Israel Resource Review 12th Febuary, 2003


The US Religious Worker Visa Scam
Michelle Malkin

Call it the Radical Muslim Cleric Importation Plan. Under the religious worker visa ("R visa") program, an unknown number of Middle Easterners claiming to be imams or other mosque employees have been admitted to the United States with minimal scrutiny.

According to a complaint from the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York unsealed last week, Muslim religious leader Muhammed Khalil, his son Asim, and three other individuals submitted false R visa applications on behalf of more than 200 Middle Eastern aliens. Although Khalil and his cronies were nabbed after an 18-month investigation, federal authorities are mum on the whereabouts of the Middle Eastern illegal aliens who purchased fake R visas from Khalil and his colleagues.

The R visa program, created by Congress in 1990, gives visas to thousands of foreigners to fill alleged domestic shortages among ministries, nunneries, and other religious professionals. In 1998, some 11,000 foreigners received such visas. According to a 1999 General Accounting Office report, federal investigators have discovered R visa fraud rings involving churches and other religious institutions based in Colombia, Fiji, and Russia.

The mastermind of the 1993 WorldTradeCenter bombing, Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman, had an R visa. So did four Palestinian men who worked for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and the Islamic Association for Palestine-both Muslim charities that the State Department has linked to the terrorist organization Hamas.

The 1999 GAO report highlighted persistent lapses in oversight. "Neither INS nor [the] State [Department] knows the overall extent of fraud in the religious worker visa program," the report concluded.

No one knows! TomRidge, are you listening? It's going to take more than duct tape and plastic sheeting to fix this problem.

This much is clear to immigration veterans: The R visa program is a notorious law enforcement evasion scheme under which a number of religious facilities have been established as fronts to enable foreign nationals to enter the U.S. using false identities and evade criminal and terrorist watch lists.

Khalil's ring charged up to $8,000 per person. His mosque sponsored more than 200 applicants seeking work visas through the INS program, alleging they were religious workers who taught the Koran, Islamic history and the Arabic language. According to the complaint, Khalil supplied fake names ("Amjad Hussain," "Mohammad Amjad," "Amjad Ali Chaudhry"); fake degrees (from the University of Punjab); and fake religious training certificates (for the "Nazra Quran Course").

Assistant U.S. attorney Edward O'Callaghan revealed in court last week that Khalil made taped comments to an undercover witness proclaiming allegiance with Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. "Hopefully," Khalil reportedly mused, "another attack in the United Stateswill come shortly."

Details about how Khalil first arrived in the U.S., why he was allowed to stay, and how he came back to acquire U.S. citizenship are sketchy. But it's enough to raise alarm bells about the continued laxity in policing fraud in the so-called "immigration services" branch of the federal homeland security bureaucracy.

Prosecutors said Khalil arrived in the United States in 1973, agreed to leave the country at the request of the INS in the late 1970s and returned in the early 1980s. By 1987, he had secured U.S. citizenship.

Will President Bush's new appointee to head the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services get on the ball and get to the bottom of this debacle? Not likely Eduardo Aguirre Jr., like former Immigration and Naturalization Services chief James Ziglar, has zero experience with immigration law or law enforcement. He is a top bureaucrat at the U.S. Export-Import Bank who worked for Bank of America for 24 years, and whose main qualification is being a Cuban immigrant who, according to the White House, was named "One of the 100 most Influential Hispanics in the Nation" by Hispanic Business Magazine for three consecutive years.

And we're supposed to believe the feds are on high terror alert? Color me unconvinced.

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin is the author of, most recently, "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists Criminals & Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores".

Published on February 12, 2003 at

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

The PA - Iraqi Axis
Rony Shaked
Arab Affairs Analyst, Yediot Ahronot

Between closure and curfew, between terror attack and IDF retaliation, in the midst of their social and economic misery, the Palestinians are finding time to protest against the war in Iraq and to show solidarity with the Iraqi people and its rulers.

Last Friday there was a large demonstration in Gaza, on Monday in Kalkilya, two days ago the children of Gaza offered a prayer against the war, yesterday there was a large protest in Ramallah, and today there is another protest planned in Gaza. The Palestinians promise that as the winds of war blow harder there will be more demonstrations and acts of protest . . .

The Palestinians see the war in Iraq as a juncture from which it will be possible to embark on a new political course. Arafat hopes to profit from the post-war order, so despite his solidarity with Saddam Hussein, war is not a bad option as far as he is concerned. For this reason the large demonstrations, especially those led by Hamas, embarrass him. Arafat is also embarrassed by the Iraqi financial aid that flows into the territories: only this week, according to sources in Gaza, half a million dollars arrived to be distributed to families of shahids. After he shouted, "A million martyrs marching to Jerusalem," he cannot reject the Iraqi aid. But still, over the past two weeks he tried to cool the excitement of the masses, and his men worked behind the scenes to remove the posters of Saddam Hussein from the streets. Arafat tried to create the impression that the Palestinians' protest against the war is similar to that in the US: the support is directed at the Iraqi people, not at its leaders.

The wait for the war this time is accompanied by the Palestinians' concern that Israel will take advantage of the international attention in order to hit the Palestinians hard, to occupy Gaza or even carry out a mass expulsion to Jordan. In Ramallah, Nablus, and Gaza residents are storing gas, medicine, flour, and even chlorine to purify drinking water.

On the fringes of Palestinian politics there are voices, mostly those of intellectuals, which support taking advantage of the offensive in Iraq in order to end the Intifada. Because of these voices, concerns have been expressed that the Intifada will fade during the war, and that it will be difficult to re-ignite it in the future. Another concern expressed is that Sharon will take advantage of the terror attacks to retaliate harshly.

Azzam el-Ahmed, a member of the Palestinian cabinet who bears the title of the Ambassador of Palestine in Baghdad, says: "For us, the war in Iraq is an important way station, for better or worse. On the one hand, it could lead to a new atmosphere and advance Palestinian interests. On the other hand, Sharon might take advantage of the war to strike at the Palestinians and reshuffle the deck. For now we are waiting: We know how the war will start, and we do not know how it will end." Money and Morale

The Palestinian street shows full solidarity with Iraq and with its ruler. Arab countries that have allowed the US army to deploy on their territory are seen by the Palestinians as "traitors," while Saddam is seen as a hero. Pictures of him are in the papers, and the Iraqi flag is a common sight at demonstrations and funerals. The Palestinians say that Saddam Hussein, more than any other Arab leader, helps the Intifada both in terms of money and of morale.

Two months after the outbreak of the Intifada, Salem Raked, director-general of the Arab Liberation Front, a pro-Iraqi Palestinian terror organization, went to Baghdad to meet with Saddam. Saddam asked that members of Raked's organization not tarry behind Hamas and Fatah, and that they join the struggle against Israel. Immediately after he returned to Ramallah Raked met with Arafat, relayed greetings from Saddam, and requested weapons. Arafat promised him ten rifles. When two weeks went by with no sign of the guns, Raked decided to forget Arafat's promises, and he purchased weapons with money he received from Baghdad: six Kalashnikov rifles, two M-16s, and a handgun. The weapons were given to terrorists from the Arab Liberation Front, who began carrying out terror attacks on roads near Ramallah.

Five months ago Raked went back to Arafat and asked him to keep his promise and give him weapons. This time the rais did not let him down: he wrote a few words to Haj Ismail, the commander of the Palestinian security services, and Haj Ismail gave him a Kalashnikov and a handgun.

The Arab Liberation Front, which is funded by Iraqi intelligence, numbers no more than a few hundred members and supporters in the West Bank and Gaza. This is one of the two terror arms that Iraq operates in the territories. The second is the Palestinian Liberation Front, headed by Mohammed Abbas, the man who hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship. Over the past two years he has been planning large-scale terror attacks such as poisoning water sources, planting a large bomb at Ben-Gurion Airport, blowing up a Tel Aviv skyscraper, and taking over a tank and killing huge numbers of people with its shells. These plans, among others, were approved by the Iraqis and were in advanced stages of preparation: terrorists from the West Bank were sent to Iraq to train under the command of an Iraqi officer named Bassam al-Ashkar, who is in charge of the ties with the Palestinians. The training included, among other things, a course on how to drive a tank. Luckily, the Israeli GSS worked efficiently, and the terrorists, including Raked, were arrested. Educating the Children of the Dead

Iraq is one of the main financial backers of the Intifada. The rates that Saddam set at the beginning of the conflict were as follows: USD 10,000 to the family of someone killed, USD 1,000 to someone who was wounded and disabled as a result, and USD 500 for someone lightly wounded. Saddam also committed himself to covering all educational expenses for the children of those killed, from kindergarten to university, and promised to provide free medical treatment in Iraq or Jordan to those wounded in the Intifada. In May 2001, when suicide bombings became routine, the Iraqi president announced: "Whoever carries out such an operation is not committing suicide but is sacrificing his soul for God." In order to give more weight to his words, he raised the rate and decided to give the family of each suicide bomber USD 15,000. A few months later the rate was raised to USD 25,000. All told, Iraq has given the Palestinians more than USD 15 million over the past two years.

Last March, at a meeting with a Palestinian delegation headed by Farouk Kadumi, Saddam announced his intention to give the Palestinians one billion dollars, in the framework of the "oil for food" program approved for Iraq by the UN. The grant was held up by the UN's sanctions committee, which claimed that giving such generous aid contradicted Iraq's claim that its people were suffering under the yoke of the siege. The Iraqi people might be dealing with serious difficulties, but only a month later, at the end of April, Saddam announced that he would give USD 25,000 to any resident of the Jenin refugee camp whose house had been destroyed.

But the wide support that the Iraqi leader enjoys on the Palestinian street is not only because of the financial aid. The Palestinians explain their deeply-felt solidarity by emphasizing the similarity that they see between their suffering and that of the Iraqi people. They see the American war against Iraq as a mirror of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the struggle between East and West.

Committees supporting the Iraqi people have begun to be active in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, overseen by Abdullah Hurani of Gaza. "The Palestinian people, like all of the nations of the world, are demonstrating against the war," he says. "We have known war, we know what suffering is, what death and destruction are, and so we oppose the war. This is a war of the wild West against law and logic: Rambo against Hammurabi."

The question is how the Palestinians will behave during the war itself. The commanders of the Palestinian security organizations believe that if American bombs cause a large number of Iraqi dead, there will be an outbreak of anger in the territories, as well as in all Arab countries. But in the territories the protests will be directed at Israel as well, and there is only a short distance from there to another wave of suicide bombings.

This piece ran on February 7, 2003 in Yediot Ahronot

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

The Ruling in Brussels for Ariel Sharon to Stand Trial for War Crimes
Press Review

What Did the Belgian Judges Rule?

Maariv (p. 11) by Sefi Hendler -- Belgium's High Appeals Court ruled yesterday that as long as Ariel Sharon serves as prime minister his immunity is valid, but that at the end of his term in office it will be possible to investigate him for his part in the massacre at Sabra and Shatilla in 1982.

This was an unprecedented decision which overruled that of a lower court and established that it is possible to try any person, even if he is not a Belgian citizen and is not in Belgium, for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and human rights violations. The Belgian judges explained their decision, which allows the trial of a person who is not on Belgian soil, by noting the gravity of the deeds of which the Israeli prime minister is suspected.

The suit against Sharon was filed in 2001 by a group of Palestinian survivors from the massacre at Sabra and Shatila. The claimants accused the prime minister, who was then serving as defense minister, and three other senior IDF officers of being responsible for the massacre that took place in the refugee camps during the Lebanon War. The suit was filed in the framework of the "universal authority" law adopted by Belgium, a law which Belgium claims allows it to try any person anywhere in the world for crimes against humanity.

Last year the Appeals Court issued a clear ruling in Sharon's favor. But since then there has been a broad public campaign in Belgium, joined by the media, legalists, and members of the Parliament and the Senate, to change the law and allow Sharon to be tried.

The most worrisome significance of the law in the short term is that starting yesterday Belgian judges can issue arrest warrants for the three former officers involved in the case: Raphael Eitan, Amos Yaron, and Amir Drori. Such warrants would require all of the countries which are members of Interpol to arrest the Israelis and turn them over to Belgium.

Scandalous Provocation by Belgium

Maariv (p. 10) by Ilel Shahar et al. -- A serious diplomatic crisis erupted yesterday between Israel and Belgium in wake of the decision of the Supreme Court in Brussels to allow the trial of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

The Prime Minister's Office called the decision a "scandalous provocation on the part of the Belgians". Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu instructed Israel's ambassador in Brussels, Yehuda Kenar, to return to Israel for consultations. At the same time, Netanyahu invited Belgium's ambassador in Israel, Wilfred Geens, for an urgent discussion that is expected to take place today.

After Jerusalem heard about the Belgian court ruling, the Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry began holding intensive consultations. One proposal raised was to cut off diplomatic ties with Brussels and recall Israel's ambassador. This step would be difficult to carry out, because Ambassador Kenar, who replaced Shaul Amor, has yet to present his credentials to the Belgian king. No final decision has been made on the subject, and it was decided to recall the ambassador for the purpose of consultations alone.

Diplomatic sources expressed displeasure with the court's decision to reject Israel's position that Belgium cannot try people who are not on its soil. The practical significance is that as far as the Belgians are concerned, it is now possible for them to try the three other figures against whom the suit was filed: the chief-of-staff at the time of the Lebanon War, Raphael Eitan, then-OC Northern Command Amir Drori, and the commander of the division that besieged the camps, Amos Yaron, who is currently director-general of the Defense Ministry. Jerusalem is concerned that the precedent-setting ruling will lead to dozens of suits being filed against Israeli army officers.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded with outrage to the Belgian court decision. "This is a scandalous decision that gives legitimacy to terrorism and damages those who are fighting it. This is upside down". Those who are fighting terror have become the accused and the terrorists have become the victors. Belgium is helping to hurt not only Israel but also the whole free world, and Israel will respond with due gravity," said Netanyahu.

Daniel Shek, the Foreign Ministry's representative in the delegation that was sent to Belgium this week for the hearing, said in response: "Though the ruling stops the legal proceeding against Sharon, it is problematic because it gives the Belgian legal system the power to try foreign citizens with no connection to Belgian territory. We intend to study the decision and in the next few days we will decide how to respond". The director of the international department in the State Attorney's Office, Irit Kahan, emphasized that Israel would provide legal protection to all of the people against whom suits are filed. She admitted that she was surprised by the ruling, which contradicted the position of Belgium's Prosecutor General. "They apparently think that they have all the authority in the world", she said, "and they will be responsible for the results". Kahan believes that the Palestinians did not win the case: "I did not see any expression of happiness in their legal team, because their goal was to hurt Prime Minister Sharon and to make it difficult for him to function". She added, "This subject is not connected only to Israel, but to all of the countries in the world. I believe that the responses will not be long in coming" It should be noted that in Belgium there are currently 22 investigations underway against serving and past heads of state. Israel will try to coordinate its positions with Britain and the US. The State Attorney's Office will be holding a series of consultations over the next few days regarding the significance of the decision and on ways of dealing with it legally.

Dr. Ruby Sobel, an expert on international law who served in the past as the Foreign Ministry's legal adviser, told Maariv yesterday, "The State of Israel' practical response should be to encourage the filing of suits against figures who committed war crimes in the Arab world, so that Belgium understands that the court's decision yesterday opened up a Pandora's box." In the opinion of Dr. Sibel, "If dozens of suits are filed against Arafat and other Palestinian and Arab leaders, it is likely that the Belgian court will change its position on the matter".

Twisted and Outrageous

Maariv (p. 11) by Attorney Yehiel Gutman (legal analysis) -- The Belgian Supreme Court ruling is impudent and a legal and political scandal, not free of anti-Semitic considerations. It exposes each and every one of us, citizens of the State of Israel who have served in the army, to the risk of investigation, arrest and trial in Belgian, for acts or omissions we are supposed to have made in the course of our army service.

The world order, since time immemorial, has determined that law is territorial. In other words: every country is entitled to judge acts committed in its territory, and sometimes, it is entitled to judge its citizens for acts committed in other countries. International courts were established only by UN institutions, and with general world consent.

The injudicious idea whereby a country legislates a law allowing it to judge the citizens of another country for acts committed in another country against people who are citizens of another country, is a twisted and outrageous idea, that calls for organizing an international effort to eliminate it while it is still new.

After all, with the greatest of ease, any country in the world can pass a similar twisted law, and the result would be international chaos. Legal piracy would prevail in the world, and any country could abduct, arrest, investigate and put on trial citizens from any other country.

The solution is not legal, but political. It should be hoped that the Americans will also enlist in the effort, or perhaps Belgium will decide to put President Bush and his officers on trials for offenses attributed to them in the war in Afghanistan, and perhaps also the coming war in Iraq.

Belgian Ruling Puts Mainly Top Security Officials at Risk

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 9) by Tova Tzimuki (legal analysis) -- The Belgian Supreme Court's ruling is the nightmare that all the political and legal officials in Israel feared the last two years. Israel is very aware of the dangers inherent in the trend expressed by the Belgian court, and is doing the best it can to prepare for them.

For some time Israel has been warning against the trend in Europe today, to apply international charters against war crimes in its internal laws. In regard to Israel, this fear is very concrete. If European countries take on this authority, citizens or human rights organizations abroad can file a suit against well known politicians or against senior officers for their ostensible "crimes" in an occupied area.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz was "smuggled" three months ago from Britain due to concern that he would be arrested for his actions as chief of staff during the Intifada. Shimon Peres was advised not to go to England at a certain time due to concern that he would be arrested because of a suit against him for his responsibility for the mass deaths in Kafr Kana. A similar and embarrassing incident also happened to Carmi Gillon, the ambassador to Denmark, who was forced to avoid visiting Germany. This authority is wielded differently in every country, and in any case, it is only directed against senior officers and the average Israeli soldier from the ranks has no reason to fear anything.

Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein has already announced that any officer or Israeli envoy who is the subject of litigation, will be given the best legal defense. One thing is certain, and that is that we will be seeing more and more IDF officers being interviewed on television with their backs to the camera.

Printer friendly version of this article

Return to Contents

Go to the Israel Resource Review homepage

The Israel Resource Review is brought to you by the Israel Resource, a media firm based at the Bet Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, and the Gaza Media Center under the juristdiction of the Palestine Authority.
You can contact us on