Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

It’s Not Road Rage, It’s Terrorism

April 4, 2012 9:42 am 0 comments

Rashid Baz, who attacked a Jewish target in New York City in 1994.

On February 25, 1994, Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli doctor of American origins, went to the mosque at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and murdered 29 Muslims with an automatic weapon before being overwhelmed and himself killed. This massacre prompted conspiracy theories and riots in Muslim circles, including accusations that the government of Israel stood behind Goldstein, an allegation that strenuous denunciations of his attack by the Israeli government did not fully deflect.

On March 1, four days later, Rashid Baz, a New York livery driver of Lebanese origins, fired two guns at a van carrying Hasidic Jewish boys on a ramp leading to the Brooklyn Bridge, killing Ari Halberstam, 16, a yeshiva student. Baz was quickly apprehended, convicted, and sentenced to 141 years in prison. Circumstantial evidence pointed to a link between the two events, for Baz was immersed in the Arabic-language media coverage of Goldstein’s attack, he attended the incendiary Islamic Center of Bay Ridge, and he was surrounded by Muslims who condoned terrorism against Jews. More than that, friends indicated that Baz was obsessively angered by the attack in Hebron and the psychiatrist for his legal defense, Douglas Anderson, testified that Baz “was enraged” by it. “He was absolutely furious. . . . Were it not for Hebron this whole tragedy [in New York] wouldn’t have occurred.”

Yet the seemingly obvious connection between Goldstein and Baz could not be established because Baz accounted for his violence by referring to post-traumatic stresses from his experiences in Lebanon. And so, despite the preponderance of evidence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation adopted Baz’s own dissemblance and called the murder on the Brooklyn Bridge an act of “road rage.” Only after Halberstam’s mother devoted years of effort did the FBI in 2000 reclassify the Baz attack as terrorism.

And thus matters rested until a few days ago, when Baz’s confession in 2007 finally became public via a New York Post article. In it, Baz acknowledged the impact of the Goldstein atrocity on him, admitted having specifically targeted Jews, and confessed to following a van of Hasidic boys for two miles from the Manhattan Eye and Ear Infirmary to the bridge. Asked if he would have shot at a van full of black or Latino people, he replied, “No, I only shot them because they were Jewish.”

This belated confession points to a recurring problem of politicians, law enforcement, and the press with Islamist terrorism: their unwillingness to stare it in the face and ascribe murder to it.

Most recently, this avoidance reared its ugly head in the case of Mohammed Merah in Toulouse, France, where the establishment’s immediate impulse was to assume the murderer of three soldiers and four Jews was a non-Muslim. As my colleague Adam Turner notes in the Daily Caller, “the elite Western public officials’ and media’s speculation about the true killer, prior to the discovery of his identity, heavily focused (also here and here and here) on the belief that he was a white European neo-Nazi.” Only when Merah himself boasted of his crime to the police and even sent videos of his actions to Al Jazeera did the other theories finally vaporize.

The Baz and Merah examples fit a much larger pattern of denying Islamist terrorism that I trace as far back as the 1990 assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York City by El Sayyid Nosair, an attack initially ascribed by the police department’s chief of detectives to “a prescription drug for or consistent with depression.” Since then, time and again, the establishment has conjured up similarly lame excuses for Islamist terrorism, including “a work dispute,” a “stormy [family] relationship,” the acne drug Accutane, an “attitude problem,” and “loneliness and depression.”

Most disturbing, however, is the tendency to ascribe Islamist terror to diminished mental capacity. As Teri Blumenfeld notes in the current issue of the Middle East Quarterly, “Muslims who kill in the name of their religion frequently evade punishment in Western courts by pleading insanity or mental incompetence.” In Western courts, indeed, defense lawyers routinely attribute acts of jihadi murder to insanity.

Ignoring the religious and ideological roots of Islamist terrorism carries a heavy price; not thoroughly investigating the Kahane assassination meant overlooking materials that could have prevented the World Trade Center bombing in 1993; and Merah’s apprehension sooner would have saved lives. Islamism must be squarely faced to protect ourselves from future violence.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. © 2012 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    JNS.org – Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved traditional Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer—author of the books “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” and […]

    Read more →