Pope’s speech which angered Muslims wins award

December 25, 2006

* Prestigious German university names Pope’s speech “speech of the year”
* Danish group tricks Teheran newspaper into printing anti-Ahmadinejad insult
* Some Muslims strongly criticize Iranian Holocaust denial



1. Danish advert in the Tehran Times calls Ahmadinejad a swine
2. Ahmadinejad: U.S., Britain will soon disappear along with Israel
3. Fighting back against Iranian Holocaust denial
4. Ben Gurion airport to build Islamic prayer room
5. Pope’s speech wins award
6. Tunnel-digging is Gaza’s “Fastest-growing business” – AP
7. War in Lebanon affected Israel’s tourist industry
8. Syria preparing for war and Hizbullah almost back to full strength
9. More on the Iraq Study Group
10. Muslims standing up for Holocaust victims
11. “Forget the Domino theories” (By Robert Satloff, Washington Post, Dec. 19, 2006)
12. “Muslims mark solidarity with Jews” (Washington Post, Dec. 21, 2006)
13. “Why they deny the Holocaust” (By Ayaan Hirsi, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 16, 2006)

[Note by Tom Gross]


A Danish art group managed to smuggle a hidden message into Iran’s leading English-language newspaper. An advertisement was placed in the Tehran Times on December 21 that initially looked like a declaration of support for the anti-Semitic Iranian leader.

Beneath an image of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad there appeared a number of apparently sympathetic statements such as “Iran has the right to produce nuclear energy.” On closer inspection, however, the first letters of each phrase when read from top to bottom spelt out the word “S-W-I-N-E.”

The half-page advert was placed under the name “Danes for World Peace,” and went undetected by the editors at the newspaper. The art group “Surrend” was actually behind the prank. They said they wanted to poke fun at Ahmadinejad “because we don’t think he’s very liberal or sensitive.”

Jan Egesborg, a member of the group who teaches at the Danish School of Fine Art, told Reuters “We think he represents an extreme ideology… We did it to cause a reaction. There is a young population there which wants more liberalization. Hopefully they will be inspired.”

Meanwhile Iran announced on Sunday that it is pressing full speed ahead with its nuclear program, saying it will start installing 3,000 centrifuges at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant as an immediate reaction to the UN Security Council resolution against Iran.


In a speech last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the U.S., Britain and Israel are doomed to disappear.

According to the Iranian government news agency Ahmadinejad said “The aggressive forces will vanish, while the Iranian people will survive – since all who chose God will survive and those who distance themselves from God vanish like Pharaoh… The U.S., Britain, and the Zionist regime will vanish since they have distanced themselves from God. This is a divine promise.”


This is an update to last week’s dispatch (Polite society helped pave the way for Iran’s Holocaust conference, Dec. 17, 2006.)

A new web-site has been launched specifically to counteract the sustained campaign of Holocaust denial by the Iranian regime. It can be found at: www.iranholocaustdenial.com.

Individual Israelis have also prepared their own reaction to the Iranian Holocaust denial conference. For example here (complete with spelling mistakes in English).

Meanwhile the Jewish community in Manchester, England, are shunning the notorious self-hating rabbi who went to shake Ahmadinejad’s hand in Iran at the Holocaust denial conference. Rabbi Aharon Cohen has been branded a persona non grata. The Manchester burial society has returned Cohen’s dues, refusing to guarantee him a Jewish burial. A demonstration was held outside his home by a cross section of Manchester’s Jewish community. Even the anti-Zionist Satmar Hassidim joined the demonstration, saying they were “appalled” by the antics of their offspring sect. The Satmar community have made it clear that he is no longer welcome in the synagogue he used to attend, and the local shopkeepers won’t serve him.

By contrast, the BBC, which is increasingly jumping at the opportunity to give anti-Semites airtime (having recently interviewed several gentile Holocaust deniers too), afforded several minutes on air to Rabbi Cohen to express his anti-Semitic views.


Ben Gurion airport, Israel’s international airport, is to build an Islamic prayer room in an effort to improve relations with Muslim travellers. Arabic is the second language in Israel after Hebrew and when the new airport complex opened in 2004, Israeli-Arabs complained that there were few signs in Arabic. A spokesman for the airport said that they are “determined to strengthen ties with the Arab population.”

Even though it is not technically in Europe, Ben Gurion airport has been judged the best airport in Europe. Last week, it won top place in a passenger satisfaction survey conducted by Airports Council International. Ben Gurion’s new terminal complex that opened two years ago was voted the most customer friendly in Europe in a survey based on passenger feedback at 77 airports. Ben Gurion handles about 8.5 million passengers a year.


The speech given by Pope Benedict XVI in September in Regensburg, Germany, which angered the Muslim world, has been given an award.

It was named “speech of the year” by the jury of the prestigious Tübingen University’s Seminar for Rhetoric. The German University’s announcement said that “The topic of this deliberately misunderstood speech is the relationship between reason and faith in Christianity and the affirmation of the Christian conviction that acting reasonably corresponds to the nature of God.”

The pope quoted a 14th-century Byzantine emperor who had said that Islam had brought evil to the world. The pope, who gave the speech during a visit to Germany three months ago, apologized several times for any offense it caused among Muslims after protests, attacks on churches in the Middle East and the killing of a nun in Somalia.

For more on this speech, and the reaction to it in the Muslim world, please see these three dispatches:

* Palestinians attack churches as anti-Pope sentiment grows around world (Sept. 18, 2006)
* Cartoonists against the Pope (Sept. 19, 2006)
* Saudi police ban the sale of cats and dogs (& Gaddafi’s son: Pope must convert) (Sept. 21, 2006)


A news story by the Associated Press says the digging of tunnels used for smuggling arms into the Palestinian Authority is Gaza’s “fastest growing” business. The number of tunnels has doubled since Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip almost a year and a half ago. According to both Israeli and Palestinian sources, the weapons reaching Palestinian hands include longer-range Katyusha rockets, cordite, the explosive propellant used in anti-aircraft weapons, anti-tank missiles and “thousands of rifles and tons of explosives.” AP quotes one tunnel-digger’s estimate that there are now at least 250 tunnels.


Whilst the war with Lebanon did not cause significant harm to other parts of the Israeli economy, the Israeli tourism sector was badly hit by the war.

Only around 1.86 million tourists will have visited Israel by the end of 2006, down from 1.9 million in 2005. This is considerably lower than the pre-war forecast for 2006 of 2.5 million tourists.

According to calculations by the Tourism Ministry, the loss of close to half a million tourists cost the Israeli state $1 billion and 20,000 jobs.


A high-ranking officer has warned that Israel may soon face a “Syrian intifada” and that villages are being built along the Syrian side of the Israeli border to be used as “death traps” for the Israeli army. The idea is to draw Israel into an asymmetric war, the officer said, like the warfare the IDF has encountered in combat against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as against Hizbullah in Lebanon.

According to Israeli intelligence, Syria has drawn lessons from the summer war between Hizbullah and Israel and is conducting urban warfare exercises in preparation for the possibility of a war with Israel. In addition Syria has continued to transfer truckloads of weapons and missiles to Hizbullah. Many of these weapon transfers have been conducted out in the open “for the entire world to see.”

The Israeli army now believes it is only a “matter of time” before Hizbullah attacks Israel since they are now close to full strength and are almost at the level they were before the summer war.


I attach three articles below. The first is by Robert Satloff, author of “Among the Righteous: Lost Stories From the Holocaust’s Long Reach Into Arab Lands.” He argues against one of the main premises of the Iraq Study Group which claimed “all key issues in the Middle East are inextricably linked.”

Some comedians have also been commenting on James Baker’s Iraq Study Group’s demands that an agreement is made to Iran’s extremist president. See, for example, here.

For more on the Iraq Study Group, see Iraq 28: “If we left now, we’d be back in again within a year” (Dec. 11, 2006).


A few Muslims are standing up for Holocaust victims. Last week, for example, Muslim leaders in America joined Jewish Holocaust survivors to light Hannukah candles (for the Jewish festival of lights) at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.

Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society told the Washington Post that if anyone wants to make Holocaust denial an Islamic cause, “we want to say to them: You cannot use our name.” Museum officials said this was the first time a Muslim delegation had made such a public statement at the memorial building.

The third article below, by the Muslim-born Somali exile Ayaan Hirsi (who was recently forced to leave Holland for the U.S.), criticizes the recent Holocaust denial conference in Iran. Ali writes in The Los Angeles Times that the majority of Muslims “do not know it [the Holocaust] ever happened because we were never informed of it.” She also questions why there was “no counter-conference in Riyadh, Cairo, Lahore, Khartoum or Jakarta condemning Ahmadinejad? Why are the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference silent on this?”

-- Tom Gross



Forget the Domino theories
By Robert Satloff
The Washington Post
December 19, 2006


The wise men (and woman) don’t know their history. In boldly suggesting that “all key issues in the Middle East are inextricably linked,” the authors of the Iraq Study Group report seem stunningly indifferent to the past 25 years of Middle East politics.

The basic proposition – linkage – is not new. President George H.W. Bush and his secretary of state, James Baker, tried 15 years ago to build an Arab-Israeli peace process on American success in the Persian Gulf War. In the current Bush administration, some advocates of toppling Saddam Hussein echoed that argument when they predicted that a change in Iraq would open new avenues for Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

Linkage also has its more ominous side. The most common is the fear that, left unresolved, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could explode into a Middle East-wide war. A second variation locates the epicenter of regional instability in the Persian Gulf. A generation ago the fear was that the export of Iran’s Islamic revolution would undermine pro-West Arab states. Today, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during his confirmation hearings, the fear is that Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq will spread like a contagion through the region, leaving ethnic bloodletting in its wake.

The problem with all these theories is that after a generation of theorizing about Middle East dominoes, the evidence is piling up: The linkages simply don’t exist.

First, military success in the Gulf does not translate into diplomatic success in the region. The Madrid process, a regional initiative, may have had a promising opening session, but once it got down to real bargaining, it ran up against the stark realities of the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian divides. And the idea of building on Saddam Hussein’s demise to promote change on the Israeli-Palestinian front may have hastened Yasser Arafat’s movement into irrelevance, but it ran aground on the dismal intra-Palestinian political realities of what followed him.

Second, local disasters do not translate into regional disasters. Despite Iran’s subversion, terrorism, bullying and threats, every Arab state survived the export of the Islamic revolution. And despite the near unanimity of received wisdom about the Middle East, there is no evidence to support the proposition that Israeli-Palestinian violence has substantial regional repercussions, let alone that it could lead to regional war.

The best evidence for this counterintuitive conclusion comes from the Palestinian uprising that began after the collapse of the Camp David summit in 2000. With more than 3,000 Palestinian and 1,000 Israeli fatalities, the bloodshed in the subsequent three years was the worst in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet the regional impact was virtually zero.

Not one Arab state threatened to fight alongside the Palestinians, and none even came to their aid militarily; indeed, only faraway Iran tried to send weapons. The Arab “street” did not rise in protest. Neither Jordan nor Egypt severed its peace treaty with Israel, and no Arab state faced significant protests. The conflict – certainly a horrible experience for Israelis and Palestinians – was contained.

The lesson of the past generation is that most states in the Arab Middle East have grown stronger, not weaker. Arab leaders are interested first and foremost in survival, which means protecting their national interests, not subscribing to romantic notions of ethnic or religious ideology. That is why, for example, Gates’s warning about Arab states intervening in Iraq to defend fellow Sunni Arabs from Shiite ethnic cleansing is far-fetched.

Will the vaunted Saudi armed forces invade Iraq? To the contrary, the Saudis are contemplating construction of an Israeli-style “security barrier” along the Iraqi border because they want to keep the Iraq problem inside Iraq. Will the fearsome Syrian military intervene? Hardly. The Alawites who run Damascus may enjoy seeing America squirm in Iraq, but there’s little chance they will fight on the side of the very people they fear most at home: Sunni extremists. And, of course, don’t expect the Kuwaitis to rush across the border to help out.

The sober reality is that if Shiite militias attempt an ethnic cleansing of Sunni Arabs, Washington should not expect Iraq’s Arab neighbors to do anything but man the barricades to prevent a massive flight of Iraqi refugees. Just as was the case when Muslims faced the carnage of war in Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo, the country most likely to come to the aid of Muslims in danger inside Iraq will be the United States.

Of course, the strengthening of Arab states is neither uniform – Syria is an exception – nor is it wholly good news. The most negative repercussion has been the rise of secret-police regimes: governments that cycle virtually every marginal dollar into all-encompassing intelligence services that in turn snuff out liberal dissent in the name of security. The bottom line is that for better or worse, these regimes know how to take care of themselves.

America needs to focus on a set of distinct problems in the Middle East – from the Arab-Israeli conflict to Iran’s nuclear ambitions – each important and worthy of attention in its own right. The road to Baghdad does not pass through Tehran, Damascus, Jerusalem or Gaza – it is a cul-de-sac that begins and ends in Iraq.



Muslims mark solidarity with Jews
Event held days after Iranian meeting that denied genocide
By Mary Beth Sheridan
The Washington Post
December 21, 2006


Local Muslim leaders lit candles yesterday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to commemorate Jewish suffering under the Nazis, in a ceremony held just days after Iran had a conference denying the genocide.

American Muslims “believe we have to learn the lessons of history and commit ourselves: Never again,” said Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, standing before the eternal flame flickering from a black marble base that holds dirt from Nazi concentration camps.

Around the hexagonal room, candles glimmered under the engraved names of the death camps: Chelmno. Auschwitz-Birkenau. Majdanek.

“We stand here with three survivors of the Holocaust and my great Muslim friends to condemn this outrage in Iran,” said Sara J. Bloomfield, the museum’s director, addressing a bank of TV cameras in the room, known as the Hall of Remembrance.

The museum, she noted, holds “millions of pieces of evidence of this crime.”

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad organized last week’s conference after Western countries protested his comment last year that the slaughter of 6 million Jews was a myth. The two-day meeting drew historical revisionists and such people as David Duke, a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Major American Muslim and Arab-American organizations have condemned the Iran conference. The Muslim speakers at yesterday’s ceremony did not mention that event but called for recognition of the suffering Jews experienced in the Holocaust and condemned religious hatred. Asked afterward why they did not single out Iran, the Muslim leaders said the problem was broader than the recent conference.

“The issue here is: There might be somebody from X and Y country, a Muslim, saying the same thing,” Magid said. If anyone wants to make Holocaust denial an Islamic cause, he said, “we want to say to them: You cannot use our name.”

Museum officials said a Muslim delegation had never before made such a public statement at the memorial building.

After the speeches yesterday, Bloomfield invited the visitors to light candles to remember the Holocaust victims and Muslims who rescued some of the besieged Jews. One by one, the guests silently shuffled along the wallside bank of candles: the tall imam in his round Muslim cap, known as a kufi; a woman in a Muslim head scarf; Muslim men in business suits; and three elderly women in pantsuits from the D.C. suburbs, survivors of the genocide.

One of them, Johanna Neumann, recounted at the ceremony how Muslims saved her Jewish family. Members of her family had fled from Germany to Albania, where Muslim families sheltered them and hid their identity during the Nazi occupation.

“Everybody knew who we were. Nobody would even have thought of denouncing us” to the Nazis, said the tiny 76-year-old Silver Spring resident. “These people deserve every respect anybody can give them.”

The idea for the ceremony originated with Magid, whose Sterling mosque has been active in interfaith efforts. After hearing radio reports about the Iranian meeting, “I said to myself, ‘We have to, as Muslim leaders... show solidarity with our fellow Jewish Americans,’” Magid recalled after the speeches.

He contacted Akbar Ahmed, an American University professor active in inter-religious dialogue, who asked the museum to hold the ceremony.

“It’s important that the world knows there are Muslims who don’t believe in this [Holocaust denial],” Ahmed said after the ceremony. Also in the delegation were representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Bloomfield, the museum director, noted that Magid delayed his trip to Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage by a day to attend the ceremony.

“That’s a pretty strong statement,” she said.

The Holocaust victims expressed gratitude for the gesture by the Muslims.

“We could live together in peace if only more of these things were happening,” said Halina Peabody, 74, a native of Poland who lives in Bethesda.



Why they deny the Holocaust
On top of nearly constant anti-Semitic propaganda, much of the Muslim world hasn’t even heard of it.
By Ayaan Hirsi
The Los Angeles Times
December 16, 2006


One day in 1994, when I was living in Ede, a small town in Holland, I got a visit from my half-sister. She and I were both immigrants from Somalia and had both applied for asylum in Holland. I was granted it; she was denied. The fact that I got asylum gave me the opportunity to study. My half-sister couldn’t.

In order for me to be admitted to the university I wanted to attend, I needed to pass three courses: a language course, a civics course and a history course. It was in the preparatory history course that I, for the first time, heard of the Holocaust. I was 24 years old at that time, and my half-sister was 21.

In those days, the daily news was filled with the Rwandan genocide and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. On the day that my half-sister visited me, my head was reeling from what happened to 6 million Jews in Germany, Holland, France and Eastern Europe.

I learned that innocent men, women and children were separated from each other. Stars pinned to their shoulders, transported by train to camps, they were gassed for no other reason than for being Jewish.

I saw pictures of masses of skeletons, even of kids. I heard horrifying accounts of some of the people who had survived the terror of Auschwitz and Sobibor. I told my half-sister all this and showed her the pictures in my history book. What she said was as awful as the information in my book.

With great conviction, my half-sister cried: “It’s a lie! Jews have a way of blinding people. They were not killed, gassed or massacred. But I pray to Allah that one day all the Jews in the world will be destroyed.”

She was not saying anything new. As a child growing up in Saudi Arabia, I remember my teachers, my mom and our neighbors telling us practically on a daily basis that Jews are evil, the sworn enemies of Muslims, and that their only goal was to destroy Islam. We were never informed about the Holocaust.

Later, as a teenager in Kenya, when Saudi and other Persian Gulf philanthropy reached us, I remember that the building of mosques and donations to hospitals and the poor went hand in hand with the cursing of Jews. Jews were said to be responsible for the deaths of babies and for epidemics such as AIDS, and they were believed to be the cause of wars. They were greedy and would do absolutely anything to kill us Muslims. If we ever wanted to know peace and stability, and if we didn’t want to be wiped out, we would have to destroy the Jews. For those of us who were not in a position to take up arms against them, it was enough for us to cup our hands, raise our eyes heavenward and pray to Allah to destroy them.

Western leaders today who say they are shocked by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s conference this week denying the Holocaust need to wake up to that reality. For the majority of Muslims in the world, the Holocaust is not a major historical event that they deny. We simply do not know it ever happened because we were never informed of it.

The total number of Jews in the world today is estimated to be about 15 million, certainly no more than 20 million. On the other hand, the world’s Muslim population is estimated to be between 1.2 billion and 1.5 billion. And not only is this population rapidly growing, it is also very young.

What’s striking about Ahmadinejad’s conference is the (silent) acquiescence of mainstream Muslims. I cannot help but wonder: Why is there no counter-conference in Riyadh, Cairo, Lahore, Khartoum or Jakarta condemning Ahmadinejad? Why are the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference silent on this?

Could the answer be as simple as it is horrifying: For generations, the leaders of these so-called Muslim countries have been spoon-feeding their populations a constant diet of propaganda similar to the one that generations of Germans (and other Europeans) were fed – that Jews are vermin and should be dealt with as such? In Europe, the logical conclusion was the Holocaust. If Ahmadinejad has his way, he shall not want for compliant Muslims ready to act on his wish.

The world needs to be informed again and again about the Holocaust – not only in the interest of the Jews who survived and their offspring but in the interest of humanity.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.