Christmas Smear (& Ha’aretz editor to Condoleezza Rice: America please “rape” us)

January 03, 2008

* Calls for Ha’aretz editor to resign after “suicidal” remarks
* Checking email before bed “is the equivalent of drinking two espressos”

* In fact Landau’s message to the U.S. is suicidal. What it is saying, by implication, is: Please destroy me, America. And if you are not going to destroy me yourself, then please make sure my enemies are in a position to destroy me.

This dispatch contains items relating to Christmas, reporting on Israel, and on the persecution of Christians.



1. Christmas Smear
2. Israel: the only country in the Mideast with a growing Christian population
3. Catholic leader rejects Israel’s Jewish identity
4. Jeb Bush in Israel for Christmas
5. Priests brawl at Jesus’ supposed birthplace
6. The Real Scrooge “was a Dutch gravedigger”
7. Ha’aretz editor to Condoleezza Rice: America please “rape” us
8. Checking e-mail before bed “is the equivalent of drinking two espressos”
9. Amsterdam’s drug police refuse to kick the habit
10. “A creche without Christians: Christian persecution in the Middle East”


[Note by Tom Gross]

At the present time I am giving an intensive round of interviews, lectures, and media workshops (including to the popular Iranian pro-democracy radio, Radio Farda, and to Radio Free Afghanistan). Because of this there are fewer dispatches than normal.

I have, however, continued to regularly publish items on the National Review’s Media Blog, and I attach a selection below, and in four accompanying dispatches this week. Some of these may be familiar to some of you by now, though I hope that many won’t be.

In some of these five dispatches I also attach a number of items not posted on the National Review.


Thursday, December 27, 2007


It has become something of a Christmas tradition for many Western journalists. Bashing Israel has again been in plentiful supply this festive season.

This year it is not just the liberal-left media that has had its fair share of such stories. On Christmas Eve, The Wall Street Journal ran an editorial by Kenneth Woodward, a contributing editor at Newsweek, titled The Plight of Bethlehem, in which Woodward – who admitted in his piece who that he hadn’t actually been to Bethlehem in seven years – claimed Israel’s security measures “make it impossible” for Christians to visit their holy shrines there.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post website ran a story (linked prominently to on the Post’s home page) titled Christmas in a Strangled Bethlehem – which turned out to have been written from Qatar.

The truth is that with the Palestinian intifada virtually crushed and Israel’s security barrier making it extremely difficult for terrorists to operate, calm has returned to Bethlehem and this Christmas has been a bumper one for Christians.

Thousands of Bethlehem Christians have visited Jerusalem this December. Even one in six Christians from the Gaza strip applied for and was given a one-month travel visa by Israel to visit Israel and the West Bank during the Christmas season. (Israel Eases Bethlehem Christmas Travel, The Associated Press, December 18, 2007)

None other than the BBC – which has an almost unparalleled record for Israel-bashing – acknowledges this in an online piece titled “Better times return to Bethlehem.”

This year, the BBC piece notes, “Hundreds of thousands more visitors have come to Bethlehem” – four times more people than in December 2005.

“This year is like 2000,” Palestinian tour guide Adil Dweib tells the BBC, referring to the millennium year, a bumper time for Bethlehem tourism.

“I feel safer here than I do walking down some streets in the UK,” the BBC quotes British tourist Mike Quincy as saying.


Thursday, December 27, 2007


Contrary to the false picture of Christians faring badly under Israel, painted in many media reports in December, demographic statistics show the opposite is true.

After Jordan captured the West Bank during Israel’s war of independence in 1948, Bethlehem’s Christian population began falling in response to Muslim intimidation. After the 1967 six-day war, when Israel recaptured Bethlehem, its Christian population started rising as it had before 1948. But after Bethlehem came under the rule of the Palestinian Authority following the 1993 Oslo accords, Bethlehem’s Christian population went into a nosedive from which it has yet to recover.

Israel is in fact the only country in the Middle East with a growing Christian population. Israel’s Christian community has risen by 270 percent since the founding of the state in 1948. (For more, see the article by Nina Shea below.)


Friday, December 21, 2007


Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, an Arab from Nazareth and the Roman Catholic Church’s top cleric in the Holy Land, has said Israel should not be designated a Jewish state. At the same time as he made these remarks, Sabbah refused to answer a question about whether Jews should be allowed to live near Jewish holy sites in any future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Sabbah was widely criticized by Jewish leaders for his comments.


Thursday, December 27, 2007


Among those visiting Israel for Christmas was Jeb Bush, the younger brother of the American president. Accompanied by his family for the holidays, Bush, who is also governor of Florida, visited Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Nazareth and Masada. President George W. Bush is due to visit Israel and several friendly Arab states next week on an official visit.

By contrast, other U.S. politicians, including Senator Arlen Specter and Congressman Patrick Kennedy (JFK’s nephew), have instead visited Syria in recent days, thus further boosting the Assad regime even as France severs ties with it for its continuing thwarting of the democratic process in neighboring Lebanon.


Thursday, December 27, 2007


Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests attacked each other with brooms and stones inside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank as long-standing tensions erupted in violence during holiday cleaning today.

The clean-up turned ugly after some of the Orthodox faithful stepped inside the Armenian church’s section, sparking off a fight between about 50 Greek Orthodox and 30 Armenians. Four priests were wounded.


Monday, December 24, 2007


Perhaps more than any other writer, Charles Dickens, through his stories – above all A Christmas Carol – is responsible for creating our image of what a modern Christmas should be like, including eating a lot, games, festivities, the importance of families being together, and general goodwill. (Before Dickens there was much less fuss made about Christmas in England and many other countries.)

This story, from the front page of today’s (London) Daily Telegraph, provides a further possible insight into one of the influences on him:

He is synonymous with the traditional image of the Victorian English Christmas but Ebenezer Scrooge may have his roots much further afield.

According to Sjef de Jong, a Dutch academic, the Charles Dickens character may have been inspired by the real life of Gabriel de Graaf, a 19th century gravedigger who lived in Holland.

De Graaf, a drunken curmudgeon obsessed with money, was said to have disappeared one Christmas Eve, only to emerge years later as a reformed character...


Thursday, December 27, 2007


The “intellectual” Israeli daily Ha’aretz, while having some fine writers and analysts, has long been widely criticized for also promoting leftist views so extreme that they virtually amount to Jewish self-hate. Some of its more virulent anti-Israeli articles are regularly reprinted on Jihadist websites and have even appeared, with approval, on the sites of western Holocaust deniers.

Its articles often contain pseudo-facts that provide fuel and support for the enemies of Israel the world over and give both the extreme left and extreme right a good conscience about attacking Israel.

Now criticism of Ha’aretz has come to a head after its editor, David Landau, told Condoleezza Rice that America ought to “rape” Israel in order to ensure a peace settlement. The comments caused such a stir among the 20 or so high profile attendees at a confidential briefing with the secretary of state on a recent visit to Israel that they have been leaked by some of the others present. The incident took place at the private residence of America’s ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones.

Landau, who was seated next to Rice at the dinner, is reported to have described Israel as a “failed state” and told her that the Israeli government wanted “to be raped” and that it would be like a “wet dream” for him to see this happen.

Rice’s response to his remarks, Landau said, was “fantastic” in that she was “completely unfazed” by them, and remained “urbane and diplomatic.”

Landau denied making the “wet dream” remark but stood by everything else he was reported to have said. He told The Jewish Week that he had no regrets and that, on the contrary, he was pleased, adding that he was later congratulated by “several professors” in the room.

Landau, a British-born Jew, is renowned for his outspoken views. He formerly wrote anonymously (and some would say in an anti-Israel manner) as the Jerusalem correspondent for Britain’s prestigious Economist magazine.

In fact Landau’s new message to the U.S. is suicidal. What it is saying, by implication, is: Please destroy me, America. And if you are not going to destroy me yourself, then please make sure my enemies are in a position to destroy me.


Monday, December 31, 2007


A new study in Scotland provides a warning for those who like to check their email before going to sleep.

“Checking cellphones, BlackBerrys or laptop computers shuts down the brain’s natural preparations for sleep and is essentially the equivalent of drinking a double espresso last thing at night,” said Dr Chris Idzikowski of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, which carried out the study.

“Research has shown that light from a laptop or BlackBerry is concentrated enough to signal your brain to stop production of melatonin, a natural hormone known to aid sleep disturbances.

“Being in a relaxed environment and incorporating essential wind-down time into your day is your best chance of securing a great night’s sleep – along with silence, darkness and comfort.”

(For a previous post on BlackBerrys, see: here.)


Monday, December 31, 2007


Law and order, Dutch-style means the police smoke cannabis too. Whatever happened to staying alert even off duty?

The Times of London reports:

When it comes to turning a blind eye to cannabis use in Europe’s most tolerant city, police in Amsterdam are demanding the right to practice what they preach.

Officers in the capital of the Netherlands are in open revolt against a new code of behavior that orders them to stop taking drugs in their free time.

… “Police should not be put in pigeonholes in which they can no longer be themselves,” said Hans van Duijn, the chairman of the Nederlandse Politie Bond, the police union. “If you allow people in the country to smoke [cannabis], you would be a hypocrite to say to the police officers, ‘You are not allowed to do that’.

The new rules are due to come in to force on January 1.


I also attach one article not written by myself, below, about the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

-- Tom Gross



A Creche Without Christians: Christian Persecution in the Middle East
By Nina Shea
The National Review
December 24, 2007

In the two millennia since the child’s birth in a humble manger in Bethlehem, the good news of Christianity has spread to every continent, inspiring more followers than any other religion today. But the lands that once were the cradle of Christianity have turned distinctively inhospitable to the faith. Fiercely intolerant variants of Islam are taking hold in the region, many of them fueled with ideology and funds from Saudi and Iranian extremists.

From Morocco to the Persian Gulf, we are seeing the rapid erosion of Christian populations, thought to now number no more than 15 million. These are the communities that have disproportionately been the region’s modernizers, the mediators bridging east and west, its educators and academics, as the Lebanese Catholic scholar Habib Malik observes. For empirical evidence he has to look no further than his own father, a principal drafter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The loss of Middle Eastern Christianity has profound meaning for the Church. But it should not be a matter of concern to Christians only. These Christian communities, along with a handful of other non-Muslim minority groups, such as the Bahais, Mandeans, Yezidis, Jews, together with the anti-Islamist Muslims, are the front-line in the terrible worldwide struggle taking place today between Islamist totalitarianism and individual rights and freedoms. The extinction of these ancient church communities will lead to ever more extremism within the region and polarization from the non-Muslim world. This will hurt us all.

The new religious survey, Freedom in the World, produced by the Center for Religious Freedom shows that while some Muslim governments do respect religious freedom, none are to be found in the Middle East. Israel is the only “free” country, and their Christian numbers are increasing.

The survey ranks Jordan, Oman, Morocco, and Lebanon as “partly free.” Here the Christian populations are either miniscule and largely foreign, or, in the case of Lebanon, shrinking precipitously from majority to about a third of the population in recent decades.

The rest of the region is further down the freedom scale. In Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Algeria, and Tunisia there are virtually no indigenous Christian communities left, though some converts there carry out religious lives in the catacombs and expats quietly hold services. In Saudi Arabia, religious intolerance is official state policy.

Over half of Iraq’s one million Christians have fled since a coordinated bombing of their churches in August 2004 was followed by sustained violence against them. A Catholic Chaldean bishop raised the possibility last month that we may now be witnessing “the end of Christianity in Iraq.” Anglican Canon Andrew White, who leads a Baghdad ecumenical congregation, agrees: “All of my leadership were originally taken and killed – all dead,” he asserted in November.

Iraq’s Christian community, which dates from the Apostle Thomas, is not simply caught in the cross hairs of a sectarian civil war between Shiites and Sunnis. It is targeted for its non-Muslim faith – a reality U.S. policy fails to acknowledge. An extremist Sunni fatwa issued to Christians this year in a Baghdad neighborhood could not be clearer: “If you do not leave your home, your blood will be spilled. You and your family will be killed.’“

The Christian presence in Palestine may hold out no more than 15 years, according to Israeli human rights lawyer Justus Weiner, due to increasing Muslim persecution and maltreatment. Amidst a Muslim population of 1.4 million, some 3,000 Greek Orthodox live in the Hamas-run Gaza strip. An extreme Wahhabi-style group wearing seventh-century robes recently emerged, calling them “Crusaders” and vowing to drive them out. It has succeeded in killing several Christians in recent months, including a prominent member of the community, Rami Khader.

The West Bank is hardly better. “No one city in the Holy Land is more indicative of the great exodus of Christians than Bethlehem, which fell under full Palestinian control last decade as part of the Oslo Accords,” states Weiner. This town of 30,000 is now less than 20-percent Christian, after centuries in which Christians were the majority. In the West Bank’s only all-Christian town, now called Taybeh and once known by the Biblical name Ephraim, a Muslim mob from a neighboring village torched 14 houses last September to avenge the honor of a Muslim woman allegedly impregnated by her Christian employer.

Demographic decline isn’t perfectly correlated with religious repression. Lower birth rates, conversions, and some voluntary emigration also account for shrinking numbers of Christians. Israel’s barrier fence, erected relatively recently in its history in response to terrorist attacks, is a hardship and is commonly blamed for the Christian exodus from Palestine.

But when the decline is so dramatic, when only the Christian and other non-Muslim populations are dwindling and when this pattern holds in country after country, the facts on the ground deserve a closer look. There we see a region-wide, steady, grinding economic, legal, and social discrimination, and political disempowerment punctuated by horrific acts of terror by social forces that governments are unable or unwilling to control. The smaller a minority in the brutally sectarian world of the Middle East, the more vulnerable it is and the more rapid its decline.

Egypt, with some ten million Copts, has the region’s largest Christian minority. The state systematically discriminates against them and frustrates their efforts to build and repair churches. Fanatical Islamist groups rise up periodically and threaten or kill priests and individual Christian believers, especially converts, and the state often fails to bring justice in such cases. Earlier this month, an Islamist website urged a terrorist attack on the Cairo office of the Knights of Malta, a Catholic charitable group founded in 1087 to care for poor and sick pilgrims to the Holy Land. Posting photos of the Malta office, it exhorted: “Do not stint on your attacks, Egyptians, either with car or truck bombs.”

Turkey, where Paul preached to the Ephesians and Galatians, once the seat of the Eastern Christianity known as Byzantium, has one of the smallest Christian minorities. It is now home to less than 75,000 Christians, out of a population of 70 million. The persecutions, even genocide, of the Assyrians, Pontic Greeks and Armenians, the population exchange with Greece and other mass Christian emigrations of the last century, all took their toll. Things are quieter today for the Christians. To be sure the Orthodox Church is being slowly strangled by the state closure of its seminary, but the violence is no longer systematic or official. It is more targeted, and carried out by zealous young men acting outside the law. Last Sunday, Italian Catholic priest, Fr. Adriano Franchini, was stabbed after Mass at a church in Izmir. In April three evangelicals were mutilated and killed at their Christian publishing house.

Last June, speaking of Iraq but in words applicable to the region, the pope told President Bush of his concerns that “the society that was evolving would not tolerate the Christian religion.” Chaldean Bishop Audo elaborated: “This is very sad and very dangerous for the church, for Iraq and even for Muslim people, because it means the end of an old experience of living together.”

Christian hearts are filled with joy and wonder reflecting on the first Christmas. They should also make room in this season for the persecuted faithful of the Middle East.

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