Departing NPR Exec laments “Jewish control of newspapers” (& Vogue out of fashion)

March 09, 2011

* Vogue magazine misses the trend: Middle Eastern tyrants are out of fashion this season
* Israeli sanitation worker loses hand in Jerusalem terror bombing
* NPR CEO and President Vivian Schiller resigns after secretly recorded video in which NPR executive Ron Schiller (the two are not related) made disparaging remarks about Jews and Republicans

An anti-Israeli demonstration in Barcelona



1. Harvard, too, teams up with the dictator’s wife
2. Sanitation worker loses hand in Jerusalem terror attack
3. Israel grouped with Iran & North Korea as world’s least popular countries
4. Even in the midst of Arab uprisings, Western pop stars target Israel
5. The sound of silence
6. Justin Bieber says he will ignore boycotters and perform in Israel next month
7. While Arab countries burn, universities launch Israel Apartheid Week
8. Caught on camera
9. Departing NPR Exec laments “Jewish control of newspapers”
10. British actress and MP Glenda Jackson: It is ok to call Israelis Nazis
11. Umberto Eco denounces “racist” writers calling for Israel boycotts
12. Thousands protest detentions of Turkish journalists
13. Ridiculous headline of the month
14. “The dictator’s wife wears Louboutins” (By Bari Weiss & David Feith, WSJ, March 7, 2011)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


Vogue magazine is being criticized for its decision this month to publish a 3,000-word paean to that “freshest and most magnetic of first ladies,” Syria’s Asma al-Assad.

Apparently Vogue missed the trend: Glorifying Middle East dictators and their wives is out this season.

I attach a piece about the Vogue article at the end of this dispatch, from The Wall Street Journal, by Bari Weiss and David Feith. (Both are subscribers to this list.)

But meanwhile another subscriber to this list (who is a Harvard alumni) points out to me that in the piece on Mrs. Assad, Vogue plugs the Four Seasons Hotel, noting that “you can spot the Hamas leadership racing through the bar of the Damascus Four Seasons,” and that on March 17 at the same Damascus Four Seasons, Harvard alumni will host an event “under the patronage of H.E. Mrs. Asma al-Assad”.

Event sponsors include leading New York-headquartered consultants Booz & Co., and McKinsey & company:



A sanitation worker from the Jerusalem Municipality lost his hand on Sunday when a garbage bag he was lifting exploded. Another sanitation worker was injured by the explosion. The explosion was caused by a bomb, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. It was the first terrorist attack in the Israeli capital in more than a year.

The bomb was left next to a monastery, and Christians as well as Jews may have been the target, said counter-terrorist experts.

Today at least 13 people were killed and 140 wounded as Muslims attacked Christians in Egypt.



This year’s annual BBC poll surveying 27 countries again reveals that Israel is one of the world’s most unpopular countries and is perceived as having “a negative influence on the world,” ranking at the bottom of the chart along with Iran, North Korea and Pakistan.

Negative opinions of Israel in the U.S. and U.K. increased over the past year, according to the poll.

However, most Americans still rate Israel positively (probably because its media doesn’t demonize Israel, day after day, to the same extent as European and other media do).

The only other countries polled with a generally positive view of Israel (besides the United States) were Russia, Ghana and China – also countries where Israel is not now demonized in the media and on university campuses to the same extent as it is elsewhere.

In Ghana’s case, it seems the Ghanaian people are still thankful for Israel in assisting Ghana during that country’s independence, and the two countries are also closely linked because of soccer. Several of the leading Ghana players have played in the Israeli league, and at the World Cup before last, the winning scorer for Ghana unveiled an Israeli flag.

Pantsil unveils the Israeli flag after scoring for Ghana



Even in the midst of Arab uprisings and the killings of innocent unarmed people (for the “crime” of calling for democracy), on the streets of Bahrain, Oman, Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere in the Arab world in recent days, many prejudiced pop stars are still condemning Israel.

Pink Floyd former lead singer and bassist Roger Waters this week declared his support for the boycott of Israel in a statement published on the website of the (anti-Zionist) Palestinian-Israeli NGO, the Alternative Information Center (AIC).


Waters writes: “Where governments refuse to act, people must. For some that meant joining the Gaza Freedom March, for others it meant joining the humanitarian flotilla that tried to bring much needed humanitarian aid to Gaza. For me it means declaring my intention to stand in solidarity, not only with the people of Palestine, but also with the many thousands of Israelis who disagree with their government’s racist and colonial policies, by joining a campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel.”

Waters added that his public statement was a “plea to my colleagues in the music industry, and also to artists in other disciplines, to join this boycott [of Israel].”

Waters said that his action was also motivated by the Israeli government’s failure to “grant civil rights to Israeli Arabs equal to those enjoyed by Israeli Jews”.

As reported on this website last year, other musicians who have recently cancelled concerts in Israel, citing political reasons, include Elvis Costello and the Pixies.



Contrary to what Waters says, thousands of Israelis are not boycotting their own country. In most respects, Israeli Arabs are more integrated into Israeli society than British Muslims are into British society (and are incomparably more integrated than minorities in other Middle East countries, such as the repressed Shia of Saudi Arabia or the persecuted Kurds of Syria).

Waters and others have nothing to say about attacks of the kind that took place two weeks ago when a Grad rocket landed in the yard of a private home in the main southern Israeli city of Beer Sheva, damaging several nearby houses and vehicles. Ten people were treated by medics for shock resulting from the attack. Rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza with increasing frequency in recent weeks.

The Grad is a form of Russian-made Katyusha which has a range in excess of 12 miles and carries an explosive payload.



Canadian teenage heart-throb Justin Bieber has reiterated that he will ignore calls to boycott Israel and will perform in Israel in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park on April 14. As many as 60,000 fans are expected to attend.

The 16-year-old Bieber is now one of the world’s most popular stars. His debut song “One Time” topped the charts in dozens of countries, and his hit “Baby” has become one of the most watched videos of all time, with over 480 million views on YouTube.

Other stars who have ignored boycott calls and played in Israel recently include Elton John, Rod Stewart, Metallica and Leonard Cohen.



Israeli Apartheid Week, an effort by groups and activists supporting boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel to discredit it and label it an “apartheid state,” kicked off on Monday in many cities and college campuses worldwide.

There are so many anti-Israel events, that this year it runs for two weeks, from March 7-20.

Among past dispatches related to this, please see:

* “Let’s substitute Israel Apartheid Week with Palestine Democracy Week” (Dec. 9, 2009)

* ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ kicks off around the world (Feb. 13, 2007)



Criticism of Israel is, of course, fine. Indeed as a democracy, Israel should and does welcome it. But the kind of anti-Semitic demonization of Israel now taking place on some college campuses and news media is not fine.

It can hardly help that in recent weeks such prominent personalities as fashion designer John Galliano, WikiLeaks head Julian Assange and actor Charlie Sheen, have all made anti-Semitic statements.

Galliano went to a bar in the Jewish (Marais) quarter of Paris, from which thousands were deported to their deaths in World War Two, and announced his love for Hitler, smiling as he told the people at adjoining tables, who he first called Jews, that “People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be fucking gassed.” He told another woman she had “a dirty Jew face.”

One French commentator noted that “virulent views like those expressed by Galliano are not rare in Paris, but the fact they are now caught on cellphone videos means they cannot be denied later.”



The American Spectator reports yesterday:

“An undercover video of a departing National Public Radio fundraising executive has shown him nodding in agreement as men posing as representatives of a Muslim Brotherhood front group rip Jewish control of the media.

“Eventually, the President of the NPR Foundation and VP for development, Ron Schiller chimes in, saying that Zionist influence doesn’t exist at NPR, but ‘it’s there in those who own newspapers obviously.’”


Tom Gross adds:

While it is somewhat sleazy for other reporters to have set Schiller up like this, such journalistic tactics have been a staple of 60 Minutes and other investigative TV news shows for decades, and don’t mitigate the severity of Schiller’s remarks.

In case it needs to be said, one of the most pervasive myths propagated by anti-Semites is that Jews control the media, and own much of it.

NPR has long been accused of carrying a severe anti-Israel bias in many of its news reports.


Extracts of the interview with Schiller are here:

The full two hour recording is here, in case anyone wants to watch it:



You can call Israelis Nazis and compare Gaza to a concentration camp – but that is not preaching hatred, according to Glenda Jackson, the actress, and more recently an MP for the British Labour party, representing the seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, a district with a sizeable number of Jewish constituents.

Jackson’s remarks came in response to a question she was asked by a student about hate speech on campus. The student was distressed by the comments made at the university’s Palestine Society by a visiting speaker, Mike Prysner, who compared Israel’s actions with the Holocaust. Jackson said she didn’t believe this was an example of “hate speech”.

Jackson added: “Israel is not a little country standing alone against armies of people who hate it. I’m not anti-Israel but I am anti the Israeli government.”



(I first sent this item to some people on my smaller email list on the day it appeared.)

Leading Italian writer Umberto Eco has denounced as “racist” those British writers who had been pressuring their fellow British novelist Ian McEwan not to attend the Jerusalem Book Fair. Several British writers had waged a campaign against McEwan in The Guardian newspaper and other outlets during January and February, in the run-up to the Jerusalem Book Fair telling him he should “not set foot in the racist, illegitimate state of Israel”.

McEwan, the author of “Atonement” and other novels, travelled to Jerusalem nonetheless, although he made what many considered to be harsh and unfair remarks about Israel in his acceptance speech, which angered many Israelis.



Thousands of Turks have demonstrated in Ankara and Istanbul in response to the detention last week of seven journalists, the latest clampdown on the freedom of the press by the increasingly authoritarian Erdogan government in Turkey.

Protesters called for an end to “the repression of Turkish journalists” and chanted in support of Nedim Sener of the newspaper Milliyet, a frequent critic of the government, and Ahmet Sik, who is known for his reporting on human rights abuses by the government.

The Turkish Journalists Association says 61 journalists have now been detained by the authorities in Turkey. The organization Reporters Without Borders, based in Paris, ranks Turkey 138th out of 178 countries on its “world press freedom index.”

Undoubtedly the British journalist unions – the ones that are so enthusiastic about boycotting Israel for its (non-existent) restrictions against Palestinian journalists – will be rushing to condemn this.



(I first sent this item to some people on my smaller email list on the day it appeared.)

Ridiculous headline of the month (from ABC News):

Nazi Buff Turned Jihadi Allegedly Bites FBI Agents


(I attach one article below.)

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


The Dictator’s Wife Wears Louboutins
By Bari Weiss and David Feith
The Wall Street Journal
March 7, 2011

Maybe it takes a fashion dictator to know a fashionable dictator. How else to explain Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s decision this month to publish a 3,000-word paean to that “freshest and most magnetic of first ladies,” Syria’s Asma al-Assad?

That’s right. As Libyans braved fighter jets and machine-gun fire in their drive to overthrow the tyrant Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli, the queen of Condé Nast thought it was in good taste to feature the beautiful wife of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Apparently Vogue missed the trend: Dictators are out this season.

The Assad family – first Hafez and now his son Bashar – has ruled Syria since 1970. In that time, they’ve killed 20,000 Syrians to put down an uprising in Hama, provoked civil war in Lebanon and then occupied the country to “keep peace,” built a secret nuclear-weapons facility modeled on North Korea’s, and established Damascus as a hub for terrorists from Hezbollah to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. All part of keeping their countrymen under foot for 40 years.

No matter. The only feet that seem to interest Vogue writer Joan Juliet Buck are the manicured toes of the first lady. Mrs. Assad reveals a “flash of red soles,” we’re told, as she darts about with “energetic grace.”

The red soles are an allusion to the signature feature of Christian Louboutin designer heels – easily $700 a pair – that Mrs. Assad favors. (Mr. Louboutin, says Vogue, visits Damascus to buy silk brocade, and he owns an 11th-century palace in Aleppo.)

Mrs. Assad also sports Chanel sunglasses and travels in a Falcon 900 jet. But, we’re assured, she’s not the ostentatious sort: “Her style is not the couture-and-bling of Middle Eastern power but deliberate lack of adornment.” She once worked at J.P. Morgan, never breaks for lunch, and starts her day at 6 a.m. – all while raising three children! Just another 21st-century woman trying to do it all in style.

And her parenting? “The household is run on wildly democratic principles,” Vogue reports. “We all vote on what we want and where,” says Mrs. Assad of herself, her husband and their children.

For the people of Syria, not so much. Outside their home, the Assads believe in democracy the way Saddam Hussein did. In 2000, Bashar al-Assad won 97% of the vote. Vogue musters the gumption only to call this “startling.” In fact, it’s part of a political climate that’s one of the world’s worst – on par, says the watchdog group Freedom House, with those of North Korea, Burma and Saudi Arabia.

But none of those countries has Asma. “The 35-year-old first lady’s central mission,” we’re told, “is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls ‘active citizenship.’”

That’s just what 18-year-old high-school student Tal al-Mallouhi did with her blog, but it didn’t stop the Assad regime from arresting her in late 2009. Or from sentencing her, in a closed security court last month, to five years in prison for “espionage.”

Ms. Mallouhi goes unmentioned in Vogue. But readers get other crucial details: On Fridays, Bashar al-Assad is just an “off-duty president in jeans – tall, long-necked, blue-eyed.” He “talks lovingly about his first computer,” Vogue records, and he says that he studied ophthalmology “because it’s very precise, it’s almost never an emergency, and there is very little blood.”

So it’s the opposite of his Syria: murky and lawless, operating under emergency law since 1963, and wont to shed blood through its security forces and proxies like Hezbollah.

It’s hard to believe that a veteran journalist would so diminish these matters, but it seems that Ms. Buck’s aim was more public relations spin than reportage. As she reveals, her every move was watched by state security: “The first lady’s office has provided drivers, so I shop and see sights” – including, in a trip reminiscent of Eva Perón, an orphanage – ”in a bubble of comfort and hospitality.”

In the past weeks, as people power has highlighted the illegitimacy and ruthlessness of the Middle East’s strongmen, various Western institutions have been shamed for their associations with them. There’s the London School of Economics, which accepted over $2 million from Libya’s ruling family, and experts like political theorist Benjamin Barber, who wrote that Gadhafi “is a complex and adaptive thinker as well as an efficient, if laid-back, autocrat.”

When Syria’s dictator eventually falls – for the moment, protests against him have been successfully squelched by police – there will be a similar reckoning. Vogue has earned its place in that unfortunate roll call.

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