Talking terror: Israeli experts get down to brass tacks in S.F. speech

Just days prior to 9/11, Boaz Ganor happened to notice Osama bin Laden’s wanted poster on the wall of the FBI building in Washington, D.C. And he had to admit, it was pretty thorough; it had his height, his eye color and his hair color — everything. But when it came to his occupation, it listed “unknown.”

“I checked their Web site a few weeks ago. They still don’t know bin Laden’s occupation,” he said to a chortling San Francisco crowd.

Ganor is the executive director of the Institute on Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel. Along with fellow ICT researchers Eitan Azani and Yoni Fighel, he lectured a crowd of around 40 invitation-only guests Wednesday, May 9 in the 33rd-story boardroom of a downtown law firm. And while the view out the window was somewhat terrifying, the researchers’ analysis was even more so.

“These guys are pros. They know anything they need to know about terror tactics. Their M.O. is guerilla warfare, insurgency. They fought 10 years in the trenches in Afghanistan. They know everything,” said Ganor, whose speech was sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council and co-sponsored by half a dozen other Bay Area Jewish organizations.

Not only is bin Laden not unemployed, he’s no dummy. He may preach world domination, Goaz noted, but his immediate goal is to erode and destroy Arab and Muslim regimes “which are not radical enough in the eyes of Islamic radicals. Most of the attacks since 9/11 occurred in Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Jordan, the Philippines let alone Iraq.”

Ganor, a tall, snowy haired man with an even demeanor let his temper slip only momentarily, when a questioner asked why Islamist parties invariably win elections in Muslim countries.

“You have a society that was exposed from day one, from birth, to incitement, to propaganda, to Islamic radicalism. You go to high school and read books full of incitement, go to pray at the mosque on Friday and get more incitement and one day the American angels come and say ‘OK, election day!’ Who do you think they are going to choose?”

He called for “a huge sum of money, a Marshall Plan” to fund liberalism and pragmatism in the Muslim world.

Aizani hushed the crowd at the outset of his presentation with an extended clip of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah excoriating the United States and his large audience obediently chanting “Death to America.” He explained Hezbollah’s complex leadership pyramid via a flow chart that for all the world looked like the chart the feds keep on Tony Soprano’s gang, and noted that many of the men on this list can basically operate in the open.

“It’s easy to establish [new cells] around the world. Why? Hezbollah is only outlawed in five [countries]. They can build around the world, in Europe, without fear of anybody,” he said.

“The Germans publish every year that they have at least 1,000 Hezbollah members acting on German soil, but they are not outlawed, so no one can arrest them and get them tried.”

Fighel noted that today’s terrorist could well wear a suit and tie with a carnation in the lapel.

“You can be committed to jihad and still be a clerk at the Arab bank in Manhattan,” he said.

While the stereotypical jihadi will fight in a violent struggle, Fighel noted the wealth of men (and women) who engage in “jihad bi-al-Mal” or “jihad with the soul.” In short, giving money to charities that serve as bagmen for jihadis.

“These people are basically bankers. They wear suits. We’re looking for people in fatigues with a knife in the mouth. But these are different, totally skilled people. This is a new challenge, especially in the courts,” he said.

Islamic banks, social service providers and charities funneling money to terrorists have been shut down around the world, but “because of [political correctness], governments are reticent to check unless there is a very good reason.

“In San Francisco, Detroit, Illinois, Paris — if there is a lack of [social] services the government has to provide. If the government won’t provide then radical Islam will provide.”

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.