1. “Beyond the veil” (By Mohammed Galadari, Khaleej Times, Oct. 9, 2006)
2. “Al-Qaeda affiliate burns coffee shop in Gaza Strip” (Yediot Ahronot, Oct. 8, 2006)
3. “Ireland: Pro-Palestinian protesters attack Israeli ambassador” (Yediot, Oct. 8, 2006)
4. “Baghdad’s last rabbi to leave Iraq” (News Agencies, Oct. 4, 2006)
5. “Major chains refuse to play Bush death film” (Hollywood Reporter, Oct. 6, 2006)
6. “‘This is ethnic cleansing’ – Georgia” (Sunday Times, Oct. 8, 2006)
7. “‘Unclean’ guide dog banned by Muslim cab driver” (Daily Mail, Oct. 6, 2006)
[Note by Tom Gross]
Because of other work commitments, I do not have time to summarize these articles, but I would recommend you read them, in particular the first remarkable op-ed from Mohammed A.R. Galadari in yesterday’s Khaleej Times in Dubai.
He writes: “Unfortunately, many British Muslims do not understand that when they choose to become citizens of a country and make it their home, they also embrace its culture, customs, habits and social behavior. This is a reality that is as clear as daylight. Dear readers, in this respect, there are lessons for British Muslims in the example of the British Jewish community… Jews wanted to integrate with the host society and its social values and norms.”
(The Khaleej Times is an English-language daily newspaper read in the Gulf. It should be noted that this article was not produced in Arabic in any paper according to a search conducted specifically for this website/email list.)
The second article concerns al-Qaeda’s rise in strength in Gaza, where pictures of the organization’s former leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, are plastered on walls throughout the Strip.
-- Tom Gross
AL-QAEDA AFFILIATE BURNS COFFEE SHOP IN GAZA
Al-Qaeda affiliate burns coffee shop in Gaza Strip
By Ali Waked
October 8, 2006
After the Palestinian branch of al-Qaeda took responsibility for killing a senior Palestinian intelligence officer and four of his escorts three weeks ago, the group again took responsibility for violence in the Gaza Strip. Early Sunday morning, Gunmen shot and set fire to an internet coffee shop in Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, causing massive damage.
Sunday afternoon an announcement was made claiming that the organization Islamic Swords of Justice, identified as an affiliate of al-Qaeda are responsible for the incident.
In the organization’s announcement, it was stated that burning the coffee shop is “part of a series of actions aimed at fighting corruption and the corrupt. During the holy month of Ramadan, our fighters have started operating on the holy land and in the early morning placed a bomb weighing ten kilograms (22 pounds) next to the coffee shop, ridden with corruption and characteristic of the unethical activities that have increased in recent days. Jihad fighters detonated the bomb as a message to all the corrupt people.”
According to the gunmen, the owner of the establishment was pre-warned that his business serves as a center for unethical activity and that he should straighten out the situation before it is too late. The organization warned that they would not spare anyone they deemed unethical and that their “swords will have no mercy on them.”
Last week, a video was published by Palestinian al-Qaeda in which the organization took responsibility for the murder of Colonel Jed Tayya, a senior Palestinian intelligence officer. Tayya, assassinated along with four officers escorting him, was accused in the al-Qaeda video of being an agent of the Mossad and the CIA, who gathered intelligence and tracked down jihad fighters on the land of Palestine.
The organization promised to continue to target collaborators in the Palestinian Authority elite.
In addition to the two announcements, leaflets have been published recently by al-Qaeda and organizations affiliated with al-Qaeda, such was the Islamic Mujjahadin Army that has taken responsibility for firing at Israeli and Palestinian targets and the Army of Islam Organization that purportedly participated in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.
Among the Palestinian elite, there is increasing concern that al-Qaeda is becoming a major actor in the Gaza Strip within the conflict between Hamas and Fatah. Even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned a few months ago that he has information indicating that the organization is active within PA territory.
Another sign of al-Qaeda’s rise in strength and popularity is that pictures of the organization’s former leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are plastered on walls throughout the Gaza Strip. After his assassination by the Americans a few months ago, symbolic vigils in his honor have even been erected, and the kind of hat he used to wear has become a real hit among Gazan and West Bank youth.
A Palestinian security figure said to Ynet that the PA is concerned that if the conflict between Fatah and Hamas isn’t solved, the Palestinian leadership and the international community will have to deal with an increased presence of al-Qaeda and its affiliated organizations in the region.
“If there isn’t a diplomatic breakthrough, it is not for sure that Fatah will be the first alternative to the Hamas regime. We see a lot of young people, even those who were in Hamas, getting closer to more extremist organizations and becoming potential candidates for al-Qaeda and its various branches,” the security figure said.
ISRAEL’S AMBASSADOR TO IRELAND ATTACKED AT UNIVERSITY
Ireland: Pro-Palestinian protesters attack Israeli ambassador
By Itamar Eichner
October 8, 2006
Dozens of enraged pro-Palestinian protestors attacked Israel’s ambassador to Ireland this weekend as he was leaving a university in the city of Galway.
Dr. Zion Evrony, speaking at an open lecture organized by the law school, was first greeted with dozens of shouting protestors waving Palestinian flags. During the speech 20 students attempted to “blow up” the lecture by using an agreed signal and suddenly shouting and waving signs and flags. The protestors were asked to leave the hall.
After the speech and Q&A portion of the 90 minute lecture were over the ambassador exited the hall surrounded by police officers. However as he was leaving the campus grounds several dozen angry protestors attacked his vehicle, pounding their fists against the car and climbing onto the car. No one was arrested.
During the visit to Galway, the third largest city in Ireland, the ambassador met with the mayor and president of the university and was also interviewed at a local radio station. Dr. Evrony said that “despite the incident I intend to continue to speak everywhere. It is important that Israel’s voice be heard and its position clarified.”
BAGHDAD’S LAST RABBI TO LEAVE IRAQ
Baghdad’s last rabbi to leave Iraq
By News Agencies
October 4, 2006
Baghdad’s last remaining rabbi announced on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar that he plans to leave Iraq.
Rabbi Emad Levy, one of about a dozen remaining members of the city’s Jewish community, which once topped 100,000, compared his life to “living in a prison” as he broke his Yom Kippur fast last Monday evening.
Levy said that his father fled to Israel after Iraq was invaded by the United States in 2003, but he stayed behind to care for a Jewish octogenarian sick with diabetes, The Washington Post reported yesterday. The man is now in the care of friendly Kurds, Levy said, adding he will exit the country as soon as possible.
Levy said that most Iraqi Jews are homebound out of fear of kidnapping or execution. “It’s like I’m living in a prison all the time,” he said. “I have no future here. I must go out to have a life for myself.”
“What should I do?” he continued. “Of course this is not the way Yom Kippur should be. When you are alone, it is very different than when you do it in the synagogue or with a lot of people. It is sad. This is why I must leave for the Holy Land.”
* Tom Gross adds: For more on Iraqi Jews, please see the dispatch Iraq 17: 99-year-old Iraqi Jew reaches Israel at last (July 28, 2003).
BUSH ASSASSINATION FILM REJECTED BY MAJOR THEATER CHAINS
Major chains refuse to play Bush death film
By Nicole Sperling and Anne Thompson
October 6, 2006
Newmarket Films set itself an unusual challenge when it decided to release the controversial faux investigative documentary “Death of a President” just six weeks after acquiring the movie at the Toronto International Film Festival last month.
But it might face an even more formidable obstacle because several major theater chains are refusing to play the film, which mixes real news footage with dramatized segments depicting the fictional 2007 death of President Bush.
Newmarket, the 12-year-old Los Angeles-based film financing, production and distribution company, plans to open the film October 27, just in time for the November 7 election.
“Yes, it’s controversial,” Newmarket co-founder Chris Ball said. “It’s quite a compelling political thriller. In many ways it is sympathetic to George Bush. It talks about a rush to judgment. In no way is it a call for violence.”
But the country’s largest theater chain, Regal Entertainment Group, has passed on playing the film, citing the subject matter as the primary reason. “We would not be inclined to program this film,” Regal Entertainment Group CEO Mike Campbell said. “We feel it is inappropriate to portray the future assassination of a sitting president, regardless of political affiliation.”
Texas-based Cinemark USA also has declined to play the indie film, corporate spokesman Terrell Falk said. The circuit, which recently completed its acquisition of northern California-based Century Theatres, will not allow the regional player to book the film either. “We’re not playing it on any of our screens,” Falk said. “It’s a subject matter we don’t wish to play. We decided to pass on the film.”
Boston-based National Amusements, controlled by Viacom Inc. chief Sumner Redstone, still is in negotiations as to whether it will play the R-rated film from director Gabriel Range, who reportedly was the subject of death threats before the film’s debut in Toronto.
“We’re currently in discussions with the distributor of the film,” said Wanda Whitson, director of corporate communications at National Amusements. “The availability of the film in our markets is an important factor affecting this discussion. Our film department does consider all films, and we’ve run controversial films in the past.”
Newmarket distribution consultant Richard Abramowitz insisted he was having no trouble booking the film, which initially will open in several hundred locations. “Every day during a busy time we are picking up plenty of screens,” he said, citing the Landmark Theater chain as being supportive.
Abramowitz declined comment on problems with theater bookings. “We’re getting a good reception in a lot of places. No matter how tight the screens are, once a film has success, it’s always easier to get more screens.”
Although a consortium of distributors led by Miramax Films’ Harvey Weinstein pushed the politically polarized “Fahrenheit 9/11” into theaters very quickly in summer 2004, and Paramount Vantage took only four months to open Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” it is rare that a film goes from acquisition to release so quickly.
One distribution executive questioned the wisdom of rushing “President” into cinemas in advance of the election. “In the midst of all the backlash and controversy it seems to make sense to ride the moment,” he said. “The film is so topical and incendiary, you’d think that to wait is to waste it. But the film may not have enough time to gestate and get the best theaters booked. They are finding out how difficult and crazy this timing is.”
“President” marks Newmarket’s bid to reclaim its title as a champion of product other distributors deem untouchable. The distribution arm was built from the ground up in 2000 surrounding the release of Christopher Nolan’s “Memento” when other distributors passed on the film. It eventually took the movie to a $25 million North American gross and went on to a winning streak with “Whale Rider,” “Monster” and Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”
* Tom Gross adds: This film was shown on prime time British television on Monday evening. For more, see the note “New film assassinates President George W. Bush” in the dispatch Ignoring 9/11 and blaming George Bush (Sept. 14, 2006).]
MOSCOW SCHOOLS DRAW UP LISTS OF CHILDREN WITH GEORGIAN NAMES
“This is ethnic cleansing” – Georgia
By Mark Franchetti
The Sunday Times (of London)
October 8, 2006
The tiny former Soviet republic of Georgia accused Russia of ethnic cleansing yesterday after the Kremlin cut trade, transport and postal links and began to investigate children with Georgian names in Moscow schools. The clampdown came in retaliation for the arrests of four Russian officers in Georgia on spy charges.
“We are not scared. We are not panicking,” said Mikhail Saakashvili, Georgia’s pro-western president, even though his country faces possible ruin as a result of Russian sanctions.
Saakashvili, speaking in his Soviet-era office, said: “It’s a deliberate policy to make our lives miserable but this is not breaking us. On the contrary it’s making us stronger and more independent. The Kremlin is running out of ammunition.”
The already poisoned relations between the former allies seem set to deteriorate further. Moscow police ordered schools in the Russian capital to provide lists of children with Georgian surnames in what they said was an attempt to root out illegal migrants. Gela Bezhuashvili, Georgia’s foreign minister, accused Moscow of xenophobia and ethnic cleansing.
This week the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, will consider a bill that would stop the flow of funds Georgians send home to their often impoverished families. Worse still, the Kremlin could cut off gas supplies.
Last week Russia deported a planeload of 150 Georgians it accused of violating immigration laws. The deportees were rounded up in police raids, taken under armed escort to a military airport and put on a plane to Tbilisi.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, responded to the arrest of the Russians – who were sent back to Moscow after being paraded in handcuffs – by accusing Saakashvili’s government of “state terrorism” and comparing his methods to those of Lavrenti Beria, Stalin’s infamous secret police chief who sent hundreds of thousands to their deaths. The analogy was highly insulting as Beria, like Stalin, was a Georgian.
Saakashvili, who came to power three years ago after a bloodless uprising, is a hate figure for Russia. A fluent English speaker with a Dutch wife, he has made no secret of his ambition to push Georgia closer to the West and join Nato. He has not spoken to Putin since June.
MUSLIM MINICAB DRIVER REFUSES TO TAKE BLIND PASSENGER
“Unclean” guide dog banned by Muslim cab driver
The Daily Mail (UK)
October 6, 2006
A Muslim minicab driver refused to take a blind passenger because her guide dog was “unclean”.
Abdul Rasheed Majekodumni told Jane Vernon she could not get into his car with the dog because of his religion. Islamic tradition warns Muslims against contact with dogs because they are seen as impure. (*)
The case emerged as Jack Straw was embroiled in a controversy over Muslim women wearing veils and the row continued after a Muslim police officer was excused guard duty at the Israeli embassy. Today Mrs Vernon, 39, from Hammersmith, said: “This experience was very upsetting.
“I was tired and cold and just wanted to get home but this driver made me feel like I was a second-class citizen, like I didn’t count at all.”
Mrs Vernon, who works as a legal officer for the Royal National Institute for the Blind, added: “The owner of the minicab firm, Niven Sinclair, was also very insensitive, telling me that what had happened to me wasn’t really very important, and I should have more respect for other people’s culture. They have shown very little respect for my rights as a disabled person and have never once offered me an apology.”
Niven’s and Co cab company, is contracted by the BBC and the minicab was sent to take her home from a studio after she was invited to appear on News 24.
The driver’s refusal resulted in a court case because the law requires all licensed cab drivers to carry guide dogs. Magistrates at Marylebone fined Mr Majekodumni £200 and ordered him to pay £1,200 for failing to comply with regulations set out under the Disability Discrimination Act. After the case Mr Majekodunmi remained defiant and insisted that he would continue refusing passengers accompanied by guide dogs.
Bill Alker, who works with Mrs Vernon at the RNIB supporting other victims of discrimination, said: “Jane and I have worked together for about 16 months advising and supporting people who have suffered the same crime.
“It is absolutely wrong and must stop. Many drivers, cab company operators and the authorities that provide licences are together flouting a good law that was introduced to help blind and partially sighted people get about more independently.”
Drivers who refuse to take a guide dog can lose their licence or get a fine of up to £1,000 but Mr Alker said cases rarely went to court. “Victims must have the support of the area licensing authority who have the power to bring a prosecution or discipline the driver,” he said. “So many drivers flout the law and get away with it.”
Earlier this month Mrs Vernon supported-another blind woman who was refused a taxi ride take the case to court. Bernie Reddington, 37, had asked driver Basir Miah for a lift home after a hospital appointment at Great Ormond Street but he had refused, calling her dog “dirty”.
Horseferry Magistrates Court found him guilty of breaching the terms of his licence and fined him £150 plus £250 compensation.
Mrs Vernon said: “We need to encourage other licensing authorities around the country to start taking these incidents more seriously.
“Many blind people rely on taxis to get around. Not being able to get access to this kind of service is completely wrong and can affect their independence and confidence. In many cases this causes real problems in their work, educational and social life.” Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society, said: “The clash between religious rights and the human rights of other people will become increasingly an issue as the Government tries to include all forms of discrimination under the same umbrella. Fortunately, in this instance, disability seems to trump religion.”
* Tom Gross adds: For more on Islamic attitudes to dogs, see Saudi police ban the sale of cats and dogs (& Gaddafi’s son: Pope must convert) (Sept. 21, 2006).