NY Times and WaPost “comment writer” threatens to kill Israelis (& Syria blocks Facebook)

November 28, 2007

* At Palestinian university, charcoal burned into student’s face, and nails hammered into his feet
* The NY Times and the Saudi gang-rape victim story: Better late than never
* Syria blocks Facebook, citing fears young people might make friends with Israelis
* While Bush graciously hosts Syrians at Annapolis, Syrian govt. daily writes Bush is the “Fuehrer of the 21st Century”



1. At Palestinian university, charcoal burned into student’s face, and nails hammered into his feet
2. Is incorporating Jordan the only hope for creating a viable Palestinian state?
3. NY Times and Washington Post “comment writer” threatens to kill Israelis
4. The NY Times and the Saudi gang-rape victim story: Better late than never
5. Syria blocks Facebook, citing fears young people might make friends with Israelis
6. Syrian government daily: Bush is the “Fuehrer of the 21st Century”
7. First they came for the cartoonists…
8. More self-congratulatory claptrap from the BBC
9. BBC: Wiping Israel off the map?
10. Palestinian moderates?
11. Will Facebook ruin Christmas?

[Note by Tom Gross]

Below are items I have written for the National Review’s Media Blog this week concerning the Annapolis summit, events in the Middle East, and the way the mainstream media is failing to report on many of these.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


It is interesting that among the mass of coverage in the media today to coincide with the Annapolis Conference, there is next to no mention of the continuing human rights abuses occurring in Palestinian-run areas including those involving “moderate” Fatah.

For example, while a determined and many would say bigoted group of British academics is still trying to organize a boycott of Israeli (and only Israeli) universities, this is what is happening at a Palestinian one.

West Bank campus closes after alleged torture of student
By Matthew Kalman
The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 21, 2007

Classes at Birzeit University, in the West Bank, were suspended on Tuesday after escalating violence between Palestinian political groups on the campus.

Tension has been rising between supporters of President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and the radical Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine over a West Bank security crackdown in which militants in the Popular Front, known as the PFLP, have been arrested by Fatah-dominated security forces.

The university’s administration decided to suspend classes and evacuate students from the campus after a Fatah-affiliated student was assaulted in his dormitory room, apparently by four men from the PFLP. The student, Ahmad Jarrar, was treated at a hospital for severe injuries suffered as he was apparently being tortured.

The assailants used charcoal to burn Mr. Jarrar’s face. They also hammered nails into his feet, according to eyewitnesses. Fatah gunmen then arrived at the campus and threatened to kill PFLP supporters.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I have listened to and read much coverage in recent days on the Annapolis Conference, on TV, radio and online.

Yet not once have I heard mentioned in international media the fact that since June on average a Palestinian rocket has been fired into Israel every 3 hours.

Every poll shows that most Israelis would dearly love to leave the West Bank as soon as possible, but how can they when there is a near certainty that within hours of doing so, rockets will rain down from the West Bank onto Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion, Israel’s only international airport?

The Saudis have already announced today that they will not speak to or shake hands with any Israelis in Maryland. What kind of peace conference is this?

Here are two interesting observations from among the many I have read:

* Hillel Halkin in The New York Sun:

Like many conflicts in history, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not come to an end by means of a negotiated settlement. A viable Jewish state and a viable Palestinian state west of the Jordan River are not both possible.

The conflict will come to an end because the case for a viable Jewish state is the stronger of the two, the Jewish people having no other country and the Palestinians having Jordan, which will sooner or later re-unite with the 90% of the West Bank that Israel will withdraw from. How and when this will happen is impossible to predict. That it will happen is a near certainty. Annapolis will be quickly forgotten, even quicker than the Madrid Conference was. The dire prophecies of what will happen if it fails (“A catastrophe!” Israel’s president Shimon Peres, the chief engineer of the catastrophic Oslo Agreement, has predicted) will not come true.

* Bernard Lewis in The Wall Street Journal:

If the issue is about the size of Israel, then we have a straightforward border problem, like Alsace-Lorraine or Texas. That is to say, not easy, but possible to solve in the long run, and to live with in the meantime.

If, on the other hand, the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise position between existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.

PLO and other Palestinian spokesmen have, from time to time, given formal indications of recognition of Israel in their diplomatic discourse in foreign languages. But that’s not the message delivered at home in Arabic, in everything from primary school textbooks to political speeches and religious sermons. Here the terms used in Arabic denote, not the end of hostilities, but an armistice or truce, until such time that the war against Israel can be resumed with better prospects for success. Without genuine acceptance of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, as the more than 20 members of the Arab League exist as Arab States, or the much larger number of members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference exist as Islamic states, peace cannot be negotiated.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


In June, I wrote an item about how Ahmed Yousef, senior advisor to deposed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, had become the new darling of the comment editors at The New York Times, Washington Post, and the NY Times-owned International Herald Tribune.

He fooled the Times and the Post into running the same piece of propaganda masquerading as an op-ed on the same day.

(See: Congratulations Hamas: Getting an opinion piece into the NY Times and Washington Post on the same day is unprecedented.)

Now we read of Ahmed Yousef yesterday:

Ahead of summit, Hamas threatens to make deadlier Qassam rockets
By News Agencies

Hamas can make the rockets it fires at Israel much deadlier by packing them with more explosives, a senior official in the Islamic militant group said in a statement.

The official, Ahmed Yousef, made the threat just two days before the start of a U.S.-hosted Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland.

Israeli officials have warned that Hamas may try to disrupt the conference with more intense rocket fire. Gaza militants, including Hamas members, have fired hundreds of crude, homemade rockets at Israeli border communities in recent years, killing 12 people and disrupting life along the border.

In a statement sent to reporters, Yousef said that the rockets currently being fired have limited effect because they don’t carry lethal enough warheads.

They can be developed in a short period to create sufficient terror and fear and make the Israelis live in pain no less than what our people live through because of the repeated incursions into our villages and cities in the West Bank and Gaza,” wrote Yousef, an adviser to deposed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh.


Monday, November 26, 2007


I am glad to say that this important story is finally getting the attention it deserves – it was the top story on CNN for much of this past weekend, for example. But where were the liberal media when this poor woman was first sentenced?

On March 8, shortly after the victim was sentenced to 90 lashes and six months in jail by the despicable regime in Saudi Arabia, I asked why only The Scotsman, Fox News and Arab media were reporting on this horrific punishment, but the supposedly liberal media such as The New York Times and the BBC were totally ignoring it.

Fast forward eight months later and The New York Times has finally mentioned it for the first time. On Nov. 16, they reported the case after her sentence was increased to 200 lashes, and now the rest of the media – many of whom take their cue from the Times – have reported on it. This has led several human rights groups and senior politicians to at last take an interest, thereby apparently making the Saudis put the girl’s lashing on hold.

If people want to gain a fuller picture of the world, I suggest that in future they might not wait for The New York Times to get round to reporting on important events.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia marked its 136th beheading of 2007 yesterday. The total is up considerably on last year, when 38 people were beheaded in the kingdom.


Monday, November 26, 2007


The Syrians have reluctantly accepted the Bush administration’s invitation to join over 40 other countries – including Israel – at tomorrow’s Annapolis peace conference.

But back home they are concerned that young Syrians might go farther and – horror of horrors – actually befriend Israelis.

In a move that has angered many, particularly young people, the Syrian government has blocked the Facebook website, reports the Lebanese paper, Al-Safir.

The authorities in Damascus have not explained the meaning of the move, but observers said that it was motivated by a fear that Syrians might strike up friendships with Israelis, says Al-Safir.

Facebook is not alone in being blocked. As I have reported previously, Hotmail is also regularly blocked in Syria.

Indeed over the past few months the Syrian regime has intensified its campaign against bloggers, virtual opinion forums and independent media sites. And Syrian human rights groups report that there is now an “Internet political crimes” ward at one prison.

One wonders why the Bush administration – which says it is committed to promoting democracy – has even invited the representatives of such a regime to participate in tomorrow’s conference.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Following my item on Syria yesterday (above), here are some insights into the regime’s thinking, courtesy of the Syrian government-controlled daily Al-Thawra.

So why exactly is President Bush so graciously hosting representatives of the Syrian regime today?

Here are some extracts:

“President Bush Jr.’s escapade in Iraq is a significant turning point that will go down in history as the beginning of the fall of the great American empire.

“Though the entire tyrannical media is mobilizing in a vain attempt to present the events [in Iraq] as the complete opposite [from what they really are], [eventually] it is geography that will [have the last word]. That is what happened to the great Roman Empire, to the British Empire, and to the French empire, in the tripartite attack on Egypt in 1956... This is also what history wrote on the death certificate of the Nazi beast – the Fuehrer - who in his day held every crucial [source of] power, and relied on [this power] as he set out to destroy part of humanity and conquer the rest, so as to turn them into slaves in the service of the ‘Aryan übermensch’...

“Yes, that is hubris, the deadly disease of the mighty. And now George Bush Jr. – the Fuehrer of the 21st century – is falling victim to the same deadly disease of hubris. [This is] a failure to use and manage power [wisely]…”


Monday, November 26, 2007


Mohammed may now be the most popular name (by far) in the world for boys, but naming your teddy bear Mohammed is a no-no.

Woman held in Sudan over teddy name
Monday November 26, 2007

A British teacher has been arrested in Sudan for letting her children name a teddy bear Mohammed, the British Embassy said.

Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, was detained on Sunday on suspicion of insulting Islam’s prophet. The teacher let her class of seven-year-olds choose the name as part of a school project.

A spokesman for the British Embassy in Khartoum said Ms Gibbons taught at Unity High School in central Khartoum. He said: “The children chose the name because it is very common here.”

The Guardian adds:

The school’s director, Robert Boulos, said Gibbons had since been charged with blasphemy.

Boulos said Gibbons was following a national curriculum course designed to teach young pupils about animals and their habitats. This year’s animal was the bear.

Gibbons, who joined Unity in August, asked the class of mostly seven-year-olds to name the toy.

“They came up with eight names including Abdullah, Hassan and Mohammed. Then she explained what it meant to vote and asked them to choose the name.” Twenty out of the 23 children chose Mohammed.


Radio reports from Khartoum in the last hour say that that an angry mob has gathered outside the police station where Gibbons is being held, demanding that “Islamic justice” be administered. If convicted, she will receive 40 lashes as well as a prison term.

Remember the protests over these cartoons?


Monday, November 26, 2007


This is the press release I was emailed a little earlier, from a production company on behalf of the BBC, concerning a documentary to be aired later this evening on BBC 2 television about BBC World Service radio.

BBC2 screens London Calling: Inside the BBC World Service
Monday 26th November at 11.20pm.

* “Engaging” (Sunday Times)

* “Excellent series” (Independent)

* “Invaluable viewing” (Observer)

* “A fascinating three part film… very much an impartial account rather than an exercise in corporate self-congratulation. Indeed impartiality is the real subject of London Calling” (Times Out)

* “A gripping look at Arabic journalists working for what is still a respected institution and their efforts to preserve that famous impartiality” (Financial Times)


Monday, November 26, 2007


Overheard on BBC Radio yesterday morning:

“And later in the program, after we have heard from our correspondent in Annapolis, Maryland, we will be speaking to representatives from both sides, the Palestinians and the Americans.”

Was this just a mistake, or was it a further subconscious glimpse into the BBC’s warped worldview?


Tuesday, November 20, 2007


This morning I have been listening to discussion on BBC World Service radio about next week’s big Palestinian-Israeli peace summit in Maryland. Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party was repeatedly described as “moderate.”

Yet not once did the BBC mention that only last night “moderate” Fatah proudly claimed responsibility for the murder of Ido Zoldan, a 29-year-old Israeli father-of-two as he drove home from work yesterday.

He was shot dead, possibly by one of the guns the U.S. government has recently supplied to Fatah. He is survived by his wife Tehila and his two young children, three-year-old Aharon and one-year-old Rachel. Indeed the BBC did not mention the attack at all in their lengthy series of reports today from Jerusalem.

While Tony Blair and Condoleezza Rice keep on trying to persuade us how ready for peace Fatah is, they might like to ponder this attack and also this photo, and its caption.

(Scroll down here for photo and caption.)


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


From The (London) Daily Telegraph:

… The social networking site’s use of Beacon, an advertising system that exploits “word-of-mouth” marketing, has angered Facebook users by publicizing details of their online shopping habits.

Moveon.org, the liberal US-based political pressure group, is waging a campaign against Facebook, saying the site violates privacy by sharing details of books, films and other holiday gifts purchased online.

Matthew Helfgott, 20, one of the 20,000 signatories of MoveOn’s petition, wrote: “I saw my gf [girlfriend] bought an item I had been saying I wanted... so now part of my Christmas gift has been ruined. Facebook is ruining Christmas!”

This seems to be the part where Facebook really loses face:

While most Facebook functions associated with external sites have a default “opt in” choice, requiring a user to actively choose to participate, with the posting of members’ purchases in their profiles, users must be proactive in choosing not to participate.

If a user fails to make this choice, his or her entire network of friends will automatically receive a newsfeed on the user’s online purchasing activities – no matter how personal.

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