Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Boston Marathon bombing: Israel-trained medical team responds, extremists spread conspiracy theories

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Australians woke up yesterday morning to the shocking news that two bombs had exploded in the streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon and had killed three people - Martin Richard an eight-year-old boy who was cheering on his father in the marathon, Krystle Campbell a 29-year-old woman described by her mother as having a "heart of gold", and a Chinese woman who was a student at Boston University. More than 183 people have been hospitalised, 13 people have had their limbs amputated, and 24 are in a critical condition.

The two bombs that exploded were reportedly pressure cookers packed with nails and metal pellets, intent on causing maximum carnage and civilian deaths. The aftermath of the attack has been described by many as being like a ‘war zone'.

US President Barack Obama vowed that those responsible will "feel the full weight of justice.'' However, the motive for the attack is still unclear, no one has claimed responsibility and no one has been identified as a suspect. Matthew Levitt, a former FBI analyst who now directs the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's counterterrorism project, said he expected more information would soon become available as FBI agents were scouring the bombing area for DNA and reviewing videos collected by hundreds of on lookers.

Many of the wounded are being treated at Massachusetts General Hospital, and its Chief of Emergency Services Dr. Alasdair Conn, has credited Israel with training the hospital's first-response team and readying it to deal with mass-casualty incidents, as the Times of Israel reported:

"While briefing media hours after the devastating attack... Dr. Alasdair Conn said that the scene of the carnage and the horrific injuries sustained by the victims were reminiscent of ‘a bomb explosion that we hear about in the news in Baghdad or Israel, or some other tragic place in the world.' Afterward he added, ‘About two years ago, in actual fact, we asked the Israelis to come across, and they helped us set up our disaster team so that we could respond in this kind of manner.'"

Around the world people have been sending their thoughts and prayers to the people of Boston - except for a few extremists. For example, the head of an extremist Jordanian Muslim Salafi group Mohammad al-Chalabi reportedly said he was "happy to see the horror in America" and said "Let the Americans feel the pain we endured by their armies occupying Iraq and Afghanistan and killing our people there." Al-Chalabi was convicted in an al-Qaeda-linked plot to attack US and other Western diplomatic missions in Jordan in 2003.

Then there are those who promote bizarre conspiracy theories blaming Israel. For example, blogger Elder of Zyon noticed that the Media Review Network - a South African news watchdog that monitors Islam in the media - released the following press release in the wake of the Boston attack:

"The Media Review Network deplores bombings in Boston and expresses our shock and outrage that untested allegations blaming ‘Islamists' have emerged without any shred of evidence... We also urge media to be mindful of the possibility of a deliberate orchestrated campaign by any number of right-wing groups possibly allied to Israel. Israel's secret service and intelligence agencies are known to possess a huge foot print within many right-wing circles primarily devoted to a campaign of vilification of Islam and Muslims. The Boston tragedy reflects pain and suffering that unfortunately has become a routine experience of many innocents in areas such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Palestine resulting from aggressive military terror by the United States and Israel..."

Meanwhile, Essam el-Erian, Vice Chairman of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party, posted on Facebook a message in Arabic that linked the Boston attack to everything from the French military intervention in Mali, to Syrian bomb blasts, to a recent attack in Iraq, implying they were all part of some malign anti-Islamic conspiracy. According to a translation, el-Erian reportedly wrote:

"The criminal acts in Boston... comes in the context of reproducing an old case that will not return and not produce negative effects on Islam and Muslims... This series of events began with the sending of French battalions to Mali in a war against organisations that are said to belong to Al-Qaeda. Bombings intensified in Syria in a suspicious manner that deviated from the path of the great Syrian revolution, and smear campaigns began. Violent explosions returned, rearing their ugly heads again in Iraq, targeting peaceful movements aiming for needed reform. After a reasonable calm in Somalia, the capital Mogadishu shook again, leading to lowered confidence in the new president and government. The historic agreement, which ended the fiercest regional conflict, between Erdogan and the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is faltering. A question that forces itself: Who disturbed democratic transformations, despite the difficult transition from despotism, corruption, poverty, hatred, and intolerance to freedom, justice tolerance, development, human dignity, and social justice? Who planted Islamophobia through research, the press, and the media? Who funded the violence?..."

In contrast, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood issued an English statement condemning the Boston attack and expressing sympathy. Erian's statement has led some commentators such as David Kenner on Foreign Policy, to point out that what the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood says in English and what they say in Arabic can be very different.

Sharyn Mittelman

 

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