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"When they say it's not about the money, it's about the money," H. L Mencken famously said — and if ever there were a subject that proved his dictum, it is, ironically, terrorism.
What do the the Iranian ayatollahs, Yassir Arafat, and the Hamas leadership have in common? Fortunes, in many cases in the billions. Suha Arafat was not living in a cold water flat in Ramallah but in the suites of Paris' swank Bristol Hotel. Hezbollah's Nasrallah has to be counted as a poor relation because his net worth is estimated at a paltry $250 million.
By exploiting the violent precepts of their religion regarding non-Muslims, these disgusting sociopaths convince, virtually hypnotize, their peasantry to do their dirty work, blowing themselves up with suicide bombs and the like while the masters luxuriate in Abu Dhabi penthouses.
ISIS was one rich jayvee team making $1.5 million a day off crude oil back in its 2015 heyday.
Was Mencken right or was he right? Terror is big business.
Among those who first caught onto the importance of this nexus (or shall we say racket) was Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, an Iranian-Israeli attorney. With her husband Avi, an American-Israeli, she formed Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center, to sue terrorists (and their banks and financial backers) on behalf of their victims. (Their watchword is "Bankrupting terrorism – one lawsuit at a time.") They did this not only in Israel, but across the globe. Case after case after case. More than once they succeeded in their suits. To put it mildly, these people are the real-life heroes of our time.
Now Darshan-Leitner has written a book (with counterterrorism expert Samuel M. Katz) — HARPOON: Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism's Money Masters — an account of her activities and those of others in the undercover financial battle against the terrorists.
It turns out there was (and undoubtedly is) more to it than stodgy old lawsuits. This Operation Harpoon dates back to the days of Mossad chief Meir Dagan (1990s), who also saw the opportunities here, and "fights fire with fire." The good guys hack computers too. And they even call in missile strikes against bankers. (Kind of makes you smile, as long as they choose the right ones.)
The book Harpoon, not surprisingly, reads like a thriller. We get glimpses of the following — how Harpoon managed to make several hundred million mysteriously vanish from Arafat's account, how Harpoon broke in and seized illegal accounts from Arab banks in the West Bank (this caused a White House uproar), how Harpoon unmasked Iran's proxy Hezbollah's involvement in drug trafficking from Venezuela to Lebanon's Beka'a Valley, how Harpoon and Israeli agents used malware and double agents to deplete Hezbollah accounts and so forth.
The book is an excellent guide to understanding the machinations, pro and con, that go on behind the scenes in the never-ending Middle East conflict by a woman who has lived it. Just now we have learned that Hariri has resigned as Lebanese PM, citing a potential assassination (like his father) and attacking Hezbollah and by extension, of course, Iran. Hariri made his statements from Saudi Arabia. It doesn't take a reading of Harpoon to know that a game's afoot, but it helps.
To really get up to speed on the ME — and to support the work of some great people — buy this book. It's published November 7.