Cry freedom (& new Egyptian TV drama shows Jews as normal people)

June 07, 2015

Jews and Arabs together on Tel Aviv beach yesterday in “Apartheid Israel”. Despite the relentless attempts by some journalists and academics to portray it as a horrible place, Israel was this week named one of the five happiest countries in the world.


Cry freedom: A Syrian woman who has escaped from the “hell” of Islamic State rule, rips off her black robe and headscarf yesterday.


* While most of the items below are from recent days, a few are from over a week ago. They are derived from a dispatch I wasn’t able to complete at the time because of illness, but are included here since they still haven’t been widely reported in the western media.

Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.

-- Tom Gross



1. Cry freedom
2. Saudi student kicked off university bus for unveiling face
3. New Egyptian TV drama set to show Jews in non anti-Semitic light
4. Israelis and Saudis reveal secret talks
5. Egyptian historian: We must focus on our own interests, not on the Palestinian cause, and improve ties with Israel
6. Leading Jordanian author: Jihadi terror based on Jewish Talmud, not Islam
7. Iranian media: Mossad plotting terrorist attacks on Sunni mosques
8. Iran, Russia, who is telling the truth?
9. Whoops, Tehran forgot to shrink its enriched uranium stockpile
10. France opposes Iran nuclear deal without military site checks
11. Work accident
12. “And from behind the head – there was no brain”
13. Russia and Egypt hold first joint naval exercise
14. Egypt to destroy 10,000 more Palestinian homes in Gaza buffer zone expansion
15. “In defense of Tony Blair, peace envoy”

[Notes below by Tom Gross]


In what many will find to be heart-warming pictures and videos, these Syrian women who escaped ISIS, jump with joy as they rip off their black robes and headscarves as they reach the safety of Rojava in northern Syria, which is outside ISIS control.

They were published yesterday on the website of Britain’s Daily Mail



Al-Arabiya reports, citing Al-Hayat:

A Saudi student of Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University for Women has been kicked out of a university bus by a male supervisor because she unveiled her face.

Tom Gross: what is also of note is that, as has been the case recently in the U.S., Israel and elsewhere, amateur cell phone videos uploaded to YouTube are now being used to try and encourage social change.

Al-Arabiya continues:

A video of the incident was recorded and posted on YouTube showing the supervisor yelling at the bus driver not to drive and ordering students to give up the identity of the girl who revealed her face.

In the clip, the man tells the bus driver to turn the air conditioner off so the heat would force the students to reveal the girl’s identity.

The students then argue back, saying the veil is not mandatory in Islam. The supervisor then threatens to go to Minister of Education Azzam Al-Dakheel and ask him to expel the students [from the university].

One of the students told the newspaper she always unveils her face inside the bus because its windows are tinted and no one from outside can see them.



I have reported many times over the years, on how Egyptian (and Turkish) TV have marked Ramadan evenings, where families traditionally gather at home, with a series of viciously anti-Semitic TV dramas and soap operas. This applied in both the Mubarak and Moslem Brotherhood eras in Egypt. The programs had some of the highest ratings in the Arab world, with tens of millions of viewers.

Now, in what appears to be a remarkable about turn under the anti-Muslim Brotherhood government of General Sisi, a new TV drama for this year’s Ramadan titled The Jewish Quarter (“Haret al-Yahood”) will show Jews in a positive light, according to the Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm.

“The Jewish Quarter” is due to premiere on Egyptian TV on June 18. It is set in 1950s Cairo and centers around a love story between an Egyptian army officer and a young Egyptian-Jewish woman. It is set against the rising wave of Egyptian nationalism which often included anti-Semitic elements, and was fuelled by Nazi war criminals who made their homes in Egypt having escaped justice in Europe at the end of the war.



In a TV interview, Egyptian historian Maged Farag called for normalized relations with Israel, saying that Egypt would benefit from cultural and economic exchange, from tourism, and from Israel’s advanced agricultural and industrial technology.

“For 70 years, the Palestinian cause has brought Egypt and the Egyptians nothing but harm, destruction, and expense,” Farag said. “We should think with a scientific and open mind, with our eyes set on the future,” added the historian, who recently visited Israel to attend a conference on Egyptian Jewry.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) provides extracts here.



The international media (including the New York Times) reported on Friday that persons connected to the Israeli and Saudi governments have been holding “secret talks” over the past year.

Retired Saudi general Anwar Majed Eshki, who is a confidante of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., and Dore Gold, the former Israeli ambassador to the UN, who this morning starts work as director general of Israel’s foreign ministry, publically shook hands in front of photographers at the end of an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

I know both Anwar Majed Eshki and Dore Gold, and both subscribe to this email list.

I am told by persons connected to both the Israeli and Saudi governments that they have decided to “come out of the closet” now, so to speak, so frustrated and alarmed are they with the Obama administration’s weak positions regarding the Iranian regime.


As mentioned in these dispatches, in the past Israeli media citing Arab sources have reported on the visits of Mossad head Tamir Pardo to Riyadh.

I have also mentioned meetings between Pardo’s predecessor Meir Dagan and Saudi intelligence officials at other locations, for example, in this dispatch in 2010 (the third paragraph in item 6):

Israel’s largely clandestine relationships with Saudi Arabia and various other Gulf Arab states date back to at least the 1990s.



Regrettably, there is still a great deal of anti-Semitism in the Arab world and elsewhere.

In a column in the Jordanian daily Al-Arab Al-Yawm, the head of the Jordanian Authors Union, Dr. Muwaffaq Mahadin, claimed that Jihadi terror groups base their actions on “global Judaism and its secret circles.”

“When these [Islamist] organizations carry out mass murder, with suicide operations and various explosive devices… these are [derived from] clear Talmudic methods lacking any connection to Islamic heritage and its lofty traditions and practices.”



The Iranian regime continues to pump out anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli conspiracy theories on an almost daily basis, as it lays the ground for its nuclear arsenal.

Here is one of the regime’s more ridiculous accusations, this time citing unnamed Palestinian sources, complete with what Fars believes to be the logo of the Mossad:

Palestinian Security Source: Mossad Plotting Terrorist Attacks on Sunni Mosques in Iran to Stir Unrest

TEHRAN (FNA)- A senior Palestinian security source said the Israeli spy agency has a plot to carry out a terrorist attack in one of Iran’s Sunni mosques to create rift between the Shiites and Sunnis and stir unrest.

The source told al-Wae’y news website that the bombing plot is due to be implemented similar to the Friday terrorist attack on the Shiite worshipers in a mosque in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern province.

The Mossad seeks to incite the Sunni Muslims against the Shiite population and the government in Iran, the source said. The source called for the Islamic Ummah’s vigilance against the Israeli divisive plots, and said Tel Aviv is well experienced in sowing discord and creating sedition and ethnic wars.

At least 21 people lost their lives and 97 others sustained injuries in a bomb attack carried out by the Takfiri ISIL terrorist group against a Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province…



Contrast these reports:

Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, which is close to the regime, reports:

Iran to Get Russian S-300 Missile System Soon: Official

TEHRAN– Delivery of Russian-made S-300 air defense missile system to Iran will happen soon, an Iranian deputy foreign minister announced.

“The negotiations on the subject have ended in success. I estimate that the S-300 delivery will take place in quite a short time,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was quoted as saying after meeting with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Bogdanov in Moscow.


By contrast, Russia’s deputy security chief announced delivery will “take some time”

Russia Confirms Sale of S-300 Missile Systems To Iran

MOSCOW – Russia on Tuesday confirmed its decision to deliver S-300 air defense missile systems to Iran, but said it could not yet announce a date.

“The decision on delivering S-300 to Iran has been taken but the realization of the project will take some time,” Yevgeny Lukyanov, deputy head of Russia’s security council, was quoted by Russian agencies as saying. “As I understand, the time of delivery has not come yet,” he said.


Meanwhile, Defense News reports:

Israel Air Chief: Nothing Can Stop Our Air Force

Israel’s top Air Force officer said that Russian S-300 air defense systems, if or when deployed by Iran, would constitute more of “a strategic issue than an operative issue”…

“It’s a huge challenge,” Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, Israel Air Force commander conceded, when asked about the announcement – following meetings in Moscow between Russian and Iran officials – that the systems would be delivered to Iran at an unspecified time.

“But it’s more a strategic issue… because whoever has the S-300 feels protected. He can allow himself to do things even more aggressively, because he thinks he’s defended,” Eshel said…

“I tell you now, and obviously this is based on all kinds of assessments we’ve done … that the enemy cannot stop our Air Force.



This editorial is from The Wall Street Journal (June 4):

Iran’s uranium hoard

Whoops, Tehran forgot to shrink its enriched uranium stockpile.

Since Iran agreed in late 2013 to negotiate limits on its nuclear ambitions, the Obama Administration has boasted that its diplomacy has “frozen” Iran’s progress, particularly the regime’s stockpile of enriched uranium. Turns out this isn’t true.

That’s the conclusion of a report Tuesday by the Institute for Science and International Security (the other ISIS), a clearinghouse for technical analysis on Iran’s nuclear programs. Under the 2013 interim nuclear agreement, Iran was not prevented from running its centrifuges to enrich uranium. And enrich it has, producing some four tons of low-enriched uranium since the agreement came into effect in January 2014.

The agreement did require Iran to convert the enriched uranium into an oxide form that cannot be easily turned into weaponizable material. And here is where Iran has failed to comply. As the ISIS report notes, Iran has produced only 150 kilograms of uranium oxide, “a mere five percent of what was expected.” Since last November Iran hasn’t even bothered to convert any enriched uranium into oxide.

Iran has until the end of June to convert the remaining 3,800 kilos into oxide if it’s to honor the terms of the deal. Don’t hold your breath. The Iranians claim that their efforts to oxidize the uranium have been slowed by technical snafus and fouled by sabotage. Sabotage by whom? It makes no sense for the West to stymie an attempt to reduce Iran’s stockpile of weapons-usable uranium.

A likelier explanation is that Iran never intended to honor the interim agreement. Now it can use its additional uranium stockpile either to drive a harder bargain as nuclear negotiations approach their June 30 deadline – or drive harder toward a bomb.

Meantime, the U.S. State Department continues to insist that Iran has met its nuclear commitments under the interim agreement. That follows an Administration pattern of trying to salvage its nuclear diplomacy – not only with Iran but also with Russia – by ignoring or minimizing violations of previous agreements. Another example is last week’s International Atomic Energy Agency report, which notes that Iran “has yet to propose any new practical measures” to comply with an agreement it struck with the Agency to come clean on the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear work.

Iran’s preferred method of nuclear cheating typically takes the form of seemingly technical and arguable infractions of an agreement that collectively amount to massive violations. In this case the infractions add up to four tons of enriched uranium. This is the regime with which President Obama proposes to sign the most consequential nuclear deal of this century.



At least one major Western government seems serious about stopping Iranian nukes (and it doesn’t appear to be the Obama administration...)

The Arab and Israeli press covered this story prominently, for example, here in the Beirut Daily Star, from Agence France Presse (May 27, 2015), but the western press didn’t, which is why I include it here.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that France would oppose a nuclear deal with Iran if it did not allow inspections of military sites.

An agreement “will not be accepted by France if it is not clear that verifications can be made at all Iranian facilities, including military sites,” Fabius told parliament.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last week ruled out inspections at military sites.


See also:

Commander: Iran Not to Allow Even ‘Restricted Access’ to Military Sites
June 5, 2015 - 17:26



The Egyptian Independent reported on Friday (June 5) that:

A member of the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas died Friday when a smuggling tunnel collapsed in the Gaza Strip near the Israeli border, Hamas and medical sources said.

A statement from Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of de facto Gaza rulers Hamas, said a member was killed in the collapse of “a resistance tunnel”.

“A Palestinian source said the collapse occurred while militants were conducting ‘resistance-related activities,’ a possible reference to weapon transfers or training.”


Tom Gross adds: Hamas has created a network of underground tunnels into Israel, designed to carry out large-scale terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Many of the tunnels were destroyed by the Israeli air force in last summer’s war. Since then, Hamas has begun work on building new tunnels and used diverted international aid money to acquire new rockets and other weapons to attack Israel, and indeed (largely unreported by the western media) there have been a number of rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel in recent days.

The Egyptian army has also destroyed some 1,600 tunnels on its border with Gaza, used to smuggle weapons and other goods into Gaza.



Amnesty International’s report of 26 May 2015 has been ignored or downplayed by many of the news outsets that have reported prominently when Amnesty International issues declarations concerning Israel.

The new Amnesty report begins:

Palestine (State of): ‘Strangling Necks’ Abductions, torture and summary killings of Palestinians by Hamas forces during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict

By Amnesty International, 26 May 2015, Index number: MDE 21/1643/2015

Hamas forces in Gaza committed serious human rights abuses, including abductions, torture and summary and extrajudicial executions with impunity during the 2014 Gaza/Israel conflict. To date, no one has been held to account for committing these unlawful killings and other abuses, either by the Hamas de facto administration that continues to control Gaza and its security and judicial institutions, or by the Palestinian “national consensus” government that has had nominal authority over Gaza since June 2014.


Tom Gross adds: Amnesty says Hamas committed “war crimes” during last summer’s 50-day war with Israel. It lists 23 Palestinians executed by Hamas (for, for example, refusing to allow their families to be used as human shields). In fact the numbers of Palestinians killed by Hamas in last summer’s war is far greater than this, including Palestinians killed by Hamas rocket attacks which were aimed at Israel but misfired and hit Palestinian civilians instead.

Even now, on their websites and elsewhere, news organizations such as the BBC continue to include these Palestinian fatalities in statistics which they say or strongly imply died at Israeli hands.

The Amnesty report also says Hamas arrested and tortured dozens of other Palestinians during the war.

For example, one of Atta Najjar’s brothers told Amnesty: “There were marks of torture and bullet shots on Atta’s body. His arms and legs were broken, his body was as if you’d put it in a bag and smashed it. His body was riddled with about 30 bullets. He had slaughter marks around his neck, marks of knives. And from behind the head - there was no brain… it was difficult for us to carry him … He was heavy, like when you put meat in a bag; no bones. His bones were smashed. They broke him in the prison.”

Even though the report is about Hamas, Amnesty can’t resist slurring Israel in its report. The report includes several accusations and statistics about Israel which Israel has shown to be categorically untrue.

However, Amnesty doesn’t shy away from critiquing Hamas in a way that the other major self-appointed rights group, Human Rights Watch, which is notorious for its campaigns against Israel, would never do.



The Egyptian Independent newspaper reports:

Russia and Egypt hold first ever joint naval exercise
Sat, June 6, 2015 - 19:21

Russia and Egypt are holding their first ever joint naval exercise, Russia’s defence ministry said on Saturday, strengthening the ties between two states…

The eight-day drills off the Mediterranean Egyptian port of Alexandria, beginning today, will include supply and communication at sea, search operations, all forms of defence at sea and firing exercises…

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has been cultivating ties with Egypt, a Soviet ally for much of the Cold War and traditional export market for Russian arms.

He visited the country in February for talks with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, whom Putin has strongly backed.



Almost unreported by the western media, and uncommented upon by many of the supposedly pro-Palestinians groups in the west, the Palestinian Maan news agency reports:

Egypt to evacuate 10,000 homes in Gaza buffer zone expansion
June 6, 2015

CAIRO (Ma’an) – Egyptian military forces will begin to evacuate more homes opposite the border with the Gaza Strip come July, in an ongoing expansion of the no-go area between Egypt and the Palestinian coastal enclave, Egyptian military sources said Saturday…

Several families have been notified of the evacuation plans which are expected to affect some 10,000 houses in the Safa, Imam Ali and al-Ahrash neighborhoods in Rafah city in North Sinai Peninsula, said authorities, who seek to expand the zone by 500 meters…

After a bombing killed more than 30 Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai in October 2014, the military stepped up a campaign to build the buffer zone amid accusations of Hamas support for the group that carried out the attack.

Egyptian military authorities accuse Hamas of direct involvement of planning and executing attacks against Egyptian military targets, as well as intentionally threatening political stability in the region…

Around 1,110 houses on the Egyptian side had been demolished by the end of April to make way for the expanding buffer zone, with more than 1,000 families displaced…

The evacuation is set to start immediately after the holy month of Ramadan, around July 20…



The former British prime minister Tony Blair is stepping down from his job as Middle East peace envoy. He has been widely attacked and lampooned, particularly in the British press, for his failure to bring peace to the Middle East.

Here, by contrast, is a piece by British writer Jonathan Foreman in the new European edition of the influential American website Politico, defending Blair.

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