Police probe “Kill Jews” remark at Oxford univ. (& Mussolini iPhone app withdrawn)

February 10, 2010

* Senior Saudi diplomat shakes Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon’s hand
* But British police probe “Kill Jews” remark as Ayalon speaks at Oxford university
* A heated debate over foreign correspondents at the New York Times

Today’s dispatch is split into two for space reasons. The other part (titled: Goldstone co-author: Hamas fired “something like two” rockets before Gaza war) can be read here.



1. Police probe “Kill Jews” remark at Oxford university talk by Danny Ayalon
2. Students arrested in California as they try to prevent Israeli ambassador from speaking
3. Islamists in Paris threaten to kill imam who sought good relations with Jews
4. New York Times to Iran: “Enough is enough”
5. A heated debate over foreign correspondents at The New York Times
6. Saudi prince shakes hands with Israeli deputy foreign minister
7. Egyptian journalists punished for contacts with Israelis
8. Mussolini speech collection for iPhone withdrawn in Italy
9. Egyptian news conference will reveal DNA tests on the boy king, Tutankhamen
10. “Time’s up” (Editorial, New York Times, Feb. 10, 2010)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


British police say they have opened an investigation under the country’s race hate laws into an Oxford University student who shouted “kill the Jews” as Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon gave a talk at the university’s Oxford Union yesterday. A spokesman from Thames Valley Police said they were taking the matter “very seriously,” though no arrests had yet been made.

As Ayalon spoke, students demonstrating outside the lecture hall chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” (i.e. all of Israel should be wiped out).

The president of the Oxford Union, Stuart Cullen, said: “The Union will be taking disciplinary action against these members, in accordance with the Society’s rules.” He also praised the local police who worked in concert with security guards from the Israeli embassy in London to protect both Ayalon and Jewish students attending the event.

“The Oxford Union believes in the rights of free speech,” he said, “and we will support whatever measures are necessary to allow our invited speakers ability to express themselves. The Oxford Union will not tolerate this kind of behavior by its members.”

(Last week, fearing similar protests, Cambridge University students – belonging to the university’s Israel society no less – cancelled a talk by the distinguished Israeli historian Benny Morris.)



Meanwhile, California police made a dozen arrests after a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, descended into chaos on Monday. Hecklers interrupted Oren’s lecture at the University of California in Irvine over ten times, shouting “killers” and “how many Palestinians did you kill?” Oren was speaking about U.S.-Israeli relations. The college’s Muslim Student Union released a statement prior to Oren’s appearance which said, “As people of conscience, we oppose Michael Oren’s invitation to our campus. Propagating murder is not a responsible expression of free speech.”

The ambassador was removed from the stage for a period because of the outbursts, prompting strong criticism by Professor Mark Petracca, chairman of the university’s Political Science department, who told the students: “This is no way for our undergraduate students to behave. We have an opportunity to hear from a policy-maker relevant to one of the most important issues facing this planet, and you are preventing not only yourself from hearing him but hundreds of other people in this room and hundreds of other people in an overflow room. Shame on you! This is not an example of free speech.”

You can watch the video of his talk and the interruptions here:

At the end of the video, there are some interviews including one with a West Bank Palestinian who has been living in California for the last three years, who condemns the “hatred” shown towards Oren by the young American-born Arab-American students at the lecture.

(Ambassador Oren is a subscriber to this email list, as are Danny Ayalon and Benny Morris, who were mentioned in the previous item.)



A group of Islamic extremists burst into a mosque near Paris during a prayer service two weeks ago and threatened to kill the local Imam, Hassen Chalghoumi, because of his efforts to improve relations between Jews and Muslims.

“We are going to get rid of this Jew-loving imam,” shouted some of the mob of about 80 people who stormed into Chalghoumi’s service in Drancy, on the outskirts of Paris. (Drancy is the district which once contained a notorious holding camp where Jews were interned on their way to Auschwitz.) According to news reports the intruders also called Chalghoumi a “Jew-lover” and an “apostate.”

He went back to his mosque a few days later, with a police escort. The verbal assaults were so violent on this occasion that he had to be escorted out by a policeman with his hand on his gun. A journalist in Paris who subscribes to this email list tells me she doesn’t think he can go back to the mosque again.

Chalghoumi has consistently spoken out against Islamist extremism and worked actively with Muslim youths and Jewish leaders in France to condemn anti-Semitism. In 2006, his home was broken into and badly vandalized (and anti-Semitic graffiti written on his walls) following his public request that Muslims respect the memory of the thousands of Jews sent to Nazi death camps from Drancy during the Nazi occupation.



Today, several years late, the editorial board of The New York Times finally appears to be waking up to the seriousness of the Iranian nuclear threat. The self-proclaimed “paper of record” runs an editorial titled “Time’s up”. I attach it below.

“If the Security Council can’t act swiftly, or decisively, the United States and its allies will have to come up with their own tough sanctions,” says The New York Times. “Enough is enough,” it adds.

It is in fact very late in the day for sanctions alone to work. The Times doesn’t mention the option of targeted airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, which I have discussed several times in the past on this email list.

For reasons I won’t discuss here, it may also be very late in the day for that too.


Among previous dispatches on this subject, please see:

* “Obama, and the world, in 2012, after he fails to deal with Iran”
* “Why Israel will bomb Iran” (& “The myth of meaningful Iranian retaliation”)
* Mossad’s hidden successes against Iran so far – but they are not enough



An almighty kerfuffle has broken out at The New York Times following demands by the paper’s public editor, Clark Hoyt, who is meant to be neutral, that the Times reassign its Jerusalem bureau chief, Ethan Bronner, on the grounds that Bronner’s wife is Israeli, which automatically makes their 20-year-old son an Israeli citizen who is required to do compulsory army service.

Hoyt appears to be bowing to an organized email campaign from readers of the anti-Israel website, the Electronic Intifada.

Other New York Times journalists have backed up Hoyt, even though it is not Hoyt’s job to recommend staff reassignments.

Their hypocrisy in singling out Bronner is startling. They have nothing to say, for example, about Anthony Shadid, who covers Iraq for The New York Times, and who is an Arab-American, or Nazila Fathi, the Times’s Tehran correspondent, who was born in Iran.

Indeed, from my experience, a large number of foreign correspondents for major media around the world have some direct or family connections to the peoples they are covering, and most manage to stay broadly neutral.

Bronner, while less hostile to Israel than some of the Times’s previous Jerusalem correspondents, is nevertheless a classic liberal whose sympathy for the Palestinian cause often shows through in his reporting, though clearly not enough to satisfy the Electronic Intifada.

On other occasions in his reports, Bronner has bent over backwards to be critical of Israel precisely because he did not want readers to think he was sympathetic to Israel because he was Jewish.



Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon shook the hand of a senior Saudi diplomat, Prince Turki al Faisal, during a session of the Munich Security Council last weekend.

Ayalon was supposed to sit on a panel with the Saudi prince, the Turkish foreign minister, senior Egyptian Foreign Ministry adviser Hossam Zaki, and independent American senator Joe Lieberman.

But al-Faisal asked for the panel to be split so that Lieberman and Ayalon would be paired with a Russian delegate and he would sit with the Turkish and Egyptian representatives.

At the event, Ayalon protested the fact that some countries refused to sit next to Israel’s representative, saying that it showed a gap existed between claims of good intent by some Middle East states and their actual behavior. He also asked why they wouldn’t shake his hand. At that point, the Saudi rose from his seat and the two shook hands.

I noted in a dispatch last month that Iran’s tourism minister agreed to shake hands with Israel’s tourist minister, Stas Mezeshnikov, at a recent tourism fair in Madrid.

Interestingly both Ayalon and Mezeshnikov are members of the Knesset for Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu party, which Lieberman’s political enemies in the Western and Israeli media like to characterize as being anti-Arab. It seems that it is Israel Beitenu ministers that officials from “enemy” states like Saudi Arabia and Iran choose to shake the hands of (and perhaps in future come to a peace accommodation with?) rather than ministers from previous left-wing Israeli governments.

Al-Faisal, the country’s former intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to the United States, said yesterday that his handshake with Ayalon did not mean Saudi Arabi had recognized the Jewish state.



Two senior Egyptian journalists have been reprimanded by Egypt’s Journalists Union for violating the group’s ban on contacts with Israelis. Hussein Serag was suspended from his job for three months for visiting Israel, and Hala Mustafa received a warning after she conducted an interview in her office with Shalom Cohen, Israel’s ambassador in Cairo.

Mustafa is the editor-in-chief of the state-run weekly Democratiya and a senior member of President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party. Serag – an expert on Jewish affairs – is deputy editor of the weekly magazine October.

Incidentally, I had dinner last week with three staff from the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv, together with two Israelis, and no one has been reprimanded as a result.

Mustafa called the ban “obsolete” and “out of sync with political developments in the region.”



The application “iMussolini” for Apple’s iPhone, which allowed users to download speeches by the former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, has been withdrawn, following legal threats and protests by Holocaust survivors.

IMussolini had become the most popular iPhone download in Italy, but the 30-minute-long collection of video and audio clips from 100 of Mussolini’s speeches was withdrawn by its developer after a row with the institute which held the rights to the film material. The institute said the application did not serve the educational purposes for which the clips were designed.

Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors had protested to the Apple computer company last week. The 25-year-old creator of the application told Italian media that it had already been downloaded thousands of times since its launch, at a cost of one euro for each download.

Mussolini came to power in 1922. Under his rule, Italy became a close ally of Nazi Germany, and Mussolini introduced harsh anti-Semitic legislation in 1938.

Italian Jewish leader Tullia Zevi said the application was part of the “the slide towards legitimizing fascism and the rehabilitation of Mussolini”.



Among the more surprising press releases I received this week:

At a news conference at the Cairo Museum on February 17, Egyptian authorities say they will reveal the results of DNA testing which has been undertaken on the remains of Tutankhamen.

The ruler, known as the “boy king,” reigned from 1333 to 1324 B.C., from the age of 9 until he was 19. When his tomb was unearthed by British archaeologists in 1922, the hoard of treasure he was buried caused great public excitement.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


Time’s Up
The New York Times
February 10, 2010

Over the last four years, the United Nations Security Council has repeatedly demanded that Iran stop producing nuclear fuel. Iran is still churning out enriched uranium and has now told United Nations inspectors that it is raising the level of enrichment – moving slightly closer to bomb-grade quality.

President Obama was right to offer to negotiate with Tehran. Washington and its allies were right to look for possible compromises even after Tehran was caught – again – hiding an enrichment plant.

Enough is enough. Iran needs to understand that its nuclear ambition comes with a very high cost.

President Obama said on Tuesday that the United States and its allies are “moving along fairly quickly” on a new sanctions resolution. He also said it would take several weeks to draft a proposal. That is not reassuring. Once a resolution is written, the negotiating process typically drags on for weeks, if not months.

Iran is in such economic and political turmoil that its government may be more vulnerable to outside pressure. Security forces have expanded a crackdown on the political opposition, arresting hundreds of people ahead of Thursday’s anniversary of the Iranian revolution.

American officials say they are eager to impose sanctions that would inflict maximum damage on the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which runs the nuclear program and a large chunk of the Iranian economy. The plan, as we understand it, is to block their banking, their shipping, their insurance. American officials also say they want to minimize the additional suffering of the Iranian people. That makes sense to us, although squaring the circle won’t be easy.

If the Security Council is to move ahead with sanctions that bite, Washington and its allies are going to have to step up the pressure on Russia and China – Iran’s two enablers, both with a veto – to go along.

Russia has signaled support for another resolution. If history is any guide, we fear Russia will sharply whittle down the impact. China, eager to buy ever more oil from Iran, is an even bigger obstacle. China needs to understand that ensuring reliable oil supplies would become a lot harder if the Middle East is roiled by a nuclear-armed Iran.

The more the Security Council temporizes, compromises and weakens these resolutions, the more defiant and ambitious Iran becomes. If the Security Council can’t act swiftly, or decisively, the United States and its allies will have to come up with their own tough sanctions. They should be making a backup plan right now.

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