A mortar strike killed 15 students in Damascus University yesterday
* Israeli hospitals treat a third group of badly wounded Syrians, while the Israeli army sets up a field hospital for other wounded Syrians on Israeli-Syrian border
* Palestinian Authority to require permission for reporting by foreign journalists; removes monument “without Israel” so Obama would not see it
* For the first time since the Inquisition, a Passover Seder is celebrated by descendents of forcibly converted Jews in the traditionally Jewish, Portuguese-owned island of Madeira
* British Muslim commentator: “There are thousands of Lord Ahmeds out there: mild-mannered and well-integrated British Muslims who nevertheless harbour deeply anti-Semitic views. It pains me to have to admit this but anti-Semitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace. Any Muslims reading this article – if they are honest with themselves – will know instantly what I am referring to. It’s our dirty little secret. You could call it the banality of Muslim anti-Semitism”
* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.
1. Erdogan: Homosexuality ‘contrary to Islam’
2. Palestinian Authority: We don’t want Turkish PM to visit Gaza
3. Syrian treated by Israel dies of wounds
4. Mortar kills 15 students in Damascus university: Western students fail to protest
5. Syrian opposition honored by recognition of its first foreign embassy
6. Arab League creates billion-dollar fund to promote “Arabic image” of Jerusalem
7. Palestinian Authority to require permission for reporting by foreign journalists
8. PA removed monument “without Israel” so Obama would not see it
9. Egyptian cleric: “American aid to Egypt is a mandatory tax”
10. British lawmaker apologizes over Jewish slur, but UK Jews remain doubtful
11. Passover celebrated openly in Madeira by crypto-Jews for the first time since the Inquisition
12. “Obama: Between Cairo and Jerusalem” (By Hisham Melhem, Saudi Gazette, March 29, 2013)
13. “The sorry truth is that the virus of anti-Semitism has infected the British Muslim community” (By Mehdi Hasan, New Statesman, March 21, 2013)
[Notes below by Tom Gross]
ERDOGAN: HOMOSEXUALITY ‘CONTRARY TO ISLAM’
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been strongly denounced in gay media across Europe this week, after he alleged that homosexuality was “contrary to Islam and its culture,” according to a report in the Turkish daily Hurriyet.
The Turkish prime minister made his remarks after he objected to a Dutch lesbian couple adopting a nine-year-old boy. The boy’s birth parents, who were Turkish immigrants, are said to have repeatedly used violence upon the child, and the Dutch social services then removed him from their care.
A Turkish television station, which is headed by Erdogan’s stepson, accused the Netherlands of “child abuse” by placing him in the care of a homosexual couple.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutt, criticizing Erdogan’s intervention, said the adoption dispute was an internal domestic matter.
Jerusalem Post correspondent Benjamin Weinthal reports that as a result of threats now being made following Erdogan’s high profile intervention, the lesbian couple has gone into hiding.
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: WE DON’T WANT TURKISH PM TO VISIT GAZA
Senior officials in the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah have said they “strongly opposed” Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s planned visit to Gaza, on the grounds (they argue) that Gaza is not an independent Palestinian state, and Hamas is not the legitimate representative of the Palestinians.
Erdogan announced this week that he would visit Gaza “in the near future”. On Wednesday, the White House said the U.S. sees Erdogan’s plans to visit Gaza as “counterproductive”. Israel also says that the visit is unwise.
As reported in past dispatches on this list, the Palestinian Authority also opposed recent visits to the Gaza Strip by the emir of Qatar and by the Malaysian prime minister, both of whom then chose to ignore the Palestinian Authority’s protests.
By contrast, the Tunisian president called off a planned visit to Gaza recently after protests by the Palestinian Authority leadership.
SYRIAN TREATED BY ISRAEL DIES OF WOUNDS
One of the group of Syrians allowed to enter Israel this week, has died of his wounds. This was the third group of Syrians Israel has taken in and treated on humanitarian grounds in recent weeks.
The Syrian man, who was airlifted by the Israeli army to a hospital in the Israeli coastal city of Nahariya on Wednesday, after managing to stumble across the border into Israel, later died from the bullet wound to the back of his head. Nahariya Hospital director Masad Barhoum, one of a team of doctors that treated the Syrians, said medical staff did their best to save the man’s life, but he had suffered “massive bleeding” as a result of a bullet wound through his head.
The Israeli army is letting seriously wounded into the country for treatment while it has now set up a field hospital on the Israeli-Syrian border where Israeli army medical teams are treating less seriously wounded Syrians before returning them to Syria.
Last week, four other badly wounded Syrians were evacuated by Israeli army helicopters to Rambam Hospital in Haifa with shrapnel injuries, where they remain in serious condition.
MORTAR KILLS 15 STUDENTS IN DAMASCUS UNIVERSITY: WESTERN STUDENTS FAIL TO PROTEST
At least fifteen Syrian students were killed when mortar bombs hit a Damascus University canteen on Thursday, state-run news agency SANA reported.
Western student organizations – too busy organizing another round of protests to oppose a fictional “Israeli apartheid” – have remained almost totally silent about the bombing of students in Damascus, just as most were silent when dozens of students were killed at Aleppo University by President Assad’s forces, and just as they were silent when students and teachers were blown up by a Palestinian suicide bomber at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.
The canteen shelled in Damascus this week belonged to the College of Architecture – leaving less architects to help rebuild Syria when the war there is eventually over.
The United Nations said on Monday it would withdraw about half its international staff from Damascus after a mortar bomb landed near their hotel.
SYRIAN OPPOSITION HONORED BY RECOGNITION OF ITS FIRST FOREIGN EMBASSY
The Syrian opposition on Wednesday opened its first foreign embassy, in Qatar, in what is being seen as another blow to legitimacy of the government of Bashar Al-Assad.
The opening came a day after opposition leader, Sunni Muslim cleric Moaz Alkhatib, took Syria’s seat at an Arab League summit in Doha. He said he is frustrated with the international community’s unwillingness to arm the rebels in Syria.
Alkhatib resigned this week as leader of the Syrian National Coalition but is staying on in a caretaker role.
ARAB LEAGUE CREATES BILLION-DOLLAR FUND TO PROMOTE JERUSALEM’S “ARABIC IMAGE”
At their meeting in Qatar this week, the Arab League decided to create a $1 billion fund to promote the Arab character of east Jerusalem (money they are not giving to help over a million Syrian refugees living in dire conditions in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey). It said that the fund, which will be managed by Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Development Bank, will “finance projects and programs that would maintain the Arabic and Islamic character of the city.”
Speaking at the summit in Doha, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas repeated his frequent claim that Israel “is trying to ‘Judaize’ Jerusalem.”
In fact, Jerusalem has been central to the identity of Jews for thousands of years before Islam was founded, and Islam has not historically given Jerusalem a central place in its doctrines. The Koran does not mention Jerusalem, and Arabic and Islamic claims to the importance of Jerusalem largely stem from the period following the 1967 war, when they were used as a means to attack and criticize Israel. The majority of the city’s population have been Jews at most periods in the city’s history, including in the period from the mid-nineteenth century until the present.
PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY TO REQUIRE PERMISSION FOR REPORTING BY FOREIGN JOURNALISTS
The Western-backed and financed Palestinian Authority this week issued a decree forbidding foreign journalists from working in Palestinian Authority-controlled territory unless the journalists have been vetted in advance by the Palestinian Ministry of Information.
The Palestinian Authority announced that members of the foreign press who ignore this order can be arrested, as can any Palestinian journalists who assist foreign journalists to operate without permission.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the decision was welcomed by the Palestinian Journalist’s Syndicate – a body controlled by Fatah.
Foreign journalists who ignore the latest restriction face arrest by Palestinian Authority security forces, said Jihad Qawassmeh, a member of the Palestinian Journalist’s’ Syndicate.
Khaled Abu Toameh, the West Bank-based Palestinian affairs correspondent for the Jerusalem Post (and a longtime subscriber to this email list) wrote in a piece for the Gatestone Institute: “This latest restriction serves as a reminder that the Palestinian Authority is not much different from other dictatorships, which assign ‘minders’ so the journalists see and hear only what the dictators want.
“Representatives of the international media – as well as human rights organizations and groups that claim to defend freedom of the press – have not protested against the PA’s threat to restrict journalists’ work and even arrest them. One can only imagine the response had Israel issued a similar ban or threat.”
PA REMOVED MONUMENT “WITHOUT ISRAEL” SO OBAMA WOULD NOT SEE IT
Palestinian Media Watch reports that the official maps which erase the entire State of Israel, including Tel Aviv, and replace it with “Palestine,” were temporarily removed from Palestinian Authority headquarters last week for the duration of President Barack Obama’s visit.
In addition, after the UN vote in November last year, the Palestinian Authority built a large monument in Bethlehem’s central square, called “The State Monument,” which shows the “State of Palestine” wiping out all of Israel.
This monument was also temporarily covered up as President Obama’s motorcade drove past it in Bethlehem last week, the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported.
EGYPTIAN CLERIC: “AMERICAN AID TO EGYPT IS A MANDATORY TAX”
Imam Khaled Said, the official spokesman for the country’s Salafi Front, an extremist political party that has called for strict Sharia law in Egypt, has told Egyptian television viewers that U.S. aid to Egypt is “mandatory” and should be seen as “a tribute that America pays to honor the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian revolution”.
Said’s remarks came after Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the U.S. has allocated another $250 million in aid to Egypt.
In comments translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), he said “They must pay reparations for destroying our country and the Islamic nation – them and others in the West – so that we will agree to cooperate with them.”
PASSOVER CELEBRATED IN MADEIRA FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE INQUISITION
For the first time since the inquisition over 500 years ago, a Passover Seder has been hosted on the tiny Portuguese archipelago of Madeira, located 300 miles off the coast of Africa, by Bnei Anousim – descendants of Portuguese Jews who were forcibly converted to Catholicism during the Inquisition. For centuries before the Inquisition, the islands had a thriving Jewish community. (All those who refused to convert were killed.)
This week’s Passover Seder in Madeira was led by Marvin Meital, a former professor of Portuguese literature and language at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, who is also an expert on crypto-Jewish history.
The Jerusalem-based charity, Shavei Israel, which helps reconnect descendants of Jews with their people and heritage, helped Meital organize the Passover Seder, which was attended by 13 Bnei Anousim.
“The holding of a Seder in Madeira is truly historic,” Shavei Israel Chairman Michael Freund told Israel’s best-selling newspaper, Yediot Ahronot.
“More than 500 years after the expulsion and forced conversion of Portugal’s Jews in 1497, the Bnei Anousim in Madeira, are now too emerging from the spiritual captivity of the Inquisition,” said Freund, who is a longtime subscriber to this email list.
BRITISH LAWMAKER APOLOGIZES OVER JEWISH SLUR, BUT UK JEWS REMAIN DOUBTFUL OF SINCERITY
(This is a follow-up to an item: here.)
Lord Ahmed, who was suspended from the British Labour Party over allegations that he blamed a Jewish conspiracy for the fact he received a 16-day sentence for dangerous driving for killing a Slovak man, has “completely and unreservedly” apologized for his comments.
Lord Ahmed added that he did not “really have any explanation or excuse” for why he made the comments and said he was “embarrassed”.
“I only believe in facts and to be honest I should have stuck with the facts rather than with conspiracy theories,” he told a journalist for The Huffington Post.
“I’m particularly sorry to all my colleagues in the House of Lords and in the House of Commons because one thing many of them know is that I’m not anti-Semitic or a conspiracy theorist,” he claimed. (Lord Ahmed in fact has a long track record of making remarks offensive to Jews.)
But some British Jewish leaders rejected the apology by Lord Ahmed. Mark Gardner, the spokesperson for the (Jewish) Community Security Trust (and a longtime subscriber to this email list) said: “This apology by Lord Ahmed will be greeted with much suspicion as it comes in response to a journalist rather than have been made directly and voluntarily to those who were most offended by the remarks.”
I attach an article below on the Lord Ahmed affair, by British Muslim commentator Mehdi Hasan in the left-wing magazine The New Statesman (a magazine which itself has several times in recent years been accused of peddling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories).
And after that, for a view of President Obama’s speech in Jerusalem last week by a leading moderate Arab commentator, I attach a piece published today in the Saudi Gazette by Hisham Melhem, the Washington bureau chief of the Al Arabiya News Channel.
-- Tom Gross
“THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF LORD AHMEDS OUT THERE: MILD-MANNERED AND WELL-INTEGRATED BRITISH MUSLIMS WHO NEVERTHELESS HARBOUR DEEPLY ANTI-SEMITIC VIEWS”
The sorry truth is that the virus of anti-Semitism has infected the British Muslim community: It's a shameful fact that Muslims are not only the victims of racial and religious prejudice but purveyors of it, too.
By Mehdi Hasan
The New Statesman
March 21, 2013
If tomorrow, God forbid, I were to cause the death of an innocent man with my car, minutes after sending a series of texts on my mobile phone, I’m guessing I’d spend the rest of my life riddled with guilt. What I wouldn’t do is go on television and lay the blame for my subsequent 12-week imprisonment at the door of . . . wait for it . . . the Jews. Yet that’s what the Labour peer Nazir Ahmed did in April 2012 – less than five years after causing a car crash on the M1 in which Martin Gombar, aged 28, was killed.
“My case became more critical because I went to Gaza to support Palestinians,” he says to his Pakistani interviewer in Urdu, in a video recording obtained by the Times. “My Jewish friends who own newspapers and TV channels opposed this.” The judge who put him behind bars, Lord Ahmed claims, was appointed to the high court after helping a “Jewish colleague” of Tony Blair’s during “an important case”.
To claim that your jail sentence for dangerous driving is the result of a Jewish plot is bigoted and stupid. The peer has since been suspended from the Labour Party and forced to stand down as a trustee of the Joseph Interfaith Foundation. I’m not sure how many “Jewish friends” he has left – if, that is, he had any to begin with.
Full disclosure: I know Lord Ahmed and have defended him in the past. In 2007, he flew out to Sudan to help free the schoolteacher Gillian Gibbons from the clutches of the odious Islamist regime in Khartoum. In 2009, an Appeal Court judge noted how the peer had “risked his life trying to flag down other vehicles to stop them colliding with . . . his car”. He is not a latter-day Goebbels. But herein lies the problem. There are thousands of Lord Ahmeds out there: mild-mannered and well-integrated British Muslims who nevertheless harbour deeply anti-Semitic views.
It pains me to have to admit this but anti-Semitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace. Any Muslims reading this article – if they are honest with themselves – will know instantly what I am referring to. It’s our dirty little secret. You could call it the banality of Muslim anti-Semitism.
I can’t keep count of the number of Muslims I have come across – from close friends and relatives to perfect strangers – for whom weird and wacky anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are the default explanation for a range of national and international events. Who killed Diana and Dodi? The Mossad, say many Muslims. They didn’t want the British heir to the throne having an Arab stepfather. What about 9/11? Definitely those damn Yehudis. I mean, why else were 4,000 Jews in New York told to stay home from work on the morning of 11 September 2001? How about the financial crisis? Er, Jewish bankers. Obviously. Oh, and the Holocaust? Don’t be silly. Never happened.
Growing up, I always assumed that this obsession with “the Jews” was a hallmark of the “first-generation” immigrants from the subcontinent. In recent years, I’ve been depressed to discover that there are plenty of “second-generation” Muslim youths, born and bred in multiracial Britain, who have drunk the anti-Semitic Kool-Aid. I’m often attacked by them for working in the “Jewish owned media”.
The truth is that the virus of anti-Semitism has infected members of the British Muslim community, both young and old. No, the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict hasn’t helped matters. But this goes beyond the Middle East. How else to explain why British Pakistanis are so often the most ardent advocates of anti-Semitic conspiracies, even though there are so few Jews living in Pakistan?
It is sheer hypocrisy for Muslims to complain of Islamophobia in every nook and cranny of British public life, to denounce the newspapers for running Muslim-baiting headlines, and yet ignore the rampant anti-Semitism in our own backyard. We cannot credibly fight Islamophobia while making excuses for Judaeophobia.
To be honest, I’ve always been reluctant to write a column such as this. To accuse my fellow Muslims of being soft on the scourge of anti-Semitism isn’t easy; I feel as if I am “dobbing in” the community, telling tales to the non-Muslim teacher. Nor do I particularly want to assist the English Defence League in its relentless campaign to demonise all Muslims, everywhere, as extremists and bigots.
We aren’t. And we’re not all anti-Semites. But, as a community, we do have a “Jewish problem”. There is no point pretending otherwise. That Bradford’s Council for Mosques has been campaigning to save the city’s last remaining synagogue from closure doesn’t change the fact that thousands of British Muslims will have been nodding in agreement as they read Lord Ahmed’s comments about Jewish power and influence – or will have assumed that the Times scoop is evidence in its own right of a “Zionist plot” against the peer. Oh, and I’m well aware that this column will also be held up by some of my fellow Muslims as “proof” that “Mehdi Hasan has sold out to the Jews”.
I only hope and pray that Lord Ahmed’s comments will act as a wake-up call to Britain’s moderate Muslim majority. The time has come for us to own up to a rather shameful fact: Muslims are not only the victims of racial and religious prejudice but purveyors of it, too.
In 2011 Baroness Warsi, the then Conservative Party chairman, said that Islamophobia has “passed the dinner-table test” in polite British society. I agree with her, but what she omitted to mention, and what we Muslims must now admit, is that anti-Semitism passed the dinner-table test in polite British Muslim society long ago.
“AN ELOQUENCE TO HIDE HIS INCAPABILITY”
Obama: Between Cairo and Jerusalem
By Hisham Melhem
March 29, 2013
The first impression of US President Barack Obama’s speech in Jerusalem is that it seemed pivotal or even historic because of its eloquence and its essence, especially when he spoke about the importance of peace and its justice; when he requested the Israelis to put themselves in the place of the Palestinians who suffer from the occupation’s humiliations; when he requested Israeli youths to bring about the required change by pressuring their leaders to take risks to achieve peace and when he told the Israelis a truth that no one tells them which is that “neither occupation nor deportation is the answer.”
But upon further analysis, it is clear that most of the speech was tantamount to an ode to Israel and to the Jews’ deep history in ancient Israel and its continuity in modern Israel. Obama confirmed to the Israelis in Hebrew: “You are not alone.” He emphasized that American support to Israel is unconditional and steady.
The speech did not provide anything on the practical level. It also did not provide a roadmap that leads to peace. Obama did not address settlements, refugees, the 1967 border lines or even the future of Jerusalem which he chose as a platform to make his speech. Obama supported Netanyahu’s insistence that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, which is a request that was not part of the negotiation’s references in Madrid. Obama not only gave up the Palestinians’ requests but he also gave up his previous requests including that of freezing Israeli settlements. He undermined the situation of the Palestinian authority when during his press conference with Mahmoud Abbas he said that if expectations are that negotiations will be held after everything is resolved, “then there will be no need to hold negotiations.”
Following Obama’s speech, Palestinians are in a deeper dilemma: they must either go back to negotiations as the building of settlements continues or insist on freezing the building of settlements and thus subject themselves to American pressure and perhaps to punishing procedures implemented by the US Congress. Not to mention the accusation that they said no to negotiations.
During his Jerusalem speech, Obama said that settlements are “not fruitful.” Compare this with what he said in a speech in Cairo in 2009: “The US does not accept the legitimacy of the continuity of Israeli settlements.” In Cairo, he said American policy would side with those who seek peace. In Jerusalem, he practically said that America would stand with Israel no matter what policy it adopts.
Obama traveled a long way between Cairo and Jerusalem, and he learnt the wrong lessons as he crossed this distance. The most prominent of these wrong lessons is his limited power to pressure Netanyahu.
In Cairo, Obama spoke of his perspective and vision to resolve the dispute. In Jerusalem, he resorted to eloquence to hide his incapability and to explain the advantages of peace to the Israelis and the Palestinians convincing himself that his eloquence is enough to push both parties to achieve peace all by themselves.