Yousef Al-Khattab, Man Behind Virulent Anti-Semitic Website, Grew Up Jewish

Editor’s note: The Brooklyn Ink first broke the story of Revolution Muslim, the organization that has issued a threat against the creators of “South Park” for their depiction of the Prophet Muhummad. The story profiled the group’s founder, Yousef Al-Khattab who grew up as Joseph Cohen in Brooklyn. Al-Khattab, in a reader comment, said he left Revolution Muslim in December of 2009. The story appears below, as does a follow up on the shutting down of Revolution Muslim’s website.

“I don’t know if this is my jihad,” says Yousef Al-Khattab. “It’s my obligation to command the good and forbid the evil.” His American based website, Revolution Muslim, has become the scourge of Jewish bloggers and cyber vigilantes across the country, an odd achievement for a person born into Judaism and educated in Jewish schools, who has lived in Hassidic communities in Williamsburg and Jewish settlements in Gaza.

Born Joseph Cohen, Khattab says he converted to Islam after coming across a Muslim from the United Arab Emirates in a Jewish chat-room while in Netivot, Israel in 1998. Their to and fro on religion lasted two years, and for Khattab, the exchange confirmed previous doubts about Judaism and eventually prompted him to embrace Islam after reading an English translation of the Quran. The exchanges, he says, reaffirmed his belief that rabbis use deception to keep Jews subservient to them.

His wife and four kids, the oldest of whom was eight at the time, followed soon after.

Today, at 40, a cab driver from Queens, Khattab spends his days denouncing capitalism, Judaism and Israel’s occupation of Palestine through his website and namesake organization. Head shaved, mustache trimmed and sporting a bushy beard, Khattab addresses his audience in fluent English and Arabic and employs his sarcastic wit in video updates that appear irregularly on his website.

Gory images of blood, bombs and the bodies of Palestinian children appear in several slideshows and videos on the site. In one video post, Khattab urges his viewers to find out who are the leaders of Jewish organizations like the United Jewish Federation and Chabad Lubavitch and “deal with them directly at their homes,” but in a civil and peaceful way he adds.

In other posts Khattab tries to persuade people to boycott Starbucks for its alleged relationship with the Israeli army and encourages people to hold leaders of large Jewish organizations accountable for supporting what he terms as a genocide against Palestinians.

Khattab says the American government has no problem with his website since he is just expressing his freedom of speech. But those who are being held accountable do, he says. These would include Lubavitch and Yeshiva University, which he claims are sending soldiers to Israel to fight the Palestinians, and anybody that supports Israel.

“It’s not in our constitution that we have to love the Jews and love Judaism,” he says. He says he generally tries to stay away from Jews but contends that it’s not the Jews that he dislikes, but Judaism, or what he refers to as Rabbanical Judaism and the religious Jews. Khattab lays out his reasons for disliking what he terms as Orthodox, frum, Jews. These include a claim that Jews run an underground economy, and that, in his mind, Jews are the reason the U.S. separated church and state in its Constitution.

He recalls an incident in which a Lebanese born immigrant named Rashid Baz shot at a bus filled with Lubavitcher Hasidim near the Brooklyn Bridge and killed a 16-year-old in March 1994; “Baz took it to the next level,” he says. “He understood Lubavitch probably better than we did. “

Despite his hatred for Judaism there are some Jews whose opinions he respects, like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, an outspoken critic of Israel’s foreign policy and human rights record who presented the notion that many Jews are capitalizing on the Holocaust.

Although he differs with Chomsky’s anarchist theories, he says he respects him for critiquing the “neo-feudalist” culture in the U.S. and for exposing America for what it is. The only Jews he speaks to are secular Jews of the “Noam Chomsky persuasion,” whom he contends hate religious Jews as much as he does. And if an Orthodox Jew hails his cab, he believes it’s his obligation towards fairness to give him a ride.

Bill Warner, a Private investigator and cyber vigilante, who says he has helped shut down several jihadist websites across America by reporting them to their Internet service providers and the authorities, says people like Khattab incite others to commit violent acts, rather than doing them on their own. “Whatever problems there are in the Middle East, he brings them to Queens, New York,” he says. “He tries to get people to do things.”

Private Investigator Bill Warner says this image from one of the posts on Revolution Muslim poses a threat to Chabad Lubavitch, Yousef Al-Khattab says that claim is absurd. You decide.

Private Investigator Bill Warner says this image from one of the posts on Revolution Muslim poses a threat to Chabad Lubavitch, Yousef Al-Khattab says that claim is absurd. You decide.

He points to a recent post on Revolution Muslim that had an image of the Chabad Lubavitch headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with captions pointing out where the main temple is, and noting that it is always full at prayer times; the post also identified a Jewish talis bag as a great place to store “Islamic info.” Warner says this post presented a credible threat and it caused the NYPD to come in full force to protect the synagogue.

The idea that any of his posts presents a threat to the Lubavitch is absurd says Khattab. “I don’t even know where they got that idea from,” he says. “There was no threat on the Jews. They can all bite me.”

Chabad Lubavitch declined to comment on their reaction to Khattab’s post, and they do not comment on security procedures, but in a written statement to The Brooklyn Ink, Rabbi Motti Seligson of Chabad.org said, “Although not all threats are serious, we work closely with law enforcement to ensure that all threats are handled properly as safety is of paramount concern.”

Khattab is cognizant of his First Amendment rights and seems well versed in how far he can go legally with his message. The Constitution, he says, affords him the right to freedom of speech, expression and religion; “I mean hell, we have the right to bear arms and form militias if we want,” he says.

Bill Warner has a different take. “The man’s a lunatic. That’s not freedom of speech. Not when you incite terrorism, that’s not freedom of speech,” he says. He says that the FBI and the NYPD have been to Khattab’s house two or three times and that it is only a matter of time that the website will be shut down and that Khattab will be arrested.

Khattab acknowledges that he is under surveillance and that the police have visited him on a few occasions, but Khattab is not afraid of being arrested. He says he loves to pray and exercise, both of which he can continue to do in prison, and that as long as his brain works he will continue to speak his mind. “They better give me a frontal lobotomy to take me out,” he says.

Despite repeated requests, the NYPD and FBI did not comment on whether Khattab is under surveillance.

People like Warner can work day and night to put down his website says Khattab, but they won’t be successful, and even if they are, he can always put it up somewhere else. He says that he has a good web host that understands that Revolution Muslim is not racist and is not a hate group. A quick query on whoishostingthis.com shows that the site is hosted on Go Daddy, a popular American web host. Warner says that American web hosting companies are popular with sites such as Revolution Muslim, because they offer easier access to a higher resolution and bandwidth needed to run a multimedia rich site.

“There have always been hate groups that targeted sympathetic people through the mail, but now their messages are accessible to so many more people,” says Joel Levy, New York Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League. The Anti-Defamation League is aware of Revolution Muslim and is concerned about the existence of this site and the message it presents he says.

Levy says that the site doesn’t make specific, articulate threats against anybody, which could be the basis of a police investigation. “They are using some frightening, intimidating language, there’s no question about it,” says Levy, but “They seem to be very, very cautious and understand what the limits are of free speech, and just go to the edge and try to not step over that boundary. “

Revolution Muslim has 548 registered members and, according to Alexa.com, has viewers from all across the world. The top three countries by viewers are the U.S., Singapore and Israel; approximately 58 percent of viewers are from the U.S.
The site’s mission, according to its mission statement, is to spread the word of Islam and to support Sheikh Abdullah Al-Faisal, who was jailed in 2003 in the United Kingdom for seeking the murder of Jews and Hindus in sermons and was deported from the United Kingdom to Jamaica in 2007, according to the BBC.

Khattab envisions a world in which Islamic law, or Shariah, is established across the globe. He doesn’t expect this to happen in his lifetime, or to start in America (Somalia and Sudan are more viable options). But it will happen one day he says, “In the end Prophet Isa (Jesus) is going to come and he’s going to snap the crosses and kill the pigs and the only choice will be Shariah.”
http://thebrooklynink.com/2010/04/23/11041-yousef-al-khattab-man-behind-virulent-islamic-website-grew-up-jewish/

(Read a Brooklyn Ink follow up to this story here: http://thebrooklynink.com/2009/10/15/4308-cabbies-anti-semitic-website-shutdown/)