- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 12, 2005

In Holy War on the Home Front: The Secret Islamic Terror Network in the United States (Sentinel, $24.95, 256 pages) a book that should be read by all those concerned about protecting the U.S. homeland, Harvey Kushner with Bart Davis, argues that for more than two decades a secret network of Islamic extremists belonging to al Qaeda and Hamas has been entrenching itself in American society, where some of them function as leaders of local and national Islamic organizations and charities, religious preachers, soldiers, drug smugglers, prison inmates, and even university professors.

While much of this information is not new, this is one of the first books to weave all the components of these networks into a coherent and comprehensive picture that is based on open sources, authoritative documentation and interviews with law enforcement and government officials. To span the spectrum of the threat, the book’s chapters focus on radical activities in universities, religious and cultural charities, recruitment and radicalization in the prison system, mosques, the drug trade and counterfeiting rings, and attempts to influence the media.

The authors also propose an effective response by government agencies on the home front that would be based not only on “understanding of the terrorist’s language, culture, history, methods, and psychology [and] … must connect to intelligence agencies and law-enforcement agencies,” but also on the need to “Stop fighting the Holy War with a Cold War mentality; stop our enemy from using our constitutional rights to shield itself; launch a congressional investigation into the $1.5 billion khat trade in Amerca; [and] make sure that none of the 7 million ocean cargo containers coming to the United States contains a weapon of mass destruction …” Mr. Kushner is chairman of the department of criminal justice at Long Island University and a well-respected terrorism expert.

• • •

Samuel M. Katz reveals in Jihad in Brooklyn: The NYPD Raid That Stopped America’s First Suicide Bombers (New American Library, $13.95, 336 pages) what is still a largely unknown story of a raid on July 31, 1997 by seven New York Police Department officers that captured two young Palestinian men who were in the process of preparing to detonate themselves as suicide martyrs in a commuter-packed subway car underneath the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

In a chilling postscript, Mr. Katz writes that instead of serving as a wake-up call, this prevention “was nothing more than a delay. It brought about a false sense of security that ‘it,’ the indiscriminate desire for killing and carnage in the name of God, could not and would not happen here” — which the September 11 attacks so horrifically shattered.

• • •

In Lightning Out of Lebanon: Hezbollah Terrorists on American Soil (Ballantine Books, $24.95, 272 pages) Barbara Newman and Tom Diaz focus on a more specific threat to North America: the attempt by the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group (which also operates as a “legitimate” political party in its country) to establish sleeper cells in the United States and Canada to create an infrastructure for future terrorist operations.

The authors are investigative reporters, so they are qualified to research this topic. However, while claiming to uncover a conspiracy by Hezbollah to target America by establishing cells in at least 14 American cities, the book’s first half is devoted to Hezbollah’s activities in Lebanon, while the remaining half focuses on what are relatively well-known and largely cigarette smuggling criminal activities by Hezbollah’s associates in the United States, which primarily took place in North Carolina.

While the authors discuss other types of criminal activities by Hezbollah American operatives, such as marriage fraud, document fraud, and attempted exports of illegal materials, the terrorist threat to America that the authors claim to have uncovered is not satisfactorily proven by their scant evidence.

• • •

Anne Marie Oliver and Paul Steinberg explore the underpinnings of the cult of martyrdom among the Palestinians in The Road to Martyr’s Square: A Journey Into the World of the Suicide Bomber (Oxford University Press, $26, 214 pages). Their book is based on their extensive field research in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which enabled them to see first hand and collect documentation and video materials to which most outsiders are not privy.

As the authors explain, the book is not intended to be a political analysis or prescription for foreign policy, but rather as it unfolds in its 56 sections “part memoir, part travelogue, part journey into the underground media of the intifada, [and] part exploration of the links between martyrdom and ‘identity politics.’”

According to the authors, suicide bombings have become so deeply ingrained in Palestinian society as a ‘cult of martyrdom’ that “lengthy indoctrination and training sessions for suicide bombers were no longer deemed necessary. Indeed, the script was so well known that someone who wanted to become a bomber, it was said, was simply given a bomb; he decided the coordinates for himself.” This beautifully written yet disturbing book offers a unique perspective on the intifada and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, written by authors who demonstrate great understanding of the Palestinians’ internal and external struggles.

• • •

In Profiles in Terror: The Guide to Middle East Terrorist Organizations (Rowman & Littlefield in cooperation with JINSA Press, $29.95, 392 pages) Aaron Mannes, a Washington has compiled a useful guide to some 20 terrorist organizations operating in the Middle East, whether as indigenous or worldwide affiliated groups. Most of the profiled groups are current; a few, such as the Palestinian Abu Nidal Organization, as Mr. Mannes acknowledges, have ceased functioning as terrorists.

One of the strengths of “Profiles in Terror” is the comprehensiveness of the coverage of these groups in a single compendium in terms of their ideology and objectives, history, leadership, organization, financial support, links to states and terrorist organizations, areas of operation, targets and tactics, and a chronology of their activities.

However, there are also several weaknesses. Whereas al Qaeda and its affiliates are grouped together, Palestinian, Lebanese and Kurdish groups are intermingled, instead of being organized into separate and distinct sections. Also, many more incidents could have been listed in the group chronologies, as well as more in-depth analysis of these groups’ objectives and modus operandi. Because the book was published in 2004, there is no discussion of terrorism in Iraq, which hopefully will be remedied when the next edition of the compendium is issued.

Joshua Sinai is a Washington-based writer on terrorism issues.

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