Saudi Arabia revokes citizenship of Hamza bin Laden
By JON GAMBRELL
Saturday, March 2
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia announced Friday it had revoked the citizenship of Hamza bin Laden, the son of the late al-Qaida leader who has become an increasingly prominent figure in the terror network.
There was no immediate explanation why the royal decree stripping his citizenship, signed in November, was only becoming public now. However, the announcement comes after the U.S. government on Thursday offered a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture as part of its “Rewards for Justice” program. He also was added Thursday to a United Nations Security Council terrorism sanctions list.
The kingdom similarly stripped Osama bin Laden’s citizenship in 1994 while he was living in exile in Sudan when Hamza bin Laden was just a child. Where he is now remains in question.
“This is an example of history rhyming,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies who studies al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. “He’s basically born right after al-Qaida is founded, so his life is totally consumed in the establishment, the formation of al-Qaida and the launching of its war against the West and America.”
Saudi Arabia revoked Hamza bin Laden’s citizenship in November, according to a circular by the Interior Ministry quietly published Friday by the country’s official gazette. State-run media in the kingdom did not report on the decision.
Bin Laden is believed to have been born in 1989, the year of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, where his father became known among the mujahedeen fighters. His father returned to Saudi Arabia and later fled to Sudan after criticizing the kingdom for allowing U.S. troops to deploy in the country during the 1991 Gulf War. He later fled Sudan for Afghanistan in 1996, where he declared war against the U.S.
As leader of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden oversaw a series of attacks, including the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen. He and others plotted and executed the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and the Pentagon, which led to the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. U.S. Navy SEALs ultimately killed bin Laden in a raid on a house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in 2011.
For Hamza bin Laden, now believed to be around 30, his father initially worried for his safety and thought to send him away for study, but his son instead “wants to get into the fight,” Joscelyn said. He’s then sent away for explosives training in Pakistan.
Video released by the CIA in 2017 that was seized during the Abbottabad raid shows Hamza bin Laden with a trimmed mustache but no beard, at his wedding. Previous images have only shown him as a child. The State Department said in its announcement Thursday about the $1 million bounty on him that it believes he married the daughter of Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Hamza bin Laden began appearing in militant videos and recordings in 2015 as an al-Qaida spokesman.
“If you think that your sinful crime that you committed in Abbottabad has passed without punishment, then you thought wrong,” he said in his first audio recording.
In recent years, the Islamic State group, which began as al-Qaida in Iraq before breaking away from the terror group, has taken much of the international attention. However, Joscelyn warned al-Qaida remains a transnational threat, something that authorities may now pay more attention to as the Islamic State group withers away in Syria.
The U.N. Security Council committee in charge of al-Qaida-related sanctions said Thursday that Hamza bin Laden’s prominence has grown in recent years, calling him “the most probable successor” to lead a potential new version of the terror group.
His addition to the sanctions list subjects him to a travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo that all U.N. member states are obligated to enforce.
A U.N. report published last year suggested both he and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over al-Qaida after Osama bin Laden’s death, “are reported to be in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas.”
“Al-Qaida’s leadership demonstrates strategic patience and its regional affiliates exercise good tactical judgment, embedding themselves in local issues and becoming players,” the U.N. report warned. “While there is as yet little evidence of a re-emerging direct global threat from al-Qaida, improved leadership and enhanced communication will probably increase the threat over time.”
Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap . Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz at the United Nations contributed.
After Cardinal Pell’s conviction, can a tradition-bound church become more accountable?
March 1, 2019
Cardinal Pell is the most senior Catholic cleric to be charged with child sex abuse.
Author: Mathew Schmalz, Associate Professor of Religion, College of the Holy Cross
Disclosure statement: Mathew Schmalz does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: College of the Holy Cross provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
A court in Australia recently convicted Cardinal George Pell on charges of molesting two choir boys 20 years ago. Pell is the most senior Vatican official ever to be convicted of such a crime.
The verdict on Pell was announced only days after Pope Francis had concluded a summit of nearly 200 Catholic bishops on protection of minors in the church. It also follows another highly publicized case – that of the former Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, D.C., Theodore McCarrick – who was recently “defrocked” for sexually assaulting minors.
In the United States, reforms have made it mandatory for clergy to report instances of sexual abuse. And in Australia, debate rages over whether priests should be forced to break their sacred vows and report child sexual abuse if they learn about it in the confessional.
In the past, the hierarchy of the church has made it hard for cases of clerical sexual abuse to be reported and prosecuted. While Pell got indicted, others got away. And here are some reasons why.
Who is Cardinal Pell?
Once a talented Australian Rules football player, George Pell entered the priesthood and rose to become Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric. He was an articulate advocate for Catholicism and the Christian faith – once even debating atheist author and scientist Richard Dawkins. In 2005, Pell was awarded the Order of Australia as a recognition of his noteworthy contribution to his country.
Cardinal Pell was among the top functionaries at Vatican. He was a member of the “Council of Cardinal Advisors,” established by Pope Francis to reform the Vatican bureaucracy. He led the restructuring of the Vatican Bank and served as prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, overseeing all economic activity in the Vatican city state.
Given this distinguished record, Pell’s conviction is especially traumatic for many Catholics. Some commentators, and the Vatican itself, still have doubts about whether the Australian court reached a fair verdict.
George Pell belongs to a religious hierarchy that is complex and tightly ordered.
At the top of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy is the pope. He is said to be the successor of the Apostle Peter, about whom Christ said, “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.”
For Catholics, the pope is that “rock” that gives the church a firm foundation. The pope is considered to speak infallibly, or “without error,” under specific conditions concerning doctrine and morals. But he is not infallible when it comes to choosing advisers and carrying out policy.
Under the pope are over 5,000 bishops, who serve the pope as successors to the original 12 apostles who followed Jesus.
There are also now 214 cardinals, who are appointed by the pope. Cardinals under the age of 80 are designated “cardinal electors” and will choose the next pope. Cardinals also govern the church between papal elections.
Cardinals rank higher than bishops, so not all bishops are cardinals. But all cardinals are bishops, although in the past there have been exceptions. George Pell is still both a bishop and a cardinal.
The hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church resembles the military with its high level of administrative control. But the “church” in Catholic understanding is not just a bureaucratic body. It is a sacred institution willed by God.
Priests and obedience
Male priests have the lowest rank in the formal hierarchy. When they are ordained, they take vows of chastity as well as obedience to superiors. Usually priests are under the immediate authority of their local bishop, whose administrative area is called a “diocese.”
Although priests in many countries are mandated both by the church and civil law to report sexual abuse to church commissions and legal authorities, a culture of denial and cover-up has prevented allegations from being fully investigated. A 1962 Vatican document instructed bishops to observe secrecy in sexual abuse cases and to address sexual abuse, or “solicitation,” as an internal church matter. German Cardinal Reinhard Marx recently even admitted that the Catholic Church had destroyed documents related to sexual abuse committed by priests.
Despite establishing a commission to look into the problem and address a backlog of cases, Pope Francis has still not established any protocol for handling sex abuse allegations for the Catholic Church as a whole. But the pope has apologized for sexual abuse in ways no other pope has done and has set guidelines for removing bishops who have been “negligent” in addressing cases of abuse.
Still, specifics are lacking, even following the most recent meeting on the protection of minors.
Sexual abuse ignored
In the past, the usual response has been to protect Catholic leaders from charges of sexual abuse for as long as possible.
When reports surfaced in 1995 that Austrian Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer had molested monks and schoolboys, the sexual abuse was dismissed by Bishop Kurt Krenn as “boyish pranks.” There were also claims that victims were paid “hush money” to buy their silence. The allegations of sexual abuse against Cardinal Groer proved to be true.
In another case beginning in the late 1940s, Marcial Maciel, the Mexican founder of a religious order, The Legionaries of Christ, was a sexual abuser multiple times over. When allegations against Maciel were initially raised, John Paul II ignored them.
In fact, Joseph Ratzinger, John Paul II’s confident and later successor, remarked: “One can’t put on trial such a close friend of the pope.” Though Maciel was eventually disciplined by Ratzinger when he took over as Pope Benedict XVI, Maciel avoided prosecution until his death in 2008.
In the United States, Cardinal Bernard Law, who protected abuser priests in the Boston archdiocese during his 1984-2004 tenure, also escaped prosecution and died in 2017. Law effectively fled the United States when he was promoted to head one of Catholicism’s most famous churches, Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.
Challenges to reporting
In all these cases, the hierarchical structure of the church made it difficult to bring high-ranking figures to justice. When superiors are given nearly absolute obedience, the threshold for acting against them is high. By the same token, superiors can often protect offending priests.
A presumption of integrity goes with a high position in the Catholic Church. And if the Catholic Church is a divine institution necessary for salvation, there will always be those who will protect its reputation at all costs.
There is a tipping point, however. The key moment leading to the resignation of Cardinal Law was a letter, signed by 58 priests, asking him to resign. But in other cases, including that of Cardinal Pell, it seems that media pressure finally forced the Catholic Church to act.
Pell’s conviction, a decisive moment
The compendium of Catholic beliefs, “The Catechism of the Catholic Church,” observes that the “sanctity” of the church is “real” but also “imperfect.” In other words, the church is composed of human beings who have their limitations. From this perspective, the problem is not hierarchy itself, but how people in high positions misuse their power.
All Catholics are aware of the “humanness” of their church, but the conviction of Cardinal Pell is still difficult for many Catholics who expect integrity in their leaders.
Although his bail has been revoked, Cardinal Pell will be able to appeal his conviction. Still, Pell may spend the rest of his life in prison. He also faces a Vatican investigation that could lead to his being “defrocked.”
As for the Catholic Church as an institution, many questions will be asked about how – or whether – a tradition-bound hierarchy can become more transparent and accountable.
This piece incorporates material from an article published on Dec. 21, 2017.
US deploys advanced anti-missile system in Israel
By ISABEL DEBRE
Monday, March 4
JERUSALEM (AP) — The U.S. has deployed a highly advanced missile defense system in Israel for the first time, the American and Israeli militaries announced, reflecting their shared concerns about Iran’s development of powerful missiles.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, or Thaad, as a testament to the strength of the two countries’ military ties, saying that it makes Israel “even stronger in order to deal with near and distant threats from throughout the Middle East.”
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli army spokesman, told reporters that a Thaad battery, flown in from the U.S. and Europe, arrived Monday at an air force base in southern Israel. He said that the defense battery has only been installed a few times elsewhere in the world, and tested the U.S. ability to carry out accelerated deployment of such powerful and complex weapons.
Israel already has an advanced multi-layered missile defense system, capable of intercepting everything from advanced guided long-range missiles outside the atmosphere to short-range unguided rockets fired from neighboring Gaza.
During this week’s drill, the Thaad battery, which shoots down long and intermediate range missiles, will bolster Israel’s existing systems. The deployment is temporary, and for now, the Thaad system will not be permanently integrated into the Israeli defense shield, Conricus said.
The U.S. military echoed said the deployment demonstrates the United States’ “continued commitment to Israel’s regional security” and more broadly shows that U.S. forces can “respond quickly and unpredictably to any threat, anywhere, at any time.”
Conricus described the deployment as a defensive drill unrelated to current developments in the region, but it comes amid tensions with Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah. Earlier this year, tensions nearly escalated into a confrontation between the longtime foes when Israel struck Iranian military targets in Syria in retaliation for Iran launching a missile from Damascus toward northern Israel. The Iranian missile was successfully intercepted by Israel’s defensive shield.
Israeli officials have repeatedly raised concerns about Iran’s development of long-range missiles as well as Hezbollah’s vast arsenal of rockets and missiles in neighboring Lebanon.
Netanyahu’s hardline foreign policies may outlast his tenure
March 4, 2019
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may soon exit the political stage.
Author: David Mednicoff, Chair, Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Disclosure statement: David Mednicoff does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Massachusetts Amherst provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
The upcoming indictment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could end the long-serving conservative politician’s career. But even an abrupt exit would leave his hawkish policies in the Middle East intact.
The most serious allegation the prime minister faces is that he arranged for a telecommunications company to get a lucrative break in exchange for favorable media coverage. He will be indicted for charges stemming from three distinct corruption investigations, the country’s attorney general recently announced.
Those legal woes are complicated by political tumult. With a national election coming in April, he was already under fire for agreeing to ally with a far-right and racist political party to retain a majority of seats for his party, the Likud, in Israel’s fragmented parliamentary system.
As a scholar of Middle Eastern politics, I think that whenever his political career ends Netanyahu will largely be remembered internationally for three things. These are stymieing the emergence of a Palestinian state, enhancing Israeli military strength and opposing Iranian power in the Middle East.
Netanyahu, known as “Bibi” to most Israelis, served as prime minister between 1996 and 1999. He returned to power a decade later. He began his first term as prime minister in 1996 with two main qualities – extensive U.S. experience and a record as a security hawk.
The first quality meant he understood American politics and interest groups well, an advantage for keeping and enhancing strong U.S. government support for Israel.
The second set him up for success in a country in which the army is a key – and revered – national institution.
Netanyahu pledged to avoid compromising with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza areas under Israeli military control since 1967, and he allowed rapid expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. He rarely wavered from these two policies.
His party was voted out of power in 1999, but returned to power amid the Palestinian uprisings that began in 2000. After nearly a decade in and out of Likud government cabinets, he became prime minister again in 2009.
Among his most tangible legacies is the physical barrier now separating West Bank Palestinians from Israelis, which gives Israeli authorities great control over how West Bank Palestinians enter Israel.
The barrier has kept Israeli Jews from much contact with Palestinians other than during military service.
This physical separation and a strong Israeli military presence have decreased Palestinian attacks within Israel and increased misery in Palestinian-controlled areas.
His approach has minimized pressure on Jewish Israelis to make a final deal that would trade occupied land for broader peace. It has also deprived Palestinians of some basic liberties and opportunities, particularly in Gaza.
Long-term massive U.S. foreign aid and military assistance and Netanyahu’s support have ensured that Israel’s army is far more powerful and well-equipped than the armed forces of any other nearby country.
Netanyahu has used this formidable military to strike hard when he deems necessary in Gaza, the area between Israel and Egypt that Israel unilaterally returned to Palestinian control in 2004. Hamas, a Palestinian group that advocates military action against Israel, is in charge of Gaza.
Reflecting the sentiments of a growing number of right-wing Jewish Israelis, Netanyahu has had a generally consistent response to ongoing concerns about Hamas, and Palestinians more generally. Israel, he says, awaits Palestinian consensus that Israel is a Jewish state, with Jerusalem as its capital, and with no right for Palestinians to return to their pre-1948 homes in Israel.
Many Palestinians find these conditions unfair in general, particularly as a precondition to negotiations.
Coupled with his government’s vast expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, many veteran observers doubt that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian standoff remains possible.
Netanyahu has also sought relentlessly to curb Iran’s efforts to enhance its power through funding pro-Tehran militant groups in the Middle East.
Tehran’s leaders are unremittingly hostile towards Israel. Yet Netanyahu has played up this hostility to domestic and international audiences, even urging the U.S. to attack Iran.
The prime minister’s anti-Iranian campaign apparently paid off when the U.S. government withdrew from the multilateral nuclear agreement with Iran that the Obama administration negotiated. Netanyahu claims that he persuaded President Donald Trump to back out.
Reshaping Israeli alliances
Undermining Palestinian statehood, bolstering the military and countering aggressively the Iranian threat have had three important ramifications.
First, Israeli and American Jews have diverged increasingly on the ethics and importance of Palestinian autonomy.
Second, the prime minister’s long time in office and his willingness to fan racist flames have endeared him to other rulers who embrace authoritarian or divisive tactics, such as Russian leader Vladimir Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Trump.
Third, Netanyahu’s political longevity and positions have attracted the cautious recent support of key Arab leaders who seem more concerned about their stability and Iran’s politics than a Palestinian state.
Thus, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have growing levels of cooperation with Israel, and are themselves flexing military muscles in the broader region – most destructively in Yemen.
Netanyahu has helped reshape Israel and the broader Middle East in profound ways. It’s clear that the country’s military capacity and cooperation with the region’s wealthy Arab states have expanded. But I see the darker side of the prime minister’s emphasis on military and security solutions in the erosion of hopes for Palestinians and global support for Israeli politics.
Opinion: Octogenarian Women Who Pioneered the Way
By Jill Ebstein
Sit in a room with a group of 80-something-year-old women and ask the question, “What could you be when you were growing up?” and the answer always comes back the same: nurse, teacher or secretary. You might occasionally hear, “airline stewardess.” I know because I have asked that question many times in recent years.
As we approach the celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8) and Women’s History Month (March), it is hard to fathom such limited choices. Even harder though is the road that many women took to secure their identity and establish their profession.
In helping women tell their stories, I have come to appreciate that strength and independence were on display a century before the MeToo movement. And while we are often aware of famous women who contributed generously to our history (Amelia Earhart, Margaret Mead, Shirley Chisholm, to name a few), there are countless examples of “ordinary” women who were nothing short of extraordinary. A few of their stories follow.
Meet Jane Jamison
Jane Jamison, now in her mid-80s, grew up in New York and knew early on that “numbers” was her thing. When she entered college in 1945 wanting to study engineering, she was counseled that engineering was not a woman’s discipline. So, she chose what felt like the next closest thing — becoming a math teacher. “I stayed in the field of numbers and hoped I could transmit my passion to the next generation,” she says.
She was 30 when she entered Hornell High School as a geometry and pre-calculus teacher. She took note of the struggle math posed for many of her students and incorporated unorthodox approaches (she recalls showing the movie “Donald in Mathmagic Land”) and beginning each morning with a favorite saying displayed on the corner of her blackboard. Before solving math problems, the class had to warm up their minds by explaining messages like, “Say what you mean. Mean what you say.”
Throughout her career, Jamison evolved her curriculum. In the 1980s, she was taken by Apple computers and used the platform to develop new material. Upon retiring, she became even busier — substitute teaching, joining the library and hospital boards, volunteering as a literacy tutor, and even driving “old” people to their doctor appointments. Having been able to give back in so many different ways, Jamison feels fulfilled, as she writes, “This is what happens when you take your heart along with you.”
Meet Dr. Frim
Roz Frim shares a different story. Her mother’s great wish was that Dr. Frim break down barriers and become a physician. She fulfilled her mother’s dream by graduating from Harvard Medical School in 1956 as one of eight women in her class of 160. At the age of 83, she retired from a busy psychiatry practice, though she continued supervising residents.
Along the way, there were many voices Dr. Frim had to endure. Though her mother’s voice mixed projection with pride, her classmates at Barnard said that she wouldn’t be able to find a husband because no man would want to marry a doctor. Others suggested that her reason for entering a man’s world was so she could more easily find a husband. Dismissed in all this was Dr. Frim’s simple quest to heal and serve.
Dr. Frim found her partner while in medical school, and shortly after internship, they began their family. Before she knew it, she had four kids under the age of 5 and a residency to complete. Luck and smart choices helped her manage her load. She chose psychiatry over pediatrics, as the hours seemed more manageable, and she leaned upon her mother-in-law as an important extra pair of hands.
Most important, she found a program that would allow her to complete a four-year residency in eight. Thus comes her wisdom, “Slow and steady wins the race.” A small irony is that Dr. Frim’s daughter is a pediatrician, and Dr. Frim has similarly supported her daughter’s family.
Meet Peninnah Schram
Our final story is that of Peninnah Schram who showed pluck and determination when she was dealt a bad hand. At only 32 years of age, Peninnah became a widow when her husband died of a sudden heart attack. She had two young children and no clear profession other than running a small children’s theater. Her devoted mother asked Peninnah to move to Connecticut so that she could help raise the family.
Even though she had little to fall back on, Peninnah declined, believing this would be an unacceptable retreat. She recalls, “My identity as a woman, a professional, and a mother — although no longer a wife — had to be reconstructed, even if I didn’t know how exactly.”
One day while visiting a shiva, a Jewish house of mourning, an acquaintance asked her if she wanted to teach. One thing led to another, and she slowly carved a career in college education. She rose to become professor of Speech and Drama at Yeshiva University. I crossed paths with Schram when she performed one evening as a gifted storyteller, and she was mesmerizing.
What do we take from these gutsy, old-but-not-worn pioneers? Maybe the hope that our daughters can show the same moxie and make their own luck. Maybe to realize that so many more women have rich stories than just the famous. Maybe, we can appreciate how far we have traveled from the days when women had three choices: nurse, teacher or secretary.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jill Ebstein is the editor of the “At My Pace” series of books and the founder of Sized Right Marketing, a Newton, Massachusetts, consulting firm. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.