A screenshot from the official website of the 2012 London Olympics as it appeared until this morning. It has now been corrected following complaints.
* Leading Iranian ayatollah says gays are “worse than dogs and pigs”
* Google logo for some goes white and blue for a day to honor Israel’s 64th birthday
* Hanan Ashwari, other leading Palestinians, denounce Abbas’s increasing censorship of Palestinian media
* New “pro-Israel” political party formed by Israeli-Arabs says it would enter coalition with Likud to try and help peace process
* Speculation about early elections rife in Israel: according to polls, Likud would get double the support of any other party
Google celebrates Israel’s 64th birthday
(This dispatch was written and sent on April 30, 2012 but only posted on line on May 1 due to technical reasons.)
* There is another dispatch today here:
1. Netanyahu clarifies stance on Palestinian contiguity, again says he wants a Palestinian state
2. Netanyahu’s respected father dies
3. Hanan Ashwari denounces Abbas’s Palestinian Authority censorship
4. New “pro-Israel” political party formed by Israeli-Arabs
5. “Likud gets double the support of other parties”
6. Druze professor appointed Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand
7. Abbas: Visits to al-Aqsa mosque by non-Palestinian Arabs are permitted
8. Gazan leaders call for abduction of Israelis
9. Terrorists with bombs caught en route to Jerusalem
10. Rocket fire mars Independence Day celebrations in Israeli coastal city
11. Google logo goes white and blue to honor Israel’s 64th birthday
12. Hamas Education Minister considering Hebrew courses at Gaza high schools
13. Iran hangs another gay man
14. Saudis recall ambassador and shut embassy in Egypt
15. At least 500 Syrians murdered by Assad forces since the supposed ceasefire took effect
16. London Olympics official website: Jerusalem Capital of ‘Palestine,’ not Israel
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
NETANYAHU CLARIFIES STANCE ON PALESTINIAN CONTIGUITY, AGAIN SAYS HE WANTS A PALESTINIAN STATE
Officials in Jerusalem have clarified remarks made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a CNN interview last week in which he expressed a seeming willingness for Palestinian contiguity. They explained Netanyahu was referring to the West Bank, and not necessarily advocating a physical link between the West Bank and Gaza that would cut across Israel.
In the interview on CNN, Netanyahu was asked by the program host whether he thought the Palestinians should have a country that “is contiguous, not islands here and islands there, but one space.”
Netanyahu said “yes,” but was then cut off before he could elaborate.
Netanyahu stressed in the interview that he wanted the Palestinians to have a “real state,” but one that is demilitarized. “We don’t want them to fire rockets,” he said. “We want to make sure that if we have a peace arrangement, and we walk away from certain areas that they won’t be used a third time [following the withdrawals from Gaza and southern Lebanon] by Iran and its Palestinian proxies to fire rockets on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu added that Israel did not want to control the lives of Palestinians. “I don’t want to govern the Palestinians. I don’t want them as subjects of Israel or as citizens of Israel. I want them to have their own independent state but a demilitarized state.”
NETANYAHU’S RESPECTED FATHER DIES
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s father Benzion Netanyahu, a leading historian and prominent activist during the creation of the modern state of Israel, died this morning at his Jerusalem home at the age of 102. He was a leading expert in Medieval Spanish Jewry and professor emeritus at Cornell University and editor of the prestigious Encyclopedia Hebraica.
Besides the current Israeli Prime Minister, Benzion Netanyahu had two other sons: Yonatan, born in 1946, a former special forces commander, who was killed in 1976 during the operation to free kidnapped airline passengers at Entebbe; and Ido, born in 1952, a physician, author and playwright.
HANAN ASHWARI DENOUNCES ABBAS’S PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY CENSORSHIP
Leading Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashwari, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, has become the latest senior Palestinian to strongly criticize Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for his increasing clampdown on media freedom.
I have previously reported in these dispatches in recent months about the violent harassment and detention of Palestinian journalists, bloggers and a cartoonist who dared to write about the endemic corruption and human rights abuses of Abbas’s Western-backed Palestinian Authority.
In a statement, Ashwari said Abbas’ clampdown was “undermining our efforts to create a Palestinian democratic pluralistic and tolerant society based on the rule of law.”
Last week, several Palestinian political websites were shut down by the public prosecutor Ahmed al-Mughni. The Palestinian Minister of Communications, Mashhour Abu Daka, then submitted his resignation after denouncing the censorship of these sites by al-Mughni.
The decision to block websites critical of Abbas “marks a major expansion of the government’s online powers,” the Palestinian news service Ma’an reported. “Experts say it is the biggest shift toward routine Internet censorship in the Palestinian Authority’s history.”
“Several Palestinian officials have expressed reservations about the decision, calling it embarrassing and counterproductive,” the news agency said.
NEW “PRO-ISRAEL” POLITICAL PARTY FORMED BY ISRAELI-ARABS
Many Israeli Arabs have been dissatisfied with the often harsh anti-Israel positions of the existing Israeli-Arab political parties, not to mention the support some of the leaders of these parties have voiced for Syrian dictator Assad, former Libyan dictator Gaddafi, and the Islamic militia/terror groups Hamas and Hizbullah.
Now a new Israeli-Arab political party is being formed which says it will be “unabashedly pro-Israel and take a very different approach.”
“Most Arab citizens of Israel are in favor of coexisting, cooperating and living in harmony with Jewish Israelis,” the party’s founder, Sarhan Bader, told The Jerusalem Post. “The other Arab parties place too much emphasis on the Palestinians and external Arabs. But it’s more important to serve the Arabs inside Israel who want to live here in peace with our Jewish cousins. After we solve the problems of internal Arabs, we can help the Palestinians.”
“To serve the Arabs properly, it’s important to work together with the ruling party in the coalition,” he added. “The Druze members of the Israeli Knesset who are part of the coalition [Likud, Yisrael Beitenu and the Independence Party all have Druze MKs] help their constituency a hundred times more than every Arab MK in the opposition. I will dramatically improve things for the Arab sector.”
Tentatively called the Israeli-Arab Nationalist Party, it will field candidates in the next Israeli general election – in a country denounced as an “Apartheid state” by anti-Israeli activists such as former American president Jimmy Carter and various Ivy League university professors.
Sarhan Bader said he would fight to improve the position of Arabs in Israel (they make up 22 percent of Israel’s population). He said his party would represent its constituency better than the current Arab parties, in part because he intends to join the coalition, which no Arab party has ever done.
Bader, 36, said his party would have no problem entering a Likud-led coalition. “Only a strong party like Likud can bring peace,” he said. “It’s true historically. The Left won’t bring peace. Labor never did anything for the Arab sector. It’s time to give a chance to the Right.”
“Our party will do more for Israeli Arabs than the other Israeli Arab parties have ever done with their anti-Israel rallies and anti-Zionist rhetoric.”
“LIKUD GETS DOUBLE THE SUPPORT OF OTHER PARTIES”
There is much speculation in Israel this week that early elections may be called. Elections are not scheduled until late next year. According to recent polls, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party would garner twice as many votes as any other individual party but under Israel’s complex proportional representation system it would still require the support of several other parties to form a coalition.
DRUZE PROFESSOR APPOINTED ISRAEL’S AMBASSADOR TO NEW ZEALAND
Hebrew Literature Professor Naim Araidi, who is an Israeli Druze, has been appointed Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
“After years of representing the State of Israel unofficially, it will be a great privilege for me to do so in an official capacity and show Israel’s beautiful side, as well as the coexistence that despite all the hardships can only be maintained in a true democracy,” Araidi told Israel’s most popular paper, Yediot Ahronot.
Born in Kfar Marrar in the Galilee, the 62-year-old Araidi teaches at Haifa University and at Bar-Ilan University. In 2008, he won the Prime Minister’s Award for Hebrew Literature. He received his doctorate in Hebrew literature from Bar-Ilan. His poems have been published in more than a dozen languages.
Foreign Minister Lieberman said Araidi’s appointment “represents the beautiful face of Israel, in which a talented person, irrespective of religion or sector – can reach the highest places on merit, and be an inspiration for all Israelis.”
Lieberman is often wrongly portrayed by Western media correspondents and commentators as not caring about Arabs, but he has in fact promoted quite a number of Israeli Arabs and Druze to various positions during his term as foreign minister.
Several Arabs and Druze are working at various Israeli embassies in various capacities. Among Druze ambassadors for Israel are Walid Mansour, who was posted to Vietnam and Reda Mansour who served in Ecuador.
The Temple mount
ABBAS: VISITS TO AL-AQSA MOSQUE BY NON-PALESTINIAN ARABS ARE PERMITTED
Several high-profile figures in the Arab world have recently visited Jerusalem and prayed privately at the Al-Aqsa mosque, which many Islamic scholars say is the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina.
These visitors, including Jordanian Prince Hashim and Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa and Jordanian intelligence official Hussein al-Majali, have been strongly criticized for doing so. Many Islamists have been angered, arguing that they have in effect granted legitimacy to Israeli control of the city. However, Palestinian Authority President Abbas has now said that such visits are to be welcomed and they should not be seen as acceptance of Israeli control over the eastern part of the city.
The argument by some leading Islamic scholars that going to the al-Aqsa mosque is forbidden as long as access is controlled by Israelis is wrong, Abbas said.
Their trips to Jerusalem were coordinated with Israel. Access to al-Aqsa is guarded by Israel security forces, which protect all of Jerusalem’s holy sites but have granted open access to people of all faiths. This was not the case before 1967, when the Jordanian occupying army refused Jews access and destroyed a number of ancient synagogues and the gravestones of prominent rabbis in and around Jerusalem’s old city.
Jews and Christians call the al-Aqsa compound the Temple Mount. It is the site of the Biblical Temple, destroyed by Roman troops in the 1st century. The surviving foundations of its Western Wall are now a focus of prayer for Jews around the world.
For Muslims, who captured Jerusalem from the Christian Byzantines in the 7th century, the Dome of the Rock marks the spot from which the Prophet Mohammed is said to have made a night journey to heaven.
GAZAN LEADERS CALL FOR ABDUCTION OF ISRAELIS
Islamist leaders in Gaza have urged “all armed factions” to kidnap Israeli soldiers and use them as bargaining chips to free the remaining convicted Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons.
Last year, Israel freed over 1,000 Palestinians, including many responsible for murdering hundreds of Israeli civilians in terror attacks on buses and cafes, in return for the release of Gilad Shalit, a teenage soldier seized inside Israel in 2006 and held by the Islamist group Hamas in secret captivity in Gaza for five years.
TERRORISTS WITH BOMBS CAUGHT EN ROUTE TO JERUSALEM
Two Palestinian youths armed with pipe bombs were apprehended by Israeli security forces as they tried to make their way to Jerusalem. The pair, both aged 17 and from Nablus, took a taxi to the Tapuach checkpoint. After stopping the pair, who were acting suspiciously, Israeli border guards found five pipe bombs, a gun and ammunition in a backpack. The pair admitted they were planning to plant the bombs in crowded places in Israel.
ROCKET FIRE MARS INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS IN ISRAELI COASTAL CITY
Residents of the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon were forced to interrupt Independence Day celebrations last week when air raid sirens sounded. At least one rocket fired from the Gaza Strip exploded but caused no injuries or damage.
On the day before Independence Day, Israelis mourned the 126 security personnel who died in service for Israel during the past year.
In total, 22,993 servicemen and women have died defending Israel in the modern era.
GOOGLE LOGO GOES WHITE AND BLUE TO HONOR ISRAEL’S 64TH BIRTHDAY
The Internet search engine Google donned blue and white Israeli flags for some users to mark the Jewish state’s 64th birthday last week. Users of Google with some Israeli and American IP addresses saw the special decorations adorning the image of the company’s name when it appeared on the search engine’s homepage last Thursday.
The modified logo is known as a “doodle,” and Google often uses different versions for special occasions. Google was founded by Russian-born Jew Sergey Brin, who has several relatives in Israel.
HAMAS EDUCATION MINISTER CONSIDERING HEBREW COURSES AT GAZA HIGH SCHOOLS
In a surprise move, the Gazan education minister Ziad Thabit, a supporter of Hamas, has suggested that 10th and 11th grade students in Gaza learn Hebrew in the 2013 school year.
According to the Palestinian Ma’an news agency, the Hebrew courses are part of a wider move to introduce foreign languages into the school curriculum. Turkish is also being considered. There are many Hebrew-speakers in the Gaza Strip – the result of many Palestinians working in Israel until the Oslo Peace Accords led to a worsening of relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
Iranian officer checks cable for hanging
IRAN HANGS ANOTHER GAY MAN
Europe’s largest gay news service, Pink News, reports that a man, identified only as Ch. M., was hanged by Iran in Marvdasht, Fars province, on April 19 for alleged homosexual activity.
Pink News reported that Gholamhossein Chamansara, the attorney-general of Marvdasht, told the Iranian government-controlled Fars News Agency that “Ch. M.” was sentenced to death because of his “despicable act that contradicted Sharia law.”
The Iranian regime has increased persecution of gays and lesbians in recent years.
The Guardian reported last month that Grand Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi-Amoli said, “Even dogs and pigs don’t engage in this disgusting act [homosexuality], but they [Western politicians] pass laws in favor of them in their parliaments.”
In the past, human rights activists, gay journalists, and gay publications such as “Queerty” have criticized Human Rights Watch and other leading self-styled Western human rights groups for failing to focus on the rise of persecution of gays in Iran.
Other critics have said that HRW has been so obsessed with attacking Israel (HRW was the lead promoter of the now disgraced Goldstone report, for example) that it turned a blind eye to many terrible human rights situations throughout the Middle East, although more recently following intense and sustained criticism (including on this dispatch list), HRW has reported on the persecution of gays in Muslim countries.
SAUDIS RECALL AMBASSADOR AND SHUT EMBASSY IN EGYPT
Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Cairo on Saturday “for consultations” and closed its embassy and consulates in Egypt “for security reasons”. This followed protests against the kingdom’s arrest of an Egyptian lawyer, who has been sentenced to a year in prison and 20 lashes for allegedly insulting Saudi King Abdullah.
It was the first public rupture between the two major Arab states since last year’s popular uprising in Egypt that forced Hosni Mubarak, a close ally of the Saudi regime, from power.
On Friday around 1,000 protesters demonstrated outside the Saudi embassy in Cairo, demanding the release of the lawyer and other Egyptians held in Saudi jails.
Some of them showed their anger by removing their shoes and waving them at the building – a gesture regarded as highly insulting in Islamic culture.
AT LEAST 500 SYRIANS MURDERED BY ASSAD FORCES SINCE THE SUPPOSED CEASEFIRE TOOK EFFECT
At least 500 Syrians have been killed by Assad’s forces and hundreds more injured, since a supposed ceasefire negotiated between Kofi Anan and the Assad regime went into effect on April 12.
Syrian activists have reported at least 25 more deaths at the hands of Syrian army forces yesterday.
LONDON OLYMPICS OFFICIAL WEBSITE: JERUSALEM CAPITAL OF ‘PALESTINE,’ NOT ISRAEL
Until this morning, the official website of the 2012 London Olympics portrayed Israel as a country without a capital, while Jerusalem was listed as the capital of “Palestine.”
Following protests, the website has been changed to show Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as well.
Unlike dozens of other disputed territories throughout the world, such as Tibet, Kurdistan or Balochistan, Palestine is invited to participate in the Olympics as if it were already a nation state.
A screenshot from the official website of the 2012 London Olympics as it appeared until this morning
UPDATE, May 2, 2012: Following the controversy on Monday, the Olympic website appears to have removed all capital cities.
[All notes above by Tom Gross]