* Ahmadinejad’s speech at Tehran University cancelled after student union demands right to ask questions about violated students rights
* Russians rush to upgrade Syria’s air defense system
* French TV network finally to be forced to reveal unedited al-Dura tape
* Human Rights Council Chairman admits UN unbalanced towards Israel
* Bryan Adams to perform in both Israel and the West Bank
1. Britain’s former spy chief takes up 9/11 dispatch
2. Yes to Columbia, no to Tehran
3. Ahmadinejad’s loves in NY
4. Israeli “invisible” jets foiled Russian radar in Syria
5. MP says Putin’s visit to Iran will be turning point
6. Russia to finish Iran’s N-plant
7. China says it wants “more powerful Iran,” while France calls for stronger sanctions
8. UN Human Rights Council Chairman: UN unbalanced towards Israel
9. French TV network finally to be forced to reveal unedited al-Dura tape
10. British lecturers drop Israel boycott after their lawyers tell them it’s illegal
11. London Journalists union not giving up on anti-Israel stance
12. More anti-Israel indoctrination in British high schools
13. Chelsea soccer chairman angered by anti-Semitic taunts
14. UK law firm warn media over “racist” articles on soccer manager
15. Bryan Adams to perform in Tel Aviv and in the West Bank city of Jericho
16. “The Queerest Denial” (By Bret Stephens, Wall St. Journal, Oct. 2, 2007)
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
BRITAIN’S FORMER SPY CHIEF TAKES UP 9/11 DISPATCH
My dispatch of Sept. 11, 2007, What the BBC is telling children about 9/11 (& Palestinian rocket injures 69 Israelis), in which I revealed the nature of what the BBC was telling children online about al-Qaeda, has been taken up by senior circles in the UK.
For example, the (London) Daily Mail reports:
Britain’s former spy chief accused the BBC of “parroting” Al Qaeda propaganda to children as young as six. Dame Pauline Neville Jones, who is also a former BBC governor, is infuriated at the stance the corporation takes on the September 11 attacks.
She accused the children’s news bulletin of feeding an “ugly undercurrent” which suggests the terrorist outrage was somehow justifiable.
On its [children’s] website, it answered the question concerning 9/11, “Why did they do it” by saying: “The way America has got involved in conflicts in regions like the Middle East has made some people very angry, including a group called al Qaeda – who are widely thought to have been behind the attacks.”
(Pauline Neville Jones is, indirectly, a recipient of these dispatches, as are other persons in intelligence circles.)
YES TO COLUMBIA, NO TO TEHRAN
Sources in Iran this morning report that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s forthcoming speech at Tehran University has been cancelled after the student union, Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat, demanded the right to ask questions about violated students rights in Iran in an open letter to the Iranian president.
For more (in Farsi), see here.
Meanwhile an Iranian feminist has strongly (and courageously) criticized Ahmadinejad’s remarks at Columbia University on the alleged freedom of Iranian women.
AHMADINEJAD’S LOVES IN NY
Humorists and cartoonists are continuing to undermine the pronouncements of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
* And this cartoon from the Jerusalem Post.
I also attach at the end of this dispatch, a piece from yesterday’s Wall Street Journal on Ahmadinejad’s assertion that there are no gays in Iran. I recommend that you read it in full if you have time.
Among other things, it examines the extraordinary lack of reaction among the liberal press and Democrat politicians to Ahmadinejad’s remarks, and the fact that “the Islamic Republic of Iran has been doing a brisk business in harassing, entrapping, lashing, imprisoning and executing homosexuals since nearly the moment it came to power in 1979.”
ISRAELI “INVISIBLE” JETS FOILED RUSSIAN RADAR IN SYRIA
The Russians have sent technicians to upgrade Syria’s air defense system after Israel foiled it using stealth technology to remain invisible during its September 6 air strike, writes the Sunday Times of London.
The Israeli air force used a sophisticated electronic warfare system operated by F-15I jets and a fleet of specialist electronic warfare aircraft over the Mediterranean during the attack on a suspected nuclear facility near Dayr az-Zawr. They transmitted signals that jammed the Russian-made radar and the Syrian army’s communications.
The top-secret system was being used for the first time. It is believed to have been designed in readiness for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.
(For more on this raid, see: “Bravo, bravo, bravo, Columbia!” (& Hillary Clinton “confirms” Israel took out Syrian nukes), Sept. 27, 2007)
MP SAYS PUTIN’S VISIT TO IRAN WILL BE TURNING POINT
Meanwhile, Russia is moving ever closer to Syria’s chief ally, Iran.
The head of the Majlis Commission on National Security and Foreign Policy, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, said on Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Tehran would be a turning point in bilateral relations. Putin is to visit Iran mid-October.
The Russian ambassador to Tehran added that Putin’s visit to Tehran would be crucial in boosting the two nations’ ties.
(For more, see here.)
On Monday, Putin gave the clearest indication yet that he intends to continue ruling Russia after his term expires next March, possibly by becoming prime minister, an office that he could make as powerful as the presidency, which the Russian constitution requires him to give up after two terms in power. To be prime minister “is quite a realistic proposal,” Putin told delegates at the electoral congress of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, which dominates parliament.
RUSSIA TO FINISH IRAN’S N-PLANT
Russia’s ambassador to Tehran, Alexander Sadovnikov, says Moscow is committed to completing Iran’s first nuclear power plant in Bushehr. In a meeting with the Head of Iran’s Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Policy and National Security Alaeddin Boroujerdi on Monday, Sadovinkov said Russia would finish the construction of the long-awaited power plant.
(For more, see here.)
CHINA SAYS IT WANTS “MORE POWERFUL IRAN,” WHILE FRANCE CALLS FOR STRONGER SANCTIONS
Chinese ambassador to Tehran, Liu Zhentang, said on Sunday that “China will never do anything against Iran’s interests”.
“China wants a powerful and developed Iran in the region,” Liu said in a meeting with Iranian Parliament Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, the Tehran Times reported.
“The development of Iran would benefit peace and security in the world,” the ambassador noted.
By contrast French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said yesterday that the West must strengthen sanctions if it is to be taken seriously by Iran. Kouchner told Europe 1 Radio that the situation in Iran was dangerous and that a nuclear-armed Iran would make the situation in the Middle East even “more complicated”.
Kouchner said he would write to France’s European Union partners calling for a discussion on European sanctions on Iran at the next foreign ministers meeting on October 15.
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL CHAIRMAN: UN UNBALANCED TOWARDS ISRAEL
The chairman of the UN Human Rights Council, Doru Costea, has said that the body was concentrating too much on Israel. “The Council must look at the stance of all sides, not only one country,” he said in an interview on Saturday in the French daily Le Temps, days after U.S. President George W. Bush attacked the body for anti-Israeli bias.
Costea said that the majority of the 47 seats held by Asian and African countries on the council “gives a certain power, but that does not mean that this power is always used wisely.”
It is very rare for a UN official to publicly acknowledge the anti-Israel agenda that permeates the United Nations.
Since it was set up, three out of four sessions of the UN Human Rights Council have been used to attack Israel, while issues such as Darfur, Burma, Tibet, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and others, have all but been ignored.
Last week the Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain called for a more effective international body, which he said should be called “The League of Democracies,” to be set up to compliment the UN.
FRANCE TV NETWORK FINALLY TO BE FORCED TO REVEAL UNEDITED AL-DURA TAPE
Seven years after the death of the Palestinian youth Muhammad al-Dura in Gaza, France 2 – which is alleged to have fraudulently doctored the tape to make it appear that Israel killed al-Dura who then became a symbol of Israeli oppression – has been compelled to show the full unedited version of the tape before a Paris court on November 14.
In reaction to the news, the Israel Government Press Office said: “The creation of the myth of Muhammad al-Dura has caused great damage to the State of Israel. This is an explicit blood libel against the state. And just as blood libels in the old days have led to pogroms, this one has also caused damage and dozens of dead.”
The incident lasted some 45 minutes, 27 of which were filmed by Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, who was working for the France 2 television network. Charles Enderlin, Jerusalem bureau chief of France 2, who was not present at the incident, then accused Israel of causing the al-Dura’s death.
Enderlin, who is known for his strong anti-Israeli views, despite being Jewish, is the darling of the left-wing lecture circuit in New York and elsewhere.
The former pro-Palestinian French president Jacques Chirac was said to have provided Enderlin with political protection over the last seven years thereby making it impossible for the full tape belonging to the state-controlled France 2 network to be made public. The political climate in France has now changed.
** For background on this issue, please see, among other dispatches:
(1) The Atlantic: Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura? (May 15, 2003)
(2) German TV: Mohammed Al-Dura was killed by Palestinians (March 19, 2002)
BRITISH LECTURERS DROP ISRAEL BOYCOTT AFTER THEIR LAWYERS TELL THEM IT’S ILLEGAL
The prospect of an official British academic boycott of Israeli universities has all but disappeared after leaders of the lecturers’ union contemplating the move were told by their own lawyers that it would be illegal under Britain’s race hate laws and equal opportunities legislation.
The lawyers further warned that to use public funds for the purpose of discriminating against Israeli Jews, would open the union up to other legal challenges, leaving individual union officials liable to fines.
The 120,000-member British University and College Union (UCU) has now suspended regional meetings called to discuss the “moral implications” of talking to Israelis.
In May, delegates at the union’s annual congress provoked an international outcry after they voted to institute a program of meetings to pave the way for a vote on cutting academic ties. The move was approved by 158 votes to 99. Jewish leaders, university presidents and the British government condemned the move, as did then British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
UNOFFICIAL DISCRIMINATION STILL POSSIBLE
However, some British lecturers may quietly and unofficially continue to boycott Israelis. Sue Blackwell, a member of the union’s executive and of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, said of the union’s climbdown following the legal advice: “It is quite ridiculous. It is cowardice. It is outrageous and an attack on academic freedom.”
In some universities the demonization of Israel by some academics has been blamed for various outbursts of anti-Semitism accompanied by violence on British campuses.
The British lecturers haven’t even considered boycotting any other people or country.
“BOYCOTT ISRAELI UNIVERSITIES? BOYCOTT OURS, TOO”
Outside the UK, 11,000 academics signed a petition against the boycott, including 33 Nobel Prize winners and 58 college and university heads.
In early August, a full-page ad published in The New York Times by almost 300 American university and college presidents declared they would not work with institutions that were boycotting Israeli academics. The ad stated: “Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too.”
Over 20 Canadian universities came out against the boycott as well.
The British union says it will now explore the best ways to implement the non-boycott elements of the motion passed at its Congress.
Here is the UCU’s own statement on the matter.
** There have been many dispatches on this website on this matter over the past five years, among them:
(1) On boycotts and reality: Opposing the British boycott from Austria to India (July 2, 2007)
(2) Nobel laureate cancels UK trip over Israel boycott (& a tale of two terror groups called Fatah) (May 28, 2007)
(3) Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem criticizes UK academic boycott of Israel (April 27, 2005 )
LONDON JOURNALISTS UNION NOT GIVING UP ON ANTI-ISRAEL STANCE
It also appears that another British union, the London branch of the National Union of Journalists is not giving up on its anti-Israel agenda. It has just a submitted a resolution to officially “twin each branch of the union with a town in occupied Palestine”.
After BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnson was kidnapped by a Palestinian group earlier this year, some members of the NUJ accused Israel of secretly holding Johnson.
MORE ANTI-ISRAEL INDOCTRINATION IN BRITISH HIGH SCHOOLS
Journalist Melanie Phillips highlights a further example of the indoctrination against Israel taking place in British high schools.
This is a questionnaire devised for a “citizenship” lesson that was distributed to pupils at a comprehensive (state) school. (The “citizenship” lessons, by the way, are meant to be about British citizenship):
You know that Israel’s actions against Palestinian civilians go against international law. Which of the following do you decide?
a) People like us in Britain should stop buying goods made in Israel, to help put pressure on Israel to stop attacking Palestinians (3)
b) This conflict has nothing to do with us and there is nothing we can do (1)
c) Our government should put pressure on Israel to do what international law says, and cut down its occupation of Palestine (2)
d) We need to find out more about the conflict between Israel and Palestine before we say what we do (3)
(The numbers in brackets indicate the score a student would receive for their answer – the higher the better. The week before they had a number of photos they had to group together – one was an Israeli tank and a Palestinian boy that was put under “Oppression”.)
As Phillips writes: “From the Olympian heights of Britain’s once unsurpassed education system, which produced the fairest, gentlest and most rational society on earth, Britain’s children are now being equipped instead to inhabit Planet Virulence, where ignorance, irrationality and injustice rule.”
CHELSEA SOCCER CHAIRMAN ANGERED BY ANTI-SEMITIC ABUSE
[* This is a follow-up to the item “Israeli is named as coach of one of world’s top soccer teams” in the dispatch Hunt for Israeli Bond girl is on (& U2’s Bono is Jewish, apparently), Sept. 21, 2007).]
Chelsea Football (soccer) chairman Bruce Buck has appealed to fans to stop sending “racist, anti-Semitic messages to the club” after their appointment of former Israeli national team coach Avram Grant.
Chelsea, one of the world’s leading clubs, hired Grant two weeks ago. It is the highest-ranking coaching position an Israeli has ever held in international soccer. In some countries, the world’s most popular sport continues to attract anti-Semitic chanting among some supporters.
“The racist and anti-Semitic messages must stop immediately,” said Buck. “We will not tolerate them, whether in written correspondence, on the chat pages, on posters or banners, or through singing and chanting. It unfairly smears the reputation of the vast majority of the Chelsea fans who rightly do not want to be associated with such activity.”
Grant’s Polish-born father, Meir, 80, is a Holocaust survivor.
The anti-Semitic abuse aimed at Grant and at Chelsea for appointing him has attracted widespread coverage in the British press and beyond. For example, a report about it appeared on the front page of The Guardian on Monday (October 1).
Chelsea face an important match tonight in the European Champions League at the Spanish club Valencia.
UK LAW FIRM WARN MEDIA OVER “RACIST” ARTICLES ON SOCCER MANAGER
London law firm Teacher Stern Selby has sent letters to British national newspapers putting them on notice that it is monitoring their coverage of Avram Grant’s appointment as Chelsea manager.
The firm says it is acting on behalf of “several people who are concerned about the tone, content and insinuation of articles published by the British press relating to Grant.”
Since his appointment two weeks ago, Grant has come under a hail of abuse in the British media, some of which verges on anti-Semitism.
As the Jerusalem Post points out: “The question is whether some of the criticism has gone beyond the professional and legitimate, and might constitute a legally actionable offense under British laws such as those preventing incitement to racial hatred.”
Many articles in British newspapers over the past few days have made note of the fact that Grant is Jewish and Israeli and that Chelsea’s Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich is also Jewish and a supporter of Israel.
As mentioned in my dispatch of September 21, among the harshest critics of Grant is the former British Foreign Office Minister, David Mellor (who is also a Chelsea supporter) who in government and after was one of Israel’s fiercest critics.
In an article in the (London) Evening Standard last week, Mellor said that Grant, “hailing from football’s lower depths,” was at Chelsea “for one reason. He’s an Israeli-Russian in a club owned by an Israel-obsessed Russian, who seems to love conflict.”
The Times of London said that Abramovich is being driven by “his Jewish heritage”. “Chelsea are not so much Russian these days as kosher.” (In fact Abramovich remains far closer to Russian affairs than Jewish or Israeli ones.)
BRYAN ADAMS TO PERFORM IN TEL AVIV, AND IN THE WEST BANK CITY OF JERICHO
While many leading artists have sung to Israeli audiences recently (as outlined in previous dispatches on this website), it is rare that they also perform in the West Bank.
On October 18, Canadian singer Bryan Adams will perform in Israel and the Palestinian Authority as part of the “One Voice” festival, which will hold simultaneous “peace events” in Tel Aviv, Jericho, London, Washington, Boston and elsewhere.
According to the festival’s website, Adams will perform both in Tel Aviv with Israeli artists and in Jericho alongside Palestinian artists.
-- Tom Gross
“IN FACT, HOMOSEXUALITY HAS A PARTICULARLY RICH HISTORY IN IRAN”
The Queerest Denial
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
October 2, 2007
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been doing a brisk business in harassing, entrapping, lashing, imprisoning and executing homosexuals since nearly the moment it came to power in 1979, with little notice in the West beyond the occasional human-rights report. So when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the startling claim at Columbia University last week that “we do not have homosexuals in Iran like you do in your country,” it offered what could have been a learning opportunity to those who think Iran is just another misunderstood regime with an equally misunderstood president.
Such wishful thinking. The Democratic Party’s presidential hopefuls spent a fair bit of time Wednesday night debating what to do about Iran, without once mentioning Ahmadinejad’s peculiar world view. These are the same debaters who in August went before a gay audience to denounce Bush administration policies as “demeaning” and “degrading” toward gays. In the Nation--a magazine that excoriated Ronald Reagan upon his passing for his “inaction and bigotry against gays”--editor Katrina vanden Heuvel has nothing to say about the subject either. Instead, she devotes her latest column to denouncing last week’s symbolic Senate vote to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization.
In the Guardian, another crusading voice from the left on gay rights, foreign-affairs columnist Martin Woollacott lambastes Columbia’s president Lee Bollinger for his “mean-spirited” remarks to the Iranian president, which he takes as an indication that “it is still difficult to suggest that Iran has arguments and interests worth considering on their merits.” But again, no mention of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s attitude toward gays, much less its “merits.” And on “progressive” Web sites like Democratic Underground, there are earnest debates about exactly what Mr. Ahmadinejad meant by the word “like,” as if he were merely making an academic cultural comparison rather than denying the existence of an entire category of his own citizens.
Long gone are the days when people spoke of the love that dare not speak its name. We are now living in the era of the hate-that-dare-not-be-spoken-about--lest disingenuous neocons use Mr. Ahmadinejad’s unfortunate pronouncements to cut off dialogue and beat the drums for war. But if one side of the political spectrum is not to be trusted to discuss the subject, and the other side simply won’t, who will?
For that, turn to a revealing and moving documentary by Indian-born journalist Parvez Sharma called “A Jihad for Love,” which he describes as a “discussion about Islam through its most unlikely storytellers.” Mr. Sharma (who is very far from being a conservative of any kind) spent six years filming his subjects on four continents: They include a gay imam in South Africa, a lesbian couple in Istanbul, an Egyptian who spent a year in prison for being gay before fleeing to Paris, and four young men who fled Iran for their lives and now live as political refugees in Canada.
The documentary is notable for its depiction of the tenacity with which its subjects hold on to their faith despite the wall of bigotry, often homicidal, that confronts them. Nowhere is that seen more vividly than in the plight of the Iranians. Take Arsham Parsi, 27, a subject of Mr. Sharma’s who now runs the Iranian Queer Organization (irqo.net) from Toronto. In 2001, he says in a phone interview, “two of my close friends committed suicide because of the bad situation for queer people.” Their deaths galvanized him to begin a gay and lesbian support group, conducted furtively and electronically, consisting largely of articles on gay-related subjects from English language sources. The enterprise grew to include six separate electronic magazines. “We used to think we were alone in the world,” Mr. Parsi says. “With these magazines, we knew we were not.”
In fact, homosexuality has a particularly rich history in Iran--the Qajar dynasty’s Nasseruddin Shah, a contemporary of Queen Victoria and ruler of Iran for nearly 50 years, took a Kurdish boy named Malijak as his lifelong lover. It is hardly less present in contemporary Iran, not just in the parks of Tehran but the seminaries of Qom. But Mr. Parsi’s activism put him at particular risk. “The police use the Internet to make undercover arrests,” he says. “They’ll write to say ‘I am looking for a partner,’ entrap someone, and use their correspondence as evidence.” That was the fate of friends of Mr. Parsi, who in 2003 were sentenced to 100 lashes in the space of an hour, and it would have been his, too, had he not fled Iran on word he was about to be arrested.
From Toronto, Mr. Parsi works on asylum cases and continues to publish a newsletter called Cheraq (“Light”), which reaches about 3,000 readers in Iran. Yesterday, it published a selection of letters to Mr. Ahmadinejad by gay Iranians.
“I pray that some false note in the divine composition has you fathering a gay offspring so that the hammer that you’ve raised over our heads comes down on your very own,” writes one. “I recommend you partake in the first Iranian gay Pride parade so you can see for yourself that it will be more glorious and more populated than your Quds day or annual revolution commemoration day parades,” writes another, adding that a gay parade would be attended voluntarily, in contrast to “a bunch of schoolchildren and innocent peasants who have been forced to show up to punch the ‘world oppressors’ in the mouth.”
All of this ought to be evidence that, when it comes to the Iranian regime, the gap between bad neocons and pure-of-heart progressives ought to be no more than tactical: This is, ultimately, a regime that needs to go. Not so. Mr. Sharma, for instance, rails in the Huffington Post against the “the Good-vs.-Evil caricature” that he says prevails in Western attitudes toward Iran.
Mr. Sharma is a gifted filmmaker, but his politics remind me of the Socratic observation that poets are poor judges of their own work. Or how else is one supposed to view the scene he captures of Mr. Parsi at last arriving in Toronto and weeping both for the freedom he has gained and his friends still trapped in Islamist captivity? Is it a testament that there is no meaningful difference between free and unfree, Bushworld and Ahmadinejadland? Take that view seriously, and you wind up taking the notion of gay rights, and human rights, too lightly for anyone’s good.