Apartheid update (& “Cinema Jenin” opens amid fanfare and lights)

August 19, 2010

* Short videos below
* Moderate Muslims in the Mideast criticize U.S. plans to allow so-called Ground Zero mosque
* They say American supporters of the mosque don’t understand the boost it will give radicals battling moderates within the Muslim world
* State Dept. criticized for sending Ground Zero mosque Imam on Middle East junket
* Hamas seizes equipment, files from French aid group in Gaza

Today’s dispatch is split in two for space reasons. The other dispatch can be read here: Israel removes wall between Jerusalem neighborhood and Palestinian town.



1. BBC news presenter gives the finger
2. Unfair booking
3. Arab state moves to restrict freedom of speech... DC magazine blames Israel
4. Israeli tourism ministry slates U.S. State Dept. “bias” for advisory that omits Jordan
5. State Dept. criticized for sending Ground Zero mosque Imam on Mideast junket
6. Mixed feelings about the mosque
7. “Cinema Jenin” opens amid fanfare and lights
8. Apartheid update
9. Hamas seizes equipment, files from French aid group in Gaza
10. Ahmadinejad adds 9/11 to Holocaust denial
11. Iran’s new subs; promised third nuke plant; world snoozes
12. “A house of worship or a symbol of destruction?” (By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, Asharq Al-Awsat, Aug. 16, 2010)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


(Live broadcast, August 17, 2010, on one of the BBC’s domestic news channels.)



There is surprise and some outrage in Israel that the Israeli goalscorer in last night’s impressive European Soccer Cup victory by Hapoel Tel Aviv over Salzburg in Austria, appears to have been booked because his yarmulke (skullcap) fell off following his goal. Pulling your shirt off often gets players yellow carded – but a falling yarmulke?



If you want to gain an insight into why the U.S. State Department so often gets policy wrong, particularly in the Middle East, one factor is that many policymakers actually take seriously views of commentators in the “respected” Washington magazine Foreign Policy.

In what must be a contender for the most ridiculous article of the year award, Foreign Policy (which is owned by The Washington Post) has run a report titled “Is the UAE Banning BlackBerrys Because of Israel?”

Er, no. The United Arab Emirates wants to ban the BlackBerry mobile phone and email device, made by the Canadian company Research In Motion, because the UAE has a dictatorial government trying to prevent its citizens from gaining access to international media without it first being censored.

But over at Foreign Policy (whose star contributors include the notorious Stephen Walt, co-author of The Israel Lobby), it’s Conspiracy 101: everything is Israel’s fault.

India and Indonesia are also considering banning the BlackBerry. Will Foreign Policy blame Israel for that too?



Israel’s Ministry of Tourism reacted angrily to a travel advisory issued by the U.S. State Department warning tourists not to visit the southern Israeli resort town of Eilat, but okaying visits to the Jordanian town of Aqaba, that sits right next to Eilat on the Red Sea gulf.

The two towns are so close that when terrorists fired rockets into Eilat earlier this month (see here), two landed in Aqaba, killing a taxi driver and injuring a number of other Jordanians. No one was injured in Eilat. Yet the American advisory warned tourists away from Eilat but not Aqaba. In protest, the Israeli ministry wrote that, “Differentiating Israel from its neighbor that actually suffered loss of life is improper and lacks balance.”

In fact, tourism to Israel is by and large perfectly safe these days. A record number of tourists visited Israel in the first six months of this year, including many who went to Eilat.

UPDATE: After several days of complaints being made to it about the issue, the State Department has now slightly adjusted its travel warning to Israel, removing specific references to the recent rockets that overshot Eilat.



The Hillary Clinton-led State Department has also been widely criticized this week for inviting Feisal Abdul Rauf, the controversial Muslim leader behind the plan to build a 13 storey Mosque and cultural center near the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, on a U.S. government paid trip to the Middle East.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley defended the move, calling Rauf “a distinguished Muslim cleric,” and adding, “His work on tolerance and religious diversity is well known”.

But critics point out that Rauf has refused to condemn Hamas suicide attacks against Israeli children, has claimed that the United States was “an accessory” to the 9/11 attacks and that Osama bin Laden was “made in America”, and Rauf also appeared to show understanding for the Iranian regime even though it shot dead moderate Muslims and pro-democracy demonstrators on the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities last year.

However, many members of the media liberal elite are insisting that these opinions are irrelevant and that Rauf is a moderate. For example, Newsweek International editor and columnist Fareed Zakaria said that Rauf “is a moderate Muslim clergyman. He has said one or two things about American foreign policy that strike me as overly critical – but it’s stuff you could read on The Huffington Post any day.”

(Incidentally, there is a rumor in media circles that Zakaria is about to be hired by Newsweek’s rivals Time magazine. In what may be his final act as editor, Fareed this week had Newsweek name Saudi King Abdullah, who is a dictator, as one of “The top 10 Most Respected World Leaders”.)

There is also the question of why the State Department thinks the U.S. taxpayer needs to fund Rauf’s Mideast trip when he says he can raise $100 million from Saudi and other sources for his so-called “Ground Zero mosque” project. On his trip, Rauf will visit the oil rich states of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, and possibly others.

Perhaps the State Department should instead use the money to help fund the building of a church in Saudi Arabia – a country without any churches for Christians who live and work there.



I have mixed feelings about the so-called “Ground Zero mosque”. I would have no problem with a mosque being built near Ground Zero if that’s all that was at stake, and it was truly run by moderates. But this doesn’t seem to be the case.

At the end of this dispatch is an article by Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the director of the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television network, who was formerly editor-in-chief of the leading Arab newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat. Al-Rashed warns that building a mosque near Ground Zero will only play into the hands of the most radical of Muslims and create a “monument” to terrorists.

He writes: “What U.S. citizens do not understand is that the battle against the September 11 terrorists is a Muslim battle, and not theirs, and this battle still is ablaze in more than 20 Muslim countries.”

“The last thing Muslims want today is to build a religious center that provokes others, or a symbolic mosque that people will visit as a [kind of] museum next to a cemetery,” he says.



In stark contrast to the bloodshed witnessed there in recent years, the West Bank town of Jenin (previously known for sending out a record number of suicide bombers to murder Israelis) was lit up last week for the gala opening of Cinema Jenin, a site that both Palestinian and Israeli officials say they hope will become a center of culture and entertainment in the northern West Bank.

The state-of-the-art sound system was donated by Pink Floyd musician Roger Walters. Other facilities, including a 3-D projection system, were paid for by European governments.

A senior manager at the cinema complex in the nearby town of Nablus which opened last year, is one of a growing number of West Bank Palestinians subscribing to this email list. I mention one of my visits to the Nablus Cinema in one of two Wall Street Journal articles outlining how economic life in the West Bank is fast improving since Israel crushed Yasser Arafat’s EU-funded intifada: here and here.

* For how Jenin used to be a hotbed of militancy, please see my article Jeningrad.



The New York Times reported yesterday:

“Beirut -- Lebanon passed a law on Tuesday granting Palestinian refugees here the same rights to work as other foreigners, a step in ending years of discrimination [in Lebanon] that had restricted them to the most menial of jobs.

“A bill was approved after months of debate in Parliament that cut across decades of history in Lebanon and the rest of the Middle East, where the refugees’ fate remains a pressing question… The estimated 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon have endured some of the most wretched conditions.

“Their status in Lebanon has long divided lawmakers here, another point of contention in a decades-old debate over the country’s already complicated and tenuous system of sharing power among Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and Druze. Because most refugees are Sunni Muslims, opponents of giving them more rights have feared their eventual citizenship would give more power to Lebanon’s Sunnis.

“‘We agreed to give Palestinians the minimum of rights, which would improve their living conditions, and this was necessary,’ said George Adwan, a Christian lawmaker who had initially objected to the bill. ‘We only took into consideration their conditions, but we haven’t moved any closer to making them citizens.’”


Tom Gross adds: Meanwhile the 1.2 million Israeli-Palestinians (also known as Israeli-Arabs) are afforded a full range of rights in Israel. And so are the millions of Jewish refugees and their descendants booted out of Arab countries who now reside in Israel.



Agence France Presse reports that the French aid group “Help Doctors” yesterday accused Hamas of seizing equipment and files from one of its Gaza clinics in Khan Yunis.

“Four men from the (Hamas) interior ministry entered the clinic on Tuesday morning and seized computer equipment, telephones, chairs, office equipment and medical files,” the organization said in a statement.

The center, which specializes in the treatment of chronic illnesses, had cared for some 5,000 patients since it opened in April 2009.



Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is infamous for his Holocaust denial (he again referred to the Holocaust as a “fairy tale” in a televised speech last month), is now suggesting that the 9/11 terror attacks were also fabricated, or at least misreported.

At a news conference in Tehran last week, Ahmadinejad repeated the lie that the Holocaust never happened and went on to say that the death toll in the 9/11 attacks was nowhere near the documented loss of almost 3,000 lives. He added that everyone knew that if anyone did die, it was “the Zionists” who killed them, and added that “no Jewish names were among the dead,” another blatant racist lie.



Iranian President Ahmadinejad on Monday signed a bill setting forth the goal of enriching uranium to 20 per cent. At the same time, he announced a plan for a third Iranian nuclear plant next year.

Iran has also added four new submarines to its naval fleet. State-run Press-TV showed the vessels, all 120-ton Ghadir-class subs, which the news agency says operate well at shallow depths and have the capability to carry-out “long-term coastal missions.” The new subs bring to 11 the total in the fleet. The Ghadir-class vessels have sonar-evading capability and the ability to launch missiles and torpedoes.

The following cartoon is by “Dry Bones”, the former Jerusalem Post cartoonist, who is a longtime subscriber to this email list:

[All notes above by Tom Gross]



A House of Worship or a Symbol of Destruction?
By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid
Asharq Al-Awsat
August 16, 2010


US President Barack Obama adopted a difficult position when he supported the building of a mosque near ground zero, where 3,000 US citizens died at the hands of Al-Qaeda terrorists on 11 September 2001.

Despite the fact that the president adopted the correct stance in principle, i.e. the principle of freedom of worship, in my opinion he adopted an unnecessary and unimportant stance, even as far as Muslims are concerned. The mosque is not an issue for Muslims, and they are not bothered by its construction.

This reminds us of another principled stance Obama took when he insisted on putting the Guantanamo prisoners accused of belonging to Al-Qaeda on trial before civilian courts, and on closing down the military prison. It is true that this stance deserves appreciation. However, the fact is that he fought a battle that does not concern Muslims across the world, because there are tens of thousands of Muslims – similar to those accused of extremism – who are imprisoned in worse conditions in Muslim countries.

Muslims do not aspire for a mosque next to the 11 September cemetery, and are not bothered with Bin Laden’s cook being put on trial in a civilian court. Muslims have issues that encroach upon the destinies of nations; these issues are the cause of isolation and calamity, such as the establishment of the State of Palestine (sic). For Obama to focus his energy and efforts, and fight for the establishment of peace in the Middle East is more important and more valuable than a mosque in New York.

The fact is that building a mosque next to the site of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, which were destroyed during the 11 September attacks, is a strange story. This is because the mosque is not an issue for Muslims, and they have not heard of it until the shouting became loud between the supporters and the objectors, which is mostly an argument between non-Muslim US citizens!

Neither did the Muslims ask for a single building, nor do the angry Muslims want the mosque. This is one of the few times when the two opposing sides are in agreement. Nevertheless, the dispute has escalated, and has reached the front pages of the press and the major television programs, demonstrations have been staged in the streets, and large posters have been hung on buses roaming the streets of New York calling for preventing the building of the mosque and reminding the people of the 11 September crime. It really is a strange battle!

I cannot imagine that Muslims want a mosque on this particular site, because it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime. At the same time, there are no practicing Muslims in the district who need a place of worship, because it is indeed a commercial district. Is there a side that is committed to this mosque? The fact is that in the news reports there are names linked to this project that costs 100 million dollars!

The sides enthusiastic for building the mosque might be building companies, architect houses, or politicized groups that want suitable investments?! I do not know whether the building applicant wants a mosque whose aim is reconciliation, or he is an investor who wants quick profits. This is because the idea of the mosque specifically next to the destruction is not at all a clever deed. The last thing Muslims want today is to build just a religious center out of defiance to the others, or a symbolic mosque that people visit as a museum next to a cemetery.

What the US citizens do not understand is that the battle against the 11 September terrorists is a Muslim battle, and not theirs, and this battle still is ablaze in more than 20 Muslim countries. Some Muslims will consider that building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam. I do not think that the majority of Muslims want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam. This is what has started to happen now; they claim that there is a mosque being built over the corpses of 3,000 killed US citizens, who were buried alive by people chanting God is great, which is the same call that will be heard from the mosque.

It is the wrong battle, because originally there was no mosque in order to rebuild it, and there are no practicing Muslims who want a place in which to worship.

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