Obama’s approval rating in Israel falls to new low (& No male teachers allowed)

September 01, 2009

* While the Swedish government refuses to properly condemn the blood libel in the country’s bestselling paper, Italy’s foreign minister today criticized Sweden, saying that the allegations were “terrible, lying and hurtful, and have the power to assist all those who seek to incite against Jews or who oppose the existence of the State of Israel.” (Sweden currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union)

* Hamas accuses UN of plan to teach Gaza kids Holocaust “lies”

* Guardian comment writer: “The most inaccurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state”

* Only 4 percent of Israelis feel Obama is pro-Israel. Much of the world might not understand why Israelis are so disappointed and frustrated with Obama, since the world media so often shamelessly misreports what is happening in Israel and the Palestinian territories and thus fails to convey the realities on the ground

* Obama had promised his foreign policy would constitute “smart power” but how smart is it for him to have alienated most of the Israeli population, including much of the Israeli left, ahead of peace negotiations?

* Madonna tours Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem

[This dispatch was posted and sent on Aug. 31 but appears on the website dated Sept. 1 due to a technical error.]



1. Only 4% of Israelis say Obama pro-Israel
2. Hamas accuses UN of plan to teach Gaza kids Holocaust “lies”
3. Swedish murder allegations row continues
4. Guardian writer: “The most inaccurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state”
5. A note on Neve Gordon

6. Sky News reporter: Unless the Israelis are responsible, people don’t care
7. Israeli TV broadcasts footage of Hamas men executing Palestinians
8. Silence, what a surprise
9. Interviews with Palestinian victims of Hamas
10. No male teachers allowed

11. Desmond Tutu causes outrage with latest Holocaust comment
12. Mary Robinson has yet to apologize
13. Kassam rockets hit Israel
14. Israel holds seminar for Israeli and Palestinian businesswomen
15. Madonna tours Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


The number of Jewish Israelis who believe U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policies are helpful to Israel has fallen to only 4 percent, according to a new poll by Smith Research Institute, one of Israel’s leading pollsters.

Fifty-one percent of Jewish Israelis consider Obama’s administration to be pro-Palestinian, 35 percent consider it balanced, and 10 percent declined to express an opinion.

After a previous poll in June that showed only 6 percent of Israelis thought Obama sympathetic to Israel, the White House and the State Department toned down some of their almost daily criticism of Israel in an effort to keep the disagreement between America and Israel from spiraling out of control.

But even many left-wing Israelis rallied behind the government of Benjamin Netanyahu in his confrontation with Obama, after the State Department summoned the Israeli ambassador to Washington in July and told him two families of Jews could not live in a private home, long-owned by Jews, in the heart of Jerusalem, and that the Jerusalem municipal authorities should not have evicted two Palestinian families who had been squatting in the property and had not paid the Jewish owner any rent since 1985.

Obama and Hillary Clinton’s approach toward Israel has been particularly inept and lacking in understanding of both the historical centrality of Jerusalem to Jews and the security concerns Israel has in the wake of extremely belligerent stands taken by both Fatah and Hamas. This clumsiness makes it much harder for Israelis to trust Obama.

The new polls contrast sharply with Israelis’ views of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. 88 percent of Israelis said the Bush administration understood Israeli concerns.

Several senior Democratic senators have also criticized Obama’s mishandling of Israel.

Even the editorial board of The Washington Post, a liberal leaning paper which is strongly in favor of the creation of a Palestinian state, has been taken aback by some of the hostile positions and pronouncements and hectoring of Israel by American officials.

As I pointed out in a previous dispatch, a lead editorial in The Washington Post observed: “One of the more striking results of the Obama administration’s first six months is that only one country has worse relations with the United States than it did in January: Israel. The new administration has pushed a reset button with Russia and sent new ambassadors to Syria and Venezuela; it has offered olive branches to Cuba and Burma. But for nearly three months it has been locked in a public confrontation with Israel… The tensions persist, and public opinion is following: The Pew Global Attitudes Project reported last week that Israel was the only country surveyed where the public’s image of the United States was getting worse rather than better… If he is to be effective in brokering a peace deal, Mr. Obama must be tough on more than one country, or one party to the conflict.”


Tom Gross adds: I don’t think Obama is being deliberately hostile to Israel. He has, however, allowed himself to be advised on the Middle East by some very naïve people, including those associated with the far-left American Jewish lobby group J Street, who are completely out of touch even with the views of the Israeli left. J Street seem to be stuck in a 1990s mindset as if the Intifada, the radicalization of Fatah, and the use of Gaza as a launching pad for thousands of rocket attacks on Israel after Israel did what was asked of it and withdrew in its entirety (despite 3000 year old Jewish ties to Gaza), had never happened.

Much of the world might not understand why Israelis are so disappointed and frustrated with Obama, since the world media so often shamelessly misreports what is happening in Israel and the Palestinian territories and thus fails to convey the realities on the ground.

Obama had promised his foreign policy would constitute “smart power” but how smart is it for him to have alienated most of the Israeli population, including much of the Israeli left, ahead of peace negotiations?



Hamas condemned the United Nations yesterday over the international body’s apparent plan to teach Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip about the Holocaust.

Branding the Nazi genocide of the Jews “a lie invented by the Zionists,” the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip wrote an open letter to senior UN official John Ging warning him to withdraw plans for a new history book in UN schools. That book is said to contain references to the genocide of European Jews.

However, Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is responsible for the education of some 200,000 children in Gaza, said the Holocaust was not on its current curriculum. He would not comment on Hamas’ statement that it was about to change.

In the West Bank, which is run by the Western-backed Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, children are not taught about the Holocaust. Abbas himself cast doubt on the truth of the Nazi genocide in his doctoral thesis in the 1980s. In the book he published based on his PhD from Moscow’s Oriental College he writes of “the fantastic lie that six million Jews were killed” in the Holocaust.

(For more on Abbas’s Holocaust denial, see here.)



(This is a follow-up to the Aug. 19 dispatch Dutch journalist: Flu pandemics are a Jewish conspiracy (& Swedish media blood libel).)

The video below is from Russia’s English-language TV news channel. It shows Dr. Mordechai Kedar of Bar-Ilan University vigorously confronting Swedish journalist Donald Bostrom of Aftonbladet regarding his allegations that Israeli soldiers murdered Palestinians for their body parts.

The Swedish Prime Minister and its Foreign Minister Carl Bildt have refused to condemn the Aftonbladet’s fabrications, infuriating Israel, which says the article is an anti-Semitic blood libel of the worst kind. The Swedes won’t condemn the article even though the Palestinian family at the center of the organ-theft story now deny that they told journalists from Aftonbladet that organs had been taken.

Sweden currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

When asked by British journalists during his trip to London last week why Israel was “making such a fuss” over the issue, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “I disagree with those who underestimate the significance of these kind of articles. Israel has a historic responsibility to speak out firmly against such lies. Otherwise the lies trickle down to the public and spread malignantly. We have seen this in the past.”


In contrast to the utterly inadequate response of his Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt, Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini told Ha’aretz today that the allegations in Aftonbladet were: “terrible, lying and hurtful, and they have the power to assist all those who seek to incite against Jews or who oppose the existence of the State of Israel.”

The Swedish article “is a blatant act of anti-Semitism,” Frattini added.


Contrary to popular misconceptions, Sweden is one of the more racist countries in Europe. In an extensive survey in 2006, 41 percent of Swedes admitted to harboring anti-Semitic sentiments.

As journalist Sarah Honig points out, as late as 1961 a law forbade Jews from serving in Sweden’s government. The country’s World War II nonaligned status was essentially bogus as it abetted the Third Reich, affording Nazi manufacturers generous credit and allowing Wehrmacht reinforcements safe passage through Sweden into Norway.

The Swedish government has long financed NGOs that have demonized Israel and partly financed the 2001 book in which the original organ-snatching defamation appeared.



Amid the daily slurs on Israel in the influential British paper The Guardian, the paper printed a rare positive online article last week by former South African campaigner against apartheid Benjamin Pogrund. Pogrund, who is now resident in Israel, wrote:

“The most inaccurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. That’s the exact opposite of what [anti-Zionist Israeli professor] Neve Gordon* said in The Guardian last week. Level whatever criticisms you want against Israel – start with West Bank occupation and oppression of Palestinians, and go on to the domestic discrimination suffered by the Arab minority – but the simple fact is that none of it is the apartheid of the old South Africa. Abundant evidence of this is readily available, in The Guardian and elsewhere.

“Why then is the comparison so often made? One reason, in a different context, is in the words of American comedian Stephen Colbert: ‘Remember kids! In order to maintain an untenable position, you have to be actively ignorant.’

“The apartheid accusation is the way to destroy Israel. If Israel can be linked with apartheid then it can be denounced as illegitimate as was white-ruled South Africa and hence be wide open to international sanctions. Those who pursue this couldn’t care less about facts. They have an agenda and are unscrupulous about distortion, lying and exaggeration.”



* Tom Gross adds: Neve Gordon is a tenured professor at Israel’s Ben Gurion University and a visiting professor at the University of Michigan where he has been teaching courses on the “Arab-Israeli Conflict”. His outrageous writings about Israel have been carried on the website of the prominent neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel.

Last year, Alan Dershowitz wrote about him, “It is my opinion that Neve Gordon has gotten into bed with neo-Nazis, Holocaust justice deniers, and anti-Semites. He is a despicable example of a self-hating Jew and a self-hating Israeli.”

Gordon continues to lead an international campaign of vilification against Israel. The latest paper to print his slanders was The Los Angeles Times which two weeks ago gave him a prominent place on its op-ed page.

Students in Michigan who dared question his anti-Zionist diatribes report being forcibly shouted down in the most intimidating way by Prof. Gordon, who used classic Stalinist intimidation tactics on a campus where open discussion is supposed to be encouraged. The University of Michigan refused to come to the aid of several students, who were left in tears.

In an article Gordon published in the National Catholic Reporter he said Israel was a Fascist state.



Even though other journalists at the British-based international satellite broadcaster Sky News often produce some very unfair reports about Israel, Sky News foreign affairs editor Tim Marshall is an exception. Following on from points made recently in these dispatches, Marshall writes on his blog on the Sky website (August 26, 2009):

“Thirty Palestinians killed. Women and children caught in the crossfire. Missiles fired at a Mosque. Muslim prisoners ‘executed’ in cold blood. A massacre. Media restrictions.

A familiar tale? Indeed. International outrage and demonstrations in the streets of London? Nope.

And why might that be? Why it’s simple. The Palestinians were killed by Palestinians and, it would appear from the lack of reaction that in those circumstances their lives are cheap, but when they are killed by Israelis it is an outrage.

On August 15th Hamas militiamen attacked a Mosque in Rafah in the Gaza Strip… In the assault Hamas desecrated holy ground, firing rocket and after rocket at the Mosque, some hit surrounding houses. It would be reasonable to assume that at least one Holy Koran may have been damaged.

After they took the building they rounded up the survivors. Mobile phone footage shows what appears to be Hamas men ‘executing’ some of them.

It is not hard evidence, but local reporters say that is what happened, and the footage is certainly of the aftermath of the attack. Audio material has Hamas commanders ordering the killings.

I put ‘executed’ in quotation marks as in this context, i.e., the killing of someone, it is a legal term. But in the context of what Hamas did, perhaps it should be substituted for murdered.

And where is the outrage about these murders. The marches, the petitions, the calls for a boycott, the conspiracy theory of a war against Muslims, ad infinitum? I hear just the wind blowing across the freshly dug graves. Because unless the Israelis kill them, people don’t care.”



Israeli Channel 10 and Channel 2 TV last week broadcast video showing Hamas forces killing fellow Palestinians in Gaza on Aug. 15.

Black-clad Hamas gunmen are shown firing at anti-Hamas forces trapped in the courtyard of a mosque and then mowing them down. In two scenes, Hamas militiamen execute captives by gunshots at close range.

Channel 2 said it obtained the video, which was taken using a cellphone, from Hamas’s rival Fatah. International TV networks so eager to condemn Israel, have barely mentioned the August massacre by Hamas, let alone made a request to air the video.



Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have yet to publish reports about the bloody events, even though Palestinian women and children were among those killed by Hamas. 120 Palestinians were also injured, some severely.

Despite the disturbing eyewitness accounts, the UN Security Council did not meet to condemn the alleged massacre.

Sweden, which currently holds the presidency of the European Union, did not even bother to comment on it.

As leading Palestinian journalist (and longtime subscriber to this email list) Khaled Abu Toameh notes: “As far as the mainstream media in the U.S. and Europe is concerned, an Israeli soldier who, for example, confiscates a mobile phone from a Palestinian at a checkpoint is more important than a story on the death of 30 Palestinians and the wounding of more than 120 others.”



The footage below contains interviews with Palestinian victims of a previous round of Hamas killings and torture in Gaza, one of several that took place last year. The injured Palestinians are interviewed by Israeli TV in Israeli hospitals where they were treated. Not only did the international media generally not report on this, but some international news outlets actually added the dead Palestinians (killed by fellow Palestinians) to a “death count” they keep of Palestinians killed by Israelis.



As the new school year starts in Gaza, Hamas is requiring girls to wear a head covering and full length robes in order to attend class. Jeans have been banned. Girls who do not comply will be expelled from school, signs posted in Gaza say. Males are now forbidden from teaching girls.

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported that Christian girls studying at government schools in Gaza had also been included in the new wave of conservative dress requirements. Some said they were also forced to cover their hair, which represents another restriction on Gaza’s Christian minority (which human rights groups and the Western media apparently have nothing to say about).



Former South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, visiting Israel and the West Bank with former American president Jimmy Carter, has again insulted Israelis by misusing the Holocaust to make a political point. “The lesson that Israel must learn from the Holocaust is that it can never get security through fences, walls and guns,” he told Ha’aretz, referring to the security barrier which has saved thousands of Israeli lives.

Rewriting history and further insulting Jewish Holocaust survivors, Tutu added that the “true victims” of the Holocaust were the Palestinians.

Tutu also amazed South Africans and Israelis alike when he favorably compared Hamas, the organization that has mastered the art of suicide terrorism, to the anti-apartheid movement led by Nelson Mandela, the former South African president.

Unbelievably, Tutu also said the Israeli and Palestinian activists who demonstrate against the security fence and have on a number of occasions thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers guarding the fence, injuring a number of soldiers, “reminded me of Gandhi”.

Tutu also criticized Israel’s supposedly poor treatment of Ethiopian Jews. (While there is certainly room for improvement in the advancement of Ethiopians in Israeli society, there is probably less discrimination against them than against any comparable minority in Europe or elsewhere, about which Tutu has little to say.)



Tutu and Carter were accompanied by Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, another retired politician who makes a habit of issuing negative comments about Israel in order to keep herself in the media spotlight.

Despite pleas by several American Jewish organizations not to (because of her central role presiding over the infamous Durban conference which became an “international anti-Semitic hatefest”), President Obama awarded Mary Robinson the Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier this month.

There was international in addition to American criticism of the award. In a statement, the European Jewish Congress said the award “provided additional fodder for those who encouraged hate”.

Tom Carew, chair of the Ireland-Israel Friendship League, said that Obama’s honoring of Robinson gave credence to the “highly anti-Semitic” Durban conference. “Robinson, so critical herself, seems to think she’s beyond criticism,” he added.

While then Secretary of State Colin Powell walked out of the conference, saying he wasn’t prepared to legitimize anti-Semitism, Robinson shown no remorse for the calls to gas Jews and wipe out Israel made at the conference, and described Durban’s outcome as “remarkably good, including on the issues of the Middle East.”

Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos, a member of the U.S. delegation to the Durban conference, said afterwards: “It is clear that much of the responsibility for the debacle rests on the shoulders of Mary Robinson, the secretary-general of the conference.”

Robinson has yet to apologize.

In 2002, Robinson’s “UN High Commissioner for Human Rights” voted on a decision that condoned suicide bombings as a legitimate means to establish Palestinian statehood.



A Kassam rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel on Saturday morning, hours after a visiting Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu offered words of sympathy for Hamas. No one was injured.

The level of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel has been greatly reduced since Israel took strong action against Hamas at the beginning of the year. Earlier last week, a mortar shell fired by Hamas towards Israel landed within the Gaza Strip, damaging Palestinian property.

UPDATE: Four mortar shells were fired from Gaza into Israel’s western Negev on Sunday evening.

Also on Sunday, Egyptian security forces said that they had foiled an attempt to smuggle 700 kilograms of explosives into the Gaza Strip through a tunnel.



Israel has held another special seminar for Israeli and Palestinian businesswomen, titled “Women Making Business”. The Israeli government said it wished to encourage increased Israeli-Palestinian trade and also develop opportunities for women in both societies, and particularly in the West Bank.

Attending the event in Haifa, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party, welcomed the participants and said that Israelis and Palestinians can be partners not only in peace but also in economic development. Ayalon noted that Israel is investing in Palestinian infrastructure but also called on the Arab world to invest money in Palestinian economic development.

Since 2004, Israel has conducted 17 such seminars, with the participation of more than 500 Palestinian women.


Trade between Israel and the Palestinians is continuing to grow at a steady pace despite political and security tensions, and despite the global economic downturn. The Israeli Customs Administration announced last week that Israeli-Palestinian trade for 2009 will reach $5 billion. This brisk import-export trade goes both ways for Israelis and Palestinians.



Madonna has begun her visit to the Holy Land with a spiritual touch. She headed to Jerusalem’s Old City late last night where she toured an ancient Jewish tunnel near the Western Wall – the holiest site at which Jews can pray.

Madonna has chosen to perform the final two concerts of her world tour in Israel, a country she says she has great affection for. It will be her first performance in Israel since 1993, though she came on private visits to Israel in 2004 and 2007.

Madonna will also meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday.

(Above: Madonna and Jesus, her Brazilian boyfriend, at the wall.)

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