The new stamp jointly issued by Nepal and Israel depicting the lowest and highest points on the planet
* Meditation rooms, dance and art lessons, petting zoos, computer centers, university degrees, advanced dental treatment, fish tanks and iphones: MSNBC says Israel has among the most humane prison systems in the world, including for convicted Palestinian terrorists
* “Using our femininity is a valid tool. But we draw the line at having sex. Even if sleeping with Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff would advance the mission, our commanders in the Mossad would not allow us to do so”
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1. MSNBC: Israel is a “prisoner’s paradise”
2. The Mossad’s female agents: Flirting, but no sex, for Israel
3. “When they’re good, they’re very good”
4. Nepal and Israel release joint stamp depicting highest and lowest places on earth
5. National Geographic magazine names “Israel Trail” as one of the world’s best
6. Israel’s best year ever for tourism
[Notes below by Tom Gross]
MSNBC: ISRAEL IS A “PRISONER’S PARADISE”
The American cable network MSNBC, as part of its “Lockup: World Tour” series, has confirmed what the Israeli authorities have been saying all along: that attempts by certain NGOs and international journalists to portray Israeli prisons as particularly horrific are pure propaganda, and Israel in fact has among the most humane prison systems in the world.
In its episode on Israel, MSNBC’s “Lockup: World Tour” showed meditation rooms, dance and art lessons, petting zoos, computer rooms and various classes that prisoners, including convicted Palestinian terrorists, are allowed to attend. At one point MSNBC even described some aspects of Israel’s prison system as “glowing”.
The MSNBC series first started seven years ago, and over the years it has filmed gruesome prison conditions in Asia, America and some European countries.
The program noted that Israel has fewer prisoners per capita than most Western countries, and released inmates achieve much higher levels of reintegration into society than most other countries. The Israeli prison service helps inmates to obtain advanced education, including university degrees (and in some cases even PhDs), and runs skills development and job placement courses. (Most imprisoned Israelis have been convicted of drug or property crimes, while the rates for murder, rape and other violent crimes remain relatively low in Israel.)
At Hermon Prison in the Galilee, MSNBC noted that the facility looks more like a college campus than an American-style prison. Inmates are allowed a high degree of freedom of movement and can attend a wide range of sports and “therapy” classes.
At Neve Tirza, Israel’s only prison for women, the MSNBC presenters say they were surprised to find a petting zoo, and a meditation room with fish tanks. Inmates are shown taking dance and art lessons, and even nursing their infant babies in the prison’s fully equipped ward for new mothers.
At Rimonim prison, inmates are allowed to bring their own clothes and personal appliances with them to prison. Inmates cook together in communal kitchens, and prison staff eat food prepared by inmates. Jewish and Arab inmates socialize both with each other and with the guards, in what MSNBC terms “a very social and festive environment.”
“I feel like I am in a hotel,” says one Palestinian inmate as he shows MSNBC around his cell -- which is bigger than many New York apartments I have visited -- with kitchen equipment, bookshelves and a private bathroom. “Nothing is lacking.”
As I have pointed out in previous dispatches on this list, prisoners in Israel, including hardened Palestinian terrorists, have not only received free dental care, but sometimes the most advanced kinds of dental care that may prove very costly for a citizen who is not a prisoner.
Israel allows prison furloughs to a much greater extent than most countries. Surprisingly (in my opinion), even rapists have been allowed to go home regularly to visit their families at weekends.
In contrast to the propaganda fed by EU government-funded anti-Israel NGOs to other international media, convicted Hamas terrorists are even allowed to post pictures on Facebook using their Iphones, showing photos of their cells with pets, posters, football flags, and music boxes.
Here are a couple of the clips from the MSNBC series, which was first broadcast last May and rebroadcast by MSNBC last weekend:
Among previous dispatches relating to this subject, please see:
* “How many degrees does Gilad Shalit have? Hamas terrorists given Israeli university degrees, Cable TV, IPods and dental treatment as Gilad Shalit rots”
THE MOSSAD’S FEMALE AGENTS: FLIRTING, BUT NO SEX, FOR ISRAEL
In an unprecedented move, five high-ranking serving Israeli agents have been allowed to give on-the-record interviews to a media outlet.
The agents, who use pseudonyms, told the Hebrew-language women’s magazine, Lady Globes, that while flirting is encouraged on behalf of Israel’s national security, sexual intercourse is not.
One of the agents, named “Yael”, told the magazine that “a man who wants to gain access to some forbidden place or closed location has less chance of being allowed in. A smiling, flirtatious woman has a greater chance of success.”
Another agent, “Efrat”, added: “Using our femininity is a valid tool. But we draw the line at having sex. Even if sleeping with Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, would advance the mission, our commanders in the Mossad would not allow us to do so.”
Famously, in the 1980s, a female Mossad agent called “Cindy” entrapped Israeli nuclear traitor Mordechai Vanunu, who sold what are believed to be the secrets of Israel’s nuclear arsenal to the London Sunday Times. Posing as an American tourist, “Cindy” lured Vanunu from his safe house in London to accompany her on a romantic weekend in Italy, where Vanunu was then ferried away by other Mossad agents and taken by ship to Israel to face trial.
* [For more on Vanunu, please see this dispatch: “Vanunu released: What nuke whistleblower doesn’t know scares Israel” and “Vanunu's entrapper ‘Cindy’ at home in suburban Florida”. ]
Before being captured, Vanunu also granted interviews to the (London) Daily Mirror, and it has long been rumored that the late British-Czech businessman Robert Maxwell, who at the time owned the Daily Mirror, tipped the Mossad off as to Vanunu’s whereabouts. Maxwell also assisted Israel in 1947-48 when as a young Czech Jew he helped to secure airplanes in Czechoslovakia for what would become the Israeli Air force. After drowning in what is presumed to have been a boating accident, Maxwell was buried with full state honors on the Mount of Olives, with both the Israeli prime minister and leader of the opposition in attendance.
“WHEN THEY’RE GOOD, THEY’RE VERY GOOD”
In their interview last week, the female agents also described a life that imposes extreme strain on the families (many have husbands and young children at home). They described a life of sleepless nights and intrigue, as well as putting their lives on the line in several cases.
However, they were severely limited by their Mossad handlers on what they could tell the magazine. Several have been involved in some of the Mossad’s most daring and successful operations, the existence of many of which have never been made public.
In extremely rare public comments to the magazine, the director of the Mossad, Tamir Pardo, praised what he called the agents “exceptional work.”
He commented: “In many cases, you see that women’s abilities are superior to men in terms of understanding the territory, reading situations, spatial awareness. When they’re good, they’re very good.”
Among past dispatches on the Mossad, please see:
NEPAL AND ISRAEL RELEASE JOINT STAMP DEPICTING HIGHEST AND LOWEST PLACES ON EARTH
Nepal and Israel have released a joint stamp depicting the highest and the lowest places on the planet – Mount Everest and the Dead Sea.
The stamp has pictures of Mount Everest, which rises to 8,848 meters high (29,028 feet), and the mineral-rich Dead Sea, which plunges to 422 meters below sea level.
It displays the Israeli and Nepalese flags and is written in Nepali, as well as in the three official languages of the state of Israel: Hebrew, Arabic and English.
Israel and Nepal have enjoyed friendly relations for more than 50 years.
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE NAMES “ISRAEL TRAIL” AS ONE OF WORLD’S BEST
The prestigious National Geographic magazine has named the 620-mile “Israel National Trail” as one of the World’s “Most Epic Hikes”.
National Geographic said the Israel Trail had a wonderful combination of ancient and modern historical sites, together with stunning Middle Eastern wilderness.
Other hikes on National Geographic’s list include the Yoshida Trail in Japan, the Appalachian Trail that stretches across America and Canada, the Great Himalayan Trail in Nepal; and the Continental Divide Trail in the United States.
National Geographic says of the Israel National Trail:
“Passing through vast empty desert and winding into kibbutzim, the Israel National Trail delves into the grand scale of biblical landscapes as well as the everyday lives of modern Israelis (with opportunities to stop in the cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem). But beyond the immense sense of history and breaking news, the trail powerfully connects to something that often gets lost in all the headlines – the sublime beauty of the wilderness of the Middle East.”
The magazine adds: “The biggest blessing here comes in the form of ‘trail angels’ along the Israel National Trail who give a helping hand and often offer a place to stay free of charge to thru-hikers.”
The magazine provides a link to a list and contact details of ‘trail angels’.
In this dispatch from 2004 (titled “Zionists ‘secretly control’ both Al-Jazeera and the National Geographic”), I pointed out that the Iranian regime at that time banned the sale of “Zionist” National Geographic publications because of a map in them that listed “Arabian Gulf” in parentheses after “Persian Gulf.”
That full dispatch can be read here.
But in a dispatch in 2009, I questioned why -- when Israel is the only country in the Middle East where both the Arab and non-Arab Christian population is increasing –National Geographic magazine blamed Israel for the decline in Christian populations throughout the Arab world. The magazine whitewashed the key role militant Islam has played in causing Christianity’s decline in the region, downplaying the mistreatment, harassment and even murder of Christians by Muslims over many decades. In Israel, by contrast the Christian population growth rate has outpaced the Jewish growth in recent years.
That full dispatch can be read here.
ISRAEL’S BEST YEAR EVER FOR TOURISM
5772 (the Jewish year that has just ended -- Israel is currently celebrating the Jewish new year) was Israel’s best year ever for incoming tourism, with 3.5 million visitors. In a change from previous years, Israel is currently one of the safest places to visit in the Middle East, and is safer than many European countries in terms of its relatively low crime rate.
In order to keep up with the pace of growth in tourism, 6000 additional Israeli hotel rooms are currently under construction or in the advances stages of preparation.
Israel’s ministry of tourism has also allocated grants for the construction of 18 new hotels.
There has been a particularly large increase in the number of tourists from countries such as India and Ukraine, as well as a 24% increase in the numbers of visitors arriving on cruise ships. There has also been increased tourism from several European countries (including Germany and Switzerland) as holidaymakers avoid the ongoing turmoil in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt.
[Notes above by Tom Gross]