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Former PLO terrorist a most unlikely Zionist

by ROSIE DIMANNO Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 4:45 PM

"The world does not see the truth about what's happening in the West Bank," Shoebat told the Star in an interview yesterday afternoon. "My purpose is to tell the West that they aren't getting the real picture, that what they're seeing is propaganda. I know the truth because I was there, I was part of it. And the truth is, we wanted to kill Jews long before the occupation. I wanted to kill Jews."

Perhaps it's not so long or strange a trip from political terrorist to religious fundamentalist.

The secular terrorist, it might even be said, has become something of an endangered species these days, when so many of the world's violent struggles have been infused with religious justification. Piety serves as both motivating tool (recruiting foot soldiers from among the exploited believers) and deflective shield (interpreting scripture to rationalize murder and suppress opposition).

Walid Shoebat grew up a zealous, Jew-hating Muslim in the West Bank, progressing from a boy who threw stones to a young man who lobbed bombs.

He is now a born-again California Christian Zionist, having renounced both violence and Islam, which he persists in viewing as fatally intertwined ? a position that will justifiably appall hundreds of millions of Muslims who neither practise nor condone violent tactics, while causing a great many Jews to just as understandably recoil from his ardent friendship, given that the fundamental Christian literalists love Jews only insofar as they can serve their End of Days purpose, as prophesied in Revelation.

Israel has pitifully few friends these days, assailed on all sides by a new version of anti-Zionism that's no more than the old version of anti-Semitism ? denial of Israel's right to exist, but couched in a different language: the argot of occupation and Israel's perceived abuse of power, coupled with an alarming resurgence of pure anti-Semitism in Europe, a robust bigotry that doesn't even pretend to be what it's not, though hardly more virtuous for its transparency. This isolation might account for Israel forging an unholy alliance with the Christian right, though I'm prepared to accept that many righteous Christians have a genuine affection for Israel, a commitment to its political survival, and do not merely support the state as a Biblical prerequisite for apocalyptic annihilation and the dawning of the New Jerusalem.

In that context, maybe it doesn't matter much that Shoebat is a Christian fundamentalist, widely condemned as a traitor to Palestine, excoriated for betraying his family, his original Muslim faith and his troubled people. For which Shoebat does not apologize. He's had his epiphany, and he speaks with the moral certitude of the enthusiastically converted. "The more you accept the teachings of the Bible, the more peaceful you become. The more you accept the teachings of the Qur'an, the more violent you will become."

This is patently absurd. It is also offensive. But there is truth in the far more qualified observation that Qur'anic teachings (like Biblical teachings, actually) have been disgracefully distorted in some quarters to promote jihad and to demonize the West, Christians and Jews and moderate Muslims alike. Although, it must be noted, even moderate Muslim states have little tolerance for Israel. Hating Israel is a common denominator and not exclusive to Muslim nations.

Hence the mythologizing of Palestinians, transformed these past 20 years into the most darling and blessed of the oppressed. It lends Palestinian terrorism a certain qualified éclat, distinguishing it from the garden-variety version of killers.

Shoebat was once a terrorist. To that extent, he knows whereof he speaks. Though I doubt whether his terrorist CV will gain him much street cred among Palestinians, or Canadians blindly supportive of the Palestinian cause.

The 43-year-old computer programmer was brought to Toronto yesterday by the local chapter of Betar Tagar, an international Zionist organization, to participate in a radio program, entitled Let's Talk Peace, emanating from the University of Toronto. The format had Shoebat interviewed in front of a student audience for a two-hour live taping of a radio show hosted by New York-based Rabia Tovia Singer. It's the first time the show, heard in Israel, has been taken to any university campus. Canada was picked, says Singer, because the case for Israel is not being made, or properly heard, in this country, where pro-Israeli voices have sometimes been silenced by Palestinian activism on campuses.

"The world does not see the truth about what's happening in the West Bank," Shoebat told the Star in an interview yesterday afternoon. "My purpose is to tell the West that they aren't getting the real picture, that what they're seeing is propaganda. I know the truth because I was there, I was part of it. And the truth is, we wanted to kill Jews long before the occupation. I wanted to kill Jews."

Shoebat's mother is a blonde, blue-eyed American Christian who converted to Islam upon marriage, his father a Palestinian Arab and professor of Islamic studies. Born in a village near Bethlehem, Shoebat grew up immersed in Islam but also steeped in hatred for Jews, even though he never met one until his teens. Even during the two years when he attended a Lutheran school in Jericho, says Shoebat, he was taught to vilify Jews. "I remember going to a zoo in Israel where they had a monkey that smoked cigarettes. We believed that monkey's ancestors were Jews."

He recalls throwing stones at Jews worshipping at the Western Wall, and a group of Palestinian boys, of which he was part, almost tearing an Israeli soldier limb from limb.

"In my village, I started all the riots. Then we'd take off our shirts and yell at the soldiers: `Come on, shoot us! Shoot us!' Of course, they never did. Once I made a club, with a nail in it, for a friend to use against the soldiers. Another time, after we'd attacked soldiers, we were hidden inside a convent. Even the nuns hated the Jews and they helped us get away. That was the day I said to my father, `I almost killed my first Jew today.'"

On another day, he says, he was sent by the Palestine Liberation Organization to bomb an Israeli bank in Bethlehem. He lobbed the bomb on to the roof seconds before the timed device exploded. No one was killed. But Shoebat, instigator of riots, ultimately ended up in an Israeli jail and, upon release, was sent to the U.S. by his parents. In Chicago, as a leader of the Palestinian youth organization on campus, he raised funds for the PLO, once even bought 1,000 military uniforms that he shipped to Palestinian fighters back home.

This went on until the early '90s, when Shoebat became engaged to a Catholic girl from Mexico. In helping to prepare his fiancée's conversion to Islam, Shoebat spent six months studying both the Bible and the Qur'an. In the end, "I was the one who converted." Not to Catholicism but to evangelical Christianity.

His father disowned him. "He still calls me at 2 o'clock in the morning and tells me I should be killed. He hates me."

For all his newfound religious fervour, his ideological certainty, his raging against the mass brainwashing of Palestinian youth, I suspect there's a part of Shoebat that doesn't entirely like himself either.

"I wake up every morning, I look in the mirror and I see a traitor. Yes, I see a traitor. But a traitor to what?

"It's just another label to add to my name."

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 28 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
Doesn't surprise me. Anti-Zionist Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 5:04 PM
fresca fresca Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 5:17 PM
what we need Yup Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 5:29 PM
more troll bait odd how they are the one's bringing this up too Hex anon w/ encryption Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 5:29 PM
fresca fresca Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 5:33 PM
Wow...I always suspected, of course. ;lkj;lkh Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 5:41 PM
ZOA:Palestinian Arab Violations of Roadmap - January 19, 2004 ;lklkjhkjg Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 5:51 PM
ooooooooooooo!! Yup Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 6:03 PM
I hate when *I* say so - not some troll with no evidence Hex anon w/ encryption Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 6:07 PM
And the body count says; Hex anon w/ encryption Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 6:15 PM
fresca fresca Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 6:55 PM
"You're simply a monster" yes, the truth monster Hex anon w/ encryption Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 7:23 PM
fresca fresca Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 7:36 PM
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fresca fresca Thursday, Jan. 22, 2004 at 8:00 PM
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fresca fresca Friday, Jan. 23, 2004 at 6:52 AM
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fresca fresca Friday, Jan. 23, 2004 at 10:21 PM
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