the terrorism business, it seems, diversity is all the rage.
What Hemant Lakhani, an international arms dealer of British
nationality and Indian ethnicity, Moinuddeen Ahmed Hameed,
a Muslim from Malaysia, and Yehuda Abraham, a Jewish-American
gem dealer of Afghan descent who works out of New York City's
diamond district, have in common is that they are all being
held in connection with a
plot to purchase surface-to-air missiles on behalf of terrorists.
Except that the alleged terrorists they were dealing with
were really FBI agents and informants, who had been tracking
them for over a year in an effort to smoke out the rest of
Osama bin Laden's worldwide network.
leak to the media, however, forced the feds to go public before
the trap could be fully sprung, at least according to Newsweek's
Michael Isikoff and Mark
aspects of this case are extremely odd, starting with the
ethnic "diversity" of the players.
Lakhani, a.k.a. Hemad, a.k.a. Hekyat – Beginning with his
exact name, we get conflicting accounts of just who and what
this guy is. By some accounts he's an "international arms
dealer," yet his neighbors described him as "Mr. Average"
and were shocked when the cops
beat down the doors of the Lakhanis' home in the predominantly Jewish
neighborhood of Hendon,
a north London suburb. The Guardian and others characterize
the 68-year-old Indian-born British national as an amateur
in the arms trade, whose last known profession was as a garment
trader and the manager of a West End clothing store. Julian
Borger disdains him as "a blusterer, rather too anxious
to impress on his contact that he is a 'serious businessman'
capable of getting hold of 'high-class stuff.'"
in the same newspaper we read:
source close to British intelligence yesterday described Mr.
Lakhani as a 'known arms dealer' who was thought to conduct
most of his business offshore. He put 'feelers' out and 'clearly
knew who he was selling the missile to,' the source added,
making the point that Mr. Lakhani would not have been involved
in a 'blind deal.'"
internet turns up sparse
evidence of Lakhani or what he does for a living.
Abraham – If Lakhani's neighbors were somewhat surprised
to see his house swarming with police, Yahuda Abraham's family
and friends are even more mystified.
What possible connection could this 76-year-old pillar of
the Orthodox Jewish community in New York City have to do
with international terrorism? Mr. Abraham is described
by the New York Times as "a slight, stooped 76-year-old
gem dealer, with a house in Queens, an office in New York's
diamond district and shops around the world." Pretty much
the last person you might expect to be involved in a scheme
to sell SAMs to
Al Qaeda. And yet:
night last October, prosecutors say, a client entered Mr.
Abraham's 12th-floor Midtown office and handed him $30,000
in hundred dollar bills, an odd, if believable transaction
in the world of international gem dealers. Mr. Abraham, by
the government's account, counted out every note, then gave
the client his business card. But this was not a jewelry sale,
prosecutors allege. It was a secretive deal, with a code number
and a cash commission, in which Mr. Abraham agreed to transfer
the client's money to a bank account in Europe, out of the
sight of federal regulators."
code number, which was used to identify the FBI agent posing
as a "client," consisted of the serial number of a $1 bill
in Abraham's possession, It was like something out of a James
Bond movie: hardly the sort of elaborate precaution an
ordinary criminal would take.
family is predictably indignant, and his colleagues in the
diamond trade are baffled. Says one:
a Jew to do something like that, I cannot believe it or understand
it,' said a 49-year-old jewelry wholesaler whose shop is on
47th Street. 'He's a prominent member of our community. To
do something like that is crazy.'"
we are living in crazy times, an era that might even be termed
Age, like the Bronze Age. So it is not only possible it
is altogether all too probable that what the FBI says has
some basis in fact:
Abraham was the money man, a shadowy figure who facilitated
the work of terrorists by giving them the means to finance
their actions the purchase of the missiles through an
informal money transfer system, known as hawala, which is
common in the Middle East and a preferred method of finance
third member of this disparate trio, Moinuddeen Ahmed Hameed,
is even more shadowy than the others: described as a "Malaysian
resident," he turned up on the scene the week before the final
transaction was to occur, apparently to launder the proceeds.
The Washington Post reports:
who is charged with operating an unlicensed money-transmitting
business, was allegedly brought into the deal only this week
to handle a scheduled down payment of $500,000 on the purchase
of 50 more missiles, officials said."
is described in some news accounts as an employee of Abraham's
Ambuy International, a.k.a. Ambuy Gem Corp., probably the
only Jewish-owned company to boast of offices
in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Both Hameed and Abraham are charged
with operating an illegal money-laundering scheme, which could
get them a mere 5 years and a $250,000
fine. As Abraham's lawyer was quick to point out:
was not alleged that Mr. Abraham engaged in conversations
discussing missiles and terrorist activity."
is the only one who has actually been charged with aiding
and abetting terrorism, but can you imagine what would have
happened if any Saudis had been involved?
less evidence, the government of Saudi Arabia has been
tried and convicted in the court of bipartisan public opinion
of financing – through the hawala
system – a worldwide terrorist conspiracy, including the 9/11
terrorist attacks. We are supposed to believe that it's "us"
against "them," that, as George W. Bush put it, "you're either
with the terrorists, or you're with us." But who is "them"
– and who be "us"?
am struck by what Lakhani said to the FBI informant as they
planned in a hotel room looking out on Newark International
Airport. Planes winged their way into the horizon while Lakhani
one explosion...to shake the economy."
this threat was directed at the American people, in general.
ln a more specifically political sense, however, the one American
who would be dealt a terrific blow by another successful terrorist
operation on American soil would be George W. Bush. But who
would want to bring down the economy, and this President,
aside from the usual Islamic fundamentalist suspects?
is interesting that, in all the news accounts of the recorded
conversations between Lakhani and the informant, the former
never endorses the Islamist ideals of Bin Laden. He merely
expresses approval for bringing down the U.S. a notch or two:
Lakhani disdains Americans as "bastards," who deserved what
central role in all this, as the chief financier of the terror
deal, makes it hard to believe that he was merely acting as
a purely functional go-between, and was motivated by greed.
The actual amount of money involved in the attempted transaction
never amounted to more than half a million, with a small commission
for Abraham, hardly enough to justify the high risks.
are at war. 9/11 made that plain enough. But the problem with
the "war on terrorism" from the beginning has been the elusive
nature of the enemy. We're supposed to believe it's the Muslim
world, personified by Osama bin Laden, versus America, Israel,
and parts of the West (not including France). The 28 blank
pages of the recent congressional report on 9/11 have provided
ample opportunity for conspiracy theorists like Dore
Gold to put Riyadh at the center of the terrorist web,
and we constantly hear that 15 out of 19 hijackers were Saudis.
let's take a look at the nationality of the latest terrorist
operatives, and extrapolate similarly. Let's see: we have
an Indian of British nationality, who may or may not be a
on which version of his name is correct; a Malaysian,
presumably a Muslim, and an American of Jewish ethnicity.
It would it be too politically incorrect to note that two
out of three of the conspirators might be said to embody the
alliance. (Correction: make that three out of three, since
it turns out that Hameed
is an Indian citizen.) So I shall refrain from doing so,
except to note that ethno-religious analysis of that sort
is allowed only when it applies to Saudis.
Israel and India have their increasingly bitter grievances
against the U.S. The former is being pressured to accept a
peace settlement that high-placed extremists in the government
find unacceptable, and the latter on account of American support
heroic General Musharraf, a moderate Muslim who risked
his position, and his life, to side with the Americans against
the intelligence agencies of either nation were involved,
albeit peripherally and in a "rogue" manner, with the activities
of the Lakhani-Abraham terror ring, it would hardly be surprising.
Affair, in which Israeli agents masquerading as Muslim
fanatics bombed American interests in Egypt, is infamous throughout
the Arab world, and largely unknown in the West. More recently,
the spate of
stories that the Israelis had some foreknowledge of the
events leading up to 9/11, yet failed to inform us, points
to the dark side of our relations with our closest ally.
don't know enough, yet, to come to any definite conclusions
about this case, but one thing is for sure: the exclusively
Muslim-Arab face of terrorism is changed forever.
IN THE MARGIN
title of Ilana Mercer's recent piece in WorldNutDaily,
who loathe Israel," is all wrong. It isn't Israel we loathe,
American amen corner, typified by La Mercer.
we just love Israel, and would love it even more if
only its leaders and supporters would commit war crimes on
their own dime, without American aid and without continually
hectoring us for more. Look, nobody really cares about
Israel, per se: the problem is the effect that nation's knee-jerk
supporters have on the American political process and the
way their shrill cries distort and degrade the national debate
on U.S. policy in the Middle East. For one thing, as Mercer's
screed shows, the sort of attacks engaged in by the Amen Corner
are completely out of bounds, to wit:
understand that libertarians like Sheldon Richman
(and the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review)
believe, mistakenly, that all "the land" belongs to the Arabs.
No doubt, American libertarians speak with the authority that
comes from having the finest fathers a nation could wish for.
How can Israel's humble, evidently uninspiring ideological
beginnings compare (cynicism alert) with founders who fought
for their freedom and their land?"
understand how these people operate, you have to understand
that the whole purpose of the above paragraph is to put Richman,
a distinguished libertarian scholar,
and the nutball Institute for Hysterical Review, in the same
ballpark, as if they were allies. That is an outrageous lie.
One might as well say that both La Mercer and the terroristic
followers of the late Meir Kahane share a common
belief in Israel's legitimacy.
you to meet David Frum: you two have a lot in common.
Already you're making beautiful music together: and just think
what it will do for your career as an intellectual
street-walker, that is.
to Mercer, the Wall of Separation is just a "defensive" measure,
and the Palestinians are compared to "pygmies," savages who
can be safely closed off from the Israeli economy because
the Israelis' "natural trading partners" are the U.S. and
the EU. One might as well say that Brooklyn's "natural trading
partners" are Manhattan and Long Island, and so an impassable
wall dividing it from the Bronx would be an economic winner.
The supposedly ongoing "privatization" of Israel's socialist
economy is understandably delayed because of those evil Palestinians.
it is "laughable," says Mercer, that the end of U.S. aid would
have to mean any significant problem for the Israelis, who
would supposedly be better off without being on the American
dole. But where do you suppose all those helicopter gunships
– so effective at cutting down Palestinian teen-agers in their
tracks, as they throw stones at their tormentors – come from?
What about all those "loan guarantees" and the billions that
make it possible for Israel to reign as the region's military
powerhouse, surpassing even the military capacity of the U.S.?
Israel had to pay the full price of all that might, it would
have collapsed economically long ago. The diversion of resources
into military hardware and preparations for war would have
impoverished a nation already teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
makes much of ancient Israeli land claims – likening their
denial to "holocaust denial" but nowhere does this great
"libertarian" mention the land stolen, not decades ago, but
as recently as a few months and weeks ago by the builders
of the Wall. In building this monstrous symbol of a nation's
arrogance, Israeli planners deliberately cut off Palestinian
lands from their owners and in effect expropriated them. What
does the great upholder of property rights over at WorldNutDaily
have to say about that?
she critiques, I gave specific
examples of such instances, so she can't claim not to know
what I'm referring to. She hides behind the anti-immigration
stance taken by some libertarians to justify the odious Wall,
but this drops the context of the wall's construction: they
are building it in the midst of negotiations on Israel's
proper border with the Palestinian state. Mercer's U.S.-Mexico
analogy would work only if America was at war with Mexico,
the two called a truce, commencing negotiations, and the U.S.
started building a gigantic wall pushing the border over to
the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. The Mexicans would protest
and rightly so.
has always proved to be a difficult issue for libertarians,
in part because of Ayn Rand's nutty affinity for a nation
founded by socialist mystics. In her eyes, Israel was a symbol
of "modernity" against Palestinian-Arab "savagery." The idea
that the Arabs were dressed in silk and mapping the heavens
while Europeans were still lurking about in animal skins,
baying at the moon, was beyond her ken. She might have picked
up her friend Rose Wilder Lane's excellent book, The
Discovery of Freedom, published in the same year as
her own breakthrough novel, The
Fountainhead (1943) to discover the facts. But since
Rand came to many of her views by means of simply introspecting,
without reference to written works other than her own and Mickey
Spillane's, that never occurred.
any case, the alacrity with which so many libertarians defend
Israel's every atrocity is, historically, an unfortunate aberration.
Ayn Rand once said that "Love
is exception-making." In this case, Mercer makes an exception
for Israel when it comes to upholding property rights – and
abiding by the ordinary rules of human decency.
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