Anti-Israel activists launch campaign against Israel’s national bird (& The bionic woman)

May 19, 2012

Armed police during the attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972


* Hatred of Israel takes to the skies: Anti-Israel activists launch campaign against a British newspaper for referring to Israel’s national bird, the hoopoe, in its daily quiz. “It was not the bird we object to but what this bird represents – the racist and apartheid State of Israel”

* International Olympic Committee turns down Israeli request to mark 40th anniversary of Munich Olympics terrorist attack with a minute’s silence

* Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor: “It’s a shame. The IOC is treating this as an internal Israeli matter but the Munich massacre is of concern to the whole Olympic family, it was an onslaught on the whole Olympic ideal”

* Bookstore in Manchester, England, cancels a launch party for a book by a Guardian writer sympathetic to the notorious Palestinian terrorist and plane hijacker Leila Khaled

* George W. Bush’s first public comments on the “Arab spring”: “We do not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East or elsewhere. We only get to choose what side we are on”

* Bush: “The idea that Arab peoples are somehow content with oppression has been discredited forever… America, they argue, should be content with supporting the flawed leaders they know in the name of stability. But in the long run, this foreign policy approach is not realistic… It fears and fights the very human attributes that make a nation great: creativity, enterprise and responsibility… The years of transition that follow can be difficult. People forget that this was true in Central Europe, where democratic institutions and attitudes did not spring up overnight”

* The ending of over 2000 years of Jewish Aleppo

* In a world first, a paralyzed woman finishes London Marathon 16 days after it began thanks to Israeli bionic suit. (Most media go out of their way not to mention this was an Israeli invention, designed to help survivors of suicide bomb in Israel)


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Israel’s national bird, the hoopoe: A symbol of racism!



1. “The Arab Spring and American Ideals” (By George W. Bush, Wall St Journal, May 18, 2012)
2. “London 2012 Olympics: IOC rejects silence for Munich victims” (By Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian, sports pages, May 15, 2012)
3. “UK daily slammed for mentioning Israel’s national bird” (By Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post, May 18, 2012)
4. “A different history of displacement and loss” (By Matti Friedman, Times of Israel, May 15, 2012)
5. “Paralysed Claire Lomas finishes London Marathon 16 days after it began” (The Guardian, sports pages, May 8, 2012

I attach five articles below on a variety of topics -- Tom Gross



The Arab Spring and American Ideals
By George W. Bush
The Wall Street Journal
May 18, 2012

These are extraordinary times in the history of freedom. In the Arab Spring, we have seen the broadest challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism. The idea that Arab peoples are somehow content with oppression has been discredited forever.

Yet we have also seen instability, uncertainty and the revenge of brutal rulers. The collapse of an old order can unleash resentments and power struggles that a new order is not yet prepared to handle.

Some in both parties in Washington look at the risks inherent in democratic change – particularly in the Middle East and North Africa – and find the dangers too great. America, they argue, should be content with supporting the flawed leaders they know in the name of stability.

But in the long run, this foreign policy approach is not realistic. It is not within the power of America to indefinitely preserve the old order, which is inherently unstable. Oppressive governments distrust the diffusion of choice and power, choking off the best source of national prosperity and success.

This is the inbuilt crisis of tyranny. It fears and fights the very human attributes that make a nation great: creativity, enterprise and responsibility. Dictators can maintain power for a time by feeding resentments toward enemies – internal or external, real or imagined. But eventually, in societies of scarcity and mediocrity, their failure becomes evident.

America does not get to choose if a freedom revolution should begin or end in the Middle East or elsewhere. It only gets to choose what side it is on.

The day when a dictator falls or yields to a democratic movement is glorious. The years of transition that follow can be difficult. People forget that this was true in Central Europe, where democratic institutions and attitudes did not spring up overnight. From time to time, there has been corruption, backsliding and nostalgia for the communist past. Essential economic reforms have sometimes proved painful and unpopular.

It takes courage to ignite a freedom revolution. But it also takes courage to secure a freedom revolution through structural reform. And both types of bravery deserve our support.

This is now the challenge in parts of North Africa and the Middle East. After the euphoria, nations must deal with questions of tremendous complexity: What effect will majority rule have on the rights of women and religious minorities? How can militias be incorporated into a national army? What should be the relationship between a central government and regional authorities?

Problems once kept submerged by force must now be resolved by politics and consensus. But political institutions and traditions are often weak.

We know the problems. But there is a source of hope. The people of North Africa and the Middle East now realize that their leaders are not invincible. Citizens of the region have developed habits of dissent and expectations of economic performance. Future rulers who ignore those expectations – who try returning to oppression and blame shifting – may find an accountability of their own.

As Americans, our goal should be to help reformers turn the end of tyranny into durable, accountable civic structures. Emerging democracies need strong constitutions, political parties committed to pluralism, and free elections. Free societies depend upon the rule of law and property rights, and they require hopeful economies, drawn into open world markets.

This work will require patience, creativity and active American leadership. It will involve the strengthening of civil society – with a particular emphasis on the role of women. It will require a consistent defense of religious liberty. It will mean the encouragement of development, education and health, as well as trade and foreign investment. There will certainly be setbacks. But if America does not support the advance of democratic institutions and values, who will?

In promoting freedom, our methods should be flexible. Change comes at different paces in different places. Yet flexibility does not mean ambiguity. The same principles must apply to all nations. As a country embraces freedom, it finds economic and social progress. Only when a government treats its people with dignity does a nation fulfill its greatness. And when a government violates the rights of a citizen, it dishonors an entire nation.

There is nothing easy about the achievement of freedom. In America, we know something about the difficulty of protecting minorities, of building a national army, of defining the relationship between the central government and regional authorities – because we faced all of those challenges on the day of our independence. And they nearly tore us apart. It took many decades of struggle to live up to our own ideals. But we never ceased believing in the power of those ideals – and we should not today.

(This op-ed is adapted from a speech delivered May 15 at the Bush Institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.)



Tom Gross notes: The article below from The Guardian is notable because the word “terrorism” is used. In recent years some other media (including other articles in The Guardian) have stopped calling the Munich Olympic Massacre an act of terrorism, although it clearly was. However, the article below appeared in the paper’s sports pages, which are more neutral -- and accurate -- than the news pages.


London 2012 Olympics: IOC rejects silence for Munich victims
By Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
The Guardian
May 15, 2012

The International Olympic Committee has rejected an Israeli call for a minute’s silence at the London Games to mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich terrorist attack in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed.

A letter from the committee’s president, Jacques Rogge, on Monday ignored a specific request for a minute’s silence, saying only that he would attend a commemoration of the 1972 attack at London’s Guildhall and that the IOC would be represented at any event organised by Israel.

“The IOC has officially paid tribute to the memory of the athletes on several occasions,” Rogge wrote. He said that “within the Olympic family, the memory of the victims of the terrible massacre in Munich in 1972 will never fade away”.

The request, in support of a campaign by two widows of victims of the Munich attack, was sent last month by the Israeli deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon. A minute’s silence, he wrote, would “send a clear message that we must not forget the terrible events of Munich 40 years ago so they will not be repeated”.

The IOC’s response was “a polite but very clear rejection”, said Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry.

“It’s a shame. The IOC is treating this as an internal Israeli matter but [the Munich massacre] is of concern to the whole Olympic family, it was an onslaught on the whole Olympic ideal.

“But perhaps [the IOC] thinks anything to do with Israel is controversial. It is not a display of great courage and integrity.”

A spokesman for the IOC said it had worked closely with the Israeli National Olympic Committee on a ceremony at London’s Guildhall that was “the most appropriate” way of commemorating the Munich attack. An event to mark the massacre was held at every games, he added.

The Munich attack began in the early hours of 5 September 1972, when eight members of the Palestinian military organisation Black September infiltrated the Olympic village, and took 11 members of the Israeli team hostage. The attackers demanded the release of 234 Palestinian prisoners in return for the hostages’ release.

By just after midnight, all 11 athletes, five attackers and a German police officer were dead. Although the hostage drama gripped television viewers across the world, the Games were suspended only for a few hours at the height of the crisis and resumed the next morning.

Among the dead was fencing coach Andre Spitzer, whose widow Ankie has campaigned for almost 40 years for a minute’s silence at the opening of each Olympic Games to commemorate the massacre. “For me the fight is not over until the opening ceremony,” she told the Guardian after hearing of the IOC’s rejection. “The IOC has said no for the last 40 years but I’m still hopeful they will change their minds.”

In a campaign video to launch a petition last month, she appealed for “a minute of silence for these men who went to the Munich Olympics in peace, friendship and sportsmanship, and who lost their lives … One minute for the Munich 11 victims, to show the world that the doctrine of the Olympic spirit, to build a peaceful and better world … is much more powerful than politics.”

A commemorative ceremony organised by the Israeli National Olympic Committee will be held at the London Games as it has in previous years.



UK daily slammed for mentioning Israel’s national bird
By Jonny Paul
The Jerusalem Post
May 18, 2012

LONDON – Anti-Israel activists sharply criticized the socialist British daily the Morning Star for referring to Israel’s national bird the hoopoe in its daily quiz.

In a letter to the newspaper, Linda Claire, the chairwoman of Manchester’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign, asked why it had referred to the bird after it has “always been the newspaper you could rely on to support the cause of the Palestinians.”

“Maybe you don’t support the methods chosen by the international solidarity movement of BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel] to assist the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom and justice,” she said, adding that this included any reference to Israel’s wildlife.

“Despite its condemnation of zionists [sic] it yet finds space to include an item in its daily quiz about Israel’s national bird. Is the Star not aware there’s a cultural boycott going on?” Claire’s husband, George Abendstern, asked in another letter.

“And then, despite it’s [sic] condemnation of the Bahrain Grand Prix and rightly so, it then goes on to tell us who won. For goodness sake comrades, get your act together,” Abendstern continued.

After a letter appeared condemning the couple’s stance, the anti-Israel activists said, “It was not the bird we object to but what this bird represents – the racist and apartheid State of Israel.”

Meanwhile, a Manchester bookstore has canceled a launch for a book on Palestinian terrorist and plane hijacker Leila Khaled, whom it described as “the young woman who hijacked a passenger jet in 1969.”

Blackwell’s bookstore in the Manchester city center was set to host a launch of the biography Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation, written by Sarah Irving, a Manchester-based journalist who has written for The Guardian.

A notice on the bookstore’s website on Thursday said: “Our launch of the Leila Khaled biography on May 24 has been canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.”

Paul Thornton, the manager of the store, said they had a large number of calls about the event, which led to some concerns.

“There were a number of concerns raised which we wanted to investigate and we have put the event on hold. We did not receive any threats but the number of emails and calls we received meant we couldn’t really run the shop,” he said on Wednesday.

Writing on her blog, Irving said: “It is, of course, a measure of the desperate rearguard action which apologists for the actions of the State of Israel are currently fighting that they feel the need to close down all debate and discussion of issues around Palestinian history, politics and culture.



A different history of displacement and loss
There is more than one way to look at the commemoration of 1948’s Palestinian defeat and dispersion
By Matti Friedman
Times of Israel
May 15, 2012

On May 15, many in the Arab world and elsewhere mark the Nakba, or the “Catastrophe,” mourning the displacement of the Palestinian Arabs during the 1948 war with Israel. This year, as always, the commemoration will obscure the collapse at the same time of a different Arab society that few remember.

I have spent a great deal of time in the past four years interviewing people born and raised in Aleppo, Syria. Some of these people, most of whom are now in their eighties, are descended from families with roots in Aleppo going back more than two millennia, to Roman times. None of them lives there now.

On November 30, 1947, a day after the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two states, one for Arabs and one for Jews, Aleppo erupted. Mobs stalked Jewish neighborhoods, looting houses and burning synagogues; one man I interviewed remembered fleeing his home, a barefoot nine-year-old, moments before it was set on fire. Abetted by the government, the rioters burned 50 Jewish shops, five schools, 18 synagogues and an unknown number of homes. The next day the Jewish community’s wealthiest families fled, and in the following months the rest began sneaking out in small groups, most of them headed to the new state of Israel. They forfeited their property, and faced imprisonment or torture if they were caught. Some disappeared en route. But the risk seemed worthwhile: in Damascus, the capital, rioters killed 13 Jews, including eight children, in August 1948, and there were similar events in other Arab cities.

At the time of the UN vote, there were about 10,000 Jews in Aleppo. By the mid-1950s there were 2,000, living in fear of the security forces and the mob. By the early 1990s no more than a handful remained, and today there are none. Similar scripts played out across the Islamic world. Some 850,000 Jews were forced from their homes.

If we are to fully understand the Israel-Arab conflict, the memory of these people and their exodus must be acknowledged – not as a political weapon, a negotiating tactic or as part of a competition about who suffered more, but simply as history without which it is impossible to understand Israel and the way the Arab world sees it.

Everyone knows the Palestinian refugees are part of the equation of Mideast peace, and anyone who is interested can visit a Palestinian refugee camp and hear true and wrenching stories of expulsion and loss. Among the Jews expelled by Arabs, on the other hand, one can find few who think of themselves as refugees or define themselves by their dispossession. Most are citizens of Israel.

Of the 20 families in my fairly average Jerusalem apartment building, half are in Israel because of the Arab expulsion of Jews, and that is representative of Israel as a whole. According to the Israeli demographer Sergio dellaPergola of Hebrew University, though intermarriage over two or three generations has muddled the statistics, roughly half of the 6 million Jews in Israel today came from the Muslim world or are descended from people who did. Many Arabs, and many Israelis, consider Israel a Western enclave in the Middle East. But these numbers do not support that view.

These Jews have shaped Israel and are a key force in the country’s political life. They also make Israel very different from the American Jewish community, which is overwhelmingly rooted in Europe. They are a pillar of Israel’s right wing, particularly of the Likud party. They maintain a wary view of Israel’s neighbors – a view that has been strengthened by the actions of the Palestinians but that is rooted in their own historical experience and in what might be considered an instinctive understanding of the region’s unkind realities.

The legacy of their exodus in the countries they left behind is harder to detect, but it, too, is significant.

In many Arab towns and cities there is an area where Jews used to live. In some cities, like Cairo, this area is still called harat al-yahud, the Jewish Quarter. Reporting there several years ago I found people who could show me the location of a certain abandoned synagogue, which they knew by name. A man who once showed me around Fez, Morocco, knew exactly where the old Jewish neighborhood, the mellah, had been, though there was not a single Jew there and had not been for many years. There are remnants like this in Aleppo, Tripoli, Baghdad and elsewhere. The people who live in or around the Jews’ old homes still know who used to own them and how they left; this extinct Jewish world might have been forgotten elsewhere, but millions in the Arab world see evidence of it every day.

As I have reported this nearly invisible story, it has occured to me that we often hate most the things or people that remind us of something we dislike about ourselves, and that here lies one of the hidden dynamics of the Israel-Arab conflict. It is one papered over by the simple narrative of Nakba Day, which posits that a foreign implant displaced a native community in 1948 and that the Palestinian Arabs are paying the price for the European Holocaust. This narrative, chiefly designed to appeal to Western guilt, also conveniently erases the uncomfortable truth that half of Israel’s Jews are there not because of the Nazis but because of the Arabs themselves.

Israel is not as foreign to the Middle East as many of its neighbors like to pretend, and more than one native community was displaced in 1948. If many in the Arab world insist, as they do each Nakba Day, that Israel is a Western invader that must be repelled, it is a claim that belongs to the realm not only of politics but of psychology – one that helps repress their own knowledge that the country they try to portray as alien is also the vengeful ghost of the neighbors they wronged.


Tom Gross adds: There has been much discussion about the story below on media such as the BBC – but almost no report has mentioned that the suit was an Israeli invention, designed to help the victims of terrorism.

The article below does – although it was published in the more “neutral” sports pages, not the news pages.


Claire Lomas approaches the London Marathon finishing line in her ReWalk bionic suit.



Paralysed Claire Lomas finishes London Marathon 16 days after it began
The Guardian (sports pages)
May 8, 2012

A paralysed woman has become the first person to complete a marathon in a bionic suit.

Claire Lomas finished the London Marathon 16 days after the race began. The 32-year-old said she was “over the moon” as she completed the 26.2-mile route, which she started on 22 April with 36,000 other participants.

The former chiropractor was in tears as she became the first person to complete any marathon using a bionic ReWalk suit at 12.50pm on Tuesday.

Hundreds lined the streets as she made her final steps to complete the race. Three mounted members of the Household Cavalry gave her a guard of honour as she crossed the finishing line on the Mall.

Lomas, a jewellery designer who was left paralysed from the chest down following a horse-riding accident in 2007, said: “There were times when I questioned whether I would make it when I was training.

“Once I started, I just took each day as it came and every step got me a step closer.”
A spokeswoman for the mounted regiment said the riders were there to give Lomas “extra support because she is passionate about horses”.

Lomas will not appear in the official results and did not receive a medal when she finished as competitors have to complete the course on the same day to qualify for a medal, organisers said.

But a number of marathon runners decided to donate their own medals to Lomas. Jacqui Rose, from Southampton, who contributed her medal along with about 12 others, said: “She has epitomised what I thought the London Marathon was all about.

“That medal, when you have completed it and gone through all the pain of it, symbolises that achievement of what you have gone out of your way to do for charity.

“For her not to have got one ridicules what the marathon was all about.”

Holly Branson, daughter of the tycoon Richard – whose company Virgin sponsors the race – was at the finish line waiting to give Lomas the Virgin trophy for endurance. The company hands out the award annually.

She said: “She has done the most amazing job. It was so emotional when she crossed that line. Tears welled up in my eyes and everyone was cheering.”

Lomas, from Eye Kettleby, near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, raised more than £86,000 for Spinal Research, a charity which funds medical research around the world to develop reliable treatments for paralysis caused by a broken back or neck.

She said: “When I was in hospital I saw a lot of people with similar injuries to me and a lot worse.

“I have had tremendous support since my accident which I am so grateful for. Some don’t have that. Some people lose the use of their arms as well. A cure needs to be found.”

She walked about two miles a day, cheered on by her husband, Dan, her parents and her 13-month-old daughter, Maisie.

Lomas said she was now going to write a book and “spend some good time with Maisie”, adding: “Then I’ll think of something else daft to do.”

A number of celebrities have also lent their support by walking a mile alongside her, including the TV presenter Gabby Logan and her husband, the former international rugby star Kenny, and the TV presenter and adventurer Ben Fogle.

Lomas broke her neck, back and ribs and punctured a lung when her horse Rolled Oats threw her off as she took part in the Osberton horse trials in Nottinghamshire in 2007.

The £43,000 ReWalk suit, designed by the Israeli entrepreneur Amit Goffer, enables people with lower-limb paralysis to stand, walk and climb stairs through motion sensors and an onboard computer system.

A shift in the wearer’s balance, indicating their desire to take, for example, a step forward, triggers the suit to mimic the response that the joints would have if they were not paralysed.

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