WINNIPEG, Manitoba, May 2 Twenty-five years ago, Walid Shoebat was a teenage member of the PLO, organizing demonstrations and confronting Israeli troops in the West Bank. Today, that former PLO rioter and would-be bomber is a strident activist for Israel, defending Jewish claims to Judea and Samaria, the Jewish name for the West Bank. Shoebat spoke recently to a Jewish audience in Winnipeg about his transformation from a PLO member to an “ardent Zionist.” A gifted orator, Shoebat delivered an emotional address, at times switching to Arabic to demonstrate the anti-Semitic songs he learned as a child. He also described the deep hatred of Jews with which he was inculcated from childhood. His lecture was sponsored by the Asper Foundation Lecture Series in association with the Winnipeg Zionist Initiative. Born in Bethlehem in 1960, Shoebat has an American-born Christian mother and a Palestinian father. He recalled his experiences as a youngster living with his family in Jericho, then part of the Jordanian-ruled West Bank. “As a 6-year-old, in kindergarten, I sang a song, ‘Arabs are beloved and Jews are dogs,’ ” he said. “I remember the news broadcasts when I was a child, that they would throw the Jews into the sea.” “When the Six-Day War erupted, the males in Jericho left their posts before a shot was fired. They took off their uniforms, except for their underwear.” The reason? They were afraid of “what those monsters, the Jews would do to them” if the conquering Israelis discovered they were soldiers, he said. Muslim Arab hatred of Jews goes back far earlier than the creation of the State of Israel, Shoebat said. Shoebat’s wealthy grandfather, a Muslim chieftain, was a close friend of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the anti-Semitic grand mufti of Jerusalem and friend of Adolf Hitler. Al-Husseini helped organize the 8th division of Hitler’s army, and he had a lot to do with Arab “pogroms against Jews” in British mandatory Palestine. He also persuaded the Nazis not to let “half a million Hungarian Jews” or “5,000” European Jewish children emigrate to Palestine. “They went to death camps as a result of his intervention,” Shoebat said. Al-Husseini used “Islamic fundamentalism” as a weapon against the Jews “way before” Saudi Arabia started the “madrassas” the religious schools Shoebat says teach Muslim children to hate Jews today. The Islamist agenda was to destroy the Jews way before the 1967 Six-Day War and Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Shoebat told the audience. Before the Six-Day War, even the PLO’s founding covenant didn’t call for the liberation of the West Bank. That was added in 1967, after the area came under Israeli rule. As a teenager in the mid-1970s, Shoebat joined the PLO and became a local activist, organizing demonstrations, printing fliers and confronting Israeli troops. Anti-Israel graffiti was his job. The school curriculum, whether art, history or social studies, Shoebat said, “had something to do with Jew hatred.” “Jews are evil, Jews are the enemies of the prophets,” students were taught, according to Shoebat. As for the Holocaust, that was a fiction, he learned. He and his pals used to joke that the emaciated Jews in the liberated concentration camps were “all actors.” “In our view, Jews were the most detestable beings that existed on earth,” Shoebat said. One day, when he was a teenager, Shoebat and a group of friends nabbed an Israeli soldier in the middle of a riot. They almost killed the soldier, but the Israeli escaped. Shoebat, then 15, was arrested and sent to jail in Jerusalem, where the PLO recruited him for more violence. Upon his release, he boarded a bus to Bethlehem to bomb a branch of Israel’s Bank Leumi. Shoebat was carrying an explosive hidden in a loaf of bread. Seeing Palestinian children playing nearby, he thought to himself, “This is ridiculous,” and threw the loaf onto the bank roof, where it didn’t explode. At age 18, the young PLO militant went to college in Chicago, where he became president of the Palestinian Students’ Association, raising funds for the PLO and recruiting volunteers to fight in Lebanon. He later moved to California, where he met his current wife, a Catholic from Mexico. Shoebat was determined to convert her to Islam. He started reading the Jewish Bible, seeking to prove to her that Judaism was corrupt. Instead, he was shocked to discover how frequently the Bible mentions Israel and the Jewish connection to the Holy Land. After a few months, instead of converting his wife to Islam, he decided to convert to Christianity. Shoebat didn’t dwell on the matter in his Winnipeg lecture, but as he spoke, it became clear that he had several personal axes to grind against Islam. His mother spent decades seeking to return to the U.S. and divorce her husband, a teacher in Jericho. Islamic authorities there told her that if she left him, she’d have to leave her children behind as well. Shoebat’s West Bank grandfather also was persecuted for selling land to the Jewish National Fund. Now a computer programmer, husband and father of two, Shoebat spends part of his time making the rounds of the U.S. college lecture circuit, carrying his message of support for Israel. He also has a message for Jews: Stop apologizing for Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. “Israel makes mistakes. But the most I criticize Israel for was to allow Palestinian children to be taught to call for the deaths of Jews.” He noted that while the Israeli government punished Ariel Sharon for his role in the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps south of Beirut in 1982, “nobody criticizes the Arabs who committed the massacres.” The PLO, by contrast, never apologizes, he said even for the Palestinian ransacking of Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus and other Jewish holy sites in the West Bank. And the Voice of Palestine radio continues to broadcast Nazi-like anti-Semitism. What’s more, there isn’t a wall in the Palestinian-populated territories that doesn’t have graffiti expressing hatred of Jews, Shoebat said. Contrary to the world’s depiction of Palestinians as the David against an Israeli Goliath, Shoebat argues that the Arabs are the Goliath, “150 million against the Jews.” Shoebat believes Palestinians should be allowed to continue living in an Israel that includes “Judea and Samaria” as long as they pledge allegiance to Israel and become Israeli citizens. “Only the terrorists should be sent to Jordan,” he said.
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