Arab diplomats claim immunity after assaulting women in NY (& another batch of Nobel prizes)

October 11, 2017

Sephardi Israeli singer Noam Vazana (above performing at the Tanjazz Festival in Tangier, Morocco) was threatened on stage by anti-Israeli activists. Vazana has been active in aiding Syrian refugees and organizing musical projects between Israeli and Palestinian musicians.



[Notes by Tom Gross]

I attach five unrelated pieces below.

In the first, the New York Post reports that police were forced to release a Sudanese Arab UN diplomat, Hassan Salih, for groping a woman’s breasts at 2:25 am in a New York bar because he enjoys diplomatic immunity.

(Alcohol was outlawed in Sudan under Muslim Sharia law in 1983, and the penalty for drinking alcohol there is 40 lashes.)

In May Hassan Salih was elected (by fellow Arab nations and third world countries) as vice-chair of the UN committee that oversees the work of 4,500 human rights NGOs, including groups that defend the rights of women.

I have previously drawn attention to the election of Sudan as Vice-Chair of this UN committee overseeing human rights groups, on the grounds that the Sudanese regime is one of the worst persecutors of human rights activists in the world, and Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir is wanted for genocide at the International Criminal Court.

This is the second time this year a Sudanese diplomat at the UN has claimed diplomatic immunity. Mohammad Abdalla Ali was arrested in January for grinding his crotch on a 38-year-old woman aboard an uptown 4 subway train in the middle of the afternoon.



In the second article below, Haaretz reports that the 2017 Nobel Economics Laureate Richard Thaler (who is an American Jew) has strong collaborative research connections with Israelis in his field.

Tom Gross adds:

Over 40 percent of the Nobel Economics prizes have reportedly been awarded to Jews. (Oliver Hart, the British-born American Jewish professor at Harvard who won last year’s Nobel Prize for Economics, is a subscriber to this email list.)

Historically, the Nobel science prizes have also been dominated by Jews, and that is once again the case this year. Rainer Weiss who won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physics was born in 1932 in Berlin and he and his parents escaped Nazi Germany to Czechoslovak and then were among the last Jews to escape to America before the Holocaust.

Both parents of Michael Morris Rosbash, the American geneticist and chronobiologist who won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Medicine, were also German Jews who fled Hitler.

Barry Barish who shared the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics with Weiss is a leading expert on gravitational waves. Hs parents’ families fled pogroms against Jews in Poland and Belarus.

Given the enormous contribution of Jews to mankind, the continuing hatred and disdain felt by so many people around the world towards Jews is one of the most bizarre phenomena of human history.

A number of recipients of the Nobel Prize for Literature have also been Jewish. These include in recent years: Nadine Gordimer of South Africa, Imre Kertész of Hungary, Elfriede Jelinek of Austria, Harold Pinter of Britain, Patrick Modiano of France, and Bob Dylan of the United States.



In the third article below, the Jerusalem Post reports that Israeli singer Noam Vazana was threatened on stage by anti-Israeli activists at a Moroccan jazz festival. Vazana’s shows at the festival were a premiere for her project Maktub, which features songs in Hebrew and Arabic and collaboration with Dutch-Moroccan singer Teema.

She is currently on a 90-concert tour in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

She accused the Qatar regime-controlled Arab-language Al Jazeera TV network of fabricating information about her ahead of her show, including an accusation that she was anti-Palestinian.



In the fourth piece below, published in today’s Wall Street Journal, Egyptian-American writers Haisam Hassanein and Wesam Hassanein say that “President Obama nudged Arab Leaders toward Israel: Obama aligned their interests with Netanyahu’s through his clumsy handling of Iran and the Arab Spring.”



In the fifth article below, the UAE paper The National reports that travelers departing from Dubai will no longer need to pass through any sort of security clearance counter or e-gate. “They will simply walk through a virtual aquarium tunnel that will scan their face or iris using hidden cameras while they’re in motion.”

The first of these “virtual borders” will be installed by the end of the summer of 2018 at Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport. In phases up until 2020, the tunnels will be introduced at other Dubai terminals.

Currently, according to the airport authorities, 600 to 700 tons of gold and up to US$25 billion pass through Dubai airport each year. (While in nearby Yemen, millions of children are dying of starvation and malaria…)

-- Tom Gross




1. “UN worker pulls diplomatic immunity card over groping allegations” (New York Post, Oct. 9, 2017)
2. “Nobel Economics Laureate Thaler has strong Israel connection” (Haaretz, Oct 9, 2017)
3. “BDS Morocco Attacks World-Renowned Israeli Singer In Tangier” (Jerusalem Post, Oct. 10, 2017)
4. “How Obama Nudged Arab Leaders Toward Israel” (By Haisam Hassanein and Wesam Hassanein, Wall St Journal, Oct. 11, 2017)
5. “Dubai airport’s new tunnel scans your face as you walk through it” (By Haneen Dajani, The National (UAE) , Oct 9, 2017)




UN worker pulls diplomatic immunity card over groping allegations
By Tina Moore and Max Jaeger
New York Post
October 9, 2017

A Sudanese man dodged arrest for groping a woman and fleeing from cops Sunday – all because he’s a diplomat, according to police sources.

Hassan Salih, 36, grabbed the 23-year-old victim’s butt and breast while they were on the dance floor at Third Avenue’s Bar None at around 2:25 a.m., the sources said.

The woman complained to bouncer Tracy Juniors about the pervy patron, and Juniors detained Salih until police could arrive, the sources said.

While cops were interviewing Salih and his accuser, Salih allegedly tried to run, so police cuffed him and put him in a cruiser.

But Salih pulled the diplomatic immunity card, and was allowed to go free after investigators confirmed he works for the Sudanese mission to the United Nations, the sources said.

The mission’s Web site lists Salih as a “second officer” – a mid-level position requiring five to 10 years of experience.

In May, Salih was selected to represent Sudan on a UN committee that oversees nongovernmental human-rights organizations, according to UN Watch.

It was not clear whether he was drinking alcohol at the bar. Booze was outlawed in his home country under Muslim Sharia law in 1983.

The penalty for possessing alcohol there is 40 lashes and a fine, according to a BBC report.

Neither Salih nor the Sudanese mission responded to repeated requests for comment.

Sunday’s incident was the second time this year an emissary from the north African state has been accused of forcible touching. Sudanese diplomat Mohammad Abdalla Ali was arrested in January for allegedly grinding his crotch on a 38-year-old woman aboard an uptown 4 train in the middle of the afternoon.

Charges against him were dropped when he provided papers proving his diplomatic immunity.

Diplomatic immunity protects envoys from arrest in host countries, often leaving local law enforcement in a lurch.

“It happens all the time,” a high-ranking law-enforcement source said. “They assault women and then they claim diplomatic immunity and they let them go.

“Cops generally get upset that these guys just thumb their noses at them. ‘Ha, ha. You can’t do anything to me.’ “

Only the government sponsoring the diplomat can waive his or her immunity, but countries often call their functionaries home if they get into trouble here.

In July, Afghan diplomat Mohammad Yama Aini was arrested – and subsequently released – after his wife complained to hospital workers in Queens that he had beated her. He was recalled to Afghanistan for an investigation.

Last year, German diplomat Joachim Haubrichs was accused of beating his wife so badly that the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs petitioned the US State Department to request Germany waive Haubrichs’ immunity so he could be prosecuted.

Rather than allow him to face the music, Germany summoned him back to the fatherland.



Nobel Economics Laureate Thaler Has Strong Israel Connection
By Tali Heruti-Sover
October 9, 2017

Richard Thaler, who was awarded the Nobel memorial prize in Economics on Monday, was born, brought up, educated and spent nearly his entire career in the United States, but he and his field of behavioral economics have a strong Israeli connection.

Among his closest associates are the Israelis Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist and fellow Nobel laureate in economics, as well as Shlomo Benartzi, a behavioral economist who teaches at UCLA. Israeli economist Amos Tversky, who died in 1996, also worked with Thaler in developing the emerging field starting in the 1970s.

Thaler also has a connection with a fourth Israeli, Dan Ariely who teaches at Duke University and the person most popularly associated with behavioral economics, but in this case as a rival, say people in the field.

“He is a unique person,” said Kahneman, speaking from his home in the U.S. “He is special because he is brilliant in every respect. He has a wonderful sense of humor, which has played an important role in his career. In the late ‘70s, he, Amos [Twersky] and I defined our direction. Despite the age difference, he became friends with us.”

Behavioral economics, along with the related field of behavioral finance, deals with the effects of psychological, social, cognitive and emotional factors on the economic decisions made by people and institutions and how they affect prices, returns on investment and the allocation of resources.

Kahneman recalled that a critical link in the development of the field came in 1983-84 when they were together at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and wrote what he said was several important articles together. “We complemented each other,” Kahneman said.

He characterizes a series of articles that Thaler was invited to write, called “Anomalies,” for the Journal of Economic Perspectives as a breakthrough for the field. “[They] described with immense humor the anomalies if the field of economics. These articles were perfectly clear so that anyone could understand them,” Kahneman said.

Benartzi conducted research with Thaler in the area of pensions and has known Thaler since 1989. “He sees things that become very clear to everyone only after he has seen them. ... What is special about him is the ability to see the world differently, in such a sophisticated and ingenious way, and make things simple to understand,” Benartzi said.

Kahneman and Benartzi both said unreservedly that they were glad Thaler had won the economics prize. Maya Bar-Hillel, professor emeritus of psychology at Hebrew University, who knew him when she was a student of Kahneman, said she had worried that Thaler, 72, might be skipped over for a Nobel.

Ariely, on the other hand, declined to talk about Thaler and made do with a brief statement: “I think the awarding of a prize like this is very good for the field and so I am very happy.”

Ariely has become the public face of behavioral economics thanks to popular books like “Predictably Irrational,” a role that people in the small community of behavioral economists say Thaler sees as his. Thaler says that because Ariely is a psychologist by training, he shouldn’t be presenting himself as a behavioral economist. (Kahneman is also a psychologist but that apparently didn’t bother Thaler.)

Behaviorial economics is more than an academic science and its insights have been employed in the real world, including in Israel where the finance minister formed a team headed by Ariely to apply behavioral economics in policy. Among other things it was used by the Environmental Protection Ministry in designing the rules for discouraging Israelis from using disposable bags by requiring they pay a small fee for them.



BDS Morocco Attacks World-Renowned Israeli Singer In Tangier
By Benjamin Weinthal
Jerusalem Post
October 10, 2017

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement activists protested the concert of international singer Noam Vazana in Tangier, Morocco, last month, and an anti-Israel protester rushed toward the stage during her performance.

“The incident was scary,” Vazana told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, in a wide-ranging interview. “I didn’t know what he would pull out of his clothes. I went into survival mode and just continued to perform and smiled at him,” said Vazana, who is currently on tour in Germany.

An alert security guard at the Tanjazz Festival in Tangier stopped the man before he could reach Vazana. The man had his hand in his clothing, suggesting he was about to use a weapon.

The object he hid under his clothes was later revealed to be a flag.

“When he was led away from the hall, people started cheering,” Vazana said.

“The audience was very supportive.”

As a result of attempted attack, an adviser to Moroccan King Muhammad VI intervened to provide extra security measures for Vazana, in addition to the already tight security at the festival.

Vazana’s shows at the jazz festival were a premiere for her project Maktub, which features songs in Hebrew and Arabic and collaboration with Dutch-Moroccan singer Teema.

She estimated that 1,500 attended her two performances.

Vazana has performed twice at the Tanjazz Festival over the years without any problems.

This year, however, a Jewish Moroccan BDS activist, Sion Assidon, launched a campaign ahead of Vazana’s show that whipped up anti-Israeli hysteria, and led to the circulation of false allegations against Vazana among a segment of Moroccan society.

“That demonizing was not working on everyone,” she said, adding that a petition was started in support of her show by her fans which more than 1,000 people signed.

Vazana said 300 to 400 people demonstrated against her on each of the five nights of the Tangier festival in which she performed twice. The demonstrators shouted “Out with Noam!” and burned an Israeli flag.

“The festival helped me rediscover my roots but the happening around it also denied my roots. It was highly emotional,” she said.

Anti-Israeli media such as the Qatar regime-controlled Arab-language Al Jazeera spread fabricated information ahead of Vazana’s show, including an accusation on a program about “murdering Palestinian kids.”

Vazana wrote in a statement that she merely served as a trombone player and singer in the army’s orchestra and never participated in any violent operation.

“Another claim of the BDS movement is that Noam is funded by a Zionist organization, when in fact the AICF is a cultural charity foundation that holds competitions for young musicians,” She added.

Vazana won the American- Israel Cultural Foundation competition three times. The prize was a scholarship for her studies at music academies in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Four years ago the Tangier festival invited Vazana – whose parents were born in Morocco – to perform. In the Moroccan city of Fez, Vazana said she heard a melody that her grandmother used to sing to her.

“I knew the song from when I was four years old,” she said.

Vazana recorded an album of Ladino songs a month ago titled Nani. Vazana’s grandmother nicknamed her “Nani” [little girl] when she was a young child, a name that means the “sound you make when you want a child to go to sleep.”

Vazana was the winner of the Sephardic Music Award 2017. Her third solo album was debuted on September 23 in the Korzo Theater in The Hague.

Her second album, Love Migration, was listed as an iTunes Top-20 bestseller and won her the ACUM album prize 2014.

Vazana is active in humanitarian causes, including aid to Syrian refugees and organizing musical projects between Israeli and Palestinian musicians.

“Music should connect people,” she said.

Vazana is currently on tour with 90 concerts scheduled worldwide in 2017 in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.



How Obama Nudged Arab Leaders Toward Israel
He aligned their interests with Netanyahu’s through his clumsy handling of Iran and the Arab Spring.
By Haisam Hassanein and Wesam Hassanein
Wall Street Journal
October 11, 2017

Israeli-Arab relations have been warming of late. Last month Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa reportedly urged fellow Arabs to end their boycott and normalize relations with Israel. In August, the Egyptian government released a letter from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman affirming Riyadh’s commitment to the existing arrangements between Egypt and Israel relating to the Straits of Tiran–the first public Saudi acknowledgment of Israel’s maritime rights in the straits.

Several Arab officials have reportedly met in private with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense officials. Israel reportedly enjoys close security and intelligence cooperation with Egypt, Jordan and several Gulf monarchies. Last month at the United Nations, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir adopted a soft tone toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and did not criticize Israel. Mr. Sisi departed from his written speech and called on the Palestinian people to accept Israel and live in peace alongside its citizens.

For the Arab change of heart, credit the Obama administration–specifically, its rift with Mr. Netanyahu.

From the perspective of Arab leaders, that administration supported the wave of political Islamism that engulfed the region in the Arab Spring’s aftermath. It also threatened their regimes in unprecedented ways by abandoning Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and slowing military exports to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain under the pretext of democratization. Worse, the administration signed a nuclear deal with Iran that reintegrated the ayatollahs’ regime into the international community while unleashing a wave of destabilization throughout the region.

Mr. Netanyahu’s views aligned perfectly with those of Arab leaders on all these issues. All rejected the administration’s belief that Iran deserves a share of the Gulf’s spoils and that Arabs must accommodate Tehran. Arab leaders admired Mr. Netanyahu’s staunch public criticism of Mr. Obama during the nuclear deal negotiations. The editor in chief of the Saudi-backed website Al-Arabiya published an article in March 2015 with the title “President Obama, Listen to Netanyahu on Iran.” Arab leaders share Mr. Netanyahu’s view that Mr. Obama’s policies, which prioritized democratic reforms over the stability of their regimes, left social, political and security vacuums, which radical Islamists soon filled.

Arab leaders realized they could learn something from Mr. Netanyahu’s ability to withstand Mr. Obama’s pressure. He allied with the U.S. Congress to repulse Mr. Obama’s efforts to interject himself into internal Israeli politics. Arab leaders decided to ally with Israel in the hope of successfully navigating the American political system. This summer leaked emails from Yousef Al Otaiba, the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to Washington, revealed a concerted effort to reach out to American Jewish figures in Washington to help his government establish contacts with Israel. Mr. Sisi has frequently met with American Jewish organizations in Cairo, Washington and New York where he assured them of his commitment to peace with Israel.

Arab leaders have realized the urgency of engaging Israel directly instead of relying on the U.S. as a meditator. Their sense of urgency stems from a deep feeling of betrayal by Mr. Obama. Even with President Trump in office, the dangers of Iran and terrorism to the Arab states continue, so that the Arab states see better relations with Israel as necessary for long-term stability. The Arab openness to Israel is irreversible. It is hard to put the genie back into the bottle.



Dubai airport’s new virtual aquarium tunnel scans your face as you walk through it

Passengers will no longer have to wait in line at security counters or pass through e-gates, instead walking through a tunnel that scans people’s faces

By Haneen Dajani
The National (UAE)
October 9, 2017

Travellers departing from Dubai will no longer need to pass through any sort of security clearance counter or e-gate, they will simply walk through a virtual aquarium tunnel that will scan their face or iris using hidden cameras while they’re in motion.

The tunnel, which will display high-quality images of an aquarium, will be equipped with about 80 cameras set up in every corner and the idea came about after 18 months of brainstorming.

The move is one of several new security measures taken by Dubai aviation officials, such as replacing the explosive detection scanners with new, Chinese-made ones that can detect a wider range of explosive materials.

“The fish is a sort of entertainment and something new for the traveller but, at the end of the day, it attracts the vision of the travellers to different corners in the tunnel for the cameras to capture his/her face print,” said Major Gen Obaid Al Hameeri, deputy director general of Dubai residency and foreign affairs.

“The virtual images are of very high quality and gives a simulation of a real-life aquarium.”

The tunnel display can also be altered to offer other natural settings, such as the desert, or even to display adverts.

At the end of the tunnel, if the traveller is already registered, they will either receive a green message that says “have a nice trip” or, if the person is wanted for some reason, a red sign will alert the operations room to interfere.

“And throughout the tunnel, the passenger does not feel anything, they pass through normally,” Maj Gen Al Hameeri said.

The first of these “virtual borders” will be installed by the end of the summer of 2018 at Terminal 3 at Dubai International Airport, the home of Emirates. In phases up until 2020, the tunnels will be rolled out at other Dubai terminals.

While the tunnels will serve all passengers, not only those travelling with Emirates, Maj Gen Al Hameeri said the first phase will be piloted at Emirates’ terminal as it already has the required infrastructure and it is also the official airline and partner.

The idea came about when officials were considering how best to accommodate the continually increasing number of passengers travelling through Dubai airports.

General Civil Aviation figures show that more than 124 million passengers are expected to pass through all Dubai airports by 2020 so “we had to come up with more ways to co-op with the increase. Right now, we have 80 million,” the Maj Gen said.

Travellers will be able to register their face scans at kiosks all around the airport, and they will also be available during a promotional stage at a number of malls and hotels.

The tunnels will replace the security clearance currently conducted at airport counters.

Even though airport officials have managed to cut down the time spent at the security clearance desk to five seconds, it is still not fast enough when passenger numbers hit 120 million, said Maj Gen Al Hameeri, who added that the tunnels are part of an ongoing process to introduce innovative measures.

“The tunnel has not come out of nowhere, without any foundation,” he said.

“We have been working for about four years to transform the procedure from the traditional counter and in the future we will not need the counter at all.

“There will be auditing, of course, but not through the counter.”

He added that security, as much as speeding up procedures and enhancing the travel process for passengers, is a priority.

“This will also benefit stakeholders; now the traveller can spend more time shopping at duty free, or avoid missing their flight due to long queues,” he said.

Initially, the first tunnel will conduct face scans, with a plan to introduce iris in motion scanning as well.

Meanwhile, Rabie Atieh, vice president of Emirates Group Security, said that, in addition to the tunnel introduction, other stringent security measures are being implemented.

“There are measures to increase inspections, there are new Chinese devices that detect things that were not detected by earlier devices, like explosives… and there are many new measures with regards to combatting terrorism,” he said.

“Every year there are new challenges. We try to anticipate and face the threat before it happens.”

Dubai Airports’ chief executive Paul Griffiths said that security teams at the airports are always “vigilant”.

“We are always vigilant, always working with police and national security… so vigilance and collective responsibility is what has kept us safe,” he said.

“We are trying to minimise disruption to the customer journey and develop new measures that will develop security standards, because obviously the threat is increasing.”

Currently, said Mr Atieh, there are 600 to 700 tonnes of gold and up to US$25 billion that pass through Dubai airport each year.


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