Former terrorist at Israel's service
Walid Shoebat, former member of PLO's military wing who attempted to lynch Israeli soldier in 1970s, is today one of Jewish state's best PR people in war against Palestinian terror. In exclusive interview, he tells Ynet he was educated to hate Jews from his infancy, became an Israel supporter after reading Bible
Shoebat, a former Palestinian terrorist from the town of Beit Sahour, who almost lynched an Israeli soldier and planted explosive devices, is now one of the State of Israel's best PR people in the United States.
Shoebat is a one-man PR machine. He gives interviews to TV channels and radio stations, delivers speeches across the US, and has even written four books in which he recounted his past as a terrorist in the mid 1970s, and the personal change he went through when he converted to Christianity and became one of the most enthusiastic preachers against radical Islam and in favor of the State of Israel.
His claim that there is no different between the Hamas and the al-Qaeda organizations has enraged Muslims and Arabs, both in the US and in the West Bank.
Hamas gunmen in Gaza. No different from al-Qaeda (Photo: Reuters)
When a BBC interviewer attempted to distinguish between Hamas, "which fights for legitimate rights," and al-Qaeda, "which simply likes to kill people," Shoebat gives him a live history lesson, mentioning the name of Mustafa Azzam, a Palestinian from Jenin, who was Osama bin Laden's spiritual father and a source of inspiration for radical Islamists in the West Bank. Shoebat views Hamas and al-Qaeda as different expressions of the radical Islam which murders Christian and Jewish atheists.
Offspring of Palestinian struggle leadersShoebat speaks from personal knowledge. As a youth in Bethlehem in the 1970s, young Walid was active in the PLO's military wing. After leaving for studies in the US in the 1980s, he served as chairman of the Palestinian students in a Chicago college, raised funds to finance Palestinian terror in Israel and Lebanon, and was even joined the Muslim Brotherhood.
"My recruiter in Chicago was preacher Jamal Said, who is still roaming freely in Illinois. This is what is happening in mosques across America," he said in a TV interview.
Walid's grandfather, Abdullah Ali Awad – who was the Beit Sahour mukhtar (village head) and the colleague of Haj al-Amin Husseini and Abed al-Kader, the leaders of the Palestinian struggle before the establishment of the State of Israel – would probably turn in his grave could he hear his grandson's remarks.
Shoebat's family raised a number of terrorists, some of whom were involved in terror attacks in Israel in recent years, including at attack in central Jerusalem. His relatives cannot understand how such a traitor could have emerged from their family.
Shoebat was born in Bethlehem in September 1960, but could actually have been born in the US. His mother Marilyn is a Christian American, who visited the Holy Land with her Muslim husband and two brothers who were two and five years old at the time. She couldn’t imagine that her husband and his family members would not let the children return to the US and that she was about to be stranded in the Middle East for 35 years. She finally returned to the US in 1994.
'Rachel was a Jewish whore'
He grew up in Beit Sahour, where he was brought up on the notion that "Jesus was a Palestinian revolutionist." Shoebat recounts that "the learning material was brought from Jordan and the education was anti-Semitic. My teachers were al-Azhar graduates and Muslim Brotherhood members. The school was located nearby Rachel's Tomb, but no one taught me who Rachel was. Years later I asked my uncle, who served as an educational supervisor in Bethlehem, how it was possible that I wasn't taught who Rachel was, and he replied: 'Rachel was a Jewish whore'."
In an interview to CNN, Shoebat said that he had been brought up to hate Jews from an early age. "Since you are five you learn to hate the Jews. Over the years you also learn to deny the Holocaust and adopt a racist ideology. Nasrallah apologizes for firing rockets that hurt Arabs, but doesn't apologize for hurting Jewish children.
Support rally for Nasrallah. Only apologizes for hurting Arabs (Photo: Reuters)
"It's like becoming addicted to a drug. Lynching two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah and proudly presenting the Jewish blood on your hands."
Naturally, Shoebat, who grew up in an atmosphere of resistance to the occupation, took part in distributing Palestinian flags, spraying graffiti against Israel, and throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers. In May 1977, he was held for three weeks in detention in Jerusalem on suspicion of inciting to violence.
According to Shoebat, unlike his friends who remained in detention for a prolonged period, he was released following the intervention of the US consul general in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the time he spent in jail served as a life-changing experience for him that provided him with a chance to meet other terror operatives. After his release, an explosives expert named Mahmoud al-Mugrabi recruited him to the ranks of the resistance groups.
Shoebat, who was then only 16, was sent by al-Mugrabi to blow up a Bank Leumi branch in Bethlehem. He took a bus to the bank, but when he arrived there he noticed several Palestinian children passing by, and instead of placing the explosive device inside the branch he panicked, threw the bomb on the roof and fled. The device eventually exploded without causing real damage.
I was depressed and scared about what I had done, Shoebat said, but added that he acted in accordance with what his father and his Muslim environment expected of him: To kill Jews and become a shahid. He continued his involvement in other activities, and on one occasion beat up and stabbed an Israeli soldier with his friends. The soldier eventually managed to call for help and was rescued by other troops.
Bible led to a transformation
Shoebat's mother, who was concerned his acts would lead to his death, decided to send her son to the United States to study in 1978. This might have been the decision that saved his life. The move to the US did not bring about an immediate transformation though. He continued to act for the Palestinian cause and later raise money to fund the first intifada.
The change came about in 1993, after he started reading the Bible, in an attempt to persuade his Christian wife to convert to Islam. For six months he read and studied the Bible, and this led him to the conclusion that everything he had been taught to believe about Judaism was a lie. He converted to Christianity and turned from an enemy of Jews to an ardent supporter of Judaism and Israel.
Shoebat began giving lectures in synagogues and churches across the US and the world, appeared on TV shows and held lectures in universities.
Palestinian organizations in the US have been constantly trying to discredit him, and his own family members claim that his stories are false and that he is an Israeli agent. However, none of them can explain why Shoebat is considered persona non-grata in Israel. "They won't let me into Israel, because as far as the state is concerned I'm a terrorist," he explained to Ynet.
Over the past year, Shoebat has been trying to obtain an entry permit to Israel, which he wishes to visit with his family, but has been denied repeatedly.
In the US, on the contrary, he is a very popular lecturer, who has already been asked to speak before Congress, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.