On the 4th of July, an Egyptian immigrant to the United States who believes in wild conspiracy theories about Jews, is known for his great "hate for Israel," and has possible ties to al Qaeda, armed himself to the teeth and assaulted the Israeli airline counter at Los Angeles International Airport, killing two.
It is obvious why Hesham Mohamed Ali Hadayet targeted Jews in a highly visible place on so prominent a date: to engage in terrorism against Israel.
But one important institution - the U.S. government - claims not to know Hadayet's goals. An FBI spokesman has said that "there's nothing to indicate terrorism." Another FBI official said of Hadayet: "It appears he went there with the intention of killing people. Why he did that we are still trying to determine." Possible causes named include a work dispute and a hate crime.
Sure, law enforcement should not jump to conclusions, but this head-in-the-clouds approach is ridiculous. It also fits a well-established pattern. Consider three cases of terrorism in the New York City area:
- Rashid Baz, a Lebanese cab driver with a known hatred for all things Israeli and Jewish, armed himself to the teeth in March 1994 and drove around the city looking for a Jewish target. He found his victims - a van full of Hassidic boys - on the Brooklyn Bridge and fired a hail of bullets against them, killing one boy.
And how did the FBI classify this crime? As "road rage." Only because the murdered boy's mother relentlessly fought this false description did the bureau finally in 2000 re-classify the murder as "the crimes of a terrorist."
- Ali Hasan Abu Kamal, a Palestinian gunman hailing from militant Islamic circles in Florida, took a gun to the top of the Empire State building in February 1997 and shot seven people there, killing one.
His suicide note accused the United States of using Israel as its "instrument" against the Palestinians, but city officials ignored this evidence and instead dismissed Abu Kamal as either "one deranged individual working on his own" (Police Commissioner Howard Safir) or a "man who had many, many enemies in his mind" (Mayor Rudolph Giuliani).
- Gamil al-Batouti, an EgyptAir copilot, yelled "I put my faith in God's hands" as he crashed a plane leaving Kennedy airport in October 1999, killing 217. Under Egyptian pressure, the National Transportation Safety Board report shied away from once mentioning Batouti's possible terrorist motives.
- Damir Igric, a Croat immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, used a boxcutter to slash the neck of a Greyhound bus driver in Tennessee last October, causing the bus to roll over, killing six passengers and himself. Although this bus-hijacking scenario echoed similar attacks by Palestinians on Israeli buses, the FBI immediately classified it "an isolated incident" and not an act of terrorism. The media attributed the violence to post-traumatic stress syndrome.
- Hassan Jandoubi, an Islamist with possible connections to al Qaeda, had started working at the AZF fertilizer factory in suburban Toulouse, France, just days before a massive explosion took place there last Sept. 21. This, the worst catastrophe ever in a French chemical plant, killed Jandoubi and 29 others, injured 2,000, destroyed 600 dwellings, and damaged 10,000 buildings.
The autopsy revealed that Jandoubi was wearing two pairs of trousers and four pairs of underpants, which the coroner compared to what is worn by "Islamic militants going into battle or on suicide missions." Also, the chemical plant was processing ammonium nitrate, a stable chemical that requires a substantial infusion of energy to explode.
Ignoring these signs, the French authorities declared there was "no shred of evidence" of the explosion being a terrorist act and ruled it an accident. They even prosecuted two publications merely for calling Jandoubi a "radical Islamist," making them pay tens of thousands of dollars in fines to Jandoubi's heirs, a mosque and a Muslim organization for their "defamation" of Jandoubi.
Work dispute, hate crime, road rage, derangement, post-traumatic stress, industrial accident ... these expressions of denial obstruct effective counterterrorism. The time has come for governments to catch up with the rest of us and call terrorism by its rightful name._________
April 12, 2003 update: Good news: the FBI did "catch up with the rest of us" and did call terrorism by its rightful name. It took over nine months after the murders but it finally did, as Paul Chavez of the Associated Press explains in "July 4 Shooting at LAX Ruled Terrorism":
An Egyptian immigrant who opened fire inside Los Angeles International Airport committed an act of terrorism, but he did it alone and was not tied to any terrorist organizations, federal officials have determined. ...
The Department of Justice had withheld characterizing the shooting while federal agents launched a worldwide probe. They determined it was terrorism related to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, said Matthew McLaughlin, an FBI spokesman in Los Angeles. "The investigation developed information that he openly supported the killings of civilians in order to advance the Palestinian cause," McLaughlin said. ...
The investigation found that Hadayet had become increasingly militant in recent years. Just weeks before the shooting, he bought the weapons used in the attack, closed his bank accounts and sent his family overseas. At the time, Hadayet, who lived in Irvine, was $10,000 in debt, and his limousine businesses was struggling, authorities said.
Mar. 14, 2006 update: I today found a name for Hadayet's rampage - Sudden Jihad Syndrome. See the explanation at "Sudden Jihad Syndrome (in North Carolina)."