British co-winner of Nobel Prize boycotts Israeli university of Jewish man he shares it with

October 09, 2013

Muslim and Christians came together to form a human chain on Sunday to protect a church in Lahore


* A Belgian Jew (Francois Englert) wins the Nobel Prize in physics, but the New York Times goes out of its way not to mention he is a professor at Tel Aviv University, and a Holocaust survivor.

* British co-winner of Nobel Prize for Physics, Professor Peter Higgs, citing anti-Israel political reasons, refused to attend Israeli award ceremony with Englert, and effectively calls for academic boycott of Israel.

* Breaking news: Israeli Professor Arieh Warshel wins 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with two other Jewish professors.

* Iran passes a law allowing men to marry their 13-year-old adopted daughters.

* Another indicator of the extreme homophobia that exists in the non-Israeli Middle East: Gulf states to introduce medical testing on travelers to ‘detect’ gay people and stop them from entering their countries.


This dispatch has a number of items from recent days showing the best and worst of human behavior. You can comment on it here: Please also press “Like” on that page.



1. On the orders of Tehran
2. Guardian readers elect “moderate” Iranian president Rouhani to win Nobel Peace Prize
3. Iran passes a law allowing men to marry their 13-year-old adopted daughters
4. Tel Aviv University professor shares Nobel Prize in physics
5. Breaking news: Israeli Prof Arieh Warshel wins 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry
6. Saudi preacher found guilty of torturing his 5-year-old daughter, beating her to death
7. Muslims help form human chain to protect Christians during Pakistani mass
8. A meeting of heroes
9. Gulf states to introduce medical testing on travelers to ‘detect’ gay people
10. The BBC’s documentary on gay Tel Aviv

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


Warning, this video is very gruesome. It shows Hizbullah -- on the orders of those “moderate” Iranians -- executing anti-Assad fighters in Syria. It was taken yesterday (October 8).



The influential left-wing British paper The Guardian yesterday asked readers to choose their candidate to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and at one point yesterday when I looked at the voting, Guardian readers had chosen “moderate” Iranian president Rouhani, whose regime has executed 126 people since his “election” in June.



The Iranian parliament has passed a new law that allows men to marry their adopted daughters at the age of 13. The new law will allow girls as young as 13 to get married, and those younger than 13 only require the permission of their fathers to do so.

“This bill is legalizing pedophilia,” lawyer Shadi Sadr, who works for the group Justice for Iran, said. “With this bill, you can be a pedophile and get your bait in the pretext of adopting children.”

The law will now go before the country’s Governing Council, to get the final stamp of approval.

Underage marriage is a concern in the country as the state news agency reported that there were 42,000 children between the ages of 10 and 14 who were married in 2010.



François Englert, 80, a Belgian Holocaust survivor, was yesterday awarded the Nobel Prize in physics together with British physicist Peter Higgs.

Englert is a Sackler Professor in the School of Physics and Astronomy at Tel Aviv University, and has taught at, done research at, and been associated with Tel Aviv University for over 30 years. He is also a professor emeritus at the University of Brussels.

Interesting – but not surprisingly – in their reports yesterday, media outlets with a track record of hostility to Israel, such as the New York Times, did not mention in their quite lengthy articles that Englert, a Belgium-born Jew, is a professor at Tel Aviv University, and a Holocaust survivor.

In 2004, Englert, Higgs and Robert Brout won the Wolf prize, an Israeli award granted by the Wolf Foundation and seen as a precursor to the Nobel. (Englert’s colleague Robert Brout passed away in 2011; otherwise he may have also shared yesterday’s Nobel Prize.)

But Englert’s British co-winner of Nobel Prize for Physics, Professor Peter Higgs, seems to have a problem with the fact his co-recipient teaches in Israel. Higgs refused to attend the Wolf prize ceremony, saying he objected to Israeli policies and for this reason would refuse to travel to Israel to collect the prize. And while like his fellow British physicist Stephen Hawking, Higgs is not in the habit of signing letters to The Guardian, through his comments and actions he is encouraging the boycott movement.

As the Israeli Physical Society Journal (as well as the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot), noted at the time:

“Although the British scientist Peter Higgs gave his name to the Higgs field and Higgs particle, at least two other physicists, François Englert and Robert Brout, had a part in the discovery. All three were awarded the prestigious Wolf Prize by Israel’s Knesset in 2004. Higgs boycotted the ceremony for political reasons.”

On Monday, the Nobel Prize for Medicine was awarded to two American Jewish professors, James Rothman and Randy Schekman, together with Thomas Suedhof of Germany. They narrowly beat their Israeli colleagues to the prize. Hebrew University professors Howard Cedar and Aaron Razing were thought to be frontrunners in the run-up to the announcement.

Both Israeli and Diaspora Jews have won an incredibly high number of Nobel Prizes.



Israeli professor Arieh Warshel this morning won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, along with two other Jewish professors, Martin Karplus and Michael Levitt.

The trio won the award “for the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced.

Warshel was born in 1940 in Kibbutz Sde Nahum, and teaches at Israel’s Weizmann Institute, among other universities.

Vienna-born Karplus is from the Université de Strasbourg, France and Harvard University, in the U.S. Pretoria-born Levitt is from Stanford University, CA. Both of them are Jewish.

Update: Michael Levitt is also an Israeli citizen. He taught at the Weizmann Institute in the 1980s. The latest Nobel laureates, Arieh Warshel and Michael Levitt, announced today, mark Israel’s fifth and sixth winners of the chemistry prize in under a decade. Martin Karplus fled to the U.S. from Nazi-occupied Austria, where he was hunted as a Jew.

The New York Times and Washington Post today do mention that two of the winners of the Chemistry Nobel Prize are Israelis, whereas the BBC neglects to tell its audience that Levitt is Israeli:



This report, on the BBC website, is absolutely horrific:

“The horrific details of the abuse that [five-year-old] Lama al-Ghamdi suffered were revealed in medical records from the hospital where she was treated for 10 months before she died.

Her ribs were broken, a fingernail was torn off and her skull crushed. She had been beaten with a cane and electric cables. She had also suffered burns.”

(The full article is at the end of this dispatch.)



Last Sunday, hundreds of Muslims joined Christians in a human chain outside a Lahore church to protect worshippers during mass. Up to 300 people linked hands outside St Anthony’s Church, in a show of solidarity with the victims of the Peshawar church attack two weeks ago, which resulted in over one hundred deaths. The twin suicide attack on All Saints church in Peshawar that occurred after Sunday mass ended, is believed to be the country’s deadliest attack on Christians.

You can read the full story, and see the remarkable pictures, here in the Pakistani Tribune.



BBC foreign correspondent Lyse Doucet writes in a message to me and others (on October 5):

“What an inspiring evening… 16 year old schoolgirl Malala accepts the 2013 Anna Politkovskaya prize from 104 year old Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 Jewish children from the Holocaust… heroes nearly a century apart …”

Tom Gross adds: Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head on her way back from school by gunmen furious at her campaign to secure education for girls in Pakistan. Nicholas Winton saved 669 mostly Czech Jewish children in 1939 by managing to get them out of the country. As far as I am aware, he is the oldest recipient of these Middle East dispatches (some of them are read to him by one of his helpers).

A Taliban spokesman said that they will kill Malala whenever the opportunity arises.



A medical test is being developed by Kuwait to ‘detect’ homosexuals and prevent them from entering Kuwait or any of the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC), according to a Kuwaiti government official.

GCC member countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – already outlaw homosexuality, but are toughening their controversial stance, according to Yousouf Mindkar, the director of public health at the Kuwaiti health ministry.

He told the Kuwait newspaper Al Rai: “Health centres conduct the routine medical check to assess the health of the expatriates when they come into the GCC countries. However, we will take stricter measures that will help us detect gays who will be then barred from entering Kuwait or any of the GCC member states.”

Earlier this month, the Omani newspaper The Week was suspended over an article that was deemed to be sympathetic to homosexuals, according to the BBC.

It’s illegal to be gay in 78 countries, with lesbianism banned in 49.

Five countries have the death penalty for gay people – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Mauritania.

Since 1979, Iran has executed more than 4,000 people charged with homosexual acts. A non-adult who engages in consensual sodomy is subject to a punishment of 74 lashes.



You can watch the program here:

The BBC does interview one man about accusations leveled against Israel by the far left and by New York Times editorialists that it is “pink washing” (i.e. promoting its excellent record of gay rights and other minority issues to distract from other human rights concerns) but challenges the interviewee quite a bit, and interviews many others including a gay Palestinian who has fled to Israel and says how bad it is to be a gay Arab in the West Bank.

There is also a brief mention of the Bar Noa shooting in Tel Aviv, but the BBC fails to point out it was NOT, as first assumed by some, a homophobic attack but the result of a dispute between two gay men. The BBC shows how mainstream Israeli politicians used the aftermath to demonstrate their gay friendliness.

The program maker is Tim Samuels, who also made that wonderful “Zimmers” video – here.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


Saudi preacher jailed over daughter’s death
By Sebastian Usher
BBC News
October 7, 2013

A Saudi preacher accused of torturing his five-year-old daughter and beating her to death has been sentenced to eight years in prison and 600 lashes.

The case of Fayhan al-Ghamdi made headlines around the world earlier this year when it was suggested that a Saudi court might let him walk free.

Activists began a campaign named after his daughter, “I am Lama”, to press the authorities to prevent that happening.

Al-Ghamdi is not recognised as a cleric by the Saudi religious establishment.

The horrific details of the abuse that Lama al-Ghamdi suffered were revealed in medical records from the hospital where she was treated for 10 months before she died.

Her ribs were broken, a fingernail was torn off and her skull crushed. She had been beaten with a cane and electric cables. She had also suffered burns.

The abuse had happened while she was with her father, who was separated from her mother.

It was reported that al-Ghamdi had suspected his daughter of losing her virginity and had beaten her and molested her in response.

It was even suggested that he had raped her himself, although this was denied by Lama’s mother.

The outrage over the case intensified earlier this year when activists suggested that he might walk free, despite having confessed to having beaten Lama.

The judge in the case suggested that one reading of Islamic law meant a father could not be held fully accountable for the death of his children.

Activists warned that it looked like he might be released if the mother accepted blood money.

The story grabbed headlines across the world.

It shone a light on child abuse in Saudi Arabia where rights activists say strict codes of family privacy and a patriarchal tradition make it a serious problem.

The Saudi authorities set up a child abuse helpline in response.

Now, a verdict has been reached in the same court and with the same judge.

One of the activists involved in the campaign, Aziz al-Yousef, told the BBC that she was disappointed that Fayhan al-Ghamdi did not receive a life sentence.

But Lama’s mother had in the end accepted the offer of blood money, despite having once said she would never take it.

She said she needed it to help support her surviving children. That ruled out a life sentence.

Another campaigner who fought for a longer sentence, Manal al-Sharif, told the BBC that she did not believe the penalty was enough.

But she does feel that the I am Lama campaign - with the international pressure it brought to bear on the authorities - was instrumental in leading to the recent introduction of an unprecedented new Saudi law against domestic violence.

However, she added that she still has deep reservations over how effectively this will be enforced in practice.

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