Film, pop and TV stars dismiss Israel boycott calls (& Saudi journalist: attack Iran, open Israeli Embassy in Riyadh)

June 17, 2015

* Inc. magazine (June 15): “Israel’s ‘Silicon Wadi’ is the number two start-up market in the world, second only to Silicon Valley in California. KPMG reports that Israeli high-tech and life sciences capital raising is at an all-time record.”

* Chinese investment flowing into Israel.

* Bon Jovi dismiss as utter lies reports in British and other western media; say Israel is “the one place they want to play” and they “couldn’t care less about boycott calls”; looking forward to Tel Aviv concert.

* American comedian Jay Leno returns to Israel (this time with Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones). Leno: “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 several years.”


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



1. Bosnia soccer fans chant “kill the Jews” before match; riot police protect Israelis
2. Croatia to be investigated for allowing huge swastika on pitch
3. It’s not all boycott-Israel in Britain
4. Bon Jovi dismiss “BDS and media lies”; say Israel is the one place they want to play
5. No more ‘Livin on a prayer’ for Israel
6. Michael Douglas to give talk in Israel tomorrow; Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jay Leno accompany him
7. Inc. magazine: Foreign investment pouring into Israel
8. Hamas “close to agreeing five-year ceasefire with Israel”
9. Israel further eases restrictions on Palestinians for Ramadan
10. Al-Ahram recommends “Jewish” series for Ramadan
11. Saudi journalist: attack Iranian nukes, and open an Israeli Embassy in Riyadh
12. “Wanting only the best possible future for the Palestinians”

[Notes below by Tom Gross]



Bosnia soccer fans trample on an Israeli flag before trying to attack the Israeli players ahead of last Friday’s match against Israel. There were also many anti-Semitic chants calling for the deaths of Jews.

Bosnian riot police deployed hundreds of officers along the route from the Israeli team’s hotel to the stadium to protect the Israeli players. Hatred of Israel and Jews was whipped up last month after Israel (and only Israel) was singled out for opprobrium by dozens of national football (soccer) associations at the FIFA congress.

A security official from the Bosnia-Herzegovina Football Federation, Adis Hajlovats, confirmed to the Turkish Anadolu Agency that Israeli players were protected by the country’s most elite forces during their time in the country. Manchester City’s star Edin Dzeko led Bosnia to a 3-1 win in the game after Israel took a surprising 1-0 lead.

Before another match that Bosnia played in Austria a few weeks ago, Austrians began shouting pro-Palestinian slogans in Vienna’s central Stephansplatz plaza. Bosnian fans responded with a chant of “Ubij, ubij Židove!” (“Kill, kill the Jews!”) as can be seen in this video.



The European soccer body UEFA say they will investigate Croatia after a massive swastika was allowed to remain carved on the grass on the pitch during Croatia’s Euro 2016 qualifier match against Italy in Split also last Friday. (Tens of thousands of Jews were murdered in Bosnia and Croatia during the war.)

The photo below shows fans of Karpaty Lviv from western Ukraine. No action has been taken by the Ukrainian authorities. Lviv (previously called Lemberg, Lwow and Lvov) was the third biggest Jewish town in Poland before the war. During the war it was annexed into Ukraine. The Jewish population was wiped out at the nearby Belzec death camp (where over 450,00 Jews were killed and only 7 survived).



The Guardian reports that Israeli artist Matan Ben Cnaan last night won the prestgious BP portrait award for what the judges called an “engaging filmic narrative” inspired by biblical story of Jephthah set “in the blistering sunlight of Israel’s Jezreel Valley”.

As The Guardian notes, it is one of the world’s most prestigious painting awards. The award was announced at a ceremony yesterday evening at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

There were a record number of entries this year – 2,748 portraits from 92 countries, up from 2,377 from 71 countries last year.



While anti-Israel media abroad such as the New York Times tend to focus in great detail on those very few (and usually minor) artists who are boycotting Israel, in general they fail to mention the great number of international artists and musicians performing in Israel.

Robbie Williams played to tens of thousands of fans in Tel Aviv last month. Last week singer Art Garfunkel performed with his son in Israel.

And American rockers Bon Jovi, one of the world’s biggest groups, has announced they will give their first show in Israel on October 3. Bon Jovi has dismissed as “absolute lies” claim by the BDS movements that the group had a boycott policy against Israel.

In 2013, lead singer Jon Bon Jovi told BBC radio 2 that of all the countries he’s never played, the one he most wanted to perform in was Israel.



Among stories dismissed as a complete lie, is this one by Jerusalem correspondent Alistair Dawber of the British paper The Independent, which stated “The issue of artists giving performances in Israel is controversial. In recent years, Jon Bon Jovi and the South African band Ladysmith Black Mambazo have cancelled concerts in support of the BDS – or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – movement.”

The Independent has just now added another utterly duplicitous and misleading “correction” in italics at the foot of their story.

Bon Jovi say they have never contemplated boycotting Israel and can’t wait to play there. In a statement through his manager, Jon Bon Jovi said he “couldn’t care less” about an email campaign from political extremists calling on him to boycott the Jewish state.

Here is their track “Livin on a prayer”.


As I noted in this dispatch last month:

“Neither The Guardian nor New York Times stories on Lauryn Hill mentioned that Robbie Williams played to 40,000 fans in Tel Aviv on May 2, or that Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Lady Gaga, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney and others all played in Israel recently.”

See also item 7 here: Lady Gaga: “World view of Israel is wrong”



Film stars Michael Douglas and his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones are in Israel again this week. Tomorrow Douglas is to make public remarks as he accepts the 2015 Genesis Prize, presented to him at the Jerusalem Theater by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

American comedian and chat show host Jay Leno, who was master of ceremonies at last year’s prize in Jerusalem, said he enjoyed his trip to Israel so much that he is returning again to be master of ceremonies at this year’s award. Israeli Supermodel Bar Refaeli will join Leno as a co-presenter.

Tomorrow morning prior to the presentation, Douglas will have a one-on-one conversation with filmmaker Benjamin Freidenberg at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.


* See also: Film star Michael Douglas in the Los Angeles Times: “Anti-Semitism now derives [in part] from an irrational and misplaced hatred of Israel.”

* See also remarks from Jay Leno’s visit to Israel last year:

“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.”

* See also at the same link above, a photo of Hollywood star Samuel L. Jackson taking a “selfie” at New York’s Israel parade, which he then tweeted to his 3.74 million Twitter followers.



Inc. magazine reported on Monday (June 15) that the raising of capital for Israeli high-tech and life sciences startups rose to an all-time record in 2014, up 46% on 2013 levels, as Chinese and overseas investors poured money into the market.

From the article:

“Israel’s ‘Silicon Wadi’ is the number two start-up market in the world, second only to Silicon Valley in California, with over 6,000 startups being founded in the last 10 years. It currently has about 70 active venture capital funds, of which 14 are international VCs with Israeli offices.

“Both KPMG and Israeli-based research center IVC report that Israeli high-tech and life sciences capital raising set an all-time record as 688 companies raised $3.4 billion in 2014. This amount was 46 percent higher than 2013, when 659 companies raised $2.3 billion.”



The Saudi paper Asharq Al-Awsat reported yesterday:

“Hamas and Israel are close to agreeing on a five-year truce plan, after two weeks of continued discussions between both sides, informed sources have told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The plan, proposed by Qatar and supported by Turkey as well as a number of EU countries and the UN, would see Hamas and Israel declare a five-year ceasefire in exchange for Israel easing its blockade of Gaza, speeding up the process of rebuilding the Strip, and constructing a floating seaport on the Gaza coast. The plan could also be extended beyond the five years…

“Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has criticized the current ceasefire proposal, saying that only the Palestinian Authority (PA) – the interim Palestinian government which Abbas heads as president – should negotiate directly with Israel.

“He has accused Hamas of conducting ‘secret and unilateral’ negotiations with Tel Aviv without consulting other Palestinian groups, in a bid to boost its own international legitimacy and bypass the PA.”


Tom Gross adds: The Hamas newspaper and website in Gaza today dismisses these reports:

Hayya: Claims on Truce Aim to Preoccupy the Public Opinion
17 June 2015

Gaza ( — The prominent leader in Hamas movement Khalil al-Hayya stated that much talking about the truce aims to preoccupy the public opinion and delude people that Gaza problems will be solved through calm.



Prior to the month-long Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which began today, Israel has further eased a series of restrictions on Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank (and hundreds from Gaza) usually come to Friday prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan.

But this year for the first time, Israel is arranging special shuttle buses to make it easier for them to travel directly from West Bank towns to the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Some Palestinian officials objected to the idea of Palestinians riding on Israeli buses and say they may try and stop the Israeli buses from running. The announcement is the latest in a series of moves by the Netanyahu government designed to make daily life easier for Palestinians. There are now fewer restrictions and checkpoints in the West Bank than there have been for decades.

Israel is also bringing 800 Palestinians from Gaza to visit Jerusalem each Friday.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today met in his office with Dr. Qanta Ahmed, the noted activist against Islamic extremism. The meeting was arranged by Likud MK Anat Berko (a long time subscriber to this list, who tells me she learned of Dr. Qanta from this list).



This is a follow-up to item 3 in this dispatch:

New Egyptian TV drama set to show Jews in non anti-Semitic light

The leading Egyptian paper Al-Ahram Online has now recommended “five TV series to watch during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan” and this is one of them:

Ahram Online, Friday 12 Jun 2015

...2. Harrat El Yahood (The Jews’ Alley)
Director: Mohamed Gamal Al Adl
Scriptwriter: Medhat Al Adl
Producer: Gamal Al Adl
Starring: Menna Shalaby, Eyad Nassar, Gamil Rateb, Shouikar, Riham
Abdelghafour, Hala Sedki, Ahmed Hatem

The series traces how particular events in modern Egyptian history -- namely the 23 July Revolution and the 1956 War -- affected the everyday lives of the Jews of Egypt. At its core is the story of a Jewish girl (Menna Shalaby) who falls in love with a Muslim (Eyad Nassar), a love that becomes impossible due to the changing political environment in Egypt in the 1950s.



Iran’s Fars news agency reported yesterday that Saudi journalist Dahham Al Enazi has infuriated social network users after he advocated attacking Iran and opening an Israeli embassy in Riyadh.

“We welcome replacing Iranian embassy compound in Riyadh with an Israeli embassy, then launch a shared war on Iran and destroy its nuclear power plants; then when it (Israel) withdraws to the 1967 borders, we will recognize it and make it a member of the Arab League,” Al Enazi wrote.

-- Tom Gross



The following letter by Denis MacEoin was sent to the Executive Council of the National Union of Students (NUS), an umbrella organization representing 600 British student unions across the UK, questioning why they voted to boycott Israel on June 2.

Denis MacEoin is a lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Newcastle University in northern England, and an expert on Islam and Shari’a Law. He is fluent in Persian and Arabic, and has a PhD in Persian/Islamic Studies from Cambridge University.

The letter was reprinted with Denis MacEoin’s permission by the Gatestone Institute of which he is a senior fellow. (He is also a subscriber to this email list.)

The Upside-Down World of University Human Rights
By Denis MacEoin
June 13, 2015

Neither the great many supporters of Israel whom I know personally nor I want anything but the best possible future for the Palestinians. No one I know hates the Palestinians. What we do hate are the organizations that exploit and dominate the Palestinian people, that deny them the right to vote for new governments, the culture of hatred in Palestinian mosques, schools, and political speeches, and the acts of terror and war that have been directed at Jewish, Muslim and Christian Arab Israelis for many decades. It is the hatred and the violence we deplore, knowing as we do that this hurts not only Israelis, but that, since 1948, it has been blocking Palestinians from achieving their true potential.

We believe sincerely that boycotting, sanctioning and divesting from Israel will not bring peace so long as the Palestinian leaderships in Gaza and the West Bank insist that they intend to destroy Israel and take control of its entire territory.

Your latest resolution to boycott Israel is in defiance of historical, geographical, political and legal fact. Your motions are built on a pastiche of lies, misunderstandings, and distortions of reality. That worries me. It worries me because I expect today’s university students to be as earnest in their pursuit of truth and fact as I was trained to be when I was in their position. It is not your fault. You study the sciences or philosophy or literature or European history, and you do not have historical, political, or sociological training to equip you to comment or write motions on the situation in the Middle East.

If you cannot read Arabic or another Islamic language, if you have never studied Islamic history, doctrine, scripture or civilization, if you know little of the modern history of the Middle East from the collapse of the Ottoman empire until today, if you rely entirely on propaganda put out by pro-Palestinian activists, if you refuse to listen to or take on board the views of scholars and others from the Israeli point of view, you are in denial of all the best values of objective enquiry of the academy. I do not meddle in physics, medicine, Chinese affairs, or Latin American politics because I have no expert knowledge of any of them. Ignorance is not a substitute for informed understanding.

By acting as you do, you undermine the most basic principles on which the academy is founded, principles from which you draw the justification for your studies and the worth of the degrees you will at last have, and which you will employ as guarantees of your later success in life. Those principles, without which no university can possess even a shred of authority, include freedom of speech and authorship, open and free debate, vigorous argument built on reason and logic, and, perhaps most importantly, the consideration of both sides to any dispute.

You all know that an essay that uses sources from one side only will be failed. However forceful the argument, if it gives no space to the views of those with whom the writer disagrees, it will -- and should be -- rejected. No doubt, one-sidedness works well as a foundation for political success, not least in the use of propaganda. But it is an insult to the values of academic life.

We in Britain enjoy freedom to present controversial views, unlike the teachers and students in countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Pakistan, Egypt and a host of other states, where disagreeing with official religious or political views can lead to arrest, imprisonment, and even death.

For the sake of students living in totalitarian states across the globe, we in the liberal democracies are obliged to take advantage of our freedom to debate. But that does not mean allowing ourselves to be swayed by manifest “agitprop,” distortion or factual inaccuracy. And it does not permit us to ban opinions on a racist basis (as is the case with academic boycotts of Israeli Jews). There is no sign in the motions you passed of Israeli opinion, just the views of one side.

You make no mention of the extraordinary good Israel does in the world, its medical aid for thousands of Palestinians in Israeli hospitals and clinics, its life-saving surgery for Palestinian children with heart defects, its international aid following disasters around the world -- Haiti, the Philippines, South Sudan and, most recently its provision of the largest medical aid team in Nepal.

You are silent about the Israeli treatment of injured Syrian refugees, the major role it plays in advancing agriculture in Africa and other parts of the Third World, and its growing work with advancing countries such as India and China.

You say not a word about the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, the only country in the region to give full equal rights under law to women and members of the LGBT community, to protect its Christian, Muslim and Baha’i minorities and their holy places, you say nothing its full civil rights for Israeli Arabs, or its strenuous efforts to end discrimination against them.
You criticize Israel, a country that advances human rights, and you are mute when it comes to the egregious human rights abuses in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Sudan, Russia, North Korea, Turkey, Syria, Tibet, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia and elsewhere.

The world you live in is upside-down: you claim to act in defense of human rights, but your motions do not reflect this. You give free passage to the worst abusers of human rights -- countries that persecute religious minorities, suppress and kill women, throw homosexuals from high roofs, execute hundreds of dissidents every year, imprison, torture and slaughter -- without rebuke. Yet you fulminate against Israel, which does none of those things. It does not use torture, it does not execute anyone, not even Palestinian terrorists who have committed mass murder against innocent civilians and children -- and all this while being forced to defend itself against more wars, more terrorist attacks, and more hatred than are suffered by the rest of the world combined.

In one motion, you condemn Israel for its invasion of Gaza in 2014, but say not a word about the simple fact that the war was started when Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired dozens, then hundreds of rockets into civilian areas in Israel’s south. It is a plain matter of international law that Israel defended itself by retaliating against its enemies.

You do not even mention two reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International stating that the war crimes were carried out by Hamas, and that many of the Gazan citizens who died were, in fact, killed by Hamas rockets.

Are you proud of yourselves to be involved in a campaign against Israel that is being described by more and more legislatures as a modern expression of anti-Semitism, almost identical to the Jew-hatred of Nazi Germany? Are you unaware that anti-Semitism, a deadly form of racism, is growing in Britain and across Europe, and that much of this is directly funded and fostered by the anti-Israel campaigns?

Do you support people like the marchers in London, Amsterdam, and many other cities who have walked on our streets chanting “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas”? Is that something that left-wing students in the UK find endearing or proper? Why do none of you campaign against that? Why do you not expel members who subscribe to that philosophy? Are you happy to share your campuses with people who want to kill Jews?

You rightly oppose Islamophobia, but act willingly to foster anti-Semitism, which is by far the larger prejudice. There are many more attacks on Jews in Europe (including the UK) than on Muslims, yet one only ever sees “liberal” students marching hand in hand with Muslims who call for the destruction of Israel and support some of the world’s most bloody terrorist groups.

Should your conference not have addressed that degree of bigotry instead of battening on a democracy that can serve as a role model across the region in which it is located?

You support Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), yet ignore the fact that many years of boycott campaigns against Israel have proved totally useless. Israel today is a leader in medicine, science, technology, business and humanitarian relief. Other countries flock to it to benefit from its high level of expertise. Growing numbers of the world’s major companies from Apple to Google and, very soon, Alibaba, are opening major R&D centers there. Investors from almost everywhere are ploughing money into the staggering list of Israeli start-ups. BDS is a failure. Why should you think your resolution to boycott Israel will make the slightest impression on the sixth largest country, economically, in the world? It is a mere irritant that sends out a false message that tells the world more about you than about Israel.

Your prejudice is as appalling as your refusal to act fairly and honestly. Criticize Israel if you must, but at least learn that it does great good for mankind and that the best hope for the Palestinian people, with whom you express solidarity, does not lie in further acts of terrorism and warfare, nor in defiance of international legal norms, but in encouraging the paths to real peace: free speech for the Palestinians, and freedom from their own barren leaders, who hope to keep their jobs-for-life by deflecting blame for their own corrupt governance onto their neighbor. You could insist on their ending their incitement, which is only radicalizing the Palestinians to turn to the waiting arms of Hamas and ISIS. Why not encourage the Palestinians to accept Israel’s frequent offers to help them actually build their infrastructure and economies?

BDS motions do not help. Before your next conference, perhaps you might take on board the informed opinions of people who know their way around the Middle East. Many will condemn Israel, for it is popular to do so, and no one likes to be thought out of fashion; but others will tell a very different story, and it is your duty as college and university students to an equal hearing of their views.

If you do not do this, you can only shame yourselves and the generation of students whom you represent. Please restore our faith in the ability of young people to listen, to be open-minded and to be fair.

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