Israeli gold winners left to sing their own anthem (& British diplomat “outs” Jews)

November 27, 2009

* The defiant young Israelis, gold medal winner Dana Strelnikov, aged 14, and Alona Kamarov, who won the bronze, found themselves standing on the podium in silence, but then decided to sing the Israeli anthem on their own after the Austrians refused to play it

* Young American girl and others assaulted during “Kick-a-Jew-day” at Florida school
* “Iranian government funded anti-Israelis at Columbia and Rutgers universities”
* Brazilians wave Israeli and gay pride flags as Ahmadinejad visits



1. Austrian sport authorities refuse to play Israeli anthem after Israel wins gold
2. Former senior British diplomat: including Jews “isn’t balanced”
3. British diplomat who said “Jews should be wiped off face of the earth” escapes with a fine
4. Travel articles compare Tel Aviv to Miami and New York
5. Near record tourism in the Palestinian Authority in the 3rd quarter of 2009
6. Brazilians wave Israeli and gay pride flags as Ahmadinejad visits
7. “Iranian regime charity funded anti-Israelis at Columbia and Rutgers universities”
8. British airline apologizes for fashion photo shoot at Holocaust memorial
9. Press TV and anti-Semitism
10. America’s ABC TV: Student assaulted during “Kick-a-Jew-day”
11. Kicking racism out of football?
12. “Tel Aviv: Miami of the Middle East” (Daily Telegraph travel, Nov. 25, 2009)
13. “Six cities that beat the Big Apple?” (Times of London travel, Nov. 23, 2009)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


Young female athletes from Israel’s fencing team won top medals at a 28-nation European fencing tournament held in Mödling, Austria last week. But they then faced an additional challenge when they stood on the winners’ podium to receive their medals: the organizers refused to play the recording of the Israeli national anthem.

The defiant young Israelis, gold medal winner Dana Strelnikov, aged 14, and Alona Kamarov, who won the bronze, found themselves standing on the podium in silence, but then decided to sing the Israeli anthem on their own. The Israeli team’s staff said they had no doubt that the Austrian refusal to play the Israeli anthem was intentional.

Dana Strelnikov’s achievement in beating 120 fencers aged up to 17 was all the more remarkable considering she is only 14 years old. Both girls are from the northern Israeli town of Ma’alot, a town particularly hard hit by terrorist attacks in the past.

The Israeli national fencing team’s coach, Yaakov Friedman, said it is not the first time that such an incident has happened this year. At a tournament in Göteborg, Sweden, in January, Israel won the silver medal and when the medalists mounted the podium the organizers refused to play the Israeli anthem.


Please also see the note and video Riots as Israel plays tennis match in Sweden from earlier this year.

See also the item on football and anti-Semitism further down this dispatch.



In an article in The Independent this week, a paper popular with school teachers, journalists and British foreign office (foreign ministry) types, the former senior British career diplomat Oliver Miles wrote the following, concerning the “British government Iraq war inquiry committee”:

“Rather less attention has been paid to the curious appointment of two historians (which seems a lot, out of a total of five), both … Sir Martin Gilbert… and Sir Lawrence Freedman … are Jewish... Such facts are not usually mentioned in the mainstream British and American media, but The Jewish Chronicle and the Israeli media have no such inhibitions, and the Arabic media both in London and in the region are usually not far behind… it is a pity that, if and when the inquiry is accused of a whitewash, such handy ammunition will be available. Membership should not only be balanced; it should be seen to be balanced.”

If that is what Arabist Foreign Office officials are willing to write in public, just imagine what they must be saying to each other about Jews in private. For the record, both Sir Martin Gilbert and Sir Lawrence Freedman are highly distinguished scholars. (Both are also subscribers to this email list.)

Among other posts, Oliver Miles served as British ambassador to Libya and Greece. In April 2004, he initiated a controversial letter to then Prime Minister Tony Blair, signed by 52 retired ambassadors and calling for a new approach to policy in Palestine and Iraq. They broke with diplomatic etiquette to use words like “dismay,” “naive” and “illegal”.

The Financial Times called it “possibly the most stinging rebuke ever to a British government by its foreign policy establishment.”

For more on Miles’ letter, which was originally put together at an Internet cafe in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, please see the dispatches at the time:

* “BBC ‘goes bananas’ with excitement as ex-ambassadors attack Israel”
* Backlash begins against ex-diplomats’ “poisonous views” on Iraq, Israel



On several occasions in the past, British diplomats have been accused of harboring anti-Semitic views. I noted one such example in note 13 of this dispatch from earlier this year: “Senior British diplomat arrested over anti-Semitic gym tirade”.

Since that dispatch was written the official who figures in it, Rowan Laxton, a high-ranking diplomat, and “Middle East expert” at the British Foreign Office, has been found guilty by Westminster magistrates’ court of racially aggravated harassment. Laxton was watching distorted BBC coverage of the Middle East as he used an exercise bike at the London Business School’s gym when other gym users were amazed as he shouted out at the TV: “F**king Israelis, F**king Jews… They should be wiped off the face of the earth.” The gym staff called security.

Laxton, an Oxford University graduate, is a former British ambassador to Afghanistan and a former British High Commissioner in Pakistan, and now holds a senior role in planning British Middle East and Asian policy.

At his trial in September 2009, although Laxton faced a prison term of up to seven years for racially aggravated harassment, he received a fine of only £350 from Judge Howard Riddle, which observers said was a surprisingly mild punishment for this offense.

Laxton has been allowed to continue working normally at the British Foreign Office, despite the fact that the Foreign Office website says: “The Government has a shared responsibility to tackle anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism and prejudice.”



Although reports about Israel in the news and comment pages of the British media are becoming nastier and nastier – in particular The Times of London, whose foreign news reporting of Israel (though not its comment page) is now possibly even more distorted against Israel than that in The Guardian – there have been two positive travel articles in the last three days about Israel. One is in The Daily Telegraph (titled “Tel Aviv: Miami of the Middle East,” which calls Tel Aviv “an urban, sophisticated city, crammed full of impossibly beautiful people”). The other is in The Times (titled “Six cities that beat the Big Apple?”) that suggests that Tel Aviv might be a better destination for tourists than New York. It puts London first, and Tel Aviv second, followed by Berlin, Madrid and other cities.

I attach both articles below in the “full articles” section. The readers’ comments on the paper’s websites are generally favorable too.

Please also see a much longer and more thoughtful travel piece on Tel Aviv from Conde Nast Traveler, together with some rare film footage I found of Tel Aviv from 1913 and 1951, in this dispatch:

Happy birthday, Tel Aviv (July 11, 2009)



It is not only in Israel where tourism is enjoying near record highs (October 2009 was the best October ever for the Israeli hotel industry in terms of numbers of guests), but also in the West Bank.

The official PLO Wafa news agency (which I read daily) reported from Ramallah on November 26, 2009, that the 3rd quarter of this year witnessed near record tourism in the Palestinian Authority:

“The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said the total number of guests to the Palestinian Authority Territory reached 135,939 persons, according to its main findings of the Hotel Activities Survey for the third quarter 2009. The number of operating hotels in the Palestinian Territory at the end of the third quarter is now 89,” Wafa reported.

37% guests were from European Union countries, 11% of guests were from the United States and Canada, and the rest were from the Arab world and elsewhere.



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

Brazilians rally against Ahmadinejad
By Tom Gross
The National Post / The National Review
November 25, 2009

Below is a photo from the Associated Press. The AP caption reads:

Demonstrators carrying Brazilian, Israeli and gay pride flags march in Rio de Janeiro to protest the visit by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is holding talks in Brasilia today.

And this is a similar photo from Reuters of the same rally:

This show of support makes a welcome change from the viciously anti-Israeli demonstrations which have become so commonplace all over the world, and which I have written about on several occasions in the past for NRO and other publications.

Gays in particular are often pro-Israel, in part at least because the Jewish state has a tolerant and liberal approach to homosexuals, in stark contrast to the Arab world.

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Lula da Silva has been criticized by Iranian pro-democracy activists and others for giving such a warm welcome to Ahmadinejad so soon after the rigged Iranian presidential elections.

The U.S. and other governments are also concerned that Brazil’s reception of Ahmadinejad could signal implicit approval of Iran’s resistance to international pressure to abandon its nuclear enrichment efforts. U.S. Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), who chairs a House subcommittee on Latin America, told the BBC last week that Brazil’s invitation was “a serious mistake.”

Last week the Brazilian President warmly welcomed Palestinian strongman Mahmoud Abbas, who was also touring South America.



Anti-Israel and pro-Iranian regime lecturers received hundreds of thousands of dollars from an Islamic charity in New York believed to be a front for the Iranian regime, The New York Post reports. The paper reveals that the Alavi Foundation supported Middle Eastern and Persian studies programs of Columbia University in New York and Rutgers University in New Jersey, which employ professors sympathetic to the Iranian regime. In one such donation, $100,000 was transferred to Columbia University.

The newspaper reports that between 2005 and 2007, the foundation donated over $250,000 to Rutgers University’s Middle Eastern studies department headed by Hooshang Amirahmadi, an academic who also heads the American Iranian Council and has consistently defended the right of Hizbullah and Hamas to attack Israelis.

In recent weeks, U.S. authorities raided institutions owned by the Alavi Foundation in New York, Maryland and California and filed a request for the seizure of its assets based on various alleged criminal activities. If the foreclosure is executed, it would be the largest in American history and would include the bank accounts of Islamic centers including schools and mosques throughout the United States.

* See also: Deny Holocaust? Get welcomed by Columbia University (Sept. 24, 2007)



British journalist Stephen Pollard, a longtime subscriber to this email list, writes (on November 24):

It takes something to make the comment moderators at The Guardian’s Comment is Free website look like a model of taste and decency. That something is [the English-language Iranian government site popular in the UK] Press TV.

Here’s how the TV station reports the helicopter crash in Israel this afternoon:

“A helicopter goes down by the Israeli shore killing at least two of the passengers, reports say, as investigators look into the cause of the incident. The civilian aircraft crashed into the eastern Mediterranean on Tuesday, AFP reported.”

“The bodies of two civilians were recovered from the water,” read the rescue team’s statement on the incident near the central Israeli city of Netanya.

Straightforward and unobjectionable.

And here are some of the comments (written in English by Press TV’s many fans in Britain, Germany and elsewhere):

Tue, 24 Nov 2009 15:30:16 GMT
swim or fry, BOOOMMMMM

Tue, 24 Nov 2009 15:20:18 GMT
hopefully more of the Zionist scum will follow suit.

Peter Meyer
Tue, 24 Nov 2009 15:20:16 GMT
Israelis r sucking blood of Germans since sixty years.
We hope all of them get killed.

Tue, 24 Nov 2009 15:19:07 GMT

Tue, 24 Nov 2009 15:17:45 GMT
nice one god
Tue, 24 Nov 2009 14:01:55 GMT

4 million more to go..
Tue, 24 Nov 2009 13:58:50 GMT



The following is a report from a local affiliate of ABC TV news in America.

The final paragraph reveals a surprisingly light punishment. One can only imagine what the punishment would be if it was “kick-some-other-ethnic-group day”.

Student assaulted during “Kick-A-Jew-Day”

COLLIER COUNTY, FLORIDA: There are disturbing accusations of anti-Semitism at a Collier County school. Ten students are serving suspensions for their roles in what was called “Kick a Jew Day” at North Naples Middle.

We talked to one student Monday who said this was happening all over school. We also talked to several parents who are flat-out furious. “Oh, I think it’s horrible. I don’t understand why they would do that,” said parent Jodie Hovland.

According to the Collier County School District, 10 students were suspended for their roles in “Kick a Jew Day” last week. Word had spread around school that if you saw a Jewish student on Thursday, you were supposed to kick them, as was first reported by our news gathering partners at the Naples Daily News.

Eighth grader Ashley Brusca said she saw it happen to lots of kids. “They came up to you and asked you if you got kicked today and if not, they kicked you,” she explained.

We also obtained an email one parent sent to the principal, the Collier County Superintendent and school board members, describing what he says happened to his daughter.

“Kids pretended to kick her and later, at lunch, some large kids actually kicked her. Apparently many kids, all Jewish, were kicked during the day. I was furious and attempted to call the parents of the girl who initiated this hatred,” the email stated.

“I’m upset it would happen. I’m upset I wasn’t told about it,” said Hovland.

But one grandparent said he just chalks it up to kids being kids. “Personally I think it’s a non issue,” said Raymond Brusca.

The 10 students involved received one-day in-school suspension and the school had conferences with their parents. But that was not enough for some parents. “I think it should have been more harsh – definitely,” said Hovland.

Until further notice, the school will take the first 20 minutes of the day and focus on character traits instead of the usual reading and tutoring time. The district and the principal declined on camera interviews.


NBC television adds that the phenomenon was “very widespread, and happening all over school.” In a letter to school officials, the parents of a Jewish student said that their daughter was taunted and kicked by several other students. “Apparently many kids, all Jewish, were kicked during the day,” the parent wrote (reports NBC).

In October of last year, students at a suburban Missouri middle school attacked Jewish classmates in what they called “Hit a Jew Day”. Several Jewish children were hit or slapped, while others were taunted.



The British airline EasyJet has apologized after fashion photos shot at the central Holocaust memorial in Berlin were published in its in-flight magazine. In the pictures, models were photographed smiling and frolicking and dressed scantily as they posed in the middle of the Holocaust memorial stone blocks in central Berlin. The airline said that it would withdraw this month’s issue from all flights. EasyJet said that the magazine was published by INK, an external publishing house, and the airline had not been aware of the images until they appeared in print.

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin is made up of a field of 2,700 grey slabs. It was opened to the public in 2005. It has been reported that the production company did not seek permission from the foundation running the memorial to photograph at the site.



The international football (soccer) authorities continue to make great efforts to (in the words of its much-used slogan) “Kick Racism Out Of Football!” That is, it seems, unless the victims are Jews.

Many football fans in several countries regularly chant horrendous anti-Semitic slogans about gassing Jews without the clubs clamping down.

And players have made anti-Semitic comments without punishment. The latest is Egyptian soccer star Amr Zaki who has just refused a potentially lucrative transfer to the British premier league club Portsmouth because it employs two Israelis: defender Tal Ben Haim and manager Avram Grant. Zaki said on his website:

“I refused their offer before, but now joining Portsmouth is no longer an option for me. After Portsmouth signed an Israeli player and also hired an Israeli football director a possible move was ruled out.”

A poll by Pew in 2006 found that 97 percent of Egyptians said they held unfavorable opinions about Jews.

The international football authorities who fine players and clubs alike if racist and prejudiced statements are made against other minorities continue to turned a blind eye to anti-Semitism.

Boycotting Israelis (and only Israelis) has become acceptable in other sports too. Even when the athletes are disabled. Last year, the Iranian basketball team at the Paralympics withdrew to avoid meeting the Israeli wheelchair team. Iran was not fined or punished as a result. (For more on this, please see the final item here.)

And for more on the international football federation’s selective targeting of Israel, please see this article of mine that appeared in papers in America, Canada and Israel.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]



Tel Aviv: Miami of the Middle East
By Paul Clements
The Daily Telegraph
November 25, 2009

Founded 100 years ago on a vacant stretch of Mediterranean coast, Israel’s second city was dreamt up as an overspill for Jaffa, the nearby medieval port town mentioned in the Old Testament. Now, Tel Aviv is a pocket-sized metropolis in its own right, with Jaffa one of its many gentrifying neighbourhoods.

With miles of boardwalked beaches, upscale shopping, world-class nightlife and head-turning buildings by some of the 20th century’s leading “starchitects” (most notably those from the Bauhaus school), Tel Aviv lives up to its billing as the Miami of the Middle East.

An urban, sophisticated city, crammed full of impossibly beautiful people, it has been celebrating its centenary all year, with concerts, water displays and fireworks. Three walking trails covering key aspects of the city’s attractions – its architecture, beaches and greenery – were unveiled last month. (For downloadable maps, and mobile phone directions, visit

The festivities culminate on December 15 with the opening of the Museum of the History of Tel Aviv-Jaffa (27 Bialik Street), housed in the former city hall. It documents the region’s development using a mix of film, scale models and an exhibition of reportage photography.

If the centenary celebrations aren’t reason enough to visit, prices for the five-hour flight are tumbling. Now that easyJet has launched a six-times-a-week service from Luton, the party is only just beginning.

Travel by…

Low-cost airline: easyJet ( operates from Luton, from £103 return, while flies up to twice a week from Manchester, from £147 return. Of the full-service airlines, BMI ( is regularly the cheapest, flying twice-daily from Heathrow, from £308 return.

Ben Gurion International Airport is 14 miles south-east of Tel Aviv. A taxi to Rabin Square should take 20 minutes and cost about NIS100 (£16). Direct trains run to Tel Aviv’s main station, Savidor-Merkaz (£2.15), but services are suspended for the duration of the Jewish Sabbath, between sunset on Friday and sunset on Saturday.

Stay at…

The city’s most exclusive address, the Dan Tel Aviv (99 Hayarkon Street,, an exquisitely designed waterfront hotel with a newly renovated spa; doubles from £187.

For alternatives to the large chain hotels that predominate here, try the Montefiore (Montefiore 36, 00972 3 564 6100,, a new 12-room residence fitted out in contemporary colonial chic; doubles from £167. Architourists and cineastes alike will enjoy the 82-room Hotel Cinema (1 Zamenhof Street, 00972 3 520 7100,, set inside a former Bauhaus-designed film theatre; doubles from £104.

Spend the morning…

Ticking off the city’s 20th-century architectural treasures. Some of the most striking buildings in the so-called International Style – sleek-lined in concrete and glass – are within the White City, a Unesco-protected neighbourhood built by mostly Bauhaus architects who fled to Tel Aviv to escape the Nazis. Stock up on postcards and replicas in the Bauhaus Center (99 Dizengoff Street, 00972 3 522 0249,, whose permanent collection offers a history of the dazzling style.

Have lunch at…

Manta Ray (Alma Beach, 00972 3 517 4773), a nautical-themed bar facing the lapping shore. Pick at fresh shrimps, or free-flowing, tapas-style bowls of squid, French beans and lightly spiced okra for about £5 a throw.

Spend the afternoon…

Lost in the Dizengoff Center, Tel Aviv’s largest mall. The more fashion-forward locals prefer the groovy independents dotted along Nordau Street. Or head to Kikar Hamedina, a stately plaza that’s home to the ritziest boutiques showcasing Israeli design talent, as well as chic cafés and galleries. For gourmet souvenirs, Olia (73 Frishman Street, 00972 3522 3235, stocks custom-blended oils, tapenades and olive soap.

Dine out at…

Deca (10 Hata’asiya Street, 00972 3 562 9900,, a serious-minded, modish gourmet favourite with ultra-modern luminous décor and ambitious kosher Med dishes; try the whitefish falafel. The wooden bar at French-Italian hang-out Herbert Samuel (Kaufman Street 6, 00972 3 516 6516, is perennially propped up by oenophiles sampling Israel’s finest vintages over plates of anchovies, calamari and Italian hams.

After hours, night-owls refuel at the Dixie Grill Bar (120 Igal Alon, 00972 3 696 6123,, a 24-hour kosher diner owned by Israeli celebrity chef Haim Cohen and serving hearty burgers, Cajun chicken wings and fries with everything; mains from about £12.

Spend the evening…

On the tiles. A suitable springboard is Rothschild Boulevard, a ritzy, café- and bar-lined avenue in the White City with spotlit Bauhaus façades. For less raucous action, Lucas (3 Rehov Mazeh Street, 00972 3 525 2565, is a grown-up brasserie with a patio for al fresco carousing and imposing views of the Azrieli Center skyscrapers.

More boho-chic is Nana (1 Ehad Haam, 00972 3 516 1915), a bare-brick lounge bar near the beach kitted out like a Louis XV orangerie, with foliage creeping around the gilt-framed oil paintings, chandeliers and chaise longues.

Spend the next day…

Amid the old stone houses in the alleys of Jaffa, now colonised by art galleries and sculpture studios. According to legend, the port dates back some 4,000 years and was named after Noah’s son. Be sure to take your camera and photograph the city’s rolling coastline.

Alternatively, Jerusalem is just an hour away, and all major hotels will arrange excursions for you. A guide will not only unravel the significance of the various religious sites – from the Western Wall, and the gold-topped Dome of the Rock, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – they will help you negotiate the numerous security checkpoints.

At all costs avoid…

Tel Aviv’s “celebrated” markets. The vast, open-air Carmel Market (Allenby Street) is good only for knock-off designer T-shirts; Jaffa’s Shuq Hapishpeshim flea market specialises in scrap jewellery; and the reputed bazaar on Nahalat Binyamin Street is piled high with flick-knives, bootleg CDs, and – improbably – piles of yellowing 1930s newspapers carrying Hitler headlines.

Further information…

Go to for details of centenary events, or visit the main tourist office (46 Herbert Samuel Street, 00972 3 516 6188).



Six cities that beat the Big Apple?

Whether or not you believe that New York City is losing its edge, these capital cities are worthy alternatives for a break

By Stefanie Marsh
The Times
November 23, 2009

A thrillingly colourful and chaotic city, “eternal as air and water”, said to its most famous son, Borges. Next year is “BA’s” bicentennial, so expect it to be even more frenetic and grandiose than normal, thanks to its world-class art galleries, fine restaurants and thriving fashion industry. The peso crisis has brought in tourists and, now that the economy is recovering, spurred on new bars, small business and cafés. Tango, despite fears of its demise, has experienced a revival.


It’s hard to say when London got its groove back, but being one of Europe’s most tolerant cities has contributed to its melting-pot status. Far too expensive, with shamefully early closing times and an unreliable transport system - it’s the stratospherically charismatic friend who you will forgive time and again for her more unappealing traits.

Tel Aviv

Miami, Barcelona and New York rolled into one, with a population that has a reputation for breathtaking rudeness and impatience. “The bubble” as its known by Israelis, is proud to operate to different rules from the rest of Israel. Certainly its focus is less religious than some areas - hedonistic partying goes on here until the early hours. Meanwhile, the Neve Tzedek district has been gentrified; Shenkin Street has gone all Haight-Ashbury bohemian. And there’s still some Arab life left in Old Jaffa, proving that tradition and the ultra-modern can co-exist here.


Still oddly innocent and slow-paced despite its reputation as the epicentre of cool urban life. But because there’s rent control, the feeling is that here anything is possible for its collection of artists, architects, fashion designers, techno-heads and ne’er do wells, many of whom are perennially out of work. “Poor but sexy”, is how Klaus Wowereit , the Mayor of Berlin, rightly describes it.


India’s largest and most cosmopolitan city is where The Bonfire of the Vanities might be set if it were written today. Financially it is the country’s hub, courtesy of the Bombay stock exchange and its incredibly lucrative film industry, yet the streets remain conjested with cattle, cars and the homeless. Mumbai is evolving at warp speed and it’s a dynamic place to see.


Tries less hard than Barcelona, works less hard than London or Paris and thus does 24-hour living better than most European capitals. New investment and an economic boom has energised the city. Aesthetically, the journey begins at Barajas Airport with Richard Rogers’ award-winning new terminal. Then there’s the Prado and the usual sights. A sobering thought for those who might have voted for Amsterdam instead: Madrid has more restaurants and bars than the whole of the Netherlands.

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