Friday, November 27, 2015

Brussels terror expert has applauded Israel's atrocities

These are busy days for the Brussels-based "terrorism expert" Claude Moniquet. Ever since it emerged that a few men from Belgium took part in the recent attacks on Paris, his "analysis" has been much in demand by the media.

Any time I have seen Moniquet on TV lately, he has always been given softball treatment by his interviewers. As a result, he is presented an earnest figure, who has amassed considerable knowledge on extremism both through his past career with the French external intelligence agency and his subsequent research. Viewers are never told that this "terrorism expert" has applauded atrocities perpetrated by the State of Israel.

In 2004, Moniquet described Israel's assassination of Ahmed Yassin, a founding member of Hamas, as "good news." Yassin was 66-years-old and paralyzed from the waist down.

Seven other Palestinians were killed in the Hellfire missile attack on Yassin. According to Amnesty International, Israel's actions violated international law.

Moniquet has worked closely with some of Israel's most dedicated apologists in Brussels.

He has been a long-standing member of the Atlantis Institute, a "think tank" established by Joël Rubinfeld.

A veteran lobbyist, Rubinfeld has strived to bolster Belgium's relationship with Israel.

That relationship was strained in the early years of this century as Ariel Sharon, then Israel's prime minister, was sued in Belgium over massacres in Palestinian refugee camps during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Under pressure from Israel and its supporters, Belgium soon diluted its "universal jurisdiction" law to shield Sharon and other war criminals from prosecution.

Parroting propaganda

Moniquet heads the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Center. One of his former employees at this "terrorism" watchdog is Dimitri Dombret, with whom Moniquet has written a paper on the "threat" posed by Iran.

A former secretary-general with the lobby group European Friends of Israel, Dombret now runs his own consultancy firm. The firm's main client in recent years was Teva, an Israeli drugs-maker.

The website for Moniquet's center lists "lobbying" as one of its activities. While I was undertaking a research project about Israel's supporters in Brussels last year, Moniquet told me that neither the Israeli government nor any Israeli company was paying his center for advice.

Nonetheless, Moniquet has been known to parrot Israeli propaganda.

During Operation Cast Lead -- Israel's bombardment of Gaza in late 2008 and 2009 -- he called Palestine solidarity activists "pathetic." In an opinion piece, he accused those who protested against Israel of "selective indignation," asking why they were not so exercised about human rights abuses in Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Congo and Zimbabwe.

Conveniently, he overlooked two salient facts: Israel has much stronger political and commercial ties to the West than the countries he listed and many of the protesters he dubbed "pathetic" were calling out their own governments as accomplices to Israel's crimes.

Defying logic

Moniquet cannot be regarded as an expert on terrorism in any real sense.

A genuine expert would help us understand how Islamic State emerged. He or she would take us through the history of Western meddling in the Middle East that spawned this monstrous organization.

He or she would join the dots between the 1916 Sykes-Picot accord (a secret deal to carve up the Middle East between Britain and France), the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the ongoing civil war in Syria and the deadly machinations of the Saudi elite.

Rather than offering the kind of incisive commentary that is so sorely needed, Moniquet reinforces stereotypes. He has, for example, helped to stigmatize the entire community living in the Brussels district of Molenbeek based on how a small number of extremists have lived there.

In a weekend appearance on France TV, Moniquet distorted the truth. In his warped mind, an effort by the local authority in Molenbeek to make its Muslim inhabitants feel welcome was transformed into a "tacit pact" with "Islamists."

Such rhetoric closely resembles that of right-wing Belgian politicians who are trying to capitalize on the Paris attacks.

Moniquet has also been known to defy logic. Not long before the Paris attacks, he wrote about how those involved in recent acts of extremist violence in Europe were already known to the police. Yet rather than making the case for greater scrutiny of known extremists, he praised France's introduction of "massive digital surveillance."

Although Moniquet indicated that the new surveillance rules would be used to keep an eye on suspects, their breadth represents a clear erosion of civil liberties.

Despite the patently dubious quality of his analysis, Moniquet is able to charge money for his services. Last year, he told me that his center's annual budget is between €1 million and €1.5 million and its clients include police agencies and foreign ministries.

Will his recent media appearances help him drum up more business? I fear that they might.

•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 26 November 2015.