Top Egyptian cleric asked to purify hand after accidentally shaking Peres’ hand

December 13, 2008

* Syria bestows its highest honor upon child killer Kuntar; Assad personally gives him the Order of Merit
* Egyptian weekly Al-Youm As-Sabi headline: “Jews are the principal suspect in the [global] financial crisis”
* Editor in chief of the Egyptian daily Al-Wafd, writing about the economic downturn: “The Jews played a filthy game”



1. Hamas beats up pilgrims attempting to go to Mecca
2. Assad honors a child murderer
3. Top Egyptian cleric asked to purify hand after accidentally shaking Peres’ hand
4. Canada defends Saudi policy of shunning tourists who visited Israel
5. Palestinian TV claims UN did not offer Arabs a state in 1947
6. Poll: Human rights are important, but NGOs are biased against Israel
7. Egyptian media: “Jews are the principal suspect in the [world] financial crisis”
8. Muslim prayer rooms should be opened in UK Catholic schools, say church leaders
9. OUP removes words associated with Christianity from children’s dictionary
10. “Egypt’s Jew haters deserve ostracism in the West” (Amr Bargisi, WSJ, Dec. 1, 2008)
11. “Islamophobia” or “Truthophobia”? (Matthias Küntzel, WSJ Europe, Dec. 8, 2008)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


The annual “Hajj” pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia has just ended. An estimated 3 million pilgrims attended this year.

Yet 3000 Gazans didn’t make it. Hamas enforcers blocked their participation because they had registered with rivals Fatah. The Associated Press reported eyewitness accounts of Hamas thugs beating up Fatah-affiliated pilgrims setting out for Mecca. At least one female pilgrim needed hospital treatment.

Hamas security forces put up barricades several kilometers from the Egyptian border, between Khan Yunis and Rafah, keeping the would-be pilgrims from progressing further.

AP reported that witnesses would not give their names, for fear of retribution by Hamas. Hamas gunmen did not allow reporters into the area close to the border crossing. Egypt criticized Hamas’ actions as “unbecoming an Islamic movement.”

Saudi Arabia, the host nation for the Hajj, establishes quotas for participation by residents of the various Muslim nations. The Saudis cooperate with the Fatah government in the West Bank, spurring some Gazans to register their Hajj trip with Fatah instead of with Hamas.

The pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca is one of the pillars of Islam; every believer is expected to make the pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime.



Israelis have expressed revulsion that Syria has bestowed its highest honor upon a mass murderer, whose victims included a four-year-old child whose brain he smashed, and her two-year-old sister who was suffocated.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad personally conferred the Order of Merit on Samir Kuntar. Photos of Assad and Kuntar embracing were published by the official Syrian News Agency. Assad also gave Kuntar an honorary commission in the Syrian Army.

Kuntar was released from an Israeli prison in July in a highly controversial prisoner exchange with Hizbullah for the bodies of IDF reservists. Newsweek said that the full details of the cross-border attack in which Kuntar was centrally involved were “so sickening they give pause even to some of Israel’s enemies.”

Meanwhile European diplomats are trying to boost the Assad dictatorship. Two weeks ago, British Foreign Secretary (Minister) David Miliband made the first high-level British visit to Damascus in seven years. On July 14, French President Nicolas Sarkozy honored Assad in Paris on Bastille Day. Sarkozy followed up with an official visit to Syria in August.

This week the European Union is scheduled to sign an association agreement with Syria, ignoring its role in the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri and its sheltering of various terrorist organizations.

European politicians should have instead spent their time reading the report Mass killings and human rights violations in Syria.

Among previous dispatches on Kuntar, please see:
* A long way from Entebbe: Hizbullah’s triumph, as Israel lets murderers go free (July 16, 2008)
* Israel sanctions al-Jazeera after it holds party for released child-killer (July 28, 2008)



Egypt’s top cleric, who has been vilified in the Egyptian media since shaking the hand of Israeli President Shimon Peres in the U.S. last month, has now been asked to purify the hand that touched Peres. Grand Sheikh Mohammed Seyed Tantawi has been inundated with criticism and calls for his resignation since a newspaper published a photo of the handshake. Tantawi has now agreed to undergo a ritual purification of his hand.

Israel’s best-selling newspaper Yediot Ahronot commented in an editorial this week [on Tuesday]:

“There are two ways of shaking hands in the Muslim world: The regular manner – you smile and press palm on palm. In the warmer manner, you place both your palms on the hand extended to you and close them for a long moment. The more congenial manner is meant to symbolize intimate friendship and a declaration of good intentions, as well as the depth of the acquaintance.

“This is the mistake (his enemies call it ‘the crime’) which was made by Dr. Mohammad Sayed Tantawi, head of Islamic Al-Azhar University in Egypt, who was caught on camera in the U.S. giving a warm smile to President Shimon Peres and extending his hand in the congenial manner.

“We only have to withdraw from the occupied territories, they promise us, and a wonderful peace will envelop us. Like the peace with Egypt. And look what happens suddenly after one innocent handshake.”



The Canadian government has come to the defense of Saudi Arabia, telling The Jerusalem Post that the desert kingdom’s policy of barring entry to Canadian citizens whose passports bear an Israeli visa or border stamp is “accepted practice.”

According to the website of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, “Canadians have been denied entry into Saudi Arabia because their passports bore: a) an Israeli visa; b) an Israeli border stamp; or c) an Egyptian or Jordanian border stamp issued by an office bordering Israel (such a stamp would indicate the traveler entered from Israel).”

Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Lisa Monette defended the practice in an interview with Michael Freund of The Jerusalem Post, saying that “it is the sole prerogative of each country or region to determine who is allowed to enter.”

A leading Canadian Jewish organization, B’nai B’rith Canada, expressed outrage over Saudi policy and said they would raise the matter with Canadian government officials.

“We will ask the government to make every effort to ensure that Canadian citizens are not discriminated against by the human-rights abusing regime of Saudi Arabia,” they said. “The issue goes well beyond Canadian passports and is a matter for all democracies in the world to deal with.”



In the latest example of historical revisionism and untruths broadcast on official Palestinian Authority TV, Palestinian viewers were told that the UN Partition Plan of 1947, which recommended the division of British Mandate Palestine into two states (one Jewish, one Arab) in fact only offered the Jews a state.

This falsity was presented by Deputy Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ahmad Subh.

PATV is controlled by the ruling “moderate” Fatah party, which receives large sums of money from Western countries.



In advance of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Convention on the Elimination and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide, NGO Monitor and Israel’s Bar Ilan University commissioned a poll on Israeli attitudes towards human rights and NGOs. Israelis overwhelmingly said they support human rights, but expressed skepticism about NGOs and their objectivity in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

89% said that human rights are important, but only 19% of respondents thought that NGOs claiming to promote these values are equally concerned with Israelis and Palestinians. Two-thirds of those questioned said that critical NGO reports hurt Israel’s image internationally.



I attach an article below by Amr Bargisi, a Cairo-based writer, criticizing his own country’s anti-Semitism.

“Jews are even blamed for carcinogenic pesticides,” he says. “[And] more distressing is that much of the pointing [at Jews] is being done by Egypt’s self-described liberals – the pro-democratic and anti-Islamist crowd on which the country’s hopes for a more tolerant future supposedly rest.”

For example, in October a headline of the Egyptian weekly Al-Youm As-Sabi was: “Jews are the principal suspect in the [world] financial crisis.”

And the editor in chief of the Al-Wafd daily wrote about the impending global recession: “The Jews played a filthy game.”

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt’s largest “liberal” newspaper ran a column titled “The Jewish Conspiracy” alleging “the Jews withdrew 400 billion dollars from Lehman Brothers a couple of weeks before it collapsed,” and this was tied to the September 11, attacks.

Amr Bargisi criticizes propagators of the “Israel lobby” lie John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, for downplaying Arab anti-Semitism.

Egypt continues to receive billion of dollars of U.S. taxpayers’ money. Most Egyptian media is state-controlled and government funded, in parts thanks to a budget boosted by the American taxpayer. Maybe President-elect Obama would like to have a word with President Mubarak about this, since President Bush has been a failure in regard to this matter.


The second and last article below, by Matthias Küntzel in The Wall Street Journal Europe, should be read in full. It is an expose of how Berlin’s Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, whose reports influence the work of the German federal government, is in effect helping to promote Islamic anti-Semites by coming to their aid.



[This item was published by Tom Gross on December 7, 2008 on NRO.]

Muslim beliefs continue to make steady inroads into British society, as they do in other European countries too.

The Daily Mail, one of Britain’s leading newspapers, reports that:

Muslim prayer rooms should be opened in every Roman Catholic school, church leaders have said. The Catholic bishops of England and Wales also want facilities in schools for Islamic pre-prayer washing rituals. The demands go way beyond legal requirements on catering for religious minorities.

But the bishops – who acknowledge 30 per cent of pupils at their schools hold a non-Christian faith – want to answer critics who say religious schools sow division. The recommendations were made in a document, “Catholic Schools, Children of Other Faiths and Community Cohesion.”

“Existing toilet facilities might be adapted to accommodate individual ritual cleansing which is sometimes part of religious lifestyle and worship” the bishops said... The Islamic cleansing ritual, called “Wudhu,” is carried out by Muslims before they pray... Wudhu involves washing the face, hands, arms and feet three times each, gargling the mouth three times and washing the neck and inside the nose and ears. Some Muslims also wash their private parts.

Catholic schools would need to install bidets, foot spas and hoses to facilitate such extensive cleansing rituals, Muslims say.

Britain has 2,300 Catholic primary and secondary schools.



[This item was first published by TG on December 7, 2008 on NRO.]

What is going on in England?

Cultural suicide?

The (London) Sunday Telegraph reports today that words associated with Christianity, the monarchy and British history have been dropped from a leading dictionary for children.

The country’s foremost publisher of dictionaries, Oxford University Press, has removed words like “abbey” (as in Westminster), “aisle,” “bishop,” “chapel,” “empire” and “monarch” from its 10,000 word Oxford Junior Dictionary and replaced them with words like “blog,” “broadband,” “voicemail,” “MP3 player” and “celebrity”.

The publisher claims the changes have been made to reflect the fact that Britain is a “multicultural, multifaith society.”

Among the words taken out:
* Abbey, aisle, altar, bishop, chapel, disciple, minister, monastery, monk, nun, nunnery, parish, pew, psalm, pulpit, saint, sin, devil, vicar
* Carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe
* Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade

Among the words put in:
* Blog, broadband, MP3 player, voicemail, attachment, database, export, chatroom
* Celebrity, negotiate, interdependent, citizenship, committee, endangered, EU, Euro, and (best of all for children) biodegradable

-- Tom Gross



Egypt’s Jew haters deserve ostracism in the West
More proof the prejudice has nothing to do with Israel
By Amr Bargisi
The Wall Street Journal
Dec. 1, 2008

Cairo, Egypt – “But we are Semites ourselves!” That is what an urbane Egyptian journalist will likely reply to the charge that the Egyptian media is rife with anti-Semitism. But there are few places where Jews are blamed for so many of the world’s ills, from carcinogenic pesticides to the war in Iraq. More distressing is that much of the pointing is being done by Egypt’s self-described liberals – the pro-democratic and anti-Islamist crowd on which the country’s hopes for a more tolerant future supposedly rest.

The most recent episode began on Oct. 2, when the Anti-Defamation League issued a press release reporting “Surge in Anti-Semitic Messages on Online Finance Sites.” An Egyptian journalist read about it in the Israeli daily “Ma’ariv,” and here is how the new, “liberal” Egyptian weekly Al-Youm As-Sabi headlined its report the next day: “Jews are the principal suspect in the financial crisis.” The article ran alongside a photo of stock market readouts, captioned “why are cries against Jews growing louder in the U.S.?” This was not the only instance in which Egypt’s “liberal” intelligentsia found ways to blame Jews for the financial crisis.

On Oct. 11, Abbas at-Tarabili, the editor in chief of the Al-Wafd daily – the house organ of Egypt’s leading “liberal” political party of the same name – wrote a column purporting to show that Jews were merely manipulating the stock market as they had the price of gold in the late 1970s. “The Jews played a filthy game,” he wrote. “It is true that the Western countries – the United States on top – have a lot to lose, but all pours into the pockets of Jewish businessmen who control the stock markets of the world.”

Two weeks later, Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt’s largest independent newspaper and widely regarded as the country’s only serious tribune for liberalism, ran a column baldly titled “The Jewish Conspiracy.” The columnist, Khairi Ramadan, who also co-hosts one of the country’s most successful talk shows, asked his readers not to ignore what is being said on the Internet “about a Jewish conspiracy in the end of Bush’s term, in preparation for controlling the next president.” “The available information,” wrote Mr. Ramadan, shows that “the Jews withdrew 400 billion dollars from Lehman Brothers a couple of weeks before it collapsed,” adding that the collapse of the brokerage house was of a piece with the events of September 11, “when thousands of Jews did not go to the WTC.”

These examples are especially notable because they have nothing to do with Israel or Zionism. They expose the falsehood – popular with prominent scholars like John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of last year’s best-selling book “The Israel Lobby” – that hatred of Jews is not one of the great motivating factors in the Arab world’s overall objections to Israel. But these examples also raise a serious question about what passes for liberalism in the Arab world. Why bother listening to these voices on matters of economics – much less politics, democracy or human rights – if they also propagate hateful conspiracy theories?

There’s another question: Over the past eight years, the United States has invested huge resources in attempting to bring democracy to the Middle East. But it’s not clear whether that project will succeed as long as America’s natural allies in the region remain themselves so profoundly irrational and illiberal.

What can be done? Here’s a modest suggestion. The Egyptian state and the country’s newspapers go out of their way to make a leper of any author who expresses even remote sympathy with Israel. Perhaps Western institutions could adopt a similar practice, refusing to invite to their various functions any editors who allow their pages to become Jew-hatred platforms. The cold shoulder alone might get these lunch-eaters to change their tune.



“Islamophobia” or “Truthophobia”?
Berlin’s anti-Semitism center is going astray
By Matthias Küntzel
Wall Street Journal Europe
December 8, 2008

(Translated from German by Belinda Cooper)

At a time when Jew haters in the Islamic world have become more assertive than ever, Berlin’s Center for Research on Anti-Semitism is concentrating on a different group: the “new enemies of Islam.”

Who exactly belongs to this category is not clear from the center’s latest publication, the “Yearbook for Research on Anti-Semitism.” But the potential danger is supposedly known: “The fury of the new enemies of Islam is similar to the older rage of anti-Semites against the Jews,” writes Prof. Wolfgang Benz, the institute’s director. The center will present its new findings today at a conference in Berlin titled “Concepts of the Muslim Enemy – Concepts of the Jewish Enemy.”

It is certainly necessary to oppose the demonization of Muslims and discrimination against them, which often have racist motivations. The Berlin center, whose research covers prejudices in general, is right to address this issue. The problem lies in the way it is being done.

The Berlin center adopts the neologism “Islamophobia” without any reservation. This term is misleading because it mixes two different phenomena – unjust hatred against Muslims and necessary criticism of political Islam – and condemns both equally.

By accepting this vocabulary, the Berlin center reinforces an unfortunate trend. In May 2005, the Council of Europe – at the urging of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – used the term for the first time, condemning “all forms of intolerance ... including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”

Yet this statement did not go far enough for the Muslim Council of Britain. “The fact is that Islamophobia has replaced anti-Semitism,” explained Abduljalil Sajid, an imam and leading member of the Muslim Council, a month later at a conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Cordoba, Spain. He described as Islamophobic such statements as “Long live Israel!” and “Muslim fundamentalism is dangerous.” Meanwhile, various documents by the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the United Nations have condemned Islamophobia as today’s most important and worst form of prejudice.

The Center for Research on Anti-Semitism does not go this far. It is, though, surprising how naturally this institution of all places puts anti-Muslim sentiments and anti-Semitism in the same category. While both forms of prejudice should be fought, the differences between the “concept of the Muslim enemy” and the “concept of the Jewish enemy” are evident.

First, while racism usually makes people “small” in order to enslave, exploit or expel them, anti-Semitism makes the Jews delusionally “big.” The most important characteristic of anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory that holds the Jews responsible for both capitalism and communism, for AIDS, revolutions and financial crises – in short, for every “inexplicable” catastrophe of modernity.

The concept of “redemptive anti-Semitism,” coined by Holocaust scholar Saul Friedländer, describes this phenomenon: If one assumes the Jews are responsible for all the world’s misery, only their extermination can “redeem” the world. This paradigm of Jew hatred does not apply to racism. Muslims are not accused of pulling the strings behind all revolutions and wars.

Second, while we must reject any general suspicion of Muslims, it is impossible to ignore the fact that reservations about Muslims are based on real mass murder committed by some Muslims in the name of Islam. Events such as 9/11 or the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh have no counterpart in Jewish tradition.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is often used to explain Muslim hatred of Jews. But Israel’s policies are not causing anti-Semitism. Rather, the way those policies are distorted and demonized in the Muslim world, and increasingly in Europe, is a new expression of this old hatred.

Third, one need not play down the extent of discrimination against Muslims in Europe to recognize that the effects of the “concept of the Muslim enemy” and the “concept of the Jewish enemy” are qualitatively different. No one wants to erase a Muslim country from the map the way some people threaten to do with the Jewish state. Islamic centers and houses of prayer need no permanent police protection in Europe, unlike Jewish sites. No satellite stations call for the extermination of Muslims, whereas Hizbullah and Hamas TV, for example, broadcast via Arab satellites into European living rooms, regularly call for the destruction of the Jews – even on children’s programs.

In taking up the fashionable vocabulary of Islamophobia and equating hostility to Muslims with hostility to Jews, the center also risks undermining the most important current task in dealing with anti-Semitism: studying and fighting hostility to Jews in the Islamic world, where anti-Semitism has reached an unprecedented level.

For example, one of the authors in the latest Yearbook, Jochen Müller, proposes a “revision of politics and history teaching” in German schools. Because the Holocaust has no “central meaning for migrants from the Arabic-Muslim world,” one should consider whether “the colonial period and its consequences” would not be a better subject for “appropriate ‘Holocaust education’” among Muslim students in Germany. This is a remarkable idea given the degree of Holocaust denial among many young Muslims.

Another article in the Yearbook, “Hostility to Islam on the World Wide Web,” goes even further. Instead of criticizing anti-Semitism among Muslims, the author criticizes those who accuse Muslims of anti-Semitism. That’s because such accusations provide “an apparently rationally based argument for rejecting an entire collective,” writes Yasemin Shooman, a staff member at the center. Here, attempts to fight “hostility to Islam” threaten to turn into tolerance of anti-Semitic attitudes.

While the Berlin center concentrates on world-wide “anti-Islamic resentments,” its Yearbook says not a word about the anti-Semitism of the Iranian mullahs. Thus, it hardly does justice to the demands for contemporary research on anti-Semitism. Never before has the elimination of the Jewish state been so loudly propagated. Never before has an influential power made Holocaust denial the center of its foreign policy, as Iran has today. Never before has a U.N. forum been misused for an anti-Semitic speech, as it was on Sept. 23 by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier criticized the speech as “blatantly anti-Semitic.”

The Center for Research on Anti-Semitism, whose reports influence the work of the Bundestag, the federal government and the international community, should be expected to make anti-Semitism in the Middle East a focus of its work.

It is right that the past obligates us to combat all racism. But the experience of the Holocaust contains a second lesson: It obligates us to combat the temptation of “truthophobia” – fear of the truth – and to take literally the proclamations of anti-Semites, however crazy they may sound.

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