* British consulate staff arrested for role in planned terror attack on Jerusalem’s main soccer stadium. (No condemnation yet from FIFA. Virtual silence from Britain.)
* Hillary Clinton’s disgracefully extravagant and unqualified praise for Bahrain’s brutal dictatorship.
I attach a number of news items from the last two days.
1. Iran blames Jews for Coptic Church bombing
2. Salafi Sunni group behind bomb, but Egyptian Bar Association blames Jews
3. Leading Coptic journalist makes scathing denunciation of Egyptian regime, society
4. The Obama White House’s reaction
5. Two British consulate employees in Jerusalem arrested on terrorism charges
6. WikiLeaks: Iran can attack Israel with less than 12 minutes warning
7. Greece to build wall along Turkish border
8. “Dangerously silent on human rights” (By Jackson Diehl, Washington Post, Jan. 3, 2011)
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
IRAN BLAME JEWS FOR COPTIC CHURCH BOMBING
Iran’s state television station has blamed the New Year’s Eve suicide bombing at an Egyptian Coptic church that killed 21 people and injured almost 100 others, including many children, on “Zionists”. Similar accusations have been made by a Muslim Brotherhood official, an Egyptian lawyers group, and the Grand Mufti of Lebanon.
“Mossad behind Egypt church blast,” reads the headline on the website of Iran’s official television outlet, Press TV. On air broadcasts also blamed Jews.
“It goes without saying that no Muslim, whatever their political leanings may be, will ever commit such an inhumane act,” claims Press TV, which also blames Israel for the recent radical Muslim terror attacks on churches in Lebanon, Iraq and Tunisia.
(They seem to have forgotten to blame Israel for the Christmas Day bombing of a church mass in the Philippines by a Filipino Islamist group.)
Press TV has an increasingly large audience in Britain and other Western countries for its English-language channel. Several relatively prominent British journalists, including Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth, work for Press TV. (Booth recently converted to Islam; for more details, please see: Saudi employer hammers nails into Sri Lankan maid (& Booth converts to Islam).
Press TV’s English-language website (which employs British journalists to write its reports) also alleges that the U.S. and Britain conspired with the perpetrators of the suicide attacks on churches in Egypt and Iraq.
Dozens of people were killed after terrorists took more than 120 Christians hostage in a Baghdad Catholic church in October, and there have been many other attacks on Christians in Iraq recently. Tens of thousands of Christian have fled in into the sanctity of non-Arab Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.
The only places in the Middle East where the Christian population is growing in numbers, and living safely, are Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan – not that you would be given this impression by reading papers like Le Monde and The Guardian, or by watching the BBC.
SALAFI SUNNI GROUP BEHIND BOMB, BUT EGYPTIAN BAR ASSOCIATION BLAMES JEWS
Egyptian police say a radical Salafi Sunni group in Alexandria was behind the New Year’s Eve church massacre. The targeted church appeared on a list of 50 Coptic churches in Egypt and Europe published a month ago by Shumukh al-Islam, a group tied to al-Qaeda.
But anti-Semites in the Middle East and elsewhere have blamed Jews, just as the Nazis used to claim that the Jews were responsible for all the world’s problems.
The Egyptian Bar Association, a group representing many of the country’s lawyers, said “Israel carried out the church operation in a natural reaction to the latest uncovering of an Israeli espionage network”.
And Moneim Aboul al Fattouh Abdel, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Shura Council in Egypt, said the Mossad was behind this “evil act.”
Adding to the barrage of conspiracy theories, Lebanon’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, said: “This assault... is not an individual internal Egyptian act, but a criminal act with Zionist fingerprints)”.
Arab and Iranian extremists regularly blame the Jews for all kinds of things. Among recent examples, please see: Egypt claims Mossad to blame for shark attacks (& details of new Mossad head).
LEADING COPTIC JOURNALIST MAKES SCATHING DENUNCIATION OF EGYPTIAN SOCIETY AND REGIME
Following the New Year’s church massacre in Alexandria, Hani Shukrallah, a leading Egyptian Coptic journalist and the managing editor of the Egyptian Al-Ahram weekly, published a scathing op-ed on Al-Ahram’s English-language website, under the headline “J’accuse.”
In it, he accused the Egyptian regime of failing to combat Islamist extremism, and of nurturing Salafist Islam in the hope of undermining the Muslim Brotherhood. He condemned Egypt’s “supposedly moderate Muslims” for their increasingly hostility towards millions of Egyptian Christians and of applying a double standard: forcefully condemning any Western measure they perceive as anti-Muslim, while turning a blind eye to the “flagrant persecution of Christians in their own country.”
He writes: “I accuse those among us who would rise up in fury over a decision to halt construction of a Muslim Center near ground zero in New York, but applaud the Egyptian police when they halt the construction of a staircase in a Coptic church in the Omranya district of Cairo.”
He also condemned “the liberals and intellectuals, both Muslim and Western Christian, for keeping silent in the face of the violence against Christians.”
THE OBAMA WHITE HOUSE’S REACTION
The Obama administration said: “The attack on a church in Alexandria, Egypt caused 21 reported deaths and dozens of injured from both the Christian and Muslim communities.”
This is misleading to say the least, since all the dead were Copts and only a few of the “collateral injured” outside were Muslims. The bomb targeted Christians during their New Year’s service. It did not target what Obama calls the Muslim community.
TWO BRITISH CONSULATE EMPLOYEES IN JERUSALEM ARRESTED ON TERRORISM CHARGES
Two staff at the British consulate in Jerusalem were arrested yesterday on terrorism charges, accused of supplying Hamas with weapons for a planned attack on the Israeli capital’s main soccer stadium.
The Palestinian staff were accused of working with two Hamas terrorists (Musa Hamada and Bassem Omeri) detained in November who were indicted in the Jerusalem district court on Sunday and charged with planning to commit a terrorist attack.
The police said the suspects were “systematically checking how best to launch a rocket while the [Teddy soccer] stadium was crowded with people during a game.”
Israeli security officials said the pair acquired a number of guns and rockets from contacts in East Jerusalem, including the two members of the staff of the British consulate, which represents British interests with the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli police said the suspects had confessed – and boasted – about their involvement in buying the weapons.
A British Foreign Office spokesman in London confirmed yesterday that two members of staff at the consulate had been arrested. He said: “We have been told by the Israeli authorities that the investigation into our two employees is unrelated to the work they do at the consulate. It is not appropriate to comment further on what is an ongoing legal process.”
There has been no condemnation yet on the planned soccer stadium massacre from the world governing soccer body, FIFA. (For more on FIFA’s double standards and appeasement of Arab extremists, please see this article.)
British politicians and journalists might also want to ask the British Foreign Office what it was doing employing Hamas activists. (I doubt that too many will, of course, since those murdered in the soccer stadium carnage would only have been Israelis.)
WIKILEAKS: IRAN CAN ATTACK ISRAEL WITH LESS THAN 12 MINUTES WARNING
“U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks yesterday reveal that Israel believes it would have a 10-12 minute warning should Iran launch rocket attacks against the country,” reports VOA News. (In fact, like the vast bulk of the WikiLeaks “exclusives” regarding the Middle East, most have been reported before, including on this website.)
The Norwegian daily Aftenposten published a cable on Monday from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv that discusses a Nov 15, 2009 meeting between an American congressional delegation and Israel’s military chief.
According to the daily, Gabi Ashkenazi told the delegation that Iran has 300 Shihab missiles that could reach Israel. He added that Israel’s biggest threats were the Iranian-backed Hamas terrorist militia that has taken over Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon, which has more than 40,000 rockets that can reach almost any point in Israel.
In the cable, Ashkenazi is quoted as saying Israel was preparing its army for a major war in the Middle East. He added that the Israeli army sends out unmanned planes over Lebanon to identify potential targets.
The Israeli defense chief said Israel is not able to protect its entire population despite its anti-missile defense systems. He said 1 million Israelis could be exposed to missiles that cannot be fought from the air.
GREECE TO BUILD WALL ALONG TURKISH BORDER
Greece has announced that it plans to build a wall along its border with Turkey. The wall – which is designed to keep out illegal immigrants, rather than terrorists as Israel’s security barrier is – is one of several such walls built by many countries around the world in recent years. Yet only Israel’s is constantly scrutinized, vilified and demonized, even though it has saved the lives of many thousands of Israeli civilians.
Greek Citizen Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis told the Athens News Agency: “Greek society has reached its limits in taking in illegal immigrants. Greece can’t take it anymore.”
Greece shares a 206-km border with Turkey.
I attach an article below from yesterday’s Washington Post by the paper’s deputy comment editor, Jackson Diehl. (Diehl is a subscriber to this email list.)
-- Tom Gross
HAS THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SPOKEN UP FOR THIS RELATIVELY OBSCURE AND “VOICELESS” DISSIDENT? OF COURSE NOT.
Dangerously silent on human rights
By Jackson Diehl
January 3, 2011
In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly last September Barack Obama suggested that his administration’s notoriously weak defense of human rights around the world would be invigorated. “We will call out those who suppress ideas and serve as a voice for those who are voiceless,” he said. He went on to urge other democracies: “Don’t stand idly by, don’t be silent, when dissidents elsewhere are imprisoned and protestors are beaten.”
Just over two months later, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Bahrain, an important Persian Gulf ally that hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet. The emirate was in the midst of a major crackdown on its opposition. Two dozen dissidents, including intellectuals, clerics and a prominent blogger, had been rounded up, charged under anti-terrorism laws and allegedly tortured. A human rights group that had received U.S. funding was taken over by the government. Human Rights Watch had concluded that “what we are seeing in Bahrain these days is a return to full-blown authoritarianism.”
Clinton’s response? Extravagant and virtually unqualified praise for Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa family. “I am very impressed by the progress that Bahrain is making on all fronts - economically, politically, socially,” she declared as she opened a town hall meeting. Her paeans to Bahrain’s “commitment to democracy” continued until a member of parliament managed to gain access to the microphone and asked for a response to the fact that “many people are arrested, lawyers and human rights activists.”
Clinton’s condescending reply was a pure apology for the regime. “It’s easy to be focused internally and see the glass as half empty. I see the glass as half full,” she said. “Yes, I mean people are arrested and people should have due process . . . but on the other hand the election was widely validated. . . . So you have to look at the entire picture.”
So much for a fresh start on human rights. Clinton’s Bahrain visit reflected what seems to be an intractable piece of the Obama administration’s character: a deeply ingrained resistance to the notion that the United States should publicly shame authoritarian regimes or stand up for the dissidents they persecute.
Yes, Obama made a public statement the day an empty chair represented Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo at the Nobel peace prize ceremony, and both he and Clinton issued statements last week when Russia’s best-known political prisoner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was convicted on blatantly trumped-up charges. But in all sorts of less prominent places and cases, the U.S. voice remains positively timid - or not heard at all.
After Egypt’s terrible elections in November, in which ballot boxes were blatantly stuffed and the opposition brutally suppressed, the administration’s commentary was limited to bland statements issued by “the office of the press secretary” at State and the spokesman of the National Security Council. Three weeks earlier, at a widely watched joint press conference in Washington with Egypt’s foreign minister, Clinton made no mention of the elections, the crackdown or anything else related to human rights.
In Latin America, friends of the United States marvel at its passivity as Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega systematically crush civil society organizations and independent media. “I don’t see a clear policy,” Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez - a good example of the sort of dissident Obama promised to defend - told me.
When the administration touts its record it often focuses on the declarations it has engineered by multilateral forums, such as the U.N. Human Rights Council. The ideology behind this is that the United States is better off working through such bodies than acting on its own. The problem is that, in practice, this is not true. Set aside for the moment the fact that the U.N. council is dominated by human rights abusers who devote most of the agenda to condemnations of Israel. Who has heard what the council said about, say, the recent events in Belarus? The obvious answer: far fewer people than would have noticed if the same critique came from Obama or Clinton.
Back to Bahrain for a moment. The “entire picture” Clinton referred to is that virtually no one, outside the Bahraini royal family and the State Department, shared her judgment that the parliamentary election was “free and fair.” The dissidents are still on trial; their defense lawyers resigned en masse last month because of the court’s refusal to consider any of their motions.
Recently, Human Rights Watch spoke up again on behalf of Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, who has been repeatedly harassed by security forces, prevented from traveling and called a terrorist by the state news agency.
Has the Obama administration spoken up for this relatively obscure and “voiceless” dissident? Of course not.