By Ahmed Tharwat, Community Voices
Friday, August 15, 2014

On June 3, 2014 the Star Tribune, covered the issue of “foreign fighters” , that was entirely about Somali Americans who allegedly traveled to fight abroad in foreign wars. There it was reported that the FBI is investigating information that members of the Somali community from the Twin Cities are fighting in the Syrian civil war. The article explained that two FBI agents met with a group of Somali-American leaders and members of the community at the Brian Coyle Community Center.

In the announcement by the local FBI, it stated that in the investigation they were, “…reviewing information … to identify persons who may have traveled, and persons who may have intention to travel” to Syria, according to Kyle Loven, chief division counsel for the Minneapolis office of the FBI.

It’s interesting to note, that not only are those being investigated who actually traveled to Syria, but even those only thinking about doing so. However, when the FBI agent was asked how many people the FBI thinks might have traveled to Syria from Minneapolis, Loven said, “some — some who we believe have traveled, and some who may have considered it.” How would they know the information of who was ‘considering’ unless by using informants and spying on the community? The FBI further asked the Somali community to help in identifying potential suspects.

“This is similar to a situation which came to our intention in the fall of 2007 when young Somali men from Minneapolis disappeared, only to turn up in Somalia, fighting on behalf of Al-Shabab,” Mr. Loven said. He continued, “I urge the community to not be afraid to call the FBI.”

Back in 2007, the FBI was alarmed, when a few Somali youth went back to Somalia and allegedly joined Al Shabab, classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. At that time, the FBI started an investigation and there were trials, the storming of homes and interrogating questions of Somali families without any legal representation. Headlines and FBI warnings and alarms through the community went out.

At that time. the United States District Court of Minnesota was very active, and reached out to our show, BelAhdan, to explain their position and what they were doing. In fact, the head of their office came on our show several times and was very amenable and forthcoming.

Turn now to the recent Israeli onslaught on Gaza, and Americans citizens fighting in that conflict. It was reported that there are an estimated 2,000 Americans who traveled to Israel and are fighting in the IDF, and actually two of them lost their lives — a 24-year-old from Southern California and a 21-year-old from Texas. Their families said they both had a passion for Israel. How ironic.

On the legal front, FBI officer, Mr. Loven underscored that U.S. federal law prohibits American citizens from traveling to foreign countries to fight in foreign wars, whether they join FTOs, or military organizations not so designated.

Because of this obvious contradiction, I called the FBI district office here in Minnesota, and I asked Kyle Loven, Chief Division Counsel, about the Americans traveling to fight abroad, and whether there is any investigation into those who went to Israel to fight with the IDF like their counterpart who went to Syria or Somalia. Unlike his predecessor in 2007, he didn’t have any answers or any explanation, and, further, declined my invitation to be a guest on the show and explain the FBI position, stating the legal reason that “the Somali case is under investigation. There is still no evidence of an investigation of any kind of those Americans who went to Israel.

If I may, let me dub those fighting in Israel as “Jewish Jihadists,” who strongly believe in the Jewish state, and have a great passion for Israel. These are people like the ones who went and fought in the recent Gaza conflict, those new global Jewish Jihadists whose loyalty is so strong to the Jewish state that they leave the comfort of American life and go off to fight the Arabs in the Middle East, much like the Crusaders of their time. “The bottom line is, I’m part of the Jewish people,” said David Joel, who grew up outside Atlanta and was inspired to travel to Israel and join the IDF fight.

“We decided that instead of going away we were going to donate something to the country,” he said. “We were Jewish, and we believe in the Jewish country. At the end of the day, it’s our nation.”

People like “Sean Carmeli who is a hero of the Jewish people,” according to Rabbi Asher Hecht, who is a family friend. “He gave his life to protect the survival of the Jewish people.”

The questions loom large. Shouldn’t it be a concern for the State Department that American fighters with loyalty to Israel and the Jewish state waged a jihad against Palestinians in the last assault on Gaza, in which 80% of those killed were civilians? When and if those Jewish Taliban return back to the state, fully charged and indoctrinated , and live among us, Shouldn’t this raise concern for thousands of Arab and Muslim-Americans who are spied on and monitored systematically? Shouldn’t we demand an investigation from the U.S. State Department and the FBI? What should we think? Whom should we turn to.

Ahmed Tharwat is the host and producer of Arab American TV show BelAhdan with Ahmed Tharwat
A show with accent for those without one
Airs on Public TV Mondays, 10:30pm
Blogs at in the Middle