Muslim-turned-Christian Walid Shoebat is the star attraction of WorldNetDaily's new anti-Islam book. But WND has kept mum on questions about the veracity of Shoebat's claim to be a former terrorist.
By Terry Krepel
The ConWeb loved Walid Shoebat when he surfaced in right-wing circles a few years back.
WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah featured him on his various radio show stints (more than once). In January 2004, Farah wrote a fawning profile of Shoebat, a story that dovetails nicely with the typical conservative view of the Middle East:
Walid Shoebat, born in Bethlehem, began attacking Israelis when he was 8 years old, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.
WND also spun Shoebat's travails with speaking events and getting into Canada his way. WND columnist Mychal Massie even cited him in an April 2007 column.
WND isn't the only ones in the ConWeb to have promoted Shoebat:
But WND has done the most to promote Shoebat. An April 29 WorldNetDaily article touting WND founder Joseph Farah's appearance at the Southern California Strategic Perspectives Conference also promoted the appearance of other speakers, including Shoebat, who it described as having "participated in acts of terror and violence against Israel" and led a "life of violence and rioting in Bethlehem and the Temple Mount" before "realiz[ing] that everything he had been taught about Jews was a lie."
Shoebat is one of only three contributors out of "more than one hundred testimonies" collected who received his own bio at the end of the book, special recognition for those "who have received much attention for their writing and statements on radical Islam." (Most of the others offering "testimony" are listed with only a single name, in an apparent effort to keep them "necessarily anonymous.")
But numerous questions have been raised about the life story Shoebat has told -- specifically, whether he really as the badass terrorist he claims to have been.
In January, The New York Times wrote of Shoebat and two other purported ex-terrorists, Zak Anani and Kamal Saleem, with whom Shoebat made a speaking appearance at the Air Force Academy:
Academic professors and others who have heard the three men speak in the United States and Canada said some of their stories border on the fantastic, like Mr. Saleem’s account of how, as a child, he infiltrated Israel to plant bombs via a network of tunnels underneath the Golan Heights. No such incidents have been reported, the academic experts said. They also question how three middle-aged men who claim they were recruited as teenagers or younger could have been steeped in the violent religious ideology that only became prevalent in the late 1980s.
The Times article also noted that the speeches by Shoebat and the others were little more than Muslim bashing and Christian proselytizing; according to one critic, "It was just an old time gospel hour -- 'Jesus can change your life, he changed mine.' ... That is mixed in with 'Watch out America, wake up America, the danger of Islam is here.' "
The Village Voice added:
In response, the men have spent significant time trying to prove that they actually did kill people, and that they used to hate Jews as much as the next Muslim extremist. "I planted a bomb in a bank!" insists Shoebat, whose handler, Keith Davies, has threatened a libel suit against The Times over the article that questioned his claims.
That's right: Shoebat is alleging libel against anyone who says he wasn't a terrorist -- as blogger Richard Bartholomew noted, the most absurd libel threat ever. Bartholomew added that Shoebat has issued a similar libel threat against one blogger, claiming to have talked to a relative of Shoebat who called his terrorist story "a manufactured fabrication" and that "The biggest act of 'terror' he ever committed was to glue Palestinian flags on street posts." The relative is also quoted as saying that Shoebat's family members "believe he is being paid big money to keep saying bad things about Muslims."
It should be no surprise that the controversy over Shoebat's veracity can be found nowhere on the ConWeb. It's not mentioned on the websites that have touted him -- WorldNetDaily, Newsmax or CNS -- even though the story first surfaced nearly four months ago.
A March 30 article in the Jerusalem Post offered more detail regarding questions about Shoebat's past:
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.
The Post also raised questions about the foundation named for him:
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.
While WorldNetDaily has yet to acknowledge these questions about Shoebat, Shoebat was given 12 pages in Crimp and Richardson's 179-page, WND-published book -- the second chapter of the book, pages 19-31, to be exact -- to tell his story.
Despite the fact that, as the Jerusalem Post put it, "Shoebat's claim to have been a terrorist rests on his account of the purported bombing of Bank Leumi" -- the same account Farah touted in his 2004 profile of Shoebat -- that story doesn't appear in the book. Introduced as telling a story that "poignantly shows us what will happen to our own neighborhoods if we don't stop Islamic terrorism," Shoebat does, however, spin other tales of his alleged terrorist past:
I vowed to fight my Jewish enemy, believing that in doing so, I was doing God's will on the earth. I remained true to those vows as I raged against the Israeli army in every riot I could. I used any means available to inflict maximum damage and harm. I rioted in school, on the streets, and even on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Throughout high school, I was one of the leading activists for the cause of Islam. I would prepare speeches, slogans and write anti-Israeli graffiti in an effort to provoke other students to throw rocks at the armed Israeli soldiers.
Later in the chapter, Shoebat tells of "my first attempt to lynch a Jew."
Even though questions about Shoebat's veracity surfaced months before the book was released at the end of April, the book fails to address those questions, and -- in keeping with WND's silence on the issue -- Shoebat is not even mentioned in WND promotions for the book.
One of the authors may be too close to the issue to be objective. As Richardson revealed in an interview:
I also recently co-authored a very large volume with Walid Shoebat, a former Palestinian Terrorist turned peace-activist and pro-Israel speaeker. This book is geared toward a Christian audience and also discusses Biblical and Islamic apocalyptic beliefs and includes many of Walid’s life experiences. It promises to be a very engaging and controversial work.
It seems that WND, and Richardson in particular, have a vested interest to not address the issue.
WND's refusal to address questions about Shoebat's veracity is even more puzzling given that Shoebat has vociferously defended himself. An entire section of his website is dedicated to "evidence of my credentials," and he responded to the Jerusalem Post in an April 9 column in which he played the victim, asserting: "The main culprit in aiding terrorists are the media. In my case here, sadly, it's The Jerusalem Post," and claiming the "witnesses" who have questioned his story "are linked to terror and are wanted by the United States for major fraud and contraband."
Who's telling the truth here? We don't know. But given that questions about Shoebat are being raised in major media outlets, one would think it would behoove WND, Crimp and Richardson, if only for the sake of their book, to address them forthrightly instead of downplaying his prominent role in it in the apparent hope that people will eventually forget about the controversy.