) Whatever Congress decides to do, I hope they do it tactfully and not like McCarthy did. I wish and pray for you all the best.
On extremism, yes. On Islam extremism, NO. That's as unAmerican as you can get, and this Jew disagrees strongly with you. Would you like hearings on Jewish extremism?

The last time I checked, my local Rabbi wasn't pushing Jihad. It's good to be open-minded, but not so much that your brains fall out.