* Boney M censored in Ramallah
* Kuwaiti bank opens special trading hall for women
* No fewer than 85 percent of Arab women use the internet at home
* Elton John: “I won’t cherry pick my conscience” like other pop stars have done
* Want your dog, cat or goldfish to travel in style? Ask Israelis for help
1. “Palestinian authorities pressure American rape victim to withdraw her complaint”
2. Boney M censored in West Bank concert
3. Jordanian Queen “will not allow Hebrew translation” of her kids’ book teaching tolerance
4. Israelis become world leaders in assisting travel for pets
5. New industrial park for Israeli-Arab sector
6. Israel launches program to help Israeli-Arab companies increase exports
7. Kuwaiti bank opens trading hall for women
8. Tel Aviv exchange seeks Israeli-Arab companies
9. Contrary to stereotypes, vast majority of Arab women use internet on a daily basis
10. Hamas makes withdrawal at gunpoint
11. Iranian police caution 62,000 women for being “badly veiled”
12. Egyptian court says Arab women married to Israeli men can be stripped of citizenship
Due to illness in the family, I was unable to post this dispatch until now. Some of these items were written several days ago.
Today’s dispatch is split in two for space reasons. This part primarily deals with West Bank censorship, Israeli-Arab issues, financial issues and women’s issues. The other dispatch can be read here.
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
“PALESTINIAN AUTHORITIES PRESSURE AMERICAN RAPE VICTIM TO WITHDRAW HER COMPLAINT”
The Palestinian Authority has been covering up the attempted rape in the West Bank of an American peace activist, reports Ha’aretz.
The incident is said to have taken place when a well-known local Palestinian activist (who had previously served time in an Israeli jail for violent offenses but had been released by Israel following international pressure) entered the West Bank guest house in which several foreign peace activists were staying. He claimed that the Israeli army was looking for him and therefore he needed to take shelter there.
During his stay he allegedly brandished a weapon and attempted to rape an American peace activist, who managed to escape after a struggle. One villager interviewed by Ha’aretz said the American was in a state of severe shock following the incident.
The American activist then attempted to notify authorities of the attempted rape, and the accused man was briefly detained by the Palestinian Authority but then quickly released by the PA police.
The U.S. citizen was then pressured by the Palestinian authorities to retract her complaint and not speak to journalists about it, so as “to avoid tainting the image of the Palestinian cause,” according to Ha’aretz.
The American had traveled to the West Bank to participate in demonstrations against Israel’s security barrier.
Ha’aretz added that “This case is not the only one. Separation fence activists know of other incidents in which Palestinians molested and sexually assaulted foreign peace activists, a subject which was apparently raised in the discussions of the various Palestinian popular committees.”
BONEY M CENSORED IN WEST BANK CONCERT
When renowned disco group Boney M rocked Ramallah last week, they were prevented at the last minute from performing one of their biggest hits.
Lead singer Maizie Williams said Palestinian concert organizers warned her not to sing “By the Rivers of Babylon.” The song’s chorus quotes from the Book of Psalms, referring to the exiled Jewish people’s “remembering Zion” and their yearning to return to the biblical land of Israel.
The Palestinian Authority’s policy, dating back to the Yasser Arafat era, is to deny any historic Jewish connection to Jerusalem or the land of Israel.
Williams said: “I don’t know if it is a political thing or what, but they told us firmly that we mustn’t sing it and we were a bit disappointed that we could not do it because we know that everybody loves this song no matter what.”
The band performed its other big hits, such as “Ma Baker,” “Daddy Cool,” “Hooray! Hooray! It’s a Holi-Holiday” and “Ra, Ra, Rasputin” in front of screaming Palestinian fans. (Many Israeli Boney M fans also traveled to Ramallah for the concert in defiance of a travel ban.)
The week-long Palestinian International Festival brought several international performances to the West Bank cities of Ramallah, Jenin, Hebron and Bethlehem.
“POP STARS SHOULDN’T CHERRY PICK THEIR CONSCIENCE”
Meanwhile several other international artists said they won’t follow in the footsteps of The Pixies, Carlos Santana and Elvis Costello, and cancel performances in Israel for political reasons.
Among those that have performed in Israel in recent weeks are leading African-American female rapper Missy Elliot, Rod Stewart, Elton John, and Christina Aguilera (who gave a private performance).
In remarks at the opening of his concert, Elton John went out of his way to say he would not succumb to pressure to boycott Israelis. He told the audience that he wouldn’t “cherry pick his conscience” as other Western musicians had done.
JORDANIAN QUEEN “WILL NOT ALLOW HEBREW TRANSLATION” OF HER KIDS’ BOOK TEACHING TOLERANCE
Jordan’s Queen Rania says she is on a mission to bridge the religious and cultural divides between the Muslim and Western worlds. To help advance this worthy goal, she has written a children’s book (for kids aged 4-8) called “The Sandwich Swap”.
The book uses lunch sandwiches (the Western girl, Lily, has a peanut butter and jelly one, the Muslim girl, Salma, has one with pita and hummus) as a metaphor for the differences between two friends from different cultures.
The book’s aim is to promote openness, tolerance and multiculturalism, and in the U.S. it has been published by a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company.
Following high-profile TV interviews between Queen Rania and Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters, and a reading at the United Nations, the book has entered The New York Times’ bestseller list.
And yet Queen Rania, who since 2007 has been working with UNICEF on child welfare issues and is honorary chairwoman of the UN’s effort to promote the education of girls, has (according to press reports) now refused offers to have her book published in Hebrew for distribution in Israel, a country with which Jordan has signed a peace treaty.
So much for the UN and Queen Rania promoting tolerance.
ISRAELIS BECOME WORLD LEADERS IN ASSISTING TRAVEL FOR PETS
Animal Airways, the world’s largest pet air transportation and relocation company, has subcontracted a chunk of its business to the Israeli company, Terminal4Pets.
Terminal4Pets will run a full-time, global veterinarian support and guidance in-flight service. The service will allow those traveling with pets to access a vet 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in ten languages.
Terminal4Pets already provides an international team of vets, pet handlers and “pet travel agents” with high-class kennels, pet flight kits, help with animal customs clearance assistance, and a VIP (“Very Important Pet”) service to meet and greet your pet upon arrival and drive it home in a special “Pet shuttle”.
NEW INDUSTRIAL PARK FOR ISRAELI-ARAB SECTOR
The cornerstone of a new industrial park has been opened in the predominantly Arab northern Israeli town of Nazareth.
The project has been initiated jointly by the Israeli government and Israeli billionaire industrialist Stef Wertheimer. Several Israeli cabinet ministers and the governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer were among those who traveled to Nazareth for the ceremony.
Israel’s Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said that the project symbolizes the “promotion of Jewish-Arab coexistence.”
He added that Israel should make full use of “the potential of Israel’s Arab sector to the economy.”
Unemployment remains higher among Israel’s Arab population, who make up 20 per cent of the population, than among Israeli Jews.
ISRAEL LAUNCHES PROGRAM TO HELP ISRAELI-ARAB COMPANIES INCREASE EXPORTS
Separately, the Israeli government has launched a new program designed to assist Arab-owned Israeli companies to boost their exports. 120 Israeli-Arab companies identified as having export potential have been deemed eligible for free advice, professional training and ongoing support from governmental and private organizations in order to help them market their products and services abroad.
TEL AVIV EXCHANGE SEEKS ISRAELI-ARAB COMPANIES
The head of the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange plans to recruit more foreign and Israeli-Arab countries to trade on the exchange.
“We are trying to bring new companies to the stock exchange,” says Tel Aviv Stock Market CEO Esther Levanon, who incidentally is one of the very few female heads of a stock exchange in the world.
KUWAITI BANK OPENS TRADING HALL FOR WOMEN
In order to cater to the growing number of Kuwaiti women wanting to trade, while at the same time pandering to the prejudices of the country’s male chauvinist establishment, the Kuwait Finance House is opening a stock trading hall exclusively for women.
“Women’s banking will no longer be limited to deposit and withdrawal,” announced Kuwait Finance House manager Tahani Saleh Al-Khamis. “Women will be allowed to participate in investment funds and portfolios.”
A statement from the bank said the new hall would be equipped “with the most modern means of technology and information including state-of-the-art computing and communication facilities providing an environment with speed and flexibility while highly private and secure, befitting women clients who wish to trade outside the official stock market building.”
CONTRARY TO STEREOTYPES, THE VAST MAJORITY OF ARAB WOMEN USE INTERNET ON A DAILY BASIS
Contrary to the false belief among some in the West that women in the Arab world do not have access to the internet, the vast majority of Arab women access the web from home, belong to a social networking site and use the Internet to connect with friends, a regional survey by the Gulf-based research group YouGovSiraj has found.
No fewer than 85 percent of Arab women use the internet at home, the survey found, although many Arab regimes block access to certain sites.
71% belong to a social network and 66% connect with friends online on a daily basis, the survey also found.
Lebanon held the highest online usage for women with 68% of those surveyed spending more than seven hours a week online outside of work, followed by the UAE at 55%, Kuwait 53%, Egypt 50%, Qatar 47%, Saudi Arabia and Jordan 44%, Bahrain 42%, Syria 34% and Oman 30%.
There is also a very high use of the internet in both the West Bank and Gaza.
HAMAS MAKES WITHDRAWAL AT GUNPOINT
Armed Hamas operatives have seized another $16,000 from tellers in a bank in the Gaza Strip, according to Palestinian press reports. The money seized represented the balance in an account in the Palestine Islamic Bank belonging to an Islamic charity.
The forcible withdrawal was the second this year, the previous being the seizure of $400,000 from another bank, also at gunpoint.
IRANIAN POLICE CAUTION 62,000 WOMEN FOR BEING “BADLY VEILED”
As the stifling heat of summer continues in the Middle East, Iranian police in the pious Shiite province of Qom have come out in force, reportedly issuing warnings to 62,000 women that they were not sufficiently veiled. The police also confiscated over 100 cars for carrying improperly dressed women, the local police chief said.
Iranian law insists women must be covered from head to foot and social interaction between unmarried men and women is banned. The law is applied less forcefully in major cities, where many women refuse to submit to it.
Meanwhile, Iran’s educational authorities say they are sending 1,000 religious clerics into schools in Tehran to clamp down on Western influence and political opposition.
The deputy director of Tehran’s education department, Mohammad Boniadi, said the clerics would work to make students “aware of opposition plots.”
Two months ago, the government reinstituted its ban against teaching music in schools. Cultural authorities have also issued guidelines for permissible male haircuts.
EGYPTIAN COURT SAYS ARAB WOMEN MARRIED TO ISRAELI MEN CAN BE STRIPPED OF CITIZENSHIP
An Egyptian appeals court has upheld a lower court’s ruling that women who are married to Israeli men may lose Egyptian citizenship, and their children will also be stripped of their citizenship and other rights.
The decree, which cannot be appealed, requires the government to petition the interior ministry on a case-by-case basis. The lawyer who brought the original case claimed he did so “in order to prevent the creation of a generation disloyal to Egypt and the Arab world.”
Please remind me again, where are the Western activists campaigning against “Apartheid Egypt”?
[All notes above by Tom Gross]