* Extreme Islamists issue warning to “sluts” at Gaza universities
* Hitler might lose German citizenship
* This dispatch mainly concerns Palestinian affairs.
1. BBC and Palestinians acknowledge biased BBC reporting
2. Islamic movement condemns Palestinian lesbian conference
3. Outcry forces Hamas to rescind “bird” book ban
4. Turkey bans YouTube after Greeks insult Ataturk
5. Demands for USAID to stop funding “Hamas’s University”
6. Hamas website sharply criticizes al-Qaeda’s no.2 al-Zawahiri
7. Fatah military wing claims its leader escaped assassination attempt in Gaza
8. Hamas legislator demands kidnapping of more Israeli soldiers
9. Extreme Islamic group issues warning to “sluts” at Gaza universities
10. Saddam verdict judge “flees Iraq, seeks asylum in UK”
11. Followers mark Bin Laden’s 50th birthday
12. Hitler might lose German citizenship
13. Saudi barbarism and the liberal media
14. “Iranian official lashes out at Hollywood movie ‘300’ for insulting Persian civilization” (Xinhua, March 12, 2007)
15. “Gay Arab activists in Israel forge ahead with plans for conference” (AP/Advocate, March 13, 2007)
16. “Palestinian minister admits aid millions lost” (Sunday Telegraph, March 11, 2007)
BBC AND PALESTINIANS ACKNOWLEDGE BIASED BBC REPORTING
BBC Middle East correspondent Alan Johnston has, unfortunately, been kidnapped by Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza strip.
Impartial observers have long recognized that Johnston is particularly anti-Israeli in his reporting. But now the BBC has acknowledged his bias too. The BBC website, in an article about their kidnapped correspondent, includes a quote from BBC diplomatic editor Paul Adams confirming that Johnston wasn’t interested in presenting the Israeli side, but it was “his job to bring us day after day reports of the Palestinian predicament.”
The Nablus TV news agency also acknowledges this. In a report specially located and translated for this website / email list, it says: “The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate has issued a call to release Johnston as soon as possible, saying Johnston must not be hurt as he is famous for his opinions which are supportive of the Palestinians.”
For more, in Arabic, see: www.nablustv.net/details.asp?newsID=1385&cat=14
The Qatar News Agency also says that Johnston is known for “his quality and objectiveness”: www.qnaol.com/linkit.php?date=2007-03-12&no=0127
Last year a Fox News reporter who had been kidnapped in Gaza was released after a $2 million ransom was paid by the Fox network (although officially Fox denies this).
No one had been charged or convicted of involvement in any of the recent kidnappings of western journalists and aid workers by Palestinian gunmen.
ISLAMIC MOVEMENT CONDEMNS PALESTINIAN LESBIAN CONFERENCE
A rare conference of Palestinian lesbians, scheduled to be held in Haifa at the end of the month, has been sharply criticized by leaders of Israel’s Islamic Movement.
Arab members of the Israeli Knesset, Ibrahim Sarsur and Abas Zkoor (United Arab List-Ta’al) published a statement calling on “all respectable people to stand up against preaching sexual deviance.”
The Haifa-based Asawat, a Palestinian gay women’s organization, whose 85 members hail from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, has called the March 28 conference to mark its five-year anniversary.
The Islamic Movement statement also said, “We must not let this fatal cancer spread in our community.” It warned it would respond as it saw fit.
For more, see the second article below titled “Gay Arab activists in Israel forge ahead with plans for conference”.
OUTCRY FORCES HAMAS TO RESCIND “BIRD” BOOK BAN
The Hamas-run Palestinian Education Ministry on Saturday rescinded its decision to pull an anthology of Palestinian folk tales from school libraries and destroy all copies.
There had been a widespread public outcry in the West Bank after Hamas said they would destroy a favorite Palestinian children’s book, “Speak Bird, Speak Again,” because it was allegedly “unIslamic”. Some 1,500 copies of the book had already been destroyed as the militant Muslim group continues to try to impose its beliefs on Palestinian society.
The 400-page anthology of folk tales narrated by Palestinian women was first published in English in 1989 by the University of California at Berkeley. It was published in Arabic in 2001, and angered Hamas because two of the 45 tales contained what some might consider vague sexual innuendo, referring to body parts of birds.
TURKEY BANS YOUTUBE AFTER GREEKS INSULT ATATURK
A Turkish court last week ordered access to YouTube’s website blocked, after a prosecutor recommended the ban because videos were posted deemed insulting to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Turk Telekom, Turkey’s largest telecommunications provider, immediately began enforcing the ban.
Visitors to the YouTube site from Turkey were greeted with the message: “Access to this site has been blocked by a court decision!”
A message in both Turkish and English at the bottom of the page said, “Access to www.youtube.com site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2007/384 dated 06.03.2007 of Istanbul First Criminal Peace Court.”
During the past week, Turkish media publicized what some called a “virtual war” between Greeks and Turks on YouTube, with people from both sides posting videos to belittle and berate the other. The Greek-posted video prompting the ban alleged, among other things, that Ataturk was gay.
Insulting Ataturk or “Turkishness” is a crime in Turkey punishable by prison. Turkey, which has applied to join the European Union, has been condemned for not doing enough to curb nationalist sentiments and to protect freedom of expression.
For more on YouTube, see YouTube becoming site of choice for al-Qaeda to spread propaganda (Feb. 21, 2007).
DEMANDS FOR USAID TO STOP FUNDING “HAMAS’S UNIVERSITY”
An Illinois congressman, Mark Kirk, has demanded to know why USAID is helping to fund the Hamas-linked Islamic University in Gaza. Kirk, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee, made his request in an open letter to the U.S. Inspector General’s office, shortly after State Department officials defended giving the institution some $140,000 from USAID.
Kirk, a Republican, pointed out that last month Fatah forces “raided a Hamas base at the university, reportedly confiscating 2,000 AK-47 rifles, hundreds of RPG launchers and ammunition.”
Kirk also said senior Palestinian sources told Yediot Ahronot that kidnapped Israeli teenager Gilad Shalit had been kept at the Islamic University for much of 2006.”
Kirk quoted Jameela El Shanty, professor and Hamas lawmaker, as telling the Baltimore Sun in 2006, “Hamas built this institution. The university presents the philosophy of Hamas.”
Former Hamas leader Abdel al-Rantissi was a lecturer at the university. For more on Rantissi, see Dr Abdel al-Rantissi, “the Pediatrician of Death,” in his own words (April 18, 2004).
FATAH MILITARY WING CLAIMS ITS LEADER ESCAPED ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT IN GAZA
The Yasser Arafat group, which is part of the Fatah-affiliated al-Aqsa Brigades, has revealed that its leader, Abu Fuad, escaped an assassination attempt on Monday.
In a statement, the group’s spokesman, Abu Marwan, blamed Hamas. Abu Marwan said Hamas should be proud of The Yasser Arafat group because they had been responsible for launching 121 rockets at Israel last month alone.
HAMAS LEGISLATOR DEMANDS KIDNAPPING OF MORE ISRAELI SOLDIERS
“Fathi Hamad, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, demanded the kidnapping of more Israelis,” according to the Palestinian newspaper, Al Ayyam (March 10, 2007 edition).
Separately, the Hamas Movement affirmed last Thursday in a press statement it issued (largely ignored by the Western media but widely covered in the Arabic one) that it will not compromise “an inch of historical Palestine despite the sacrifices it might pay for this,” and stressed that the “resistance option was and still is the strategic option of the Movement in the march of liberating all of Palestine.”
In a separate incident, a senior commander of Hamas’ armed Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades was killed yesterday evening during a gun battle with members of Fatah in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian eyewitnesses described it as an assassination: gunmen stopping the car in which Ali Haddad was riding and then opened fire at point-blank range. Nine others were wounded, one critically. Hamas has promised to avenge the killing.
EXTREME ISLAMIC GROUP ISSUES WARNING TO “SLUTS” AT GAZA UNIVERSITIES
A group calling itself “Swords of the truth in the land of steadfastness” claimed responsibility on Sunday for the execution of another senior Hamas member in Gaza, calling him one of “the symbols of corruption in the Gaza Strip.” They said they are “complying with God’s jurisdiction on Earth.”
In a statement the group said it would “not make any exceptions regarding the punishment for violations of God’s laws,” adding it would “reach all those who were involved with the individuals who were punished, because we have the proofs and the confessions.” It said “their [Hamas] rank will not protect them from punishment.”
The same group prohibited Internet cafés in Gaza from opening late, describing them as “night prostitution houses.”
The group also revealed that it has a list of girls’ names whom it depicted as “sluts and corrupting others at the universities.” The group threatened to punish all these girls if their families do not deter them.
The group also announced that drug dealers would be killed.
SADDAM VERDICT JUDGE “FLEES IRAQ, SEEKS ASYLUM IN UK”
Al-Jazeera Television in Doha, Qatar, has reported that the Iraqi judge who passed the death sentence against Saddam Hussein has fled Iraq and asked for asylum in Britain.
FOLLOWERS MARK BIN LADEN’S 50TH BIRTHDAY
Followers of Osama bin Laden flooded Islamic websites with pledges of allegiance, videos and pictures on Saturday to mark the al-Qaeda leader’s 50th birthday. This is seem by some as illustrating his continuing importance as a radical Islamic symbol even though he has not shown his face since he appeared on an al-Qaeda video on October 29, 2004.
“Osama bin Laden turns 50. God protect our leader, our Sheik Osama bin Laden. God reward him for his words and actions,” wrote an admirer on one website.
Another message titled the “Manhattan invasion” featured footage of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and the wills of the men who hijacked the planes. Another follower posted a poem of dedication to bin Laden.
A spokesman for U.S. troops in Afghanistan expressed disgust over the celebrations.
HITLER MIGHT LOSE GERMAN CITIZENSHIP
Sixty-two years after his death, efforts are being made to strip Hitler of his German citizenship. Germany’s Social Democratic party, the junior member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic party-led coalition government, says it is attempting to posthumously revoke the Austrian-born Hitler’s citizenship. The Social Democratic party was banned by Hitler in the 1930s.
I attach three articles below, the first of which quotes an Iranian official who has lashed out at the new Hollywood movie “300” for supposedly insulting Persian civilization. The final article quotes the new Palestinian finance minister who has warned foreign donors that he has no idea where much of the $700 million that has flowed into Palestinian government coffers from abroad since the election that brought Hamas to power last year has been spent.
-- Tom Gross
SAUDI BARBARISM AND THE LIBERAL MEDIA
Many blogs linked to my dispatch last week titled Saudi gang-rape victim gets 90 lashes for International Women’s Day (March 8, 2007). These include leading writers Andrew Sullivan (of The Atlantic, and Sunday Times of London), Ruth Gledhill (the highly respected religious affairs correspondent of the Times of London) and Kathryn Jean Lopez, a senior editor at the National Review.
As Sullivan says: Is it Islamophobic to call this barbarism?
Yet the BBC, The New York Times and other supposedly liberal media are still to report on the lashes meted out to this teenage gang rape victim by the Saudi “justice” system.
“PART OF A COMPREHENSIVE U.S. PSYCHOLOGICAL WAR AIMED AT IRANIAN CULTURE”
Iranian official lashes out at Hollywood movie “300” for insulting Persian civilization
March 12, 2007
An Iranian official on Sunday lashed out at the Hollywood movie “300” for insulting the Persian civilization, local Fars News Agency reported.
Javad Shamqadri, an art advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accused the new movie of being “part of a comprehensive U.S. psychological war aimed at Iranian culture”, said the report.
Shamqadri was quoted as saying “following the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Hollywood and cultural authorities in the U.S. initiated studies to figure out how to attack Iranian culture,” adding “certainly, the recent movie is a product of such studies.”
The movie’s effort would be fruitless, because “values in Iranian culture and the Islamic Revolution are too strongly seated to be damaged by such plans”, said the Iranian official.
Shamqadri, who is also a filmmaker, said that production of more domestic and artistic films which portray Iranian achievements is a proper response to movies like “300”.
“300,” an ancient epic about the famous Battle of Thermopylae in Greek history, set a new record at the box office in North America this weekend.
The Warner Bros. adaptation of the 480 B.C. battle took an estimated 70 million U.S. dollars in its debut weekend, according to figures released on Sunday by Los Angeles-based box office track firm Media by Numbers.
The R-rated film, based on comic book writer Frank Miller’s graphic novel, tells the story that an army of 300 Spartan warriors led by their king Leonidas fought to the death to delay a massive Persian army’s invasion, so that the Greeks could reorganize a counterattack.
“THE MEETING IS IMPORTANT SIMPLY BECAUSE IT IS TAKING PLACE”
Gay Arab activists in Israel forge ahead with plans for conference
By Diaa Hadid
The Associated Press / Advocate.com
March 13, 2007
A rare gathering of openly gay Arab activists is slated to be held in Israel this month, drawing the ire of religious conservatives. Headlined “Home and Exile,” the March 28 meeting is meant to spark discussion of homosexuality among Israel’s 1 million Arab citizens, said Roula Deeb, a prominent Arab feminist and one of the scheduled speakers.
The conference is being organized by Aswat, an Arab lesbian group based in Haifa, a coastal city home to both Jews and Arabs.
Around 100 to 150 people are expected to show up, Deeb said. With homosexuality a taboo topic in much of the Arab world, the meeting is important simply because it is taking place.
Israel is generally tolerant of homosexuality, and the country’s secular metropolis, Tel Aviv, is home to a thriving gay community. But Israel’s Arabs, who make up 20% of the population, live mostly in separate communities where homosexuality is still considered out of bounds.
When news of the conference, which was advertised on Aswat’s Web site, reached the Islamic Movement in Israel, it sparked a war of words between Arab liberals and Muslim conservatives.
“Lesbians... need treatment – they don’t need to spread their strange ideas in the Arab community,” said Mohammed Zbidat, a spokesman for the Islamic Movement, a conservative force that has grown increasingly influential in the Arab Israeli community in recent years.
Homosexuality is strictly forbidden by Islam, and an earlier statement issued by the Movement described it as a “cancer” in the Arab community.
The conference draws its supporters mostly from the ranks of secular and educated Arabs. It is sponsored by two Haifa cafes popular among Arab intellectuals and artists, and an Arab women’s rap group is scheduled to perform.
“This is a political issue,” said Raja Zaatry, a journalist at the left-leaning Ittihad (Unity) newspaper, who condemned the Islamic Movement’s stance in an editorial last week.
“Today, they are attacking gays and women. Tomorrow, who else?” he said in an interview. “We shouldn’t compromise. We have to challenge this fundamentalist stream in our society.”
In Lebanon, perhaps the Arab world’s most liberal state, gay people have held news conferences and run a magazine called Barra, meaning “out,” the only publication of its kind. But nearly everywhere in the Arab world, individuals face persecution if they come out openly.
Still, violence against participants in the Haifa conference is not expected. “We’ve called on people to fight this in all legal means. We don’t condone violence,” said the Islamic Movement’s Zbidat.
The conference’s organizers did not want to respond to the controversy. “We are focusing all our energies on the conference right now,” a spokeswoman said.
“THE SYSTEM IS IN A STATE OF TOTAL DISREPAIR”
Palestinian minister admits aid millions lost
By Josh Mitnick
The Sunday Telegraph
March 11, 2007
A former World Bank official who is about to become the Palestinian finance minister has warned foreign donors that he has no idea where much of their money has been spent.
In the 14 months since Hamas won elections, Palestinian finances have descended into such chaos that there is now no way to confirm whether aid is going to its stated purpose, according to Salam Fayyad, 54, who is poised to start his second stint as treasury chief once the rival Hamas and Fatah factions finalise a “unity” government.
An estimated £362.5 million has flowed into Palestinian government coffers from abroad since the election that brought Hamas to power and ushered in a period of internal conflict that came close to all-out civil war.
The European Union alone provided £59.5 million last year and sent a far greater sum directly to hospitals, power generation projects and to families in need.
Now, Palestinian Authority spending is out of control, salaries are being paid to workers who never turn up, and nobody can track where the money is going, according to Mr Fayyad.
There was no way to be certain that aid was being used as intended, he admitted. “Please write this: no one can give donors that assurance. Why? Because the system is in a state of total disrepair.”
Five years ago, Mr Fayyad – who had worked at the US Federal Reserve Bank - was asked to create order out of Palestinian finances by the president at the time, Yasser Arafat. Now, he is confronting the fact that his accounting reforms have all unravelled, there is a ballooning wage bill, a yawning budget shortfall and an international financial boycott of Hamas.
Mr Fayyad conceded that until he assumed office he could not be sure of the depth of the crisis or how to fix it. He expected it to take weeks to regain enough control over Palestinian funds to restore oversight over new donations. It would take several months to begin reining in the inflated salary bill.
Hours earlier, the World Bank had published a 197-page report warning the Palestinians to control a wage bill that totals two thirds of all spending, and of a “dire” budget deficit, estimated at £57 million per month.
Hamas refuses to recognise Israel’s right to exist and is widely viewed as a little more than a terrorist faction. Last year, a ban on funding it was enforced by the EU, the US, many Arab states and international banks.
Ironically foreign aid to Palestinians increased, either carried across the border into Gaza in cash-stuffed briefcases by Hamas officials, or through a special financial channel to the office of President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the rival Fatah faction with whom the West is prepared to work.
As a result, Mr Fayyad said, incoming funds have been widely dispersed with no central authority to monitor them. Some have gone to people who do not appear on the Palestinian budget ledger. “Where is the control?” asked Mr Fayyad. “It’s gone. Where is all the transparency? It’s gone.”
He said his first objective would be to make the finance ministry the sole conduit for incoming aid, and to reinstate proper audits. That meant no more financial back channels or border smuggling, he said. “It’s not my intention to manage the Palestinian budget system through the brown bag.” The Palestinian Authority’s unchecked proliferation of government jobs – growing by 11 per cent a year – is another threat to its existence, the World Bank said. Mr Fayyad acknowledged that the problem of thousands of absentee employees was “serious”, but said it would take up to five years to bring wages into line with income.
He was reluctant to say how he would do that, perhaps understandably, given that unpaid security forces have a habit of barging into government offices with guns blazing, and that gunmen recently shot up the outside of his office.
Now some of Mr Abbas’s presidential guard is assigned to his premises – a stark reminder of the connection between restoring security and bringing finances under control. “This will be extremely difficult,” he said. “It’s virtually impossible.”