Protests against appointment of UNESCO head who wants to burn Israeli books

June 02, 2009

* Israel to help build new Palestinian city near Ramallah
* Children’s hospital in Yemen named in honor of Palestinian suicide bomber; special guest at opening ceremony was a murderer of young Israeli girls
* Contrary to the anti-Israeli propaganda broadcast daily by the likes of the BBC, Mahmoud Abbas admits in an interview in The Washington Post: “In the West Bank we have a good reality … the people are living a normal life.”
* Israel is only country in the Middle East where the Christian population is increasing, yet the new issue of National Geographic magazine blames Israel for Christianity’s demise in the region



1. “Children’s health care,” Middle East style
2. Protests against appointment of anti-Semitic Egyptian as UNESCO head
3. Egypt rejects U.S. plan for Arab-Israeli normalization
4. Mubarak competes with Ramses II for time in office
5. National Geographic blames Israel for Christianity’s demise in the Middle East

6. Nasrallah: Iran will “gladly” supply Hizbullah with arms
7. Der Spiegel stands behind its report that Hizbullah killed Hariri
8. Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce inaugurated
9. Netanyahu sets up committee to improve Palestinian life
10. Six Palestinians killed in Hamas-PA clashes in West Bank

11. Sderot hit again; bombing thwarted
12. 13-year old Palestinian stabs Israeli soldier
13. Both Hamas and Fatah sentence additional Palestinians to death
14. Muslim radicals suspected of desecrating Christian cemeteries on West Bank
15. Hamas blocks women from leaving Gaza

16. Lieberman: Israel to open embassy in (Muslim) Turkmenistan
17. Hizbullah allows Beirut synagogue restoration
18. Women MPs make history in Kuwait
19. Madonna to appear in Israel’s largest and most expensive concert
20. Dry Bones cartoon: Iranian and Israeli strategic defenses

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


The Yemeni news site, reports that a library and conference hall named after Palestinian suicide bomber Wafa Idris have been inaugurated at a children’s hospital in the province of Ibb in southern Yemen. The inauguration ceremony was attended by Yemeni officials, and the guest of honor was Samir Kuntar, the Palestinian terrorist and child murderer whom Israel released last year in a highly controversial swap for the bodies of three Israelis killed by Hizbullah.

At the ceremony in Yemen, speakers extolled the “resistance” and the perpetrators of suicide bombings, and little girls read out texts and poems.

Kuntar murdered two Israeli girls aged 2 and 4 and their father in 1979 in the northern Israeli coastal town of Nahariya. Kuntar smashed one of the girl’s heads in with a rifle butt. (For more on Kuntar, see here.)

Wafa Idris was a Palestinian Arab paramedic who in 2002 entered Israel in a Red Crescent ambulance to carry out her suicide attack. (See the dispatch of Feb. 6, 2002). The Red Crescent is a part of the International Red Cross, an organization long accused of vicious anti-Israeli bias, and before that of collaborating with the Nazis both before and during the Holocaust, and also after it, when they helped several senior Nazis to escape to South America and elsewhere.



[This is a follow-up to my note of May 18, 2008: “Egypt’s culture minister, tipped to be the next head of UNESCO, says he would burn Israeli books himself.”]

More than a year after I first wrote on this website about concerns that Egyptian culture minister Farouk Hosni might become head of the United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the international media are finally reporting on this topic. For example, there was a front page reference in The International Herald Tribune last week.

Three leading Jewish figures have also now urged the international community to prevent Hosni from being appointed. French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel, and French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann pleaded in an open letter to Le Monde last week that the position should not be awarded to Hosni, who has been Egypt’s culture minister for the past 22 years.


In addition to calling for the burning of library books by Israeli authors, Hosni, 71, has accused Jews of “infiltrating” the international media. As culture minister, he has banned many Israeli films (including “peace films” made by left-wing Israelis) from international film festivals in Cairo and forbidden an Israeli bookstand at the international book fair there. He has also stated that Israeli Jews have never contributed to any field of humanity, and instead claim the achievements of others as their own.

However, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reached a deal with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak not to block Farouk Hosni’s appointment as UNESCO chief. The paper says that Netanyahu regards Egypt’s support on security issues as too important to challenge Mubarak on the UNESCO issue.

Israeli human rights organization Shurat ha Din (Israel Law Center) has said it will sue Netanyahu in Israel’s Supreme Court if he fails to challenge what they termed “this outrageous appointment”.

It remains to be seen why the UN’s education and cultural organization (which was founded in 1945 with the stated goal of promoting peace and security through international cooperation in the fields of education, science, and culture) would want to appoint Farouk Hosni as its head – unless of course the leading UN movers and shakers share his anti-Semitic views.



Egypt has rejected an American proposal for gradual normalization between the Arab world and Israel that would have allowed Israeli planes to fly freely through Arab air space.

The idea arose during discussions in Washington last week between Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and senior White House and State Department officials, including National Security Advisor James Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Ha’aretz notes that this implies that Egypt does not see the Arab peace initiative as requiring Arab states to normalize relations with Israel uniformly and simultaneously.



Meanwhile Israel has express anger after it was reported that the Obama administration said he was holding up the supply of 12 military helicopters to Israel whereas the U.S is delivering 12 of the same helicopters (the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter) to Egypt.

President Mubarak, 81, has now become the third-longest serving Egyptian ruler in the country’s recorded history. He has refused to appoint a vice president. He is thought to be grooming his son Gamal (46) to inherit the “throne.” Over 60% of Egypt’s population was born during Mubarak’s tenure and have not known any other ruler.



The prestigious magazine National Geographic is being criticized by Jewish and Christian groups for blaming Israel for the decline in Christian populations in the Middle East. The article, written by the magazine’s senior editor for foreign affairs Don Belt, appears in the new June 2009 issue.

The magazine is being accused of whitewashing the central role Islam has played in causing Christianity’s decline in the region, and downplaying the mistreatment, harassment and even murder of Christians by Muslims, for example, in the Lebanese civil war, in Iraq in recent years, and in Gaza and the Palestinian-ruled parts of the West Bank today (many examples of which I have outlined in the past on this website).

Arab Christianity has in fact been on the decline ever since the process of forced conversion of Middle Eastern Christians began soon after the death of Mohammed in the year 632.

The one country in the Middle East where the Christian population is still increasing is Israel. Israel’s Christian population grew from 120,600 in 1995 to 151,600 in 2007, a growth rate of 25 percent. In fact, the Christian growth rate has outpaced the Jewish growth in Israel in the last 12 years. But National Geographic neglects to tell its readers any of this.



In a rally on Friday leading up to Lebanese elections on June 7, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah announced that Iran would “gladly” supply Lebanon with increased weapons, including an advanced air-defense system, should Hizbullah (which means “Party of God” in Arabic) win the elections. “The Islamic Republic of Iran, and in particular [supreme leader] Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei, will not hold back on anything,” Nasrallah said.

Nasrallah’s speech was made to a crowd of tens of thousands. It was transmitted from his hiding-place via video link to supporters rallying in southern Beirut and was also broadcast live on local television. Nasrallah has not been seen in public (except by video link) for months.

Hizbullah may well solidify its power base and perhaps establish the next ruling coalition following Lebanon’s parliamentary elections. If it wins, Israeli officials believe the Iranian-backed Shi’ite group will install “acceptable faces” in the next cabinet. However, Israel is concerned that Hizbullah will appoint a defense minister affiliated with the group who will call for the participation of the Lebanese army in a future conflict with Israel. This scenario would be in contrast to the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when the Lebanese army stayed out of the war.



Hizbullah chief Nasrallah has denied a report published in the leading German weekly Der Spiegel that the radical Shi’ite group was directly involved in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese President Rafik Hariri. Instead he claimed that Zionists had “infiltrated” Der Spiegel.

Der Spiegel’s diplomatic correspondent Erich Follath, who wrote the story, called Nasrallah’s comments nonsense.

In an interview with the London-based Arabic-language Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Follath said that he examined “countless authenticated documents” while researching the story, and that he “verified every single word before it went to print.”

The magazine said that the United Nations Special Tribunal (which comprises 11 judges including four Lebanese ones) has overwhelming proof that Hizbullah was behind the assassination of Hariri. The UN may be suppressing the information, not wishing to clash with what could soon be a Hizbullah-dominated government in Beirut.

Follath added that he was “far from being a Zionist” and had “criticized Israel numerous times in regards to human rights issues in the occupied territories.”

You can read an English translation of Der Spiegel’s original article on the magazine’s website here.



The Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday that Iran and Hizbullah were behind a plot to attack the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan. The newspaper said Azeri police and security services intercepted a fleeing car and captured two suspected Hizbullah militants from Lebanon. The vehicle contained explosives, binoculars, cameras, firearms and reconnaissance photos.

The Azerbaijani investigation concluded that the suspects intended to detonate four car bombs around the embassy simultaneously. Officials said the group had hundreds of pounds of explosives, allegedly supplied by Iranian spies. The Israeli embassy is located in the Hyatt Tower complex, which also houses the Thai and Japanese embassies.

Azerbaijan is a moderate Muslim nation of 8 million people, and has close ties to Israel. Roughly one-third of Iranians are of Azeri ethnicity and Iran is accused of occupying the whole of southern Azerbaijan.



The Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been inaugurated with an event at the Dan Hotel in Tel Aviv. Among those attending were Israeli President Shimon Peres, Middle East Envoy Tony Blair and his wife Cherie, and various Israeli and Palestinian businessmen. Israel’s deputy foreign minister, from Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party, gave a speech saying his party would help aid the chamber of commerce, and hoping for better economic ties between Israelis and Palestinians.


Contrary to the anti-Israeli propaganda broadcast daily by the likes of the BBC and CNN, life in West Bank isn’t so bad now that Israeli security forces have restored order.

Mahmoud Abbas admitted as much in an interview in The Washington Post on Sunday. He said:

“I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements. Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality … the people are living a normal life.”


And The New York Times finally admitted in a news report last week that life in Gaza is better than “nearly all of Africa and most of Asia,” that there is no malnutrition, and that infant mortality rates are as bad or worse in Egypt and Jordan.



On May 27 May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a “Ministerial Committee on Improving the Situation of the Palestinian Residents of Judea and Samaria”. Netanyahu said that further “advancing economic projects for the Palestinian population would improve the Palestinians’ quality of life and personal welfare” and would be good for both Palestinians and Israelis.

Netanyahu said the committee would inaugurate a series of projects in the Palestinian Authority-run areas in the near future, and that the Israeli government would assist in the implementation of these investments.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak presented economic projects to the committee, including:
* The establishment of an industrial zone in the Mukibleh-Jenin area of northern Samaria
* The establishment of an industrial zone for the processing and marketing of agricultural produce in Jericho
* The establishment of an industrial zone in the Hebron-Tarkumiyeh area; the establishment of an industrial zone in Bethlehem
* Environmental protection projects (waste disposal and sewage treatment sites)
* And the establishment of a new Palestinian city near Ramallah

He noted that approximately 100 projects in the PA areas of Judea and Samaria are currently in various stages of planning.



Six Palestinians were killed on Sunday morning in clashes between Palestinian Authority security services and Hamas gunmen in the northern West Bank city of Qalqilya, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.

Three Palestinian Authority security officers and two Hamas members were killed, in addition to the owner of the building that the Hamas men had seized control of.

The clashes erupted late on Saturday night as a group from Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades opened fire at PA security services in Qalqilya before they took control of a building in the city.

Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV declared the Hamas men “martyrs” and no doubt Western news agencies will add them to a Palestinian death toll and then suggest to readers that they were killed by Israel (which is what news agencies do routinely when Palestinians killed fellow Palestinians).



A rocket fired from Gaza smashed into a family home in the southern Israeli town of Sderot last week, causing extensive damage but no injuries. It was the first for some weeks. This followed a period in the first months of 2009 when 685 rockets and mortars hit southern Israel.

Despite the ongoing rocket fire, Israel continues to transfer humanitarian aid on an almost daily basis into Gaza. For example, on May 21, the day after the attack, Israel transferred 106 trucks carrying food and other supplies, 460,000 liters of fuel and 350 tons natural gas into Gaza.


On May 22, 2009, an attempt by terrorists from Gaza to plant a bomb north of Kerem Shalom crossing was thwarted by the Israeli army. The terrorists were armed with explosive devices, AK-47 rifles, hand grenades and military vests.



An Israeli soldier was stabbed this morning by a 13-year-old Palestinian boy at the Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus. The stabbing took place in the “humanitarian lane,” which is meant to be used by Palestinians in need of immediate medical attention and bypasses the inspection in the regular lane.



The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported last week that a military court in Gaza has sentenced another three Palestinians to death by firing squad. They were named as Shadi Khader Deeb, 30, from Beit Lahi, a member of Fatah, detained for political activities; Shadi Abdul Karim al-Madhoun, from Beit Lahia; and Ra’ed Sabri al-Maqqoussi, 29, from Jabalya refugee camp.

The Hamas military prosecutor charged the three defendants with the killing of two journalists, Mohammed Matar Abdu and Suleiman Abdul Rahim al-Ashi, on May 13, 2009, near Sheikh Zayed mosque in the west of Gaza City.


In the West Bank, the Fatah-controlled “moderate” Palestinian Authority also last week sentenced to death a Palestinian (Anwar Brigith, 59, from the village of Bet Umar, north of Hebron), for the “crime” of selling land to Jews.

The U.S. State Department and the White House, both eager to portray the PA as a worthy peace-partner and deserving of statehood, has yet to call upon Abbas to pardon Brigith or commute the sentence.



In another press release, the PCHR also strongly condemned the desecration of two cemeteries, one attached to the Orthodox and the other to the Latin (Catholic) church in Jafna, a village north of Ramallah on the West Bank, which occurred in the early hours of last Sunday.

In the Orthodox Church in Jafna, at least 70 graves, as well as some Christian symbols, were desecrated. Local Christians blamed Muslim radicals for the attack. Jafna’s population of 1,600 includes about 900 Christians.



The Hamas authorities refused to let 85 women leave Gaza on Wednesday May 20. They were turned back at gunpoint. They were scheduled to participate in “activities for the advancement of women” taking place in Ramallah in the West Bank.

Women are increasingly being forced to cover up in Gaza, and men to grow beards. Last month, a senior education official said that from this fall all girls in school over the age of 13 had to wear the jilbab, an encompassing coat-dress that includes hair covering.



Israel will open an embassy in Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, for the first time. Turkmenistan is a mainly Muslim Central Asian nation bordering Iran.

The decision was announced following a meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Turkmen counterpart Rashid Meredov. The two countries first established ties in the early 1990s, and enjoy a good bilateral relationship. Among other things, Israeli experts have been training Turkmen in the fields of agriculture and public health.



Beirut’s historic Magen Avraham synagogue has received permission to be rebuilt. Almost all of Lebanon’s synagogues have been destroyed by local militia in recent decades and most Jews have been killed or fled the country. With only a few Jews left in Lebanon, it is likely to be more of a museum than a working synagogue.

The ruined synagogue is due to be renovated in the coming weeks, after an agreement between various religious denominations and permission from the Lebanese government planning authorities, and an assurance from Hizbullah that they won’t destroy it. Diaspora Jews will fund the project, along with a $150,000 grant from a company privately owned by the family of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister assassinated in 2005.

“The project received the green light after political officials and community leaders became convinced it could show that Lebanon is an open country, tolerant of minorities and even Jews,” said one official. Lebanon’s Jewish community is one of the country’s 17 officially recognized faiths.

Yitzhak Levanon, an elderly Herzliya-based writer and translator who studied at the American University in Beirut decades ago, told Ha’aretz: “The story of the Jews in Lebanon is over. It cannot be returned.”



Kuwaitis have voted in their first women MPs. Two women – both U.S.-educated PhDs – were elected to parliament in the oil-rich Gulf state’s second election in less than a year.

The new MPs are Aseel al-Awadhi, professor of political philosophy at Kuwait University, who has a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin, and Rula Dashti, chairwoman of the Kuwait Economic Society and a leading campaigner for Kuwaiti women’s political rights, who has a doctorate in economics from Johns Hopkins University.

“It’s a victory for Kuwaiti women and a victory for Kuwaiti democracy,” Awadhi said. “This is a major leap forward.”



Madonna has chosen Tel Aviv as the last stop on her “Sticky & Sweet” world tour which began last summer. The show will take place on September 1. In a statement she said Israel was special to her and she was “delighted” to be concluding her tour there.

The show will take place on a specially-built stage and will include advanced visual technology and a 17-member dance group. The equipment required will be brought to Israel in five airplanes.



The cartoonist Yaakov Kirschen, aka “Dry Bones,” whose work I have long admired, has parted company with The Jerusalem Post after decades with the paper. With the permission of Yaakov Kirschen, who is a subscriber to this email list, some “Dry Bones” cartoons will now be carried on my website (as well as on his own).

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