Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Yasser Abbas

December 22, 2005

THE TRUE “ROOT CAUSE” OF PALESTINIAN TERRORISM IS THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach a piece by myself from today’s Wall Street Journal. It draws together some points I made on recent dispatches:

For over a year now, since Mahmoud Abbas succeeded Yasser Arafat, his boss of 40 years, many in the West have done their utmost to “explain” or ignore Abbas’s record. The lack of proper coverage by Western media leads many people, including even many who are broadly sympathetic to Israel, to hold a false view of Abbas and to persuade themselves that the Palestinian Authority has undergone a fundamental change for the better since Arafat’s death. No amount of wishful thinking, though, can obscure the fact that the true “root cause” of Palestinian terrorism is the leadership of the Palestinian Authority…



FULL ARTICLE

YASSER ABBAS

Yasser Abbas
By Tom Gross
The Wall Street Journal (Opinion Page)
December 22, 2005

http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB113520186870828732-lMyQjAxMDE1MzI1MjIyMDIxWj.html

On the very day that five Israelis were murdered and over 60 injured outside a shopping mall in the coastal city of Netanya earlier this month, the official Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had approved fresh financial assistance to the families of suicide bombers. The family of each “martyr” will now receive a monthly stipend of at least $250 – a not inconsiderable amount for most Palestinians – from the Palestinian Authority. Altogether, the families of these so-called martyrs and of those wounded in terrorist attempts or held in Israeli jails might receive $100 million, according to Al-Hayat Al-Jadida.

Around 30 percent of the Palestinian Authority budget comes from international donations, including a hefty amount from the European Union – ultimately, from EU taxpayers. If an Arab government funded stipends to the families of the London or Madrid bombers, it would probably be pretty big news. But this is the Palestinian Authority, and no matter how little it does to discourage terrorism, or to educate its people to coexist with Israel, it can rely on excuses being made on its behalf by an army of sympathizers throughout the West – in the press, on college campuses and, most disturbingly, in foreign ministries.

For over a year now, since Mr. Abbas succeeded Yasser Arafat, his boss of 40 years, many in the West have done their utmost to “explain” or ignore Mr. Abbas’s failings. But if Americans and Europeans are genuinely interested in promoting Palestinian-Israeli peace, it is time for them to take a realistic look at his record. Some Western commentators were quick to emphasize his condemnation of the Netanya attack. But did they really listen to what he actually said? True, Mr. Abbas condemned the Netanya suicide bomb – but only in the Palestinian Authority’s usual inadequate and half-hearted terms. He said that it “caused great damage to our commitment to the peace process” and that it “harmed Palestinian interests.” But he could not bring himself to say that murdering people is simply wrong.

His outright refusal to confront and disarm terrorists, in violation of the Road Map, hardly registers anymore in the Western media and where it does, it is usually excused and attributed to his relative political weakness. However, the media also give very little idea of the extent to which the Palestinian Authority continues to glorify terrorists. A typical instance is the elevation of Al-Moayed Bihokmillah Al-Agha, who murdered five Israelis in a suicide bombing in December 2004. When the Rafah crossing, the scene of his terror attack, was re-opened at the start of this month, the Palestinian Authority renamed it “in honor of Shahid (martyr) Al-Agha.” Then there is the soccer tournament named in honor of the terrorist who murdered 30 people at a Passover celebration in Netanya, or the girls’ high school named by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education after a female terrorist who murdered 36 Israeli civilians and an American nature photographer. (The school was recently renovated with money from USAID, channeled through the American Near East Refugee Aid.)

Examples could easily be multiplied. A poetry collection published by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Culture, for instance, is named in honor of a suicide terrorist (dubbed “the Rose of Palestine” in one of the poems) who killed 21 at a restaurant in Haifa. (The collection was distributed this August as a special supplement in the daily Al-Ayyam. Most of Al-Ayyam’s editors are appointed by Mr. Abbas.) Reliable nongovernmental organizations like Palestinian Media Watch meticulously translate such hateful material, but Western journalists almost invariably refuse to report it. They prefer to cling to the illusion that the present-day Palestinian leadership is genuinely striving to achieve peace and coexistence.

This lack of proper coverage leads many people, including even many who are broadly sympathetic to Israel, to hold a false view of Mr. Abbas and to persuade themselves that the Palestinian Authority has undergone a fundamental change for the better since Arafat’s death. No amount of wishful thinking, though, can obscure the fact that the true “root cause” of Palestinian terrorism is the leadership of the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian Authority sometimes goes so far as to stamp out even the most symbolic gestures of coexistence with Israel. Consider last month’s soccer match, organized by the Shimon Peres Center for Peace, in which Israeli and Palestinian soccer stars played together in a joint “Peace Team” against Barcelona. They played well, losing only 2-1 at Barcelona’s famous Nou Camp stadium in front of 31,820 spectators, including many dignitaries. Yet on the Palestinian Authority’s orders, the Palestinian Football Association announced that it would punish the Palestinian players for daring to participate in such a match.

Meanwhile Palestinian militias have begun firing enhanced Kassam missiles – with a larger diameter and longer range than previous Kassams – recently hitting for the first time the city of Ashkelon and Israeli villages which until now had been out of range of Palestinian rockets. Equally ominous, the Palestinian Authority is allowing terrorists and weapons to pass freely through the newly opened Gaza-Egypt border.

So where does this all leave us?

It remains conventional wisdom, especially in the media, that the Israeli government or people are somehow the main obstacles to peace. The fact is, however, Israelis are desperate for peace. Almost no one in Israel now rejects the idea of a Palestinian state. But how many Palestinians really accept the idea of a Jewish state?

All the evidence, sad to say, points to the fact that most do not. In the recent Fatah primaries, it was those candidates who were most opposed to peace with Israel who swept to victory. Other Palestinians go beyond Fatah and support the even more extreme position of Hamas, which polled very strongly in last week’s local elections in the West Bank.

The hope must still be that in the long run Palestinian attitudes will change. When that happens, frontiers can be settled by mutual agreement. But it would be dangerous folly to suppose that the necessary change has already taken place, and until it does, the Israelis have no choice but to put considerations of security first and reserve the right to determine their own borders.

(Mr. Gross is a former Jerusalem correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph.)


New internal BBC memo warns staff over “terrorism”

December 20, 2005

CONTENTS

1. Stalin himself could hardly have done a better rewrite job
2. The BBC denies…
3. …But now confirms policy
4. …Opt for “less loaded terms”
5. “BBC warns staff over ‘terrorism’” (Guardian, December 16, 2005)
6. “The BBC discovers ‘terrorism,’ briefly” (Jerusalem Post, July 12, 2005)



[Note by Tom Gross]

STALIN HIMSELF COULD HARDLY DO A BETTER REWRITE JOB

The BBC is getting itself into an even greater muddle about the word “terrorism.”

Following Britain’s first suicide bomb attacks, in which 52 people died on three London “Tube” trains and a traditional red double-decker bus earlier this year, I wrote an article for the Jerusalem Post: The BBC discovers ‘terrorism,’ briefly.

I know from contacts at the BBC that the article was discussed at the most senior levels by BBC executives. Points in the article were also then reiterated in the British newspapers The Times and the Daily Mail (journalists of whom are subscribers to this email list).

I pointed out that Britain’s first bus bombing took place barely half a mile from the BBC’s central London headquarters, right alongside the site of a building where Charles Dickens once lived, and that suicide bombing seems different when closer to home. All of a sudden, terms that the British media use when reporting suicide attacks on Israeli civilians were nowhere to be seen. “Militant,” “activist” and “fighter” were replaced with the words “terrorism” and “terrorist.”

But not for long. The following day the BBC subtly and retroactively started to alter the text of stories on its website in order to remove the word “terrorist” to describe those behind the London bombings. Stalin himself, I said, could hardly have done a better rewrite job.

THE BBC DENIES…

But then the BBC director general, Mark Thompson dismissed the claims that the BBC told staff to try and avoid the use of the word “terrorist” in its news coverage having initially allowed it. He told a House of Lords committee hearing on the BBC’s future that neither he nor BBC news director Helen Boaden had issued a memo to that effect to journalists hours after the July 7 attacks. He didn’t comment on the retroactive alteration of stories on the BBC’s website.

…BUT NOW CONFIRMS POLICY

However, now we have confirmation that the BBC is indeed trying to avoid the term “terrorist” – as a matter of policy – and we all know that this will apply particularly when Israelis are victims.

…OPT FOR “LESS LOADED TERMS”

The media section of the Guardian newspaper (which is a subscriber only part of the Guardian’s website, so many people may not have seen this) reveals that the BBC has issued fresh guidance to staff telling them to “take care” when using the term “terrorist,” and to opt instead for “less loaded terms.”

The new guidance, which was issued only internally on the BBC’s in house email system, having been first approved by the BBC’s board of governors, tells journalists: “The guidelines do not ban the use of the word ‘terrorist’. However… there are a number of important editorial factors that must be considered before its use to describe individuals or a given group that can be justified… we must be careful not to give the impression that we have come to some kind of implicit – and unwarranted – value judgment... If you do decide to use the word ‘terrorist’ do so sparingly, having considered what is said above, and take advice from senior editors.”

The BBC is the biggest newsgathering television and radio network in the world. It is funded by British taxpayers, even though many (including the British prime minister, Tony Blair) have been strongly critical of its political bias.

I attach below the article from the Guardian followed by my article “The BBC discovers ‘terrorism,’ briefly.” You may also wish to read a more detailed piece Living in a Bubble: The BBC’s very own Mideast foreign policy.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

BBC WARNS STAFF OVER “TERRORISM”

BBC warns staff over ‘terrorism’
By Tara Conlan
The Guardian
December 16, 2005

media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,7493,1668435,00.html

The BBC has issued new guidance to staff telling them to take care when using the term “terrorist”, and to opt instead for less loaded terms.

Following criticism from some quarters about the corporation’s coverage of the July 7 London bombings, the BBC’s governors have approved fresh guidance on “the use of language when reporting terrorism”.

The new guidance has been sent out internally and tells journalists: “The guidelines do not ban the use of the word. However, we do ask that careful thought is given to its use by a BBC voice. There are ways of conveying the full horror and human consequences of acts of terror without using the word ‘terrorist’ to describe the perpetrators. And there are a number of important editorial factors that must be considered before its use to describe individuals or a given group that can be justified. ”

The BBC said the rise of digital media meant there was no longer a split between domestic and overseas audiences, making careful use of such terms even more important.

“Careful use of the word ‘terrorist’ is essential if the BBC is to maintain its reputation for standards of accuracy and especially impartiality ... that does not mean we should emasculate our reporting or otherwise avoid conveying the reality and horror of what has occurred; but we should consider the impact our use of language may have on our reputation for objective journalism amongst our many audiences ... we must be careful not to give the impression that we have come to some kind of implicit – and unwarranted – value judgement.”

The edict reminds BBC staff of the existing BBC editorial policy, which states: “The word ‘terrorist’ itself can be a barrier rather than aid to understanding. We should try to avoid the term without attribution. We should let other people characterise while we report the facts as we know them.”

“We should not adopt other people’s language as our own. It is also usually inappropriate to use words like ‘liberate’, ‘court martial’ or ‘execute’ in the absence of a clear judicial process. We should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as ‘bomber’, ‘attacking’, ‘gunman’, ‘kidnapper’ ‘insurgent’ and ‘militant’.”

The new guidance suggested using words such as “bomb attack” instead, or “bomber” or “assassin”.

It concluded: “This is an issue of judgement ... If you do decide to use the word ‘terrorist’ do so sparingly, having considered what is said above, and take advice from senior editors.”

After the London bombings, the BBC director general, Mark Thompson, dismissed claims that the BBC banned the use of the word “terrorist” in its news coverage.

He told a House of Lords committee hearing on BBC charter renewal, that neither he nor the BBC news director, Helen Boaden, had issued a memo to that effect to journalists on July 7.

But he added that programme editors may have been reminded about the BBC’s guidelines on the use of language during such events.

The issue was discussed at the BBC governors’ meeting in July, and in September the governors heard that a review of the implementation of the editorial guidelines with regard to the use of the terms “terrorism” and “terrorists” had begun.

 


THE BBC DISCOVERS “TERRORISM,” BRIEFLY

The BBC discovers “terrorism,” briefly
Suicide bombing seems different when closer to home
By Tom Gross
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion Page)
July 12, 2005

www.tomgrossmedia.com/BBCDiscoversTerrorism.html

When it happens on your own doorstep, in very familiar settings like the London “Tube” or on a traditional red double-decker bus, right alongside the site of a building where Charles Dickens once lived, terrorism seems very different than it does when innocent people are murdered elsewhere.

Britain’s first bus bombing took place barely half a mile from the BBC’s central London headquarters, and for a day or so after last Thursday’s multiple bomb attacks, the BBC, the influential leftist daily the Guardian, and even the British-based global news agency Reuters, all seemed to suddenly discover the words “terrorism” and “terrorist.” In Saturday’s Guardian, for example, one or other of these words appeared on each of the first eleven pages.

In marked contrast to BBC reports about bombs on public transport in Israel – bombs which in some cases were even worse than those in London, since some were specifically aimed at children, and most were packed with nails, screws, glass and specially-sharpened metal shards in order to maximize injuries – terms like “guerrilla,” “militant,” “activist” or “fighter” were suddenly nowhere to be seen.

Nor – again in contrast to their coverage of Israel – did BBC correspondents, on either their domestic or international services, provide sympathetic accounts of the likely perpetrators, or explain to viewers that we must “understand” their “grievances”. Instead they did what an objective news organization should do: just report on the attacks, and their atrocious nature, and on the sufferings of the victims.

“A BARRIER TO UNDERSTANDING”

The world’s premier broadcast network appeared to throw away its own ridiculous “BBC Producer’s Guidelines”. BBC online reports, for example, had headlines such as “Terror of passengers stuck on tube” and “London Rocked by Terror Attacks.”

BBC executives had previously insisted that for the sake of what they call “even-handedness” terrorists should not be called terrorists. Their Guidelines state: “The word ‘terrorist’ itself can be a barrier to understanding... We should try to avoid the term, while we report the facts as we know them.”

But the hope of many of the British taxpayers forced to fund the BBC that it had finally come to its senses and would henceforth call terror by its proper name, turned out to be short-lived. By Friday, the BBC’s world service was slowly reverting to its old habits, both on air and on line. (Its domestic news broadcasts have for the time being continued using the word “terrorist.”)

Presumably hoping that no one would notice, the BBC subtly and retroactively altered its initial texts about the bombs on both it British and international websites. Unfortunately for the BBC, however, previous versions of its webpages remained easily accessible to all on Google, and enterprising British bloggers, long-fed up with the BBC’s bias, recorded the changes.

“Harry’s Place” noted, for example, that on Thursday evening a BBC News webpage headlined “Bus man may have seen terrorist,” began “A bus passenger says he may have seen one of those responsible for the terrorist bomb attacks in London. Richard Jones, from Binfield, had got a bus just before it was blown up...”

But on Friday at 10.14 am GMT, that webpage was suddenly changed. The headline now reads “Passenger believes he saw bomber”, and the text begins “A bus passenger says he may have seen one of those responsible for the bomb attacks in London. Richard Jones, from Binfield, had got a bus just before it was blown up...”

Early on Friday morning another BBC webpage, headlined “Testing the underground mood,” spoke of “the worst terrorist atrocity Britain has seen.” But at 12.08 GMT, while the rest of the article was left untouched, those words were replaced by “the worst peacetime bomb attacks Britain has seen.”

There are other examples of similar censorship occurring at the BBC. Stalin himself could hardly have done a better job of overseeing its award-winning website.

“LET’S BLAME THE JEWS”

In its round-up of world reactions, BBC online was also quick to highlight the views of conspiracy theorists. The very first article listed by the BBC started by quoting Iranian cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani saying Israel was behind the London attacks, followed by a commentary on Iranian state radio explicitly blaming the Mossad.

With its unprecedented worldwide news reach (its radio service alone, broadcasting in 43 languages, attracts over 150 million listeners), BBC coverage is important in formulating worldwide public opinion.

But even more influential – and in respect to the London terror attacks, far more irresponsible – was the Associated Press (AP).

The AP played into the hands of anti-Semites by irresponsibly running a bogus “Israel advance warning” story on its international newswire shortly after the London attacks. Although the story has since been retracted by the AP, the damage has been done. As was the case after 9/11, a thousand “Israel knew”-style conspiracy theories have already been spawned on extreme rightist and leftist websites worldwide.

The AP story headlined “Netanyahu Changed Plans Due to Warning,” written by Amy Teibel of the AP Jerusalem bureau, and alleging that Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in London for an economic conference, was tipped off “minutes before Thursday’s explosions,” was put out by the AP on their worldwide news wires at 11.14 am GMT (7.14 am EST) on Thursday.

BLACK PROPAGANDA

Fox News ran the AP story on air at 7:50 am New York time. AP’s story also appeared on the websites of over 100 credible news outlets in the US, Canada, Ireland, India and elsewhere. More disturbingly it appeared on Al Jazeera and other Middle East media.

How could any serious editor or reporter not see that this was “black propaganda” and a replay of the post-9/11 libels? And how could the AP Jerusalem Bureau Chief not have checked before running it?

But despite the various shortcomings in the coverage of the London bombs, there was also much resolute and sensible commentary, not just from the right and center but from some on the left too.

While the usual suspects, such as the notorious Robert Fisk of the Independent (who was singled out as a journalist one could admire in Osama bin Laden’s video message last October), immediately blamed Tony Blair and George Bush for bringing the bombs upon London, most commentators saw the atrocities for what they were.

“Face up to the truth,” wrote Nick Cohen, a leading columnist for The Observer, the Sunday sister paper of The Guardian. Addressing what he called “my world of liberal London,” Cohen said “We all know who was to blame for Thursday’s murders... and it wasn’t Bush and Blair.

Thorough new UCLA study finds U.S. media more left-wing than previously thought

December 19, 2005

CONTENTS

1. Major new impartial study finds 18 of top 20 U.S. media outlets have left-wing bias
2. Only Fox News’ “Special Report,” and The Washington Times score right of center
3. Even The Wall Street Journal news pages lean left
4. UCLA says “numerous safeguards taken” to ensure accuracy in its study
5. Good Luck, George Clooney
6. “Media bias is real, finds UCLA political scientist” (UCLA News, Dec. 14, 2005)
7. “Journalism, Hollywood-style” (By Terry Teachout, Commentary, Dec. 2005)



MAJOR NEW IMPARTIAL STUDY FINDS:
18 OF TOP 20 U.S. MEDIA OUTLETS HAVE LEFT-WING BIAS

[Note by Tom Gross]

It is an open secret among journalists (though still not realized by much of the public) that many media professionals allow their political opinions to cloud what they often present as straight news reporting, and that in the vast majority of cases, those political opinions are left-wing.

Such accusations of bias are nothing new, and therefore I don’t often send them on this list. However, worthy of note is a very thorough new study, undertaken over the last three years by professors from UCLA (in California), using a team of 21 research assistants all over America. The report, which was released on Friday and is published in the new issue of the “Quarterly Journal of Economics,” finds that the left-wing slant among journalists in the American media is much greater than previously thought.

Of the 20 major American media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS’ “Evening News,” The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal.

ONLY FOX NEWS’ “SPECIAL REPORT,” AND THE WASHINGTON TIMES SCORE RIGHT OF CENTER

Only Fox News’ “Special Report With Brit Hume” and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter. Of the print media, USA Today was nearest to the center according to the study, though still slightly to the left.

The most centrist TV news programs (although again slightly to the left) proved to be the “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer,” CNN’s “NewsNight With Aaron Brown” (which has recently been ditched by CNN), and ABC’s “Good Morning America”.

EVEN THE WALL STREET JOURNAL NEWS PAGES

Also of note is that those few media with conservative-leading opinion pages, such as The Wall Street Journal, score left-of-center in their news pages – indeed, in the case of the Journal, even to the left of the average American Democrat.

One result that may surprise some conservatives is that National Public Radio (NPR), is not as left-wing as many private news media.

UCLA SAYS “NUMEROUS SAFEGUARDS TAKEN” TO ENSURE ACCURACY IN ITS STUDY

The UCLA-led study is believed to be the first attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

UCLA says: “The researchers took numerous steps to safeguard against bias – or the appearance of same – in the work, which took close to three years to complete. They also sought no outside funding, a rarity in scholarly research.”

Below, I attach a news release about the report from UCLA. (The full report can be found on pdf at www.polisci.ucla.edu/faculty/groseclose/Media.Bias.pdf.)

Interestingly the mainstream (left-wing) media have not so far written at all about UCLA findings against them, according to a thorough Google search I have undertaken today.

News reporting, of course, should be neither left nor right-wing, but strive for balance; opinion should be left to the opinion pages.

It is probably because of the left-wing slant of mainstream media that right-wing talk radio and blogs have gained such enormous audiences in recent years.

It should be noted that the UCLA survey covered American news reporting in general, and the left-wing bias of non-American media (such as the BBC) is considerably greater, and greater still when it comes to covering pet hates of many journalists, such as the state of Israel.

GOOD LUCK, GEORGE CLOONEY

The second piece attached below (“Journalism, Hollywood-Style”) by Terry Teachout in this month’s Commentary magazine, notes that: “There has always been something faintly silly about Hollywood’s worshipful portrayal of journalists. With the exception of such cynical comedies as Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday (1940), most American movies purporting to show journalism as it is take for granted the trustworthiness and good intentions of the average reporter. Not surprisingly, these films are usually the work of outsiders who know nothing about the daily workings of newspapers, magazines, or TV news divisions.”

Teachout, a leading cultural critic, outlines liberal Hollywood’s historic portrayal of how it believes American news reporting has been accurate. The most recent is George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck. Teachout writes: “Clooney, the latest of Hollywood’s Left-liberal actors to go behind the camera and make politically oriented films of his own, has added to the mix a more telling form of idealization: in this movie, he also becomes the latest Hollywood director to make a film in which the truth about American Communism is deliberately falsified.”

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

MEDIA BIAS IS REAL, FINDS UCLA POLITICAL SCIENTIST

Media bias is real, finds UCLA political scientist
UCLA News release
December 14, 2005

www.newsroom.ucla.edu/page.asp?RelNum=6664

While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper’s news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times. The Drudge Report may have a right-wing reputation, but it leans left. Coverage by public television and radio is conservative compared to the rest of the mainstream media. Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

“I suspected that many media outlets would tilt to the left because surveys have shown that reporters tend to vote more Democrat than Republican,” said Tim Groseclose, a UCLA political scientist and the study’s lead author. “But I was surprised at just how pronounced the distinctions are.”

“Overall, the major media outlets are quite moderate compared to members of Congress, but even so, there is a quantifiable and significant bias in that nearly all of them lean to the left,” said co-author Jeffrey Milyo, University of Missouri economist and public policy scholar.

The results appear in the latest issue of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which will become available in mid-December.

Groseclose and Milyo based their research on a standard gauge of a lawmaker’s support for liberal causes. Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) tracks the percentage of times that each lawmaker votes on the liberal side of an issue. Based on these votes, the ADA assigns a numerical score to each lawmaker, where “100” is the most liberal and “0” is the most conservative. After adjustments to compensate for disproportionate representation that the Senate gives to low-population states and the lack of representation for the District of Columbia, the average ADA score in Congress (50.1) was assumed to represent the political position of the average U.S. voter.

Groseclose and Milyo then directed 21 research assistants – most of them college students – to scour U.S. media coverage of the past 10 years. They tallied the number of times each media outlet referred to think tanks and policy groups, such as the left-leaning NAACP or the right-leaning Heritage Foundation.

Next, they did the same exercise with speeches of U.S. lawmakers. If a media outlet displayed a citation pattern similar to that of a lawmaker, then Groseclose and Milyo’s method assigned both a similar ADA score.

“A media person would have never done this study,” said Groseclose, a UCLA political science professor, whose research and teaching focuses on the U.S. Congress. “It takes a Congress scholar even to think of using ADA scores as a measure. And I don’t think many media scholars would have considered comparing news stories to congressional speeches.”

Of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center, with CBS’ “Evening News,” The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ranking second, third and fourth most liberal behind the news pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Only Fox News’ “Special Report With Brit Hume” and The Washington Times scored right of the average U.S. voter.

The most centrist outlet proved to be the “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.” CNN’s “NewsNight With Aaron Brown” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” were a close second and third.

“Our estimates for these outlets, we feel, give particular credibility to our efforts, as three of the four moderators for the 2004 presidential and vice-presidential debates came from these three news outlets – Jim Lehrer, Charlie Gibson and Gwen Ifill,” Groseclose said. “If these newscasters weren’t centrist, staffers for one of the campaign teams would have objected and insisted on other moderators.”

The fourth most centrist outlet was “Special Report With Brit Hume” on Fox News, which often is cited by liberals as an egregious example of a right-wing outlet. While this news program proved to be right of center, the study found ABC’s “World News Tonight” and NBC’s “Nightly News” to be left of center. All three outlets were approximately equidistant from the center, the report found.

“If viewers spent an equal amount of time watching Fox’s ‘Special Report’ as ABC’s ‘World News’ and NBC’s ‘Nightly News,’ then they would receive a nearly perfectly balanced version of the news,” said Milyo, an associate professor of economics and public affairs at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Five news outlets – “NewsHour With Jim Lehrer,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CNN’s “NewsNight With Aaron Brown,” Fox News’ “Special Report With Brit Hume” and the Drudge Report – were in a statistical dead heat in the race for the most centrist news outlet. Of the print media, USA Today was the most centrist.

An additional feature of the study shows how each outlet compares in political orientation with actual lawmakers. The news pages of The Wall Street Journal scored a little to the left of the average American Democrat, as determined by the average ADA score of all Democrats in Congress (85 versus 84). With scores in the mid-70s, CBS’ “Evening News” and The New York Times looked similar to Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., who has an ADA score of 74.

Most of the outlets were less liberal than Lieberman but more liberal than former Sen. John Breaux, D-La. Those media outlets included the Drudge Report, ABC’s “World News Tonight,” NBC’s “Nightly News,” USA Today, NBC’s “Today Show,” Time magazine, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, NPR’s “Morning Edition,” CBS’ “Early Show” and The Washington Post.

Since Groseclose and Milyo were more concerned with bias in news reporting than opinion pieces, which are designed to stake a political position, they omitted editorials and Op-Eds from their tallies. This is one reason their study finds The Wall Street Journal more liberal than conventional wisdom asserts.

Another finding that contradicted conventional wisdom was that the Drudge Report was slightly left of center.

“One thing people should keep in mind is that our data for the Drudge Report was based almost entirely on the articles that the Drudge Report lists on other Web sites,” said Groseclose. “Very little was based on the stories that Matt Drudge himself wrote. The fact that the Drudge Report appears left of center is merely a reflection of the overall bias of the media.”

Yet another finding that contradicted conventional wisdom relates to National Public Radio, often cited by conservatives as an egregious example of a liberal news outlet. But according to the UCLA-University of Missouri study, it ranked eighth most liberal of the 20 that the study examined.

“By our estimate, NPR hardly differs from the average mainstream news outlet,” Groseclose said. “Its score is approximately equal to those of Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report and its score is slightly more conservative than The Washington Post’s. If anything, government-funded outlets in our sample have a slightly lower average ADA score (61), than the private outlets in our sample (62.8).”

The researchers took numerous steps to safeguard against bias – or the appearance of same – in the work, which took close to three years to complete. They went to great lengths to ensure that as many research assistants supported Democratic candidate Al Gore in the 2000 election as supported President George Bush. They also sought no outside funding, a rarity in scholarly research.

“No matter the results, we feared our findings would’ve been suspect if we’d received support from any group that could be perceived as right- or left-leaning, so we consciously decided to fund this project only with our own salaries and research funds that our own universities provided,” Groseclose said.

The results break new ground.

“Past researchers have been able to say whether an outlet is conservative or liberal, but no one has ever compared media outlets to lawmakers,” Groseclose said. “Our work gives a precise characterization of the bias and relates it to known commodity – politicians.”

 

JOURNALISM, HOLLYWOOD STYLE

Journalism, Hollywood-style
By Terry Teachout
Commentary magazine
December 2005

www.commentarymagazine.com/article.asp?aid=12005071_1

There has always been something faintly silly about Hollywood’s worshipful portrayal of journalists. With the exception of such cynical comedies as Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday (1940), most American movies purporting to show journalism as it is take for granted the trustworthiness and good intentions of the average reporter. Not surprisingly, these films are usually the work of outsiders who know nothing about the daily workings of newspapers, magazines, or TV news divisions. Even when a branch of the media is shown as gravely flawed, as in Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), James Brooks’s Broadcast News (1987) or Michael Mann’s The Insider (1999), one need not look too hard to find the starry-eyed idealists in the woodpile, earnestly speaking truth to power.

If George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck, a docudrama about Edward R. Murrow – the title is the catchphrase with which Murrow closed his radio and TV newscasts in the 1940’s and 50’s – were merely another such exercise in hagiography, it would be unworthy of consideration for other than its purely cinematic qualities. But Clooney, the latest of Hollywood’s Left-liberal actors to go behind the camera and make politically oriented films of his own, has added to the mix a more telling form of idealization: in this movie, he also becomes the latest Hollywood director to make a film in which the truth about American Communism is deliberately falsified. Moreover, in a piece of bad timing, his film happens to have been released simultaneously with Bennett Miller’s Capote, in which a serious effort is made to suggest precisely some of the inherent moral ambiguities of real-life journalism that Good Night, and Good Luck mostly overlooks.

What the two films have in common is the meticulous reproduction of surface appearances that is characteristic of modern-day Hollywood’s efforts to evoke the past.

Good Night, and Good Luck is especially noteworthy in this regard. Handsomely shot in black-and-white, it duplicates with uncanny exactitude the on- and off-air appearance of See It Now, the CBS news program that Murrow hosted and co-produced between 1951 and 1957 in collaboration with Fred Friendly (played by Clooney, who also co-wrote the script). One might be looking at the same TV studio from which See It Now was telecast a half-century ago. Similarly, David Strathairn, who plays Murrow, flawlessly reproduces the familiar cadences of the newscaster’s speech and even manages to suggest his famously saturnine good looks, despite the fact that Strathairn is far less imposing, both vocally and physically, than his model.

In Capote, Philip Seymour Hoffman, like Strathairn a much-admired actor, delves even more deeply into the quirky personality of his character, the celebrated writer Truman Capote (1924-1984). He, too, has the difficult task of imitating his subject’s distinctive and well-remembered speaking voice, which Norman Mailer once described as “a dry little voice that seemed to issue from an unmoistened reed in his nostril.” Hoffman’s success in doing so without stooping to caricature is typical of his performance as a whole, which suggests Capote in all his complexity – and peculiarity.

Much the same can be said of the rest of Capote, which tells the story of the writing of In Cold Blood, Capote’s 1966 best-seller about the 1959 murder of a Kansas farmer, Herbert Clutter, and his family. To be sure, Bennett Miller, unlike Clooney, has not gone out of his way to duplicate literally the world of which Capote wrote. The scenes set in Kansas, for example, were actually shot in Canada.1 Still, Capote is both sufficiently and specifically evocative of an America far removed from the present, and the viewer willingly enters into it as if it were the real thing.

On the other hand, many of the same things might be said of any number of recent Hollywood films. To replicate the decor of a New York TV studio circa 1954, after all, requires in the end nothing more than a combination of diligent research and painstaking execution. If mere visual verisimilitude were all that mattered, then Quiz Show (1994), Robert Redford’s sanctimonious docudrama about the TV quiz-show scandals of the 50’s, would be a masterpiece. Even a piece of acting as precisely and imaginatively re-creative as Jamie Foxx’s impersonation of Ray Charles in Taylor Hackford’s Ray (2004) is vitiated by the fact that Foxx is too often called upon to do little more than spout the usual Hollywood-style cliches.

The screenplay of Capote, written by Dan Futterman, departs drastically from this norm, not merely because of its avoidance of cliche but because of its emotional detachment.

Capote, for instance, is shown not as the fearless crusader beloved of filmmakers but as a hugely ambitious writer who sees the Clutter murders as little more than a heaven-sent opportunity to try out his own literary theories on the grandest possible scale. Indeed, he antagonizes Alvin Dewey, the Kansas detective in charge of the case, by assuring him upon his arrival that he “doesn’t care” who killed the Clutters. To him, their mysterious deaths are the ideal subject matter for the “nonfiction novel” he has dreamed of writing, and in pursuit of that goal – which he hopes will make him rich and famous – he is prepared to do anything whatsoever.

To be sure, Capote commits no spectacular peccadilloes along the way to writing In Cold Blood apart from bribing a prison official, a transgression which may or may not have happened in real life (we have only his word for it). His gravest offense is to feign intimacy with the naive Kansans who are in a position to tell him what he wants to know – and, later, with the two killers, Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, to whom he misrepresents himself as a crusading journalist seeking to have their convictions overturned.

In fact, we know that Capote had no doubt of their guilt. Though he identifies himself emotionally with Smith, and assists both men in finding counsel to make their appeals, his real interest lies elsewhere: he cannot finish his book until they are executed, and once he realizes this, he abruptly breaks off contact with them. For all of his protestations of friendship, not to mention his claim that “the book I’m writing will return [Smith] to the realm of humanity,” he is no more truly interested in Smith or Hickock than in Alvin Dewey (or, for that matter, the Clutters), and the coldbloodedness with which he courts their favor is presented with a candor hardly less shocking than the murders themselves.

This is not to say that Capote offers a totally unsympathetic view of its eponymous subject. Capote is clearly tortured by the morally equivocal position in which he finds himself vis-a-vis Smith and Hickock, so much so that the resulting tension ultimately destroys him (though not before In Cold Blood is serialized in the New Yorker and becomes a best-seller). Even so, he continues to subordinate all other ethical considerations to the claims of his own unswerving ambition, and no small part of the artistic success of Capote derives from the fact that Bennett and Futterman never let us forget this. However fine the resulting book may have turned out to be – and the film leaves us in no doubt that it was very fine indeed – we know what Capote was willing to do to write it, and are appalled by the knowledge.

Not only is this cold-eyed detachment far removed from the partisanship of most films about journalism, but Capote is also largely faithful to the factual record of the writing of In Cold Blood. Indeed, it may be more faithful than In Cold Blood itself, whose claim to being (in the author’s words) “a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences” has been substantially challenged in the years since its publication.2 While Bennett and Futterman have made no attempt to indicate the extent to which In Cold Blood departs from the truth, their dramatization of its writing, a certain amount of compression and simplification notwithstanding, is in most relevant ways true to life.

Moreover, the movie seems true to life, in that the audience has no difficulty believing that the real Capote would have behaved more or less the same way as his on-screen counterpart. For unlike filmgoers of an earlier generation, most of us have by now seen too many high-profile cases of journalistic fraud to take the work of any journalist, however celebrated, at face value.

George Clooney, in sharp contrast to Bennett Miller, opts for the traditional pieties of on-screen journalism, which are all the more irritating because of the technical skill with which they are dished up.

Like Capote, Good Night, and Good Luck deals with a self-contained episode in the life of its subject. In 1954 Murrow and Fred Friendly devoted three episodes of See It Now to various aspects of the anti-Communist “witch hunt” led by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. The most widely remembered of these telecasts, aired on March 9, was (as Murrow put it) “a report on Senator McCarthy told mainly in his own words and pictures.” The purpose of the program was to brand McCarthy as a purveyor of “smears” and “half-truths.” In Murrow’s words:

“It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between internal and the external threats of Communism.... The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies.”

What was remarkable about “A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy” was not the critical position it took – McCarthy had already been under attack by numerous other journalists for some time – but the fact that Murrow was using See It Now to criticize him. It had been the long-standing policy of the news division of CBS not to editorialize on the air, and though Murrow closed his nightly radio newscast with a commentary on the day’s events, these “end pieces” were kept separate from the reportage to which the remainder of the program was devoted. Similarly, See It Now had never before explicitly attacked a politician, or advocated political positions of its own. In doing so on this occasion, Murrow crossed a still-bright journalistic line – in prime time, and without first seeking the approval of his corporate overseers.

In Good Night, and Good Luck, Murrow’s actions are presented not as imprudent or inappropriate but as an act of high political courage, even nobility. At the time, however, he was sharply criticized by liberals and conservatives alike for having attacked McCarthy under the guise of reporting on him, thereby abusing the power of the press. Moreover, Murrow himself was well aware of what he had done and, by all accounts, full of misgivings about it. “Is it not possible,” he had written on an earlier occasion, “that . . . an infectious smile, eyes that seem remarkable for the depths of their sincerity, a cultivated air of authority, may attract huge television audiences regardless of the violence that may be done to truth or objectivity?” Those words would come back to haunt him after “A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy” was telecast.

Murrow’s doubts, however, go unremarked in Good Night, and Good Luck. So does the fact that McCarthy’s witch hunt, however irresponsible in practice, was at least nominally motivated by the existence of actual witches.

As is now widely acknowledged by scholars of the period – and as American intelligence officials knew at the time – the American Communist party was used by the Soviets as an intelligence apparatus through which, starting in the early 30’s, Soviet spies successfully infiltrated the U.S. government. Yet with the exception of one glancing, carefully unspecific reference to Alger Hiss, the script of Good Night, and Good Luck takes no notice whatsoever of this well-known fact. Rather, we are invited to suppose that the activities of Hiss, Julius Rosenberg, and other Soviet agents were nothing more than a paranoid fantasy on the part of McCarthy and his supporters.

We know better, but, damningly for Clooney’s project, Murrow himself did not. He had been, for example, one of the most vocal defenders of Laurence Duggan, a State Department official who committed suicide in 1948 after the House Un-American Activities Committee revealed that Whittaker Chambers, the Soviet agent who was Hiss’s controller, had identified him as another agent. Decoded Soviet cables made public years later proved that Chambers was telling the truth, just as he had told the truth about Hiss.

Needless to say, Duggan goes unmentioned in Good Night, and Good Luck. Instead, Clooney devotes several minutes of the film to footage from another episode of See It Now in which McCarthy is shown interrogating Annie Lee Moss, a Pentagon employee who worked in the Signal Corps code room, a highly sensitive area. McCarthy accused Moss of having been a Communist without offering evidence to back up his claim. Murrow in turn offered this interrogation as proof of McCarthy’s irresponsibility – yet, again, no mention is made in Good Night, and Good Luck of the fact that the Communist party’s own records later proved Moss to have been a party member.

Clooney’s unwillingness even to acknowledge such inconvenient facts, much less engage them, makes it impossible to take Good Night, and Good Luck seriously as a historically informed portrayal of McCarthy and his activities. But, then, that was not his purpose in making the film.

In reality, as Clooney has readily admitted, Good Night, and Good Luck is intended to persuade its viewers that journalists today have abdicated their responsibility to do as Murrow did.3 As he recently told a Washington Post reporter:

“I’m not a journalist, I’m just an observer, but there are times when the media takes a bit of a pass at asking the tough questions. The bigger concern is when Judith Miller writes stories saying there are definitely weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq], and then the New York Times later apologizes because they say, ‘Listen, we should have asked tougher questions.’ That’s a dangerous place to go. . . . When I was growing up, my father’s argument was always, it’s not just your right, it’s your duty to question authority. Always.”

Here, Clooney echoes the New Left mantra endlessly regurgitated by aging baby boomers longing to assuage their liberal guilt by keeping faith with the never-to-be-questioned commandments of the 60’s. Presumably it has never occurred to him, or to his fellow Hollywood liberals, to question the authority by which the news media offer themselves up as sole purveyors of the truth. Hence his determination to romanticize Murrow – and, by extension, all reporters who dare to “question authority.”

Despite his nagging doubts about the McCarthy broadcast, Murrow himself was given to the same romantic view of the journalist’s calling. At the beginning and end of Good Night, and Good Luck, we see him giving a speech to the Radio-Television News Directors Association in which he declared that commercial TV had a responsibility to explain the world to its viewers:

“Let us dream to the extent of saying that on a given Sunday night the time normally occupied by Ed Sullivan is given over to a clinical survey of the state of American education, and a week or two later the time normally used by Steve Allen is devoted to a thoroughgoing study of American policy in the Middle East. Would the corporate image of their respective sponsors be damaged? Would the stockholders rise up in their wrath and complain? Would anything happen other than that a few million people would have received a little illumination on subjects that may well determine the future of this country, and therefore the future of the corporations?”

Clooney offers this speech, delivered by Murrow in 1958, as the last word on the responsibilities of the journalist. But in showing it without comment, and similarly recounting the story of “A Report on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy” without any explanatory historical context, he tells us far more about his own political beliefs than about the realities of network TV news. For just as Murrow blindly defended Laurence Duggan, so did CBS News besmirch its reputation a half-century later by airing a report on President Bush’s National Guard service that was shown almost immediately to have been based on forged documents – a report whose timing was clearly intended to influence the results of the 2004 presidential election.

To watch Good Night, and Good Luck is to ask why, in the wake of such oft-repeated fiascos, anyone in his right mind would suppose today’s mainstream news media capable of making “a thoroughgoing study of American policy in the Middle East” based on anything other than the unexamined prejudices of the journalists who made it.

What has changed since 1958, of course, is the willingness of a fast-growing number of Americans to continue taking for granted the objectivity of the news media.4 With the emergence of such decentralized “new media” as blogs and talk radio, it is no longer necessary to settle for whatever news CBS and the New York Times see fit to publish. As a result, Edward R. Murrow’s successors do not wield anything remotely approaching the influence they had well into the 80’s and beyond, nor is it likely that they will ever do so again. And for all the unabashed nostalgia with which Good Night, and Good Luck portrays those long-gone days, it seems far more likely that Capote offers a truer picture of the skepticism with which ordinary Americans now view the reporters they once trusted to tell the truth.

[Footnotes]

[1] Richard Brooks’s 1967 film of In Cold Blood, by contrast, was shot in the locations described by Capote in the book, including the house in Holcomb, Kansas, where the Clutters were murdered.

[2] For a concise but thorough summary of the numerous distortions and fictionalizations introduced by Capote, see Van Jensen’s “Writing History: Capote’s Novel Has Lasting Effect on Journalism” (Lawrence, Kansas Journal-World, April 3, 2005, available online at http://www2.ljworld.com/ news/2005/apr/03/writing_history_capotes).

[3] One suspects that Clooney also had in mind HUAC’s various investigations of Communist attempts to infiltrate the U.S. film industry, it being taken for granted by the vast majority of present-day Hollywood liberals that the only villains in that particular “witch hunt” were those ex-Communists like Elia Kazan and Budd Schulberg who “named names,” identifying their former compatriots – most of whom were in fact Stalinists of the deepest dye – to FBI and HUAC investigators.

[4] Significantly, Good Night, and Good Luck was bluntly criticized for its distortions and evasions by a handful of mainstream-media commentators, among them Jack Shafer, the press critic of Slate, and Stephen Hunter, the film critic of the Washington Post, the latter of whom wrote that the film “does a disservice to history: it suggests that McCarthy was an arbitrary sociopath disconnected from a larger issue... But nothing in real life is ever that simple, and to pretend that it is has to be a lie itself. That’s the truth that should be spoken to the power that Clooney represents.”


Munich (2): Spielberg: “For me this movie is a prayer for peace”

December 15, 2005

* Munich’s screenwriter Tony Kushner: “I wish modern Israel hadn’t been born”

* Munich: already been named among the American Film Institute’s 10 best movies of 2005

* Arab-American Joseph Farah: “The problem in the Middle East, ultimately, is that one side (the Palestinians) seeks to destroy the other. And Spielberg doesn’t seem to realize that.”

 


This is the second of two dispatches today on Steven Spielberg’s new blockbuster film on Israel and its response to the Munich Olympics massacre. The first dispatch contains articles from a wide range of people criticizing the film. This dispatch presents more mixed points of view, including points sympathetic to the film.

Update: There is now a third dispatch on this subject here: Munich (3): BBC set to name woman agent who killed Olympics massacre mastermind

 

CONTENTS

1. The Munich massacre, and hitting back
2. Tony Kushner: “I wish modern Israel hadn’t been born”
3. The most famous Jewish director
4. Gila Almagor: Spielberg is “good for Israel”
5. Spielberg set to visit Israel next month
6. A potential Oscar winner in March
7. Mel Gibson to produce Holocaust TV series
8. “His ‘Prayer For Peace’” (By Richard Schickel, Time magazine, Dec. 4, 2005)
9. “Israel LA envoy criticizes new Spielberg film ‘Munich’” (Ha’aretz, Dec. 11, 2005)
10. “Israeli widows preview Spielberg’s ‘Munich’” (Reuters, Dec. 9, 2005)
11. “Spielberg is wrong” (By Joseph Farah, Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, Dec. 6, 2005)



(Please see the other Munich dispatch first.)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]

THE MUNICH MASSACRE, AND HITTING BACK

The murder of eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team in 1972 horrified the entire world (apart from some in the Middle East and anti-Semites elsewhere). The PLO leader Yasser Arafat had decided to exploit the Olympic Games – and in Germany moreover – to kill athletes from the Jewish state.

Counter-measures were ordered against the planners and perpetrators of the massacre by Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and then later by Menachem Begin. They were designed, in the words of Israeli journalist Uri Dan, “to tell the PLO and other enemies of Israel that the Jewish state could stand up to murderers and eliminate them even when such operations involved considerable risks.”

In a cover interview Steven Spielberg gave to Time magazine last week, he said that “there has never been an adequate tribute paid to the Israeli athletes who were murdered in ‘72, and I wanted to tell this as a tribute to them.” Whilst Spielberg has already been widely criticized for this film even before it has reached movie theaters, his intentions appear to have been honorable.

 

TONY KUSHNER: “I WISH MODERN ISRAEL HADN’T BEEN BORN”

The film was written by the playwright Tony Kushner – it is his first feature screenplay. In the only interview Spielberg gave about the film to Time magazine (attached below), he says “Tony Kushner and I and the actors did not demonize anyone in the film.”

Yet Kushner, who is Jewish and known for his radical left-wing views, once called the founding of Israel “a historical, moral, political calamity... I wish modern Israel hadn’t been born.”

In another interview, with the Times of London, Kushner declared: “I deplore the brutal and illegal tactics of the Israeli Defense Forces in the occupied territories. I deplore the occupation, the forced evacuations, the settlements, the refugee camps, the whole shameful history of the dreadful suffering of the Palestinian people; Jews, of all people, with our history of suffering, should refuse to treat our fellow human beings like that.”

 

THE MOST FAMOUS JEWISH DIRECTOR

Steven Spielberg enjoys tremendous stature among Jews around the world following his film about the Holocaust, “Schindler’s List”. He used much of the profit and other money he has to set up the Shoah foundation, to preserve testimonies for survivors of Nazi concentration camps and he is also the sponsor of the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

This year it was announced that the factory where Oskar Schindler shielded more than 1,000 Jews from the Holocaust is to be turned into a museum commemorating the actions of the German industrialist. Since the 1993 release of the film, large numbers of tourists have sought out the factory.

 

GILA ALMAGOR: SPIELBERG IS “GOOD FOR ISRAEL”

Gila Almagor, a well-known Israeli actress who is cast in the movie, has defended Spielberg saying the film will improve Israel’s image.

Almagor, who is cast as the mother of a Mossad hitman, told Yediot Ahronoth that “it is so important for him (Spielberg) that the film do what it should do for Israel.” She also told the Israeli newspaper that Spielberg’s intention was to help Israel’s image.

 

SPIELBERG SET TO VISIT ISRAEL NEXT MONTH

According to the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, Spielberg is due to visit Israel in mid-January to attend the Israeli premiere of the film.

Since 2000 many American Jewish directors and actors have avoided visiting Israel, perhaps fearing too close an association with the Jewish state while it was being attacked during the Intifada. For more on this see the dispatch “Steven Spielberg, Barbara Streisand, Philip Roth, Daniel Libeskind: Where are you?” (April 1, 2002).

 

A POTENTIAL OSCAR WINNER IN MARCH

Ever since production of the movie was announced, “Munich” has been a leading candidate for the Oscars to be held at the Kodak theatre in Hollywood on March 5, 2006.

The New York Daily News declared: “If Munich is in the quality range of Schindler’s List it will be the frontrunner.”

A review on the cinemablend.com website says: “Munich is going to stick with you long after leaving the theater. You’ll be changed forever.”

The film has already been named among the American Film Institute’s 10 best movies of 2005.

A previous docudrama about the murder of the athletes, “One Day in September,” by Swiss Jewish producer Arthur Cohn, won a best documentary Oscar in 1999.

 

MEL GIBSON TO PRODUCE HOLOCAUST TV SERIES

On another entertainment industry subject, Mel Gibson is to produce a TV movie for ABC television based on a memoir by Dutch Jew Flory Van Beek, whose Catholic boyfriend hid her from the Nazis.

Gibson, whose film “The Passion of the Christ” last year was assailed by many critics as anti-Semitic and whose father is on record as doubting the Holocaust occurred, may not take an executive producer credit on “Flory.”

Last year, Gibson’s ultraconservative Catholic father, Hutton Gibson, described the Holocaust as “maybe not all fiction, but most of it is.”

Some commentators are suggesting that Mel Gibson is now attempting to repair his image within the Jewish community. For more on “The passion of the Christ” see the dispatch “What’s popcorn in Aramaic?” (March 9, 2004).

***

I attach four articles below on Munich, with summaries first for those who don’t time to read the full articles.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

 


SUMMARIES

[Summaries below prepared by Tom Gross]

SPIELBERG: “FOR ME THIS MOVIE IS A PRAYER FOR PEACE”

“His ‘Prayer For Peace’” (By Richard Schickel, Time magazine, December 4, 2005)

Just after finishing his new movie about the aftermath of the massacre at the Munich Olympics, Steven Spielberg talked with TIME movie critic Richard Schickel...

TIME: WOULD IT BE FAIR TO SAY THAT THIS MOVIE IS, IN THE END, ABOUT THE HUMAN COST OF A QUAGMIRE?

Yes. And also for me this movie is a prayer for peace. I always kept thinking about that as I was making it. Some-where inside all this intransigence there has to be a prayer for peace. Because the biggest enemy is not the Palestinians or the Israelis. The biggest enemy in the region is intransigence. Do you know Amos Oz’s books? There’s a wonderful quote we found, that sort of makes sense to me: “In the lives of individuals, and of peoples, too, the worst conflicts are often those that break out between those who are persecuted.” They see in each other’s faces a reflection of some larger oppressor. That may well be the case with the 100-year conflict between Arabs and Jews...

IN THE SAME WAY, EVERYONE IN THE MOVIE IS HUMAN. YOU FEEL FOR THEM ALL.

Right. I think the thing I’m very proud of is that [screenwriter] Tony Kushner and I and the actors did not demonize anyone in the film. We don’t demonize our targets. They’re individuals. They have families. Although what happened in Munich, I condemn. One of the reasons I wanted to tell this story is that every four years there’s an Olympics somewhere in the world, and there has never been an adequate tribute paid to the Israeli athletes who were murdered in ‘72, and I wanted to tell this as a tribute to them. That was an important motivation for me, one of the earliest reasons I wanted to tell this story. I wanted this film to be in memory of them, because they seem to have been forgotten. The silence about them by the International Olympic Committee is getting louder for me every four years. There has to be an appropriate official acknowledgment of what happened...

 


“THE MESSAGES ARE PROBLEMATIC”

“Israel LA envoy criticizes new Spielberg film ‘Munich’” (Ha’aretz, December 11, 2005)

Israel’s consul-general in Los Angeles levelled criticism Sunday at Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” saying that the new film drew an incorrect picture of the Mossad’s hunt for the PLO terrorists of the 1972 Olympic massacre, taking the legendary director to task for morally equating the agents and the terrorists and for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with “a certain pretensiousness” and “quite superficial statements.”

“The film is based on the book written by George Jonas, a book in which there is no truth,” said Ehud Danoch, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, in a reference to Canadian journalist Jonas’ book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team.

“It is, in fact, based on things that [self-styled Mossad man] Yuval Aviv told the author,” Danoch said. “This same Yuval claimed to have been in the Mossad and the head of a Mossad team, a claim that was untrue. At most he was a ‘selector’ for El Al for a few months,” Danoch said, referring to the airline’s unarmed security personnel who interview departing passengers...

...Danoch cited a scene in which a Palestinian terrorist named Ali delivers “a monologue of two or three minutes in which he lays out the Palestinians’ arguments. There is no counter-monologue to this.”

The diplomat said that Israeli officials had inquired about the film, but that the screenplay had been a closely guarded secret...

 


ISRAELI OLYMPIC WIDOWS PREVIEW MUNICH

“Israeli widows preview Spielberg’s ‘Munich’” (By Dan Williams, Reuters, December 9, 2005)

...Ilana Romano, whose weightlifter husband Yosef was the first Israeli sportsman gunned down during the 1972 guerrilla raid, said she attended an exclusive courtesy screening of “Munich” in Tel Aviv this week along with fellow widow Ankie Spitzer.

An advance copy of the thriller, which opens in the United States on Dec. 23 and in Israel next month, was flown out by its producer Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Tony Kushner.

“They were very nice, and wanted to get across the point to us that the film was made with utmost sensitivity,” Romano told Reuters. “For me, it was important that the film does no dishonour to the memory of the murdered athletes, nor to the image of the State of Israel. Both my criteria were satisfied,” she said.

…While Romano said Munich contained “historical surprises” -- on which she declined to elaborate, citing reluctance to spoil the film for viewers -- the widow credited Spielberg with fairly exploring Israel’s reasons for mounting the reprisal missions.

“At the time, I had no dilemma (about the policy),” she said. “There was simply no other way. The film strengthened this view, for me.”

Spitzer, whose fencer husband Andrei was killed in a botched German attempt to rescue Israeli athletes taken hostage by Palestinian gunmen, could not be reached for comment.

 


AN ARAB-AMERICAN CRITICIZES STEVEN SPIELBERG

“Spielberg is wrong” (By Joseph Farah, Freeman Center for Strategic Studies, December 6, 2005)

…As Spielberg puts it in the latest issue of Time magazine, “The biggest enemy in the region is intransigence.”

If that is truly the message of “Munich,” the film is a blatant lie, propaganda, a waste of time...

Though I haven’t seen the film, I can judge Spielberg’s words and descriptions. It’s time for someone to recognize that the Israel people are persecuted and the Arab people are oppressed by the same enemy.

That enemy is the Muslim leadership in the Middle East and elsewhere that oppresses its own people and scapegoats the Jews as a way of turning the enmity of its own oppressed people away from its rulers and channeling it toward the persecution of the Jews...

The real danger in the Middle East, to which Spielberg appears oblivious, is that we are nearing a time when the Arabs will have for the first time the ability to destroy Israel.

That is the real thriller on our horizon...



FULL ARTICLES

SPIELBERG: “FOR ME THIS MOVIE IS A PRAYER FOR PEACE”

His “Prayer For Peace”
By Richard Schickel
Time magazine
December 4, 2005

www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1137684,00.html

Just after finishing his new movie about the aftermath of the massacre at the Munich Olympics, Steven Spielberg talked with TIME movie critic Richard Schickel, who collaborated with him on the TV documentary Shooting War, about his reasons for taking on Munich, his anger at the International Olympic Committee and his modest plan for improving Arab-Israeli relations.

TIME: WOULD IT BE FAIR TO SAY THAT THIS MOVIE IS, IN THE END, ABOUT THE HUMAN COST OF A QUAGMIRE?

Yes. And also for me this movie is a prayer for peace. I always kept thinking about that as I was making it. Some-where inside all this intransigence there has to be a prayer for peace. Because the biggest enemy is not the Palestinians or the Israelis. The biggest enemy in the region is intransigence. Do you know Amos Oz’s books? There’s a wonderful quote we found, that sort of makes sense to me: “In the lives of individuals, and of peoples, too, the worst conflicts are often those that break out between those who are persecuted.” They see in each other’s faces a reflection of some larger oppressor. That may well be the case with the 100-year conflict between Arabs and Jews.

DO YOU THINK THIS FILM WILL DO ANY GOOD?

I’ve never, ever made a movie where I said I’m making this picture because the message can do some good for the world--even when I made Schindler’s List. I was terrified that it was going to do the opposite of good. I thought perhaps it might bring shame to the memory of those who didn’t survive the Holocaust--and even worse to those who did. I made the picture out of just pure wanting to get that story told. I thought it was important that at least my kids someday could see what happened, just to hear that story being told. I feel the same way about Munich. I don’t think any movie or any book or any work of art can solve the stalemate in the Middle East today.

BUT IT’S CERTAINLY WORTH A TRY.

Everything’s worth a try. I didn’t make this movie to make money, and I don’t know if I’ve made a commercial movie at all. But I certainly feel that if filmmakers have the courage to talk about these issues--whether they’re fictional representations of real events or are pure fiction or pure documentaries--as long as we’re willing to talk about the real tough, hard subjects unsparingly, I think it’s a good thing to get out in the ether. It’s not a bad thing. And there’s a project I’m initiating next February that I think might also do some good.

WHAT’S THAT?

What I’m doing is buying 250 video cameras and players and dividing them up, giving 125 of them to Palestinian children, 125 to Israeli kids, so they can make movies about their own lives--not dramas, just little documentaries about who they are and what they believe in, who their parents are, where they go to school, what they had to eat, what movies they watch, what CDs they listen to--and then exchange the videos. That’s the kind of thing that can be effective, I think, in simply making people understand that there aren’t that many differences that divide Israelis from Palestinians--not as human beings, anyway.

IN THE SAME WAY, EVERYONE IN THE MOVIE IS HUMAN. YOU FEEL FOR THEM ALL.

Right. I think the thing I’m very proud of is that [screenwriter] Tony Kushner and I and the actors did not demonize anyone in the film. We don’t demonize our targets. They’re individuals. They have families. Although what happened in Munich, I condemn. One of the reasons I wanted to tell this story is that every four years there’s an Olympics somewhere in the world, and there has never been an adequate tribute paid to the Israeli athletes who were murdered in ‘72, and I wanted to tell this as a tribute to them. That was an important motivation for me, one of the earliest reasons I wanted to tell this story. I wanted this film to be in memory of them, because they seem to have been forgotten. The silence about them by the International Olympic Committee is getting louder for me every four years. There has to be an appropriate official acknowledgment of what happened.

IT SEEMS TO ME THAT EVEN THOUGH YOU SAY, “I DIDN’T MAKE THIS MOVIE TO MAKE MONEY,” OBVIOUSLY YOU DO WANT AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE TO SEE THE MOVIE BECAUSE OF THE ISSUES THAT IT RAISES.

The subject matter isn’t the kind of subject matter that is going to outgross King Kong--not even on the last day of [Kong’s] release. But one never knows in this business. I don’t have a crystal ball, and I’ve never had one, even though I’m accused of having one secreted away somewhere. I don’t. And I don’t know. I’m lucky at this point in my career that I can make the movies I want to make without having a studio come in and second-guess me. I always say thank goodness for Jaws, because Jaws gave me final cut. I’ve had it now for 30 years, and because of that I only have myself to blame for anything that goes wrong.

PEOPLE ASK ME WHAT YOU’RE REALLY LIKE. THE SHORT ANSWER I ALWAYS GIVE--AND IT’S A TRUTHFUL ONE--IS THAT I DON’T KNOW ANYONE WHO’S BETTER AT KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH HIS INNER CHILD. ON THE OTHER HAND, YOU MAKE AN AWFUL LOT OF MOVIES, LIKE MUNICH, THAT ARE FAR FROM CHILDLIKE. GUESS I’LL HAVE TO COME UP WITH A NEW ONE-LINER ABOUT YOU.

I don’t know if you can, Richard. Maybe the child in all of us dies just when we need him the most. I cannot tell you how many people come over to me on the street and repeat almost verbatim the line the Martians say to Woody Allen in Stardust Memories: “You know, we like your earlier, funnier films.”

THEY COME UP TO YOU?

They’ll say, “Why can’t you get back to making E.T. or Raiders?” This is not from young people but from older people, who I guess grew up with the movies I made when I was a kid and they were kids too. So I’m bewitched by Woody Allen in the sense that I keep hearing this scene from Stardust Memories played out in my real life. It’s very bedeviling.

SO DOES THAT MEAN YOU’RE GOING TO PUT AWAY CHILDISH THINGS FROM HERE ON OUT?

Well, you never can tell. I keep looking around for things, but then when I get the opportunity, say, to direct Harry Potter, I say no. When I get the opportunity to do something like Spider-Man, I say no. The films that are offered me that have childlike souls, I tend to say, “I’ve done that.” I don’t know if that just means I’ve grown up for good or whether something’s going to come along that’s going to make me say, “O.K., whatever I said to you is full of hot air, and the child lives in all of us until we die.”

YOU SEEM TO HAVE THIS PATTERN OF DOING TWO MOVIES BACK-TO-BACK AND THEN STEPPING BACK. DO YOU LIKE DOING IT THAT WAY?

I hate doing it that way. When I don’t have a movie, I don’t take a job just for the sake of working. I just sit it out until I find something I’m passionate about. If I find something light, I’ll make it. Like Terminal. It wasn’t a film that I’ll be remembered for, but it’s a film I’ll remember for the rest of my life, a sweet short story that gave me a chance to work with Tom Hanks--and people think I’m crazy for saying this--giving what I think was his best performance. Some people have said, “Why did you make that little movie when you could have been doing something important?” And I said, “Well, at the time it was important.” And if I find something dark and historical--like this Doris Kearns Goodwin book [Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln] I’m working on now--I’ll do that. It’s just how things work out. It’s all about timing.

 


“THE MESSAGES ARE PROBLEMATIC”

Israel LA envoy criticizes new Spielberg film ‘Munich’
Ha’aretz
December 11, 2005

www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/656341.html

Israel’s consul-general in Los Angeles levelled critism Sunday at Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” saying that the new film drew an incorrect picture of the Mossad’s hunt for the PLO terrorists of the 1972 Olympic massacre, taking the legendary director to task for morally equating the agents and the terrorists and for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with “a certain pretensiousness” and “quite superficial statements.”

The film follows a Mossad hit squad assigned to track down and kill the Palestinian Black September gunmen behind the abduction of Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics. Eleven atheletes were killed in the operation and an ill-fated rescue attempt by German security forces.

“The film is based on the book written by George Jonas, a book in which there is no truth,” said Ehud Danoch, Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, in a reference to Canadian journalist Jonas’ book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team.

“It is, in fact, based on things that [self-styled Mossad man] Yuval Aviv told the author,” Danoch said. “This same Yuval claimed to have been in the Mossad and the head of a Mossad team, a claim that was untrue. At most he was a ‘selector’ for El Al for a few months,” Danoch said, referring to the airline’s unarmed security personnel who interview departing passengers.

According to Danoch, throughout the film Spielberg equates the Mossad agents and the terrorists. “This is an incorrect moral equation. We in Israel know this. There is also a certain pretensiousness in attempting to treat a painful, decades-long conflict by means of quite superficial statements in a two and a half hour movie.”

“As a Hollywood movie, I assume that in Hollywood it will be defined as a well-made film, but from the standpoint of the messages it sends, the messages are problematic.”

As an example, Danoch cited a scene in which a Palestinian terrorist named Ali delivers “a monologue of two or three minutes in which he lays out the Palestinians’ arguments. There is no counter-monologue to this.”

The diplomat said that Israeli officials had inquired about the film, but that the screenplay had been a closely guarded secret.

“When we asked regarding the screenplay, we were told, of course, that Spielberg would not do anything that would hurt Israel.”

Danoch, speaking to Israel Radio, declined to answer directly when asked if the film was likely to aid those who criticize Israel’s policy of targeted assassination of terrorists and their commanders.

 


ISRAELI OLYMPIC WIDOWS PREVIEW MUNICH

Israeli widows preview Spielberg’s “Munich”
By Dan Williams
Reuters
December 9, 2005

www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L09769928.htm

Steven Spielberg faces fierce debate over his film about Israel’s retaliation for the Palestinian attack on its team at the Munich Olympics, but the director has at least one fan: the widow of a slain athlete.

Ilana Romano, whose weightlifter husband Yosef was the first Israeli sportsman gunned down during the 1972 guerrilla raid, said she attended an exclusive courtesy screening of “Munich” in Tel Aviv this week along with fellow widow Ankie Spitzer.

An advance copy of the thriller, which opens in the United States on Dec. 23 and in Israel next month, was flown out by its producer Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Tony Kushner.

“They were very nice, and wanted to get across the point to us that the film was made with utmost sensitivity,” Romano told Reuters on Friday.

“For me, it was important that the film does no dishonour to the memory of the murdered athletes, nor to the image of the State of Israel. Both my criteria were satisfied,” she said.

Though no stranger to tackling highly charged historical events in his films, Spielberg has kept a low profile over Munich. Confidants say the director, recognising the potential for his film to spark controversy, wants it to speak for itself.

Munich tells of the Israeli agents assigned to hunt down and kill the Palestinians suspected of planning the Olympics assault, in which 11 athletes died. With Israel and the Palestinians still locked in conflict 30 years on, it remains a loaded episode.

Spielberg has also hinted that his portrayal of Israel’s reprisals tactics would not be entirely flattering and would raise questions about the U.S. “war on terror” since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

SPOOKED BY SOURCES

Veterans of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency came out of the cold to question Spielberg’s sourcing after it emerged that Munich was based in part on “Vengeance”, a 1984 book drawn from the purported confessions of a former assassin who said he broke rank in protest at the retaliations policy.

“I think it is a tragedy that a person of the stature of Steven Spielberg, who has made such fantastic films, should have based this film on a book that is a falsehood,” said David Kimche, a former Mossad deputy director.

Israel has never formally acknowledged responsibility for the series of shootings, explosive booby-traps and cross-border commando raids that killed 10 Palestinians linked to Black September, the group behind the Munich slayings.

The reprisal campaign included the 1973 killing in Norway of a Moroccan waiter mistaken for Black September’s leader. Six members of the Israeli hit team were prosecuted for murder, and Israel eventually paid compensation to the victim’s family.

Black September mastermind Mohammad Daoud has also questioned the basis for Spielberg’s portrayal.

While Romano said Munich contained “historical surprises” -- on which she declined to elaborate, citing reluctance to spoil the film for viewers -- the widow credited Spielberg with fairly exploring Israel’s reasons for mounting the reprisal missions.

“At the time, I had no dilemma (about the policy),” she said. “There was simply no other way. The film strengthened this view, for me.”

Spitzer, whose fencer husband Andrei was killed in a botched German attempt to rescue Israeli athletes taken hostage by Palestinian gunmen, could not be reached for comment.

 


AN ARAB-AMERICAN CRITICIZES STEVEN SPIELBERG

Spielberg is wrong
By Joseph Farah
Freeman Center for Strategic Studies
December 6, 2005

In a little more than two weeks, Steven Spielberg will release “Munich,” his epic film about the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

But the movie, Spielberg warns us, is not really about this unjustifiable, murderous act. It’s really about the human cost of a political quagmire - the Arab-Israeli conflict.

As Spielberg puts it in the latest issue of Time magazine, “The biggest enemy in the region is intransigence.”

If that is truly the message of “Munich,” the film is a blatant lie, propaganda, a waste of time. He suggests, “The worst conflicts are often those that break out between those who are persecuted.”

That statement suggests, rightly or wrongly, that each side in the conflict is persecuted.

Now there is no question that the Israelis are persecuted - hated for who they are because of who they are. And there is no question that the Arab people are oppressed.

But are the Arabs persecuted?

I don’t think that’s the right terminology and I say this as an Arab-American.

Though I haven’t seen the film, I can judge Spielberg’s words and descriptions. It’s time for someone to recognize that the Israel people are persecuted and the Arab people are oppressed by the same enemy.

That enemy is the Muslim leadership in the Middle East and elsewhere that oppresses its own people and scapegoats the Jews as a way of turning the enmity of its own oppressed people away from its rulers and channeling it toward the persecution of the Jews.

There’s another reason Spielberg’s premise of “intransigence” is so obviously false.

One side in the Middle East conflict - the Israeli side - has bent over backward to solve the problem. The Israelis have sacrificed concerns about their own security in an effort to give the Arabs what they say they want - a land of their own. And every time they make another unilateral move in that direction, they are met with more violence and higher stakes.

To accuse the Israelis of “intransigence” is about as big a lie as one can tell.

The problem in the Middle East, ultimately, is that one side seeks to destroy the other.

Can anyone deny that the Arabs still seek to destroy Israel and eradicate every Jew from the Middle East?

On the other hand, Israelis do not seek to destroy their enemies in the Middle East. If they sought to do so, they have the capability of doing it. They have possessed that capability for a long time. They have never used it. In fact, they have been a model of restraint even when faced with the possibility of defeat and destruction themselves.

The real danger in the Middle East, to which Spielberg appears oblivious, is that we are nearing a time when the Arabs will have for the first time the ability to destroy Israel.

That is the real thriller on our horizon.

Instead, Spielberg has chosen to make a movie about the past, about the balance of terror that has kept the quest for peace and freedom in the Middle East at an intractable impasse.

Coming very soon, the Muslim powers that have both persecuted the Jews and oppressed the Arabs will have within their arsenal weapons of mass destruction that could destroy Israel.

Will they sit on them the way the Israelis have for more than 40 years?

I don’t think so. I doubt Steven Spielberg believes that. I don’t know anyone in their right mind who would want to take that chance.

Steve Spielberg is a gifted moviemaker. But he fails to understand one of the central lessons of history. Appeasement of evil never works.


Munich (1): “Spielberg is no friend of Israel”

* Spielberg set for an Oscar winning row
* Bill Clinton read the screenplay

This is the first of two dispatches today on Steven Spielberg’s new blockbuster film on Israel and its response to the Munich Olympics massacre. This dispatch contains articles from a wide range of people severely criticizing the film. The other dispatch presents more mixed points of view, including points sympathetic to the film.

Update: There is now a third dispatch on this subject here: Munich (3): BBC set to name woman agent who killed Olympics massacre mastermind

 

CONTENTS

1. “Munich, Spielberg’s biggest gamble”
2. “Vengeance – blood breeds blood”
3. Criticism from the Mossad: “It never happened that way”
4. Criticism from a Palestinian terrorist: “Why didn’t he consult us?”
5. “Keeping his friends in Hollywood happy”
6. “I don’t see Dirty Harry feeling guilt-ridden”
7. “Washington Diarist” (By Leon Wieseltier, New Republic, Dec. 9, 2005)
8. “Spielberg is no friend of Israel” (By Jack Engelhard, Ynetnews, Dec. 11, 2005)
9. “What ‘Munich’ Left Out” (By David Brooks, New York Times, Dec. 11, 2005)
10. “Snap Judgment: Dear Steven Spielberg” (By Calev Ben-David, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 1, 2005)



[All notes below by Tom Gross]

“MUNICH, SPIELBERG’S BIGGEST GAMBLE”

Steven Spielberg’s new feature film, “Munich,” opens in America on December 23, and in the rest of the world a short while later. (It is released in Israel in mid-January.) The film, in the words of its publicists, “examines Israel’s response to the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, viewing Israel’s response to Munich through the eyes of the men who were sent to avenge that tragedy”.

Spielberg only began filming in July this year, and it is being rushed to the movie theaters already next week in order to meet the qualifying date to be considered for next year’s Oscar awards.

When Spielberg started filming in July, he said that “by experiencing how the implacable resolve of these men to succeed in their mission slowly gave way to troubling doubts about what they were doing, I think we can learn something important about the tragic standoff we find ourselves in today.”

The film has received extensive media coverage. In July, the New York Times described the film as “Spielberg’s biggest gamble”. Whilst the Sunday Times of London recently quipped that Spielberg was set “for an Oscar winning row”.

Spielberg has sought advice from a number of sources including his own rabbi, and from former American diplomat Dennis Ross. The script for the film was also shown to Bill Clinton.

Seven television networks, including the BBC are reported to be preparing documentaries on the making of “Munich”.

 

“VENGEANCE – BLOOD BREEDS BLOOD”

The film was originally titled “Vengeance,” and is based on the book by George Jonas titled “Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team”.

A member of the “Munich” cast, Daniel Craig, who this week starts filming in Prague as the new James Bond, told Empire magazine in June that the film is “about how vengeance doesn’t... work – blood breeds blood.”

The book, written in 1984, paints a picture of morally conflicted Mossad agents who increasingly question their mission.

Critics have claimed that the book is strewn with mistakes. The book is based on an Israeli named Yuval Aviv whose only security experience is thought to be as a security guard for the Israeli national airline El Al.

In 1986, HBO adapted the book “Vengeance” into a television movie called “Sword of Gideon”.

 

CRITICISM FROM THE MOSSAD: “IT NEVER HAPPENED THAT WAY”

Zvi Zamir, the head of Mossad in the 1970s, told Ha’aretz that Yuval Aviv is unknown to him and that he had not been contacted by Spielberg with a request for information about the subject of the film. “If it is indeed true that Spielberg is basing his film on the book, I am surprised that a director like him has chosen, out of all the sources, to rely on this particular book.”

Gad Shimron, a former Mossad officer, told the Hollywood newspaper Variety: “It’s nonsense, totally baseless.” He went on to say “This sexy plot of an epic squad composed of a German, a Frenchman, an American and a Brit sounds like a bunch of clowns playing partisans behind enemy lines. It never happened that way.”

 

CRITICISM FROM A PALESTINIAN TERRORIST: “WHY DIDN’T HE CONSULT US?”

Abu Daoud, a close aide of Yasser Arafat, has in recent years boasted of his responsibility for the Olympic massacre. He has also revealed that Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority funded the terrorist group sent to Munich.

Daoud has complained that he was not consulted by Spielberg: “If someone really wanted to tell the truth about what happened he should talk to the people involved, people who know the truth”.

For more on the involvement of Mahmoud Abbas in the Olympic massacre please see the dispatch Abu Mazen and the Munich Olympics massacre (June 8, 2003).

 

“KEEPING HIS FRIENDS IN HOLLYWOOD HAPPY”

It is clear from the many articles in the mainstream press on “Munich” that Spielberg strove for a balanced film. In June, Spielberg spokesman Marvin Levy told Reuters that “this film has been built from many, many sources. One thing I can say is we expect this to be a balanced film.”

Spielberg appears to have followed the trend in Hollywood and has used this opportunity to deal with the moral issues of how a country responds to a terrorist attack. As a result Jack Engelhard (article attached below) writes that “‘Munich’ may just as well have been scripted by George Galloway.”

Engelhard, (who is the author of the bestselling novel and movie “Indecent Proposal”) says Spielberg has “joined the trend to the Left, and that’s the way to go if you want to do lunch in that town again… he’s produced a baby that Barbra Streisand, Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Stone could love.”

In the film’s final scene the World Trade Center’s twin towers can be seen in the New York skyline. This suggests the film is not only a message for how Israel deals with terrorists but also America’s counter terrorism as well.

David Brooks in the New York Times (article attached below) argues that “when it is political, Spielberg has to distort reality to fit his preconceptions.”

 

“I DON’T SEE DIRTY HARRY FEELING GUILT-RIDDEN”

Michael B. Oren, an Israeli historian, told the New York Times that “It’s become a stereotype, the guilt-ridden Mossad hit man. You never see guilt-ridden hit men in any other ethnicity. Somehow it’s only the Jews. I don’t see Dirty Harry feeling guilt-ridden. It’s the flip side of the rationally motivated Palestinian terrorist: you can’t have a Jew going to exact vengeance and not feel guilt-ridden about it, and you can’t have a Palestinian who’s operating out of pure evil - it’s got to be the result of some trauma.”

In a recent online discussion on the Ha’aretz website a reader pointed out that “In Steven Spielberg’s other films, (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Last Crusade, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan), he clearly paints Nazis as evil. There is no attempt to humanize them, or provide the German point of view.”

Whilst I have not seen this film, a number of people who generally have reliable moderate views, such as Leon Wieseltier (literary editor of the New Republic), have and they are severely critical of Spielberg for his lack of sympathy to Israel. (Wieseltier says “It is soaked in the sweat of its idea of evenhandedness” between Palestinian terrorist and the Israeli security forces.) I attach four articles with summaries first.

(Among the authors of the articles below, David Brooks, Michael Oren, Leon Wieseltier and Calev Ben David are subscribers to this list.)

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

 


SUMMARIES

[Summaries below prepared by Tom Gross]

“A MOVIE THAT WISHES TO BE SHOCKING AND INOFFENSIVE AT THE SAME TIME”

“Washington Diarist” (By Leon Wieseltier, The New Republic, December 9, 2005)

...The makers of Munich seem to think that it is itself an intervention in the historical conflict that it portrays. For this reason, perhaps, they have devised a movie that wishes to be shocking and inoffensive at the same time. It tells the story of the Israeli retaliation for the massacre at the Munich Olympics in 1972 -- specifically, of the nasty adventures of a team of five Israelis that is dispatched to Europe to destroy eleven Palestinians. The film is powerful, in the hollow way that many of Spielberg’s films are powerful. He is a master of vacant intensities, of slick searings. Whatever the theme, he must ravish the viewer. Munich is aesthetically no different from War of the Worlds...

The real surprise of Munich is how tedious it is. For long stretches it feels like The Untouchables with eleven Capones. But its tedium is finally owed to the fact that, for all its vanity about its own courage, the film is afraid of itself. It is soaked in the sweat of its idea of evenhandedness. Palestinians murder, Israelis murder. Palestinians show evidence of a conscience, Israelis show evidence of a conscience. Palestinians suppress their scruples, Israelis suppress their scruples. Palestinians make little speeches about home and blood and soil, Israelis make little speeches about home and blood and soil. Palestinians kill innocents, Israelis kill innocents. All these analogies begin to look ominously like the sin of equivalence, and so it is worth pointing out that the death of innocents was an Israeli mistake but a Palestinian objective...

...The Israeli response to Black September marked the birth of contemporary counterterrorism, and it is difficult not to see Munich as a parable of American policy since September 11. “Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values,” Golda Meir grimly concludes early in the film, and one is immediately grateful for the un-Cheney-like sensation of a dissonance. Yet the film proclaims that terrorists and counterterrorists are alike. “When we learn to act like them, we will defeat them!” declares one of Avner’s men, played by Daniel Craig, already with a license to kill. Worse, Munich prefers a discussion of counterterrorism to a discussion of terrorism; or it thinks that they are the same discussion. This is an opinion that only people who are not responsible for the safety of other people can hold.

 

“HOLLYWOOD IS ALL ABOUT BEING TRENDY AND ISRAEL IS NOT THE TREND”

“Spielberg is no friend of Israel” (By Jack Engelhard, Ynetnews, December 11, 2005)

It remains to be seen, literally, if Steven Spielberg has switched sides, from kosher (“Schindler’s List”), to treyf. His movie, “Munich,” will be opening in a few days and early word has it that he has indeed gone “Hollywood.” This means that he’s joined the trend to the Left, and that’s the way to go if you want to do lunch in that town again.

If advance screenings prove accurate (the movie is set to open December 23), Spielberg has used the Olympic Massacre of 1972 to send a message that brings to mind the words of MGM tycoon Louis B. Mayer: “Movies are for entertainment. If you want to send a message, send a telegram.”

Regardless, Spielberg’s message is that the bad guys who murdered 11 Israelis are not all that bad, and that the Israeli secret services that pursued the killers, the good guys, are not all that good. They’re troubled by second thoughts. There isn’t much difference, according to Spielberg’s telegram, between killers and avengers...

...Spielberg has no such problems, first because he’s Spielberg, and second, in the case of “Munich,” he’s produced a baby that Barbra Streisand, Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Stone could love - and these people can do lunch in Hollywood any time they want, and maybe that’s what it’s all about...

Jews pioneered Hollywood. If, as our enemies say, we own Hollywood, well, here’s the plot twist - we have lost Hollywood, and we have lost Spielberg. Spielberg is no friend of Israel. Spielberg is no friend of truth. His “Munich” may just as well have been scripted by George Galloway...

 

“A NEW KIND OF ANTIWAR MOVIE FOR A NEW KIND OF WAR”

“What ‘Munich’ Left Out” (By David Brooks, The New York Times, December 11, 2005)

Every generation of Americans casts Israel in its own morality tale. For a time, Israel was the plucky underdog fighting for survival against larger foes. Now, as Steven Spielberg rolls out the publicity campaign for his new movie, “Munich,” we see the crystallization of a different fable. In this story, the Israelis and the Palestinians are parallel peoples victimized by history and trapped in a cycle of violence...

This is a new kind of antiwar movie for a new kind of war, and in so many ways it is innovative, sophisticated and intelligent.

But when it is political, Spielberg has to distort reality to fit his preconceptions. In the first place, by choosing a story set in 1972, Spielberg allows himself to ignore the core poison that permeates the Middle East, Islamic radicalism. In Spielberg’s Middle East, there is no Hamas or Islamic Jihad. There are no passionate anti-Semites, no Holocaust deniers like the current president of Iran, no zealots who want to exterminate Israelis.

There is, above all, no evil. And that is the core of Spielberg’s fable. In his depiction of reality there are no people so committed to a murderous ideology that they are impervious to the sort of compromise and dialogue Spielberg puts such great faith in...

In 1972, Israel was just entering the era of spectacular terror attacks and didn’t know how to respond. But over the years Israelis have learned that targeted assassinations, which are the main subject of this movie, are one of the less effective ways to fight terror...

 

DEAR STEVEN SPIELBERG

“Snap Judgment: Dear Steven Spielberg” (By Calev Ben-David, The Jerusalem Post, December 1, 2005)

I hope you will not think me presumptuous, but given our long relationship I feel entitled to offer you some unsolicited advice regarding Munich, your new movie scheduled to premiere later this month...

...It was certainly surprising that in preparing for the film you chose not to personally speak with any of the surviving participants, both Israeli and Palestinian, of the events your film describes. This is even more disturbing in light of reports that one of your source materials is the George Jonas book Vengeance, whose account of the Munich massacre aftermath has been largely discredited since it was first published. No wonder that former Mossad chief Zvi Zamir, who oversaw the operation, has publicly taken your research methods to task.

Also disturbing was your choice of American-Jewish playwright Tony Kushner, an outspoken left-wing critic of Israel, to co-write the screenplay of Munich. Kushner has gone on record in declaring that “Zionism is an unappealing and problematic heritage” and “Zionism aimed at the establishment of a national identity is predicated on a reading of Jewish history and an interpretation of the meaning of Jewish history that I don’t share.”

What I really suspect, Steven, is that you are using Munich as a means of commenting, in your own way, on the situation of the United States in a post-9/11 reality. But by setting those concerns against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you will cleverly sidestep having to contend with the kind of overwhelming backlash you would face if your movie made any direct politically charged controversial statements about America’s own current war on terror...



FULL ARTICLES

“A MOVIE THAT WISHES TO BE SHOCKING AND INOFFENSIVE AT THE SAME TIME”

Washington Diarist
By Leon Wieseltier
The New Republic
December 9, 2005

www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20051219&s=diarist121905

A few days before I read in Time that Steven Spielberg’s new movie is so significant that there would be no advance screenings of it, I went to an advance screening of it. The fakery is everywhere, isn’t it, though in this instance it nicely captures the self-importance of this pseudo-controversial film. The makers of Munich seem to think that it is itself an intervention in the historical conflict that it portrays. For this reason, perhaps, they have devised a movie that wishes to be shocking and inoffensive at the same time. It tells the story of the Israeli retaliation for the massacre at the Munich Olympics in 1972--specifically, of the nasty adventures of a team of five Israelis that is dispatched to Europe to destroy eleven Palestinians. The film is powerful, in the hollow way that many of Spielberg’s films are powerful. He is a master of vacant intensities, of slick searings. Whatever the theme, he must ravish the viewer. Munich is aesthetically no different from War of the Worlds, and never mind that one treats questions of ethical and historical consequence and the other is stupid. Spielberg knows how to overwhelm. But I am tired of being overwhelmed. Why should I admire somebody for his ability to manipulate me? In other realms of life, this talent is known as demagoguery. There are better reasons to turn to art, better reasons to go to the movies, than to be blown away.

The real surprise of Munich is how tedious it is. For long stretches it feels like The Untouchables with eleven Capones. But its tedium is finally owed to the fact that, for all its vanity about its own courage, the film is afraid of itself. It is soaked in the sweat of its idea of evenhandedness. Palestinians murder, Israelis murder. Palestinians show evidence of a conscience, Israelis show evidence of a conscience. Palestinians suppress their scruples, Israelis suppress their scruples. Palestinians make little speeches about home and blood and soil, Israelis make little speeches about home and blood and soil. Palestinians kill innocents, Israelis kill innocents. All these analogies begin to look ominously like the sin of equivalence, and so it is worth pointing out that the death of innocents was an Israeli mistake but a Palestinian objective. (I am referring only to the war between the terrorists and the counterterrorists. The larger picture is darker. Over the years more civilians were killed in Israeli air strikes than in the Palestinian atrocities that provoked those air strikes. The justice of Israel’s defense of itself should not be confused with the rightness of everything that it does in self-defense.) No doubt Munich will be admired for its mechanical symmetries, which will be called complexity. But this is not complexity, it is strategy. I mean of the marketing kind: I note that the filmmakers have nervously retained the distinguished services of Dennis Ross to guide the film through the excitable community of people who know about its subject. Munich is desperate not to be charged with a point of view. It is animated by a sense of tragedy and a dream of peace, which all good people share, but which in Hollywood is regarded as a dissent, and also as a point of view. Its glossy caution almost made me think a kind thought about Oliver Stone. For the only side that Steven Spielberg ever takes is the side of the movies.

The screenplay is substantially the work of Tony Kushner, whose hand is easily recognizable in the crudely schematic quality of the drama, and also in something more. The film has no place in its heart for Israel. I do not mean that it wishes Israel ill; not at all. But it cannot imagine any reason for Israel beyond the harshness of the world to the Jews. “The world has been rough with you,” the oracular gourmand godfather of an underground anarchist family, a ludicrous character plummily played by Michael Lonsdale, tells Avner Kauffman, the Israeli team leader. “It is right to respond roughly to such treatment.” Avner’s mother, whose family was destroyed by the Nazis, preaches this about the Jewish state: “We had to take this, because no one was going to give it to us. Whatever it took, whatever it takes.” Zionism, in this film, is just anti-anti-Semitism. The necessity of the Jewish state is acknowledged, but necessity is a very weak form of legitimacy. There are two kinds of Israelis in Munich: cruel Israelis with remorse and cruel Israelis without remorse. One of the Israeli killers recalls a midrash about God’s compassion for the Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea, and keeps on killing. Another one of the Israeli killers protests that “Jews don’t do wrong because our enemies do wrong. ... We’re supposed to be righteous,” and keeps on killing.

All this is consistent with Tony Kushner’s view that Zionism, as he told Ori Nir of Haaretz last year, was “not the right answer,” and that the creation of Israel was “a mistake,” and that “establishing a state means fucking people over.” (If he really seeks to understand Middle Eastern terrorism, he might ponder the extent to which statelessness, too, can mean fucking people over.) When Avner’s reckoning with his deeds takes him to the verge of a breakdown, he joins his wife and child in Brooklyn and refuses to return to Israel, as if decency is impossible there. No, Kushner is not an anti-Semite, nor a self-hating Jew, nor any of those other insults that burnish his notion of himself as an American Jewish dissident (he is one of those people who never speaks, but only speaks out). He is just a perfectly doctrinaire progressive. And the progressive Jewish playwright Tony Kushner’s image of Israel oddly brings to mind the reactionary Jewish playwright David Mamet’s image of Israel: For both of them, its essence is power.

The Israeli response to Black September marked the birth of contemporary counterterrorism, and it is difficult not to see Munich as a parable of American policy since September 11. “Every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values,” Golda Meir grimly concludes early in the film, and one is immediately grateful for the un-Cheney-like sensation of a dissonance. Yet the film proclaims that terrorists and counterterrorists are alike. “When we learn to act like them, we will defeat them!” declares one of Avner’s men, played by Daniel Craig, already with a license to kill. Worse, Munich prefers a discussion of counterterrorism to a discussion of terrorism; or it thinks that they are the same discussion. This is an opinion that only people who are not responsible for the safety of other people can hold.

[Correction on The New Republic’s website: This article originally stated that Time wrote there would be no advance screenings of Munich. In fact, Time wrote there had been no advance screenings. We regret the error.]

 

“HOLLYWOOD IS ALL ABOUT BEING TRENDY AND ISRAEL IS NOT THE TREND”

Spielberg is no friend of Israel
You never want to be labeled a fan of Israel in today’s Hollywood
By Jack Engelhard
Ynetnews
December 11, 2005

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3182751,00.html

It remains to be seen, literally, if Steven Spielberg has switched sides, from kosher (“Schindler’s List”), to treyf. His movie, “Munich,” will be opening in a few days and early word has it that he has indeed gone “Hollywood.” This means that he’s joined the trend to the Left, and that’s the way to go if you want to do lunch in that town again.

If advance screenings prove accurate (the movie is set to open December 23), Spielberg has used the Olympic Massacre of 1972 to send a message that brings to mind the words of MGM tycoon Louis B. Mayer: “Movies are for entertainment. If you want to send a message, send a telegram.”

Regardless, Spielberg’s message is that the bad guys who murdered 11 Israelis are not all that bad, and that the Israeli secret services that pursued the killers, the good guys, are not all that good. They’re troubled by second thoughts. There isn’t much difference, according to Spielberg’s telegram, between killers and avengers.

Observers of our culture may conclude that Spielberg has bought an even bigger script than the one at hand, featuring moral equivalency as a sub-title.

No doubt Spielberg is serious, and that’s the problem. People aren’t buying popcorn as much as they used to and altogether box office numbers are down. People want to laugh, or cry. They don’t want to be sold. I know this from experience. I still get questions about “Indecent Proposal.” Why did I let Hollywood make those changes?

Well, when you sell a novel to Hollywood it’s gone with the wind. Hemingway suggested that we (writers) throw our novels over the Hollywood border, grab the money and run. That’s more or less what I did.

The interior voice of my novel - “what would you do for a million dollars – would you sell your wife for a night?” - was the Arab-Israeli conflict, mostly on the side of Israel. For Paramount Pictures, that was too much of a message, so they made changes, and guess what, I agree.

What about Exodus?

Or rather, I agreed then, not so much now. For some time I’ve asked this question - would Leon Uris get “Exodus” to the screen in this climate? I keep coming up with the same answer. No! Things have changed and not only for movies but for books as well. Again, personal experience, as with my latest, “The Bathsheba Deadline, ” that’s running as a serial on Amazon.com. Lucky for me that Amazon.com came along, the largest of them all put together.

But not so fast. The novel was turned down by a dozen New York publishers for being too pro USA and much too Jewish, too pro-Israel. One top publisher said it plainly, or half plainly: “I really got caught up in your novel; enjoyed it very much; powerful stuff. But I will not make an offer, and I think you know why.”

Yes, I knew why and I know why.

Don’t look at me. A thousand other writers of my persuasion have had similar brush-offs from New York and Hollywood. Tom Clancy writes a novel that features Arabs as the bad guys, but Hollywood, for reasons of sensitivity or box office, conveniently changes these villains to neo-Nazis. “The Sum of all Fears” may well have been titled “The Fear of all Sums.”

French-Israeli filmmaker Pierre Rehov travels deep into jihad territory, exposes the universe that indulges and glorifies terrorism, and he’s been getting some attention, but he is struggling to find a major distributor for his eye-opening documentaries.

Spielberg has no such problems, first because he’s Spielberg, and second, in the case of “Munich,” he’s produced a baby that Barbra Streisand, Vanessa Redgrave and Oliver Stone could love - and these people can do lunch in Hollywood any time they want, and maybe that’s what it’s all about.

Telegrams should go back and forth

In Hollywood today, where David is Goliath and Goliath is David, you never want to be labeled a conservative or a fan of Israel. Hollywood is all about being trendy and Israel is not the trend. You won’t get invited to the right parties and you won’t win any Oscars if your heart bleeds for a nation that is always on the verge of being wiped off the map.

My problem? If Uris could not get “Exodus” funded in an atmosphere that still reeks of “Durban” (and where is the movie about all that, Steve?) then Spielberg should not be green-lighted for “Munich.” Sure, Hollywood, go ahead, make your day. Show us their side of the story, but what about our side?

Where is the counterpoint? If you are trending toward political themes, yes, that is your right, but where is our Right, in which decidedly I mean the Right side of politics that has us walking with a target on our backs, meaning those of us who differ on moral equivalency and other trends?

Jews pioneered Hollywood. If, as our enemies say, we own Hollywood, well, here’s the plot twist - we have lost Hollywood, and we have lost Spielberg. Spielberg is no friend of Israel. Spielberg is no friend of truth. His “Munich” may just as well have been scripted by George Galloway.

Yes, Hollywood, send a telegram, but, to communicate and to get the message fair and straight, telegrams should go back and forth.

(Jack Engelhard is the author of the bestselling novel and movie “Indecent Proposal”)

 

“A NEW KIND OF ANTIWAR MOVIE FOR A NEW KIND OF WAR”

What ‘Munich’ Left Out
By David Brooks
Op-Ed Columnist
The New York Times
December 11, 2005

Every generation of Americans casts Israel in its own morality tale. For a time, Israel was the plucky underdog fighting for survival against larger foes. Now, as Steven Spielberg rolls out the publicity campaign for his new movie, “Munich,” we see the crystallization of a different fable. In this story, the Israelis and the Palestinians are parallel peoples victimized by history and trapped in a cycle of violence.

In his rollout interview in Time, Spielberg spoke of the Middle East’s endless killings and counterkillings. “A response to a response doesn’t really solve anything. It just creates a perpetual motion machine,” Spielberg said. “There’s been a quagmire of blood for blood for many decades in that region. Where does it end?”

The main problem, he concluded, is intransigence itself. “The only thing that’s going to solve this is rational minds, a lot of sitting down and talking until you’re blue in the gills.”

“Munich” the movie is a brilliant representation of this argument. Its hero, Avner, has been called in by Golda Meir to assassinate the terrorists responsible for the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Over the course of the movie, as assassination piles upon assassination, Avner descends into a pit of Raskolnikovian hell. Israelis kill Palestinians and Palestinians kill Israelis and guilt piles upon paranoia. Eventually, Avner loses faith in his mission, in Zionism, in Israel itself.

This is a new kind of antiwar movie for a new kind of war, and in so many ways it is innovative, sophisticated and intelligent.

But when it is political, Spielberg has to distort reality to fit his preconceptions. In the first place, by choosing a story set in 1972, Spielberg allows himself to ignore the core poison that permeates the Middle East, Islamic radicalism. In Spielberg’s Middle East, there is no Hamas or Islamic Jihad. There are no passionate anti-Semites, no Holocaust deniers like the current president of Iran, no zealots who want to exterminate Israelis.

There is, above all, no evil. And that is the core of Spielberg’s fable. In his depiction of reality there are no people so committed to a murderous ideology that they are impervious to the sort of compromise and dialogue Spielberg puts such great faith in.

Because he will not admit the existence of evil, as it really exists, Spielberg gets reality wrong. Understandably, he doesn’t want to portray Palestinian terrorists as cartoon bad guys, but he simply doesn’t portray them. There’s one speech in which a Palestinian terrorist sounds like Mahmoud Abbas, but beyond that, the terrorists are marginal and opaque.

And because there is no evil, Spielberg gets the Israeli fighters wrong. Avner is an American image of what an Israeli hero should be. The real Israeli fighters tend to be harder and less sympathetic, and they are made that way by an awareness of the evil implacability of those who want to exterminate them.

In Spielberg’s Middle East the only way to achieve peace is by renouncing violence. But in the real Middle East the only way to achieve peace is through military victory over the fanatics, accompanied by compromise between the reasonable elements on each side. Somebody, the Israelis or the Palestinian Authority, has to defeat Hamas and the other terrorist groups. Far from leading to a downward cycle, this kind of violence is the precondition to peace.

Here too, Spielberg’s decision to tell a story set in the early 1970’s makes “Munich” a misleading way to start a larger discussion.

In 1972, Israel was just entering the era of spectacular terror attacks and didn’t know how to respond. But over the years Israelis have learned that targeted assassinations, which are the main subject of this movie, are one of the less effective ways to fight terror.

Israel much prefers to arrest suspected terrorists. Arrests don’t set off rounds of retaliation, and arrested suspects are likely to provide you with intelligence, the real key to defanging terror groups.

Over the past few years Israeli forces have used arrests, intelligence work, the security fence and, at times, targeted assassinations to defeat the second intifada. As a result, the streets of Jerusalem are filled with teenagers, and the political climate has relaxed, allowing Ariel Sharon to move to the center.

Recent history teaches what Spielberg’s false generalization about the “perpetual motion machine” of violence does not: that some violence is constructive and some is destructive. The trick is knowing the difference. That’s a recognition that comes from reality, not fables.

 

DEAR STEVEN SPIELBERG

Snap Judgment: Dear Steven Spielberg
By Calev Ben-David
The Jerusalem Post
December 1, 2005

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1132475663600&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

I hope you will not think me presumptuous, but given our long relationship I feel entitled to offer you some unsolicited advice regarding Munich, your new movie scheduled to premiere later this month.

Our relationship began of course back in 1971 when I saw your first feature film, the thrilling made-for-TV movie Duel, and later enthusiastically described it in detail to my friends. It continued during my years at the NYU film school, when I defended Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. - and yes, even 1941 - as the works of a true cinematic artist, and not simply the proficient technician some of my fellow movie mavens initially took you for.

I felt vindicated when you deepened the range of your creative palette by tackling such darker and more complex material as The Color Purple, Empire of the Sun and Amistad. And how personally gratified I felt when you finally grappled with your own Jewish background by making the brilliant and wrenching Schindler’s List.

Now you are preparing to release Munich, which focuses on the Mossad operation that set out to track down and assassinate the Palestinian perpetrators of the terror attack on the 1972 Olympics that left 11 Israeli athletes dead. Sight unseen, the movie is already raising serious concerns - and no wonder.

It was certainly surprising that in preparing for the film you chose not to personally speak with any of the surviving participants, both Israeli and Palestinian, of the events your film describes. This is even more disturbing in light of reports that one of your source materials is the George Jonas book Vengeance, whose account of the Munich massacre aftermath has been largely discredited since it was first published. No wonder that former Mossad chief Zvi Zamir, who oversaw the operation, has publicly taken your research methods to task.

Also disturbing was your choice of American-Jewish playwright Tony Kushner, an outspoken left-wing critic of Israel, to co-write the screenplay of Munich. Kushner has gone on record in declaring that “Zionism is an unappealing and problematic heritage” and “Zionism aimed at the establishment of a national identity is predicated on a reading of Jewish history and an interpretation of the meaning of Jewish history that I don’t share.”

Nor, Steven, was I reassured by your one official media statement issued during the filming of Munich last summer: “Viewing Israel’s response to Munich through the eyes of the men who were sent to avenge that tragedy adds a human dimension to a horrific episode that we usually think about only in political or military terms. By experiencing how the implacable resolve of these men to succeed in their mission slowly gave way to troubling doubts about what they were doing, I think we can learn something important about the tragic standoff we find ourselves in today.”

Steven, I can’t imagine who in the world you believe thinks about the Munich massacre “only in political or military terms.” Nor is there any real evidence that the Israeli agents who carried out the retaliatory attacks “gave way to troubling doubts.”

One such agent was the Mossad’s legendary blonde femme fatale Sylvia Rafael, who took direct part in the most undeniably tragic episode of that mission - the 1974 killing in Lillehammer, Norway, of an innocent Moroccan waiter mistaken for Ali Hassan Salameh, the Black September’s operations chief in Europe. Even though Rafael expressed deep regret for that error after she and five others were subsequently caught and jailed in Norway, she went to her grave last year in her native South Africa never having expressed any doubts, public or private (according to her husband, the Norwegian lawyer who represented her in the Lillehammer case), about the overall worth of her mission.

And what is the “tragic standoff” you are referring to? Surely not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even though that situation may still be far from a resolution, it is equally far from a “stand-off”; there has been in fact tremendous progress made since 1972, when neither the Israeli nor Palestinian leaderships even recognized each other’s right to national self-determination.

What I really suspect, Steven, is that you are using Munich as a means of commenting, in your own way, on the situation of the United States in a post-9/11 reality. But by setting those concerns against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you will cleverly sidestep having to contend with the kind of overwhelming backlash you would face if your movie made any direct politically charged controversial statements about America’s own current war on terror.

For example, I certainly think it unlikely that you would have made a movie about a terror attack against American citizens without first having consulted, or at least taken into account, the concerns of the surviving family members of the victims. Yet that is exactly what you have done with Munich, earning a rebuke on Israeli television from Ilana Romano, whose husband, weightlifter Joseph Romano, was among those slain at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Perhaps you don’t know, Steven, but Ilana Romano has led a struggle for decades to see those victims memorialized by the International Olympics Committee by a proper mention made of the Munich tragedy during the official remarks of the opening ceremony at the quadrennial summer games. Yet the IOC has steadfastly refused that request, citing the anti-Israeli sensibilities of some of its participatory nations (presumably such as Iran, which at the 2004 Athens Olympics deliberately forfeited a scheduled wrestling match rather than have an Iranian athlete compete against an Israeli contender, yet received no penalty from the IOC).

Steven, despite all this, given our long cinematic relationship I’m still willing to go see Munich with an open mind in the hope you prove my concerns wrong, and if not, we will still have Arthur Cohn’s superb documentary One Day in September as the definitive film about these events. But frankly, I am already disappointed. Surely the creator of Schindler’s List knows that a filmmaker has a responsibility beyond just his directorial duties when he or she decides to tackle a real-life tragedy fresh enough to still have survivors living among us.

I notice, according to several reports, that in preparation for Munich you have retained the services of Allan Mayer, “a crisis PR specialist with Los Angeles-based Sitrick and Company who has advised Spielberg for several years.”

Well, I’m no “Hollywood crisis specialist,” but for what it’s worth, Steven, here’s my two cents’ worth: Even before your film comes out, you might consider expressing your support for efforts by the survivors of the Munich victims to finally get due recognition from the IOC.

And if not that, at the very least you should pick up the phone and give Ilana Romano the call she, and several others, deserve. I’m sure that bit of advice will sound a little familiar.

(The writer, former Jerusalem Post managing editor, is director of The Israel Project’s Jerusalem Media Resource Center)


A Muslim in a Jewish land (& Arab enrolment jumps at West Bank “settler” college)

December 08, 2005

CONTENTS

1. “Unlike Saudi Arabia, no one in Israeli immigration demanded from me any certificate of religion”
2. What apartheid?
3. “A Muslim in a Jewish land” (By Tashbih Sayyed, Muslim World Today, Dec. 2, 2005)
4. “Arab enrolment jumps at West Bank settler college” (Reuters, Dec. 5, 2005)



[Note by Tom Gross]

“UNLIKE SAUDI ARABIA, NO ONE IN ISRAELI IMMIGRATION DEMANDED FROM ME ANY CERTIFICATE OF RELIGION”

Tashbih Sayyed, the editor-in-chief of Pakistan Today and Muslim World Today (two California-based weekly newspapers), made his first visit to Israel three weeks ago. In a new article, he writes of his trip. The full article is below. Here are excerpts:

RELIGION: “The entry form that I needed to fill before landing in Tel Aviv did not ask for my religion as is the law in Pakistan. Also, unlike Saudi Arabia, no one in Israeli immigration demanded from me any certificate of religion.”

WOMEN: “Israel is one of the few countries in the Middle East where Arab women can vote. In contrast to the non-Israeli Arab world, Arab women in Israel enjoy the same status as men. Muslim women have the right to vote and to be elected to public office. Muslim women, in fact are more liberated in Israel than in any Muslim country. Israeli law prohibits polygamy, child marriage, and the barbarity of female sexual mutilation.”

ARAB LANGUAGE AND PRESS: “Arabic, like Hebrew, is an official language in Israel and underlines the tolerant nature of the Jewish State. All the street signs call out their names in Arabic alongside Hebrew. It is official policy of the Israeli government to foster the language, culture, and traditions of the Arab minority, in the educational system and in daily life. Israel’s Arabic press is the most vibrant and independent of any country in the region. There are more than 20 Arabic periodicals. They publish what they please, subject only to the same military censorship as Jewish publications. There are daily TV and radio programs in Arabic.”

TOLERANCE: “I could not find Israelis acting in vengeance against their Arab compatriots. My experience as a Muslim was also instrumental in expecting the worst in human behavior; Muslims under the influence of radical Islam have been unleashing their terror against non-Muslims even when the charges of anti-Muslim offenses were determined to be false… As a non-Wahhabi Muslim I have personally faced their barbarism and have watched Christians, Hindus and other minorities being persecuted on false pretenses.”

MOSQUES AND MINARETS: “As our air-conditioned bus negotiated the mountainous curves of the road to the heart of Galilee, I could not miss the rising minarets identifying a number of Palestinian Arab towns dotting the hillsides. The imposing domes of mosques underlined the freedoms that are enjoyed by the Muslims in the Jewish State. Large Arab residences, wide spread construction activity and big cars underlined the prosperity and affluence of Palestinians living under the Star of David.”

In the article, Sayyed also writes of the Saudi who last month received 750 lashes (to be spread out over several weeks) for praising Jews. For more on this, please see the dispatch “The real apartheid: Saudi teacher to be flogged for 15 weeks for praising Jews” (November 17, 2005).

WHAT APARTHEID?

Also attached below is an article by Reuters on the “settler” college in Ariel, a town close to Tel Aviv, which lies just inside the West Bank. Contrary to the absolute lies being told by academics in the US, UK and elsewhere about “apartheid” in the Israeli education system, Ariel – like universities and colleges throughout Israel – welcomes both Arab and Jewish students. A year ago the school had 235 Arabs, today it has increased to 320. Many of the students are Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

This is yet another example of Israeli-Arab co-operation that is so often ignored by most Western Media, and Reuters should be credited for running this story.

As Reuters note: At the college, female Arab students in Islamic headscarves are a visible presence. Arabs share space with Orthodox Jews, right-wing settlers, secular Israelis and recent immigrants. Dozens of Arab students live in the dormitories, as do Jews.

For more on Israeli-Arab co-operation, please see the dispatch titled “Small signs of improving Arab-Israeli relations (despite today’s suicide attack)” (October 26, 2005).

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

“MEDIA BIAS AGAINST ISRAEL REMINDED ME OF THE NAZI ERA GERMAN PRESS”

A Muslim In A Jewish Land
By Tashbih Sayyed, Ph. D.
Muslim World Today
December 2, 2005

www.muslimworldtoday.com/tashbih.htm

As I boarded EL AL flight LY 0008 for Tel Aviv on November 14, 2005 with my wife, Kiran, my mind was busy arranging and re-arranging the list of things I intended to accomplish. I wanted to use my first visit to Israel to feel the strength of the Jewish spirit that refuses to give in to evil forces despite thousand of years of anti-Semitism. It was not Israel’s suicidal sacrifices that I wanted to investigate but the foundations of Israeli determination to live in peace.

There are many things that I wanted to talk about with Israelis, the foremost among them being their reluctance to do something about the bad press that continues to paint them as villains. Although I understand why the media, which reasonably covers most events accurately, chooses to ignore all rules of ethical journalism when it comes to Israel, I could not fathom Israel’s reluctance to challenge the negative press effectively. Media bias against Israel reminded me of the Nazi era German press that was recruited by Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels who picked up every hate-laden word against the Jews. Just like the German press who refused to print the truth about the gruesome atrocities in Europe’s death camps - or claimed that it was all an exaggeration, the media today also ignores the Arab terrorism. I wanted to see if there was any truth in the media allegations that Israel was an apartheid state, undemocratic and discriminatory.

I knew that a true Jewish State could not be undemocratic since democratic concepts were always a part of Jewish thinking and derived directly from the Torah. For instance when in the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, he was basically referring to Torah that said that all men are created in the image of God. I was confident that Israel cannot be racist or discriminatory since it is based on the idea of the covenant between God and the Israelites, in which both parties accepted upon themselves duties and obligations underlining the fact that power is established through the consent of both sides rather than through tyranny by the more powerful party.

My understanding of the Jewish State was confirmed when the entry form that I needed to fill before landing in Tel Aviv did not ask for my religion as is the law in Pakistan. Also, unlike Saudi Arabia, no one in Israeli immigration demanded from me any certificate of religion.

As the El Al approached the Promised Land, I continued to shuffle the list of charges made routinely against Israel by its enemies.

Israelis live in a perpetual state of fear.
Israel is undemocratic.
Muslim Arab citizens of Israel do not have equal rights

* Israelis live in a perpetual state of fear:

From Tel Aviv to Tiberias, Jerusalem to Jezreel, and from Golan heights to the Gaza border, I could not find any evidence of fear. In fact the people felt so secure that none of the stores, gas stations, market places, or residences we went to, and where it was known that we were Muslims, deemed it necessary to either search or interrogate us. Especially when Kiran and I went to the Ben Yahuda Street in Jerusalem on a Friday evening, we found it bursting at its seams with people of all ages. The ground was shaking with music and young boys and girls were so busy having fun that they did not bother to even look around. Tourists were busy making deals and the whole crowd seemed to throb with the beat of the music.

I could not help but compare Israel’s sense of security with the environment of insecurity that exists in Muslim countries. From Indonesia to Iran and from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia, people are not sure of anything. In Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, and the port city of Karachi, I was constantly advised not to make big purchases publicly for it encourages robbers to come after you. I did not hear news of any rape, honor killing or hold-up in Israel.

* Israel is undemocratic:

As a Muslim I am much more sensitive to the absence of democratic freedoms in any society. And I do not believe that anyone but a committed anti-Semite will deny that Israel is not a democracy. Democracy in Israel is proportional and representative, but democratic coalitions, necessary in order to effect any decision making also have its problems.

The very first day in Caesarea introduced us to the Israeli democracy. The air was full of political debate and discussion. Ariel Sharon’s decision to leave the Likud and form a new political party dominated the hotel halls and underlined the problems caused by the necessity of having democratic coalitions. “The object of a free and democratic Israeli society is to reach satisfactory compromise but often the conclusions are less than satisfactory - especially for the majority. It involves coalitions and unity which are also checks and balances on any potential abuse of minority rights. It is a better system than the American representative Republican system - which is really a representation of power and special interests. In the U.S. you get a democracy for the few. In Israel you have a democracy for everyone.”

I tried very hard to find any Muslim state that has true democracy and where religious minorities are accorded equal democratic rights, but failed. The map of the Muslim world is too crowded with kings, despots, dictators, sham democrats and theocratic autocrats and the persecution of minorities is an essential part of Islamist social behavior. But here, protected by Israel’s democratic principles, the Muslim Arab citizens of Israel are afforded all the rights and privileges of Israeli citizenship. When the first elections to the Knesset were held in February 1949, Israeli Arabs were given the right to vote and to be elected along with Israeli Jews. Today, Israel’s Arab citizens are accorded full civil and political rights entitled to complete participation in Israeli society. They are active in Israeli social, political and civic life and enjoy representation in Israel’s Parliament, Foreign Service and judicial system.

The Israeli faith in democracy also explains their refusal to respond to Islamist terrorism in violent ways. Despite my being aware of the human weaknesses which allow anger to subjugate the best of intentions, I could not find Israelis acting in vengeance against their Arab compatriots. My experience as a Muslim was also instrumental in expecting the worst in human behavior; Muslims under the influence of radical Islam have been unleashing their terror against non-Muslims even when the charges of anti-Muslim offenses were determined to be false.

I thought that it requires a superhuman effort to ignore the atrocities meted out to you and remain free of vengeful emotions. In my experience of Muslim societies, minorities have never been allowed the benefit of the doubt. Hatred of non-Muslims and outbursts of violence against minority faiths among radical Islamists have remained a norm rather than an exception. As a non-Wahhabi Muslim I have personally faced their barbarism and have watched Christians, Hindus and other minorities being persecuted on false pretenses. I thought that if Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia can sentence a teacher to 40 months in jail and 750 lashes just for praising Jews, it will not be unreasonable on the part of Israelis to punish Palestinians for throwing stones at worshippers at the Western Wall and burning down the tomb of Joseph.

But even in this section, Israelis have proved the world wrong. Despite daily provocations, they have managed successfully not to descend to the same level of depravity as their Arab enemies. The world is used to daily violence that is unleashed against religious minorities in the Muslim world. Only a couple of days ago the Muslim faithful in Pakistan had broken through the walls of a Church, torching and tearing open its doors. They were reacting to a rumor that a Christian had desecrated their holy book, the Quran. They smashed the marble altar of the Holy Spirit Church and shattered its stained glass windows. They torched a Christian residence and the neighboring St. Anthony’s Girls School. Within moments flames were licking the walls and black smoke filled the sky. For days the Wahhabi clerics kept on calling their Muslim followers to come out from their houses and defend their faith by unleashing a reign of terror against Christians.

I wondered if an Israeli may someday find it justified to copy what Wahhabis have been doing in Iraq and other places – abducting, murdering and beheading “infidels”. Most recently, the body of a Hindu driver, Maniappan Raman Kutty, was found with his throat slashed in southern Afghanistan for no evident reason but his faith.

But there was nothing in history that could have substantiated my fears; Jews, despite being subjected to the most barbaric acts of terrorism have yet to react in vengeance against their perpetrators. And I concluded that my first visit to Israel will help me in untangling the knot of Israel’s insistence on continuing to remain a target of Islamist terror.

* Muslim Arab citizen of Israel do not have equal rights:

As our air-conditioned bus negotiated the mountainous curves of the road to the heart of Galilee, I could not miss the rising minarets identifying a number of Palestinian Arab towns dotting the hillsides. The imposing domes of mosques underlined the freedoms that are enjoyed by the Muslims in the Jewish State. Large Arab residences, wide spread construction activity and big cars underlined the prosperity and affluence of Palestinians living under the Star of David.

On my way from the city of David to the Royal Prima hotel in Jerusalem, I asked my Palestinian taxi driver how he feels about moving to the territories under Palestinian Authority. He said that he could never think of living outside Israel. His answer blasted the myth spread by anti-Semites that Israel’s Arab citizens are not happy there.

Another Israeli Arab informed me that Arabs in Israel have equal voting rights. In fact, Israel is one of the few countries in the Middle East where Arab women can vote. In contrast to the non-Israeli Arab world, Arab women in Israel enjoy the same status as men. Muslim women have the right to vote and to be elected to public office. Muslim women, in fact are more liberated in Israel than in any Muslim country. Israeli law prohibits polygamy, child marriage, and the barbarity of female sexual mutilation.

Moreover, I found out that there are no incidences of honor killings in Israel. The status of Muslim women in Israel is far above that of any country in the region. Israeli health standards are by far the highest in the Middle East and Israeli health institutions are freely open to all Arabs, on the same basis as they are to Jews.

Arabic, like Hebrew, is an official language in Israel and underlines the tolerant nature of the Jewish State. All the street signs call out their names in Arabic alongside Hebrew. It is official policy of the Israeli government to foster the language, culture, and traditions of the Arab minority, in the educational system and in daily life. Israel’s Arabic press is the most vibrant and independent of any country in the region. There are more than 20 Arabic periodicals. They publish what they please, subject only to the same military censorship as Jewish publications. There are daily TV and radio programs in Arabic.

Arabic is taught in Jewish secondary schools. More than 350,000 Arab children attend Israeli schools. At the time of Israel’s founding, there was one Arab high school in the country. Today, there are hundreds of Arab schools. Israeli universities are renowned centers of learning in the history and literature of the Arab Middle East.

Aware of the constraints that a non-Wahhabi is faced with while performing religious rituals in Saudi Arabia, Kiran (my wife) could not hide her surprise at the freedoms and ease with which peoples of all religions and faiths were carrying out their religious obligations at the Church of the holy Sepulcher, Garden Tomb, Sea of Galilee, newly discovered Western Wall Tunnels, Western Wall, tomb of King David and all the other holy places we visited.

All religious communities in Israel enjoy the full protection of the State. Israeli Arabs—Muslims, as well as many Christian denominations—are free to exercise their faiths, to observe their own weekly day of rest and holidays and to administer their own internal affairs. Some 80,000 Druze live in 22 villages in northern Israel. Their religion is not accessible to outsiders and Druze constitute a separate cultural, social and religious Arabic-speaking community. The Druze concept of taqiyya calls for complete loyalty by its adherents to the government of the country in which they reside. As such, among other things, the Druze serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Each religious community in Israel has its own religious councils and courts, and has full jurisdiction over religious affairs, including matters of personal status, such as marriage and divorce. The holy sites of all religions are administered by their own authorities and protected by the government.

A Hindu journalist who came to visit me talked about the openness that Jewish society represents. He told me that more than 20% of the Israeli population is non-Jewish of which approximately 1.2 million are Muslims, 140,000 are Christians and 100, 000 are Druze. Another non-Jewish Israeli told me that Christians and Druze are free to join even the defense forces of the Jewish State. Bedouins have served in paratroops units and other Arabs have volunteered for military duty.

The big houses owned by Arab Israelis and the amount of construction that was going on in the Arab towns exposed the falsity of propaganda that Israel discriminates against Israeli Arabs from buying lands. I found out that in the early part of the century, the Jewish National Fund was established by the World Zionist Congress to purchase land in Palestine for Jewish settlement. Of the total area of Israel, 92 percent belongs to the State and is managed by the Land Management Authority. It is not for sale to anyone, Jew or Arab.

The Arab Waqf owns land that is for the express use and benefit of Muslim Arabs. Government land can be leased by anyone, regardless of race, religion or sex. All Arab citizens of Israel are eligible to lease government land.

I asked three Israeli Arabs if they face discrimination in employment. They all said the same thing; normally there is no discrimination but whenever homicide bombers explode and murder Israelis, some Israelis feel uncomfortable dealing with them. But that uncomfortable feeling is also very temporary and does not stay for long.

My first visit to Israel has not only consolidated my belief that Israel is vital for the stability of the region but has also convinced me that the existence of Israel will one day convince the Muslims of the necessity of reformation in their theology as well as sociology.

A journey through the Israeli desert brought another important aspect of life to light; Prophets are not the only ones who can perform miracles – people who believe in themselves can also perform unbelievable acts. Acres and acres of sand dunes have been transformed into the best possible fertile land; Wheat, Cotton, Sunflowers, Chickpeas, Groundnuts (Peanuts), Mangoes, Avocados, Citrus, Papayas, bananas and any other fruit and vegetable that Israelis want to consume is grown within Israel. In fact, Israelis have proved beyond any doubt why God promised them this land – only they could keep it green.

The land is described repeatedly in the Torah as a good land and “a land flowing with milk and honey”. This description may not seem to fit well with the desert images we see on the nightly news, but let’s keep in mind that the land was repeatedly abused by conquerors that were determined to make the land uninhabitable for the Jews. In the few decades since the Jewish people regained control of the land, tremendous improvement in its agriculture has been witnessed. Israeli agriculture today has a very high yield. Agriculture in Israel is very effective, and is able to cover about 75% of domestic needs, despite the limited land available.

Looking at the development and transformation that the land has gone through because of the Jewish innovative spirit, hard labor and commitment to freedoms for all times to come, I am convinced that it is true that God created this earth but it is also a fact that only an Israel can keep this earth from dying.

 


“ARABS SPEAK THEIR NATIVE LANGUAGE IN THE HALLS AND SHARE SPACE WITH ORTHODOX JEWS”

Arab enrolment jumps at West Bank settler college
By Cynthia Johnston
Reuters
December 5, 2005

today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsarticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyid=2005-12-05T014810Z_01_KWA506439_RTRUKOC_0_UK-MIDEAST-COLLEGE.xml

Every day, Nida Hussein takes a trip that for most Palestinians would be unthinkable – a two-hour bus ride from Jerusalem to a Jewish settler college in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Hussein, an 18-year-old from Arab East Jerusalem, is one of more than 300 Arab students, many of them Israeli citizens, enrolled at the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel, a large settlement cutting deep into land Palestinians want for a state.

“It was a little difficult at the beginning, but the most important thing is learning,” she said. “Some friends asked me ‘why would you go there?’ But I want this and my parents let me.”

The college, a tree-lined campus on a hilltop, says it welcomes Arab students -- both Israelis and Palestinians – to promote diversity. But the presence of Arab students could strengthen the university’s place in the Israeli academic mainstream. Institutes of higher learning routinely admit Arabs, who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population but often feel marginalised.

“We don’t view ourselves as a settlement,” college spokesman Michael Stoltz said. “We view ourselves as a continuation of the Jewish dream, but the Jewish dream has an Arab minority.”

Arabs, though often torn about studying in a settlement, say they feel largely comfortable there. Some note they did not have marks high enough to qualify for more selective universities inside Israel.

They are also reluctant to study at Palestinian institutions or those in nearby Arab countries for fear their qualifications will not secure them jobs in the Jewish state after graduation.

“If you study at Bir Zeit or al-Quds universities, nobody in Israel recognises the degrees,” said Adel Hamida, a 20-year-old student from East Jerusalem enrolled in a pre-college programme at Ariel, referring to two prominent Palestinian universities.

The 320 Arabs enrolled at Ariel make up a tiny proportion of the college’s student body of 8,500, but their ranks are rapidly rising even if most oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. A year ago, the school had just 235 Arabs.

Palestinians from East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967 in a move that was not recognised internationally, also attend the college at Ariel, but there are no Palestinian students from the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The college says it would accept them, but none have applied against the backdrop of a five-year-old Palestinian uprising and Israeli-imposed travel restrictions in the West Bank.

Zainab Alayan, an 18-year-old from East Jerusalem, said she enrolled in the settler college because she could not get in elsewhere and there were “no places that would be better”.

She said she thought settlements, including Ariel, would have to be dismantled as a condition for peace, but defended her decision to study there. “The whole country is occupied. I came here to learn.”

In a controversial move in May ahead of Israel’s pullout from the Gaza Strip after 38 years of occupation, the Israeli cabinet backed granting the college full university status, and the school is now starting to offer post-graduate degrees.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said upgrading the school would help strengthen West Bank settlement blocs Israel wants to keep in any final peace deal with Palestinians.

The move infuriated Palestinians who view efforts to bolster settlements as a threat to peacemaking and the establishment of a viable state in the West Bank and Gaza.

But for Hussein, the issue was academic. “I am so happy and I hope it comes true,” she said about transforming the college into a full-fledged university.

At the college, where classes are taught in Hebrew, female Arab students in Islamic headscarves are a visible presence. Arabs speak their native language in the halls and share space with Orthodox Jews, right-wing settlers, secular Israelis and recent immigrants.

“I want to position the city of Ariel as part of Israel,” said Ariel Mayor Ron Nahman. “The fact that Arab Israeli students are coming to study shows one thing -- that we are good people, that the college is a liberal, open-minded institution and that the people of Ariel are tolerant.”

Dozens of Arab students live in dormitories, although they are typically not assigned Jewish roommates.

HARD DECISIONS

The students, many of whom struggle with the political implications of their choice of school, say they often feel uneasy about their decision to study in Ariel. The World Court has branded settlements as illegal and Palestinians see them as a main obstacle to peacemaking.

“I am Israeli, definitely Muslim, Arab and Palestinian. It is a difficult identity,” said Mahmoud Hamash, a third year criminology student from the Arab town of Jisr al-Zarqa. “As an Israeli it is OK to study here, but not as a Palestinian.”

Others said they could feel tensions under the surface, but felt that with the Palestinian uprising fading, they could afford to study in Ariel.

“Now it is calm. If the situation were more tense, then I would choose to study in Jerusalem,” said Majdi Hussein. But he said an October suicide bombing in Israel had raised tensions.

“When I come on the bus there are many soldiers. If I speak in Arabic with my friend, they stare at me like they want to kill me,” he said.

Rifaat Sweidan, who advises Arab students, says he has received no specific complaints of harassment or racism although some do face academic difficulties.

“Maybe if an Arab student walked in Ariel, below us, it would be a problem. But not at the college,” he said. “In an academic institution, people are used to hearing Arabic.”

Some Jewish Israeli students on campus said they appreciated interacting with Arabs. But others said they were perplexed as to why the school would want to welcome them.

“I had two Arabs in my class. They didn’t talk much. We don’t have anything to talk about,” said Ravital Sabag, a recent criminology graduate, as she sat outside a campus cafeteria. “I think it is not good to bring more Arabs. I don’t trust them.”

Her friend Gali Mark, also a recent graduate, said she also did not want more Arabs to enroll. If they do, she said: “Jewish people won’t come here to study.”


Al Jazeera.net: As Saddam’s trial resumes, Palestinians cheer him as a hero

December 07, 2005

* “Saddam will be back in power, just you wait,” Ramallah cafe owner Abu Zaid tells al Jazeera

* “Saddam is the most honorable of the Arab leaders and that’s why the Americans want to get rid of him and execute him. I just hope that they are not going to succeed” -- Khalil Abddin, a Palestinian

 

CONTENTS

1. “U.S. angry at Algeria for blocking U.N. statement condemning Islamic Jihad for Israeli suicide bombing” (AP, Dec. 7, 2005)
2. “Palestinians cheer Saddam as a hero” (Al Jazeera, Dec. 7, 2005)
3. “Sharon presses for fence across Sinai” (Daily Telegraph, Dec. 7, 2005)
4. “Palestinian soccer union plans to punish ‘Peace Team’ players” (Reuters, Dec. 7, 2005)
5. “Likud chairman defects to Sharon’s new party” (Reuters, Dec. 6, 2005)
6. “Clashes in Egyptian vote after Islamist gains” (Reuters, Dec. 7, 2005)
7. “First ‘labradoodles’ born in Israel” (By DPA, Dec. 7, 2005)
8. “Denmark’s offensive Jewish cookies” (EJP, Dec. 6, 2005)


Below are eight articles from the international media today. There are summaries first for those who don’t have time to read them in full.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

ALGERIA BLOCKS U.N. STATEMENT CONDEMNING ISLAMIC JIHAD FOR NETANYA BOMBING

“U.S. angry at Algeria for blocking U.N. statement condemning Islamic Jihad for Israeli suicide bombing” (The Associated Press, December 7, 2005)

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton criticized Algeria yesterday for blocking a U.N. Security Council statement blaming Islamic Jihad for a suicide bombing in Israel [on Monday in the coastal city of Netanya] and urging Syria to shut the militant group’s offices in Damascus.

… It was a rare outburst by Bolton against a fellow member of the Security Council, and drew a strong rebuke from Algeria’s U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Baali who complained that the American envoy’s “take it or leave it” approach went against the council’s give-and-take tradition of doing business.

… Bolton said “Algeria objected to the reference to Syria and to the reference to Palestinian Islamic Jihad” even though the group claimed responsibility for the attack and the Palestinians said the orders came from Damascus… Bolton said there was “nothing left to negotiate” so he decided to act alone and read the statement to reporters on behalf of the United States…

 

“SADDAM IS THE MOST HONOURABLE OF THE ARAB LEADERS”

“Palestinians cheer Saddam as a hero” (Al Jazeera, December 7, 2005)

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein remains a heroic figure in much of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, whose residents remember him as a rare example of an Arab leader who was prepared to challenge both the United States and Israel…

“I had even more yesterday than today because people are beginning to be a little sceptical about the fairness of the court,” said Ramallah cafe owner Abu Zaid on the second full day of the trial…

With his trial over the execution of 148 people being broadcast live on satellite television throughout the Arab world, viewers in Abu Zaid’s packed cafe are not about to turn their backs on a man who was widely feared in other parts of the region.

Sharif Mahmud, a customer at the neighbouring Cafe Palestine, agreed that the trial was “a farce”. “It’s the Americans and not the Iraqi people who are judging Saddam,” he said. “During yesterday’s hearing, for example, he was not given enough time to speak…

Khalil Abddin, another customer at the Cafe Palestine, said: What kind of law is it that allows testimony from a witness who was 15 at the time of these alleged events.”

“Saddam is the most honourable of the Arab leaders,” he added.

 

£200 MILLION SECURITY FENCE “TO BE BUILT ACROSS SINAI”

“Sharon presses for fence across Sinai” (By Tim Butcher, The Daily Telegraph, December 7, 2005)

Palestinian incursions into Israel across its Sinai Desert border with Egypt have led to a plan for a £200 million security fence.

Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, angered by his army’s failure to stop the raids, has ordered his cabinet to consider the plan urgently. If it goes ahead, it will seal off the last big gap in Israel’s perimeter, effectively surrounding the country with a ring of steel…

With its troops no longer guarding Gaza’s border with Egypt after this summer’s Israeli withdrawal, Mr Sharon is worried that terrorists from Gaza can slip into Egypt and cut through the Sinai. They can then double back, using Bedouin smugglers to guide them across the border into Israel, carrying weapons and explosives. Israeli forces caught three members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and their Bedouin escort last month. Many more are likely to have got through…

If the plan for a fence is approved, it will block the overland route used for millennia by people leaving Africa. Israeli patrols often pick up African economic migrants wandering in the Sinai Desert. Thousands of years ago it was the route used by Moses and the Jewish tribes leaving Egypt in search of the Promised Land.

 

TZACHI HANEGBI JOINS KADIMA

“Likud chairman defects to Sharon’s new party” (Reuters, December 7, 2005)

[For space reasons, only a summary of this article is attached in this dispatch]

An opponent of Israel’s Gaza withdrawal who took over as Likud leader after Ariel Sharon quit the party joined the prime minister’s new Kadima faction on Wednesday in a surprise move ahead of the March election.

Israeli political commentators said Tzachi Hanegbi’s defection dealt another blow to the Likud, already trailing Kadima and the centre-left Labour Party in opinion polls.

Hanegbi, long a pillar of Likud’s right wing, could help Sharon appease rightists who may have been alienated by the prime minister’s recruitment of former Labour chief Shimon Peres…

“I believe that when hard decisions are needed... (Sharon) is the man I can trust,” Hanegbi said…

An opinion poll published on Wednesday, two days after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed five Israelis outside a shopping mall, showed Kadima maintaining its lead over Labour and Likud, indicating Sharon was on course to win a third term. The Teleseker survey in Maariv newspaper gave Kadima 39 seats in the 120-member parliament, unchanged from a poll last week. Labour was forecast to win 24 seats, down from 26 a week earlier. Likud which took 40 seats in the last election, in 2003, garnered 13 seats in the poll, up from 11 last week.

 

“PALESTINIAN SOCCER UNION TO PUNISH “PEACE TEAM” PLAYERS”

“Palestinian soccer union plans to punish ‘Peace Team’ players” (Reuters, December 7, 2005)

[For space reasons, only a summary of this article is attached in this dispatch]

The Palestinian FA plans to punish players under its jurisdiction for participating alongside Israelis in a “Peace Match” in Barcelona, an official said on Wednesday. A ‘Peace Team’ of Israeli and Palestinian players lost 2-1 to Barcelona at the Nou Camp last week in front of 31,820 spectators, including many dignitaries.

“The Palestinian FA will form a committee to investigate the players who participated in the match ... everyone involved will be punished,” senior FA official Jamal Zaqout told Reuters.

… Fifteen Israelis, including many internationals and 12 Palestinians from the occupied West Bank joined up for the match sponsored by Israeli statesman Shimon Peres’ Center for Peace foundation.

Zaqout, who is based in the Gaza Strip, said the five West Bank players who competed, including national team member Khaldon Fahd would be subject to the investigation.

… A Peres Center spokeswoman said the Palestinian FA’s reaction was “irresponsible and annoying.” … “The match in Barcelona was an unprecedented event in which we managed to convey to the world the message of peace and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians,” she said…

 

CLASHES IN EGYPTIAN VOTE FOLLOWING MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD GAINS

“Clashes in Egyptian vote after Islamist gains” (Reuters, December 7, 2005)

Police fired teargas and rubber bullets to stop many Egyptians voting in the last round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections on Wednesday, repeating what Islamists say are tactics to limit their startling gains.

President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party has maintained a big lead in voting that began on Nov. 9, but the Muslim Brotherhood has surprised the country by already winning 76 out of the assembly’s 454 seats, five times its previous tally.

The Brotherhood, which fields candidates as independents because the government bans it from forming a party, has said it expects to add 15 to 20 seats on Wednesday to its total. Rights groups have accused the authorities of widespread abuses, including blocking access to polling stations, vote-buying and fabricating results…

In the Nile Delta town of Badawi, one of the seats where the Brotherhood was competing against Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP), youths near a polling station hurled rocks at a cordon of police who fired teargas and rubber bullets back…

In another Delta town, Zagazig, police prevented about 200 veiled women from voting, dragging one woman back by her clothes when she broke through their cordon. “There is no democracy. They don’t want to let us in,” Amal Salim said as she waited in the street.

Similar scenes were repeated elsewhere…

 

SIX “LABRADOODLES” BORN IN ISRAEL

“First ‘labradoodles’ born in Israel” (By DPA, December 7, 2005)

An Israeli dog breeder has succeeded in mating a poodle with a Labrador to produce the country’s first ‘labradoodles’, a newspaper reported. The six animals, born Monday, are intended to serve blind people who want a guide dog which does not shed hair and cost $1,000, the Israeli Ma’ariv daily said…

“This is good news for blind people, especially those who are allergic to dogs,” dog trainer Uri Beckerman, who succeeded in breeding the Israeli labradoodles, said. “The dogs are especially popular in the United States; they combine the robust character of a Labrador with the sensitivity of a poodle – a characteristic which is very important for people who need a guide dog,” he said.

 

DANISH MUSLIMS REFUSE TO EAT “JEWISH” COOKIES

“Denmark’s offensive Jewish cookies” (By Yigal Romm, European Jewish Press, December 6, 2005)

A group of Danish Muslims refuse to eat traditional “Jewish” cookies because they feel offended by the name.

According to the daily Danish newspaper B.T., Ole Poulsen, head of the public food consumer department said that the Muslim refusal to buy the cookies could have an effect on sales. “If this will be the case, then we would be obliged to do something about it,” he declared. He added that changing the product name was a possibility…

Jewish cookies, which are made with cinnamon and hazelnuts and actually have nothing particularly Jewish about them, are very popular in Denmark during the pre-Christmas period… Most of Denmark’s “Jewish” cookies are not kosher and they are therefore not consumed by a large part of the Jewish population.



FULL ARTICLES

ALGERIA BLOCKS U.N. STATEMENT ON ISLAMIC JIHAD NETANYA BOMBING

U.S. angry at Algeria for blocking U.N. statement condemning Islamic Jihad for Israeli suicide bombing
The Associated Press
December 7, 2005

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton criticized Algeria for blocking a U.N. Security Council statement blaming Islamic Jihad for a suicide bombing in Israel and urging Syria to shut the militant group’s offices in Damascus.

Algeria’s U.N. Ambassador Abdallah Baali accused the American envoy of being “totally inaccurate and unfair.”

It was a rare outburst by Bolton against a fellow member of the Security Council, and drew a strong rebuke from Baali who complained Tuesday that the American envoy’s “take it or leave it” approach went against the council’s give-and-take tradition of doing business.

Bolton said the United States had drafted a statement for the Security Council to adopt on Monday’s suicide bombing in the coastal city of Netanya which killed five Israelis and injured more than 35 others. It was the fifth since Israel and the Palestinians forged a cease-fire in February and Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for all of them, saying its attacks are in response to Israeli violations of the truce.

The draft U.S. press statement “unequivocally” condemned the terrorist attack, denounced all acts of terrorism and urged all parties to exercise restraint. It urged the Syrian government to take immediate action to close the offices of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and “prevent the use of its territory by armed groups engaged in terrorist acts,” and support progress on the so-called road map to Middle East peace.

Bolton said “Algeria objected to the reference to Syria and to the reference to Palestinian Islamic Jihad” even though the group claimed responsibility for the attack and the Palestinians said the orders came from Damascus.

“We are simply not going to accept watering down of Security Council press statements, and failing to name the names of the people responsible, in this case for terrorist attacks,” he said.

Bolton said there was “nothing left to negotiate” so he decided to act alone and read the statement to reporters on behalf of the United States.

Baali strongly disagreed with Bolton, saying the United States wanted the text adopted without any discussion. When Algeria, Russia and others proposed amendments and asked for a meeting of council experts to discuss the draft, he said, the United States withdrew it.

“I think the attitude of the United States is take it or leave it,” Baali said. He said Bolton’s claim that Algeria opposed references to Syria and Islamic Jihad were “not true.”

“We didn’t even have the opportunity to discuss it,” Baali said. “We had no chance to express our views, and I am confident if we had had such a meeting we would have been able to come up with a balanced text. This is the way the Security Council ... has always functioned.”

The U.S. stand that “you take it or you leave it is not helping the Security Council, and is not helping the cause of peace in the Middle East,” he said.

 

“SADDAM IS THE MOST HONOURABLE OF THE ARAB LEADERS”

Palestinians cheer Saddam as a hero
Al Jazeera
December 7, 2005

english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/A96C3D13-8A14-480B-B9A7-D3712D082EB4.htm

Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein remains a heroic figure in much of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, whose residents remember him as a rare example of an Arab leader who was prepared to challenge both the United States and Israel.

“He’ll be back in power, just you wait,” says Abu Zaid, the owner of a cafe in Ram Allah. Like many other Palestinians, he is keenly following Saddam Hussein’s trial.

And with his trial over the execution of 148 people being broadcast live on satellite television throughout the Arab world, viewers in Abu Zaid’s packed cafe are not about to turn their backs on a man who was widely feared in other parts of the region.

“I had even more yesterday than today because people are beginning to be a little sceptical about the fairness of the court,” said Abu Zaid on the second full day of the trial.

Seated on wooden seats in a room shrouded in the smoke of Narjila (hubble-bubble water pipe), dozens of people could be seen on Tuesday transfixed by the events in Baghdad, where harrowing testimony was followed by more defiance from the defendant.

Shouting at the trial judge from the dock, the deposed president proclaimed that “the Americans and the Israelis want the execution of Saddam Hussein”.

And Abu Zaid pointed out: “If Saddam is being tried for having killed those who tried to assassinate him, then why not put America on trial seeing as it has killed many more Iraqis than Saddam.”

Sharif Mahmud, a customer at the neighbouring Cafe Palestine, agreed that the trial was “a farce”.

“It’s the Americans and not the Iraqi people who are judging Saddam,” he said. “During yesterday’s hearing, for example, he was not given enough time to speak - unlike the witnesses.”

Saddam and seven of his deputies face the death penalty by hanging if convicted of the 1982 killings in Dujail, which followed an attempt by residents of the Shia village to assassinate the then Iraqi president.

The court heard harrowing yet at times confusing testimony on Tuesday from one woman who spoke of how she was jailed for four years and beaten by intelligence agents in the early 1980s when she was a teenager.

Khalil Abddin, another customer at the Cafe Palestine, said: What kind of law is it that allows testimony from a witness who was 15 at the time of these alleged events.”

“Saddam is the most honourable of the Arab leaders and that’s why the Americans want to get rid of him and execute him,” he added. “I just hope that they are not going to succeed.”

Other Palestinians have been closely following events in local newspapers, which have also provided comprehensive coverage.

Pointing to a photograph of Saddam in the dock, taxi driver Hamid Saqr said he was outraged by such an image.

“It is undignified that a president such as Saddam Hussein should be shown in such a state.”

 

£200 MILLION SECURITY FENCE TO BE BUILT ACROSS SINAI

Sharon presses for fence across Sinai
By Tim Butcher in the Sinai Desert
The Daily Telegraph
December 7, 2005

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/12/07/wmid07.xml

Palestinian incursions into Israel across its Sinai Desert border with Egypt have led to a plan for a £200 million security fence.

Ariel Sharon, the prime minister, angered by his army’s failure to stop the raids, has ordered his cabinet to consider the plan urgently. If it goes ahead, it will seal off the last big gap in Israel’s perimeter, effectively surrounding the country with a ring of steel.

The scale of the Sinai security problem is all too evident, with an old, rusty fence swamped by shifting sand dunes. A bored Egyptian border guard steps over the fence, illegally entering Israel, for a chat.

“The fence is nothing,” Samir says. “We have been told to stop people crossing but at night the frontier is too long and we are too few to make any difference.”

The smuggling of cigarettes and other contraband, often on camels ridden by Bedouins whose tribal lands straddle the border, has been a long-term problem. But the recent arrest of three terrorist suspects from Gaza as they crossed the Sinai has raised the security threat dramatically.

Recent wars have ensured that Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria are heavily fortified and monitored by United Nations peacekeepers.

Israel has a peace treaty with Jordan and the border is well guarded to stop incursions by Palestinians from the kingdom’s population of 2.6 million refugees. The border with Gaza is protected by a sophisticated fence and the controversial West Bank barrier will be completed within months.

With its troops no longer guarding Gaza’s border with Egypt after this summer’s Israeli withdrawal, Mr Sharon is worried that terrorists from Gaza can slip into Egypt and cut through the Sinai. They can then double back, using Bedouin smugglers to guide them across the border into Israel, carrying weapons and explosives. Israeli forces caught three members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and their Bedouin escort last month. Many more are likely to have got through.

The threat risks ending the tranquil atmosphere of the few Israeli settlements that dot the desert frontier. In Ezuz, a tiny community of 15 families set up in the early 1980s next to an ancient oasis known as the Spring of Moses, there has been a clear change of mood.

“We have had smugglers through this area as long as we have been here,” said Celia Friede, 47, a white Kenyan who chose to live in Ezuz because it reminded her of her desert childhood in east Africa. “It was all a bit of fun, really, like the time we stood on the hill and watched the police chase a jeep loaded with marijuana. We all caught a big whiff as it roared by in a cloud of dust.”

But she said that since Israel completed its withdrawal from Gaza in September the number of security alerts and Israeli border patrols had increased.

Mrs Friede’s husband, Dror, said: “The smugglers are business people, after all, and if all of a sudden it is more profitable for them to smuggle Palestinians across this border rather than cigarettes, it is inevitable they will smuggle Palestinians.”

Israeli soldiers and border police have stepped up patrols, using Bedouin trackers to look for camel spoor and other trails in the sand to lead them to smugglers. But the border is 220 miles long and cannot be sealed completely.

If the plan for a fence is approved, it will block the overland route used for millennia by people leaving Africa. Israeli patrols often pick up African economic migrants wandering in the Sinai Desert.

Thousands of years ago it was the route used by Moses and the Jewish tribes leaving Egypt in search of the Promised Land.

 

CLASHES IN EGYPTIAN VOTE FOLLOWING MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD GAINS

Clashes in Egyptian vote after Islamist gains
Reuters
December 7, 2005

Police fired teargas and rubber bullets to stop many Egyptians voting in the last round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections on Wednesday, repeating what Islamists say are tactics to limit their startling gains.

President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party has maintained a big lead in voting that began on Nov. 9, but the Muslim Brotherhood has surprised the country by already winning 76 out of the assembly’s 454 seats, five times its previous tally.

The Brotherhood, which fields candidates as independents because the government bans it from forming a party, has said it expects to add 15 to 20 seats on Wednesday to its total. Rights groups have accused the authorities of widespread abuses, including blocking access to polling stations, vote-buying and fabricating results.

The United States has toughened previously mild criticism of how Egypt was conducting the vote, saying events raised concerns about the path of reforms in one of its key Middle East allies.

The government has pledged to hold free and fair elections, and in previous rounds has blamed the Brotherhood for violence.

In the Nile Delta town of Badawi, one of the seats where the Brotherhood was competing against Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP), youths near a polling station hurled rocks at a cordon of police who fired teargas and rubber bullets back.

A Reuters witness saw several people hurt by the bullets, which caused bruising and bleeding where they hit exposed skin.

Mohamed Foda, 22, who was bleeding from his head, told Reuters: “We were here since 7 o’clock waiting to vote. They didn’t let us vote. People got angry and started throwing rocks. The police fired teargas and rubber bullets.”

In another Delta town, Zagazig, police prevented about 200 veiled women from voting, dragging one woman back by her clothes when she broke through their cordon.

“There is no democracy. They don’t want to let us in,” Amal Salim said as she waited in the street.

Similar scenes were repeated elsewhere. Police seized ladders from voters trying to climb into a polling station in the Kafr el-Sheikh area, human rights group Sawasya reported.

“They are preventing voters reaching the ballot boxes so that the result will not be positive (for the Brotherhood),” Brotherhood spokesman Badr Mohamed Badr said.

In Qaleen, a police officer said he was stopping voters because of earlier fighting, but the judge inside the empty polling station said he had heard no disturbance. “There has been no trouble whatsoever,” Judge Bahaeddin Shawky said.

Voting has been staggered across the country so that judges can monitor polling. About 11,000 judicial personnel are monitoring the process, but judges in charge have no say beyond the confines of the polling stations.

In previous rounds, voters also clashed with riot police. Three people have been killed in the elections so far.

The United States has toughened its stance on Egypt in response to the clashes and after authorities detained former presidential candidate Ayman Nour during his trial on forgery charges, which Nour says are politically motivated.

“We’ve seen a number of developments over the past couple of weeks during the parliamentary elections that raise serious concerns about the path of liberal reform in Egypt,” deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said on Tuesday.

Voting had been due to take place for 127 seats but legal disputes over last week’s results delayed voting in some areas, the Brotherhood and a rights group said.

Secular opposition parties have been the biggest losers, securing only a few seats, leaving the NDP on the verge of winning two-thirds to retain control of the constitution.

 

SIX “LABRADOODLES” BORN IN ISRAEL

First ‘labradoodles’ born in Israel
By DPA (German Press Agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur)
December 7, 2005

news.webindia123.com/news/showdetails.asp?id=183752&cat=Asia

An Israeli dog breeder has succeeded in mating a poodle with a Labrador to produce the country’s first ‘labradoodles’, a newspaper reported.

The six animals, born Monday, are intended to serve blind people who want a guide dog which does not shed hair and cost $1,000, the Israeli Ma’ariv daily said.

The first labradoodles were bred in Australia in the late 1980s, after research from the US showed the main problem people had with guide dogs was the amount of hair shed, a problem especially acute with Labradors.

“This is good news for blind people, especially those who are allergic to dogs,” dog trainer Uri Beckerman, who succeeded in breeding the Israeli labradoodles, said.

“The dogs are especially popular in the United States; they combine the character of a Labrador with the sensitivity of a poodle,” he said.

“The Labrador is a clever dog which loves to work but is very robust in its behaviour. The poodle, on the other hand, is sensitive and does not go wild - a characteristic which is very important for people who need a guide dog,” he said.

 

DANISH MUSLIMS REFUSE TO EAT “JEWISH” COOKIES

Denmark’s offensive Jewish cookies
By Yigal Romm in Copenhagen
European Jewish Press
December 6, 2005

www.ejpress.org/article/news/4479

A group of Danish Muslims refuse to eat traditional “Jewish” cookies because they feel offended by the name.

According to the daily Danish newspaper B.T., Ole Poulsen, head of the public food consumer department said that the Muslim refusal to buy the cookies could have an effect on sales.

“If this will be the case, then we would be obliged to do something about it,” he declared.

He added that changing the product name was a possibility, as had in the past been done with the “Negroes’ kiss” cakes, which were rebranded with a more neutral name.

Jewish cookies, which are made with cinnamon and hazelnuts and actually have nothing particularly Jewish about them, are very popular in Denmark during the pre-Christmas period.

Denmark’s chief rabbi, Bent Lexner, said that he did not see any problem in a name change.

“There is nothing Jewish in it and I wouldn’t mind another name, but I think that it would be better to educate Muslims to respect the culture of the majority in Denmark, if they want the majority to respect their culture”.

Most of Denmark’s “Jewish” cookies are not kosher and they are therefore not consumed by a large part of the Jewish population.


Abbas approves assistance to “martyrs” and then condemns suicide bomb

December 06, 2005

* This dispatch contains a mixture of items relating to Middle East politics

CONTENTS

1. Kaare Kristiansen dies
2. “A mother weeps”
3. Preventing a much bigger tragedy
4. The real victims
5. Bomber “fooled” by Islamic Jihad
6. Gun battle in Jenin after suicide celebration
7. Abbas approves assistance to “martyrs” and then condemns suicide bomb
8. Palestinian Authority continues to glorify terrorists
9. Pope given a Palestinian passport
10. Palestinians fire longer-range missiles into Israel

11. Israel unable to stop Iran nukes
12. The Islam channel’s peace and unity conference in London
13. W.H. Smith sells hate books alongside Harry Potter
14. Osama Bin Laden tried to recruit Robert Fisk
15. Sa’ad Hariri supports Hizbullah
16. “Pak-Israel friendship association” launched
17. “Coalition of the Shilling” (By Mark Steyn, National Review, Dec. 19 2005 edition)



[Note by Tom Gross]

KAARE KRISTIANSEN DIES

Kaare Kristiansen, the Norwegian politician who resigned from the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in 1994 to protest the decision to award that year’s prize to Yasser Arafat, has died at the age of 85. Kristiansen accused the Palestinian leader of being “tainted with violence, terrorism and bloodshed.”

In December 1994, on a visit to Jerusalem, Kristiansen called an impromptu press conference at the Hilton Hotel, “to apologize to the people of Israel” for the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize was being awarded to Arafat.

“Arafat had yet to speak a word of peace and reconciliation to his own people in their own language,” said Kristiansen, a Norwegian Christian, who announced he was resigning for the Nobel Prize Committee in protest.

In the years that followed, on several occasions he called upon the Nobel Peace Prize Committee to “publicly deplore” its decision to grant Arafat the peace prize, which he said had now been debased for ever.

Last year, following Arafat’s death, Kristiansen warned Israelis about repeating the same mistakes they had made in the mid-90s, saying they should not be over-optimistic about the extent to which Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, genuinely wanted long-term coexistence with Israel.

(For more on Kaare Kristiansen, please see the dispatch “Former Nobel Committee member: Revoke Arafat’s prize,” December 5, 2001.)

“A MOTHER WEEPS”

I wasn’t going to write about yesterday’s suicide bomb in the coastal city of Netanya because I thought other media would report on it, and report on it accurately. But the media today, particularly in Europe, have not.

Some media today ignore it completely. For example, the leading French newspaper Le Monde, as far as I could tell from reading the paper twice today, ignores the Netanya bomb completely. (In the midst of the rioting throughout France last month, Le Monde ran length two-and-half page spreads attacking Israel, both on the front page and inner pages – devoting more space to this one day than to the rioting sweeping France.)

Other European papers today mention the Netanya bomb in only one line – for example Mlada Fronta Dnes, a leading newspaper in the Czech Republic, a new European Union member state.

And other papers, while reporting on the bomb, focus sympathetically on the bomber’s mother, while all but ignoring the victims or their relatives. The (London) Daily Telegraph, for example, run photos not just of the “proud” bomber, but of his mother, with the seemingly sympathetic caption that she “weeps for the son she lost”. BBC online, in their article titled “Israel raids follow blast,” also run a picture of Abu Saada’s weeping family, and not the victim’s mothers.

Both the BBC website and the CNN correspondent John Vause on air, repeatedly said yesterday (the BBC in the article and in a special box) that only “two people” were killed in the suicide attack on the same Netanya shopping mall last July. In fact five people (including two 16-year-old girls, and a women aged 31) were killed in that attack, including one of the “Forgotten Rachels”. This is the kind of “mistake” made daily by the BBC and CNN, when reporting on Israel. That both organizations made the same mistake suggests they are parroting the inaccurate reporting of news agencies such as Reuters, as if that reporting were fair and accurate and did not need checking.

PREVENTING A MUCH BIGGER TRAGEDY

Yesterday’s suicide bomber attack outside a busy shopping center, which killed five Israelis and injured over 60, would have been much worse had the bomber not been spotted by Shoshi Atiya, a pregnant Israeli policewoman, who shouted at security guards not to let him enter the mall.

Ms. Atiya said she shouted: “Terrorist, terrorist! Then people started running, crossing the street, running in every direction.”

“I shouted and looked straight into his eyes at the moment when the bomb went off,” she added as she recovered from her injuries in a hospital bed.

She said: “One of the security guards in the mall held his shoulder and I shouted ‘forget the shoulder, grab his hand’ because I saw he was holding it inside the bag.” The security guard (Haim Amram) along with four shoppers were killed by the 15lb of high explosive.

The glass-and-marble facade of the shopping mall was stained with swirls of blood as far as 60 feet from the site of the explosion. Body parts were found as far as 300 feet away. But then most European newspaper readers today won’t know that.

THE REAL VICTIMS

The dead were:

Kinan Tzuami, 20, had traveled from Petah Tikva to eat at the mall. When Kinan and his friends were leaving the mall he remembered that he has left his drink behind. His friend went to get the drink and moments later the explosion took place.

Eliyah Rosen, 38, a mother of three children aged 12, 9, and 5. She had traveled to the mall to buy new clothes in preparation for her new job as a Projects manager.

Alexandra Grimatzky, 65, immigrated to Israel from the Ukraine in 1997. She leaves behind an only son.

Daniel Golani, 45, of Nahariya, who is survived by his daughters, aged 14 and 17.

Haim Amram, 26, of Netanya, who is credited with bravely saving the lives of many innocent people yesterday.

BOMBER “FOOLED” BY ISLAMIC JIHAD

The family of the suicide bomber, Lotfi Amin Abu Saada, 21, has claimed that Islamic Jihad tricked him into blowing himself up.

His mother said “My son is a poor soul. He doesn’t know anything about this, he was never jailed and he never participated in demonstrations.”

A senior al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade commander (the military wing of Fatah) last night also welcomed the suicide bombing, describing it as “an act of heroic martyrdom”.

GUN BATTLE IN JENIN AFTER SUICIDE CELEBRATION

Last night Islamic Jihad held a “victory celebration” rally in Jenin. During the rally clashes erupted between Palestinian Authority police and Islamic Jihad members.

Reports suggest armed locals fired at Palestinian police officers who had tried to prevent them from publicly celebrating the suicide bombing, fearing film of such celebrations might find their way onto international networks which are not completely anti-Israel, such as Fox news.

After past terror attacks inside Israel, groups of Palestinians have been filmed taking to the streets in celebration and handing out chocolate and candies to well-wishers.

ABBAS APPROVES ASSISTANCE TO “MARTYRS” AND THEN CONDEMNS SUICIDE BOMB

According to the Palestinian newspaper al-Haya al-Jadidha, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has approved budgetary assistance to the families of suicide bombers.

Each “martyr’s” family will receive a monthly stipend of at least $250 from the Palestinian Authority (a not inconsiderable amount for many Palestinians). The budget for families of martyrs, prisoners and the wounded could reach $100 million, according to al-Haya al-Jadidha.

Abbas condemned yesterday’s suicide bomb, saying it “causes great damage to our commitment to the peace process,” and that it “harmed Palestinian interests” at the present time. He did not say that murdering people is wrong.

It is thought that 30 per cent of the Palestinian Authority budget comes from international donations, including a hefty amount from European Union taxpayers. Ian Solomon, a subscriber to this email list, asks: “If the situation were reversed and the Israeli government funded stipends to the families of the London Underground bombers, I think that would be pretty big news.”

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY CONTINUES TO GLORIFY TERRORISTS

Whilst some western media were quick to emphasize the condemnation of the Netanya suicide bomb by Mahmoud Abbas and by Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority continues to glorify terrorists.

Al-Moayed Bihokmillah Al-Agha murdered five Israelis in a suicide attack in December 2004 at the Rafah crossing. Yet when the Rafah crossing was re-opened last week, the Palestinian Authority renamed it “in honor of Shahid (martyr) Al-Agha.”

Palestinian Media Watch comments that by erecting such a sign the PA sends a “powerful message to Palestinians, emphasizing once again that terrorists are heroes.”

A Fatah website still shows a clip of Al-Agha a year after the attack.

As noted in previous dispatches, this continues a pattern of glorifying terrorists by the official Palestinian leadership. For example, a soccer tournament is named after the suicide terrorist who murdered 31 people at a Passover celebration at the Park Hotel in Netanya. And a girls’ school near Hebron was named by the PA Ministry of Education after a woman terrorist who murdered 37 people, mainly Jews. A poetry collection by the PA Ministry of Culture is also named in honor of the suicide terrorist who killed 21 at a restaurant in Haifa.

If anyone wants to see the way in which a three and half year old girl is brainwashed to kill Jews they should watch this particularly shocking video from Memri:
http://tinyurl.com/dq2yr
Or at:
http://switch5.castup.net/frames/20041020_MemriTV_Popup/video_480x360.asp?ClipMediaID=90173&ak=null

POPE GIVEN A PALESTINIAN PASSPORT

During Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to the Vatican on Sunday, he presented Pope Benedict XVI with a Palestinian passport. The document was accompanied by an invitation to visit “Jerusalem and all the Holy Places.”

The passport, which was handed over during a 20-minute meeting, bore the name of the Vatican City. The 10-man Palestinian delegation also gave the pope a copper image of the Virgin Mary, wearing the traditional Palestinian headscarf (except they forgot to mention that it wasn’t traditional at the time that Mary, who was born a Jew, lived in ancient Israel.)

PALESTINIANS FIRE LONGER-RANGE MISSILES INTO ISRAEL

Palestinian militias have begun deploying and using an enhanced Kassam missile. Israeli military sources said the missile had a larger diameter and longer range than previous Kassams.

On Sunday, Palestinian terrorists fired at least six enhanced Kassam missiles from the northern Gaza Strip at villages in Israel which (while Israel had maintained a troop presence in Gaza) had been out of range of the previous type of Palestinian rockets. Officials said several of the missiles landed around the southern town of Netivot. At least one Israeli civilian was injured.

ISRAEL UNABLE TO STOP IRAN NUKES

Israel has been deemed as militarily incapable of halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program. A new report by the U.S. Army War College claims that Israel does not have the military capability to locate and destroy Iranian nuclear assets. The report said the Israel Air Force cannot operate at such long distances from its bases.

The report, titled “Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran,” says: “The Israeli Air Force has formidable capabilities but Israel has no aircraft carriers and it cannot use airbases in other Middle East states. Therefore its operational capabilities are reduced when the targets are located far from its territory.”

On Sunday, Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz warned that diplomatic pressure would not stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program, and that Iran would soon become a nuclear power

THE ISLAM CHANNEL’S PEACE AND UNITY CONFERENCE IN LONDON

I attach an email. The sender is usually reliable.

From: C (name withheld)
Sent: Monday, December 05, 2005 4:41 PM
Subject: The Islam Channel’s Peace and Unity Conference in London

I went to the ‘Peace and Unity Conference’ yesterday and last night in London. It was shocking and terrifying. It had been advertised as a celebration of the MiddleEastern/Asian community in music and culture, but was a disgraceful Jihadists’ rally.

25,000 angry young Muslims were whipped up to cries of ‘Allahu Akhbar’ by the likes of Yvonne Ridley, Imran Khan, various crazed Israel-loathing sheikhs and, of course, George Galloway.

One thing that shocked me most was Khan’s comment that poor Germany was so humiliated by Versailles that they could not be blamed for their rage, hence how can we condemn the 9/11 bombers? Even the organisers said into the mike after he had finished that they distanced themselves from his remark that ‘9/11 was a neocon conspiracy to have an excuse to start a new Crusade.’

A sheikh said that the greatest atrocity of the 20th century was ‘Jews from eighty countries being brought in 1947 to Palestine to drive Muslim brothers and sisters from their homes and to kill and torture them.’ He added that he can barely say the word ‘Israel,’ as such a country does not exist. All of this to ecstatic cries from the audience of mostly British-born young Muslims.

Gallloway exhorted the crowd to ‘riot on every street of Britain’ and Ridley defamed our fine British police force in ‘jackboot Britain.’

Horrible stuff.
Regards, C

W.H. SMITH SELLS HATE BOOKS ALONGSIDE HARRY POTTER

In the dispatch “London Mayor Ken Livingstone may be Jewish: ‘I could be a self-hater, couldn’t I?’” (November 30, 2005), it was reported that the website of British supermarket Tesco had been offering for sale several anti-Semitic and far right-publications.

It was revealed this week that another British high street giant, W.H. Smith, has also been selling anti-Semitic texts on its website. The books available included the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” and “The Jews and Their Lies.”

The W.H. Smith website offered more club card points to anyone who bought a version of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” than for the latest “Harry Potter” book.

Amazon.co.uk has decided to ignore the precedent set by Tesco and W.H. Smith (who have both now removed the offensive books), and is refusing to remove anti-Semitic books from its website. A spokesman for Amazon said “unless a title is illegal, our policy is to offer the widest selection of titles.”

OSAMA BIN LADEN TRIED TO RECRUIT ROBERT FISK

In an interview on Dec. 3 with the BBC, the Independent’s notorious award-winning journalist Robert Fisk, described how Osama Bin Laden attempted to recruit him.

Fisk told the BBC: “It was at the third meeting and when I arrived in his tent and he came over to me with a big smile which I didn’t like and said: ‘One of our brothers had a dream that you arrived on a horse dressed as a Muslim Imam and wearing a turban – this means you are a true Muslim.’

“I felt at once that he was trying to make a recruit of me and that he thought that because I was a fair reporter that he would be able to bring me across to his side. I was quite horrified by this and tried to think how best to reply, because after all I was surrounded by al-Qaeda people.

“What I said was: ‘I am not a Muslim. I am a journalist and my job is to tell the truth.’ He realised I was rejecting him and said: ‘But that is the same as being a good Muslim.’ I breathed a big sigh of relief.”

To see more on Osama bin Laden’s admiration for Robert Fisk, please see the dispatch “Osama Bin Laden praises Robert Fisk (& other items)” (November 4, 2004).

SA’AD HARIRI SUPPORTS HIZBULLAH

Sa’ad Hariri, the son of assassinated Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, has said he supports Hizbullah.

In an address to the Arab and World Media Conference in Dubai, Hariri said “Hizbullah fought and is still fighting the Israeli occupiers and I endorse that.” He went on to say that “there is a need to sit down with Hizbullah and tackle some internal issues.”

UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which was adopted by the United Nations Security Council on September 2, 2004, calls on all Lebanese militias (including Hizbullah) to disband.

“PAK-ISRAEL FRIENDSHIP ASSOCIATION” LAUNCHED

The offices of the “Pak-Israel Friendship Association” have been opened in Lahore. The President of the Association, Ghulam Gillani (who is an engineer) praised President Musharraf’s recent statements to support an independent, self-governed and sovereign Palestinian state.

Gillani also claimed high-ministerial relations with Israel would not effect Pakistan’s position on the Palestinian cause.

For more on Pakistan-Israel relations, please see the dispatch “President Musharraf to U.S. Jews: ‘Pakistan has no direct conflict with Israel’” (September 19, 2005)

I attach below an article by Mark Steyn from an upcoming print issue of the National Review. Steyn writes about “the grand harmonic convergence of all the world’s loser ideologies” against America since September 11, 2001.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLE

“THE GALLOWAY-DUKE ALLIANCE IS THE LITTLE LEAGUE VERSION OF THE HITLER-STALIN PACT”

Coalition of the Shilling
All of Bush’s detractors sound the same: crazy.
By Mark Steyn
This piece appears in the December 19, 2005, issue of The National Review

www.nationalreview.com/issue/steyn200512050820.asp

My enemy’s enemy is my friend. But America has so many enemies they must occasionally feel they’ve got way too many friends. Consider, for example, Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s President-for-Life, at least for another week or two. Back in his dad’s day, Syria got the kid-glove treatment from the world’s A-list suck-ups: When Hafez al-Assad expired, President Clinton said he was “saddened” by it, and offered his “condolences” to “the Syrian people.” At least he didn’t go to the funeral – Jacques Chirac did.

Alas, things have changed since Pop Assad’s day. Baby Assad, before his present eminence, was a London eye doctor, but you don’t have to be an ophthalmologist to see the writing on the wall. Instead of Clinton, Chirac, et al., he attracts George Galloway, British Member of Parliament and Saddamite shill. Speaking at the Assad National Library in Damascus in July, the British MP did his best to perk Junior up. In an interview afterward, Galloway said, “Syria is lucky to have Bashar al-Assad as her president.” All this went down so well they asked him back last month. And, speaking this time at Damascus University, he cooed, “All dignified people in the world, whether Arabs or Muslims or others with dignity, are very proud of the speech made by President Bashar al-Assad a few days ago here in Damascus.” I guess I missed that one.

But look who was also in town: my old friend David Duke. When I say “my old friend,” I don’t mean I’ve ever met the chap. But for some years I had several e-mail correspondents of a lefty persuasion who began with the assumption that I and other notorious right-wing extremists — John Ashcroft, Rush Limbaugh, George Bush the Elder, Olympia Snowe, David Gergen — were all buddies of David Duke’s, if not attached to him in a somewhat more vigorous manner.

Au contraire, he seems to have gone over to the Harold Pinter/Michael Moore side of things. In Damascus, speaking at the “Nation’s Tent” in Rawda Square, he took the line that any gush Galloway can get away with, he can gush away even better. “I have come to Syria to express my support to the Syrian people and their just stances,” he roared. “It’s the duty of every free man to reject the conspiracies and threats Syria is exposed to.” The free men of Syria would have risen to their feet, if there were any. Anyway, he was soon chattering away about America’s “Zionist-controlled mass media.”

Ever since September 11th, there’s been a grand harmonic convergence of all the world’s loser ideologies, from Islamic fundamentalism to Gallic condescension. By rights, a coalition that embraces hardline British socialists, American white supremacists, sophisticated European secularists, Neanderthal European fascists, misogynist Muslim theocrats, militant gay Canadians (really — he’s a guy named Svend Robinson, who for years has been the gay mascot of the Palestinian Authority) . . . by rights this crowd should be as fractious as they come. But apparently they all get along swimmingly.

As you know, because the media parrot it incessantly, there were no links between al-Qaeda and Saddam, because he’s a scrupulously secular Baathist and they’re Islamists. Good thing those pro-gay pro-feminist Eurolefties making common cause with honor-killing sodomite-beheaders don’t demand the same level of intellectual coherence from their own coalition that they do from the terrorists. Does George Galloway feel even a wee bit squeamish that his speeches are indistinguishable from David Duke’s?

Yet even in a coalition that looks like one massive malfunction at a computer-dating agency not all wackos are equal. Vanity Fair’s James Wolcott is happy to hail George Galloway as “A Hero For Our Time,” yet he’s unlikely ever to accord the same status to David Duke for saying exactly the same things. History repeats itself: The pass the Western Left got for supporting the tragedy of Communism is extended effortlessly to their support for the farce of Islamofascism — an enemy lacking even the dubious theoretical virtues of the Reds. But what does that matter? The Galloway-Duke alliance is the Little League version of the Hitler-Stalin pact, and they’ve got even bigger plans. As Galloway told his Syrian hosts:

“What your lives would be if from the Atlantic to the Gulf we had one Arab union — all this land, 300 million people, all this oil and gas and water, occupied by a people who speak the same language, follow the same religions, listen to the same Umm Kulthum.... The Arabs would be a superpower in the world if they had this unity, instead of the shameful situation in which the Arabs find themselves today. . . . Hundreds of thousands are ready to fight the Americans in the Middle East, and in Latin America there is revolution everywhere. Fidel Castro is feeling young again. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile are all electing left-wing governments that are challenging American domination. And in Venezuela, the hero Hugo Chavez has stood against them over and over and over again.”

Hey, and don’t forget Cindy Sheehan.

In the last 15 years we on the right were somehow prevailed upon to be awfully sporting about our friends on the left siding with the murderers and enslavers of half the world. Big mistake.


Sharon prepares to withdraw from “virtually all” the West Bank by 2008

December 02, 2005

* Israel will retain the Golan Heights for the time being

 

CONTENTS

1. Sharon prepares major withdrawal from the West Bank
2. Sharon says Israel will retain Golan
3. Moving forward
4. Sharon now holds eight ministerial portfolios
5. Peres leaves Labor after 61 years; backs Sharon
6. Gigi Peres compares Peretz to Franco
7. Peretz learns a new language – and it’s not English
8. Man bites dog; U.N. condemns Hizbullah…
9. … But Lebanese PM blames Israel for clashes
10. Europe’s first woman suicide bomber

11. Look who’s espousing democracy now
12. Fatah polls suspended due to fraud
13. Palestinian finance minister resigns
14. The Pope hosts Abbas this weekend
15. Hamas leader says he won’t renew truce
16. Israeli defense minister threatens to close Israel-Gaza crossings
17. Angela Merkel to visit Israel
18. Next year in Jerusalem: Depeche Mode, Eminem, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones
19. Ahmadinejad threatens “supporters of the Zionist entity”
20. Israel military Intel chief: Israel must act against Iran by April

21. “PM plans to draw ‘the final shape of Israel’” (Sunday Telegraph, Nov. 27, 2005)
22. “Israel: Time for changes on Lebanese front” (UPI, Nov. 25, 2005)
23. “Iran president warns ‘Zionist supporters’” (UPI, Nov. 26, 2005)



[Note by Tom Gross]

SHARON PREPARES MAJOR WITHDRAWAL FROM THE WEST BANK

According to Middle East Newsline, a relatively reliable source with good connections, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon is planning to withdraw from “virtually all” the West Bank by 2008. The report suggests that the politician known as the “bulldozer” has already begun briefing senior U.S. officials of his intentions.

The withdrawal will comprise more than 95 percent of West Bank territory. Sharon, who quit the ruling Likud Party on November 21, will seek a U.S. and international security presence in the area, according to reports. Israel will retain control over air space.

TG adds: Sharon’s decision to leave the Likud stems from his desire to bring the state of Israel to permanent borders before the end of his political career. Sharon is 77. The (London) Sunday Telegraph also contained a report (attached below) suggesting Sharon is “determined to set the country’s hitherto elastic frontiers in stone.”

SHARON SAYS ISRAEL WILL RETAIN GOLAN

Israel will not cede the Golan Heights to Syria, Ariel Sharon told reporters during a meeting in Tel Aviv yesterday. Sharon added that there are currently no negotiations between Jerusalem and Damascus. Israel will make further territorial concessions to the Palestinians, but none that threaten Israeli security, he said.

MOVING FORWARD

The extent to which Sharon will be able to carry out his plans, will depend largely on the success of Sharon’s new centrist party, Kadima (meaning “forward” in Hebrew), in the Israeli elections to be held on March 28, 2006.

Sharon has hinted that, unlike the Gaza disengagement, any withdrawal from the West Bank may not be made unilaterally. In yesterday’s meeting with journalists Sharon said “we do not consider another move in the vein of what we recently performed in the disengagement. The disengagement was meant to pave the way for a diplomatic solution in accordance with the roadmap.”

TG adds: Whatever Sharon says to placate the media now, the withdrawal is likely to be made unilaterally, albeit with security and logistical cooperation with leading elements in the Palestinian Authority.

SHARON NOW HOLDS EIGHT MINISTERIAL PORTFOLIOS

Since Sunday, following the departure of the Labor Party from his government, Ariel Sharon has been holding eight ministerial portfolios. The Labor Party took a sharp term leftwards with the election of militant trade union boss Amir Peretz as its new leader.

Sharon has taken over the following ministries from departed Labor colleagues: national infrastructure, communications, interior, housing and construction, environment, science and technology, and social welfare.

This strange situation will last until December 8 when the current government will become transitional and Sharon will be able to appoint ministers without Knesset approval.

At present, the Israeli government is now comprised of 12 ministers; six are considered to be Sharon’s supporters, and six have remained in the Likud.

PERES LEAVES LABOR AFTER 61 YEARS; BACKS SHARON

On Wednesday night, in what is being viewed as an historic realignment in Israeli politics, Shimon Peres announced that he was leaving the Labor Party and would back Ariel Sharon in the upcoming Israeli elections.

Peres, 82, had been a Labor Party member for 61 years. He has been in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) for a record 46 years – the longest for any democratically-elected politician in the world.

Peres, a former prime minister and Nobel peace prize winner who has held every major cabinet post, said “I held talks with him [Sharon] and I am convinced that he is determined to continue the peace process. I was informed that he is open to creative ideas to attain peace and security. I have decided to support him in the elections and to cooperate with him in attaining these goals.”

Although an odd political couple, Peres and Sharon have been good friends for many years. They maintained close contact, for example dining together during the 1980s and 1990s, when they were politically very far apart. (At the same time, Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, and Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu, were barely speaking to one another, despite being closer together politically.)

The Israeli papers have been unkind to Peres in recent days. Yediot Ahronoth called him “smug”, “tired” and a “dying power”. Peres maintains greater respect in Europe and the U.S. than he does in Israel.

A Ha’aretz poll published yesterday gave Sharon’s Kadima Party 47 per cent of the vote followed by Peretz’s Labor Party with 18.5 per cent.

Sharon has been picking up backing from other quarters over recent days – more than 70 mayors from both Labor and Likud have thrown their support behind him.

GIGI PERES COMPARES PERETZ TO FRANCO

Shimon Peres’s brother, Gigi Peres, said this week that Moroccan-born Labor leader Amir Peretz was a “foreign body” in Labor, along with his people “from North Africa”.

Gigi Peres added that Peretz took over the Labor Party the way dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco had taken over Spain in the 1930s.

He told Israeli Army Radio “Peretz and his people are a foreign body in the Labor Party, like General Franco in Spain… They were the Falangists who came from southern Spain who came to infiltrate as a fifth column into Madrid, and destroyed the magnificent republic.”

He continued his racist remarks: “This game is entirely clear – the One Nation people [the name of Peretz’s former party] came from North Africa, took over, and shot them in the back.”

Israel’s Labor Party is traditionally dominated by Israelis of Ashkenazi (European) origin. For decades, Labor has suffered from an image of an Ashkenazi-dominated party which treats Sephardi Jews with condescension and contempt.

Shimon Peres suffered a surprise defeat to Amir Peretz in the November 9 Labor leadership poll prompting Labor to pull out of the governing coalition.

PERETZ LEARNS A NEW LANGAUGE – AND IT’S NOT ENGLISH

Since Peretz became head of the Labor Party and aspired to become prime minister he has been criticized for his inability to speak English. Political satire shows on Israeli TV have mimicked his recent stuttering performances when trying to speak the language of Israel’s closest ally.

Yet in recent days Peretz has started to learn not English, but Russian. The new Labor leader seems to think that his lack of English does not matter unless he is elected and Israel’s large Russian sector is now an important factor in gaining election.

At present 94 percent of the Israeli-Russian electorate, highly suspicious of Peretz’s old-style socialism, say they will vote to keep him out of office.

Peretz has tried to rid himself of his hard-line image over the last two weeks, working to rejuvenate the floundering Labor Party, recruiting academics, a prominent journalist and a reclusive millionaire to join its parliamentary slate.

For more on Amir Peretz and Shimon Peres see the dispatch “Elections imminent as Shimon Peres ousted (& items on French riots, NY Times, Islam)” (November 10, 2005).

MAN BITES DOG; U.N. CONDEMNS HIZBULLAH

The United Nations Security Council has issued an unprecedented condemnation of Hizbullah, after the Lebanese terror group tried to kidnap three Israelis last week.

Amazingly, for once the U.N. told the truth, declaring that the incident had been instigated by Hizbullah, not Israel. It is thought that this decision is the direct result of the hard work done by the new American ambassador and Bush appointee to the U.N., John Bolton, who lobbied vigorously for this first ever condemnation of Hizbullah at the U.N.

At the funeral of three Hizbullah gunmen, returned by Israel following an unsuccessful kidnap attempt, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Nasrallah vowed to continue these attempts. He said “it’s our duty and our natural right” to do so.

Kofi Annan condemned the unprovoked attack by Hizbullah and accused the “Lebanon side” of having started the escalation.

The recent Hizbullah activity is thought to be aimed at easing international pressure on Syria over its involvement in the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

To see more on the assassination of Rafik Hariri please see the dispatch ‘Israel killed Hariri’: Latest Arab and Iranian conspiracy theory (February 15, 2005).

… BUT LEBANESE PM BLAMES ISRAEL FOR CLASHES

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora did not agree with the U.N. assessment. He said “Israeli breaches in the Lebanese airspace” caused the clashes. He added that tensions between Hizbullah and Israel were caused by “the continued occupation” of the Shebaa farms by the Israeli army [Mount Dov], a region under Syrian domination until 1967, which is now claimed by Hizbullah.

In January 2005, a U.N. Security Council resolution reasserted that the Lebanese claim to the Shebaa farms is “not compatible with Security Council resolutions.”

The article attached below suggests there is a changing atmosphere on the Lebanese front with Israel responding with “uncommon alacrity” in returning the three Hizbullah bodies so quickly for prompt Muslim burial.

EUROPE’S FIRST WOMAN SUICIDE BOMBER

According to De Standard, the main Flemish newspaper in Belgium, a woman suicide bomber who attempted to target a U.S. military convoy south of Baghdad on November 9 was from Brussels and named Murielle Degauque.

The 38-year-old Belgian-born covert to Islam may have caused up to six deaths according to media reports. She is believed to have converted to Islam after marrying a Moroccan Islamist radical.

A Belgian passport was found on her body with papers indicating she had entered Iraq via Turkey. Her husband is thought to have died in a separate attack. Her parents were from a middle-class district of Charleroi.

“This is our Belgian kamikaze killed in Iraq,” headlined the newspaper La Derniere Heure yesterday over a picture of a smiling girl looking into the camera. Neighbors said she was “nice”.

There have been several Palestinian women and teenage girls who have carried out and attempted to carry out suicide bomb attacks against Israeli men, women and children.

Around 10 percent of all suicide bombings the last 25 years from Sri Lanka to Tel Aviv have been carried out by women from the Middle East or Asia. This is, however, a first for a Western woman who has converted to Islam.

LOOK WHO IS ESPOUSING DEMOCRACY NOW

According to Jordan’s Al-Dustour daily, Iraqis have asked Saddam Hussein’s defense team to field the ousted dictator as a candidate for future elections.

“Iraqis have asked the defense team to study the legal conditions to present Saddam Hussein as a candidate for elections, first as an MP then as president,” former Qatari justice minister Najib al-Nuaimi told the paper on Wednesday. “If this contradicts the legal system then president Saddam will be nominated simply as a candidate.”

Nuaimi is among three foreign lawyers along with former US attorney general Ramsey Clark and Jordanian lawyer Issam Ghazzawi who were sworn in by the Iraqi court as members of Saddam’s defense at Monday’s hearing. “These Iraqis said ‘we have lost security after Saddam, how we wish he would return’,” Ghazzawi said.

Saddam and his co-accused have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and torture related to a massacre of Shiites in the town of Dujail in 1982. Saddam and the other defendants could face the death penalty if convicted.

FATAH POLLS SUSPENDED DUE TO FRAUD

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has suspended primary elections of his ruling Fatah party over widespread voting fraud, much of it carried out by Fatah officials.

The primaries, Fatah’s first, have been seen as a key step for Abbas to assert control since Israel’s Gaza pullout in September and to get his long-dominant party ready to face down a political challenge from the extremist Islamic group Hamas. Full Palestinian elections are scheduled in January.

Abbas’s failure to hold orderly primaries to pick his party’s candidates raised fresh questions about his chances of governing in a responsible or democratic manner, as many ordinary Palestinians would like him to do.

(The corrupt ethos of many in the Fatah party is still dominated by its former leader Yasser Arafat, the biggest fraud of all.)

PALESTINIAN FINANCE MINISTER RESIGNS

The Palestinian Finance Minister, Salam Fayyad, has resigned in frustration over the Palestinian Authority’s failure to deal with its enormous financial problems.

He was thought to be angered at the controversial wage increase for Palestinian Authority officials. This violated a promise to the World Bank not to raise salaries above their ability to pay.

Fayyad was perhaps the most respected Palestinian leader in the international community. The U.S. and European Union had forced Yasser Arafat to appoint Fayyad to take over finances to install some credibility to the Palestinian Authority.

THE POPE HOSTS ABBAS THIS WEEKEND

The Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is meeting Pope Benedict XVI in Rome this weekend. Abbas is expected to update the pontiff on political affairs and also to discuss the status of Christian holy sites in the Palestinian-controlled areas. The pope may visit the Holy Land next year.

HAMAS LEADER SAYS HE WON’T RENEW TRUCE

Speaking in Damascus to the Associated Press, the leader of Hamas said Wednesday that his group will not renew a “truce” with Israel when it expires at the end of the year.

Khalid Meshaal, whose group has carried out hundreds of murderous suicide attacks on Israelis over the years, also restated Hamas’ rejection of U.S. and Israeli demands to disarm.

“The resistance must go hand in hand with political work,” he said. “It is not accepted to pressure the resistance to choose between resistance and politics.”

To see an interview with Khalid Meshaal please see the dispatch Meshaal 1: Hamas leader speaks at length to BBC (April 20, 2004).

ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER THREATENS TO CLOSE ISRAEL-GAZA CROSSINGS

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz yesterday threatened to close the Erez and Karni crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip two days after it was revealed that an exiled Hamas fugitive had managed to re-enter Gaza from Egypt via the newly-reopened Rafah crossing point.

Fa’dil A-Zahhar apparently had no problem entering Gaza through the Rafah terminal on Tuesday, less than one week after it reopened under Palestinian control. Although Israel ultimately capitulated under intense American pressure, it had expressed its concern that terrorists and arms would enter into the Palestinian Authority through the now Palestinian-controlled Rafah.

Condoleezza Rice was widely criticized in Israel for the pressure she brought to bear on the Jewish state over this issue.

ANGELA MERKEL TO VISIT ISRAEL

The new German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Vice Israeli Prime Minister and Finance Minister Ehud Olmert that she would like to visit Israel soon. During a meeting at the Barcelona convention of European and Mediterranean leaders, Merkel told Olmert she may even visit before the Israeli elections in March,

The German leader also expressed admiration for what she called Ariel Sharon’s courage.

In reference to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Merkel added that “no tolerance” should be shown to those who threaten Israel’s existence.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE…

A report on Israeli Channel 2 television says that some top musical bands may also be visiting Israel in 2006. Depeche Mode, Eminem, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones could all be headed for the Jewish State.

It has also been announced that the French soccer team Paris St. Germain will play a friendly match in Israel against Betar Jerusalem. Diego Maradona, the vice-President of Argentinean club Boca Juniors, is also reportedly interested in bringing his team for a match against the Jerusalem team.

AHMADINEJAD THREATENS “SUPPORTERS OF THE ZIONIST ENTITY”

In the third and final article attached below, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues with the fiery rhetoric towards Israel, which has characterized his regime. This time he warned that Iranians will confront the “supporters of the Zionist entity,” who are “war criminals”.

Yesterday Ariel Sharon said of the Iranian nuclear situation: “Before anyone decides on a military step, every effort would be made to pressure Iran to halt this activity. It seems to me such efforts can be fruitful.”

He added: “I also accept what U.S. President Bush said, that Iran’s nuclear capabilities cannot be taken off the agenda. It is very much in the center of our attention, and I hope this activity would also bring things to a point whereby Iran faces the UN Security Council and this grave danger is handled.”

ISRAEL MILITARY INTEL CHIEF: MUST ACT AGAINST IRAN BY MARCH

The head of Israel’s military intelligence has told a parliamentary committee that if by March 2006 the international community has not reached an agreement with Iran that will end its nuclear program, diplomacy will be “pointless.”

Although Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash did not specifically mention military moves, members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee who heard his presentation said they believed he was advocating a military option as early as April.

Ze’evi-Farkash also revealed that the Hizbullah was drawing up plans to unleash a massive barrage of rockets against civilians in the north of Israel.

I attach three articles below.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

ARIEL SHARON PLANS TO DRAW THE FINAL BORDERS OF ISRAEL

Prime minister plans to draw “the final shape of Israel”
By Harry de Quetteville
(London) Sunday Telegraph
November 27, 2005

Sixty years after the state of Israel was created, Ariel Sharon is effectively drawing its final borders, say his advisers, diplomats, friends … and the cartographers.

They believe that Mr Sharon, who as a general played a leading role in the expansion of Israel’s borders in successive wars since 1948, is now - as a politician - determined to set the country’s hitherto elastic frontiers in stone.

What is more, judging by his track record and the way public opinion is shifting, there is a real chance that he may succeed.

In 2002, he ordered the construction of the controversial separation barrier - an 18ft high combination of concrete wall and chain fence that snakes through the West Bank. Over the summer his government successfully oversaw the withdrawal of the thousands of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip.

Last week, the 77-year-old prime minister left his Right-wing Likud Party and founded a new one, a gamble that allies believe will enable him to win the election due in March, then pull out of more settlements - while cementing Israel’s grip on others.

“We’re beginning to see the final shape of Israel,” said one Western official. “Whatever the leaders say, Palestinian and Israeli public opinion is converging on the issue.” The official said that the separation barrier, which opponents argue effectively annexes 10 per cent of the West Bank, would ultimately define Israel’s eastern border, although it may not all be built exactly as now planned. The country will probably be forced to trim back some of the “huge claws” of Palestinian land that are scheduled to be surrounded by the wall around the northern settlement block of Ariel and the Jerusalem suburb of Maale Adumim.

Mr Sharon’s political manoeuvre delighted those who think his new centrist formation will attempt a negotiated peace settlement with the Palestinians.

“We are very optimistic,” said Yariv Oppenheimer, of the Peace Now organisation, which monitors Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories.

“This is a change in the political atmosphere. The fact that Sharon has broken with Likud means we have a good chance to remove settlements and push for a two-state solution.”

But defining the wall as a territorial border, rather than the “security" border which Israeli officials describe it as now, would still leave about 80,000 Israeli settlers on the Palestinian side. A final agreement would be likely to result in the evacuation of most of them, but Mr Sharon has previously insisted that Hebron - which is holy to both Jews and Muslims - must remain an enclave of Israeli territory, for religious reasons.

He has also said that Jordan Valley settlements would remain to bolster Israel’s security.

Despite the peace camp’s new found optimism, such a deal would not be acceptable to Palestinians, without concessions by Israel, which was criticised this week in an EU report for hampering Palestinian claims to a future capital in east Jerusalem by ringing that half of the city with settlements.

“Either the borders are those from 1967, or there is a swap of land that is equal in quality and quantity,” said Ghassan Khatib, the Palestinian Authority labour minister. “Palestinians will not settle for less.”

Prof Moshe Brawer, who advised Israel on its borders during peace negotiations with Egypt and Jordan, said that allowing the wall to become the border would not lead to peace.

“The Arab side has to be satisfied,” he said. “A very substantial number of settlements will have to be abandoned. Some could remain as enclaves, but the wall will split up the Palestinian territory and lead to more conflict."

The final settlement might include negotiated population exchanges between Jews in the West Bank and Israeli Arabs, “to make new boundaries seem more reasonable”.

David Newman, a professor of political geography at Ben Gurion University, said: “In the next few years negotiations will be increasingly based on demography.”

Shifting people is likely to prove highly sensitive. But Mr Sharon is determined. “Look, he did not leave Likud because he is looking for a job,” said one adviser. “He is looking to fulfil his agenda. It’s exciting.”

 


“IS SOMETHING HAPPENING BEHIND THE SCENES?”

Israel: Time for changes on Lebanese front
By Joshua Brilliant
United Press International
November 25, 2005

Israel responded with uncommon alacrity to a Lebanese request to return the bodies of three Hezbollah guerillas killed in a failed raid on the village of Ghajar.

The bodies were brought to the border and transferred to the International Red Cross that took them to Lebanon, Friday.

Photographers were invited to cover the event and a statement the army spokesman issued stated, “The transfer comes in response to the Lebanese government’s request.”

It was the second time, this week, that the defense establishment stressed Israel reacted to Lebanese government requests. In the past officials belittled Lebanon’s governments.

Is something happening behind the scenes? Judging by Monday’s battle with Hezbollah, interviews with government and military officers the answer seems to be: No, but we’re trying to change that.

Israel withdrew from Lebanon, unconditionally, in May 2000. It deployed along a line the United Nations set.

However, across the border it sees Hezbollah fighters, whom it considers terrorists, not Lebanese soldiers.

The commander of the 91st Israeli division that is deployed along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, led reporters outside his office Thursday, past several trees to an open space, and pointed at two towers a few hundred meters away. Hezbollah’s yellow flag was fluttering over one of them.

Hezbollah’s front line positions are small and often vacated after clashes. However, inland, it has an arsenal of more than 12,000 rockets some of which can reach targets south of Haifa.

Israeli officials maintain that Iran and Syria, which back Hezbollah, wanted to heat up the border area to deflect world pressure on Teheran and Damascus. A senior Israeli military source said he suspected Hezbollah sought to spark a fight, kidnap soldiers, draw the Israelis into Lebanon (for example by chasing after the missing soldiers) and thus justify continuation of the fight. The BBC this week quoted unmanned Lebanese security sources as having say the raid was designed to take Israeli hostages.

Israeli intelligence knew an attack was coming. The army was on alert and senior commanders approached the U.N. peacekeeping force, UNIFIL, to prevent an outburst.

“We talked to the U.N. representatives a few times, even the chief commander of UNIFIL ... made meetings,” but it was futile, a senior military source said.

Contacting the Lebanese directly appeared to be out of the question. “I cannot talk with a Lebanese general. I do not talk with anyone there, I do not have any kind of address there,” Brig. Hirsch said.

Monday’s fighting was the heaviest in years. It raged almost along the entire border from the Israeli town of Shlomi, near the Mediterranean Sea to Mount Dov on the Golan (which the Lebanese call the Shaba Farms and claim as their own despite the U.N. ruling).

Hezbollah fired hundreds of mortar bombs and rockets, more than 100 anti tank missiles some of which hit Israeli positions and Israel’s northernmost town of Metulah. Fires raged at position Tulip near Ghajar and Thursday soldiers were still examining the results. One of the rockets crashed into the side of the road to Ghajar and a bomb disposal expert was seen knelling over it, smelling its contents.

The shelling was coupled with two raids, one of them into Ghajar, apparently to kidnap soldiers guarding its entrance. The attackers reached a round, unfinished gray house overlooking the entrance but an Israeli paratrooper waiting in ambush in a nearby white house opened fire, killed the three gunmen and foiled the attack.

Israeli planes and artillery struck across the border. They hit several roads and a bridge to block the guerrillas’ escape routes but otherwise concentrated on Hezbollah facilities.

Eventually Hezbollah contacted UNIFIL and requested a cease-fire. The Israelis refused. “We’re not talking to terrorists,” they said.

According to Israeli intelligence assessments Hezbollah’s member of Cabinet asked Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to “save their lives.” Siniora contacted UNIFIL.

“After a few requests from the Lebanese government through UNIFIL, when we were sure it comes from Mr. Siniora personally, we agreed to cease fire at 00:30 (on Tuesday) and that’s what happened,” a senior military source said.

Siniora’s request meant his government assumed responsibility for the border area, Israeli officials maintained. “There is an address,” a military spokeswoman said.

The other implied message was aimed at the Lebanese people: ‘Look who obtained the ceasefire and who got the bodies repatriated. It’s the government, not Hezbollah.’

For years Israeli officials realized the Lebanese government was too weak to assert its authority. The Syrians were interested in keeping Hezbollah alive to harass Israel and since the Syrians dominated Beirut, there was little the Lebanese government could do.

Now the situation has changed. Syria was forced to pull its troops out and its President Bashar Assad is in the defensive.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 requires Hezbollah be disarmed and the Lebanese government can do so, reporters were told during a briefing at the 91st division headquarters.

Alluding to the fact that Hezbollah ran in the elections and is probably more attuned to Lebanese public opinion, an Israeli officer predicted: “When ... the leadership of Lebanon would insist on disarming them that would happen without using any kind of force.”

Meanwhile Israel is planning to raise UNIFIL’s conduct with the Security Council members and with U.N. Secretary General Koffi Anan, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

The U.N. is supposed to support the disarming of all the armed militias in Lebanon but UNIFIL has, “A collaborative relationship with Hezbollah,” he said.

UNIFIL failed to prevent Monday’s attack, its presence hampered Israel’s retaliation, reporters were told. That is why Hirsch maintained it should leave.

Hezbollah border outposts are located 50 meters from UNIFIL’s positions “because Hezbollah wants the U.N. presence there as a shelter, a shield.”

In some places Israel refrained from attacking Hezbollah positions because the U.N. peacekeepers were too close. “I am talking of 20 meters, or 50 meters I cannot attack (there because of the danger) of collateral damage,” reporters were told.

In Jerusalem, Regev told United Press International “There should be a rethinking of the UNIFIL mandate.”

However in Beirut, UNIFIL’s spokesman Milos Strugar said they have done “everything” in accordance with their mandate, mission and capabilities. That mandate never included “enforcement power,” he maintained.

“We have to rely on the will of the parties. We cannot force something they do not want to (do). This is how a peace-keeping force like UNIFIL functions,” Strugar said.

Its 2,000-armed soldiers have light weapons and can use them only for self-defense, he noted. The Indian and Ghanaian battalions are deployed in 21 positions near the border and in 14 sites inside Lebanon and have recently intensified their patrols he said. And, “We brokered the cease-fire,” he noted.

 


AHMADINEJAD: IRAN WILL CONFRONT “SUPPORTERS OF THE ZIONIST ENTITY”

Iran president warns ‘Zionist supporters’
United Press International
November 26, 2005

Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad warned Saturday the Iranians will confront the “supporters of the Zionist entity,” describing them as “war criminals.”

Addressing thousands of Basij (militant volunteer) forces, Ahmedinejad vowed the “revolutionary people of the Islamic Republic will stand up to the enemies who seek to violate the rights of the Iranian nation.”

The official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the president as saying that “those whose hands are stained with blood of thousands of innocent people now pretend to advocate human rights in the face of the Iranian nation.”

He said those who support the “Zionist regime, which kills thousands of innocent Palestinians, have no right to talk about human rights,” adding they were “suspects and should be put on trial as war criminals in the future.”

Ahmedinejad accused Western powers of supporting the toppled Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, saying they have “made use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons against nations, and in Iraq, they used depleted uranium.”

He went on to say that while Western nations accuse Iran of pursuing non-peaceful nuclear programs, “we believe your nuclear activities are used against humanity.”

The news agency said the Iranian leader’s comments came as millions from the Basij forces held demonstrations and formed human chains across the country in support of Iran’s “legitimate right to develop nuclear power for peaceful purposes.”


Jews against Israel: King, Kaufman, & Judt, Europe’s so-called “good Jews”

December 01, 2005

CONTENTS

1. “Can the disease that is Zionism be cured?”
2. “Tactics reminiscent of the Nazis”
3. “How I Became a Jew”
4. Oona King & Gerald Kaufman
5. Avi Shlaim and other “good Jews” from Israel
6. Tony Judt: “Israel is truly an anachronism”
7. “Is it any wonder that some ‘good Jews’ have chosen to live in the light?”
8. Norman Finkelstein, appearing on the BBC today for the third time this week
9. “Europe’s ‘Good Jews’” (By Emanuele Ottolenghi, Commentary, December 2005)



[Note by Tom Gross]

“CAN THE DISEASE THAT IS ZIONISM BE CURED?”

I attach below an important new essay by Emanuele Ottolenghi, published today in the December issue of the influential American magazine Commentary. Neal Kozodoy (editor-in-chief of Commentary), and Gabriel Schoenfeld (senior editor at Commentary), both long time subscribers to this email list, kindly made it available to me in advance to prepare a note for subscribers to this list. (It is reproduced below, and from this morning is also available on Commentary’s website.)

Ottolenghi, an Italian-born research fellow at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and a lecturer on Israeli politics, takes an in-depth look at how the European elites see Jews today, and how some Jews have adapted to please and placate those (sometimes anti-Semitic) elites.

“Europeans,” writes Ottolenghi, “have seized upon the Palestinian intifada, or rather upon Israel’s determined response to it, as an opportunity at last to turn the moral tables, a chance, however specious, to hold not themselves but the Jews to account.”

Following “the alignment of European leftist and ‘progressive’ opinion behind the idea of Israel as the new Nazi Germany,” a European Jew who supports Israel, says Ottolenghi, is “relegated to the category of racist until proved otherwise.” On the other hand the so-called “good Jews,” he notes, “mostly intellectuals or academics, have responded to the latest assault on the Jewish people by excusing it, justifying it, and in effect joining it.” (Some might call them self-haters.)

Ottolenghi, who is a friend of mine and a subscriber to this list, follows up on a theme I and others have repeatedly made in recent years: how the renewed rise of anti-Semitism in Western Europe correlates with the “incendiary and openly slanted way” that the mainstream European media have covered events in the Middle East during this time.

“TACTICS REMINISCENT OF THE NAZIS”

European authors have been quick to slander Israel in the media. For example, one writer in the British Independent newspaper in October 2002, claimed that Israel had “adopted tactics which are reminiscent of the Nazis.” (The Independent, incidentally, is the only British daily paper edited by a Jew, albeit one that is hostile to Israel.)

Some European intellectuals, such as Barbara Spinelli, writing in the Italian newspaper La Stampa, have called on Europe’s “good Jews” to denounce Israel.

Ottolenghi writes: “Today’s ultra-nationalist Israel, Spinelli wrote, constitutes nothing less than a ‘scandal.’ And it is a scandal, above all, for Jews themselves – since, as every European knows, Jews are the quintessential victims of modern nationalism (nationalism being, for Spinelli as for many other Europeans, virtually coterminous with Nazism). It follows, then, that Jews everywhere have a special duty to speak out against Israel, to apologize to its victims, and to do so in public.”

Ottolenghi adds that this call has been answered. A critical moment in this response was when 45 prominent Jewish signatories “repudiated their right of return to the Jewish state on account of its racist policies” in a public statement released to The Guardian newspaper in August 2002.

“HOW I BECAME A JEW”

As Ottolenghi points out, writing in Britain’s weekly Spectator magazine earlier this year, Anthony Lippman issued a mea culpa Barbara Spinelli may have dreamed of. The son of a Holocaust survivor, who has converted to Christianity and become an active member of the Church of England, Lippman moved temporarily to reclaim his patrimony. Writing under the title, “How I Became a Jew,” he averred that the “little band” of Holocaust survivors in Europe “has a terrible responsibility – to discourage the building of walls and bulldozing of villages… and to reject the label ‘anti-Semite’ for those who speak out against Israel’s policies in the occupied territories.”

Another example is British academic Jacqueline Rose, who in her new book, The Question of Zion (2005) (which has been much publicized in left wing papers and on the BBC), undertakes to save Judaism itself from the curse of Zionism, which for her is the out-and-out betrayal of Jewish history.

OONA KING & GERALD KAUFMAN

Chief among the “good Jewish” politicians cited in the essay in Commentary are former British parliamentarian Oona King who, while reminding readers her mother was Jewish, compared Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto and spoke of her personal “shame” about this as a “Jewish person”. (For more details on this, see the note in the dispatch on this list of June 24, 2003, titled “Mein Kampf sequel to be published in English.”)

(The Commentary article wrongly says her father was Jewish. King’s mother is Jewish, from Newcastle – her mother’s sister is the agony aunt Miriam Stoppard – and her father is an African-American who was exiled from his home country for 40 years for refusing to fight in Vietnam.)

A year later, Gerald Kaufman, another member of the British Parliament, called for a boycott of Israeli goods: “As a person who was born Jewish, I am morally obliged to speak out against what is being done by the Zionist state of Israel to the Palestinian people,” he said.

(Kaufman has been written about several times on this list, including in the article “Jeningrad”. In the dispatch titled “For al-Qaeda maniacs, we are all Jews…” (June 25, 2004), my friend, the writer Simon Sebag Montefiore, describes Kaufman as “attention seeking”, whose outbursts should be prefaced with the headline “British Jew well known only for attacking Israel attacks Israel again!”)

“GOOD JEWS” FROM ISRAEL

These “good Jews” in Europe have been aided and abetted by some Israeli Jews (the so-called “New Historians”) such as Avi Shlaim and Benny Morris. (Morris has now partially changed his position: see the dispatch “Benny Morris changes his tune,” February 21, 2002.)

Shlaim, an Israeli teaching at Oxford University and a frequent contributor to the Guardian and various academic publications, says he sees it as his specifically Jewish duty to denounce Israel. Among other things, Shlaim was a proponent of a motion at a public debate in London this year that “Zionism is the real enemy of the Jews today.”

There was also much excitement in European liberal, intellectual, and far right circles over the declaration by 99 Israeli academics that their government was planning an imminent “fullfledged ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinian people (a charge that was not withdrawn when the alleged genocidal atrocity failed to occur).

JUDT: “ISRAEL IS TRULY AN ANACHRONISM”

Ottolenghi points out that these anti-Zionist European Jews require Israel to shed “its identity as a Jewish state” and agree to a “unitary, binational arrangement with the Palestinians.”

One of the most salient questions asked in this essay is why “Europeans who expend such vast quantities of energy lecturing Israel on its supposed hypernationalist instincts give no thought whatsoever to ridding the Arabs of their own, rather more vivid, forms of nationalist sentiment.”

The “notorious essay” in the New York Review of Books by Tony Judt, a British Jewish historian now living in the U.S., is quoted at length by Ottolenghi. Judt claimed that “Israel is truly an anachronism. And not just an anachronism but a dysfunctional one.”

To read a response to Judt’s essay please see the dispatch “Pan-European poll calls Israel the biggest threat to world peace” (November 2, 2003). (Incidentally, the name Judt derives from the Dutch word for “Jew”.)

“IS IT ANY WONDER THAT SOME ‘GOOD JEWS’ HAVE CHOSEN TO LIVE IN THE LIGHT?”

For Ottolenghi, the guilty party is Europe itself: “What the enlightened sector of today’s Europe would like Jews to do, in exchange for fully approved membership in the circle of approved opinion, is to renounce a core component of their identity: that is, their sense of Jewish peoplehood as expressed through their attachment and commitment to the democratic state of Israel and to the Zionist enterprise.”

As a result even though these “good Jews” are “not many in number, and even though their arguments are invariably mendacious and easily refuted, they, and the many grouplets that have sprung up to represent them, enjoy great acclaim in today’s Europe, and together they have done incalculable damage by lending a Jewish imprimatur to the anti-Israel cause.”

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN, APPEARING ON THE BBC TODAY FOR THE THIRD TIME THIS WEEK

Speaking of Jews who make a career out of attacking “the Jews,” one of the notes in yesterday’s dispatch (“London Mayor Ken Livingstone may be Jewish: ‘I could be a self-hater, couldn’t I?’”) mentioned that Norman Finkelstein was given virtually free reign to cite his views on the influential BBC domestic radio “Today” program on Monday. (Finkelstein’s opinions are regarded by many Jews and others as bordering on anti-Semitism, and if, for example, David Irving said the same things the BBC would be loudly denounced for allowing him to do so.)

Then yesterday Finkelstein appeared on another program, this time on BBC World Service. As the author and academic Barry Rubin, who is teaching Israeli politics in Washington this year, notes for this web list: “Driving in Washington DC, listening to National Public Radio (NPR) which plays hours of BBC programming straight, I heard the following: Announcer: ‘Is Israel and its American supporters committing the sin of exaggerating anti-Semitism in order to mobilize support for itself? American Jewish author Norman Finkelstein makes this serious accusation....’ This was then followed by a softball interview with him and no serious alternative view was put.”

Now, in about two hours, Finkelstein will take part in yet another BBC World Service program discussing (according to an email I have received from the producer at the BBC) “When does criticism of Israel turn into anti-Semitism? And whether attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions a result of Muslims’ anger over Palestine and western policy in the Arab world?”

The BBC invites comments now in advance of the program, in order to decide who to invite as an on air caller to participate in the program. Details of how to take part can be found at news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/talking_point/world_have_your_say.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLE

“TODAY’S EUROPEAN ELITE HAS ITS GOOD JEWS AND ITS BAD JEWS”

Europe’s “Good Jews”
By Emanuele Ottolenghi
Commentary Magazine
December 1, 2005

www.commentarymagazine.com/article.asp?aid=12005044_1

It is common knowledge that anti-Semitism in Western Europe has been on the rise for the last five years. Its frequency and intensity have coincided for the most part with the curve of violence in the Middle East, and with the incendiary and openly slanted way that this violence has been covered in the European media. But expressions of anti-Semitism have also taken on a life, and a momentum, of their own. Of course, Jews in Europe have not been deprived of property, expelled, or deported; but they have been subjected to physical violence, insults, libelous attacks in the press and in intellectual circles, accusations of disloyalty, and much else besides.

All of this has been thoroughly documented. Known, too, are the factors that have contributed to the astonishing recrudescence of a hatred thought to have been long uprooted from pluralist, tolerant Europe. Those factors include the open hostility of some European governments to the state of Israel and their active sympathy with the Arab and Palestinian “cause,” even to the point of justifying Arab terrorism against civilian Israeli Jews; the felt need on the part of European elites to accommodate the often murderous anti-Semitism within the immigrant Muslim community; and the alignment of European leftist and “progressive” opinion behind the idea of Israel as the new Nazi Germany, according to which those European Jews who support Israel are relegated to the category of racists until proved otherwise.

To be sure, it is regularly and vigorously denied that contemporary hostility to Israel and its Jewish supporters is itself in the least bit anti-Semitic; rather, it is held to be solely an expression of disagreement with particular policies of the Israeli government. To draw a parallel between this and past variants of European anti-Semitism, especially of the Nazi type, is thus dismissed as a species of moral blackmail.

There is something to this argument, although not much, and then only when it is couched in such extreme terms. The Nazi card is a powerful rhetorical weapon, no matter who plays it – as the anti-Israel side, quick to condemn Israel itself as a replica of Nazi Germany, knows better than anyone. But to help put matters into historical perspective, I want to focus here on a particular feature of the new European anti-Semitism that has been less commented on. This is the crucial role played by some European Jews themselves, mostly intellectuals or academics, who have responded to the latest assault on the Jewish people by excusing it, justifying it, and in effect joining it.

In October 2002, a number of leading European authors discussed Israel’s conduct in the pages of the London Independent. For one of these writers, it was plain that Israel had “adopted tactics which are reminiscent of the Nazis.” For another, it was no less plain that the Israelis “were educated by the Nazis.” And so it went. Such assertions, staples of Arab and Palestinian propaganda, have by now assumed canonical status in liberal European opinion.

But what, aside from rhetorical bombast, is meant by the term “Nazi” in such statements? Ultimately, the evil that Israel is said to embody is the evil of an extreme, aggressive, and racially exclusive nationalism – that is, the very same disease that Europe, in the aftermath of Hitler and the Holocaust, has sought so strenuously and with such success “to limit, transcend, and overcome” (in the flattering words of the historian Anatol Lieven). Now this great sickness is alleged to have returned in the lurid form of present-day Israel, throwing the whole world into turmoil and disturbing the hard-won tranquility of post-nationalist Europe by inflaming the passions of its rising Muslim population.

Hence the obsessive intensity with which European elites have focused on a territorial conflict that, in the scale of the world’s problems, would seem rather less worthy of their concern, let alone of their one-sided rage, than many another. For, in the end, this is their conflict as well, involving as it does their own twisted and morally compromised history with the Jews. Involving – and perhaps mitigating. As I am hardly the first to have observed, Europeans have seized upon the Palestinian intifada, or rather upon Israel’s determined response to it, as an opportunity at last to turn the moral tables, a chance, however specious, to hold not themselves but the Jews to account.

The Italian columnist Barbara Spinelli, writing in La Stampa, spelled out the charge a few years ago. Today’s ultra-nationalist Israel, she wrote, constitutes nothing less than a “scandal.” And it is a scandal, above all, for Jews themselves – since, as every European knows, Jews are the quintessential victims of modern nationalism (nationalism being, for Spinelli as for many other Europeans, virtually coterminous with Nazism). It follows, then, that Jews everywhere have a special duty to speak out against Israel, to apologize to its victims, and to do so in public.

“If one thing is missing in Judaism,” Spinelli wrote in late 2001, “this is precisely it: a mea culpa vis-à-vis the peoples and individuals who had to pay the price of blood and exile to allow Israel to exist.” She called upon world Jewry to undertake such an act of contrition forthwith:

“If the initiative does not come from Jerusalem then it should start in the Diaspora, where so many Jews live a double and contradictory loyalty: to Israel, and to the state they belong to and vote in. A solemn mea culpa, proclaimed from the scattered communities in the West....”

This call to Europe’s “good Jews,” as they might be called, has in fact been answered. For the most part, those answering it have been not the long-term, all-out, rabid haters of Israel of the Harold Pinter or (in American terms) Noam Chomsky stripe, who need no excuse and waste no pieties in reviling the Jewish state. Pinter, for example, who has termed Israel “the central factor in world unrest,” and has accused it of using nuclear weapons against the Palestinians, hardly stoops to identifying himself as a Jew concerned for the welfare of his fellow Jews. Most “good Jews” are of a somewhat different complexion. Not only do they tend to speak more circumspectly but, with whatever degree of disingenuousness, they cloak their hostility to Jewish nationalism (i.e., Israel) in the mantle of solicitude for, precisely, the good name of Jews and Judaism.

Thus, writing in Britain’s weekly Spectator earlier this year, one Anthony Lippman issued just such a mea culpa as Barbara Spinelli may have dreamed of. Himself the son of a Holocaust survivor, albeit a convert to Christianity and an active member of the Church of England, Lippman was moved temporarily to reclaim his patrimony. Writing under the title, “How I Became a Jew,” he averred that the “little band” of Holocaust survivors in Europe “has a terrible responsibility – to live well in the name of those who did not live and to discourage the building of walls and bulldozing of villages. Even more than this, they – and all Jews – need to be the voice of conscience that will prevent Israel from adopting the mantle of oppressor, and to reject the label ‘anti-Semite’ for those who speak out against Israel’s policies in the occupied territories.”

Similarly responding to the claims of an awakened Jewish conscience has been the British academic Jacqueline Rose. In her book, The Question of Zion (2005), Rose undertakes to save Judaism itself from the curse of its movement of national liberation. “What is it,” she asks, “about the coming into being of this nation [Israel] and the [Zionist] movement out of which it was born, that allowed it – and still allows it – to shed the burdens of its own history, and so flagrantly to blind itself?” Zionism, she concludes, has to be seen not as the fulfillment of an age-old Jewish dream but as the out-and-out betrayal of Jewish history and the Jewish heritage, an adoption of all that is, historically and morally, un-Jewish.

Can the disease that is Zionism be cured? Yes, Rose and others assure us, but only by a thorough-going renunciation. In the pre-Israel past, she writes, “dissident voices” in the Jewish world warned against the terrible consequences that would flow from the effort to win a state for the Jews; although silenced and repressed then, they are needed more then ever today, during the Jews’ “dark night of the soul.”

No one can say that such voices have not been forthcoming. In the August 8, 2002 Guardian, 45 Jewish signatories, in a widely hailed act of public abjuration, repudiated their right of return to the Jewish state on account of its racist policies. Since the statement’s original publication, it has been signed by over 80 more individuals from around the world. One of the organizers subsequently explained that what motivated him to act was the “pitiless violence” of his “blood relatives,” i.e., the Israeli people – the “violence,” as he put it, of the “traumatized former victim, clinging to past wounds from generation unto generation.”

The publicity attending this and similar initiatives by European Jews, abetted in some cases by their Israeli counterparts, has been very great. There was tremendous excitement in Europe over the declaration by 99 Israeli academics that their government was planning an imminent “fullfledged ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinian people (a charge that was not withdrawn when the alleged genocidal atrocity failed to occur), and again over the refusal of a few hundred Israeli army reservists to serve in the administered territories. There was even greater excitement when several European Jewish academics turned up among the instigators of a movement to boycott Israeli academic institutions, and yet again when a number of Jewish politicians called for the boycott of Israeli commercial products.

Among the latter group was the British parliamentarian Oona King, who in June 2003, comparing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza with the Nazi treatment of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, spoke of her personal “shame” as a “Jewish person” (her father is Jewish). A year later, Gerald Kaufman, another member of the British Parliament, called for a boycott of Israeli goods on similar grounds, as, in South Africa, did Ronnie Kasrils, a government minister: “As a person who was born Jewish, I am morally obliged to speak out against what is being done by the Zionist state of Israel to the Palestinian people.”

Many others have likewise seen it as their specifically Jewish duty to denounce Israel. Their ranks include all three proponents of a motion, “Zionism is the real enemy of the Jews today,” aired at a public debate in London early this year. One of them was the historian Avi Shlaim. Like others before him, he too felt the need to advertise his Jewish virtuousness by writing about it for publication. In a subsequent op-ed in the International Herald Tribune, he justified the implacable anti-Zionism on which he has based his academic career by appealing to a faith he does not appear ever to have practiced: “One of the greatest accolades in Judaism,” he instructed his readers, “is to be a rodef shalom, a seeker of peace.”

The assertions of Jews like these are often buttressed by a particular narrative of the history of Zionism. The narrative itself has been thoroughly debunked,* but here I want to concentrate less on its veracity or rather lack of it than on the terms in which its main thesis is often expressed. These are revealing.

According to this reconstruction of the past, the achievements of Zionism involved, for the Jews, a fatal loss of moral and historical innocence. In order for the state of Israel to be born in 1948, unspeakable crimes were committed against the Palestinian people. Zionist leaders then entered into a conspiracy of silence to conceal these awful events from the Jewish public. Not until the 1980’s did a small, intrepid band of scholars – Israel’s so called New Historians – emerge to uncover the evidence and expose the hidden truth.

Zionism’s precipitous descent, from the noble liberal vision of Theodor Herzl to the obloquy of mass expulsions and worse, was characterized in 1988 by Benny Morris, a leading New Historian, in striking language:

“How one perceives [Israel’s war of independence in] 1948 bears heavily on how one perceives the whole Zionist/Israeli experience. If Israel, the haven of a much-persecuted people, was born pure and innocent, then it is worthy of the grace, material assistance, and political support showered upon it by the West over the past 40 years – and worthy of more of the same in years to come. If, on the other hand, Israel was born tarnished, besmirched by original sin, then it was no more deserving of that grace and assistance than were its neighbors.”

“Grace,” “purity,” “original sin” – Christological vocabulary of this kind recurs frequently in the rhetoric of certain scholarly and journalistic discussions of Israel’s birth. Avi Shlaim, for instance, has mocked those who persist in conceiving of Israel’s War of Independence as a struggle against Arab aggression. They hold, he writes with savage sarcasm, to the idea of “an immaculate conception.” Worse, they do so perfidiously, for both material and moral gain, thus aspiring to the roles of Judas and Jesus simultaneously:

“[They] put so much store by Israel’s claim to moral rectitude that they cannot face up to the evidence of cynical Israeli double-dealings or brutal dispersal and dispossession of the Palestinians. It is an axiom of their narrative that Israel is the innocent victim. Not content with the thirty pieces of silver, these people insist on retaining for Israel the crown of thorns. [Last 19 words – emphasis by Commentary added.]”

But, if the brutality with which Israel is charged was indeed inherent to the project that led to its creation – as the notion of original sin suggests – how can it possibly be made good? That European Jews should wash their hands of the Jewish state goes without saying. But what is required of Israel itself? For this there is an answer as well. Both logically and, as it were, theologically, the only remedy lies in the political equivalent of conversion.

For Israel, in this analysis, entrance into a new life of grace is contingent on shedding its identity as the Jewish national state. Instead, it must agree to a unitary, binational arrangement with the Palestinians. Only thus might the state of the Jews yet wash away the stain of its original sin.

The signatories of the 2002 letter in the Guardian were explicit on this point. No mere condemnation of Israel’s allegedly brutal behavior would satisfy the demands of their Jewish conscience. What was necessary was the dissolution of Israel itself, its place to be taken by a new entity that would no longer be ruled by Jews but in which Jews and Palestinian Arabs would at last live together peacefully as equals.

Of course, this is absurd – a fancy-dress rewording of longstanding Arab propaganda about the illegitimacy of Israel’s national existence. It is also hypocritical: Europeans who expend such vast quantities of energy lecturing Israel on its supposed hypernationalist instincts give no thought whatsoever to ridding the Arabs of their own, rather more vivid, forms of nationalist sentiment. But for those European Jews who embrace the modish conviction that nationalism is not just a sin but the root of all modern evil, the fantasy of Israel’s de-nationalization serves another purpose. It ensures their own conformity with the latest European thinking on the best way for human beings to organize themselves in society – namely, as good Europeans.

Such, at any rate, was the burden of a notorious 2003 essay by Tony Judt, a British historian now living in the U.S. For Judt, writing in the New York Review of Books, contemporary European anti- Semitism, insofar as it exists, has been the wholly foreseeable result of bad Jewish (that is, Israeli) behavior. And just as the Jews of Israel have only themselves to blame for the fact that the enlightened world condemns them, so they can relieve their suffering, and incidentally that of their fellow Jews around the world who have been implicated in their black deeds, through compensatory acts of self-effacement and re-dedication.

Here, in Judt’s words, is the root sin of which Israel is guilty:

“In a world where nations and peoples increasingly intermingle and intermarry at will; where cultural and national impediments to communication have all but collapsed; where more and more of us have multiple elective identities and would feel falsely constrained if we had to answer to just one of them; in such a world Israel is truly an anachronism. And not just an anachronism but a dysfunctional one.”

And here, again in Judt’s words, is the path to remission from sin:

“To convert Israel from a Jewish state to a binational one would not be easy, though not quite as impossible as it sounds: the process has already begun de facto. But it would cause far less disruption to most Jews and Arabs than its religious and nationalist foes will claim.”

The use of the word “convert” is again no accident.

In seeking to explain the seemingly obsessive need for Jewish self-negation that is on display in examples like these and others, psychologists of the future will have their work cut out for them. And if we were dealing with only a few anti-Zionist Jews impelled to act out their personal identity problems in public, we could safely leave them to those future psychologists. Unfortunately, even though such individuals are not many in number, and even though their arguments are invariably mendacious and easily refuted, they, and the many grouplets that have sprung up to represent them, enjoy great acclaim in today’s Europe, and together they have done incalculable damage by lending a Jewish imprimatur to the anti-Israel cause.**

One evening last spring, the UK branch of Peace Now hosted a debate on the Israel-Palestinian conflict at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. Taking the Israeli side, ironically enough, was Benny Morris, the pioneer New Historian. (In recent years Morris has found himself at odds with some of his colleagues since he still supports Israel’s right to exist; he has also begun to entertain second and third thoughts on the issue of Zionism’s “original sin.”) Opposing him was Ahmed Khalidi, a Western-educated scion of Palestinian aristocracy and a “moderate” who is willing to negotiate Israel’s demise diplomatically rather than advocating its destruction through violence.

During the question-and-answer period, a frail student stood up to make an impassioned plea. “I want to express my gratitude to you, Dr. Khalidi,” said this young woman, “for your willingness to share Palestine with the Jews as a common patrimony.” (“Common patrimony” was the anodyne catchphrase Khalidi had coined to promote his one-state solution, i.e., the dissolution of Israel.) Such conspicuous, large-hearted charity, the student went on, heedless of her choice of ancient religious antinomies, stood in sharp contrast to the miserly approach of Benny Morris, who had insisted on Israel’s right to continue its national existence. “As a Jew,” she concluded her address to Khalidi, “I feel ashamed that your land was taken away from you in my name and that of my ancestors. It is my duty as a Jew to stand up for justice.” If indeed she stood up in shame, she sat down to thunderous applause.

In statements like this, one cannot but notice the recurrence not only of those enduring theological tropes but of a certain very dangerous dance in which European Jews have long participated. Today, as yesterday, Jewish “particularism,” then religious, now national, remains a thorn in Europe’s side. Today, as yesterday, removing the thorn involves a renunciation of particularism followed by an espousal of the regnant form of universal salvation – then Christianity, now the tenets of humanistic liberalism.

This is not 1930’s-style anti-Semitism; in that narrow sense, anti-Israel Europeans are correct in protesting that they are not anti-Semites. Nevertheless, it is an age-old form of anti-Semitism, and one that has always called forth a typical pattern of response on the part of the Jews under scrutiny. For most, the choices are to lie low in hopes that the trouble will pass, to pick up and seek life elsewhere, or to resist and oppose to the extent they can. We have seen all three responses in European Jewish society over the last years, each bearing its cost. Some, however, take a different route, finding favor and reward by exerting every effort to assimilate themselves to whatever is required of them, including to the point of publicly dissociating themselves from their people’s history and fate. As ever with such maneuvers, exculpatory rationalizations must be found, and are readily at hand.

Unlike the case in pre-Enlightenment Europe, present-day anti-Semitism does not expect Jews to abandon their religion. Today’s Europe is a self-consciously multicultural society. Although it cherishes secularism above all, it respects, if somewhat warily, religious pluralism. What the enlightened sector of today’s Europe would like Jews to do, in exchange for fully approved membership in the circle of approved opinion, is to renounce a core component of their identity: that is, their sense of Jewish peoplehood as expressed through their attachment and commitment to the democratic state of Israel and to the Zionist enterprise.

What remains constant is that, as in both preand post-Enlightenment Europe, today’s European elite has its good Jews and its bad Jews. There are the Jews whom it embraces, encourages, and celebrates; and then there are the Jews whom it chastises and condemns. For the former, there will always be a place of honor in the European sun. On the latter, today’s officially pluralist and tolerant Europe has turned its back. Is it any wonder, then, that some “good Jews” have chosen to live in the light, stopping only to burnish their qualifications by noisily joining the chorus that has consigned their fellow Jews to the dark?

* For example, see, in Commentary, Shabtai Teveth, “Charging Israel with Original Sin” (September 1989) and Efraim Karsh, “Were the Palestinians Expelled?” (July 2000) and “Revisiting Israel’s ‘Original Sin’” (April 2003).

** The groups, with names like Jews for Justice for Palestinians (UK), Jewish Union for Peace (France), Network of Jews against Occupation (Italy), Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East (Germany), New Outlook (Denmark), Another Jewish Voice (Netherlands), and so forth, even have their own umbrella organization, European Jews for a Just Peace.