Hebrew U seems a highly unlikely campus for an Al-Qaeda cell, but apparently the Shin Bet security swooped in and arrested half a dozen Arab students there who allegedly were surfing Al-Q linked websites and uploading cell-phone snaps of the landing pad where President Bush's chopper was supposed to touch down earlier this year. Other charges are that these Islamic radicals were setting up a Jerusalem-based Al Qaeda cell and the vague "attempts to solicit for a terrorist group." Could these bored guys have just been messaging and macho-posturing online?
Is joking about shooting down President Bush's helicopter punishable by rendition and an open-ended stint in Gitmo?
According to Ynet news, the suspects are:
Ibrahim Nashef, 22, of Tayibe, a physics and computer sciences student at the Hebrew University; Muhammas Najem, 24, of Nazareth, a chemistry student at the Hebrew University; Yusef Sumarin, 21, of the Jerusalem village of Beit Hanina; Anas Shawiki, 21, of the Jerusalem town of Jabel Mukaber; Kamal Abu Kwaider, 22, of Jerusalem's Old City; and Ahmed Shawiki, 21, of the Jerusalem town of Shuafat.
All the suspects were charged with membership in a terror organization. Some of them will be tried for aiding the enemy at a time of war, possessing propaganda material in favor of a terror organization, soliciting and attempting to solicit others to join a terror organization.
According to the indictments filed against them Friday, the six used to meet at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
It's a bit alarming how scanty the evidence seems to be for these recent arrests. A gag order was lifted today, and little is known except for what the security agency has press-released. One wonders if this is just a belts-and-braces overkill in the run-up to candidat Barack Obama's visit next week. There is no indication of any funding from Saudi or the Gulf for these students. So the extent of vague "Al-Qaeda links" are a mystery. Is it the Islamic connection? Card-carrying al-Qaeda do not exist. And although a couple of anti-Western thugs in Gaza have blown up internet cafes and Christian bookshops, so far there has not been a single direct link between Palestinians and the feared urban Jihadis who once trained in in Afghanistan. (Best to keep it that way, I agree.)
There were also a couple of Bedouin boys who were picked up last month for allegedly pointing out online some high-value targets such as the Tel Aviv international airport and the swanky Azrieli cylinder, triangle, and square high rises downtown (knowledge which was not exactly top-secret.)
Frankly, these round-ups smack of thought police. One of the most heartening aspects of life in Israel is its lively free-ranging discussions, but this freedom apparently does not extend to Arab Israelis or Palestinian residents in Jerusalem.