NEW YORK (Mar. 7)
Israeli officials and Jewish organizational leaders are greeting the arrest of a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin in connection with last month’s World Trade Center bombing with a quiet “I told you so.”
Israel has long warned the world about the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism and in recent months even insisted, in the face of much American skepticism, that fundamentalist groups were operating in the United States.
Perhaps now, said Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gad Yaacobi, “our warnings at the U.N. and in the media about the dangers of this movement will be received.”
The man arrested in connection with the bombing, 25-year-old Mohammed Salameh, is suspected of having fundamentalist ties, perhaps through a New Jersey mosque headed by a fiery Egyptian cleric who openly supports violence in the name of Islam.
Jordanian officials have said Salameh was born in 1967 in the West Bank town of Bidya, near Nablus, just months after Israel captured the area in the Six-Day War.
It appears that his family at some point moved to Jordan, where they now reside in the city of Zarqa, north of the capital Amman.
The Jordanian government said Salameh left the kingdom in 1987 and has not returned since. U.S. officials said the suspect entered America on a six-month visa in 1988.
Also arrested in connection with the case was Ibrahim el-Gabrowny, a cousin of El Sayyid Nosair, the extremist charged but later acquitted in the New York assassination of the militant Rabbi Meir Kahane. Nosair was jailed after being convicted of lesser offenses.
El-Gabrowny was arrested when trying to stop officers from executing a search warrant in his apartment, formerly occupied by Nosair and also listed by Salameh as his address on his New York driver’s license.
LINK TO JERSEY CITY MOSQUE
Another development in the case came Friday, when investigators discovered large quantities of materials used for bomb-making in a locker at a New Jersey self-storage facility rented out by Salameh.
Both Nosair and Salameh were known to have worshipped at the A1 Salam Mosque in Jersey City, where the Islamic fundamentalist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman delivers impassioned sermons advocating, among other things, the violent overthrow of the Egyptian government.
Rahman was tried and acquitted in Egypt for involvement in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. U.S officials have sought to deport him from this country.
Israeli officials and Jewish organizational leaders, in initial reactions to fast-breaking developments in the bombing investigation, reiterated their past warnings about Islamic fundamentalism and hinted that America, and the world, might now better understand Israel’s own struggle against militant fundamentalism in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Ambassador Yaacobi recalled the during the U.N. debate over Israel’s deportation of 415 Islamic fundamentalist activists to Lebanon last December, he warned of the threat posed by the group to the Middle East peace process and to the West in general.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, visiting New York last week, said: “I’m not surprised there are some signs that there is some involvement of Moslem fundamentalist movement in this outrageous act in New York. This movement is very dangerous to peace and stability, especially in the Middle East.”
Shamir added: “Whether it’s the Palestine Liberation Organization or (the Islamic fundamentalist group) Hamas, I don’t see a great deal of difference between them. Both want to see the elimination of Israel. They will not succeed.”
NJCRAC CAUTIONS AGAINST SCAPEGOATING
The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council congratulated law-enforcement authorities on their progress in the investigation and urged that all necessary steps be taken to prevent further terrorist activity in America.
But NJCRAC also cautioned Americans against scapegoating Arab and Moslem Americans.
“It would be unfortunate if the wrongdoings of an individual or a particular group were to be used as a vehicle for the scapegoating of an ethnic or religious group,” the umbrella group’s chair, Maynard Wishner, said in a statement.
“Strong feelings engendered by the bombing of the World Trade Center must not be used to generate intimidation of Arab-Americans or American Muslims.”
Other Jewish groups appeared to take a more activist stance. Amcha, the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, organized a vigil Sunday outside Rahman’s Jersey City mosque.
“This mosque is a headquarters of the extremist Moslem cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and the mosque of World Trade Center bombing suspect Mohammed Salameh,” said Rabbi Avi Weiss of the Bronx, the group’s president.
“It could well be ‘ground zero’ of Islamic extremist terror in the New York area,” he said.