Daily Muslim call to prayer on British public TV (& Israeli rabbis: Weed “can be kosher”)

July 03, 2013

Andrew Pochter, the idealistic American-Jewish student stabbed to death in Cairo


* The British broadcaster says the daily Muslim call to prayer is an act of “deliberate provocation” aimed at viewers who “might associate Islam with extremism”

* Channel 4: “Let’s not forget that Islam is one of the few religions that’s flourishing, actually increasing in the UK. Like Channel 4’s target audience, its followers are young”

* Ha’aretz: Netanyahu willing to cede 90% of the West Bank in compromise

* Much-needed Israeli electoral reform on its way

* Cisco CEO John Chambers: Israel will be the first fully digital nation

* Rabbi Hagai Bar Giora, head of the “kitchens, bakeries, factories, catering and events divison” of the Israeli chief rabbinate, on cannabis: “If you smoke it, there is no problem whatsoever.” Rabbi Efraim Zalmanovich, clarifies the remarks: Smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes is kosher, but using weed for fun is forbidden


* You can comment on this dispatch here: www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia. Please also press “Like” on that page.



1. Britain’s Channel 4 to air daily Muslim call to prayer during Ramadan
2. Turkish Jews fear attack after Deputy PM links Jewish Diaspora to protests
3. U.S. citizen killed in Egypt identified as idealistic Jewish college student
4. Egyptian President “must be held responsible for mob attack on Shia”
5. Russia and Iran to hold joint naval exercises in Caspian Sea
6. Reuters: Iran importing missile-grade French, German alumina ore
7. Ha’aretz: Netanyahu willing to cede 90% of the West Bank in compromise
8. Israel set to raise Knesset electoral threshold
9. Cisco CEO: Israel will be the first digital state
10. Israeli Rabbi: Weed can be kosher if used for a good reason

[Notes below by Tom Gross]


Channel 4 (the British public-service television broadcaster known for the left-wing slant in its news coverage) has announced that it will air the Muslim call to prayer live every morning during the month of Ramadan. Channel 4 says it will broadcast the three-minute call to prayer at about 3 am for 30 days from the start of Ramadan on July 9. A short film of two to three minutes, called “Ramadan Reflections,” will run ahead of each morning’s call to prayer.

The broadcaster said it was an act of “deliberate provocation” aimed at viewers who “might associate Islam with extremism.”

In addition, on the first day of Ramadan Channel 4 will interrupt programming four times during the day – to mark subsequent calls to prayer – with a 20-second film to remind viewers of the approaching prayer time.

Ralph Lee, Channel 4’s head of factual programming, said: “Observing the adhan on Channel 4 will act as a nationwide tannoy system, a deliberate ‘provocation’ to all our viewers in the very real sense of the word.”

Lee added in an article published in the Radio Times: “Let’s not forget that Islam is one of the few religions that’s flourishing, actually increasing in the UK. Like Channel 4’s target audience, its followers are young. It’s recently been reported that half of British Muslims are under 25.”

The Muslim Council of Britain said it applauded Channel 4’s move.

Channel 4 is also launching a season of programs around the period of prayer, called 4Ramadan, starting on July 8.

The broadcaster – which does not broadcast church bells ringing on Sunday mornings, nor candle lightings to mark the start of the Jewish Sabbath, nor does it mark Hindu and Sikh and other holy days – controversially invited the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to deliver its alternative “Christmas message” in 2008, at the height of Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial.

For more on that, please see this dispatch:
New low for British media: Ahmadinejad invited to address UK on Christmas (Dec. 24, 2008)


London mayor Boris Johnson (who is said to have ambitions to be a future British prime minister) today sent out a tweet saying he was very excited that London would this year be hosting the “World Islamic Economic Forum” – the “1st time outside a Muslim country.”



Turkey’s small remaining Jewish community is fearful that comments by Turkey’s deputy prime minister who said the “Jewish Diaspora” was behind recent anti-government unrest, could trigger violence against Jews in Turkey.

Besir Atalay, one of four Turkish deputy prime ministers, on Monday accused “foreign powers and the Jewish Diaspora” of triggering the demonstrations that have brought parts of Turkey’s cities to a standstill in recent weeks. According to the Turkish Interior Ministry, millions of people have demonstrated in 79 of the 81 Turkish cities. Several people have been killed and many thousands injured, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

“World powers and the Jewish Diaspora prompted the unrest and have actively encouraged it,” Atalay said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan added in cryptic comments that “the interest rate lobby” was behind the protests.

The Turkish Jewish Community, the body which represents most of Turkey’s 23,000 Jews, said Atalay’s remarks could lead to violence against its members in a mostly Muslim country of 76 million.

Most Turkish Jews trace their roots to the 15th Century when their ancestors found refuge in the Ottoman Empire after they fled the Spanish Inquisition.

Earlier this year, Erdogan called Zionism “a crime against humanity.”

On Twitter on June 16, the mayor of the Turkish capital Ankara, Melih Gokcek, who is member of Erdogan’s ruling party, said the Gezi protests were a “a game of the Jewish lobby”.

I noted in this dispatch in June that the pro-Erdogan media were already blaming Jews for the mass anti-government protests. Please see the first item here.

Deputy Prime Minister Atalay’s anti-Semitic remarks have been widely reported in the Turkish media, for example, here in Hurriyet Daily News:




The American stabbed to death by protestors during last weekend’s clashes in Cairo has been identified as 21-year-old Kenyon College student Andrew Driscoll Pochter, of Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Pochter was an intern at AMIDEAST, a nonprofit organization that claims it is devoted to promoting education in the Middle East and North Africa. (For more about AMIDEAST, see below.)

Pochter’s parents told CNN: “Our beloved 21-year-old son and brother Andrew Driscoll Pochter went to Alexandria for the summer, to teach English to 7 and 8 year old Egyptian children and to improve his Arabic. He was looking forward to returning to Kenyon College for his junior year and to spending his spring semester in Jordan.”

“As we understand it, he was witnessing the protest as a bystander and was stabbed by a protester. He went to Egypt because he cared profoundly about the Middle East, and he planned to live and work there in the pursuit of peace and understanding.”

Pochter’s professor at Kenyon College said Pochter (who was Jewish) had wanted to show Egyptians that Jews wanted to help them.

Pochter was an active member of a group of Kenyon students interested in approving links between Jews and Arabs.

Here is a piece from the American Jewish paper The Forward on American Jewish idealists living in Egypt:



AMIDEAST, the organization for whom Andrew Pochter interned, this past February 2013 marked the end of the tenure of Al-Azhar Grand Mufti Sheik Ali Gomaa (also spelled “Ali Gum’a”) with a public ceremony for the cleric who helped preside over Sunni Islamdom’s equivalent of the Vatican, giving him an engraved silver plate that read:

“AMIDEAST recognizes and honors the prominent role of the Grand Mufti Dr. Ali Gomaa in strengthening mutual understanding and cooperation between Americans and the peoples of the Muslim world.”


But critics, such as Andrew Bostom, point out that Dr. Gomaa is a notorious anti-Semite (as well as holding very hostile views on women and gays). For example, Gomaa said in 2006 that the “Hebrew entity” is full of “bloodsuckers” who prepared Passover matzos with “human [non-Jewish] blood,” to cite but on example of Gomaa’s bigotry:




The organization “Shia Rights Watch” has strongly condemned the mob attack on Shia Muslims last week in which Sheikh Hassan Shehata and three other Egyptian Shia Muslims were brutally murdered in the village of Zawya Abu Muslim in Giza

Shia Rights Watch alleged that “crimes against Shia are supported by the Egyptian president since he promotes hate speeches against Shia by clerics in public.”

News reports indicate the Shia were publically lynched by a mob of over 1,000 people.



The Russian Navy, which is stationed in the Caspian Sea, has announced plans for joint exercises with the Iranian Navy at a date yet to be made public in the second half of this year.

The announcement was made after a meeting last week between the Russians and the commander of the Iranian guided-missile boats fleet who was visiting the port of Astrakhan. Iran has dispatched two domestically manufactured missile-launching frigates to Astrakhan.

The Iranian navy has recently been increasing its presence in international waters.



Iran has been exploiting a loophole in Western sanctions, in order to import high grade refined alumina ore from several European countries, including Germany and France, that Tehran could use to make armor parts and missile components, according to a report by the Reuters news agency.

The refined ore has been excluded from European Union sanctions, but tightened U.S. sanctions that came into effect on July 1 seek to close this loophole. According to a U.S. Treasury briefing, the latest measures will cover “raw or semi-finished metals” that include aluminum.

Export data from the independent firm Global Trade Information Services revealed that between January 2012 and March 2013, around 4,000 tons of alumina was sold to Iran mostly from Germany and France, but also from Slovenia, Italy, Hungary and Belgium.

Experts say the high price paid of $700-$1,000 a ton and relatively low amounts involved indicate the exports were probably high purity chemical grade alumina, a powder that is combined with other materials to make ceramic composites for missiles and armor.



Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is willing to cede 90% of the West Bank to the Palestinians in a peace deal so long as Israel’s security needs are met, according to the (anti-Netanyahu) Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz.

The paper reports that Netanyahu is willing to discuss final status borders if U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry succeeds in re-launching the peace talks with the Palestinians, but maintains that the Palestinian state must be demilitarized and not be used as a future springboard to declare war on Israel.



Two new bills, submitted by Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party and by Avigdor Lieberman’s rightist Yisrael Beitenu party, aim to double the threshold for gaining seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, therefore trying to boost political stability in Israel.

Because of the low threshold to gain entry to parliament in Israel’s “pure democracy,” ruling coalitions sometimes comprise as many as eight parties, leading to constant instability. Israel has had 33 governments (in 19 Knessets) in 65 years, many lasting for only half their allotted terms.

Both bills are likely to pass, and will raise a party’s threshold for entering the Knesset from the current level of 2% of all votes cast, to 4%.

That would strengthen bigger parties and make it harder for smaller parties to enter the Knesset -- such as Meretz, United Torah Judaism and the Kadima party, which has just two seats in the current Knesset.

The current government has 21 ministers (not including the prime minister) and eight deputy ministers overseeing 30 ministerial portfolios. If the bills pass, no more than 18 ministers (not including the PM) and four deputy ministers would be able to serve in any one government. Both bills make clear that the changes would only go into effect in the next Knesset.


For analysis of the election results earlier this year, please see:

Israeli democracy is alive and well (Jan. 24, 2013).



Cisco CEO John Chambers said it appears that Israel will be the first end-to-end digital nation in the world. Chambers noted that whereas most countries upgrade one area at a time, Israel is moving to connect homes with fiber-optic networks and infrastructure in businesses, education, healthcare and security all at once. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked Cisco to help with the upgrade.

“It’s a project that Cisco is very much committed to and proud to do,” Chambers said. “This is going to be the first digital nation, if we’re successful.”

Netanyahu said in a meeting with Chambers, that it was vitally important to have strong technological infrastructure in place to achieve the rapid growth in the coming years.

Over the course of the next decade, it is estimated that private companies worldwide will be able to generate $14 trillion in profits from the ever-increasing connectivity of devices known as “The Internet of Everything.”

According to Chambers, the next wave of network technology that doesn’t just connect computers but also appliances, objects, processes and data, will integrate fields as disparate as healthcare and education. Based on Cisco’s estimates, in 2013 alone the “Internet of Everything” profits will reach $613 billion.



Efraim Zalmanovich, the orthodox rabbi of Mazkeret Batia, a town south of Tel Aviv, has made a halachic ruling that distributing and smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes is kosher, but using weed for fun is forbidden.

His ruling was reported in the Israeli paper Ma’ariv, which noted that rabbis frequently make rulings to try and reconcile halacha (Jewish religious law), with modern lifestyles.

Zalmanovich’s ruling was made to clarify an opinion given by Rabbi Hagai Bar Giora, head of the “kitchens, bakeries, factories, catering and events divison” of the Israeli chief rabbinate, who in March told Israel’s “Magazine Cannabis”: “If you smoke it, there is no problem whatsoever.”

About 11,000 Israelis use medicinal marijuana, including those with post-traumatic disorders and Parkinson’s disease, according to the Israeli health ministry.

Israel distributes more medical marijuana than any European country, Health Minister Yael German said in a recent Knesset statement: “Israel distributes nearly 400 kilograms of cannabis per month, in comparison with, for example, the Netherlands which provides only 150 kilograms in a whole year.”

[Notes above by Tom Gross]

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