When he was 16, says Walid Shoebat, he was recruited by a PLO operative by the name of Mahmoud al-Mughrabi to carry out an attack on a branch of Bank Leumi in Bethlehem.
At six in the evening he was supposed to detonate a bomb in the doorway of the bank. But when he saw a group of Arab children playing nearby, he says, his conscience was pricked and he threw the bomb onto the roof of the bank instead, where it exploded causing no fatalities.
This is the story that Shoebat, who converted from Islam to Christianity in 1993 and has lived in the United States since the late 1970s, has told on tours around the US and Europe since 9/11 opened the West’s public consciousness to the dangers of Islamic extremism.
Shoebat’s Web site says his is an assumed name, used to protect him from reprisal attacks by his former terror chiefs, whom he says have put a $10 million price on his head.
Shoebat is sometimes paid for his appearances, and he also solicits donations to a Walid Shoebat Foundation to help fund this work and to “fight for the Jewish people.”
The BBC, Fox News and CNN have all presented Shoebat as a terrorist turned peacemaker, interviewing him as someone uniquely capable of providing insight into the terrorist mindset.
Now he and two other former extremists are set to appear along with US Senator Joe Lieberman, Ambassador to the US Sallai Meridor and other notables at an annual “Christians United For Israel” conference in Washington in July.
The three “ex-terrorists” have appeared previously at Harvard and Columbia universities and, most recently, at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado, in February, at a conference whose findings, the organizers said, would be circulated at the Pentagon and among members of Congress and other influential figures.
Last year, Shoebat spoke to the BattleCry Christian gathering in San Francisco, which drew a reported 22,000 evangelical teenagers to what the San Francisco Chronicle described as “a mix of pep rally, rock concert and church service.”
The paper described Shoebat as a self-proclaimed “former Islamic terrorist” who said that Islam was a “satanic cult” and who told the crowd how he eventually accepted Jesus into his heart.
However, Shoebat’s claim to have bombed Bank Leumi in Bethlehem is rejected by members of his family who still live in the area, and Bank Leumi says it has no record of such an attack ever taking place.
His relatives, members of the Shoebat family, are mystified by the notion of “Walid Shoebat” being an assumed name. And the Walid Shoebat Foundation’s working process is less than transparent, with Shoebat’s claim that it is registered as a charity in the state of Pennsylvania being denied by the Pennsylvania State Attorney’s Office. (MORE)