The ruins of the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Old City
The Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue, as seen in this photo from 1940
* An Israeli court this week awarded the country’s first divorce to a gay couple, which experts called an ironic milestone since same-sex marriages cannot be legally conducted in Israel. (The couple had been married in Canada.)
* Stabbed in the face, woman fought off her Gazan attacker to save her children
* “There is absolutely no way” that Arafat was poisoned, says the leading doctor at the Paris hospital where the Palestinian leader died
(One or two of the items below are from last month, but I didn’t have time to include them in a dispatch until now.)
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1. Swedish artist uses Jewish Holocaust victims’ ashes for painting
2. Stabbed in the face, woman fought off her Gazan attacker to save her children
3. Israel gets same-sex divorce before same-sex marriage
4. Poles thwart anti-Semitic academic’s plot to blow up parliament
5. “Absolutely no way” Arafat was poisoned, says leading doctor
6. Mossad tried to kill Saddam with “book bomb” in the 1970s
7. Mossad tried to kill Eichmann’s henchman in Syria in the 1970s
8. Historic synagogue to be rebuilt in Jerusalem’s old city
9. Hamas PM asks Europe for end to listing group as “terrorist”
10. “Europe’s first gay-friendly Mosque tests taboos” (Reuters)
[All notes below by Tom Gross]
SWEDISH ARTIST USES JEWISH HOLOCAUST VICTIMS’ ASHES FOR PAINTING
A Swedish artist has been accused of desecrating the bodies of Jewish Holocaust victims after it was revealed he used ashes he stole from the crematoria at Majdanek extermination camp to paint a picture, the London Daily Telegraph reports.
Carl Michael von Hausswolff mixed the ashes with water to compose a small painting of grey streaks. The work is to go display next week in a gallery in the Swedish city of Lund.
Salomon Schulman, a Jewish man living in Lund, who lost many relatives in the Holocaust, condemned the painting as “revolting”.
“I will never go to this gallery,” he wrote in a letter to a local newspaper. “I am sickened by his work and obsession with necrophilia.”
Von Hausswolff took the ashes during a 1989 visit to Majdanek. During its 34 months in operation from 1941 to 1944, 79,000 mainly Polish Jews were murdered there.
Martin Bryder, the owner of the Lund gallery, defended the decision to exhibit the work. “Please come to the gallery, see the painting and judge for yourselves whether it’s controversial,” he said in an interview with the Polish News Agency.
“Mr Schulman has already declared in the papers that he won’t come and see it but if he did, perhaps he would have a different opinion,” added a highly insensitive Bryder.
In another interview, with Sverige Radio, Bryder said that he “sees no moral problem or flaw with exhibiting the painting.”
In response, Salomon Schulman, who teaches Yiddish in Sweden, said “Nowhere was the Third Reich more popular than among the educated academics. Today, the Holocaust and racism are still part of their salon talks.”
Andrzej Fijolek of the Lublin police said that the Polish police have not opened an investigation into how the artist came into possession of the ashes, since no complaint has been filed.
The exhibition is scheduled to open at the Martin Bryder Gallery on Dec. 15.
Tom Gross adds: Of course, one does not need to “see” the painting in order to decide whether using the remains of murdered Holocaust victims as paint is disgusting and tasteless. The comment of the gallery owner merely makes the situation even more abhorrent: it reveals his desire to highjack the “controversy” by posing a fake moral question to create PR spin for the gallery in order to increase the number of visitors.
In past dispatches in this list, I have explained that Sweden, far from being the tolerant country many believe it to be, has some of the worst anti-Semitism in Europe. Many of the protests against Israel in Sweden are characterized by blatant hostility to Jews.
For example, in the dispatch from 2004 (cited below), I wrote about an “art exhibit” glorifying a Palestinian terrorist at the Stockholm’s Historical Museum. Titled “Snow White and the Madness of Truth,” the exhibit consisted of a small ship carrying a picture of Islamic Jihad suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat (who was a lawyer and mother of two) sailing, “with the smile of an angel,” in a rectangular pool filled with red-colored water. Jaradat killed herself and 22 others, including Israeli Arabs and a number of Israeli Jewish children, in a suicide bombing on October 4, 2003, at Maxim’s jointly owned Jewish-Arab restaurant in Haifa, Israel.
As background music to his exhibit, the “artist,” Dror Feiler, mixed music from Bach’s 199 Cantata “My Heart Swims in Blood.” Tel Aviv-born Feiler is well-known as a self-loathing Israeli active in radical circles in Sweden where he lives. His Swedish wife Gunilla Skoeld Feiler, helped create the instillation. Some Jews, too, can be anti-Semites.
* This dispatch also links to two other dispatches on Sweden.
STABBED IN THE FACE, WOMAN FOUGHT OFF HER GAZAN ATTACKER TO SAVE HER CHILDREN
Despite being stabbed in the face and shoulder, an Israeli woman (identified only by her first name, Yael, at her own request) fought off a knife-wielding Palestinian who last week broke into her home in Sde Avraham, near to the Gaza border.
The attacker entered Israel by cutting a hole in the border fence.
The brave mother, having already being slashed by her attacker at 4 a.m., as she slept, managed to protect her four children from the Palestinian assailant who was armed with a crowbar and a knife. Her 2- and 4-year-old children watched terrified as she fought him off in a life-and-death struggle using only household implements.
She was able to push the attacker into the adjacent bathroom and bar the door with the bed, and then call her neighbors who came running to help her. He was later shot dead by an Israeli soldier after he escaped from the house and tried to plunge his knife into another Israeli civilian.
The IDF is investigating how he managed to cut through the Israeli border fence undetected, and why the electronic fence and IDF surveillance did not notice his entry to Israel.
This year there have been seen several terror attacks on Israeli civilians launched from Gaza and Sinai. Sde Avraham was also hit by several rockets during the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Tom Gross adds: Readers might recall last year’s murders of a Jewish family in Itamar and consider what the consequences might have been if the mother in this case hadn’t managed to stop the assailant. The BBC gave virtually no coverage to that horrific attack, in which a three month old baby had her throat slit by the Palestinian attacker, along with her parents and siblings, aged 3 and 11. The Director General of the BBC eventually apologized for the appalling and deliberate BBC misreporting of that incident to Louise Mensch MP in his “farewell” interview with the House of Commons media committee. Mensch (who is a subscriber to this list) wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph at the time criticizing the BBC for all but ignoring the story. So it is depressing how under reported this unsuccessful copycat attack was.
One wonders what level of coverage the story might have got if an Israeli broke into Gaza and tried to stab children and a mother in their sleep. Probably much more.
In the Itamar incident, the BBC at first doubted the three Israeli children who had had their throats slit might actually have been killed.
Please see this dispatch from last year:
ISRAEL GETS SAME-SEX DIVORCE BEFORE SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
A decision this week by a Tel Aviv area family court ended the marriage between former Israeli parliamentarian Uzi Even, 72, and his partner of 23 years, Amit Kama, 52.
Legal experts see the ruling as a precedent in the realm of gay and civil rights in a country where religious courts still try and oversee ceremonies such as marriages, divorces and burials.
While Israel’s Interior Ministry still has the power to veto the decision, it would have to go court in order to do so, their lawyer, Judith Meisels, said.
A 2006 high court decision forced the same ministry, headed by an ultra-Orthodox cabinet member, to recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad and ordered the government to list a gay couple wed in Canada as married.
Same-sex marriages are frequently performed in Israel by non-Orthodox rabbis, but they have no formal legal status.
“The irony is that while this is the beginning of a civil revolution, it’s based on divorce rather than marriage,” newly divorced Kama, a senior lecturer in communications in Yezreel Valley College, told Reuters.
He and Even, both Israelis, married in Toronto in 2004, not long after Canada legalized same-sex marriage. They separated last year, Kama said.
They divorced in Israel because they could not meet Canada’s residency requirements to have their marriage dissolved there.
By winning a ruling from a civil court, Kama and Even may have also set a precedent for Israeli heterosexual couples, who until now have had to have rabbis steeped in ancient ritual handle their divorces, legal experts say.
“This is the first time in Israeli history a couple of Jews are obtaining a divorce issued by an authority other than a rabbinical court, and I think there is significant potential here for straight couples” to do so as well, said Zvi Triger, deputy dean of the Haim Striks School of Law near Tel Aviv.
You may also wish to read the article at the end of this dispatch by Reuters: “Europe’s first gay-friendly Mosque tests taboos”.
Among other recent dispatches on gay rights issues, please see:
POLES THWART ANTI-SEMITIC ACADEMIC’S PLOT TO BLOW UP PARLIAMENT
A Polish university researcher driven by anti-Semitic hatred (claiming that Poland was being governed by Jews) was arrested for planning to detonate a four-ton bomb in front of the parliament building in Warsaw with the president, prime minister, government ministers and lawmakers inside, the Associated Press reported last month.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the suspect and his plot were discovered as investigators were researching Polish links to the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. Polish security officials have said that Breivik bought some of the explosives for his bomb-making in Poland.
Prosecutors said that they arrested the suspect in Krakow, a Polish city near the site of the Auschwitz death camp. They said he is a 45-year-old Polish researcher employed at the University of Agriculture in Krakow who had access to chemistry laboratories. He was in illegal possession of explosive materials, munitions and guns.
The rector at the suspect’s university, Wlodzimierz Sady, said the man was a chemist who taught courses and carried out research there. Two others university staff working with him were also arrested for the illegal possession of weapons, and two more have been questioned.
The investigation and arrests were carried out by the Polish Internal Security Agency, who said that they also found film footage of test explosions carried out by the suspect in a rural area.
“ABSOLUTELY NO WAY” HE WAS POISONED, SAYS LEADING DOCTOR AT HOSPITAL WHERE ARAFAT DIED
Dr Roland Masse, a professor and a specialist on radioactivity at Percy military hospital in Paris, where Yasser Arafat died in 2004, says that Arafat was tested for radioactive poisoning, and symptoms would have been “impossible to miss”.
As mentioned in a dispatch last week on this list, Arafat’s body was recently exhumed in Ramallah, after an anti-Israel journalist at al-Jazeera TV claimed that Arafat was poisoned and that he had discovered polonium among his personal affects 8 years later.
The Palestinian Authority has said they may now seek to try Israel at ICC for Arafat’s “murder”.
Dr. Masse, a member of the prestigious Académie de Médecine who teaches radiopathology at Percy Hospital, said that there is “absolutely no way” the Palestinian leader was poisoned.
“A lethal level of polonium simply cannot go unnoticed,” he said in an interview with Israeli media outlets. “When in contact with high levels of polonium, the body suffers from acute radiation which translates into a state of anemia and a severe decrease in white blood cells. And yet Arafat did not present any of those symptoms. What did decrease was his platelets, not his white blood cells.”
“If abnormal levels of radioactive polonium were found on Arafat’s clothing in July, eight years after his death, the Palestinian leader would have had to be in contact with an extremely high level of the chemical before his death. This would have been impossible to miss for any doctor at the time.”
“Take the Litvinenko case,” added Masse, who was in charge of “national radioactivity supervision” in France in the 1990s. “We discovered after his death that hundreds of people had been subjected to various levels of contamination, in the UK and other countries. There was nothing remotely similar in Arafat’s case.”
At the time of his death, Arafat, 75, was reported by his team of Palestinian, Egyptian, Jordanian and Tunisian doctors in Ramallah to be suffering from “flu, nausea and nasal congestion.” His condition deteriorated, and he was flown in a French government plane to Paris, where he was also diagnosed with “thrombocytopenia and persistent digestive problems and other ailments.” He died eight days later.
MOSSAD TRIED TO KILL SADDAM WITH “BOOK BOMB” IN THE 1970s
In the 1970s, long before the West turned against Saddam Hussein, but in a period where the Iraqi tyrant had already butchered tens of thousands of people, the Israeli secret intelligence service, the Mossad, tried to kill him with a bomb hidden in a book.
The revelation was made in a documentary aired last month by Israel’s Channel 1 TV, which included interviews with various retired military and intelligence officials.
The attempted hit on Saddam left him unscathed, and instead killing another high-ranking Baathist Iraqi official who opened the book sent to Saddam. (The official who died was himself also responsible for murdering many Iraqi civilians.)
MOSSAD TRIED TO KILL EICHMANN’S “BEST MURDERER” IN SYRIA IN THE 1970s
The same TV documentary also revealed how the Mossad sent a letter bomb to the Damascus home of Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann’s deputy. Brunner, who was personally responsible for sending hundreds of thousands of Jewish adults and children to their deaths, spent most of the post-war period living in comfort in Syria, under the protection of the Hafez and later Bashar Assad regime.
The attempted hit on Brunner failed to kill him but did injure his hand. Brunner is believed to have died about four years ago in Damascus and never faced justice. Israel was not able to ask for his extradition because the Syrian government was protecting him.
“We didn’t manage to kill him; he was only injured. He was one of the most despicable of he Nazi leaders,” said Yitzhak Hofi, the head of the Mossad from 1974 to 1982.
SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Alois Brunner sent 56,000 Austrian Jews to death camps; organized the deportation of 43,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece to their deaths in just 8 weeks; and sent 23,000 French Jews to their deaths, including 340 Jewish orphans who were killed just weeks before the Allies liberated France.
Adolf Eichmann referred to him in his memoirs as his “best man.”
In November 1987, Brunner told the Chicago Sun Times, in a telephone interview from Damascus, that “all of them deserved to die, because they were human garbage. I have no regrets and would do it again.”
HISTORIC SYNAGOGUE TO BE REBUILT IN JERUSALEM’S OLD CITY
The Tiferet Yisrael synagogue, which was blown up by the Jordanian Army in 1948, will once again dominate the Old City’s skyline.
The Jerusalem Municipality has announced plans to rebuild the iconic three-story domed structure, which dominated the skyline of the Jewish Quarter before it was destroyed.
The synagogue is currently in ruins, with only one wall left partly standing. The rebuilding will take three years and cost NIS 50 million ($13 million). When completed, the synagogue will once again be the highest structure in the Old City, due it being built on elevated ground.
Another famous Old City synagogue destroyed in 1948, the Hurva, was rededicated in 2010.
For a picture of the Tiferet Yisrael synagogue, please see the top of this webpage.
HAMAS PM ASKS EUROPE FOR END TO LISTING GROUP AS “TERRORIST”
Following a noticeable increase in visits to the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip by foreign envoys, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that the group should be removed from terrorist lists kept by governments.
He used the occasion of a visit by European politicians and academics to argue that, “It is time to remove Palestinian resistance movements, that resist under international law, from the list of international terrorist groups.”
Please see the new Hamas logo produced for its 25th anniversary rally in Gaza today to judge for yourself whether Hamas is now suddenly interested in peace.
I attach one article below.
[All notes above by Tom Gross]
Europe’s first gay-friendly Mosque tests taboos
November 30, 2012
In a neighborhood in the suburbs of Paris, Europe’s first gay-friendly mosque is opening its doors.
The mosque’s founder, Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, comes to inspect the location for this unusual place of worship for the first time -- a small room inside a Buddhist dojo, a meditation room.
For Zahed, a gay man and a practicing Muslim, the location has the advantage of being both anonymous and nonpolitical, he says.
From November 30, every Friday, this room will welcome gay, transgender, and transsexual individuals for an ultra-progressive Muslim prayer in which women will be encouraged to sit next to men, and to lead the prayer.
The room, though small, will officially become France’s first gay-friendly and feminist mosque.
The project was made possible thanks to a Buddhist monk, Federico Joko Procopio, a homosexual who fights for gay rights.
Up until now, Zahed would pray in the Great Mosque of Paris, blending in with thousands of his fellow-worshipers each Friday. But he says he hopes the new mosque will be more welcoming for those who feel on the margins of the Muslim faith.
“It is a secure place which welcomes all Muslims and others, people who want to share an authentic moment of spirituality, of exchange, of sharing, of profound and soothing intellectual reflection on very diverse questions which concern the daily lives of all Muslims in France,” Zahed says. “Things that we can’t always easily talk about in other circumstances, in other mosques.”
The 35-year-old Franco-Algerian expects about 20 attendees for the first prayer. But he hopes the space will attract more and more people, as did his association Homosexual Muslims of France, which started with six people and is now 325-members strong.
But Zahed’s experience is still rare, and he says that in the crowds at conventional Friday prayers, some individuals stand out.
“There are homosexuals, trans-identity people who are very effeminate and in a phase of transition. This is not against nature, I mean, it’s not their fault, it is part of nature, it is the God who created them that way,” Zahed says. “Some of them want to pray but they don’t dare go because they are very effeminate and they are spotted immediately so they tell themselves -- rightly or not -- ‘This kind of mosque could allow me to ask myself more questions on who I am, where I come from, is pursuing spirituality something I want or not?’ So I think that from now on it will bring together people with very different and varied circumstances.”
With this new mosque open to all, he says he intends to offer a safe haven to those who don’t feel comfortable in more traditional places of worship.
Three members of his association are currently doing weekly training to act as the mosque’s imams.
The initiative has not been backed by any Muslim institution, and many of France’s Muslim clerics said they considered the project as contrary to the principles of Islam.
“This is something which is outside of the [Muslim] community,” says Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, “which means that he [Zahed] will not be a member of the community and his mosque will not be one that others will visit or will come to pray at because it is built on foundations of a condemnation by religion of the very principles which brought the place together.”
Zahed, though relaxed about hostile reactions within the Muslim community, asked reporters covering the opening to avoid disclosing the location of his “all-inclusive mosque” to protect its visitors.
The mosque opens just as France is being entangled in a heated debate on gay marriage and adoption.
Zahed says the mosque’s opening was not planned to coincide with this national debate.
Inclusive mosques such as Zahed’s already exist in South Africa, the United States, and Canada, but Zahed’s is a first in Europe. The grassroots organization Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), founded in 2007 in the United States, counted about six such places in North America.
Although small in numbers -- MPV has about 1,500 members in the United States -- these “progressive Muslims” say they intend to embody an “alternative Islam”.
Zahed adds that his goal is not to convince everyone to “become a homophile” but says he feels opinion is slowly starting to change on such questions.
He says he’s surprised at the number of e-mails of support and questions he has received since news of his project broke, in addition to the threats he expected.