Tel Aviv voted world’s best gay city (& Israel prepares to accept Syrian refugees)

January 12, 2012

* Tunisia’s Islamist party condemns “death to Jews” chants by crowd greeting Hamas leader at Tunis airport
* Dubai gym sacks creative director for Auschwitz advert
* While Hamas and legal experts admit Gaza is not Israeli-occupied, the UN (and some European governments) still insist it is
* Video below: the women of Beit Shemesh respond musically to attempts at gender segregation


Above: Tel Aviv international gay pride parade 2011

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1. Tel Aviv voted best gay city in prominent international survey
2. Dubai withdraws advert exploiting the Holocaust
3. While Hamas admits Gaza is not Israeli-occupied, the bigots at the UN say it is
4. Iran announces new rules designed to restrict use of the Internet
5. A musical response from the women of Beit Shemesh
6. Israel prepares to accept Syrian refugees on the Golan Heights
7. Tunisia’s Islamist party condemns anti-Semitic chants
8. Israel’s deteriorating relations with Germany
9. Haiti, two years on

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


Tel Aviv has been voted “Best gay city of 2011” in a prominent world-wide survey of homosexuals sponsored by American Airlines. It easily beat New York, London, Sao Paulo and Madrid in the vote, the results of which are here:

(The New York Times op-ed page editors, in their campaign to vilify Israel, recently questioned the country’s record on gay rights. It will be interesting to see whether they report on this new survey.)

(And those at the State Department in Washington who subscribe to this Middle East dispatch list may also want to bring it to the attention of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who – in possibly the most foolish thing she has ever said – recently compared Israel’s record on women and gays with that of Iran. Iran continues to publicly hang teenagers it suspects of being gay.)

In response to the GayCities/American Airlines survey, the Tel Aviv mayor’s office pointed out that it invests considerable resources in the gay community, including the Gay Center (, which receives approximately NIS 500,000 per annum from the city, Gay Pride Week and support for various not-for-profit gay and lesbian groups.



Following criticism, a Dubai fitness center has stopped using an advert that featured the infamous black and white photo of the train tracks to the Auschwitz death camp, with the slogan “Kiss your calories goodbye.”

Gulf News reported that Phil Parkinson, manager of the Circuit Factory in Dubai, admitted he was “not surprised people have reacted so strongly regarding the poster. We have dismissed our creative director for getting it so badly wrong.”

Dimitri Metaxas, regional executive director of digital operations at Omnicom Media Group, said, “I have never heard of an advert in such poor taste”.

The ad was uploaded onto the company’s Facebook page, setting off protests.

Abe Foxman, the director of the Anti-Defamation League in New York, and himself a Holocaust survivor, said, “We are increasingly troubled by both the ignorance and mindset of a generation that appears to be so distant from a basic understanding of the Holocaust that it seems acceptable to use this horrific tragedy as a gimmick to bring attention to promoting losing weight.

“What do we have to do to educate and impart to current and future generations the perils of bigotry, racism, discrimination and anti-Semitism? If we do not convey the importance of eliminating these ills, society is doomed to relive the horrors of the Holocaust,” added Foxman (who is a longtime subscriber to this email list).



Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar confirmed last week that there is no longer any Israeli occupation of Gaza, according to the leading Palestinian news agency, Ma’an.

Zahar was asked whether Hamas was planning to organize anti-Israel marches in Gaza to coincide with similar protests that the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority is due to hold in the West Bank.

“Against whom could we demonstrate in the Gaza Strip? When Gaza was occupied, that model was applicable,” Zahar said.

Zahar was confirming the obvious: that Israel withdrew completely from Gaza in 2005. (Please see the photo essay “Exodus for Gaza”.)

Hamas runs its own police, courts, jails, schools, media and social services. It regulates business activities, banks and land registries. It levies taxes, controls its own borders and even imposes a dress code. Indeed it rules the territory with an iron fist.

If anyone occupies Gaza today, it is the Hamas regime. Yesterday, according to the Associated Press, a Hamas military court in Gaza sentenced another Palestinian to death.

Yet as commentator Hillel Neuer, an international lawyer who runs the Geneva-based group UN Watch, points out, the UN refuses to stop defining Gaza as “Israeli-occupied” despite a slew of international legal opinions to the contrary from leading experts such as Prof. Avi Bell.

For example, a report last September in the name of the UN secretary-general speaks of a UN mission’s visit to the “occupied Palestinian territory, specifically the Gaza Strip.”

Repeatedly last year, Richard Falk, the UN Human Rights Council’s permanent investigator on alleged Israeli violations, referred to the “occupied Gaza Strip.”

“There is a certain paradox in all of this,” notes Neuer. “Even as a key UN agency, UNESCO, recently recognized ‘Palestine’ – which includes Gaza – as a full and independent member of its organization, the UN continues to use the ‘occupied’ terminology.”

“And if the UN really wants to advance Palestinian self-rule and help Palestinians achieve sustainable independence,” adds Neuer (who is a subscriber to this email list), “it must help, rather than hinder, the Palestinians develop a healthy culture of self-rule. The world body must stop patronizing them with a legal fiction designed to sustain a permanent state of grievance and absolve them of any responsibility.”


Tom Gross adds: The international community also continues to give Palestinian Authority President and Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas a free pass for his encouragement of terrorism. Among recent examples, Abbas went out of his way to meet and embrace a convicted Palestinian terrorist in Turkey.

The female terrorist, Amna Muna, using a false persona, had chatted up a teenage Israeli boy over the internet and then lured him to a remote location where he was brutally butchered by her accomplices. Muna, a convicted murderer, was released from an Israeli prison in October as part of the deal to free Gilad Shalit and now lives in Turkey.



Iran’s cyber-police have issued new guidelines for Internet cafes in a further attempt to suppress free speech and ban news websites.

Under the new rules, the personal information of citizens visiting cybercafés, including their name, their parents’ names, national ID number, and telephone number, will be registered. Cafe owners will be required to keep the personal and contact information of their customers and a record of the websites and pages visited for a period of six months.

The new regulations also require cybercafé owners to install closed-circuit TV cameras and keep the video recordings of internet use. The cafes have 15 days to implement the new restrictions, or they will be closed down.

The guidelines have been put in place ahead of the March parliamentary elections.

The authorities are trying to prevent people reading external pro-democracy websites such as Radio Farda (which has regularly linked to these Middle East dispatches, and interviewed me on several occasions, such as this one.)


Another Iranian nuclear scientist was killed yesterday when an attacker riding a motorcycle magnetically attached a bomb to the side of his car. Interestingly, the BBC called the incident an act of “terror”, even though it almost never uses this phrase to describe women and children blown up by suicide bombers.


A Tehran court has sentenced to death a U.S. citizen of Iranian descent, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, 28, as a “corrupter on Earth” and for “waging war on God.” Hekmati says he was in the country to visit his elderly grandmother. The U.S. responded on Monday night to the news by urging the Iranian government to give Hekmati access to a lawyer and to release him in the meantime.



A very small minority splinter group within Israel’s ultra-orthodox community has recently been in the news for intimating women and exploiting the Holocaust to make their political points. They have been widely condemned not just by secular and orthodox Israelis but by other ultra-orthodox communities. In spite of this, papers hostile to Israel in the West have made great play of the issue to exaggerate it out of all proportion.

This “song and dance” is an imaginative response from secular and orthodox Jewish women in Beit Shemesh, the town where the controversial attempt at enforced gender segregation occurred.



The head of the Israeli army Benny Gantz said on Tuesday that he expects Syrian President Bashar Assad to lose power and that Israel is planning to absorb a large influx of refugees, including many Alawite Muslims, in the Golan Heights.

The population of the Golan Heights is over 50 percent Jewish with a large Druze minority. Neither group would like to be overwhelmed by a permanent presence of tens or hundreds of thousands of Alawites.

Assad and many of his supporters are Alawite.

“The day the Assad regime falls, this is expected to hurt the Alawite sect. We are getting ready to take in Alawite refugees in the Golan Heights,” Lt. Gen. Gantz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee.

The Assad regime has murdered at least 6,000 civilians in recent months. Earlier this week, Cyprus intercepted another military cargo from Iran bound for Syria. Iran (as well as Russia) has continued to provide weapons and training to help Assad crush pro-democracy protests.



… but says nothing about the “death to Israel” chants. (Many Arabs use the words “Israelis” and “Jews” to mean the same thing.)

Rachid Ghannouchi, the head of Tunisia’s Ennahda Islamic party condemned anti-Semitic slogans chanted on Monday by Islamists in Tunisia who had come to greet the visiting Hamas Prime Minister from Gaza.

Videos circulated online showed the crowd greeting Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh at the airport in Tunis last Thursday with chants of “Kill the Jews, slit their throats”.

Tunisia has one of the Arab world’s largest surviving Jewish minorities, numbering about 1,500 in an overall population of more than 10 million. Fifty years ago, over 100,000 Jews lived in Tunisia. Most have since fled to Israel, France and Canada.

According to the head of the Jewish community of Tunisia, Ghannouchi’s condemnation was only half-hearted and Tunisia’s remaining Jews remain very nervous.



Writing a staff editorial on Tuesday in Israel’s largest paper, Yediot Ahronot, Eldad Beck analyzes the state of German-Israel relations and claims that, “Under the influence of elements in the establishment that are hostile to Israel, a wide-ranging pro-Arab lobby and extreme left-wing Israelis, which have taken over the delicate network of bilateral relations, and due to diplomatic and economic constraints, Germany has allowed itself to neglect its ‘historic commitment to Israel’s existence and security’ and to crudely interfere in the conduct of its internal affairs.”

Beck adds that, “At a time when Israel needs, more than ever, a show of support for its right to exist, Germany is turning its back on it… Germany is stubbornly and determinedly working to disengage from Israel; after all, the Holocaust was 70 years ago.”

He notes that the appointment of a new Israeli ambassador to Berlin is due to be decided upon later this week and urges the appointment of “an ambassador who understands the mentality of denial and will speak frankly with the Germans.”



Today is the second anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed so many in Haiti. 500,000 Haitians are still living in tents as a result of the earthquake. UN peacekeepers have also recently inadvertently introduced a cholera epidemic into the country. Israel is one of the only countries still offering follow-up aid and assistance.

Among previous dispatches on this, please see:

* And his name will be ‘Israel’: Mother of Haitian baby honors IDF rescuers (Jan. 18, 2010)

* Iran: “Israeli doctors stealing Haitian organs” (Jan. 24 2010)

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

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