Sentenced to 20 years in prison for a Facebook comment (& ‘Justin’ melon hits the shelves)

June 03, 2014

Samuel L. Jackson posted a “selfie” photograph at the Israel parade, which he tweeted to his 3.74 million Twitter followers


(This dispatch was written a couple of days ago but I was unable to send it until now. At the request of some readers, I have put some of the “lighter” items nearer the top.)


* Iranians, Turks, sentence people to brutal prison terms for daring to criticize leadership on Facebook, Twitter; Iran hangs a man for watching foreign TV by satellite; some Western diplomats, media, still claim Iran is “moderate”.

* Israeli farmers name melon after Justin Timberlake: Arab media report on this, but Western press that prefer only to run stories that cast Israel in a bad light, ignore it.

* American comedian Jay Leno, performing in Israel: “President Obama has declared the month of May Jewish American Heritage Month. He is calling it an opportunity to renew our ‘unbreakable bond with the nation of Israel.’ And he knows it’s unbreakable because he’s been trying to break it for the last five years.”


You can see these and other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page:



1. British woman sentenced to 20 years in prison for a Facebook comment
2. Turkish Twitter user gets 15 months prison for “humiliating religious values”
3. Samuel L. Jackson tweets 3.74m people to celebrate Israel parade
4. Israeli farmers name melon after Justin Timberlake
5. Jay Leno: “When you ask an Israeli politician what his cell number is, it has a whole other meaning”
6. British preacher praises Boko Haram’s kidnap of Nigerian schoolgirls
7. Dutch city calls Israeli towns, “cities in Palestine”
8. MSNBC host Toure apologizes for tweet about Holocaust Survivors
9. Death of Manchester United owner leads to wave of anti-Semitic hate on Twitter
10. Man banned from London district after Nazi salute and other comments
11. Assad’s forces destroy Syria’s oldest synagogue
12. It’s official: Spanish town to remove “Kill the Jews” from its name

[Notes below by Tom Gross]


A British woman has been sentenced to 20 years in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for criticizing the Iranian leadership on Facebook.

The Times of London reported this story on Saturday (albeit on Page 16). Other media didn’t even bother reporting on it, while British diplomats and papers such as the New York Times are still try to convince people in the West that Iran’s regime has somehow become “moderate”. (Arabs and Israelis are under no illusion about the true nature of the Iranian regime.)

From the Times of London (May 31 2014)

“A British woman has been sentenced to 20 years in an Iranian prison for posting a comment on Facebook that allegedly criticized the country’s leadership.

“Roya Saberi Negad Nobakht, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, was seized by Iranian authorities while visiting friends in the south-western city of Shiraz last October.

“The 47-year-old housewife has been accused of gathering crowds, putting national security at risk, and of insulting Islam after she reportedly made a comment on her Facebook page that criticised former Iranian supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the 1979 Iranian Revolution that established an Islamic republic.

“Having been detained at the notorious Evin prison in the capital city of Tehran, known for its political prisoners, she was this week handed a 20-year jail sentence.

“Ms Nobakht, who is a part-time student at Stockport College, has dual British-Iranian nationality and has been living in England with her British husband for more than six years.”


Tom Gross adds:

Iran executed political prisoner Gholamreza Khosravi, aged 49, early on Sunday morning. He was hanged in prison on charges of “waging a war against God”.

He had been initially arrested in 2008 after he put up a satellite dish to try and receive foreign news broadcasts, and had been imprisoned ever since. Most Western media failed to report on this.



The (London) Daily Mail, which often has more thorough reporting on these kinds of matters than The New York Times, reports (on May 30, 2014):

“A teacher in Turkey has been jailed for ‘humiliating religious values’ after he used the nickname ‘Allah C.C.’ on Twitter.

“The user, named Ertan P, was accused by prosecutors in the eastern province of Muş of ‘writing harmful content’ for including the name of God and the Prophet.

“The court rejected the defendant’s claim that his account was hacked and he was handed 15 months behind bars.

“C.C. is the abbreviation of the honorific Arabic phrase ‘Celle Celaluhu’ which means, ‘[Allah's] glory is so almighty.’ On the indictment he was charged with ‘humiliating the religious values accepted by a part of the people’, Hurriyet Daily News reported.”


Tom Gross adds:

In March, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan tried to ban Twitter altogether after some users posted links suggesting government corruption. He also tried to block access to YouTube.

But the Turkish high court has overturned the bans after it ruled it was a violation of the country’s freedom of expression.



While boycotters continue to harass celebrities from visiting or supporting Israel, many are rejecting their calls.

American actor Samuel L. Jackson, star of the cult film “Pulp Fiction” and other movies such as Jurassic Park and Die Hard, even joined the annual Celebrate Israel parade, in New York City on Sunday, and posted a “selfie” photograph of himself at the parade, which he tweeted out to his 3.74 million Twitter followers



Anti-Israel campaigners in the West (including anti-Israel Jews) are furious with pop superstar Justin Timberlake not just for performing in Israel last week, but for sending out tweets about much he enjoyed his visit to the country.

Meanwhile, Israeli farmers have named a new variety of Israeli melon in Timberlake’s honor. The “Justin” melon is known for its sweet taste and its three-week shelf life.

Israeli farmers are world leaders in developing new healthy fruits and vegetables, including in the past, the Cherry tomato.

“The farmers at Ein Yahav hope that the melon will also serve as a good-luck charm for Timberlake, bringing him a long, healthy life and continued success in his musical career,” the Jerusalem Post reported, adding that the melon will reach supermarkets soon.

What is also noteworthy is that while the western press ignores such stories because they prefer to cast Israel in a bad light, the Arab press (that as I have consistently pointed out in these dispatches, is often less hostile to Israel than some American and European papers) has reported on it, for example, here in Al Arabiya:

* As I noted previously, a host of pop superstars are defying boycott calls and other threats, and performing in Israel this spring and summer, including the Rolling Stones this Wednesday, June 4.

Among those who have played in Israel recently, or are performing this year: Alicia Keys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rihanna, Madonna, Depeche Mode, Moby, the Pet Shop Boys, Aerosmith, Celine Dion, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Barbra Streisand, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, and many others.



American comedian Jay Leno, the former host of “The Tonight Show,” on his first trip to Israel last week said “I’m a huge supporter of Israel and always have been. It is a democracy in the Middle East and I don’t like to see the little guy getting picked on by the big guy.”

In a performance in Israel, Leno cracked a few jokes too. According to the Israeli paper Ha’aretz, Leno drew his “biggest laughs and applause” when he said:

“President Obama has declared the month of May Jewish American Heritage Month. He is calling it an opportunity to renew our ‘unbreakable bond with the nation of Israel.’ And he knows it’s unbreakable because he’s been trying to break it for the last five years.”

Leno then added: “I’ve been doing my research. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, here in Israel the most popular boys name is Noam. The least popular boys name? John Kerry.”

Kerry is disliked by many in Israel after making several comments misrepresenting the country, most recently referring to it as an “apartheid” state.

At his performance, Leno also joked about local Israeli political scandals. Referring to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former President Moshe Katzav, Leno said: “I was stunned by how many Israeli politicians are going to prison. When you ask an Israeli politician what his cell number is, it has a whole other meaning.”

In a separate interview, Leno, who is of Italian heritage, told the Associated Press “At some point in your life, you have to sort of take sides. I tend to side with the Jewish point of view on many things, especially issues like this one. I realize how important Israel is.”

“It’s the only democracy in the Middle East. I look around the Middle East and I see people being stoned to death because they’re gay and women being not allowed to drive or not allowed to vote. And here’s this one little paradise in the Middle East where there’s a democracy, you vote people in you vote people out,” he told AP.

Leno then criticized the oil-rich Southeast Asian nation of Brunei which recently instituted a criminal code based on Islamic Sharia law, which includes death by stoning for homosexuals. Leno said: “Evil flourishes when good people do nothing, and that is pretty much what this is.”



London Imam Mizanur Rahman has been criticized after he praised the kidnapping of almost 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria by Boko Haram.

In a video posted online, Rahman praised Boko Haram, and said it was necessary to forcibly convert non-Muslims so they could see “the truth about Allah”.

The chairman of the British Home Affairs parliamentary committee, Keith Vaz, said: “I am deeply concerned by the content of the video. No child or young person should be exposed to these extreme views.”

Rahman has previously served a jail term after calling for 9/11-style terror attacks to be carried out across Europe.



Authorities in the Dutch city of Eindhoven are facing criticism for describing Jerusalem, Nazareth and Tiberias – all of which are in Israel – as “cities in Palestine.”

In response, a Dutch Jewish group accused the municipality of “wiping Israel off the map.”

The street signs have been erected in the Woensel district of Eindhoven. A spokesperson from the municipality of Eindhoven declined to comment after he was asked by the Luxembourg broadcaster RTL why they had put up the signs.



MSNBC television presenter Toure Neblett has apologized for a tweet in which he insulted Jewish survivors of the Holocaust.

“Late last week, I foolishly got involved in a twitter exchange regarding an article about reparations,” Toure tweeted last Tuesday afternoon in a series of three tweets. “It was a dumb idea by me to debate serious and nuanced topics in 140 characters or less. In an attempt to comment on racism in post World War II America, I used a shorthand that was insensitive and wrong. I am very sorry and will make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Efraim Zuroff, a campaigner against anti-Semitism, was among those to criticize Toure’s original tweet, calling it “obviously absurd and smacks of intense and disgusting anti-Semitism. It’s reverse-racism.”



A wave of anti-Semitic comments were posted on Twitter, mainly from the UK, following the death last week of Malcolm Glazer, the owner of Manchester United, one of the world’s most successful football clubs. Glazer, who also owned the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in America, was Jewish.

Among the comments on twitter, according to press reports: “Stupid jew finally died….. Yes thank u Lord” (sic).

Glazer was born into poverty in New York and started his business by selling watch parts out of a suitcase as a teenager. Even though under his ownership, Manchester United won five Premier League titles in England as well as the European Champions League, there has been a hate campaign against him, often tinged with anti-Semitic from United supporters.

By contrast, there has been no similar race-hate campaign against the Arab owners of the other major soccer club in Manchester, Manchester City.



A London court has agreed to a request by London police and banned a 33-year old Slovak man (who lives in London) from entering the Golders Greens neighborhood after he repeatedly harassed Jews in the area with comments about how they should be gassed. The man had hung around outside kosher restaurants and other places harassing customers. The police took action after he made particularly unpleasant remarks on Holocaust Remembrance Day and gave Nazi salutes.

He has been banned from the city district for one year and was sentenced to 180 hours of community service after admitting to two charges of “racially or religiously aggravated harassment” and one charge of “assault by beating”.



The ancient Eliyahu Hanabi Synagogue in the Damascus district of Jobar, said to be built atop a cave where the prophet Elijah once hid, was completely destroyed by the Syrian army last weekend.

The area where the synagogue once stood has been under bombardment by the forces of President Bashar Assad for months, part of his regime’s “scorched earth” policy, which includes random and violent attacks on civilian populations.

Dozens of churches and hundreds of mosques have been destroyed by the Assad regime since the start of the Syrian civil war over three years ago. Six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Syria have also been destroyed.



This is a follow-up to an item on this in my dispatch of April 14 – a story that the New York Times finally first reported on only in May.


The small Spanish village named Castrillo Matajudios has voted to remove the words “Kill the Jews” from its name, after having that name for hundreds of years, since the Spanish Inquisition.

The new name will be chosen later this month.

Of the town’s 56 eligible voters, 52 cast votes in a referendum, with 29 supporting the initiative to change the name and 19 opposing it. There were four disqualified ballots.

Originally called Castrillo Motajudios, or Hill of the Jews, the words “Kill the Jews” were added at the time of the Spanish Inquisition of 1492, when the Jews of Spain and Portugal were killed or expelled following decades of forced conversions and burnings at the stake.

The campaign to change Castrillo Matajudios’ name was led by the mayor, Lorenzo Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said: “With our name, we’ve been accused of being anti-Semitic. The reality is this is a village descended from a Jewish community, where most inhabitants in this region are the descendants of forcibly converted Jews.”

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

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