Jennie Matthew – Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Mon, 29 Oct 2018 03:57:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Gunman blamed Jews for Bringing Muslims, Honduran Caravan to US Mon, 29 Oct 2018 04:05:22 +0000 with Issam AHMED in Washington | –

Pittsburgh (AFP) – In the months leading up to Saturday’s massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Robert Bowers used a little-known social network to spew hatred toward Jews, calling them the “Children of Satan” as he showed off his “family” of firearms.

The 46-year-old faces the death penalty after allegedly unleashing his guns on worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in recent US history.

His online postings on Gab, a social network that bills itself as a champion of free speech, paint a picture of a white supremacist obsessed with far-right conspiracy theories about Jews, singling out a Jewish non-profit that provides aid to refugees as a target in a chilling message posted hours before his attack.

“HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in,” he wrote.

HIAS is the acronym for the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

His account has since been suspended but screenshots have been widely circulated by SITE, a US-based extremism monitor, as well as by other media outlets.

Other posts on the network referred to the caravan of Central American migrants making its way to the US as “invaders,” while he also accused Jews of being responsible for Muslim migration into the United States, writing: “Open you Eyes! It’s the filthy EVIL jews Bringing the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country!!”

But while both migrants and Muslims have been frequent targets of Donald Trump, Bowers was no fan of the US president, whom he derisively dismissed as a “globalist” and not a “nationalist.”

Using a slur for Jews, he said, “There is no #MAGA, as long as there is a k— infestation.” MAGA refers to Trump’s campaign slogan, Make America Great Again.

In another post before the shooting, he said he had not voted for Trump.

Bowers has been charged with 29 federal crimes and has made statements in custody “evincing an animus towards people of the Jewish faith,” according to a criminal complaint filed Saturday night.

“They’re committing genocide to my people. I just want to kill Jews,” he told a law enforcement officer, the complaint added.

– Gun obsessed –

Bowers lived in a low-income apartment complex in the Baldwin Borough suburb of Pittsburgh, less than half an hour’s drive south of the Tree of Life synagogue.

The building was raided by authorities Saturday night, forcing other residents to evacuate amid fears Bower’s unit may be rigged with explosives.

Chris Hall, a 28-year-old neighbor told AFP he felt “awful,” adding: “I didn’t know that type of caliber of person could be living right next door without any clue of what any motive he would have, and who could do something like this.”

According to former neighbors from when Bowers lived at a previous address, he had worked as a trucker, kept to himself, and would sometimes stay at home for days at a stretch.

Linda Lohr, a retired paralegal, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette she was shocked, saying that although he was quiet, he was also the kind of neighbor who would call to let her know if she left the garage door open.

Bowers has no known criminal record, according to the paper, but had on occasion had “contacts” with local police over non-criminal issues.

He was given a traffic citation in 2015 for operating a vehicle without registration plates, and was subject to a debt claim by Colonial Credit Corporation for $2,065 in 2005.

Licensed to carry firearms, he had bought at least six guns since 1996, according to an official CNN spoke with. He also professed his love for his “family” of Glock pistols in a post on Gab, where he outlined their technical characteristics.

Three Glocks were recovered from Bowers after his attack, as well as an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle favored in other recent mass shootings in the US.

Bowers remained hospitalized Sunday, after suffering multiple injuries during a shootout with police. Officials said he had been operated on, and was in a stable condition.

“I’m in shock. I can’t believe that happened,” said Terry Choate, a retired government contractor who told the Post-Gazette he knew Bowers for nearly the suspect’s entire life. “I can’t believe he did that. I’d like to know what set him off.”

Featured Photo: -/AFP / – His online postings on Gab, a social network that bills itself as a champion of free speech, paint a picture of a white supremacist obsessed with far-right conspiracy theories about Jews.

Palestine President Abbas: Trump’s US too biased to Mediate Mideast Conflict Fri, 28 Sep 2018 06:42:36 +0000 United Nations (United States) (AFP) – Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas tore into the Trump administration Thursday, refusing to accept the United States as the sole mediator in the Middle East conflict, a day after Donald Trump promised a “very fair” peace plan.

The 82-year-old Palestinian Authority president used his address to the UN General Assembly to lambast the United States for closing the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington, recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moving its embassy and slashing Palestinian aid money.

Speaking a day after the US president said he favored a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and vowed to unveil a new peace plan within months, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump for his “unwavering support”.

Abbas, however, said Trump had forfeited his right to be regarded as a neutral broker.

“We will also not accept sole American mediation in the peace process,” he said, accusing the former real estate tycoon of being “biased” towards Israel since taking office in January 2017.

AFP / ABBAS MOMANI. Hundreds of Palestinians gathered in the West Bank city of Ramallah to watch Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas address the UN General Assembly.

“With all of these decisions, this administration has reneged on all previous US commitments, and even undermined the two-state solution,” Abbas told the world body in a nearly 40-minute speech.

“It’s really ironic that the American administration still talks about what they call the ‘deal of the century.'”

Palestinian leaders have long seen Trump’s administration as blatantly biased in favor of Israel and seeking to blackmail them into accepting their terms.

The Palestinian leadership cut off contact with the White House after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December and the United States has also cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid.

“From this august platform, I renew my call to President Trump to rescind his decisions and decrees … in order to salvage the prospects for peace,” Abbas said.

– ‘Extend our hands for peace’ –

Last February, Abbas called for an international conference to relaunch the peace process under a new mediator to replace the United States, in an address to the UN Security Council.

On Thursday, he said there could be no peace without an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, calling on countries to recognize the state of Palestine.

“We are not against negotiations,” he added. “We will continue to extend our hands for peace.”

Trump pledged Wednesday to unveil a new peace plan by the end of the year, turning heads by supporting for the first time a two-state solution.

His son-in-law Jared Kushner is part of a team working on the plan, whose efforts have been met with derision by Palestinians who note that Israel has not been asked publicly for any concessions in return for the Jerusalem recognition.

When meeting Netanyahu on the sidelines of the General Assembly, Trump said he backed a two-state solution since “that’s what I think works best.”

His endorsement of the goal of a Palestinian state, long the focus of US peace efforts before he came into office, was decidedly lukewarm — and he slightly backtracked from it later.

“If the Israelis and the Palestinians want one state, that’s OK with me,” he said. “If they want two states, that’s OK with me. I’m happy if they’re happy.”

While Trump’s comments sparked concern among some Israeli right-wingers who hoped he would bury the idea of Palestinian statehood once and for all, Netanyahu had warm words for the president.

“I look forward to working with President Trump and his peace deal,” said Netanyahu in his speech in which he also praised Trump and the American ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, for their “unwavering support” at the world body.

Israel has long argued that the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, known as UNRWA, has perpetuated the Middle East conflict by maintaining the idea that millions of Palestinians are refugees with a right to return to homes in what is now Israel.

The announcement last month that the US — which had been UNRWA’s biggest contributor — would no longer fund the agency raised a question mark about the future of a range or social and welfare programs as well as fears that many schools would have to close.

UNRWA received pledges of $118 million Thursday from donor countries to help plug some of the gap. Kuwait and the European Union were among the biggest contributors, UNRWA chief Pierre Kraehenbuehl told reporters.

Aside from cutting funds to UNRWA, the Trump administration has also cut $200 million in bilateral aid to the Palestinians for projects in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Featured Photo: AFP / TIMOTHY A. CLARY. Speaking a day after Donald Trump said he would unveil a new Mideast peace plan within months, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the US president could not be regarded as a neutral broker.

Cohen May be Sacrificing Trump for a Deal: Experts Thu, 26 Jul 2018 04:19:05 +0000 New York (AFP) – The dramatic leak of a taped conversation between Donald Trump and his longtime attorney signals an aggressive new strategy by Michael Cohen, raising questions about how much the US leader has to fear should the former fixer cooperate with prosecutors.

On the tape, which was broadcast Tuesday, Trump can be heard discussing with Cohen how to hush up allegations that he had an affair with a Playboy model in 2006, and buying the rights to her story.

The tape was reportedly made two months before the 2016 presidential election and weeks before the Trump campaign denied any knowledge about Karen McDougal’s allegations of a 10-month fling with the tycoon.

Cohen’s lawyer released the tape to television network CNN, an arch critic of the Trump administration, and in a flurry of interviews declared his client had “turned a corner” and would continue to speak “the truth.”

Cohen, who once declared he was so loyal he would “take a bullet for the president,” is under federal investigation in New York for his business dealings and reportedly whether hush payments violated campaign finance laws.

In addition to being involved in efforts to hush up McDougal’s story, he famously paid $130,000 to porn star Stormy Daniels just weeks before the election to silence her own claims of an alleged one-night stand with Trump.

The leaking of the tape and reports that there are further recordings has fanned speculation about how much damage Cohen can inflict on the president and whether he is now mulling a cooperation deal with federal prosecutors.

In an ABC News interview released on July 2, Cohen said his family and the country commanded his “first loyalty,” the first fuel to that speculation.

– ‘Tell the truth’ –

On Wednesday, his newly hired, high-powered attorney Lanny Davis compared the Cohen tape to the Watergate tapes that ultimately forced Republican president Richard Nixon to resign in 1974 to avoid impeachment.

“Listen to the tape in the way that (former White House counsel) John Dean had a tape that did in Richard Nixon,” he told ABC television. “Ultimately Donald Trump is going to be done in by the truth.”

Davis, who worked for the Bill Clinton White House, told ABC that Cohen had “more tapes.” He told CNN that his client had “turned a corner in his life” and was “now dedicated to telling the truth.”

On Wednesday, a seething Trump lashed out, tweeting: “What kind of a lawyer would tape a client? So sad! Is this a first, never heard of it before?”

“Why was the tape so abruptly terminated (cut) while I was presumably saying positive things?”

While Trump suggested over the weekend that Cohen may have acted illegally in secretly taping their discussion, jurists said it might not be so simple.

On the tape, Trump and Cohen talk about buying the rights to McDougal’s story, which she had sold a month earlier to the National Enquirer for $150,000. The tabloid never published the story. The rights were never bought.

– ‘Protecting himself’ –

During the campaign, the Trump team denied any knowledge of the deal between McDougal and American Media, the magazine’s parent company.

But on tape, the candidate expresses no surprise when the issue comes up and Cohen talks about essentially reimbursing the company for what it paid McDougal.

“It really does signal a more aggressive stance on the part of Michael Cohen,” Jeanne Zaino, professor of political science at Iona College, told AFP when asked about the significance of the leak.

“It suggests he might be no longer on the president’s side,” agreed Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.

“Ultimately Michael Cohen seems to be a person who will be first and foremost concerned with protecting himself,” Zelizer added.

On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported on a deeper alliance forged between Cohen and American Media, which it said federal investigators were examining as part of the investigation into Cohen’s business affairs.

“I think it’s probably in his (Cohen’s) interests to pursue some kind of deal. I can’t imagine he wants to continue to pay high-priced lawyers,” said Paul Beck, professor emeritus of political science at Ohio State University.

“The longer this is in the public eye the more damaging it is going to be for Republicans in the November (mid-term) elections,” he told AFP.

Featured Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP / MARK WILSON, NICHOLAS KAMM. US President Donald Trump and his longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen are heard on an audio tape discussing whether to buy the rights to a Playboy model’s story that she had an affair in 2006 with the New York billionaire.