Life of Mohammed to be filmed (& BBC quiz winner thinks al-Qaeda is an Israeli organization)

November 15, 2009

[For readers being directed to this page from other websites, to read comments on the conspiratorial British TV documentary about an imaginary all-powerful Israel lobby dominating British politics, please see items 2, 3 and 4 below... And for a follow-up item on the program, please see here.]

* Winner of BBC quiz show thinks Israeli secret service is called “Al-Qaeda”
* Life of Mohammed to be filmed, but don’t expect to see him on screen
* Below: Pictorial portrayals of Mohammed: From Tintin to South Park to Salvador Dali
* Ha’aretz on American Jewish denigrator of Israel, New York Times contributor Henry Siegman: “He doesn’t merely think that Israelis are mistaken. He loathes them. In his reading, they are venal, deceitful, the source of the conflict.”



1. Winner of BBC quiz show thinks Israeli secret service is called “Al-Qaeda”
2. Delusions of Britain’s Channel 4 about Israel and British Jews
3. Britain has no effective pro-Israel lobby
4. Neo-Nazi websites promote Channel 4 program
5. The greatest story never told (in an honest way by Hollywood)
6. From the producer of The Lord of the Rings, with guidance from Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi
7. Pictorial portrayals of Mohammed: From Tintin to South Park to Salvador Dali
8. Sheikh al-Qaradawi, homosexuals, wife-beating and the former mayor of London
9. The Washington Post gets it right on the Mideast (unlike The New York Times)
10. Ha’aretz slams far-left American Jewish denigrator of Israel, Henry Siegman
11. Obama’s mishandling of Israelis (Editorial, Washington Post, Nov. 5, 2009)
12. “Why do Israelis dislike Barack Obama?” (Ha’aretz, Nov. 13, 2009)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


The item below was published on Wednesday on the websites of The National Review (America) and of The National Post (Canada).

Winner of BBC quiz show thinks Israeli secret service is called “Al-Qaeda”
By Tom Gross
November 11, 2009

My friend, the British political commentator Robin Shepherd, points out that the winner of the BBC’s leading general knowledge quiz show, “The Weakest Link,” yesterday answered the question “What is the name of Israel’s most prominent secret intelligence service” by saying “al-Qaeda”.

Even the notoriously detached presenter of the show, Anne Robinson, could not avoid smirking in disbelief at the answer. The contestant went on to win the show, which goes out daily before the BBC’s much watched 6 pm news (which itself is often inaccurate when it comes to reporting on Israel).

This would be a purely funny anecdote if it weren’t for the fact that there are so many anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists out there who really do believe the ridiculous and vicious notion that Israel was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. For the record, Israelis were, per capita, one of the greatest victims of the attacks on the Twin Towers, and the Jewish state of Israel is of course one of the prime targets of al-Qaeda-inspired Muslim fundamentalist violence.



Tomorrow evening, Channel 4’s Dispatches program will broadcast a one-hour documentary, called “Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby” hosted by Daily Mail journalist Peter Oborne, a well-known critic of Israel and America.

The preview of the program on the website of Channel 4 (a channel which is more highly revered among many in Britain’s intelligentsia than even the BBC, despite it having invited Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to deliver its annual Christmas message last December 25) reads:

“Dispatches investigates one of the most powerful and influential political lobbies in Britain, which is working in support of the interests of the State of Israel.

“Despite wielding great influence among the highest realms of British politics and media, little is known about the individuals and groups which collectively are known as the pro-Israel lobby.

“Political commentator Peter Oborne sets out to establish who they are, how they are funded, how they work and what influence they have, from the key groups to the wealthy individuals who help bankroll the lobbying.

“He investigates how accountable, transparent and open to scrutiny the lobby is, particularly in regard to its funding and financial support of MPs.

“The pro-Israel lobby aims to shape the debate about Britain’s relationship with Israel and future foreign policies relating to it.

“Oborne examines how the lobby operates from within parliament and the tactics it employs behind the scenes when engaging with print and broadcast media.”



Tom Gross comments:

If only.

Whereas there is a pro-Israel lobby with some influence in the U.S. (though not the kind of influence ascribed to it by anti-Semites), contrary to what Channel 4 and others think, there is no effective pro-Israel lobby in Britain.

The complete lack of any effective pro-Israel lobby in Britain (as opposed to well organized anti-Israel groups) goes a long way to explaining why some of the coverage of Israel in the British media is among the worst in the world, and sometimes rivals the Iranian and Egyptian media for its sheer nastiness.

It also explains why Britain failed to back Israel last week at the U.N. General Assembly vote on the Goldstone report into Israeli war crimes, while other democracies – including the U.S., Italy, Germany, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine, Macedonia and the Czech Republic – did vote with Israel.



Interestingly, the makers of the program contacted the Community Security Trust (CST) for interview. The CST has got nothing to do with lobbying for Israel. It coordinates security activities with the British police to protect Jewish schools, synagogues and other institutions from attack. Physical attacks on British Jews are running at near record post-war highs. Per capita, British Jews have in the last couple of years been attacked more than any other religious or ethnic minority in Britain.

The makers of Channel 4’s program, Hardcash Productions, wrote last week to the CST’s chairman (who is a subscriber to this email list) to inform him that they “will be looking at a number of groups and leading individuals who collectively make up the pro-Israel lobby including the Community Security Trust” and to ask him for an interview.

When one looks at the advance wording about the program that Channel 4 has placed on its website (“one of the most powerful and influential political lobbies… wielding great influence… little is known about the individuals and groups which collectively are known as the pro-Israel lobby… the tactics it employs behind the scenes…”) it is hard not to conclude that they have been influenced by the many virulent anti-Zionist conspiracy theories spread around the web.

Already the readers’ comments on the Channel 4 website contains many anti-Semitic notions about secretive all-powerful Jewish conspiracies “to undermine Britain and the human race”. “The agents of a foreign power embedded at all levels of our government and politics need flushing out,” writes one reader.

Predictably, the program is being promoted on the internet message board of the far-right British National Party and various neo-Nazi websites.

Perhaps Channel 4 has even subconsciously been influenced by this 1960s leaflet from Britain’s National Socialist Movement, showing the three main British political parties bowing down before “the Jew”, with his whip in the shape of a pound sign:



From The Times of London:

Life of Mohammed to be filmed, but don’t expect to see him on screen
By Ben Hoyle, Arts Correspondent

In Hollywood terms, it was the greatest story almost never told – until now.

With Middle Eastern money becoming an increasingly powerful cog in the global entertainment industry, it was perhaps inevitable that, sooner or later, someone would embark on a mega-budget epic about the life of the Prophet Mohammed.

That moment has arrived thanks to a wealthy Qatari media company which has put together a team featuring a crack Hollywood producer and a Muslim cleric who is banned from visiting Britain to bring the project to life.

Plans for the $150million English-language biopic were announced at the close of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival in Qatar on Sunday. The narrative will run from the years before the Prophet’s birth through to his death but there will be one conspicuous break from conventional biopic methods: in accordance with Islamic tradition the film will not represent the Prophet himself or direct members of his family.

A source close to the project said that Mel Gibson’s hugely successful (and gruesome) crucifixion film The Passion of the Christ had proved that there was a demand for religious-themed entertainment…



Tom Gross adds:

The film is scheduled to be produced by Barrie Osborne, a producer on The Lord of the Rings films and The Matrix. It is being financed by Al-Noor Holdings, a media company that has created a $200million film production fund to invest in Hollywood. Al-Noor Holdings has hired the cleric Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi as their lead theological consultant for the film.

Sheikh al-Qaradawi is one of the Sunni Islam’s most high-profile theologians thanks to his popular show on al-Jazeera TV. He is a highly controversial figure who was refused entry to Britain last year because of his views. He has condoned the Holocaust, supported the stoning of homosexuals, praised suicide bombers, and denounced Shia Muslims as heretics.

Shooting for the yet-untitled picture is scheduled to start in 2011.

A previous film on the life of Mohammed, called The Message, made in 1977 and starring Anthony Quinn, sparked riots in the U.S. in which two people died, even though it respected the tradition of not representing the Prophet himself. The film is currently being remade as The Messenger of Peace.

More recently, satirical cartoons of the Prophet published in Denmark in 2006 provoked violent protests leading to hundreds of deaths worldwide, from Nigeria to Bangladesh.

Last year the planned British publication of a novel about the Prophet Mohammed’s child bride was shelved after threats of violence.



The pictorial portrayal of Mohammed is not forbidden in the Koran, but only in relatively recent interpretations of Sharia law. Scroll down to the second section here for some examples of Muslims themselves portraying Mohammed. Such depictions were commonplace until the modern growth of Islamic fundamentalism. Here is one such example.

Mohammed advancing on Mecca, with the angels Gabriel, Michael, Israfil and Azrail (16th century Ottoman illustration):

(For more examples, please see here.)


There have also been many unfavorable or irreverent representations and pictures about Mohammed that failed to elicit the same kind of anger as the Danish cartoons, since Islamic fundamentalists didn’t choose to exploit them. Here are three examples:

Mohammed by Salvador Dali:

From a Tintin comic book in 1977:

This early Renaissance fresco in Bologna’s Church of San Petronio depicts Mohammed being tortured in Hell (and could obviously be offensive to some people):

(For more examples, please see here.)



I have written several times in the past about Sheikh al-Qaradawi, who will be the spiritual advisor on the above-mentioned film.

For example, this passage is from a dispatch in 2004:

Meanwhile, Sheikh al-Qaradawi once again explains why London’s leftist mayor Ken Livingstone keeps on praising him.

In Sheikh al-Qaradawi’s latest sermon in Arabic (translated by MEMRI), he says that beating is only “of benefit for some wives, not all.”

Mayor Livingstone, who was previously expelled from Tony Blair’s ruling Labour Party but has now been invited to rejoin, has in the past made clear that he’s against domestic violence – except it seems if practiced by Moslems.

After his wife-beating comments, Sheikh al-Qaradawi added: “The Zionist lobby organized a massive campaign against me. One of the main reasons for this campaign was that I object to the homosexuals”.

In fact it wasn’t Zionists who objected to Livingstone’s red carpet treatment of al-Qaradawi, but homosexuals, Hindus, Jews and Sikhs – all of whom al-Qaradawi has defamed and some of whom (gays and Jews) he has said should be put to death.



I attach two pieces below.

The first is an editorial by The Washington Post. As I have already mentioned earlier this year, The Washington Post (senior staff of which subscribe to this email list) has in recent months started to differ from the rest of America’s left-liberal media in blaming Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the inept diplomacy of the Obama administration for the impasse in the Middle East, rather than blaming Israel.

The editorial below, in my opinion, essentially gets it right, in sharp contrast to the utter nonsense often written about the Middle East peace process in the editorials of other papers, notably The New York Times.



In the second piece below, titled “Why do Israelis dislike Barack Obama?” Bradley Burston, a leading liberal columnist for the left-leaning Israeli paper Ha’aretz, criticizes far leftist American Jews like former American Jewish Congress national director Henry Siegman for their utter mis-analysis of the Middle East.

“There are many people, gifted with rare intelligence and tolerance for humankind, who, when addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, run off the rails. This week, it was the turn of Henry Siegman,” writes Burston in this weekend’s Ha’aretz, concerning Siegman’s latest piece which appeared November 1 in both The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune.

Burston adds: “From the tone of Henry Siegman’s arguments, he belongs to the school of thought which suggests that hating Israelis is a form of working for peace… Siegman doesn’t merely think that Israelis are mistaken. He loathes them. In his reading, they are venal, deceitful, the source of the conflict and the obstruction to its solution.”

The Ha’aretz columnist notes that “the Obama administration may have made more major mistakes in handling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, than it has made in any other primary policy sphere,” a point I have made in several previous dispatches on this list (although I would add that Obama’s approach to Iran, Afghanistan and various other foreign policy issues, has also been muddled and clumsy). (See also, Obama’s mistaken bow.)

(As I noted in this article I wrote for The National Review on The New York Times, Siegman’s past New York Times columns are proudly displayed on the website of the Palestine Liberation Organization.)

It is worth reading both the articles below in full if you have time.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]



The Mideast impasse
Is the Obama administration focused on the right ‘opportunity’ with Israelis and Palestinians?
The Washington Post (Editorial)
November 5, 2009

PALESTINIAN President Mahmoud Abbas has participated in peace negotiations with five Israeli governments that refused to halt Jewish settlement construction. Yet Mr. Abbas has rejected an appeal from the Obama administration to start talks with the center-right coalition of Binyamin Netanyahu, putting one of the administration’s primary foreign policy goals on indefinite hold. The reason: “America cannot get Israel to implement a settlement freeze,” a statement said.

Has Mr. Abbas suddenly realized that settlements are the key obstacle to a Palestinian state? Hardly: In private, senior Palestinian officials readily concede that the issue is secondary. Instead, the Palestinian pose is a product of the Obama administration’s missteps -- and also of the fact that the opportunity Mr. Obama said he perceived to broker a two-state settlement is not so visible to leaders in the region.

The administration set the stage last spring for this diplomatic impasse by demanding “a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth -- any kind of settlement activity,” as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton put it. No Israeli government has agreed to such terms, and the administration’s public insistence on them only served to boost Mr. Netanyahu’s approval rating with Israelis, while Mr. Obama’s plummeted to the single digits. The administration now wants to set the issue aside and move on with the talks; officials say a settlement freeze was never a precondition. But Ms. Clinton is having trouble clambering out of the hole she helped to dig: Last weekend she praised as “unprecedented” an Israeli proposal for limiting settlement growth; this week, after Arab protests, she backpedaled.

Mr. Abbas has a similar predicament. Having adopted the original U.S. demand as his own, he cannot easily drop it. Arab leaders could provide Mr. Abbas political cover, but neither they nor he seems to share Mr. Obama’s notion that the time is ripe for a deal. Apart from the settlement issue, the Israelis and Palestinians are far apart in their proposals for what negotiations would cover and how quickly they would progress. Israelis note that Mr. Abbas already rejected a far-reaching peace offer by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. Palestinians rightly suspect that Mr. Netanyahu would be less compromising than Mr. Olmert.

The Obama administration’s working assumption has been that energetic diplomacy by the United States could induce both sides to move quickly toward peace. In fact, progress in the Middle East has always begun with initiatives by Israelis or Arabs themselves. At the moment, the most promising idea comes from Mr. Abbas’s prime minister, Salam Fayyad, who has vowed to build the institutions of a Palestinian state within the next two years, with or without peace talks. Negotiations between the current Israeli and Palestinian leaders could provide indirect support for that initiative, even if there is little progress. But the administration would do well to refocus its efforts on supporting Mr. Fayyad.



Why do Israelis dislike Barack Obama?
By Bradley Burston
November 13, 2009

There are many people, gifted with rare intelligence and tolerance for humankind, who, when addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, run off the rails.

This week, it was the turn of former American Jewish Congress national director Henry Siegman. Noting opinion polls showing that a bare six to eight percent of the Israeli public supports Barack Obama, Siegman concludes that the dislike for Obama is a reflection not of the president’s policies, but of something essential - and fundamentally defective - in the Israeli people itself:

“The Israeli reaction to serious peacemaking efforts is nothing less than pathological,” Siegman writes, calling it “the consequence of an inability to adjust to the Jewish people’s reentry into history with a state of their own following 2,000 years of powerlessness and victimhood.”

He concedes that polls show that a clear majority of Israelis favor a two-state solution, and thus, Palestinian statehood. But he argues that, while they insist that they much prefer peace, if put to the test, Israelis will prove to be liars, and opt for occupation. “Israel’s public never tires of proclaiming to pollsters its aspiration for peace and its support of a two-state solution.” Nonetheless, “the reason for this unprecedented Israeli hostility toward an American president is a fear that President Obama is serious about ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.”

Siegman’s thesis makes no room for the possibility that the administration may have made more major mistakes in handling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, than it has made in any other primary policy sphere.

There is no allowance for the sense that when Barack Obama made an early priority of his presidency a high profile visit to Cairo, its centerpiece an extended address to the Muslim world, a subsequent personal appeal to Israelis might have helped him advance his peacemaking goals.

There is no consideration of the possibility that the administration failed in doing requisite preparation with Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak prior to dropping on Israel the bomb of a blanket settlement freeze demand - which might have been well-received by the Israeli public, had it been accompanied by gestures on the Palestinian or wider Arab side. As it was, rumors of normalization moves were humiliatingly waved away by Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal, who wrote that a settlement freeze, even if agreed to by Israel, fell far, far short of his key nation’s minimum preconditions for any steps toward relations with Israel.

Demanding not a freeze but total removal of all existing settlements as a mere initial precondition, the prince states that any gestures will have to wait until the return to Arab hands of the West Bank, the Golan, and Shabaa Farms in Lebanon. “For Saudis to take steps toward diplomatic normalization before this land is returned to its rightful owners would undermine international law and turn a blind eye to immorality.”

But what should any of that matter to Henry Siegman? From the tone of his arguments, he belongs to the school of thought which suggests that hating Israelis is a form of working for peace.

So willing is Siegman to disavow any legitimate feelings on the part of Israelis, that he suggests that that their worst fears - of Iran, of rocket attacks, of world isolation and abandonment - not only are baseless, but are also a source of consolation:

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s message that the whole world is against Israel and that Israelis are at risk of another Holocaust - a fear he invoked repeatedly during his address in September at the United Nations General Assembly in order to discredit Judge Richard Goldstone’s Gaza fact-finding report is unfortunately still a more comforting message for too many Israelis.”

Siegman doesn’t merely think that Israelis are mistaken. He loathes them. In his reading, they are venal, deceitful, the source of the conflict and the obstruction to its solution. In Siegman’s reading “the conflict continues because U.S. presidents ... have accommodated a pathology that can only be cured by its defiance.”

It may be argued that Israel has much more to fear from people who think like Henry Siegman, than from Richard Goldstone. A close reading of the Goldstone report, and an open hearing of his views, as in this interview with Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun, shows that Justice Goldstone cares a great deal about Israelis and the direction in which their country is headed.

Meanwhile, given Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s opaque, work-in-progress assessment of current Israeli policy as an unprecedented restriction on settlement, but far short of what the administration would like, it should surprise no one in Washington if the White House has now managed simultaneously to alienate Israel’s left, right, and center.

For Israel’s sake, for the Palestinians’ sake, and for the good of his presidency, the administration must radically reassess its approach to the Mideast conflict.

The fears of Israelis are real. The grievances of the Palestinians are just. If both peoples have one trait in common, it is that they cannot be bludgeoned, bribed, or sweet-talked into supporting a policy which favors only side.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are nothing if not good students. It is time to go back and hit the books. If they can broker a package deal which addresses the most critical needs of the Palestinians (including fostering Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, furthering PA security and solcial welfare responsibilities, easing the Gaza siege, and curbing settlement) as well as providing something Israelis can reasonably view as an advance over their current situation (such as making good on hopes for Muslim-world normalization measures), they have a chance of success.

If not, it is time to leave the people here who hate one another to themselves. And to Henry Siegman. In a place where dignity is everything, there is a certain honor to be gained in recognizing that you tried your best, but that peace will have to wait for a time when Israelis are less preoccupied with hating one another other, and Palestinians, the same.

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