French state TV loses al-Dura libel case (& Amy Winehouse to undergo drug rehab in Israel)

May 25, 2008

* An island of Shi’ite Muslim prayer in Israel
* Google founder: Anti-Semitism drove my family out of Russia
* Former Indonesian president: I watched in horror as Iraq lynched its last Jews
* AMIA case prosecutor wants former Argentine president arrested



1. French state TV network loses al-Dura libel case
2. The world media is mute
3. U.S. store Urban Outfitters pulls “pro-terrorism” Palestinian T-shirt
4. An island of Shi’ite Muslim prayer in Israel
5. Singer Amy Winehouse to undergo drug rehab in Ashkelon
6. Martin Bright: Why do liberals hate Israel so much?
7. Gaza schoolyard missile launchers discovered
8. AMIA case prosecutor wants former Argentine president arrested
9. Former Indonesian president describes lynching of Jews in Iraq
10. Top Israeli-born elephant expert dies in Ethiopian bomb attack
11. Google founder: “My family left Russia because of anti-Semitism”
12. Microsoft CEO: “Microsoft is an Israeli company almost as much as it is American”
13. Can you imagine this happening in an Arab country?
14. The risks of giving up the Golan

[All notes below by Tom Gross]

This first item, written by myself, was originally published on Wednesday, May 21, 2008 on National Review Online.


In a potentially ground-breaking decision for the way the modern television news media operates, a French court today ruled against the state-owned “France 2” TV network in the long-running libel case surrounding the alleged shooting death of a Palestinian child, Mohammed al-Dura, in the Gaza Strip in 2000.

The death-footage of al-Dura – the veracity of which has been repeatedly questioned by media watchdogs, one of whom defeated France 2 in court today – became a cause célèbre in the Muslim world. Osama bin Laden referred to al-Dura in a post-9/11 video; the killers of the Wall St. Journal reporter Daniel Pearl placed a picture of him in their beheading video; streets, squares and academies have been named after al-Dura.

Today’s ruling shows there are serious doubts about France 2’s version of events, and that the entire world press – including the American TV networks – were irresponsible in being so quick to take at face value the claims of a local Palestinian cameraman working for France 2, a cameraman who has admitted his partisanship.

If it hadn’t been for the way the al-Dura video was then repeatedly played on Arab and international networks, the second Palestinian intifada may never have developed the way it did, thousands of lives might have been saved and there might even possibly have been a Palestinian state living in peace with Israel by now.



The mainstream press have so far refused to cover this decision even though it is potentially crucial for the way the newsgathering process works. This is so even though both Reuters and AP, the world’s two biggest news agencies, ran stories on Wednesday on the al-Dura court decision, and almost every major print and broadcast media in the world subscribe to one or both of Reuters and AP. (The exceptions were the media in France and Israel, where the court decision was widely reported.)

Virtually every major newspaper and TV station in the world made the mistake of attributing the death of al-Dura to Israel, yet now they are refusing to report that they were likely wrong. Many media lionized al-Dura. For example, Time Magazine Europe named Mohammed al-Dura a “newsmaker for 2000”.

It seems that, as was the case with Hizbullah’s staged photos in 2006, and Saeb Erekat’s lies about a large massacre in Jenin in 2002, the media simply refuse to later tell their audience that the stories they had run were the result of manipulations by professional Palestinian fixers.

Where is the commitment to justice? And to truth? And to bringing readers “all the news that’s fit to print”? Or for state-financed media like the BBC to show impartiality? Or are they just too embarrassed to admit they were duped? Or don’t they care, it’s a case of blame the Israelis, who cares if it’s true?

* Here is a timeline of the al-Dura case, noting among other things, that The London Review of Books published a “Requiem for Mohammad al-Dura.”
* For those interested, here is an interview with me from February 2008 explaining the background to the al-Dura affair.
* And for those of you who still haven’t watched the “Pallywood” documentary, including film from the day al-Dura was supposedly shot, it is well worth doing in full. Some of the most important footage is several minutes into the film.



The popular U.S. clothing store Urban Outfitters has stopped sales of a T-shirt which sparked outrage among American Jews and others.

The T-shirt depicts a young Palestinian boy carrying an M-16 rifle, with the PLO flag, and a map of the West Bank and Gaza. The item sold online for $25.

“If Urban Outfitters is good at something, it is getting publicity,” says Ami Cohen, who works for American Apparel in Tel Aviv. “This company has a history of coming into conflict with Jews.”

Several years ago, the company played on the “Jewish American Princess” stereotype by selling T-shirts with the slogan “Everybody Loves a Jewish Girl,” surrounded by dollar signs and shopping bags.

In 2007, it again came into conflict with Jewish and pro-Israel consumers for selling versions of a traditional PLO headdress, the kaffiyeh, as an “anti-war scarf.”

“Of course this T-shirt is supporting terrorism,” said Leah Weiss, an American-Jewish fashion designer. “I’ve joined a Facebook group to boycott Urban Outfitters and get rid of their clothes. I will never shop there again.”

I am told that Urban Outfitters are also selling a book on “The Wall.”



While Palestinian terrorists continue to shoot missiles at the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon (last week one hit a shopping center, badly injuring women and children), The Los Angeles Times has an amazing story about the hospitality of the town’s one and only medical center towards foreign Muslims. (There are no Palestinian Shia Muslims; all are Sunni.)

The Los Angeles Times reports, in summary:

The city of Ashkelon has been in the headlines lately, and not for its pretty beaches. The city of 120,000 has sadly joined Israel’s southern front line as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip improve in range and technology. Last week, a rocket hit a shopping mall in town; the dozens of injured were treated at the city’s Barzilai Medical Center.

Ashkelon has 5,000 years of recorded history, but when the first medical center (Barzilai) was built in 1961, nothing indicated that the hill out back was anything special. It turns out that it is a site holy to certain Shi’ite Muslims, mostly from India and Pakistan, thousands of whom have come to pray there over the years. A prayer area for pilgrims built of marble from India was opened seven or eight years ago.

“They are quiet, peaceful people. They come in silence,” said Dr. Ron Lobel, deputy director of the medical center. “An island of Shi’ite Muslim prayer in an Israeli hospital in a Jewish state. It really is unique.”

(Please click here to see some photos associated with this story.)



The (London) Jewish Chronicle reports that Grammy Award winning recording artist Amy Winehouse, currently one of the world’s best known pop stars, is due in Israel “within weeks” to undergo a drug rehabilitation program, at a renowned anti-drug institution at the above-mentioned Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.



In the blog of Britain’s leading left-liberal intellectual weekly magazine, The New Statesman, Martin Bright (a rare voice standing up for human rights of Israelis on the European left) asks one of the key questions of our times: “why do European liberals hate Israel so much?”

“The Israel issue has become a terrible fault line on the British left…The internet has flushed out a whole subculture of left-wing hostility to Israel that should make even [an anti-Zionist Jew like Mike] Marqusee uncomfortable. This has a regular and willing outlet on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website and the New Statesman also suffers from it whenever we publish articles on Israel. Postings on our blog casually link Zionism to fascism or South African apartheid. The language is so unpleasant that it is difficult not to draw the conclusion that many of the comments are driven by anti-Semitism.

“…For a long time Israel has been accused of crying wolf over surrounding countries that want to ‘drive it into the sea’. Now it has a neighbour whose president has not only made that threat explicit, but who intends to develop the capacity to do it. In such a conflict, which has already begun for the people of southern Israel, on whose side will British left-liberal opinion be?

Tom Gross adds: predictably Bright’s post produced a deluge of anti-Semitic comments on The New Statesman website.



* On Thursday (May 22) soldiers from Israel’s elite Givati Brigade found missile launchers and other weaponry behind a Gaza school. One soldier was shot and injured by Palestinian snipers in the school. The soldiers were carrying out counterterrorism operations in Gaza following an Islamic Jihad suicide bomb attack earlier that day on Israeli trucks attempting to transport humanitarian supplies, including food and medicines, into Gaza.

Only the suicide bomber was killed in the suicide attack, but a number of homes in the Israeli community of Netiv Ha’asara were damaged as a result of the explosion.

* In another attack on Thursday, terrorists fired mortar shells at the Nahal Oz fuel depot, the terminal through which cooking gas and other fuel supplies are pumped into Gaza. The Nahal Oz fuel depot has been attacked by terrorists numerous times this year. In one instance, Hamas terrorists (whom Jimmy Carter believes should be treated with respect) stole 60,000 liters of gasoline from their own Palestinian Authority Gaza Power Authority, earmarked for use by ordinary Palestinians.

* The 16-year-old Palestinian would-be suicide bomber shot dead at the Huwwara checkpoint on Monday “was carrying our explosives,” Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades proudly claimed on their website. An alert Israeli soldier had spotted the explosive belt and opened fire after the teen refused to raise his arms away from the belt.

Fatah have wrongly been described by newspapers like The New York Times as “moderates” and by President Bush as “friends of peace.” The dead teenager was in possession of three explosive devices, reports the Palestinian Maan news agency.



Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, is seeking the arrest of former Argentinean president Carlos Menem, accusing him of covering up the involvement of a Syrian-Argentinean businessman in the terrorist attack. Nisman also requested the arrests of the former president’s brother, Munir Menem, and four other men. As Menem is now a senator and thus immune from prosecution, Nisman has also asked the Senate to withdraw his immunity.

Eighty-nine people, mainly Jews, were killed and more than 200 injured when a bomb exploded in a van outside the main building of the Buenos Aires Jewish community in July 1994. While victims’ families say they have suspected Menem’s involvement for years, the arrest request is the first time that the former president – who denies the allegations – has been formally linked to an alleged cover-up of the attack. The Lebanese group Hizbullah, supported by Syria and Iran, is believed to have carried out the attack, as well as another attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires that killed 29 people.

Argentina is now looking for five Iranian nationals suspected of helping Hizbullah with the AMIA bombing.



The San Francisco Sentinel reported this week:

“Abdurrahman Wahid, 67, the former Indonesian president and a leading Muslim scholar, revealed the root of his understanding of the risks and perils of Jewish existence. Wahid was a student at Baghdad University in 1966, earning his keep as a secretary at a textile importer, when he befriended the firm’s elderly accountant, an Iraqi Jew he remembers only by his family name, Ramin.

“In 1968, the Iraqi government effectively had come under the control of Saddam Hussein, who at that time was deputy to the president, Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr. At Saddam’s behest, Iraqi courts had convicted 14 Iraqis – nine of them Jews – on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel, and they were hanged in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, just steps away from where the textile firm had offices.

“... Wahid has gained prominence for his insistence on introducing Muslim nations to certain truths about the Jews. He has called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a ‘liar’ for denying the Holocaust. Wahid says moderate Islam stands a greater chance of triumphing over Islamic radicalism once Western leaders stop trying to accommodate Islamic extremists. Saudi Arabia, in particular, remains the primary funding source for the global spread of fundamentalist Islam.”



Prof. Yehezkel Shoshani, regarded as the world’s leading expert on elephants, died at the age of 65 on Thursday when a minibus he was traveling in exploded in a bomb attack in the center of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

Shoshani, from Tel Aviv, was teaching at a university in Ethiopia. He had spent much of the previous decade studying elephant communities in Eritrea and worked to reverse their decreasing population.



Google founder Sergey Brin, who stayed on in Israel for a few days after the conclusion of last week’s 60th anniversary celebrations, has told the Israeli daily Ha’aretz that “anti-Semitism was the main reason his family left Russia.”

As I mentioned in a previous dispatch, Brin, 34, was in Israel for President Shimon Peres’ presidential conference “Facing Tomorrow,” and took the opportunity to visit Google’s growing Israeli offices. He said Google is also considering buying some Israeli hi-tech start-up companies.

Brin was born in Moscow in 1973 to Jewish parents. His father, a would-be physicist, was banned from Moscow University under a Communist Party decree banning Jews from physics departments.

Ha’aretz writes: “Mikhail Brin decided to study mathematics instead, and was offered a place although the entry exams for Jews were sat separately, in rooms that were notoriously known as ‘the gas chambers.’ In 1970, he graduated with distinction. Later, he gained his PhD from the University of Krakow, and worked for the Russian economic policy-planning agency.

“Sergey’s mother, Evgenya, worked in the research lab of the Soviet gas and oil institute. Like her husband, she had struggled against the anti-Semitic discrimination which prevailed in the Soviet academia, and defied it.

“... The Brins decided to leave Russia in 1977. Despite the fear of being declared “refuseniks,” Evgenya was adamant to leave.

“In 1978 they applied for emigration permit, and as a result Mikhail was fired and Evgenya had to resign. The family barely got by for several months until their application was approved in 1979. Shortly afterwards, the gates of the Soviet bloc were hermetically closed for emigration.”



Microsoft opened a new strategic research and development center in Herzliya, Israel, on Wednesday, in addition to its R&D facility in Haifa, which has been running since 1991. Together, the facilities currently employ 600 technology specialists and Microsoft has announced the hiring of a further 150 next year.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who was visiting Israel on Wednesday, said, “I predict that Israel’s importance to Microsoft as a key center of innovation will grow significantly in the coming years... Microsoft is now an Israeli company almost as much as it is American.”



The Jerusalem Post reports on a new memorial to commemorate the 6,000 homosexuals murdered by the Nazis, one of the first of its kind in the world:

“When Tel Aviv city councilman Itai Pinkas was in Amsterdam last year, he stared for a long time at the monument honoring homosexuals killed in the Holocaust, sensing its impact was going to stay with him for a long time.

“When he got back to Tel Aviv, he took that powerful feeling and raced straight to Mayor Ron Huldai’s office to talk. Now, Pinkas and Huldai have revealed the outcome of the meeting: Tel Aviv is going to be home to the country’s first memorial to gay victims of Nazi persecution. The public sculpture is slated to go up in the centrally located Gan Meir by midwinter.

“‘Now these innocent victims will be remembered forever,’ said Pinkas. ‘There will be a reminder to all of us of what happened in the past, and unfortunately of the persecution that still continues in the present.’

“Homosexuality was outlawed in Germany in 1871, when the penal code was ratified under chancellor Otto von Bismarck. The Nazis later expanded the code to ban loosely defined ‘lewd acts.’ According to Yad Vashem historian Prof. David Bankier, there were an estimated 1.5 million homosexuals in Germany when the Nazis came to power. ‘Approximately 100,000 were arrested,’ he said. ‘And 10,000 to 15,000 were sent to concentration camps, where as many as 60 percent died.’”



Below, I attach a pessimistic article about what “peace” with Syria might entail for Israel:

“Phase 3: Assad’s minority Alawite regime will be toppled, as a peace deal will in fact serve to precipitate his downfall... His regime has no legitimacy in Syria as it is, particularly when it comes to the Muslim Brothers, whose power keeps growing. Al-Qaeda already issued a death sentence on Bashar over his apparent ties with Israel and cruelty to Islamic radicals.

“Once Assad’s regime is toppled, the Golan Heights will turn into the radical spearhead against Israel, and not only from Syria: People will be coming from Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Terrorism will be two-pronged – both from the Golan and from Lebanon. Life in the north will turn into an unbearable nightmare, yet the situation will be irreversible.”

[All notes above by Tom Gross]



The day after a deal: Terror
By Guy Bechor
Yediot Ahronot (Tel Aviv)
May 22, 2008

Let’s assume, just for the sake of making a point, that Syria will get the Golan Heights, which is sovereign Israeli territory in every way (Israeli law applies there just as much as it does in Herzliya; it is impossible to evacuate residents from there the way they were removed from Gaza, because property rights in the Golan are identical to the ones in Tel Aviv.) What will Bashar Assad do in such case?

Phase 1: About a million Syrian residents will be settled in the Golan immediately. The Syrians are already arguing that about 100,000 Syrians fled the Golan in 1967. If we count them and their descendents, we’re already at 500,000. You want proof? Even though the Golan Heights are not in Syrian hands, a presidential decree has already been issued announcing that any Syrian resident who moves to the Golan will receive a government allowance.

This is what the Syrians did in Lebanon in order to take it over. While the Syrian army was forced to withdraw from Lebanon, the Syrians left 800,000 laborers behind who work in Lebanon and transfer their salaries back to Syria. And so, the Syrian chokehold on Lebanon has remained intact, despite the apparent withdrawal. Elsewhere in the world, the Syrians would be referred to as “settlers.” Israel is not allowed to do the same. But when Syria does this, it’s apparently ok.

Phase 2: This will enable Bashar Assad to realize his dream with no interruptions – establishing a “resistance” against Israel in the Golan Heights. Officially, he will argue that he has no connection to the terror attacks that would be directed at the Galilee region and northern Israel from the Golan, heaven forbid, yet in practice Syrian intelligence officers will do as they please vis-à-vis northern Israel. In fact, they already did it in northern Lebanon.

Lebanon’s pro-government leader Saad al-Hariri openly accused Syria and its intelligence agencies not only of being behind the acts of two odd underground groups, but of “inventing”“ them in order to sabotage Lebanon. Why won’t the Syrians do the same in the Golan? Would a peace deal with Israel stop them? With Lebanon they have not only peace, but even an official relationship of fraternity and friendship.

Phase 3: Assad’s minority Alawite regime will be toppled, as a peace deal will in fact serve to precipitate his downfall (and for that reason, Bashar won’t be pursuing real peace with Israel.) His regime has no legitimacy in Syria as it is, particularly when it comes to the Muslim Brothers, whose power keeps growing. Al-Qaeda already issued a death sentence on Bashar over his apparent ties with Israel and cruelty to Islamic radicals.

Once Assad’s regime is toppled, the Golan Heights will turn into the radical spearhead against Israel, and not only from Syria: People will be coming from Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Terrorism will be two-pronged – both from the Golan and from Lebanon. Life in the north will turn into an unbearable nightmare, yet the situation will be irreversible. The Golan will shift from being an empty region to being a home to one million zealous Syrians.

The Sinai Peninsula is so large that the situation there is always reversible. On the Jordanian front we didn’t renounce anything, and on the Palestinian front we can always reoccupy any territory. Yet with Syria the situation will be different: From an empty buffer zone, the Golan Heights will turn into a crowded anti-Israel region for generations to come. From a strategic asset to Israel, the Golan would turn into a burden on top of the other regional efforts to eliminate Israel. Our future generations won’t forgive anyone who would do that.

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