When he was young, Walid Shoebat hated Jews. He had survived 1967’s Six Day War and was filled with vengeful malice after Israel defeated Arab allies and occupied, among other areas, the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.
So, his hard-to-verify story goes, he joined the Palestine Liberation Organization, which vowed to take up arms against the “illegal” Israeli state. To gain the PLO’s confidence, Shoebat made himself visible on the streets, vigorously protesting, even rioting, until he was finally arrested.
Eventually, Shoebat says in an interview with Boulder Weekly, “I expressed interest that I wanted to do something. And, of course, I found a bomb maker easily.”
So, he says, he took his bomb and planted it at a bank in Bethlehem. . .
He could only blame Islam’s teachings for imbuing his soul with racist hatreds and soon converted to Christianity, the faith of Jesus Christ, with whom he shares Bethlehem as his place of birth.
Today, Shoebat, a self-described “peace activist,” is a popular man. His fascinating story has reaped him appearances as a “former terrorist” on national and international television, including FOX, CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC and the BBC.
Shoebat has also lectured at many universities, including Harvard’s law school.
And on April 29, likely amid tightened security, Shoebat will speak to the University of Colorado on the invitation of the campus’ College Republicans. He expects to touch on the topic of his book, Why We Want to Kill You: The Jihadist Mindset and How to Defeat it. . .
Shoebat’s critics say Shoebat isn’t helping the situation. In fact, they say, given his influence, he seems to be hurting the people and situation he left behind, while supporting his lucrative life as a pundit and turning himself into a minor celebrity.
They say Shoebat distorts the facts that created the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as the teachings of Islam. They say he reinforces negative stereotypes about Arabs. They charge he is a propagandist, even an outright fake, whose views cater to conservatives, Christian evangelicals and right-wing Israelis eager to prop up an Arab as a spokesman against the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
Even the cover of the book, Why We Want to Kill You, sensationalizes the story of the divide. The cover displays an Arab man in a black mask and suicide bomb vest. There’s also a collage of horrific images — orange flames and black smoke billowing from New York City’s Twin Towers during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Shoebat admits the book is provocative and says it is meant to challenge the pity that he accuses many left-leaning Americans of harboring for terrorists. . .
He says many Muslims are bound up in a “salvation trap” that is “growing like wildfire” despite a war on terror that he says is better described as an epic battle against “IslamoNazism.” . . .
“What part of ‘kill’ do you Americans not understand?” he says, adding that sharia “is not a set of religious laws for the sole purpose of spiritual raising, raising people spiritually. No, no, no. It is a set of constitutional laws, and that’s the problem.”
Such statements explain why the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, chided the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs for having Shoebat and other self-described “former terrorists” speak at a prestigious conference earlier this year meant to provide recommendations on “dismantling terrorism” to Congress and the military/intelligence community.
CAIR, which seeks to further America’s understanding of roughly seven million Muslims and battle “Islamophobia,” issued statements to the press and school claiming that Shoebat and his associates had made “bigoted and inaccurate” statements in the past. CAIR cited several examples, including Shoebat’s claims to Missouri’s Springfield News-Leader newspaper a year ago that there are “many parallels between the Antichrist and Islam.”
“Islam is not the religion of God — Islam is the devil,” Shoebat told the paper.
CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, reached via phone in Washington, D.C., called Shoebat the a darling of the “extreme wing of the pro-Israel lobby” and said Shoebat’s observations appear designed to do nothing more than whip up the post-9/11 hysteria that Muslims are only out to destroy Americans and Jews.
“He’s popular in certain circles because he’s more than happy to attack the faith of Islam and smear Muslims,” Hooper says. “When you label millions of American Muslims as Satan, what does that imply? Do we put them in camps? What is his aim? I think it is the role of mainstream followers of all faiths to marginalize extremist hate mongers like Shoebat.”
Shoebat’s Christian conversion has earned him an evangelical fan club of sorts. He recently addressed some 22,000 evangelical teens at a BattleCry Christian festival in San Francisco and two of his books, including Why We Want to Kill You, are listed as suggested reading on a Focus on the Family Web page analyzing the “Islamic fundamentalist threat to America.”
Shoebat’s invitations to lecture at universities disappoint Hooper.
“It’s disturbing that he’s invited to credible events held by credible groups,” Hooper says.
And bringing Shoebat to CU is costly — roughly $30,000. Shoebat says the expenses are largely security-driven because he has weathered past threats for expressing his views, at times fearing for his life. . .
Yet Shoebat is dogged by questions about his past — critics and journalists have picked away at his story, raising the specter that he is not a former terrorist, as he claims.
Last month, The Jerusalem Post investigated Shoebat’s story that he bombed a Bethlehem bank — Bank Leumi. The paper was told there was no record of an explosion. . .
Shoebat also has a lengthy section on his website titled, “My Identity?” But Shoebat’s efforts to document his own story leave CAIR’s Hooper unimpressed.
“Walid Shoebat is either a self-admitted terrorist who should be locked up, or he’s a fraud,” Hooper says. “I think lack of action by government authorities makes it clear they know exactly who he is. Draw your own conclusion.”
Hooper says the Jewish, evangelical and conservative groups that back Shoebat would be smart to disavow Shoebat before they are embarrassed.
Shoebat will arrive in Colorado amid fresh news of potential peace concessions to Israel from Syria and the radical Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter this week reported that Hamas has agreed in writing not to be disruptive if efforts to create a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza were renewed.
Carter’s visit was criticized by Israel and met with extreme skepticism by the Bush administration, which, like Israel, considers Hamas to be terrorist. Carter, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, defended the trip.
“The problem is not that I met with Hamas in Syria,” Carter was quoted as saying in the New York Times. “The problem is that Israel and the United States refuse to meet these people.”
Shoebat in his interview dismissed the effort and called Carter an “idiot.” Carter, he says, doesn’t have the credibility to lead peace efforts in the Middle East, pointing to Carter’s presidency. (MORE)