No Joke: UN adds Iran to Women’s Rights Commission (& Hamas extends crackdown on fun)

May 01, 2010

This dispatch contains a variety of items I published in recent days on National Review Online (in America) and in The National Post (in Canada). The last three items don’t concern the Mideast.

I also attach an important Wall Street Journal op-ed on Jerusalem by Mort Zuckerman (the proprietor of The New York Daily News and of U.S. News and World Report), which was published on Wednesday. In the course of it he cites one of my recent dispatches.

-- Tom Gross



1. No Joke: U.N. appoints Iran to Women’s Rights Commission
2. Iranian missile may be able to hit U.S. by 2015
3. Obama’s Jerusalem stonewall
4. Hamas forces break up of Gaza’s first hip-hop concert
5. European Union decrees that vacations are a “human right”
6. More freelancers are fighting to be paid
7. British newspaper will publish in 3D


No Joke: U.N. appoints Iran to Women’s Rights Commission
By Tom Gross
National Review Online / National Post (Canada)
April 30, 2010

No, this is not a parody.

The United Nations has elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women, handing a four-year seat on what is supposed to be an influential human-rights body to a theocratic state in which stoning of women and girls for alleged sexual misdemeanors is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women deemed to be “immodest.”

Here is the story, buried in this UN press release.

So far, among major media, only Joseph Abrams of Fox News seems to have picked up on this latest startling example of UN hypocrisy. (Where’s The New York Times? Oh wait, this story doesn’t concern the Palestinians or George W. Bush.)

According to its website, The UN Commission on the Status of Women is “dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women”.




It is quite amazing how little attention this has gotten in the mainstream media, especially given the feminism angle.

Equally scandalous is the fact that the U.S, which has a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, apparently didn’t object to Iran’s appointment.

Fox learned of the UN press release after being alerted to it by Anne Bayefsky, director of “EYE on the UN.”

(Both Anne Bayefsky and Joseph Abrams are subscribers to this list.)

There are various readers’ comments here.


Some Jewish and Iranian dissident groups are calling on U.N. member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks on Monday (May 3) at the United Nations in New York.

Malcolm Hoenlein, a leading American political campaigner (and a subscriber to this email list), said “Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability poses a threat to the region and the entire Western world. To have President Ahmadinejad address this nuclear review conference makes a mockery of the efforts of many countries to prevent nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism from becoming the gravest global threats of this century.”



Iranian missile may be able to hit U.S. by 2015
By Tom Gross
National Review Online
April 20, 2010

The latest from Reuters:

Iran may be able to build a missile capable of striking the United States by 2015, according to an unclassified Defense Department report on Iran’s military sent to Congress.

“With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could probably develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States by 2015,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters. A classified version was also submitted to Congress.

… The U.S. military tried and failed to shoot down a simulated Iranian missile strike on the United States in January, in a botched $150 million exercise over the Pacific Ocean. That attempt failed because of a malfunction in a radar built by Raytheon Co.

… The report also included an assessment of Iran’s broader military capabilities and support for insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as groups like Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

With Iranian support, Hezbollah has replenished its arsenal beyond levels it had in the 2006 war with Israel, the report said, without offering specifics.

… The report cited recently uncovered caches of weapons that Iran’s Qods Force gave to Afghan militants. They contained “large amounts of Iranian-manufactured weapons,” including 107 mm rockets.

It estimated the size of Iran’s “Ground Force” at 220,000 personnel and the Revolutionary Guard Corps’s “Ground Resistance Forces” at 130,000 personnel. It said Iran had between 1,800 and 1,900 tanks.


[Tom Gross adds:] Meanwhile, as Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad runs rings round President Obama, the two pictures below sum up the first 15 months of Obama’s Middle East policies:



Obama’s Jerusalem stonewall
Demanding a construction freeze in the capital reverses decades of U.S. policy
By Mortimer Zuckerman
The Wall Street Journal
April 28, 2010

Thanks to a deadlock engineered by the U.S. government, the Middle East peace process is stalled. President Obama began this stalemate last year when he called for a settlement freeze, and he escalates it now with a major change of American policy regarding Jerusalem.

The president seeks to prohibit Israel from any construction in its capital, in particular in a Jewish suburb of East Jerusalem called Ramat Shlomo. This, despite the fact that all former administrations have unequivocally understood that the area in question would remain part of Israel under any final peace agreement. Objecting to any building in this East Jerusalem neighborhood is tantamount to getting the Israelis to agree to the division of Jerusalem before final status talks with the Palestinians even begin.

From the start of his presidency, Mr. Obama has undermined Israel’s confidence in U.S. support. He uses the same term – “settlements” – to describe massive neighborhoods that are home to tens of thousands of Jews and illegal outposts of a few families. His ambiguous use of this loaded word raises the question for Israelis about whether this administration really understands the issue.

It certainly sends signals to the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority followed the president’s lead and refused to proceed with planned talks until Israel stops all so-called settlement activities, including in East Jerusalem.

President Obama’s attitude toward Jerusalem betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the history of the city. After Israel was recognized as a new state in 1948, it was immediately attacked by the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The attacks were repelled, but the Jordanians, who were asked not to join the Egyptian war effort, conquered East Jerusalem and separated it from its western half. In 1967, the Arab armies again sought to destroy Israel, but it prevailed in the famous Six Day War and reconquered East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip.

Under Jordanian rule, from 1948 to 1967, dozens of synagogues were destroyed or vandalized. The ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives was desecrated, its tombstones used for the construction of roads and Jordanian army latrines. The rights of Christians as well as Jews were abused, with some churches converted into mosques.

When Israel captured the eastern part of Jerusalem in 1967 it built, and has since continued to build, neighborhoods for its Jewish residents. Palestinian Arabs have also built in Jerusalem throughout this period. Incidentally, today there is more new Arab housing (legal and illegal) being built than Jewish housing according to a report by Middle East expert Tom Gross – without any criticism from the Obama administration.

But this is all recent history: Israel’s claim over Jerusalem does not spring from 1948 or 1967. Rather, it signifies the revival of historic rights stemming from biblical times.

Jerusalem is not just another piece of territory on a political chessboard: It is integral to the identity and faith of the Jewish people. Since the city was founded by King David some 3,500 years ago, Jews have lived there, worked there, and prayed there. During the First and Second Temple periods, Jews from across the kingdom would travel to Jerusalem three times a year for the Jewish holy days, until the Roman Empire destroyed the Second Temple in 70 A.D. That ended Jewish sovereignty over Jerusalem for the next 2,000 years, but the Jews never relinquished their bond.

Jerusalem is much less embedded in Muslim culture. When Muslims pray, they face Mecca, not Jerusalem. The Old Testament mentions Jerusalem, or its alternative name Zion, a total of 457 times. The Koran does not mention Jerusalem once.

Muhammad, who founded Islam in 622 A.D., was born and raised in what is now Saudi Arabia; he never set foot in Jerusalem. And in the 1,300 years that various Islamic dynasties ruled Jerusalem, not one Islamic dynasty ever made the city its capital. Indeed, even the National Covenant of the PLO, written in 1964, never mentions Jerusalem. It was only added after Israel regained control of the city in 1967.

The reality today is that in the area referred to as East Jerusalem – that is, an area north, south and east of the city’s 1967 borders – there are roughly a half a million Jews and Arabs living in intertwined neighborhoods. The idea of a purely Jewish West Jerusalem or a purely Palestinian East Jerusalem is a myth: Building in particular neighborhoods in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.

Ramat Shlomo, the center of the most recent row, is a thriving community of tens of thousands of Jews located between two larger Jewish communities called Ramot and French Hill. Its growth would in no way interfere with the contiguity of new Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. And in every peace agreement that has ever been discussed, these areas would remain a part of Israel.

No wonder the Israelis reacted so strongly when Mr. Obama called this neighborhood “a settlement.” For over 43 years, there has been a tacit agreement that construction here did not constitute an obstacle to negotiations. Thus, the new policy was seen as an Obama administration effort to force Israel to accept the division of Jerusalem, taking yet another negotiating card off the table for the Israelis.

But what the world never remembers is what the Israelis can never forget. When Jordan controlled the eastern part of the city, including the Old City and the Western Wall (a retaining wall of the ancient Temple), it permitted reasonably free access to Christian holy places. But the Jews were denied any access to the Jewish holy places. This was a fundamental departure from the tradition of freedom of religious worship in the holy land, which had evolved over centuries, not to speak of a violation of the undertaking given by Jordan in the Armistice Agreement concluded with Israel in 1949. Nobody should expect the Jews to risk that again.

Since Israel reunited Jerusalem in 1967, it has faithfully protected the rights and security of Christians, Muslims and Jews. Christians now control the Ten Stations of the Cross; Muslims control the Dome of the Rock. Yet the Palestinians often stone Jewish civilians praying at the Western Wall below. Their leaders and imams repeatedly deny the Jewish connection to Jewish holy sites. Freedom of religion in Jerusalem should not be compromised by American policy.

That’s not all. Dividing Jerusalem would put Palestinian forces and rockets a few miles from Israel’s Parliament. And Jewish neighborhoods would be within range of light weapon and machine-gun fire. This is exactly what happened after the Oslo Accords, when the Palestinians fired from Beit Jalla toward Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood, wounding scores of residents.

The vast majority of Israelis believe Jerusalem must be shared – not divided. Even the great Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the Oslo Accords, said in 1995: “There are not two Jerusalems; there is only one Jerusalem.”

The final status of Jerusalem will be on the table if and when Palestinians and Israelis talk. But Mr. Obama’s policy reversal has, yet again, given the Palestinians every reason not to negotiate.

(Mr. Zuckerman is chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report.)



Hamas forces break up of Gaza’s first hip-hop concert
By Tom Gross
National Review Online
April 25, 2010

The Islamist group Hamas, which has already shut down Internet cafes and forced women to stop wearing jeans, continues to clamp down on anything fun as its security forces broke up the Gaza Strip’s first major hip-hop concert late last night.

The B Boy Gaza group had just started a lively dance set in a crowded auditorium when Hamas thugs broke it up, deeming it “immoral,” reports Reuters.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said police confiscated cameras and tapes at the venue and arrested six of the performers.

Last year, Hamas’s “morality police” in Gaza banned Palestinian women from swimming unless they are covered from top to bottom, and forbade women from entering coffee shops, restaurants, and other public places unless they are escorted by male relatives.



With such a wide definition of human rights, it is no wonder that the EU is always accusing Israel of human rights abuses...

European Union decrees that vacations are a “Human Right”
By Tom Gross
National Review Online
April 21, 2010

Ever wondered why Europe is heading downhill?

From The Times of London:

AN overseas holiday used to be thought of as a reward for a year’s hard work. Now Brussels has declared that tourism is a human right and pensioners, youths and those too poor to afford it should have their travel subsidised by the taxpayer.

Under the scheme, British pensioners could be given cut-price trips to Spain, while Greek teenagers could be taken around disused mills in Manchester to experience the cultural diversity of Europe.

The idea for the subsidised tours is the brainchild of Antonio Tajani, the European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, who was appointed by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister.

… The scheme could cost hundreds of millions of pounds a year.

… Tajani, who unveiled his plan last week at a ministerial conference in Madrid, believes the days when holidays were a luxury have gone. “Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life,” he said.

Tajani, who used to be transport commissioner, said he had been able to “affirm the rights of passengers” in his previous office and the next step was to ensure people’s “right to be tourists”.

The European Union has experience of subsidised holidays. In February the European parliament paid contributions of up to 52% towards an eight-day skiing trip in the Italian Alps for 80 children of Eurocrats.

Tajani’s programme will be piloted until 2013 and then put into full operation. It will be open to pensioners and anyone over 65, young people between 18 and 25, families facing “difficult social, financial or personal” circumstances and disabled people.


Now all Europe has to do is to get its volcano-hit airlines industry in order (oh, and find the money to pay for all these free vacations).



More freelancers are fighting to be paid
By Tom Gross
Thursday, April 29, 2010
National Review Online

As more people turn to freelance work – including working as journalists – they are taking on an unexpected role: bill collector, reports The Wall Street Journal.

About 40 percent of freelancers had trouble getting paid in 2009, according to a survey by the Freelancers Union, a 135,000-member organization for independent contractors in fields such as media, technology, and advertising. Some freelancers are owed tens of thousands of dollars.

How can a freelancer avoid problems? Before accepting a job, freelancers can search consumer complaint websites such as and industry discussion boards to make sure the company they’re contracting with doesn’t have a history of late payments, says the paper.

Filing a complaint in a small-claims court should be a last resort, the paper advises.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve been told ‘The check is in the mail’ or ‘Your invoice went to my junk email inbox,’” bemoans one exasperated freelancer.



British newspaper will publish in 3D
By Tom Gross
Saturday May 1, 2010
National Review Online

With newspaper circulation continuing to fall dramatically throughout the world, Britain’s best-selling daily, The Sun, has come up with a novel way to try and attract readers: It is to experiment with a 3D edition.

The initially one-off title will be published on June 5 with the expectation that advertisers will have to pay a significant premium if they want color ads in 3D.

The edition is to appear shortly before the start of the eagerly-awaited soccer World Cup, the world’s most popular event, which takes place once every four years. (One of this year’s opening matches pits the U.S. against England.)

The special edition of The Sun, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, will include a World Cup Fixtures Wall Chart in 3D, as well as the paper’s famous topless Page 3 girls.

The paper said it will increase its print run by hundreds of thousands of copies on June 5, and Sun readers will receive a pair of 3D glasses with the paper that day.

Matches at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa will be filmed in 3D for the first time, using special 3D cameras.

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