Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Israeli elections 2006: Kadima “moving forward” to permanent borders by 2010

March 23, 2006

CONTENTS

1. Israeli elections 2006; 31 parties standing
2. “How is it possible that the public is sunk deep in apathy?”
3. “Moving forward” …
4. … and away from the West Bank
5. Olmert receives endorsement from Abbas
6. Labor: “A country of social piety, not of social handouts”
7. Likud: “Strong against Hamas”
8. 62 percent of Israelis unhappy with media’s campaign coverage
9. Israeli police on highest alert for Election Day
10. Ex-Russians, Arabs and undecided voters
11. Livingstone: I offer a complete apology… to Iran
12. France: The Guardian forgets to mention the Muslims
13. Fatwa banning women wearing trousers being considered
14. “Olmert sees permanent Israeli borders by 2010” (Reuters, March 9, 2006)
15. “Olmert’s arrogance” (By Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz, March 15, 2006)
16. “Politicians court a not-so-silent minority: Israeli Arabs” (NY Times, March 21, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

ISRAELI ELECTIONS 2006; 31 PARTIES STANDING

The Israeli elections will take place next Tuesday (March 28, 2006). Of the 4.5 million eligible voters, 83 percent are Jews, 13 percent Arabs, and the rest are Druze and others.

Even though the day of the election is a national holiday, voter turnout at the last election in January 2003 was just under 70 percent. Thirty-one different parties are fielding candidates in these elections; less than half the parties are expected to exceed the threshold of 2 percent of the national vote required to have a member in the 120-seat Knesset (Israeli parliament).

Polls indicate that none of the three main parties will come near to the total of 61 seats required for an outright majority.

“HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THE PUBLIC IS SUNK DEEP IN APATHY?”

The unexpected extent of Hamas’s win in the Palestinian elections in January, and the stroke and subsequent hospitalization and coma of Ariel Sharon, has cast a shadow over the upcoming elections.

However, the Israeli public has been largely apathetic throughout the campaign. Israel’s second biggest newspaper, Ma’ariv, recently commented that the public was switched off by an election whose result appeared clear. A front page Ma’ariv editorial said: “It is hard to recall an election campaign which was more fateful for the future of the country, the political system and the social map than that of 2006… How is it possible that after all this, the public is sunk deep in apathy? What is happening to us?”

“MOVING FORWARD”…

Kadima, the new party founded by Sharon shortly before his stroke, has been the frontrunner throughout the campaign. Its highest opinion poll score was achieved immediately after the hospitalization of Sharon, when the party was projected to receive 44 seats. Since then, it has fallen somewhat. The party election slogan has been “We’re moving forward.” This is a play on the word “kadima,” which in Hebrew means “forward”.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has on several occasions spelled out his plans to set Israel’s permanent borders within the next four years. “This is not an election gimmick. I am going with this, and I don’t plan to hide it or evade it,” he told Israeli Channel 10 this week. “Whoever doesn’t support it cannot be a partner in a coalition I establish.”

Olmert added that Israel wouldn’t wait years for Hamas to recognize Israel. “Meanwhile, I will take unilateral steps,” he added.

… AND AWAY FROM THE WEST BANK

Kadima have made a further disengagement from much of the West Bank the central campaign issue. It is also the policy Ariel Sharon would most likely have implemented had he still been in power. For more on this, see the dispatch from last year titled Sharon prepares to withdraw from “virtually all” the West Bank by 2008.

With the policy of such a widespread further disengagement aimed at attracting left-wing votes, in order to shore up its right-wing vote Kadima has, over the course of the election campaign, attempted to prove that it is not weak on defense. The Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz (formerly of Likud, now of Kadima), has warned the new Hamas Palestinian Authority prime minister, Ismail Haniya, that he is not immune from a targeted strike should Hamas resume its attacks against Israelis. The capture of six wanted terrorists from a Palestinian jail in Jericho was also seen by many as an attempt by Olmert to prove he can act tough on terror.

For a short time, Kadima’s poll ratings improved as a result of the “Jericho effect,” but latest polls suggest Kadima will win between 36-37 seats.

Perhaps the biggest danger for Kadima is a low voter turnout which could harm the party’s bid to gain a large enough amount of mandates to dictate the make-up of the next coalition government.

OLMERT RECEIVES ENDORSEMENT FROM ABBAS

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has come out publicly in support of Ehud Olmert and his Kadima party. Abbas said “I hope that Olmert wins. I know him well.”

Abbas also met with Labor leader Amir Peretz during this election period in a bid to give the foreign policy novice Peretz a “prime ministerial appearance.”

LABOR: “A COUNTRY OF SOCIAL PIETY, NOT OF SOCIAL HANDOUTS”

The Labor party, led by its new leader Amir Peretz, has campaigned on a largely social and economic agenda. Peretz has said that “I want a country of social piety, not of social handouts.” Labor says it will aim for an annual growth rate of five percent over the next four years, while at the same time increasing the minimum wage to $1,000 a month.

Peretz has also stated that the evacuation of all 105 illegal West Bank outposts would be the non-negotiable condition upon which his party would decide to join a future governing coalition.

In the latest polls Labor is expected to gain between 17-21 seats and therefore many pundits say it will most likely be the main partner in a coalition with Kadima.

In such a coalition Peretz (who has little defense or foreign affairs experience) would probably be appointed finance minister, and many fear that Peretz’s old socialist-style economic policies will severely damage Israel’s economy.

For that reason alone, Olmert may try and court Netanyahu to join the government as his finance minister, and Netanyahu, fearing being driven into the political wilderness, may join.

For more on Peretz, see Elections imminent as Shimon Peres ousted (& items on French riots, NY Times, Islam).

LIKUD: “STRONG AGAINST HAMAS”

The focus of Likud’s campaign has been on the recent Hamas election victory. The main Likud slogan, advertised on the side of buses around the country, has been “Strong against Hamas – Binyamin Netanyahu”.

Netanyahu has emphasized throughout his campaign that he will not tolerate the continuing Kassam rocket attacks emanating from Gaza. He added that he will halt the policy of withdrawals unless the PA takes serious steps to end Palestinian terrorism, saying that “every centimeter that we give to them (the PA), they will use against us.”

Some polls suggest Likud will win as few as 14 seats and will be left out of the governing coalition for the first time since 2001. Much of the support for Likud has moved to other right-wing parties such as Israel Beitenu, Shas and the National Union-Mafdal party. These three parties are expected to win 25-32 Knesset seats. BBC and other western media have not mentioned this, giving the incorrect impression that the right-wing vote has diminished in Israel; in fact Likud has lost many voters to other more right-wing parties due to the fact that it was a Likud-led government that carried out the disengagement from Gaza last summer. (For a photo gallery on this, see Exodus From Gaza.)

62 PERCENT OF ISRAELIS UNHAPPY WITH MEDIA’S CAMPAIGN COVERAGE

In a recent poll carried out by the Chaim Herzog Institute, 62 percent of the Israeli public said they were unhappy with the media’s campaign coverage. More than half the public believes that the media have been overly supportive of Kadima, whilst 48 percent of respondents said they felt the media was hostile toward the Likud. Despite their unhappiness, 44.4 percent of respondents said that they were following the media coverage of the election campaign.

ISRAELI POLICE ON HIGHEST ALERT FOR ELECTION DAY

Israeli police will be on their maximum alert level for fear of a terror attack or other disruptions on Election Day. Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi said “The coming days will be very sensitive times, as terror groups will attempt to carry out attacks.”

Yesterday a special Israeli army unit caught yet another would-be suicide bomber in Ramallah. Israeli security forces are currently focusing on 13 concrete terror alerts (i.e. Israel has intelligence about 13 different cells in the latter stages of planning attacks).

Extra police will also be stationed in voting centers in both the ultra-Orthodox and Arab sectors to prevent fraud. In the past there has been a high-level of electoral fraud among voters in these sectors.

EX-RUSSIANS, ARABS AND THE UNDECIDED

The diverse nature of Israeli society means different communities within Israel could have a major impact on the election. The Israel Beitenu (“Israel Is Our home”) party led by Avigdor Lieberman, a 47-year old immigrant from Moldova, has been predicted to win up to 12 Knesset seats making it a potential coalition kingmaker. As many as half of all Israelis from former Soviet bloc countries say they will vote for Lieberman. Lieberman is a hardliner who split with Netanyahu after concessions Netanyahu made to Yasser Arafat when he was Prime Minister.

Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union now number 1.3 million, and the 740,000 eligible voters among them make up about 15 percent of Israel’s electorate.

About 30 percent of Israeli Arabs say they will vote for “Zionist” parties such as the Likud and Labor. But many of the others will vote for specifically Arab parties. Polls this year predict the Arab parties will gain 8 seats, and although they usually refuse to serve in government, will agree to support a future Kadima-led administration that will carry out a West Bank disengagement.

Meanwhile almost 20 percent of voters say they are still undecided. For the undecided, political events in the next few days, including the daily attempts by Palestinian groups to carry out terror attacks, could have a major bearing on which party they vote for.

LIVINGSTONE: I OFFER A COMPLETE APOLOGY… TO IRAN

This is an update to the final note in the dispatch “How I learned to love the wall” & more on Wafa Sultan, other Muslim “dissidents”.

London mayor Ken Livingstone seems determined to stir up further anti-Semitism in the UK, in an appeal to his Muslim and left-wing voting base. Yesterday, instead of apologizing to the Reuben brothers, Livingstone said: “I would offer a complete apology to the people of Iran for the suggestion that they may be linked in any way to the Reuben brothers. I wasn’t meaning to be offensive to the people of Iran.”

Livingstone then denounced London Assembly member Brian Coleman, who had earlier said that Livingstone has “a blind spot when it comes to relations with the Jewish community,” as just like “Dr. Goebbels.” In another startling outburst, Livingstone said that Coleman (who is a moderate) was “dancing on the memory of the Holocaust.” With comments such as these, it is Livingstone who is trampling on the memory of the Holocaust.

FRANCE: THE GUARDIAN FORGETS TO MENTION THE MUSLIMS

Meanwhile in France, in the latest of a series of vicious assaults on Jews following the murder last month of Ilan Halimi, a Jewish man was chased in his car by a north African gang screaming “Get the Jew!” and then severely beaten. The Bureau of National Vigilance against Anti-Semitism has condemned the “anti-Semitic violence which has been spreading through France in the past three weeks.”

The Guardian, the main cheerleader for Ken Livingstone, carried a lengthy article this week on rising French anti-Semitism – but the Guardian failed to once mention the word “Muslim” or “Islam” in the article.

FATWA BANNING WOMEN WEARING TROUSERS BEING CONSIDERED

Al-Azhar, the highest authority for Sharia rulings in the mainstream Muslim world, is considering issuing a fatwa that will ban women from wearing trousers, according to a report today in the London-based Arabic language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.

***

I attach three articles below. The first is a news report on Ehud Olmert’s vision to establish “Israel’s permanent borders, whereby we will completely separate from the majority of the Palestinian population.” The second article, by Ari Shavit in Ha’aretz, is a rare critique from a center-left viewpoint within Israel of the position outlined by Olmert and Kadima. The final article looks at the Arab vote in Israel.

Due to other commitments, there will be no dispatches next week.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

OLMERT TO SET “ISRAEL’S PERMANENT BORDERS”

Olmert sees permanent Israeli borders by 2010
By Dean Yates
Reuters
March 9, 2006

Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he plans to impose permanent Israeli borders by 2010 through pullouts from parts of the occupied West Bank, unless Hamas recognizes the Jewish state and renounces violence.

In one of two interviews published in local media on Thursday ahead of March 28 elections that his Kadima party is expected to win, Olmert also said a security barrier being built in the West Bank would largely follow the final borders.

Olmert said the barrier’s final route could change depending on circumstances, the Haaretz newspaper said. Israel officially calls the barrier a security measure while Palestinians call it a land grab meant to pre-empt any future border negotiations.

In a separate interview with the Jerusalem Post, Olmert said within the next four years he intended to “get to Israel’s permanent borders, whereby we will completely separate from the majority of the Palestinian population.”

He made similar comments to Haaretz about the four-year timeframe.

Olmert told the Jerusalem Post he would give a Palestinian Authority led by the militant Islamist group Hamas a “reasonable” amount of time to reform, disarm and embrace past interim peace agreements.

Hamas is forming a government after a sweeping win in Palestinian parliamentary elections on January 25.

“We will wait, but I don’t intend to wait forever,” the Jerusalem Post quoted Olmert as saying.

“If after a reasonable time passes it becomes clear that the Palestinian Authority is not willing to accept these principles, we will need to begin to act.”

Olmert has led the centrist Kadima since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was incapacitated by a stroke on January 4. He has indicated he would evacuate isolated West Bank settlements while cementing Israel’s hold on major settlement blocs.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Reuters that unilateralism was not the way forward.

“We urge Mr Olmert to resume permanent status negotiations with us. The road to peace and security in the region is not through unilateralism, the building of walls and settlements, but rather through the resumption of permanent status negotiations,” he said.

In the Haaretz interview posted on its website, Olmert said the barrier could be moved either east or west if needed.

“The course of the fence, which until now has been a security fence, will be in line with the new course of the permanent border,” he said.

Olmert has ordered faster construction of the barrier looping into the West Bank around major Jewish settlements.

NO NEGOTIATIONS

Such moves have stoked Palestinian suspicions Israel wants the barrier to cement a permanent hold on areas of the West Bank, which it occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

Roughly half of the 600 km (370 mile) network of fences and concrete barricades has been built, some on occupied land where Palestinians seek statehood.

Israeli officials see the Hamas victory as reinforcing a need for unilateral action and dimming hopes for a U.S.-backed peace “road map,” which calls for both sides to take steps to reach a negotiated settlement.

Israel rules out negotiations with Hamas, which is sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction and has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings against Israelis since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000. Hamas says talks with Israel would be a waste of time.

Kadima appears to have consolidated its lead as campaigning for the election swings into high gear, surveys show.

Opinion polls published in three Israeli newspapers on Thursday indicated the party had stabilized its position following a drop in support earlier in the month.

The opinion polls gave Kadima 37 to 38 seats in the 120-seat parliament, far ahead of the center-left Labor Party and the right-wing Likud party.

 

“THE PALESTINE OF OLMERT WILL BE HOSTILE, DISSATISFIED AND VIOLENT”

Olmert’s arrogance
By Ari Shavit
Ha’aretz
March 15, 2006

www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArtVty.jhtml?sw=olmert++settlers&itemNo=694172

In September 2000, the Palestinians began a terror offensive against Israel. They did this because they refused to accept the Camp David proposal, which promised them the entire Gaza Strip and 91 percent of the West Bank in exchange for full recognition of Israel and an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If Ehud Olmert is elected prime minister and implements his convergence plan, then in September 2010 the Palestinians will have sovereignty over the entire Gaza Strip and some 91 percent of the West Bank, and all this without recognizing Israel and without ending the conflict.

Thus will the national Palestinian movement fulfill the objectives of its wars and obtain a full strategic resolution against the State of Israel. The history books will record Olmert’s unconditional withdrawal as the unconditional surrender of Zionism. No, it will not be the end. But it will be the beginning of the end. While relying on big money on one side and big journalism on the other, Olmert will lead the country to the beginning of the end.

At first glance, Olmert’s plan appears enchanting – no fear, no hesitation, and very Israeli. Here, we’ll take our destiny in our own hands. Within three years we’ll evacuate some 80,000 settlers. Within less than five years, we will undergo a final disengagement from the Palestinians and converge within the borders of a flourishing lowlands country. We will surround our existence with a high wall, which will protect us from both the craziness of the Land of Israel and from the threat of Palestine. And so, in one term, we will isolate ourselves from all the sickness and terrors of the Middle East. So simple. So clear. How did we not think of this sooner. Why did we wait so long so that the man who saved Jerusalem could also save the State of Israel.

However, on second glance it becomes clear that the Olmert plan has a small flaw: It has no Palestinians. This is a plan whose logic is simplistic and patronizing. This is a plan for Israelis only, which ignores its ramifications on Israelis. It takes an extreme unilateral position to the point of absurdity, totally ignoring the fact that the conflict is bilateral and the political reality is multilateral. The plan, then, is an arrogant one, and the hubris that characterizes it is no less than the hubris of the person who formulated it.

What Olmert plans to do in the next few years is to establish an armed Hamas state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Via the nearly complete withdrawal, Olmert will promise Hamas almost total control in the Palestinian state for generations. The Palestine of Olmert will be hostile, dissatisfied and violent. Its founding ethos will be “We’ve chased them out of Ofra, we’ll chase them out of Tzahala too.”

Since Olmert is establishing this country without first assuring its demilitarization, it will have significant military capability. Since he is establishing it without removing the right of return from the agenda, it will have a destructive claim against Israel, whose legitimacy is recognized by the international community. The combination of political sovereignty, military power and a commitment to demanding return will transform Olmert’s Hamas state into one that will endanger the very existence of the State of Israel.

Despite the irony, the convergence plan will not implement the Bush vision, but will destroy it. It will not build a stable two-state solution, but will create an unstable reality in which an Islamic Palestinian state systematically undermines the foundation of the Jewish democratic state.

But it is not just the stability of Israel that Olmert is endangering. He is also endangering the regional stability. A Hamas state will accelerate Jordan’s collapse. There is no chance that the Hashemite rule will stand up against a Palestinian state on its doorstep whose religious fervor has just subdued the Zionists. Egypt will also be threatened. A victorious Muslim Brotherhood republic that controls a third of Jerusalem and devours the Temple Mount will be the beacon of zealotry for the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo. And in Damascus. And in Amman.

And Olmert will be supporting not only anti-Israeli terror, but also the anti-Western revolutionary movement. His radical unilateral process will disrupt the American strategy in the area and will bury U.S. President George W. Bush’s dream of stability and democracy in the Middle East.

The Land of Israel must be divided. The occupation must end. A two-state solution is necessary. But the Hamas victory has made a two-state solution more distant and more complicated. Olmert’s convergence plan makes it impossible. Therefore, if the public gives him the chance to carry out his arrogant plan, then March 28, 2006, will go down in history. History will remember it as the day that did not bring peace and did not bring security, but began the end.

 

ALMOST 20 PERCENT OF ISRAEL’S 6.8 MILLION CITIZENS ARE ARABS

Politicians court a not-so-silent minority: Israeli Arabs
By Dina Kraft
The New York Times
March 21, 2006

Dr. Ahmed Tibi waved to supporters as his car moved slowly down the main road of this Arab town, past carpet shops, vegetable stands and billboards that call him “a son of the village,” unmistakable code for Arabs who are citizens but resist identification with Israel or Zionism.

“Look in the mirror and see whom you’re voting for,” Dr. Tibi told a gathering of potential voters here, a town bordering the West Bank. His eyes fixed on theirs, he said, “Zionist parties are the problem, not the solution.”

As Israel’s election approaches on March 28, Arab and mainstream Israeli parties, the ones that Dr. Tibi meant by “Zionist parties,” are competing for the votes of an alienated minority: Israeli Arabs.

A recent survey of 500 Arab voters found that only about 16 percent planned to vote for mainstream Israeli parties. In the last election roughly 30 percent of Israeli Arabs voted for these parties.

Almost 20 percent of Israel’s 6.8 million citizens are Arabs (a group distinct from the Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip), and a significant voting bloc that has made a difference in past races.

Israeli Arabs speak of frustration with everyone who is trying to represent them. Many criticize both the Arab parties, for focusing more on Palestinian issues than on their own needs, and the mainstream ones, for decades of unfulfilled promises.

The Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections adds another element to the already complex political relationship between Israel’s Jews and Arabs. But the Arabs say what would matter to them is if that victory produced further violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

“There is a fear that Israel will impose solutions and not negotiate, as in Gaza, and that will lead to clashes that will have some bearing on Arabs in Israel,” said Muhammad Amara, an Israeli Arab who teaches political science at Bar-Ilan University, outside Tel Aviv.

Some Jewish Israelis are worried about a growing Islamist movement that appears emboldened by the Hamas victory. Leaders of the pragmatic Islamist wing in Israel that does participate in politics – unlike its more militant branch, which refuses to – stress that they are the face of moderate Islam. “We are against all extremists, whether they are Arab or Jewish,” said Sheikh Abas Zakoor, a candidate of the Islamic Movement.

Dr. Tibi, a gynecologist who has been a member of Parliament since 1999, has joined in a coalition with the more pragmatic wing, which currently has two seats.

The heated nationalism practiced by Dr. Tibi and the Arab parties is an effort to tap into the mood of a fed-up minority.

“People live under continued and planned discrimination when it comes to the economy, education and jobs, and we do not see Israeli governments changing the situation,” said Ali Haider, co-executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, a group advocating equal status for Arabs and Jews.

Candidates from the mainstream parties are busy courting the Arab vote, too, touting their political muscle and promising to improve towns and villages, and schools and job prospects.

Fighting political discontent with economic solutions is part of Nadia Hilo’s strategy to sway Arab voters. An Arab with a high spot on the Labor Party list, she criticizes the Arab parties for claiming to be their people’s only legitimate representatives. She says she believes Labor will be part of the governing coalition with the power to force through an agenda focused on narrowing the economic gap between rich and poor.

“This will give a chance to the Arab sector to be more influential and improve their daily lives,” she said.

The apathy of a community grown increasingly cynical about the power of government to change its status makes turnout uncertain. This could hurt the Arab parties, which dropped in 2003 to 8 seats, from 10, in the 120-seat Parliament. Only 62 percent of Israeli Arabs voted in 2003, a significant drop from previous years. Pollsters predict a similar figure this year, and expect the parties to win eight seats.

This year, the threshold for a party to win a seat was raised, so some of the smaller parties have banded together in new coalitions.

Mustafa Abu Mokh, 46, a member of Baqa’s municipal council, said he doubted he would vote for any party. “What will convince me,” he said, “is a party that will answer our day-to-day problems.”

Arabs in Israel have higher levels of education, medical care and standards of living than their counterparts elsewhere in the Middle East. But they compare their lives with those of Israeli Jews, who are generally better off.

“Our life in this country is a kind of ambivalence,” said Professor Amara. “On the one hand you are a citizen, but what kind of citizen can you be as an Arab citizen in a Jewish state?”

A 32-year-old resident of Baqa who would identify himself only as Hassan said the mainstream parties held no sway with him. His vote will be going to the Arab Balad Party. “We tried Labor; we tried Likud,” he said. “They’ve done nothing.”

Azmi Bishara, an Arab member of Parliament who heads Balad, said that compounding the community’s sense of isolation was that Jewish Israelis viewed Arabs with suspicion. “The best-case scenario is that they are a demographic burden or tolerated guests, and at worst a fifth column,” he said.

Weary of politics and promises, Hanan Ihsaniya, a 23-year-old college student, is among those tuning out the elections all together. “We always vote,” she said, “but we don’t see results.”


Now Neturei Karta pledge their allegiance to Hamas

March 22, 2006

CONTENTS

1. Neturei Karta rabbis pledge support for Hamas
2. Hamas continues to incite terror
3. Two Palestinians charged in al-Qaeda plot
4. Mayor Livingstone was not drunk this time
5. “Anti-Israel rabbis vow Hamas support” (Al Jazeera, March 22, 2006)
6. “Mayor in fresh Jewish controversy” (BBC News online, March 21, 2006)
7. “Livingstone caught up in new row” (Evening Standard, March 22, 2006)
8. “‘Red Ken’ in new row over Games facility” (Gulf Daily News, March 22, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

NETUREI KARTA RABBIS PLEDGE SUPPORT FOR HAMAS

Usually those Jews who apologize for, or even actively support, anti-Jewish terror groups are to be found on the extreme secular left, on the margins of academia or journalism (although certain newspapers, for reasons of their own, like to give great prominence to these marginal figures.)

But a handful are also to be found on the extremes of the religious right.

Following on from their participation two weeks ago in a conference titled “The Holocaust: myth or reality?” held with anti-Semites in Teheran*, 14 rabbis from Neturei Karta have visited the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah to pledge their allegiance to the new Hamas government.

I attach, below, the English-language version of a report on the visit carried this morning in Arabic on Al Jazeera.

That Neturei Karta, a small ultra-orthodox sect, believe that no Jewish state should be created before the coming of the messiah, is one thing. That they should actively embrace anti-Semites and terrorists is another.

The spiritual leader of Neturei Karta, Moshe Hirsh, proclaims himself a Palestinian Jew (as do some Israeli academics who say they no longer consider themselves Israeli). Hirsh served as “Jewish affairs adviser” in the cabinet of the late Palestinian dictator Yasser Arafat.

[* For more on the conference in Tehran, see “How Iran duped the west”; Iranian Holocaust (denial) conference “begins today”.]

HAMAS CONTINUES TO INCITE TERROR

Hamas, the organization to which Neturei Karta have pledged allegiance, continues to incite Palestinian children to murder Israelis. On the website of al-Fateh (a children’s publication set up by Hamas in 2002) a new fictional short story for kids has just been posted about a young girl’s suicide attack. The story, titled “A Palestinian girl’s heroism,” concludes with the girl “smiling, lying on the grass, because she died as a Shahida (‘Martyr for Allah’) for Palestine.”

This is the first new story of this kind to go up since Hamas’s election victory. But the al-Fateh website has been inciting Palestinian children to kill Jews for some years now. For more on this, see the final section in my dispatch from 2002 titled The BBC, olive groves, and the murder of teenage girls.

TWO PALESTINIANS CHARGED IN AL-QAEDA PLOT

It has been announced that two Palestinian men from Nablus were on Sunday charged with planning a terror attack on behalf of al-Qaeda. Azzam Abu Al-Ades and Bilal Hafanawi were picked up at the Allenby Bridge border crossing from Jordan three months ago. They were thought to be planning a series of coordinated terror attacks in Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood involving suicide bombers and car bombs.

The trial comes just weeks after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said al-Qaeda was trying to recruit West Bank and Gaza Palestinians. The Israeli charge sheet provides a detailed account at how the Palestinians met the al-Qaeda operatives and how the international terror network went about recruiting and financing them, including the opening of a Jordanian bank account with funds for the attack. The two visited the Jordanian city of Irbid at least three times, together and separately, to meet their al-Qaeda handlers, named Abdullah and Abu Talha, the indictment said. Funds also came from a woman named “Naam” from the United Arab Emirates who was in contact with them by Internet, the authorities said.

Separately, Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli Defense Minister, told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot that “Last month, Iran gave the Islamic Jihad $1.8 million, to carry out attacks against Israel.” Israeli police suspect that Islamic Jihad were behind yesterday’s attempted suicide bombing in the Tel Aviv area, referred to in yesterday’s dispatch.

LIVINGSTONE WAS NOT DRUNK THIS TIME

A number of news organizations have today picked up on the most recent distasteful comments made by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, referred to in yesterday’s dispatch. Attached below are reports from the BBC, the (London) Evening Standard, and the Gulf Daily News.

Previously, some people defended Livingstone for his “concentration camp guard” remark on the basis that it occurred after a party and he may have been drunk.

Yesterday’s comments, by contrast, occurred at a mid-morning press conference and the London mayor was not drunk. Indeed, for good measure, in an attempt to solidify his electoral support base among those who don’t like Jews, he repeated his comment that if the Reuben brothers were “not happy here perhaps they could go back to Iran and try it under the Ayatollahs.”

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

“WE PROCLAIM OUR ALLEGIANCE TO THE NEW HAMAS REGIME”

Anti-Israel rabbis vow Hamas support
Al Jazeera (AFP)
March 22, 2006

english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/02CF0481-6991-49AD-9F47-9E386EB320A1.htm

A group of anti-Zionist rabbis has visited the Palestinian parliament to pledge their support for the prospective Hamas-led government.

The rabbis from the small ultra-Orthodox movement Neturei Karta, which this month sent a delegation to Iran, travelled to the West Bank town of Ram Allah to express their support for the Islamic group.

The group rejects the existence of the state of Israel as contrary to Jewish law and believes the land should be returned to Palestinians.

Neturei Karta believe that no Jewish state should be created before the coming of the messiah.

“We are true Jews who have come to the Palestinian Legislative Council today to proclaim our allegiance to the new Hamas regime,” said a spokesman for the group.

“We came to express our complete support for the Palestinian people. We consider ourselves Palestinians and, like them, we regard ourselves as under Zionist occupation.”

Parliament Speaker Aziz Dweik called an adjournment of parliament, controlled by Hamas since its January election victory, so that the 14 rabbis, led by spiritual leader Moshe Hirsh, could be welcomed by legislators.

The anti-Zionist movement once represented a stronger current within ultra-Orthodox Judaism, but its membership has dropped to about 400 families in Israel, with supporters in Britain and the US.

Hirsh, proclaiming himself a Palestinian Jew, served as Jewish affairs adviser to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

 

LONDON MAYOR IN FRESH JEWISH CONTROVERSY

Mayor in fresh Jewish controversy
BBC News online
March 21, 2006

news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/4830878.stm

London’s mayor has become embroiled in a new row after criticising two Jewish businessmen involved in building a key facility for the 2012 Olympics.

Ken Livingstone attacked David and Simon Reuben for their role in an ongoing dispute about the Stratford City development in east London.

He suggested the brothers “go back (to their own country) and see if they can do better under the ayatollahs”.

The mayor made the comments during a speech at City Hall. The mayor’s office said there was nothing further to add.

The mayor is understood to think the consortium behind the project, of which the Reuben brothers hold a 50% stake, is not progressing quickly enough and could be in danger.

Conservative members of the London Assembly said the brothers were not Iranian, but had been born in India of Iraqi Jewish parents.

Brian Coleman, assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, said: “This is the latest anti-Semitic remark by Livingstone, he clearly has a major problem with the Jewish business community.”

The brothers released a statement saying the mayor’s comments were “totally inaccurate”.

“The Reuben brothers remain completely committed to the Stratford City project in its entirety as well as the Olympic opportunity,” the statement added.

“They are working extremely hard to deliver the development for the long-term benefit of London and Londoners. That is what they shall continue to do.

“Mr Livingstone’s comments on the Reuben brothers’ role in the Paddington and White City developments are also unsubstantiated.”

The row follows the mayor’s four-week suspension for comparing Evening Standard journalist Oliver Finegold to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

Mr Livingstone, however, won a last-minute attempt to remain London’s mayor pending an appeal against the verdict, which was handed down by the Adjudication Panel for England.

 

“GO BACK TO IRAN AND TRY THEIR LUCK WITH THE AYATOLLAHS”

Livingstone caught up in new row
Evening Standard (London)
March 22, 2006

www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/articles/PA_NEWA17364881142960578A0000?source=PA%20Feed

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has become embroiled in a new row after apparently suggesting that billionaire businessmen brothers involved with building a key facility for the 2012 Olympics should “go back to Iran and try their luck with the ayatollahs”.

Mr Livingstone was reported to have said of David and Simon Reuben, who are backing the £4 billion “Olympic City” in Stratford, east London: “Perhaps if they’re not happy they can always go back (to their own country) and see if they can do better under the ayatollahs.”

Conservatives on the London Assembly said the brothers were not Iranian, but born in India of Iraqi Jewish parents.

Brian Coleman, assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, said: “This is the latest anti-Semitic remark by Livingstone, he clearly has a major problem with the Jewish business community. To suggest that these men should go to Iran is shocking, outrageous and grossly offensive to the entire Jewish community.”

The remarks come as Mr Livingstone is preparing for his appeal against a four-week suspension from the office of Mayor over comments to a Jewish reporter.

Last month, the Adjudication Panel for England unanimously found him guilty of being “unnecessarily insensitive and offensive” in comparing Evening Standard journalist Oliver Finegold to a Nazi concentration camp guard.

The three-man tribunal decided that he brought his office into disrepute and breached the Greater London Authority code of conduct. He won a last ditch legal bid to remain as Mayor, just hours before his suspension was due to begin, pending the appeal.

The latest alleged comments come against the background of a reported crisis affecting the Stratford City development. The Evening Standard reported that the Reubens control half the consortium, with the two remaining stakes held by the Westfield and Stanhope groups.

At his weekly press conference, Mr Livingstone apparently said a “poisonous state of relations” now existed within the consortium. He blamed the Reuben brothers for the collapse of plans for a new hospital at Paddington and of having a “divisive” role in a shopping centre being built at White City.

He said: “Perhaps if they’re not happy they can always go back (to their own country) and see if they can do better under the ayatollahs.”

A spokesman for Mr Livingstone’s office said they were aware of the story in the Evening Standard and aware of the comments by the Conservatives.

 

“RED KEN” IN NEW ROW OVER GAMES FACILITY

‘Red Ken’ in new row over Games facility
Gulf Daily News
March 22, 2006

www.gulf-daily-news.com/Story.asp?Article=138781&Sn=WORL&IssueID=29002

London Mayor Ken Livingstone was at the centre of a fresh political row yesterday, as a possible sanction for comparing a Jewish reporter to a Nazi still hung over his head. The 60-year-old was reported to have said two wealthy brothers should “go back to Iran and try their luck with the ayatollahs” because of alleged wranglings over a key facility for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The remarks, directed at David and Simon Reuben, were slammed by opposition members of the Greater London Assembly. The Reubens were not Iranian but born in India of Iraqi Jewish parents, said Conservative Party assembly member Brian Coleman.


“How I learned to love the wall” & more on Wafa Sultan, other Muslim “dissidents”

March 21, 2006

CONTENTS

1. EU funds free up money for terror
2. Most people in the west “don’t have a clue”
3. European press begins to take note of Wafa Sultan
4. Irshad Manji: Another brave Muslim woman speaks out
5. Former Taliban official attending classes at Yale
6. Swedish foreign minister resigns over Mohammed cartoons
7. Livingstone to Jews: Go back to Iran
8. “How I learned to love the wall” (By Irshad Manji, New York Times, March 18, 2006)
9. “Women at war with the mullahs” (London Sunday Times, March 19, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

EU FUNDS FREE UP MONEY FOR TERROR

As the EU gives more money to the Palestinians (yesterday it donated another $78 million), Palestinian attempts to murder Israelis continue. Today, Israeli security forces discovered a 5-kilogram (11-pound) explosive belt in a car transporting a group of Palestinians on the Jerusalem-Tel-Aviv highway. The group, who were captured after a dramatic helicopter chase on Israel’s main highway, were en route to carry out a suicide bombing in the Tel Aviv area.

MOST PEOPLE IN THE WEST “DON’T HAVE A CLUE”

Following on from the Wafa Sultan video, here is another clip, which (although 16 minutes long) is worth watching in full.

Three former terrorists – Walid Shoebat, Zak Anani and Ibrahim Abdullah – speak out on American TV against Islamic terrorism, saying they deeply regret their acts of violence, and explain that the anti-Semitic and other incitement they were force fed by the authorities as children led them to want to kill. Ibrahim Abdullah points out how “we were raised to have hatred in our heart.” Zak Anani comments that what they show on western media “is the beautified nature of Islam” and that most people in the west “don’t have a clue” about the true extent of the extremism and incitement prevalent in many Islamic societies.

This interview was conducted on a small New Jersey-based cable network called CN8. It would be nice to think that in the future CNN or BBC may show honest voices like these, rather than propagandists like Hanan Ashrawi and Saeb Erekat whom they regularly invite to appear.

EUROPEAN PRESS BEGINS TO TAKE NOTE OF WAFA SULTAN

Meanwhile the European press has begun to take note of Wafa Sultan. Attached below is an interview with her two days ago in The Sunday Times of London. (The article was titled “Women at war with the mullahs: What drives a woman to risk a fatwa by attacking Islam.”)

For more on Wafa Sultan, see:
* “How Iran duped the west”; Iranian Holocaust (denial) conference “begins today”
* Wafa Sultan receives death threats, mainstream media attention (& other items)

IRSHAD MANJI: ANOTHER BRAVE MUSLIM WOMAN SPEAKS OUT

Like Wafa Sultan, Irshad Manji is another brave Muslim woman who dares to speak out against Muslim extremists. In her piece titled “How I learned to love the wall” (attached below), she defends Ariel Sharon’s decision to save the lives of Israeli men, women and children by building a barrier. She criticizes the phrase “Ariel Sharon’s apartheid wall” which she says is “spewed on almost every university campus I visit in North America and Europe.”

Irshad Manji is a student at Yale, and The New York Times – which like other liberal media has in the past so often provided a forum for the extremists’ apologists in western academia – should be commended for providing her with op-ed space to say openly what many moderates think of the security barrier.

Previously the New York Times has described Irshad Manji as “Osama Bin Laden’s worst nightmare”. For more on Manji, see www.muslim-refusenik.com/aboutirshad.html.

FORMER TALIBAN OFFICIAL ATTENDING CLASSES AT YALE

In the Wall Street Journal yesterday, John Fund wrote of an altogether different student at Yale: Taliban official and propagandist Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi who is attending classes at the prestigious Ivy League campus.

Fund writes: “Three weeks after the New York Times revealed that former Taliban official Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi is attending classes at Yale, many at the university still have little to say about the controversy. Meredith Startz, president of the Yale Political Union, told me ‘there’s more discussion of military recruiting among people at Yale than about the Taliban student.’

“That’s partly because Ms. Startz’s own organization is discouraging discussion of the subject. The union’s vice president had invited me, along with Yale alumnus and Army veteran Flagg Youngblood, to debate both military recruitment and the Rahmatullah case, on campus March 29. But when he brought the proposal to the executive board, it was rejected…”

In his article, Fund provides an interesting historical perspective on two Yale professors – Vladimir Sokolov and Paul de Man – who were Nazi propagandists. His full article can be read here free of charge to non-Wall Street Journal subscribers.

SWEDISH FOREIGN MINISTER RESIGNS OVER MOHAMMED CARTOONS

Meanwhile the Swedish foreign minister resigned today after admitting she was responsible for closing down a web site that dared to reprint the Danish newspaper cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. She had previously said had had nothing to do with this censorship. For more on this subject, see “To be or not to be, that is the question,” not just asked by a famous fictional Dane.

In Britain, the Church of Wales announced today that it has pulped all editions of its magazine, “Prophet,” after it carried a (non-offensive) cartoon of Mohammed to accompany an article about shared religious ancestry between Christians and Muslims. The editor of the magazine has resigned for the “offense” and the Archbishop of Wales has apologized to Muslims.

Last month, in a further act of appeasement, a Cardiff University student union newspaper called “Gair Rhydd” – Welsh for “Free Word” – was withdrawn after it printed a different cartoon.

Claims by many Western journalists that there is no history of the prophet Mohammed being depicted pictorially without protests and threats from Muslims are incorrect. See Portraying the prophet from Persian art to South Park.

LIVINGSTONE TO JEWS: GO BACK TO IRAN

Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, whose apologists (such as the Guardian newspaper) have consistently denied he is anti-Semitic, this morning told two Jewish property developers of Iraqi descent (David and Simon Reuben) that “If they’re not happy here perhaps they could go back to Iran and try it under the Ayatollahs.” Livingstone made the remarks in the midst of a press conference about the upcoming 2012 London Olympics.

Livingstone is in the midst of appealing against his 4-week suspension by the Adjudication Panel for England, which arose from his comparison of a Jewish reporter to a “concentration camp guard”. The suspension has not yet taken effect and one might think now was not a good time to make statements about Jews and those who might want to persecute them.

For more on Ken Livingstone, please see London’s mayor still refuses to apologize for “Nazi remark”.

For the record, the Reuben brothers were born in Bombay to Iraqi parents of Jewish descent and have lived in the UK for almost four decades. Among the charities they donate to is “Medical Aid for Iraqi Children.”

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

“BEFORE THE BARRIER, THERE WAS THE BOMBER”

How I Learned to Love the Wall
By Irshad Manji
The New York Times
March 18, 2006

www.nytimes.com/2006/03/18/opinion/18manji.html?ex=1300338000&en=5bcee9d86aa4e6c5&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

On March 28, Israelis will elect a new prime minister to replace the ailing Ariel Sharon. But I’d bet my last shekel that I’ll continue to hear the phrase “Ariel Sharon’s apartheid wall.” It’s a phrase spoken – make that spewed – on almost every university campus I visit in North America and Europe.

Among a new generation of Muslims, this is what Mr. Sharon will be known for long after he leaves office: unilaterally erecting a barrier, most of it a fence, some of it a wall, that cuts Arab villages in half, chokes the movement of ordinary Palestinians, cripples local economies and, ultimately, separates human beings.

The critics have a point – up to a point.

They’re right that Palestinians are virtually wailing at “the wall.” When I went to see its towering cement slabs in the West Bank town of Abu Dis last year, an Arab man approached me to unload his sadness. “It’s no good,” he said. “It’s hard.”

“Why do you think they built it?” I asked.

The man shook his head and repeated, “It’s hard.” After some silence, he added, “We are not two people. We are one.”

“How do you explain that to suicide bombers?” I wondered aloud.

The man smiled. “No understand,” he replied. “No English. Thank you. Goodbye.”

Was it something I said? Maybe my impolite mention of Palestinian martyrs? Then again, how could I not mention them?

After all, this barrier, although built by Mr. Sharon, was birthed by “shaheeds,” suicide bombers whom Palestinian leaders have glorified as martyrs. Qassam missiles can kill two or three people at a time. Suicide bombers lay waste to many more. Since the barrier went up, suicide attacks have plunged, which means innocent Arab lives have been spared along with Jewish ones. Does a concrete effort to save civilian lives justify the hardship posed by this structure? The humanitarian in me bristles, but ultimately answers yes.

That’s not to deny or even diminish Arab pain. I had to twist myself like an amateur gymnast when I helped a Palestinian woman carry her grocery bags through a gap in the wall (such gaps, closely watched by Israeli soldiers, do exist). It made me wonder how much more difficult the obstacle course must be for people twice my age, who must travel to one of the wider official checkpoints nearby.

I appreciate that Israel’s intent is not to keep Palestinians “in” so much as to keep suicide bombers “out.” But in the minds of many Palestinians, Ariel Sharon never adequately acknowledged the humiliation felt by a 60-year-old Arab whose family has harvested the Holy Land for generations when she has to show her identity card to an 18-year-old Ethiopian immigrant in an Israeli Army uniform who’s been in the country for eight months. In that context, fences and walls come off as cruelly gratuitous.

For all the closings, however, Israel is open enough to tolerate lawsuits by civil society groups who despise every mile of the barrier. Mr. Sharon himself agreed to reroute sections of it when the Israel High Court ruled in favor of the complainants. Where else in the Middle East can Arabs and Jews work together so visibly to contest, and change, state policies?

I reflected on this question as I observed an Israeli Army jeep patrol the gap in Abu Dis. The vehicle was crammed with soldiers who, in turn, observed me filming the anti-Israel graffiti scrawled by Western activists – “Scotland hates the blood-sucking Zionists!” I turned my video camera on the soldiers. Nobody ordered me to shut it off or show the tape. My Arab taxi driver stood by, unprotected by a diplomatic license plate or press banner.

Like all Muslims, I look forward to the day when neither the jeep nor the wall is in Abu Dis. So will we tell the self-appointed martyrs of Islam that the people – not just Arabs, but Arabs and Jews – “are one”? That before the barrier, there was the bomber? And that the barrier can be dismantled, but the bomber’s victims are gone forever?

Young Muslims, especially those privileged with a good education, cannot walk away from these questions as my interlocutor in Abu Dis did. If we follow in his footsteps, we are only conspiring against ourselves. After all, once the election is over, we won’t have Ariel Sharon to kick around anymore.

 

“I BELIEVE THE TIME HAS COME AND THE TRUTH SHOULD BE SPOKEN”

Women at war with the mullahs: What drives a woman to risk a fatwa by attacking Islam
By Christopher Goodwin
The Sunday Times (of London)
March 19, 2006

www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2092-2092167,00.html

It would be hard to imagine a place more remote from the violence and turmoil of the Middle East than this quiet cul-de-sac in the southern suburbs of Los Angeles. But as David Sultan opens the front door of his home he glances up and down the street anxiously.

He has good reason to be nervous: ever since Dr Wafa Sultan, his wife, appeared on Al-Jazeera, the Arabic television network, last summer she has been receiving death threats. During that and a second broadcast in February Dr Sultan, who was brought up as a Muslim in Syria, denounced the teachings and practice of Islam as “barbaric” and “medieval”.

“The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilisations,” the impassioned 47-year-old told Al-Jazeera’s stunned audience across the Arab world. “It is a clash between civilisation and backwardness, between the civilised and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between human rights on the one hand and the violation of these rights on the other, between those who treat women like beasts and those who treat them like human beings.”

The broadcasts have caused an unholy stir in the Muslim world and virtually overnight have turned Sultan, previously known only to a few for her writings on www.annaqed.com, a small Arab-American website, into one of the most controversial figures in the international debate about Islam. The broadcasts have been downloaded more than 1m times from the internet and she has been interviewed on CNN and profiled by The New York Times and Le Monde.

While some acclaim her as “a voice of reason” others have denounced her as a “heretic” and insist that she deserves to die. What seems to have most infuriated many Muslims were Sultan’s comparisons between how Jews and Muslims have coped with the tragedies that have befallen them.

“The Jews have come from tragedy and forced the world to respect them,” she said, “with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling.

“We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people. Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.”

Sitting in the airy living room of the spacious modern home where Sultan and her husband live, it is hard to believe this small, neatly dressed woman could be at the centre of an international firestorm. Just as improbable is that the most important and controversial critics of Islamic fundamentalism, violence and intolerance are, like Sultan, women, mostly from Islamic countries.

They include Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch politician, who has strongly criticised Islamic attitudes towards women and the widespread practice of female circumcision in Muslim north Africa; Irshad Manji, a Canadian lesbian of Pakistani descent, whose book The Trouble with Islam Today chastises Islam for its aggression towards women and for its anti-semitism; Amina Wadud, an African-American convert to Islam and Muslim academic and author, who has infuriated traditional Muslims by leading Friday prayer for Muslims in New York, a role traditionally taken only by male imams.

Other Muslim women in the front lines of the clash with Islamic governments are as diverse as Mukhtar Mai, the Pakistani village woman who was brutally gang-raped in 2002 as reprisal for an alleged transgression by her 14-year-old brother, and Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer who was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 2003 for her defence of the rights of women and children in fundamentalist Muslim Iran.

Death threats against these women are commonplace. Irshad Manji has had to install bullet-proof windows in her home. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has to travel everywhere with bodyguards after the threats against her and the death the film maker Theo van Gogh, her friend and collaborator.

Sultan never imagined her life would take this path. She was born to a large middle-class family in the Syrian port city of Banias. Her father was a grain trader, her mother a housewife. She has nine brothers and sisters. The family was devoutly Muslim and Sultan, who studied medicine at the University of Aleppo in Damascus, says she never had any reason to doubt her faith. But in 1979, when she was a student, she witnessed a horrifying crime. As she stood chatting with some other students on the university courtyard, armed members of the Muslim Brotherhood began shooting at one of her teachers, killing him on the spot.

“They filled his body with bullets as they shouted ‘Allahu akbar! Allahu akbar! (God is greatest!)’,” she recalls. She says they killed him because he was an Alawite, a member of the same Muslim sect as the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, whom they wanted to overthrow, even though he had nothing to do with politics.

“This was the turning point of my life,” says Sultan. She began to reread the Koran closely, gradually coming to the conclusion that the violence and oppression of most Muslim governments and some of those fighting against them stemmed directly from the teachings of Islam. “I began to question every single teaching,” she says. She noticed that “there are too many verses in the Koran which say you must kill those who are non-Muslim; you must kill those who don’t believe in Allah and his messenger. I started to ask: is this right? Is this human? All our problems in the Islamic world, I strongly believe, are the natural outcome of these teachings. Go open any book in any class in any school in any Islamic country and read it. You will see what kind of teachings we have: Islam tells its followers that every non-Muslim is your enemy.”

Sultan, who worked as a family practitioner in Syria after qualifying as a doctor, also speaks about the virulent anti-semitism that was inculcated in her and all Syrian children. This made her so terrified of Jews that she refused to act the part of the Israeli prime minister Golda Meir in a school play.

“Until I came to United States I used to believe that Jewish people are not human creatures,” she says. “Unfortunately this is the way I was brought up, to believe that Jews don’t have our human features, they don’t have our human voices.”

In the first week she was in the United States she and her husband went to a shoe shop in Hollywood. Her husband asked the clerk where he was from and when he said that he was an Israeli Jew, “you can’t believe what I did”, she says. “I ran away without shoes, barefoot. My husband followed me. He said, ‘How stupid you are.’ But I said, ‘I cannot tolerate him.’ I was scared to death because he was from Israel; I reacted in a very bad, negative way, because of the way I had been raised, for the past 30 years of my life.”

Sultan and her husband, who met when they were at university, moved to the United States in 1989 with two of their children. They have since had a third. As they struggled to establish themselves – for four years she worked as a cashier in convenience stores until his small business began to prosper – she started writing about Islam, at first for local Arab newspapers, until her writings brought threats against them. Three weeks before September 11 she helped set up the Annaqed (The Critic) website where she and other writers from the Muslim Middle East have been able to put forward their critical views of Islam.

Sultan, who is now close to completing her US medical qualifications – she plans to practise psychiatry – has written two books that can be read in Arabic and is finishing a third – The Escaped Prisoner: When God is a Monster – which she hopes will also be published in English.

Sultan has no intention of stopping her attacks on Islam even though she and her family in Syria have been threatened. Two of her brothers have been interrogated by the Syrian secret police, she says, since the Al-Jazeera broadcasts. In fact, Sultan’s long intellectual journey has brought her to a radical conclusion: that reform of Islam is impossible.

“Muslims have been hostages of their beliefs and their teachings for 14 centuries,” she says. “I believe the time has come and the truth should be spoken. I know that I am waging a very difficult war. It is going to take years. I might not be able to see it in my life, but I am strongly sure that the next generation will see the fruits of my writing and my message.”


“Possibly the most maligned country on the planet is in the news again”

March 16, 2006

CONTENTS

1. An “unforgivable crime”
2. “Just what has the world got against Israel?”
3. The BBC office was spared
4. New BBC Jerusalem bureau chief
5. Privileges of the Jericho six: Cigars, birds, and personal servants
6. “Time we started to stick up for Israel” (By Virginia Blackburn, Daily Express, March 16, 2006)
7. “Orwell meets Israel” (By Daniel Johnson, New York Sun, March 16, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

AN “UNFORGIVABLE CRIME”

Israel has been widely condemned for its raid to recapture Ahmed Saadat and five other Palestinian terrorists in a jail in Jericho on Tuesday. Among those slamming Israel are the European Union, Russia and many journalists.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of an “unforgivable crime”. At the UN, a draft statement by Qatari ambassador, Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, representing Arab nations, condemned “Israel’s violent incursion”.

“JUST WHAT HAS THE WORLD GOT AGAINST ISRAEL?”

To provide an alternative to the torrent of (often ill-informed) criticism in much of the media, I attach two very different pieces below. Both strongly defend Israel’s actions. Virginia Blackburn, writing in the (London) Daily Express, asks: “Does the world thank Israel for capturing a known terrorist and bringing him to justice? No, it does not. Instead, you’d have thought Israel itself was in the wrong… Just what has the world got against Israel? … They take out their disgusting little prejudices by blaming Israel for all the world’s problems.”

Daniel Johnson, who is a longtime subscriber to this email list, writes in The New York Sun: “We pay the Palestinians a fortune, and they repay us with violence. But it is always Israel that is guilty.”

THE BBC OFFICE WAS SPARED

Wrongly believing that the British government colluded with Israel on Tuesday, Palestinian militants attacked many British targets. Among these, the offices of the British Council were burned down, and an HSBC bank was ransacked. In their usual intimidatory way, they also targeted journalists, briefly seizing two French reporters and a South Korean one. Armed gunmen also raided the offices of the German TV station ARD, shooting in the air. But what is interesting is that the BBC is housed in the same building as ARD in Gaza, and yet the Palestinian militant groups – who are much better organized and more sophisticated in their choice of targets than some in the media would have us believe – deliberately did not enter the BBC offices.

It seems that even on a day of widespread attacks on western targets in Gaza and the West Bank, the Palestinian gunmen know who their friends are.

NEW BBC JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF

The BBC is the world’s biggest TV and radio network, and its Jerusalem bureau is one of its biggest, if not the biggest, so obsessed is this largely public-funded corporation in covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

To replace its notoriously anti-Israeli correspondents Orla Guerin and Barbara Plett – Guerin was accused by Natan Sharansky of “setting a new standard for biased journalism” and Plett infamously cried for Yasser Arafat as he left Ramallah to seek medical treatment – the BBC has chosen another Arabist as its new Jerusalem bureau chief, Caroline Hawley.

Earlier this week, the Guardian ran a piece on Hawley to mark the occasion. The Guardian notes: “The daughter of a senior diplomat, Hawley was born in Nigeria in 1967. She lived in Oman as a child and ‘romantic memories of camels in deserts and starry nights’ [Hawley’s words] inspired her to study Arabic and Islamic studies at Oxford University.”

Judging by the points Daniel Johnson makes in his article (attached below), and by the BBC’s reports on the situation in Jericho and Gaza on Tuesday, it seems that Israel is not going to suddenly start being treated fairly by the BBC.

PRIVILEGES OF THE JERICHO SIX: CIGARS, BIRDS, AND PERSONAL SERVANTS

One of the few newspapers to give Israel a fair press today is The Times of London, which outlines just what kind of “jail conditions” the Palestinian Authority subjected the Jericho Six to during their period of supposed punishment for murder and other crimes:

* They had mobile phones and computers; Shobaki (one of the senior terrorists wanted by Israel) ordered the US and British monitors’ phone jammers to be turned off
* They had up to 90 visitors a week and used other prisoners “as domestic staff”
* Saadat kept birds and had a big book collection
* Inmates and guards referred to Shobaki as “brigadier”. He smoked up to five Cuban cigars a day
* US and British Monitors complained that Saadat, Shobaki and the four other “special” prisoners were given the run of the compound by Palestinian guards
* They were not “locked down” at night

***

I recommend reading both articles attached below in full.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

“TIME WE STARTED TO STICK UP FOR ISRAEL”

Time we started to stick up for Israel
By Virginia Blackburn
Daily Express (London)
March 16, 2006

Just what has the world got against Israel? Possibly the most maligned country on the planet is in the news again: this time round it’s being castigated for the capture of Ahmed Saadat. Saadat, a Palestinian terrorist who is accused of ordering the assassination of the Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001, was being held in a Palestinian prison in Jericho.

Even before the election of the Hamas government, concerns were being voiced over the security of the jail. Under the new government and the new president, Mahmoud Abbas, it looked almost certain that he would be set free. So Israel was forced to storm the prison and capture Saadat, who will now face trial.

But does the world thank Israel for capturing a known terrorist and bringing him to justice? No, it does not. Instead, you’d have thought Israel itself was in the wrong.

There’s the usual tutting about heavy handedness and upsetting the rest of the Middle East, much of which, if truth be told, wants to see not only Israel but also the West smashed to smithereens.

Not that you would gather that listening to some people, especially those on the Left: in their eyes, nothing Israel does can ever be right. In a moment of ever greater than usual stupidity, [senior British politician] Clare Short once compared Israel to Saudi Arabia on human rights grounds. As a woman, in which of the two countries do you think she’d prefer to live?

Why do people think like this? Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and the only true friend of the West. Some of the Arab states may present themselves as Western allies but that is only because they want Western money for their oil.

Saudi Arabia may have strong trading links with the UK and the US but it’s an open secret that massively anti-Western propaganda is rife in that country. If you doubt this, remember that the majority of the September 11 hijackers were Saudis, as is Osama Bin Laden. Some friends to the west.

Yet Saudi Arabia doesn’t get an ounce of the vitriol directed towards it that Israel has to take. Israel has had to deal with suicide bombers for years now and has been routinely denounced for its reaction – yet look what happens on the one and only occasion Britain has had to deal with suicide bombers to date: an innocent man is shot dead.

The police have rightly been castigated for this but can you imagine living in a country where suicide bombers are a part of the fabric of daily life? Can you imagine the fear and mistrust this must breed among people who, every day, must mingle with potential murderers in the street?

This is what Israel has had to deal with and have we been sympathetic? Have we hell. The left even sided with the bombers until they got active on these shores, too.

The reason for this appalling attitude, alas, is because Israel is a Jewish state. Anti-Semitism is as strong as it ever has been: it’s just that, after the events of 60 years ago, most anti-Semites have been shamed into shutting up. So they take out their disgusting little prejudices by blaming Israel for all the world’s problems instead.

They should wise up. Israel has, more than once, saved our ungrateful necks. It is Israel that stopped Iraq from becoming a nuclear power by bombing its armaments factories, and the way things are going, it looks as if it may do the same to Iran, too.

And will it be praised by a world it has made safer? You guess.

 

“WE ARE ALL GUILTY – BUT SOME ARE MORE GUILTY THAN OTHERS”

Orwell Meets Israel
By Daniel Johnson
The New York Sun
March 16, 2006

“We are all guilty!” This was the perennial cry of a fictional comic character, the sociologist Dr. Heinz Kiosk, in the long-running Peter Simple column of the London Daily Telegraph written by the great humorist Michael Wharton, who died last month. Well, the Heinz Kiosks have been in overdrive since Tuesday’s dramatic events in Jericho.

The capture there of Ahmed Saadat, the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and five other PFLP terrorists will go down in history as one of Israel’s most remarkable military operations, comparable to the Entebbe raid or the abduction of Eichmann.

The jail in Jericho where the terrorists were being held had become a fortress in the 15 minutes that elapsed between the departure of British and American monitors and the arrival of Israeli forces to besiege the compound. In the absence of a Joshua, the walls of Jericho did not come tumbling down. They had to be blasted, not with trumpets, but with tanks. In fact, it took another 12 hours before Saadat and his men, who had been armed by their jailers, surrendered. Under the circumstances, it is astonishing that only one prisoner and one guard were killed – proof that Israel wanted their quarries alive, to stand trial.

To judge from the Heinz Kiosks at the BBC, however, you would think that Israel, the United States, and Britain were entirely to blame for the violence that erupted across the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday. Palestinians burned down offices of the British and US cultural missions, as well as the European Commission, in Gaza City and Ramallah, kidnapped Westerners at random, and threatened further reprisals.

The British network’s leading anchorman, Jeremy Paxman, interviewing the former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, in his usual aggressive style, was visibly astonished that a leftist Israeli in the midst of an election campaign would offer warm support to a right-of-center government. Mr. Paxman apparently couldn’t get his head round the idea that Israel had acted within its rights, because the Palestinians had never kept to their side of the agreement, and could not sit idly by while the assassins of their cabinet minister were set free to strike again.

But surely the British and Americans were to blame for withdrawing their monitors from the prison? That, after all, was the view of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, who rushed back from a European trip to deal with the crisis, blaming everyone except himself. He accused the British and Americans of keeping him in the dark and of “colluding” with the Israelis, and insisted that there had been no question of Saadat’s imminent release.

Yet, as quickly emerged, Mr. Abbas (usually known by his nom de guerre Abu Mazen) had been given numerous warnings that conditions at the jail in Jericho would force an Anglo-American pullout, with the wholly predictable consequence that Israeli forces would speedily move in to snatch Saadat.

The BBC decided to believe Mr. Abbas, the man who had overall responsibility for security in the Palestinian territories, rather than their own foreign secretary, Jack Straw, who told the House of Commons that Britain had not colluded with Israel, but had pulled out its monitors because their safety could not be guaranteed under a Hamas regime. He released a March 8 letter received from the British consul-general in Jerusalem, which stated: “The pending handover of governmental power to a political party [Hamas] that has repeatedly called for the release of the Jericho detainees also calls into question the political sustainability of the monitoring mission.”

The former leader of the Conservative Party in the European Parliament, Edward Macmillan-Scott, blamed Britain, the U.S., and Israel on the BBC’s flagship “Today” program yesterday, declaring that it was a scandal that the Palestinian president had been prevented from addressing the European Parliament. Not a word of condemnation from Mr. Macmillan-Scott for the terrorists or rioters, let alone the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority It did not seem to occur to this Tory Eurocrat that Mr. Abbas ought never to have been joining the Brussels gravy train at all, while a crisis was brewing in his own back yard.

But of course it is no surprise that Mr. Abbas was on his way to Brussels: The European Union, whose flag and offices were burned on the streets of Gaza and the West Bank this week, is the biggest paymaster of the Palestinian Authority. It contributes well over $500 million a year. The election of Hamas has brought no cessation of that income stream, much of which ends up in the pockets either of corrupt officials or of terrorist organizations. Yet it is clear from this week’s riots that the Palestinian “street” is as hostile to Europe as it is to the United States. Nor does Mr. Abbas seem very grateful, either.

It is, perhaps, unsurprising that Israel is not treated as an ally in the war on terror by the British media, when even the United States is depicted so badly. This week I heard a Foreign Office minister, Kim Howell, on a visit to Iraq denouncing the “swivel-eyed right-wing American intellectuals” who had caused all the trouble in the Middle East. He had in mind George Will, but I am proud to think that most of my American friends would fit that description. Maybe “swivel-eyed” will become a badge of honor for trans-Atlantic neoconservatives, rather as the British Expeditionary Force in France adopted the German Kaiser’s insult and called themselves the “Old Contemptibles.”

Actually, the Israelis do give the British plenty of help in fighting terrorists. Over recent years, for example, they have trained police officers from Scotland Yard in dealing with suicide bombers. The trouble was that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, chose to ignore the Israeli experts, whose policy is never to shoot a suspect unless they have first-hand evidence that he or she is carrying explosives or weapons.

Immediately after the London bombings last July, the London police shot dead a man on the subway whom they had identified as a suspect, but who was not carrying anything suspicious. He turned out to be an innocent Brazilian plumber. Sir Ian’s decision to ignore the Israeli advice caused a huge scandal that may yet cost him his job. Yet, funnily enough, it is the Israelis who are always depicted as trigger-happy. We pay the Palestinians a fortune, and they repay us with violence. But it is always Israel that is guilty. As Orwell might have put it: We are all guilty – but some are more guilty than others.


Wafa Sultan receives death threats, mainstream media attention (& other items)

March 13, 2006

CONTENTS

1. Her forthcoming book: “When God Is a Monster”
2. “More damage than the Danish cartoons”
3. Mark Steyn: a clarification
4. Darfur “genocide leader” visits Britain…
5. … While Israelis face arrest
6. Elderly Jew beaten in Paris
7. Two Palestinians, 33-pound bomb apprehended
8. Update on Neturei Karta and Iran cartoon contest
9. HonestReporting to launch UK website
10. “For Muslim who says violence destroys Islam, violent threats” (NY Times, March 11, 2006)
11. “Islam fatally flawed, says voice from Corona via al Jazeera” (LA Times, March 12, 2006)
12. “The media and Islam” (By Diana West, Washington Times, March 10, 2006)



[All notes below by Tom Gross]

HER FORTHCOMING BOOK: “WHEN GOD IS A MONSTER”

Both The New York Times and Los Angeles Times carried articles this weekend on Wafa Sultan, the Arab American psychologist whose interview on al-Jazeera has now been viewed on the Internet more than a million times and has reached the e-mail of hundreds of thousands around the world.

The interview was sent out on my smaller email list to various media, politicians and political activists on the day Memri released it and sent on my larger list in the dispatch “How Iran duped the west”; Iranian Holocaust (denial) conference “begins today”.

Dr. Sultan, who grew up in a large traditional Muslim family in Banias, Syria, is now an American citizen resident near Los Angeles. She has received many death threats following her criticism (while being interviewed live on al-Jazeera) of Islamic political leaders who she believes have distorted the teachings of Muhammad and the Koran for 14 centuries.

 

“MORE DAMAGE THAN THE DANISH CARTOONS”

Clerics throughout the Muslim world have condemned her. One imam in Syria denounced her as an infidel and said she had done Islam more damage than the recent Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

But Islamic reformers have praised her for speaking the truth out loud, in Arabic and on the most widely seen television network in the Arab world.

She is presently working on a book that is likely to lead to further threats from Islamic extremists. The working title of the book is: “The Escaped Prisoner: When God Is a Monster.”

She currently writes for the Islamic reform Web site Annaqed (The Critic), which is run by Syrian-Americans. The editor of that website is a subscriber to this email list.

 

MARK STEYN: A CLARIFICATION

In the dispatch last Thursday, titled On Chechnya, Chad, and “Chinese walls in the mind”, I wrote that Britain has become a “Mark Steyn-Free Zone”. In an item now removed from this website, I noted that after the American-based Canadian journalist Mark Steyn had had his column in the Daily Telegraph stopped, The Spectator magazine had decided to stop taking his pieces too.

Andrew Neil, the Chief Executive of The Spectator, writes to point out that:

“You made a mistake in your otherwise excellent e-mail service to say Mark Steyn has been stopped from writing in The Spectator. In fact we have e-mailed, written and called Mark, but he has not answered any of our communications, perhaps because of something which has happened at the Telegraph, which has nothing to do with us, since The Spectator is now run entirely independent of the Telegraph. We would welcome Mark returning to our columns at any time of his choosing; we miss him.”

(Andrew Neil, who previously served as editor-in-chief of the (London) Sunday Times, is a subscriber to this email list.)

 

DARFUR “GENOCIDE LEADER” VISITS BRITAIN…

Major-General Salah Abdullah Gosh, the man accused of being one of the main instigators of the ongoing genocide in Darfur, visited Britain last week. The British Foreign Office, headed by Jack Straw, granted him a visa despite UN sanctions against Sudan.

While officials originally claimed the visa had been issued so Gosh could undergo “medical treatment,” they admitted that he had also met unnamed British government officials during his stay.

Gosh, who knew Osama bin Laden in the Nineties when the al-Qaeda leader was given shelter by the extremist Islamic government in Sudan, is thought to have been the chief recruiter and leader of the Janjaweed Arab militias responsible for most of the crimes in Darfur.

Gosh is number two on a widely-leaked but officially unpublished United Nations list of senior Sudanese officials who have been blamed by a UN panel of experts for conducting a campaign of widespread ethnic cleansing and mass murder in Darfur. So far that campaign has resulted in the displacement of two million people and the deaths of over 200,000.

Gosh’s name is also understood to be on a second list, which is being considered for referral on war crimes charges to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

 

… WHILE ISRAELIS FACE ARREST

Besides the fact that Gosh’s visit is astonishing in itself, it is also reveals a quite remarkable double standard when one compares it to the treatment of Israeli soldiers – who have not, just to be clear, committed acts of genocide – who have recently tried to visit Britain.

Only two weeks ago Brigadier-General Aviv Kochavi, a former Israeli soldier, cancelled his plans to study at the Royal College of Defence Studies in London because of fears he would be arrested whilst in the UK. Last September, former Israeli army officer Doron Almog did not get off his plane upon its arrival at Heathrow airport, since the day before a British court had issued a warrant for his arrest for “war crimes”.

Almog had traveled to Britain in order to give a talk about a charitable project he is involved in, in the Negev, which helps Israeli Jews and Arabs with severe mental and physical disabilities. (Almog’s own child is severely disabled.)

Those behind attempts to prosecute Almog include extremist self-hating Jews who have in the past represented a Palestinian pro-terror radical group.

Among Almog’s most famous “war crimes” was his role in the Entebbe rescue of hundreds of hostages hijacked by Palestinian terrorists to Uganda in 1976. He was the first Israeli para-reconnaissance commander to land on the runway at Entebbe, marking it for incoming Israeli airplanes and leading the capture of the airfield’s control tower in the stunning rescue operation. He also participated in the clandestine airlift of some 6,000 black Jews from Ethiopia to Israel in the 1980s.

Israel’s defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, called on “countries that suffer from terrorism at home” not to take legal action against “soldiers and officers who acted legally against vicious and atrocious terror”.

For more on Almog, see the dispatch of Sept. 15, 2005 titled Islamic militant Hizb ut-Tahrir infiltrates Reuters (& Prince Harry apologizes).

For more on Darfur, see last week’s dispatch On Chechnya, Chad, and “Chinese walls in the mind”.

 

ELDERLY JEW BEATEN IN PARIS

Last week, on March 10, the Paris criminal court found French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala guilty of inciting racial hatred in comments he made to the “Journal du Dimanche” on February 8, 2004.

The presiding judge commented: “The statements’ only target, despite the defendant’s denial, is the Jewish community as such... Under cover of stigmatizing his detractors, M’Bala M’Bala attacks Jews by assimilating them to slave traders who founded their empires and fortunes on the trade in blacks and slavery... The use of the virulent term “negrier” (slave driver) and the confusion the defendant makes by using and mixing anti-Semitic stereotypes – the enriched slave trader, the banker, the Zionist militant, the terrorist who supports Sharon – can only produce on the reader a feeling of violence or hatred towards the Jewish community presented under such despicable traits.”

For more on Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, please see Fury at French comic’s “Heil Israel” jibe.

Also on March 10, there was the fourth violent assault on French Jews in a week. A 70-year-old Parisian Jew was struck in the head by a man who called her a “dirty Jew.” The police arrested a 30-year-old man of North African origin.

 

TWO PALESTINIANS, 33-POUND BOMB APPREHENDED

Palestinian attempts to murder Israeli citizens continue on an almost daily basis. Last Friday, a Kassam rocket hit Kibbutz Gabim resulting in a teenage girl being treated for shock.

The Jerusalem police say that the recent rash of stabbings of Jews in the Jerusalem area was due to newly constructed sections of the security fence. Terrorists were increasingly using knives because the barrier meant it was harder for people to enter the Israeli capital carrying bomb belts, despite sustained attempts by Palestinian terror groups to do so.

For example, two Palestinians whom police believe were preparing to give an explosive belt to a would-be suicide bomber were apprehended en route to Israel yesterday at the Beit Iba checkpoint north of Nablus in the West Bank. Police sappers safely detonated the 33 pounds of explosives. The attack had been planned by Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an arm of president Abbas’s Fatah party. The apparent target was a children’s party to mark the Jewish festival of Purim which is being celebrated this week.

 

UPDATE ON NETUREI KARTA AND IRAN CARTOON CONTEST

The mainstream media are now reporting the visit of the Jewish anti-Zionist group, the Neturei Karta, to Iran, first reported on this email list in the dispatch “How Iran duped the west”; Iranian Holocaust (denial) conference “begins today”.

For example, Agence France Presse (AFP) wrote about it yesterday, in this article republished on Yahoo news.

The Iranian contest to find the “best” Holocaust denial / insult cartoon is still under way. A website for the competition has begun to post some of the entries and also announces details of the awards including a $12,000 prize for the winner. So far, entries have been submitted from 35 countries. The cartoons can be seen at www.irancartoon.com.

At this stage the cartoons exhibited on that page are not nearly as bad as the anti-Semitic cartoons which regularly appear anyway in the Arab press.

 

HONESTREPORTING TO LAUNCH UK WEBSITE

HonestReporting, the media monitoring organization, have announced that they will launch a British website focusing on British media coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Simon Plosker, senior editor for HonestReporting UK (and a subscriber to this email list), commented that “the British media has been, over a sustained period of time, a source of concern for Israel, the British Jewish community and anyone interested in seeing fair and balanced reporting of the Middle East.” The new website (www.honestreporting.co.uk) will be available from Thursday.

***

I attach three articles. The first two, on Wafa Sultan, are from the New York and LA Times and have summaries first.

But lest anyone thinks that The New York Times is suddenly covering Islam in the critical way it covers the Jewish and Christian worlds, it is not. I also attach an article from The Washington Times, “The media and Islam” by Diana West. West, who is a subscriber to this email list, points out that in the 11,000-plus word, three-part article, devoted to an imam named Reda Shata who presides over the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, the New York Times failed to once mention the day in March 1994 when a man walked out of that same Bay Ridge mosque and, inspired by the viciously anti-Jewish sermon of the day (delivered by another imam), armed himself and opened fire on a van carrying Hasidic Jewish children. Ari Halberstam, 16, was killed. The Times series, as it happened, concluded on the 12th anniversary of his death.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

“SOMEBODY HAS TO HELP FREE THE MUSLIM PEOPLE FROM THESE WRONG BELIEFS”

“For Muslim Who Says Violence Destroys Islam, Violent Threats” (By John M. Broder, The New York Times, March 11, 2006)

Three weeks ago, Dr. Wafa Sultan was a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist living outside Los Angeles, nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Muslims. Today, thanks to an unusually blunt and provocative interview on Al Jazeera television on Feb. 21, she is an international sensation, hailed as a fresh voice of reason by some, and by others as a heretic and infidel who deserves to die.

… Dr. Sultan said the world was not witnessing a clash of religions or cultures, but a battle between modernity and barbarism, a battle that the forces of violent, reactionary Islam are destined to lose.

Dr. Sultan, who is 47, said in an interview this week: “Knowledge has released me from this backward thinking. Somebody has to help free the Muslim people from these wrong beliefs.”

Perhaps her most provocative [The New York Times’s term] words on Al Jazeera were those comparing how the Jews and Muslims have reacted to adversity. Speaking of the Holocaust, she said, “The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling.”

She went on, “We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people.”

She concluded, “Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.”

… The other guest on the program, identified as an Egyptian professor of religious studies, Dr. Ibrahim al-Khouli, asked, “Are you a heretic?” He then said there was no point in rebuking or debating her, because she had blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and the Koran.

… Dr. Sultan grew up in a large traditional Muslim family in Banias, Syria, a small city on the Mediterranean about a two-hour drive north of Beirut. Her father was a grain trader and a devout Muslim, and she followed the faith’s strictures into adulthood.

But, she said, her life changed in 1979 when she was a medical student at the University of Aleppo, in northern Syria. ... Gunmen of the Muslim Brotherhood [the parent organization of Hamas] burst into a classroom at the university and killed her professor as she watched, she said.

“They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, ‘God is great! ’” she said. “At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god.” … She said she no longer practiced Islam. “I am a secular human being,” she said.

 

“ISLAM IS BEYOND REPAIR”

“Islam Fatally Flawed, Says Voice From Corona Via Al Jazeera” (By Teresa Watanabe, The Los Angeles Times, March 12, 2006)

… In remarks Sunday at her Corona home, Sultan, who said she left the faith after witnessing an act of religious extremism, went even further [than her recent al Jazeera interview], saying Islam was beyond repair with teachings that exhorted Muslims to kill non-Muslims, subjugate women and disregard human rights.

“I don’t believe you can reform Islam,” Sultan said. Saying Islamic scriptures are riddled with violence, misogyny and other extremist ideas, she declared, “Once you try to fix it, you’re going to break it.”

… Following Sultan’s Al Jazeera remarks … she is being plied with interview requests from CNN, FOX, “Good Morning America” and public radio. Her e-mail in-box is filled with messages from well-wishers around the world – mostly non-Muslims – praising her “courage,” offering donations and pitching proposals to make a documentary about her life.

… But the flurry of interest among non-Muslims contrasts oddly with the near silence among Muslims themselves… “I haven’t come across any indication that people are discussing her,” said Abdulaziz Sachedina, a University of Virginia Islamic studies professor who was blacklisted eight years ago by Iraqi Ayatollah Ali Sistani for his reformist ideas that women were equal to men and all Abrahamic faiths were equally respectable. “Cyberspace is almost silent.”

… “Reform is alive and well within Islam, but it will only happen by those from within Islam and not those who hate Islam,” said Hussam Ayloush, who heads the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Some Muslims, however, have embraced at least part of Sultan’s message. Ani Zonneveld of the Progressive Muslim Union in Los Angeles, who has been fighting to gain wider acceptance of female musicians in Islam, said she put the link to Sultan’s Al Jazeera interview on her personal website, under the title, “Wafa Sultan Rocks!” But Zonneveld said Sultan’s critiques were not new. Plenty of practicing Muslims, including Zonneveld, have been outspoken in criticizing the way some Muslims interpret their tradition’s teachings on women, human rights and interfaith relations, she said.



FULL ARTICLES

“I BELIEVE OUR PEOPLE ARE HOSTAGES TO OUR OWN BELIEFS AND TEACHINGS”

For Muslim Who Says Violence Destroys Islam, Violent Threats
By John M. Broder
The New York Times
March 11, 2006

Three weeks ago, Dr. Wafa Sultan was a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist living outside Los Angeles, nursing a deep anger and despair about her fellow Muslims.

Today, thanks to an unusually blunt and provocative interview on Al Jazeera television on Feb. 21, she is an international sensation, hailed as a fresh voice of reason by some, and by others as a heretic and infidel who deserves to die.

In the interview, which has been viewed on the Internet more than a million times and has reached the e-mail of hundreds of thousands around the world, Dr. Sultan bitterly criticized the Muslim clerics, holy warriors and political leaders who she believes have distorted the teachings of Muhammad and the Koran for 14 centuries.

She said the world’s Muslims, whom she compares unfavorably with the Jews, have descended into a vortex of self-pity and violence.

Dr. Sultan said the world was not witnessing a clash of religions or cultures, but a battle between modernity and barbarism, a battle that the forces of violent, reactionary Islam are destined to lose.

In response, clerics throughout the Muslim world have condemned her, and her telephone answering machine has filled with dark threats. But Islamic reformers have praised her for saying out loud, in Arabic and on the most widely seen television network in the Arab world, what few Muslims dare to say even in private.

“I believe our people are hostages to our own beliefs and teachings,” she said in an interview this week in her home in a Los Angeles suburb.

Dr. Sultan, who is 47, wears a prim sweater and skirt, with fleece-lined slippers and heavy stockings. Her eyes and hair are jet black and her modest manner belies her intense words: “Knowledge has released me from this backward thinking. Somebody has to help free the Muslim people from these wrong beliefs.”

Perhaps her most provocative words on Al Jazeera were those comparing how the Jews and Muslims have reacted to adversity. Speaking of the Holocaust, she said, “The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling.”

She went on, “We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant. We have not seen a single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a single Jew protest by killing people.”

She concluded, “Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them.”

Her views caught the ear of the American Jewish Congress, which has invited her to speak in May at a conference in Israel. “We have been discussing with her the importance of her message and trying to devise the right venue for her to address Jewish leaders,” said Neil B. Goldstein, executive director of the organization.

She is probably more welcome in Tel Aviv than she would be in Damascus. Shortly after the broadcast, clerics in Syria denounced her as an infidel. One said she had done Islam more damage than the Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad, a wire service reported.

Dr. Sultan is “working on a book that – if it is published – it’s going to turn the Islamic world upside down.”

“I have reached the point that doesn’t allow any U-turn. I have no choice. I am questioning every single teaching of our holy book.”

The working title is, “The Escaped Prisoner: When God Is a Monster.”

Dr. Sultan grew up in a large traditional Muslim family in Banias, Syria, a small city on the Mediterranean about a two-hour drive north of Beirut. Her father was a grain trader and a devout Muslim, and she followed the faith’s strictures into adulthood.

But, she said, her life changed in 1979 when she was a medical student at the University of Aleppo, in northern Syria. At that time, the radical Muslim Brotherhood was using terrorism to try to undermine the government of President Hafez al-Assad. Gunmen of the Muslim Brotherhood burst into a classroom at the university and killed her professor as she watched, she said.

“They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, ‘God is great! ’” she said. “At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god.”

She and her husband, who now goes by the Americanized name of David, laid plans to leave for the United States. Their visas finally came in 1989, and the Sultans and their two children (they have since had a third) settled in with friends in Cerritos, Calif., a prosperous bedroom community on the edge of Los Angeles County.

After a succession of jobs and struggles with language, Dr. Sultan has completed her American medical licensing, with the exception of a hospital residency program, which she hopes to do within a year. David operates an automotive-smog-check station. They bought a home in the Los Angeles area and put their children through local public schools. All are now American citizens.

But even as she settled into a comfortable middle-class American life, Dr. Sultan’s anger burned within. She took to writing, first for herself, then for an Islamic reform Web site called Annaqed (The Critic), run by a Syrian expatriate in Phoenix.

An angry essay on that site by Dr. Sultan about the Muslim Brotherhood caught the attention of Al Jazeera, which invited her to debate an Algerian cleric on the air last July.

In the debate, she questioned the religious teachings that prompt young people to commit suicide in the name of God. “Why does a young Muslim man, in the prime of life, with a full life ahead, go and blow himself up?” she asked. “In our countries, religion is the sole source of education and is the only spring from which that terrorist drank until his thirst was quenched.”

Her remarks set off debates around the globe and her name began appearing in Arabic newspapers and Web sites. But her fame grew exponentially when she appeared on Al Jazeera again on Feb. 21, an appearance that was translated and widely distributed by the Middle East Media Research Institute, known as Memri.

Memri said the clip of her February appearance had been viewed more than a million times.

“The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions or a clash of civilizations,” Dr. Sultan said. “It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality.”

She said she no longer practiced Islam. “I am a secular human being,” she said.

The other guest on the program, identified as an Egyptian professor of religious studies, Dr. Ibrahim al-Khouli, asked, “Are you a heretic?” He then said there was no point in rebuking or debating her, because she had blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and the Koran.

Dr. Sultan said she took those words as a formal fatwa, a religious condemnation. Since then, she said, she has received numerous death threats on her answering machine and by e-mail.

One message said: “Oh, you are still alive? Wait and see.” She received an e-mail message the other day, in Arabic, that said, “If someone were to kill you, it would be me.”

Dr. Sultan said her mother, who still lives in Syria, is afraid to contact her directly, speaking only through a sister who lives in Qatar. She said she worried more about the safety of family members here and in Syria than she did for her own.

“I have no fear,” she said. “I believe in my message. It is like a million-mile journey, and I believe I have walked the first and hardest 10 miles.”

 

“I AM NOT AGAINST MUSLIM PEOPLE… I AM JUST TRYING TO CHANGE THEIR MENTALITY AND BEHAVIOUR”

Islam Fatally Flawed, Says Voice From Corona Via Al Jazeera
Wafa Sultan, who tells a tale of terror from Syria, draws lots of Western media attention but not as much from Muslims
By Teresa Watanabe
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 12, 2006

www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-sultan13mar13,0,2410999.story?coll=la-home-headlines

She’s no longer a Muslim, has never connected with progressive Islamic groups and does not know the writings of Islam’s most respected voices of reform.

So why is Wafa Sultan, a 47-year-old Southern California woman, suddenly in the news as a fresh voice of reason and reform about Islam?

In a blunt interview on Al Jazeera television last month, Sultan harshly criticized Islam as violent and unfavorably compared Muslims to Jews. In remarks Sunday at her Corona home, Sultan, who said she left the faith after witnessing an act of religious extremism, went even further, saying Islam was beyond repair with teachings that exhorted Muslims to kill non-Muslims, subjugate women and disregard human rights.

“I don’t believe you can reform Islam,” Sultan said. Saying Islamic scriptures are riddled with violence, misogyny and other extremist ideas, she declared, “Once you try to fix it, you’re going to break it.”

Sultan’s Al Jazeera remarks have been widely circulated by such groups as the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI, a Washington-based translation service founded by a former Israeli colonel, and the American Jewish Congress. She made the New York Times front page and is being plied with interview requests from CNN, FOX, “Good Morning America” and public radio. Her e-mail in-box is filled with messages from well-wishers around the world – mostly non-Muslims – praising her “courage,” offering donations and pitching proposals to make a documentary about her life.

“This woman, at great personal risk, has decided to come forward not only in English but also in Arabic to discuss what’s wrong with Islam and the Muslim world, ” said Allyson Rowen Taylor of the American Jewish Congress, which has invited her to visit Israel. “She blames the mullahs and clerics for distorting the teachings of the Koran for 14 centuries and speaks about the anger and despair of fellow Muslims.”

But the flurry of interest among non-Muslims contrasts oddly with the near silence among Muslims themselves, many of whom say she is a largely unknown figure not causing any particular stir.

“I haven’t come across any indication that people are discussing her,” said Abdulaziz Sachedina, a University of Virginia Islamic studies professor who was blacklisted eight years ago by Iraqi Ayatollah Ali Sistani for his reformist ideas that women were equal to men and all Abrahamic faiths were equally respectable. “Cyberspace is almost silent.”

He said he first heard of her a few weeks ago, when the American Jewish Congress sent him an e-mail with a link to her Al Jazeera interview, which was translated from Arabic into English by MEMRI. Sachedina said he agreed with some of her remarks, including her criticism that too many Muslim rulers fail to protect human rights. But he objected to what he called her “vilification” of the entire tradition.

Other Muslims questioned why groups outside the faith were so avidly promoting a non-Muslim to criticize Islam, a practice that has occurred before and is a sore spot in the Islamic community, particularly since many respected Muslims also advocate change.

“Reform is alive and well within Islam, but it will only happen by those from within Islam and not those who hate Islam,” said Hussam Ayloush, who heads the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Some Muslims, however, have embraced at least part of Sultan’s message. Ani Zonneveld of the Progressive Muslim Union in Los Angeles, who has been fighting to gain wider acceptance of female musicians in Islam, said she put the link to Sultan’s Al Jazeera interview on her personal website, under the title, “Wafa Sultan Rocks!” But Zonneveld said Sultan’s critiques were not new. Plenty of practicing Muslims, including Zonneveld, have been outspoken in criticizing the way some Muslims interpret their tradition’s teachings on women, human rights and interfaith relations, she said.

Sultan herself says she’s making a difference. In her interview Sunday, she said growing numbers of Muslims were getting in touch with her to discuss her views. That’s a sign, she believes, that she is causing them to rethink their tradition.

“I am trying to push them to doubt their teachings,” she said. “My message is effective, and it’s doing the job I want it to.”

A Syrian native, Sultan said she walked away from the faith of her family 27 years ago, when she witnessed the murder of her professor by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an extremist organization then battling the Syrian government. She said the men burst into her classroom at the University of Aleppo in northern Syria, where she was a medical student, and gunned him down, screaming, “Allah is great!”

“That was the turning point of my life,” she said. “I was traumatized. I lost faith in God – or their God – and started to question every single teaching of ours.”

She said that, a decade later, after practicing medicine in Syria, she and her husband moved to the United States, where she initially worked as a cashier and studied English at Cal State Long Beach. Today, the couple have three children. Her husband, David, runs an automotive smog-check station. She said she is waiting for acceptance into a residency program before she can be fully certified to practice psychiatry here.

But Sultan said her prime passion has always been speaking out about Islam, something she finally had the freedom to do after arriving in the United States. She began writing regular columns for a local Arabic-language newspaper. Five years ago, she began contributing to a website, www.annaqed.com, after the Arabic reference to “the critic.”

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks brought her critiques new audiences. Last year, she began appearing on Al Jazeera, the world’s most popular Arabic-language television network. Her appearance last month, however, attracted particular attention because she praised Jews for working hard to rebuild their community after the Holocaust, favorably comparing it to violent reactions by Muslims to their plights, whether in response to satirical Danish cartoons or subjugation in the Palestinian territories.

She said she has received death threats and been accused by Muslims of pandering to Christians and Jews with her critiques of Islam.

But Sultan insists that her motives are pure.

“I am not against Muslim people,” she said. “They are my people. I am just trying to change their mentality and their behavior.”

 

“ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO PRINT, APPARENTLY, DOESN’T INCLUDE THE HEART OF THE MATTER”

The media and Islam
By Diana West
The Washington Times
March 10, 2006

www.washtimes.com/op-ed/dwest.htm

Way back when I was a cub reporter at this newspaper, I got hold of a book about the “art” of interviewing. It was a thin book. There was no use spending thousands of words to tell a reporter, cub or old Grizzly, to bone up on a subject and let natural curiosity take its course.

That thin book came to mind on reading a three-part series in the New York Times about an imam named Reda Shata who presides over the Islamic Society of Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, N.Y. As far as the art of interviewing goes, the reporter got it exactly backward: Thousands of words; negligible expertise; and no curiosity.

Both the New York Post and the New York Sun have already pounced on the most egregious flaw of omission: not a mention, in 11,000-plus words, of the day in March 1994 when a man walked out of that same Bay Ridge mosque and, inspired by the anti-Jewish sermon of the day (delivered by a different, unidentified imam), armed himself and opened fire on a van carrying Hasidic Jewish children. Ari Halberstam, 16, was killed. The Times series, as it happened, concluded on the 12th anniversary of his death.

Such journalistic jaw-droppers abound: gaping holes, like the one above, but also dead ends that leave countless questions that the female reporter, it seems, never thought to ask. For example, she notes, over six months of interviews, the Egyptian-born imam refused to shake her hand. “He offers women only a nod,” she writes. Why is shaking hands with a woman “improper”? What does the imam think about sexual equality? She doesn’t tell us. In Belgium last year, she doesn’t mention, the female president of the parliament made headlines for canceling a meeting with an Iranian delegation over this same refusal to shake a woman’s hand (the parliamentarian’s own), while in Holland, the English-language blog Zacht Ei reported, a Muslim man lost a month’s worth of welfare benefits for not only refusing to shake hands with female municipal employees, but also refusing to acknowledge their presence. This is supposed to be “the story of Mr. Shata’s journey west,” but the story bypasses such landmark issues.

Instead, we get a load of happy talk: “Married life in Islam is an act of worship,” Mr. Shata says. So impressed were the editors of the New York Times by this load that they ran the quotation, not just above the fold, but across the very top of the front page over a gold-bathed family photo four columns wide. Does Miss Reporter ask the imam to reconcile this ecstatic notion with the Islamic custom of arranged and forced marriages, the spate of spousal abuse and “honor killings” within European Muslim communities – as recounted in clarifying detail in Bruce Bawer’s important new book, “While Europe Slept” – or the tradition of polygamy which exists to this day in portions of Islamic society?

No, no and no. She writes: “One Brooklyn imam reportedly urged his wealthier male congregants during a Ramadan sermon last year to take two wives. When a woman complained about the sermon to Mr. Shata, he laughed. ‘You know that preacher who said Hugo Chavez should be shot?’ he asked,” referring to a comment by Pat Robertson about the Venezuelan leader. “‘We have our idiots, too.’ “One clumsy feint and presto – the New York Times loses all interest in polygamy, from Mohammed’s Mecca to Bloomberg’s New York.

Then there was the series’ look at terrorism. “What I may see as terrorism, you may not see that way,” Mr. Shata says. What does he mean by that? The reporter doesn’t tell us. Hamas is a powerful symbol of resistance, he says; the assassinated Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin was the “martyred” “lion of Palestine,” he sermonizes; and yet the imam says he condemns all violence. How does he square that? She doesn’t tell us. And when he sanctions violence against soldiers, not civilians, how does he define “soldier” and “civilian”? She doesn’t tell us that, either.

When asked about a 2004 sermon that “exalted” a female suicide bomber as a “martyr,” Mr. Shata seems “unusually conflicted,” the reporter writes. He declines to comment for fear of “[inviting] controversy,” and alienating New York rabbis he has “forged friendships with.” And there the question lies: She just lets him slip away. All the news that’s fit to print, apparently, doesn’t include the heart of the matter.


On Chechnya, Chad, and “Chinese walls in the mind”

March 09, 2006

CONTENTS

1. Chechnya: and the world does nothing
2. The role of the BBC
3. Arab ethnic cleansing extends from Darfur into Chad
4. Not naming the perpetrators
5. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Darfur and Israel
6. “Babies win wars”
7. Chancellor Kohl and Iranian anti-Semitism
8. Three more attacks on Jews in Paris
9. “End the silence over Chechnya” (By Vaclav Havel & others, Jerusalem Post, March 1, 2006)
10. “Arson, rape, massacres... and the strange silence of the archbishop” (By Nick Cohen, Observer, March 5, 2006)
11. “Babies Win Wars” (By Gunnar Heinsohn, Wall Street Journal Europe, March 6, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

This is another in an occasional series of dispatches on human rights and the failings and double standards of the so-called International community. Two of the world’s worst human rights crimes are being committed against Muslims (by Russians in Chechnya, and by Arabs against non-Arab Muslims and Christians in Darfur and now in Chad) and the world is uninterested. In the case of Darfur and Chad, this is because the Arab League has helped persuade the UN to do nothing. This dispatch examines the incredible hypocrisy and failings of bodies such as the Church of England and BBC.

CHECHNYA: AND THE WORLD DOES NOTHING

In an article titled “End the silence over Chechnya” that appeared in several newspapers, including the Jerusalem Post, Vaclav Havel and others speak of “the closed doors that separate Chechnya from the rest of the world.” Up to 300,000 civilians (one out of four of Chechnya’s civilian population) has died there in the last ten years.

Havel points out that “Under the world’s very eyes, a capital – Grozny, with 400,000 inhabitants – was razed for the first time since Hitler’s 1944 punishment of Warsaw. Such inhumanity cannot plausibly be described as ‘anti-terrorism,’ as Russian President Vladimir Putin insists.”

Yet the world remains silent as this crime continues. “Are Chechen women, children and all Chechen civilians less entitled to respect than the rest of mankind? Are they still considered human? Nothing can excuse the seeming indifference displayed by our worldwide silence.”

THE ROLE OF THE BBC

One of the reasons, I believe, for such silence is the astonishing lack of media coverage. While the world’s biggest broadcast network, the BBC, for example, has sent literally dozens of reporters to Israel in recent years to produce a seemingly endless stream of reports (often greatly exaggerated) about Palestinian suffering on its various 24-hour TV and radio networks, they have sent virtually no one to Chechnya. Nor have they adequately interviewed Chechen exile leaders based in London and elsewhere.

Only yesterday, yet again, BBC news was censured by the BBC’s board of governors for bias against Israel – this time in a report on their online news service. The governors found that the BBC had provided a false time-line of historical events in the region, falsely suggesting that after the 1967 war a United Nations resolution had called for Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from territories occupied during the war.

The BBC governors’ report concluded: “The committee considered that by selecting only references to Israel, the online article did not accurately reflect this balance and gave a biased impression. It therefore breached editorial standards on both accuracy and impartiality”.

Last October, the BBC board of governors appointed an independent panel to examine the corporation’s reporting of Israel. Its findings are to be published in the coming weeks, according to a BBC spokeswoman.

ARAB ETHNIC CLEANSING EXTENDS FROM DARFUR INTO CHAD

Also barley mentioned by the world media in recent weeks is that the Arab militias carrying out genocidal policies against non-Arabs in the Darfur region of western Sudan have crossed the border into Chad, where they are carrying out rape, murder and ethnic cleansing.

One of the very few exceptions, to their credit, is the New York Times, which reported last week: “Arab gunmen from Darfur are now in Chad, stealing cattle, burning crops and killing anyone who resists. The lawlessness has driven at least 20,000 Chadians from their homes in the last month. There are also 200,000 refugees from Sudan who fled to Chad for safety.”

The NY Times also reports on a number of Black Chadian children who have been shot in their homes by Arab militia, and others who have been raped.

More than 200,000 civilians have already been murdered in Darfur, and 2 million villagers made homeless. The Sudanese government is continuing to arm these militias, yet the 22-member Arab League summit starts on March 28 – in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. The Arab League has done its best to ensure nothing is done to stop the genocide of non-Arabs in Darfur and beyond.

The United Nations tried to suppress a report that named the alleged war criminals of Darfur. Almost the only government to speak out on behalf of the victims is the American one. The Bush administration has accused these militias of genocide in Darfur. Last week President Bush urged NATO to send a peacekeeping mission there to stop the violence. European leaders, though, have been so preoccupied on how to keep funneling huge amounts of money to the Palestinian Authority following its take-over by Hamas, that they have had little time to even notice what is going on to the south of their continent.

NOT NAMING THE PERPETARTORS

While most of the world media continues to report in relentless detail (and often completely out of context) about supposed Israeli human rights violations, reporting on the situation on Chad has been very, very limited.

Furthermore, those media that have mentioned Chad have gone out of their way to avoid saying the perpetrators are Arabs and the victims non-Arab. As I point out in my essay Living in a Bubble: The BBC’s very own Mideast foreign policy it would be virtually unthinkable to report on “setters” in the West Bank without mentioning that they were “Jewish” or “Israeli” – which is, of course, relevant to the story. But apparently many journalists do not think that ethnicity is relevant when it comes to real ethnic cleansing in Darfur and Chad.

The only other major news organization apart from The New York Times to mention the Arab raids on Chad appears to be Reuters. However, Reuters did not mention that the perpetrators were Arab. See, for example, these two reports:
www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/UNHCR/83235d76264d48f04c063fb0a669a99b.htm
http://za.today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=topNews&storyID=2006-02-28T134600Z_01_ALL849497_RTRIDST_0_OZATP-CHAD-REFUGEES-20060228.XML

Following private complaints I made to senior staff at Reuters a few days ago, the Reuters report yesterday did mention that the perpetrators were Arab: www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L08663643.htm (“In the Darfur region, feared Arab militia known as Janjaweed have conducted a campaign of rape, killing and looting which the United States has called genocide.”)

The official UN News Center, however, still fails to mention the perpetrators were Arab in their report this week: www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=17695&Cr=sudan&Cr1=)

Among previous dispatches on Darfur, please see Sudan genocide 1: Israel to blame, says Sudanese foreign minister and Sudan genocide 2: Where’s Sean Penn when you need him? Where’s the ISM?

THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, DARFUR AND ISRAEL

One the few British journalists who occasionally manages to publish something against the prevailing liberal norms in the media is Nick Cohen. Last Sunday, in a piece titled “Arson, rape, massacres ... and the strange silence of the archbishop,” Cohen wrote of “a Chinese wall in the mind” that meant negative actions by states other than the US, Israel and occasionally Britain are just ignored.

“The Archbishop of Canterbury [the leader of the Anglican Church], Rowan Williams, made my point for me in Sudan last week. Anyone who had heard the Church of England’s censure of Israel might have expected to see a primate filled with righteous wrath. Consider his opportunities. While he was there, the genocide was continuing in Darfur. The victims were black Muslims, but strangely, the Muslim world has not revolted against the Islamist murderers and torched Sudanese embassies.

“In the name of inter-faith solidarity, Dr Williams might have found the words of reproach they lacked. If he didn’t want to talk about Darfur, there was the decades-long civil war, which has seen the enslavement of the Christian Dinka tribe in the south and two million dead, more than in Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo combined.”

But he didn’t. Recently Archbishop Williams voted in favor of an Anglican church boycott of companies investing in Israel. (Williams’ predecessor as head of the Church of England, Lord George Carey, said after the vote singling out Israel, that he was “ashamed to be an Anglican” and criticized the vote for a “one-eyed” response that “only rebukes one side.”)

Before Archbishop Williams escaped to Africa, he couldn’t say why he wanted sanctions against Israel but not against countries that committed far worse crimes – China, Syria, Iran, North Korea and, indeed, Sudan – or give any indication that he was morally obliged to provide an answer.

“BABIES WIN WARS”

The German writer Gunnar Heinsohn recently wrote a lengthy article in Die Zeit. A shorter version was commissioned and published by the Wall Street Journal Europe earlier this week and is attached below.

While the demography argument is not new, the historical context he provides is unique: “Dying nations are usually defined as those with fertility rates of 1.5 or lower. By that measure, 30 European countries are either dying today or seeing their cultures and populations transformed by growing ethnic and religious minorities. Europe is shrinking just as the population in Islamic, African and Asian countries is exploding. In 2020, there will be one billion “fighting-age” men (ages 15-29) worldwide; only 65 million will be Europeans. At the same time, the Muslim world will have 300 million males, often with limited opportunities at home. In the last century, the Muslim population skyrocketed to 1.4 billion from 140 million.

“This isn’t the first time Europe has found itself tottering on the edge of extinction. Throughout the 1400s, outbreaks of bubonic plague and pressure from conquering Muslim armies reduced Europe’s population to 40 million from 70 million. In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII responded to the crisis by decreeing the death penalty for [Europeans who carried out] birth control and abortion. The results were immediate, producing fertility rates as high as in Gaza or Niger today.”

Heinsohn, a professor of sociology at Bremen University, adds: “In some ways, the faster Europe collapses the better it will be for the U.S., whose chances of defeating global terrorism would improve by a panic-driven influx of the Old World’s best, brightest and bravest ready to strengthen it economically and militarily.”

CHANCELLOR KOHL AND IRANIAN ANTI-SEMITISM

In Tuesday’s dispatch (“How Iran duped the west”; Iranian Holocaust (denial) conference “begins today”), I noted that the claims by Iranian media that the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl told Iranian businessman in Germany that he “heartily agreed” with comments made by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Holocaust was a “myth,” was almost certainly a lie, given Dr. Kohl’s support for Israel and the Jewish Community throughout his political life.

Two reliable and senior sources in Germany (one in government, one in the German Jewish community) have now confirmed to me that this is indeed a complete lie. However, the fact other media continue to parrot Iranian propaganda and disinformation is disturbing.

THREE MORE ATTACKS ON JEWS IN PARIS

Following the torture and killing of Ilan Halimi, three more attacks against French Jews took place last weekend. The police said two young Jews, aged 17 and 18 and wearing skullcaps, were attacked late Friday by black and Arab youths in the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles, home to a large number of Jewish families. The attackers broke the nose of one victim, a rabbi‘s son, and stole the possessions of the other.

On Saturday, a 28-year-old Jewish man was beaten in the same suburb outside by a kosher restaurant by youths who were lying in wait and made anti-Semitic remarks as they assaulted him. The man‘s shoulder was broken. French police have increased patrols around synagogues in recent days.

A number of Israeli civilians have also been killed and injured in unprovoked Palestinian attacks so far this month, but these have been barely reported on by foreign media.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

“THIS DREADFUL AND ENDLESS WAR NEEDS TO BE DISCUSSED OPENLY IF IT IS TO END PEACEFULLY”

End the silence over Chechnya
By Vaclav Havel and others
The Jerusalem Post
March 1, 2006

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1139395509191&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

It is extremely difficult for an honest observer to break through the closed doors that separate Chechnya from the rest of the world. Indeed, no one even knows how many civilian casualties there have been in 10 years of war.

According to estimates by non-governmental organizations, the figure is between 100,000 (that is, one civilian out of 10) and 300,000 (one out of four).

How many voters participated in the November 2005 elections? Between 60 percent and 80%, according to Russian authorities; around 20%, independent observers reckon. The blackout imposed on Chechnya prevents any precise assessment of the devastating effects of a ruthless conflict.

But censorship cannot completely hide the horror. Under the world’s very eyes, a capital – Grozny, with 400,000 inhabitants – was razed for the first time since Hitler’s 1944 punishment of Warsaw. Such inhumanity cannot plausibly be described as “anti-terrorism,” as Russian President Vladimir Putin insists.

The Russian military leadership claims to be fighting against a party of 700-2,000 combatants. What would the reaction have been had the British government bombed Belfast – or the Spanish government Bilbao – on the pretext of quelling the IRA or the ETA?

Yet the world remains silent in the face of the looting of Grozny and other Chechen towns and villages. Are Chechen women, children and all Chechen civilians less entitled to respect than the rest of mankind? Are they still considered human? Nothing can excuse the seeming indifference displayed by our worldwide silence.

In Chechnya our basic morality is at stake. Must the world accept the rape of girls kidnapped by the occupying forces or their militias? Should we tolerate the murder of children and the abduction of boys to be tortured, broken and sold back to their families, alive or dead?

What about “filtration” camps, or “human firewood”? What about the villages exterminated to set an example? A few NGOs and some brave Russian and Western reporters have witnessed countless crimes. So we cannot say, “We did not know.”

Indeed, the fundamental principle of democracies and civilized states is at issue in Chechnya: civilians’ right to life, including the protection of innocents, widows and orphans.

International agreements and the United Nations Charter are as binding in Chechnya as anywhere else. The right of nations to self-determination does not imply the right of rulers to dispose of their people.

The fight against terrorism is also at stake. Who has not yet realized that the Russian army is behaving like a group of pyromaniac firefighters, fanning the fires of terrorism through its behavior? After 10 years of largescale repression, the fire – far from going out – is spreading, crossing borders, setting Northern Caucasus ablaze and making combatants even more fierce. How much longer can we ignore the fact that, in raising the bogeyman of “Chechen terrorism,” the Russian government is suppressing the liberties gained when the Soviet empire collapsed?

The Chechen war both masks and motivates the reestablishment of centralized power in Russia – bringing the media back under state control, passing laws against NGOs and reinforcing the “vertical line of power” – leaving no institutions and authorities able to challenge or limit the Kremlin. War, it seems, is hiding a return to autocracy.

Sadly, wars in Chechnya have been going on for 300 years. They were savage colonial conflicts under the Czar and almost genocidal under Stalin, who deported the whole Chechen population, a third of which perished during transfer to the Gulag.

Because we reject colonial and exterminating ventures, because we love Russian culture and believe that Russia can bloom in a democratic future, and because we believe that terrorism – whether by stateless groups or state armies – should be condemned, we demand an end to the world’s blackout on the Chechen issue. We must help Russia’s authorities escape from the trap they set for themselves and into which they fell, putting not only Chechens and Russians, but the world at risk.

It would be tragic if, during the G8 summit scheduled for St. Petersburg, Russia, in June 2006, the Chechen issue were pushed to the side. This dreadful and endless war needs to be discussed openly if it is to end peacefully.

(The writers are former Czech president and Nobel Prize winner Vaclav Havel, Andre Glucksmann, Prince Hassan bin Talal, Frederik Willem de Klerk, Mary Robinson, Yohei Sasakawa, Karel Schwarzenberg, George Soros, and Desmond Tutu.)

 

“BECAUSE GENOCIDE IS OUT OF FASHION, DEAR”

Arson, rape, massacres ... and the strange silence of the archbishop
By Nick Cohen
The Observer
March 5, 2006

www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,1723793,00.html

Like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic, the Islamists of Sudan claim monstrous liars are libelling them. ‘You are terrorists,’ Abdel Rahim Mohammed Hussein, the regime’s defence minister, screamed at journalists in Khartoum on Thursday. ‘Any foreign correspondent from any foreign agency, get out – we don’t want you in here.’ His goons duly expelled reporters from his press conference for inventing the incredible lie that Hussein and his friends were responsible for the murder of around 200,000 in Darfur, the ethnic cleansing of two million, the arson, the rapes ... well, you know the story.

Or maybe you don’t. After all, it has not been in the news recently, and not only because Hussein is shutting out the journalists. Fashion matters and today the fashion is to ignore genocide. Quite rightly, the crimes of American, British, European and Israeli democracy are dissected and denounced. But an intellectual blockage – a Chinese wall in the mind – prevents the critics applying universal principles to far greater outrages.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, made my point for me in Sudan last week. Anyone who had heard the Church of England’s censure of Israel might have expected to see a primate filled with righteous wrath. Consider his opportunities. While he was there, the genocide was continuing in Darfur. The victims were black Muslims, but strangely, the Muslim world has not revolted against the Islamist murderers and torched Sudanese embassies.

In the name of inter-faith solidarity, Dr Williams might have found the words of reproach they lacked. If he didn’t want to talk about Darfur, there was the decades-long civil war, which has seen the enslavement of the Christian Dinka tribe in the south and two million dead, more than in Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo combined.

On a visit to a church in Khartoum, the fearless archbishop told the congregation: ‘It will be a joy to share with fellow Christians in Britain what... I have learnt from you.’ What he had learnt was a history of massacre, slavery and second-class citizenship, but he didn’t mention it.

The next stop was the Sudan Inter-Religious Council in Khartoum. This might have been the place to lay into the dictatorship’s murder and persecution of Sudanese Christians. Instead, he confined himself to saying: ‘We are at peace with God when we face our failings with honesty.’ And so it went on. He travelled through a country torn by religious mania and genocide without mentioning religious mania and genocide.

His office said he was picking his words with the care of a diplomat because his main concern wasn’t the genocide in Darfur in the west of Sudan but the faint hope of a peace deal in the equally gruesome civil war between the Muslim north and Christian south, which he didn’t want to jeopardise. In any case, his lecture to his Islamist hosts on facing ‘our failings with honesty’ was strong stuff by inter-faith standards.

It may be tough talk if Anglicans are talking to Catholic bishops, but I doubt very much if it would have reduced the psychopaths of Khartoum to trembling penitents. To me, the failure of the archbishop to speak plainly was not a sign of his diplomacy, but flowed from his row with the Jews. Before he escaped to Africa, he couldn’t say why he wanted sanctions against Israel but not against countries that committed far worse crimes – China, Syria, Iran, North Korea and, indeed, Sudan – or give any indication that he was morally obliged to provide an answer.

A few of his critics just wanted to protect Israel come what may. Others were concerned about the retreat from universal principle into relativism. If you say there must be higher standards for democracies, you inevitably betray the victims of dictatorships by blocking your mind from thinking clearly and shouting loudly about their suffering.

The confusion isn’t confined to the General Synod of the Church of England. The United Nations tried to suppress a report that named the alleged war criminals of Darfur, in a way that it would never have suppressed the names of alleged torturers at Guantanamo. On the blacklist was that friend of freedom, Mr Hussein. While he was ranting at the journalists, he said that if the UN sent troops to protect the people of Darfur, al-Qaeda would flood the country. ‘Darfur will become the graveyard for the United Nations,’ he promised with what sounded like inside knowledge.

Isn’t that an extraordinary threat for a UN member to make? Why isn’t every liberal newspaper and liberal party fulminating? Because genocide is out of fashion, dear. It may make a retro return in 2008, say, or 2009. Books called We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed will win literary prizes. Lachrymose documentaries will appear on BBC2, probably narrated by Fergal Keane. The Church of England will apologise, as it invariably does. They will all cry: ‘Never again!’ And at that precise moment, it will be happening again.

 

“TERROR IS MERELY CONQUEST’S LITTLE BROTHER”

Babies Win Wars
By Gunnar Heinsohn
The Wall Street Journal Europe
March 6, 2006

Dying nations are usually defined as those with fertility rates of 1.5 or lower. By that measure, 30 European countries are either dying today or – like France – seeing their cultures and populations transformed by growing ethnic and religious minorities.

Europe is shrinking just as the population in Islamic, African and Asian countries is exploding. In 2020, there will be one billion “fighting-age” men (ages 15-29) world-wide; only 65 million will be Europeans. At the same time, the Muslim world will have 300 million males, often with limited opportunities at home.

Little can be done to reverse Europe’s demographic fate. Germany’s 80 million inhabitants would need 750,000 skilled immigrants every year up to 2050 to offset the declining fertility rate that started in 1975. Even if such an unrealistic immigration level could somehow be achieved (only 10,000 skilled immigrants a year are arriving now), Germany’s median age would still jump to 52 from 42 while ethnic Germans would become a minority in their own country.

This isn’t the first time Europe has found itself tottering on the edge of extinction. Throughout the 1400s, outbreaks of bubonic plague and pressure from conquering Muslim armies reduced Europe’s population to 40 million from 70 million. In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII responded to the crisis by decreeing the death penalty for “persons of both sexes who by accursed charms and crafts, enormities and horrid offenses, slay infants yet in the mother’s womb (or who) hinder women from conceiving.” Midwives, who were also experts in birth control and abortion, were prosecuted and killed.

The results were immediate, producing fertility rates as high as in Gaza or Niger today. By 1510, the number of male births in England had almost doubled. After 1500 and right up to 1914, West European women raised on average about six children, twice as many as during the Middle Ages.

The European economy couldn’t keep up. Because a father’s land went to his oldest son, the younger brothers were often left to fend for themselves. They quickly found an outlet. In the 16th century, Spain called its young conquistadors “Secundones,” second sons, those who don’t inherit. Starting with Columbus’ second voyage (1493), Europe’s surplus males (representing about 10% of the world’s fighting-age males at the time) began the conquest of the world. And despite their wars around the globe and the 80 million who died in Europe’s domestic wars and genocides, their population rose tenfold to 400 million. The original population bomb was a weapon made in Europe. Over the next few centuries, Europeans took control of 90% of the globe.

Who was to be master in Europe? In the early 1800s, France, West Europe’s most populous nation for 800 years, made its last bid. At the time of Waterloo, France was able to draw on 5% of the world’s males of fighting age. It took an alliance of Great Britain (10 million people) and Prussia (also 10 million) to prevail over France’s 27 million. After 1861, Germany passed France’s population and shortly afterwards defeated its neighbor across the Rhine. At the beginning of the 20th century, Europe’s share of fighting age males had grown to 35%, with 10% belonging to the empires of Berlin and Vienna alone. In 1914 these two behemoths used their population advantage to make a bid for world supremacy. But their campaign to capture Eurasia’s land mass failed to take account of a newcomer to the world stage. Though separated by an ocean, the U.S. commanded about the same demographic and industrial potential.

Japan, Italy and Germany became the last great powers that tried – and failed – to take territories away from other leading powers. After 1945 Europe lost every war it fought, from Indochina, to Algeria to Timor. Euphemisms such as “emancipation of the colonies” hide the true causes behind this chain of defeats. If Europeans had continued to multiply like in its imperialistic prime, the world would still tremble before their armies. In just 100 years, Muslim countries have duplicated the tenfold growth that Europe experienced between 1500-1900. In the last century, the Muslim population skyrocketed to 1.4 billion from 140 million.

If Europe had merely matched the fourfold increase of the United States (to 300 million from 75 million between 1900-2006), the continent’s 1.6 billion would still dwarf China (1.3 billion) and India (1.1 billion). Yet, Europe’s share of the world’s fighting-age males, which stood at 27% in 1914, is lower today (9%) than it was in 1500 (11%). Thus, the new clothes of European “pacifism” and “soft power” conceal its naked weakness.

With a fertility rate at the 2.1 replacement level, the U.S. is still defendable. But how many times can America send out their only sons to prevent all those second, third or fourth sons from engaging in acts of violence abroad? In some ways, the faster Europe collapses the better it will be for the U.S., whose chances of defeating global terrorism would improve by a panic-driven influx of the Old World’s best, brightest and bravest ready to strengthen it economically and militarily.

The alternative to the terrorism of the Islamist secundones will not be peace but – as it was for their “Christianist” predecessors in Peru, Mexico and India – conquest. Terror is merely conquest’s little brother.


“How Iran duped the west”; Iranian Holocaust (denial) conference “begins today”

March 07, 2006

* This is a follow-up to a number of recent dispatches on Iran, the most recent of which was (1) Iranian fatwa approves use of nuclear weapons (2) Contain Iran: Admit Israel to NATO

 

CONTENTS

1. Wafa Sultan on Al-Jazeera
2. IAEA showdown over Iranian nuclear development
3. The U.S. will use “all tools at its disposal”
4. How Iran duped the west
5. Iranian Holocaust (denial) conference “begins today”
6. Iranian newspaper claims Helmut Kohl denies the Holocaust
7. Opposition group: Iran increasing missile production
8. Iran opens “ideological embassy” in Ramallah
9. “How we duped the West, by Iran’s nuclear negotiator” (S. Telegraph, March 5, 2006)
10. “NATO may help US airstrikes on Iran” (Sunday Times, March 5, 2006)
11. “Arrow can block ‘any Iranian missile’” (Jerusalem Post, March 2, 2006)



[All notes below by Tom Gross]

WAFA SULTAN ON AL-JAZEERA

I have sent this URL to a number of people over the last two weeks, but for those who haven’t yet watched the interview with Arab-American psychologist Wafa Sultan on Al-Jazeera TV on February 21, 2006, I urge you watch it in full. There are English subtitles.

Her defense of Jews, Buddhists, women and others is remarkable. It is better to watch it, but for those of you who don’t have the correct computer software, a transcript can be found here.

Many journalists have asked me who Wafa Sultan is. She is based in Los Angeles. Much of her political and cultural writing can be found at the website www.annaqed.com which is predominantly in Arabic but also has an English section. “Annaqed” in Arabic means “the critic.” The website deals with a variety of issues including society, politics, women, religion, history and opinion. Readers may like to also look at her website.

 

IAEA SHOWDOWN OVER IRANIAN NUCLEAR DEVELOPMENT

The 35-member board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) convenes this week in Vienna for an important meeting that may lead to U.N. Security Council action against Teheran over fears it is rapidly seeking to obtain nuclear weapons.

Iran claims it is only interested in acquiring civilian nuclear energy. The IAEA meeting may either lead to a deal for renewed negotiations or may refer the matter to the Security Council.

The IAEA reported Iran to the Security Council a month ago. The IAEA board session this week will take stock of a new report by Mohamed ElBaradei that suggests Iran is accelerating its nuclear fuel research and development.

 

THE U.S. WILL USE “ALL TOOLS AT ITS DISPOSAL”

The United States on Sunday warned that Iran faced “painful consequences” if it continued its nuclear activities and said the problem would become increasingly difficult to resolve if the international community did not confront it.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton reaffirmed that America will use “all tools at our disposal” to thwart Iran’s nuclear program and is already “beefing up defensive measures” to do so.

“The longer we wait to confront the threat Iran poses, the harder and more intractable it will become to solve,” he warned.

 

HOW IRAN DUPED THE WEST

Attached below are three articles relating to the attempts by Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. The first, from the (London) Sunday Telegraph, describes how a former Iranian nuclear negotiator informed a closed meeting of leading Islamic clerics and academics that “Iran duped the West” as it pushed ahead with its program at full speed.

In the second article, the (London) Sunday Times reports that NATO may assist the U.S. in any air strikes it takes against Iran. The article also claims that Israeli special forces are already operating inside Iran. The Sunday Times, whilst a respected paper, has sometimes been inaccurate in the past when reporting on Israel, and therefore this part of the article should be treated with a degree of skepticism.

The final article, from the Jerusalem Post, suggests that Israel’s Arrow 2 anti-ballistic missile system is now capable of intercepting and destroying any Iranian missiles, including nuclear ones, en route to their targets.

 

IRANIAN HOLOCAUST (DENIAL) CONFERENCE “BEGINS TODAY”

According to Iran Focus, an often-reliable news service that focuses on events in the Persian Gulf region, the Iranian Holocaust (denial) conference is due to begin today.

The seminar titled “The Holocaust: myth or reality?” has been organized by the Bassij, an extension of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. News of this conference was first broken on this email list in early January, and later reported by mainstream news media and blogs.

Among those allegedly taking part in the conference are members of the Neturei Karta, a group of ultra-orthodox Jews who reject all forms of Zionism and actively oppose the existence of the State of Israel. This group has previously aligned itself with Yasser Arafat; in 2002 the Israeli army found numerous documents that suggested some of their members were on Arafat’s direct payroll.

According to a report translated specially for this email list from the al-Vefagh newspaper, the Neturei Karta delegation have already visited several Iranian institutions and media outlets and met Ahmad Musawi, head of “The Committee for Co-operation with the Palestinian Resistance”. The delegation participated in an inter-religious conference titled “Respecting the Holy places and Allah’s Prophets”.

(Al-Vefagh is an official Arabic-language daily published by the Farsi-language Iranian news agency, IRNA. The Neturei Karta receive much media coverage due to their anti-Zionist, and sometimes anti-Semitic views, yet they number under 5,000 members worldwide.)

More details and photos of the ongoing Neturei Karta visit have now been put up in English by the Iranian Fars News Agency here.

 

IRANIAN NEWSPAPER CLAIMS HELMUT KOHL DENIES THE HOLOCAUST

According to Jomhouri Islami, a semi-official Farsi newspaper, the former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl told Iranian businessman in Germany that he “heartily agreed” with comments made by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranian President claimed in November that the Holocaust was a “myth,” and has since repeated this lie on several occasions.

Kohl allegedly said: “What Ahmadinejad said about the Holocaust was in our bosoms… For years we wanted to say this, but we did not have the courage to speak out.”

It seems very unlikely that Helmut Kohl in fact made these comments; the former German Chancellor first championed the idea of a central monument in Berlin to commemorate the Holocaust. (The monument opened last year – see the last item in (1) IDF recruits Harley Davidsons; (2) 50,000 Germans sing for Israel).

But the mere fact that the Iranian media may be spreading such quotes is a dangerous development. In the last 24 hours, the remarks supposedly made by former Chancellor Kohl have been reiterated by various media and blogs around the world.

 

OPPOSITION GROUP: IRAN INCREASING MISSILE PRODUCTION, CENTRAL EUROPE NOW IN RANGE

Alireza Jafarzadeh, head of the Washington-based Strategic Policy Consulting think tank, has claimed that Iran has “significantly increased the production line” of its Shahab-3 missiles. As a result it is now turning out missiles at a rate of approximately 90 per year, more than four times the previous production rate.

Jafarzadeh quoted unnamed sources inside Iran who claim that Iran’s most advanced Shahab missile has a range of 1,900 km (nearly 1,200 miles), which would allow it to easily strike Israel and U.S. military bases throughout the region.

He added that Iranian engineers, working with North Korean experts at the Hemmat Missile Industries complex in Teheran, are 70 percent finished on prototype Ghadar-101 and Ghadar-110 missiles. They are believed to have ranges of up to 3,000 km (1,800 miles), which would bring central Europe within range. These new missiles are believed to have a launch time of 30 minutes, compared to several hours for the Shahab-3.

 

IRAN OPENS “IDEOLOGICAL EMBASSY” IN RAMALLAH

Iran has opened an “ideological embassy” in Ramallah to espouse Shia Muslim beliefs and to help spread Iranian influence throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This office marks the establishment of Iran’s first official agency in the Palestinian areas.

The “embassy” was opened by Muhamad Gawanmeh, the director of Iran’s new Shia Council in Palestine. Gawanmeh is a member of the Iranian-backed terror group, Islamic Jihad.

In an interview, Gawanmeh said: “We want the Palestinian people to be exposed to the Iranian heritage and Shia principles. (Our goal is) to reinforce the relations between the Islamic republic of Iran and the Palestinian people. We are part of the Iranian Islamic project in the Middle East.”

Gawanmeh also said that the council will seek to espouse Shia Muslim ideology in the Sunni-dominated Palestinian territories, including the belief in the return of the Twelfth Imam to lead an apocalyptic world battle against “evil.”

***

I attach three articles below, with summaries first for those that do not have time to read them in full.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

HOW WE DUPED THE WEST, BY IRAN’S NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR

“How we duped the West, by Iran’s nuclear negotiator” (By Philip Sherwell, The Sunday Telegraph, March 5, 2006)

The man who for two years led Iran’s nuclear negotiations has laid out in unprecedented detail how the regime took advantage of talks with Britain, France and Germany to forge ahead with its secret atomic programme.

In a speech to a closed meeting of leading Islamic clerics and academics, Hassan Rowhani… boasted that while talks were taking place in Teheran, Iran was able to complete the installation of equipment for conversion of yellowcake – a key stage in the nuclear fuel process – at its Isfahan plant but at the same time convince European diplomats that nothing was afoot.

“From the outset, the Americans kept telling the Europeans, ‘The Iranians are lying and deceiving you and they have not told you everything.’ The Europeans used to respond, ‘We trust them’,” he said…

 

NATO MAY HELP U.S. AIRSTRIKES ON IRAN

“Nato may help US airstrikes on Iran” (By Sarah Baxter and Uzi Mahnaimi, The Sunday Times (of London), March 5, 2006)

When Major-General Axel Tuttelmann, the head of Nato’s Airborne Early Warning and Control Force, showed off an Awacs early warning surveillance plane in Israel a fortnight ago, he caused a flurry of concern back at headquarters in Brussels.

It was not his demonstration that raised eyebrows, but what he said about Nato’s possible involvement in any future military strike against Iran. “We would be the first to be called up if the Nato council decided we should be,” he said…

John Pike, director of the US military studies group Globalsecurity.org, said America had little to gain from Nato military help. “I think we are attempting to bring the alliance along politically so that when all diplomatic initiatives have been exhausted and we blow up their sites, we can say, ‘Look, we gave it our best shot’.”

… Israel’s special forces are said to be operating inside Iran in an urgent attempt to locate the country’s secret uranium enrichment sites. “We found several suspected sites last year but there must be more,” an Israeli intelligence source said. They are operating from a base in northern Iraq, guarded by Israeli soldiers with the approval of the Americans, according to Israeli sources…

 

“THE ARROW KNOWS HOW TO INTERCEPT THE SHIHAB MISSILE”

“Arrow can block 'any Iranian missile’” (By Yaakov Katz, The Jerusalem Post, March 2, 2006)

Israel’s Arrow 2 anti-ballistic missile system is capable of intercepting and destroying any Iranian missiles, even were they to carry nuclear warheads, a high-ranking IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post.

While Iran is Israel’s most serious strategic and existential threat, the country, he said confidently, was sufficiently protected by the Arrow, which plays a major role in maintaining Israel’s protective envelope.

“We will shoot all of [Iran’s missiles] down,” he told the Post. “The Arrow knows how to intercept the Shihab missile.”

Just last year that wasn’t the case…

But while Israel was protected from the Shihab by the Arrow, cities were left vulnerable and unprotected from Katyusha rockets – several thousand of which are in the hands of Hizbullah in Southern Lebanon – and Palestinian-developed Kassam rockets. While the technology to intercept and destroy these low-tech rockets was in existence, the officer claimed that the funding to develop systems to do so was not. The Arrow is irrelevant as regards missiles with a range of less than 60-70 km.

“There are constant efforts to develop a system,” the officer said. “There will be a solution one day, since the technology exists and the problem is the financing.”



FULL ARTICLES

HOW WE DUPED THE WEST, BY IRAN’S NUCLEAR NEGOTIATOR

How we duped the West, by Iran’s nuclear negotiator
By Philip Sherwell
The Sunday Telegraph
March 5, 2006

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/03/05/wiran05.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/03/05/ixnewstop.html

The man who for two years led Iran’s nuclear negotiations has laid out in unprecedented detail how the regime took advantage of talks with Britain, France and Germany to forge ahead with its secret atomic programme.

In a speech to a closed meeting of leading Islamic clerics and academics, Hassan Rowhani, who headed talks with the so-called EU3 until last year, revealed how Teheran played for time and tried to dupe the West after its secret nuclear programme was uncovered by the Iranian opposition in 2002.

He boasted that while talks were taking place in Teheran, Iran was able to complete the installation of equipment for conversion of yellowcake – a key stage in the nuclear fuel process – at its Isfahan plant but at the same time convince European diplomats that nothing was afoot.

“From the outset, the Americans kept telling the Europeans, ‘The Iranians are lying and deceiving you and they have not told you everything.’ The Europeans used to respond, ‘We trust them’,” he said.

Revelation of Mr Rowhani’s remarks comes at an awkward moment for the Iranian government, ahead of a meeting tomorrow of the United Nations’ atomic watchdog, which must make a fresh assessment of Iran’s banned nuclear operations.

The judgment of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the final step before Iran’s case is passed to the UN Security Council, where sanctions may be considered.

In his address to the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, Mr Rowhani appears to have been seeking to rebut criticism from hardliners that he gave too much ground in talks with the European troika. The contents of the speech were published in a regime journal that circulates among the ruling elite.

He told his audience: “When we were negotiating with the Europeans in Teheran we were still installing some of the equipment at the Isfahan site. There was plenty of work to be done to complete the site and finish the work there. In reality, by creating a tame situation, we could finish Isfahan.”

America and its European allies believe that Iran is clandestinely developing an atomic bomb but Teheran insists it is merely seeking nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Iran’s negotiating team engaged in a last-ditch attempt last week to head off Security Council involvement. In January the regime removed IAEA seals on sensitive nuclear equipment and last month it resumed banned uranium enrichment.

Iran is trying to win support from Russia, which opposes any UN sanctions, having unsuccessfully tried to persuade European leaders to give them more time. Against this backdrop, Mr Rowhani’s surprisingly candid comments on Iran’s record of obfuscation and delay are illuminating.

He described the regime’s quandary in September 2003 when the IAEA had demanded a “complete picture” of its nuclear activities. “The dilemma was if we offered a complete picture, the picture itself could lead us to the UN Security Council,” he said. “And not providing a complete picture would also be a violation of the resolution and we could have been referred to the Security Council for not implementing the resolution.”

Mr Rowhani disclosed that on at least two occasions the IAEA obtained information on secret nuclear-related experiments from academic papers published by scientists involved in the work.

The Iranians’ biggest setback came when Libya secretly negotiated with America and Britain to close down its nuclear operations. Mr Rowhani said that Iran had bought much of its nuclear-related equipment from “the same dealer” – a reference to the network of A Q Khan, the rogue Pakistani atomic scientist. From information supplied by Libya, it became clear that Iran had bought P2 advanced centrifuges.

In a separate development, the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has obtained a copy of a confidential parliamentary report making clear that Iranian MPs were also kept in the dark on the nuclear programme, which was funded secretly, outside the normal budgetary process.

Mohammad Mohaddessin, the NCRI’s foreign affairs chief, told the Sunday Telegraph: “Rowhani’s remarks show that the mullahs wanted to deceive the international community from the onset of negotiations with EU3 - and that the mullahs were fully aware that if they were transparent, the regime’s nuclear file would be referred to the UN immediately.”

 

NATO MAY HELP U.S. AIRSTRIKES ON IRAN

Nato may help US airstrikes on Iran
By Sarah Baxter and Uzi Mahnaimi
The Sunday Times (of London)
March 5, 2006

When Major-General Axel Tuttelmann, the head of Nato’s Airborne Early Warning and Control Force, showed off an Awacs early warning surveillance plane in Israel a fortnight ago, he caused a flurry of concern back at headquarters in Brussels.

It was not his demonstration that raised eyebrows, but what he said about Nato’s possible involvement in any future military strike against Iran. “We would be the first to be called up if the Nato council decided we should be,” he said.

Nato would prefer the emphasis to remain on the “if”, but Tuttelmann’s comments revealed that the military alliance could play a supporting role if America launches airstrikes against Iranian nuclear targets.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will tomorrow confirm Iran’s referral to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions.

Iran insists it is developing peaceful nuclear energy, a claim regarded as bogus by America and Britain, France and Germany, which believe it wants to develop nuclear weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s remarks about wiping Israel “off the map” have added to fears.

America and Israel have warned that they will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran. If negotiations fail, both countries have plans of last resort for airstrikes against Iran’s widely dispersed nuclear facilities.

Porter Goss, the head of the CIA, visited Recep Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey, a Nato country, late last year and asked for political, logistical and intelligence support in the event of airstrikes, according to western intelligence sources quoted in the German media.

The news magazine Der Spiegel noted: “Washington appears to be dispatching high-level officials to prepare its allies for a possible attack.”

Nato would be likely to operate air defences in Turkey, according to Dan Goure, a Pentagon adviser and vice-president of the Lexington Institute, a military think tank.

A former senior Israeli defence official said he believed all Nato members had contingency plans.

John Pike, director of the US military studies group Globalsecurity.org, said America had little to gain from Nato military help. “I think we are attempting to bring the alliance along politically so that when all diplomatic initiatives have been exhausted and we blow up their sites, we can say, ‘Look, we gave it our best shot’.”

A senior British defence official said plans to attack Iran were pure speculation. “I don’t think anybody has got that far yet,” he said. “We’re all too distracted by Iraq.”

Israel’s special forces are said to be operating inside Iran in an urgent attempt to locate the country’s secret uranium enrichment sites. “We found several suspected sites last year but there must be more,” an Israeli intelligence source said. They are operating from a base in northern Iraq, guarded by Israeli soldiers with the approval of the Americans, according to Israeli sources.

The commander of Israel’s nuclear missile submarines warned Iran indirectly in a comment to an Israeli newspaper last week that “we are able to hit strategic targets in a foreign country”.

The Israelis fear Iran may reach the “point of no return” – at which it has the capacity to enrich uranium to bomb-grade purity – in the next few months. The Americans are more interested in the point at which Iran is close to developing an actual bomb, thought to be at least three years away.

Two Iranian opposition groups claimed this weekend that Iran had increased its production of Shahab 3 missiles, which have a range of 1,200 miles, sufficient to reach Israel.

Diplomatic efforts to contain Iran are likely to proceed slowly, given Russian and Chinese opposition to punitive action. A Foreign Office official said although the IAEA would refer Iran to the security council, any sanctions would be a “strictly step-by-step process”.

Additional reporting: Tom Walker

 

“THE ARROW KNOWS HOW TO INTERCEPT THE SHIHAB MISSILE”

Arrow can block ‘any Iranian missile’
By Yaakov Katz
The Jerusalem Post
March 2, 2006

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1139395526470&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

Israel’s Arrow 2 anti-ballistic missile system is capable of intercepting and destroying any Iranian missiles, even were they to carry nuclear warheads, a high-ranking IDF officer told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

While Iran is Israel’s most serious strategic and existential threat, the country, he said confidently, was sufficiently protected by the Arrow, which plays a major role in maintaining Israel’s protective envelope.

“We will shoot all of [Iran’s missiles] down,” he told the Post. “The Arrow knows how to intercept the Shihab missile.”

Just last year that wasn’t the case.

Appearing before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Brig.-Gen. Ilan Bitton – head of Israel’s Air Defense Forces – said that, while the Arrow was highly effective against the Scud missiles that make up most of Syria’s arsenal, it “needed improvement” to face the challenges posed by Iran’s Shihab-3.

Improvements were recently made to the Arrow, the officer said, explaining the new confidence, and it was now able to detect even a missile carrying a split warhead and armed with decoys meant to fool the anti-missile system.

Asked about the danger of the Arrow taking out a non-conventional or nuclear missile over Israel, the officer said that the incoming missile would be destroyed at such a high altitude that it would disperse and destroy its payload without causing any casualties.

“There is constant pressure to always stay a step ahead of our adversaries,” the officer said. “They developed decoys on their missiles and we developed ways to detect the decoys and to be able to accurately strike the incoming threat.”

The Arrow 2 was last tested in December and succeeded in intercepting an incoming rocket simulating an Iranian Shihab at an altitude higher than ever before tested in the previous 13 Arrow launches. While the Arrow was Israel’s first line of defense against an Iranian-launched missile, air force Patriot batteries – known for their action during the first Gulf War – also followed incoming missiles and served as the country’s back-up interception system.

Israel has at least two operational Arrow batteries, with reportedly hundreds of missiles for each battery. One is stationed at Palmahim to protect Tel Aviv and the other is at Ein Shemer near Hadera in the north.

The Iranian threat, the officer said, was not only felt by Israel but also prompted European countries that fall within the Shihab’s long range to begin development of or negotiations to purchase anti-missile defense systems similar to the Arrow. Turkey was recently mentioned in the media as interested in purchasing the Arrow missile defense system in an effort to improve its aerial defense in light of Iran’s procurement of the deadly Shihab.

“Europe has noticed the threat and is becoming a bigger player in the development of active [missile] defense systems,” the officer said. “They are busy developing, researching and waking up.”

Israel, the officer said, was constantly improving its capabilities in the face of the growing threats from its Arab neighbors. “The threats from the other side have become deadlier,” the officer said. “But we have also been in the process of development and updating so we can always be a step ahead of them.”

The Arrow project began over 12 years ago to address the threat posed by relatively crude Scud missiles, like the ones Iraq fired into Israel during the Gulf War. But as the project developed, the defense establishment was determined not to focus on past wars but to look ahead to future threats, including faster rockets launched from farther away, possibly with multiple warheads. Nearly $2.5 billion has already been invested in the missile defense system, with two-thirds of the funding coming from the US Missile Defense Agency.

But while Israel was protected from the Shihab by the Arrow, cities were left vulnerable and unprotected from Katyusha rockets – several thousand of which are in the hands of Hizbullah in Southern Lebanon – and Palestinian-developed Kassam rockets. While the technology to intercept and destroy these low-tech rockets was in existence, the officer claimed that the funding to develop systems to do so was not. The Arrow is irrelevant as regards missiles with a range of less than 60-70 km.

“There are constant efforts to develop a system,” the officer said. “There will be a solution one day, since the technology exists and the problem is the financing.”


Terror victims relieved as “Paradise Now” and “Munich” fail to win Oscars

March 06, 2006

* But disappointment over award for “Syriana”

 

CONTENTS

1. “What they call ‘Paradise Now’ we call ‘hell now’, each and every day”
2. “I look forward to the day that Hollywood honors a Palestinian film that advocates peace”
3. The 78th Academy Awards
4. Spielberg fails to win
5. A film that “humanizes mass murderers”
6. Hany Abu-Assad
7. Syriana: “Osama Bin Laden could not have scripted this film with more conviction”
8. “Israelis ask Oscars to drop suicide bomb film” (Reuters, March 1, 2006)
9. “Anti-Semitism now” (By Irit Linor, Yediot Ahronot, February 7, 2006)
10. “UAE bans Brokeback Mountain” (Khaleej Times, February 9, 2006)
11. “Oscars for Osama” (By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, March 3, 2006)



[All notes below by Tom Gross]

“WHAT THEY CALL ‘PARADISE NOW’ WE CALL ‘HELL NOW’, EACH AND EVERY DAY”

A group of Israelis who lost children to Palestinian suicide bombings are crediting a 37,000-signature petition they collected and handed into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences as having helped persuade the judges not to award the Oscar for best foreign-language picture to “Paradise Now” last night.

They say that “Paradise Now” glorifies suicide bombers and asked for its removal from Oscar consideration. “Paradise Now” had already won the best foreign-language award in the Golden Globes and was the favorite to pick up an award in the same category in the Oscars. It has also won several prestigious international awards, including the European Film Academy’s Best Screenplay award and the Berlin Festival’s Blue Angel award.

Yossi Zur, an Israeli whose teenage son Asaf was murdered in a suicide bus bombing in Haifa, accused the film of sympathetically portraying suicide bombers, “What they call ‘Paradise Now’ we call ‘hell now’, each and every day.”

Asaf Zur, 16, was one of seventeen people killed in the attack (one of many such attacks in Haifa). Eight other schoolchildren were killed in that attack, which occurred three years ago to the day yesterday. Over 50 others, including several children, were injured.

Supporters of the group also placed a full-page ad on Friday in the entertainment industry daily, “Variety,” featuring photos of an Israeli bus and teenager blown up by a suicide bomber.

 

“I LOOK FORWARD TO THE DAY THAT HOLLYWOOD HONORS A PALESTINIAN FILM THAT ADVOCATES PEACE”

The petition on behalf of the Israeli victims was handed into the Academy by Palestinian-American Nonie Darwish. Darwish, who grew up in the Gaza Strip, and whose father was killed fighting Israel in 1956, now campaigns for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. She warned that as the daughter of an Arab “martyr,” if “Paradise Now” won an Oscar it would have “sent a message to young Arabs that the West accepts suicide terrorism as a legitimate act.”

Darwish called for Palestinians to make “films about those Arabs who refuse to become Jihadists… We give too much honor to terrorists and not enough honor to their victims... I look forward to the day that Hollywood honors a Palestinian film that advocates peace.”

In a joint statement issued this morning from Israel, Yossi Zur, together with Yossi Mendellevich (who lost his 14-year-old son in the attack) and Ron Kehrmann (whose 17-year-old daughter was murdered in the attack) expressed relief at the Academy’s decision and said: “It is a manipulated work, more deserving of condemnation than praise. While we stand firmly in favor of freedom of speech and against any form of censorship, we are extremely concerned that this movie appears to justify suicide bombing and, far worse, could lead viewers to admire the two Palestinian suicide bombers. There should be no tolerance or understanding for such deeds.”

 

THE 78TH ACADEMY AWARDS

In the end, the Oscar for best foreign-language picture was won by “Tsotsi,” a South African drama about the violent life of a young Johannesburg gang leader.

In one of the most surprising upsets in recent years, the Oscar for best picture went to “Crash,” which beat off competition from the heavy favorite, the gay cowboy drama “Brokeback Mountain”.

The penultimate article attached below reports that “Brokeback Mountain” has been banned in the United Arab Emirates due to its homosexual content. The UAE has been at the center of a controversy about the operating of American ports recently.

 

SPIELBERG FAILS TO WIN

Many Israelis, Jewish organizations, and groups campaigning against terrorism, also expressed relief this morning that Steven Spielberg’s film “Munich”, failed to win any awards. It had been nominated for five Oscars, including best picture. Spielberg called the film his “prayer for peace.”

Fox news commentator Cal Thomas (who is not Jewish) wrote of Spielberg “Jewish guilt can be hazardous to Jewish health. What is especially troubling is that Hollywood’s reservoir of sympathy is shallow and extends only to certain ‘favored’ subjects. Would the film industry do a movie about Joseph Stalin and how the forced famine he instigated in the 1930s in which an estimated 7 million people died was really about putting overweight Russians on a needed diet? How about a film on the life of China’s Chairman Mao, considered the top killer of the last century? A talented scriptwriter might portray Mao’s genocidal acts as a commitment to population control.”

For more on “Munich,” please see:

* Munich (1): “Spielberg is no friend of Israel”
* Munich (2): Spielberg: “For me this movie is a prayer for peace”
* Munich (3): BBC set to name woman agent who killed Olympics massacre mastermind)

 

A FILM THAT “HUMANIZES MASS MURDERERS”

“Paradise Now” has received even more criticism than “Munich.” It tells the story of two young Palestinian men recruited for a suicide attack in Tel Aviv.

Set over a 48-hour period, the story explores the motivations, doubts and fears of the two Palestinian men. The 90-minute film, shot entirely in Arabic, is set mainly in the northern West Bank city of Nablus and in Tel Aviv. The film ends with one of the two men sitting on a Tel Aviv bus with an explosive belt tied to his body.

The film has received some sharp criticism in Israel. The Jerusalem Post described it as a film that “humanizes mass murderers.” As a measure of the Israeli anger with the Academy for short listing the film, in Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s best-selling newspaper, renowned left-wing feminist Israeli writer Irit Linor went so far as to compare “Paradise Now” to a “quality Nazi film”. Linor argues that the film “spins a thin thread of understanding for those who resorted to desperate measures to solve the problem of the constant, unremitting evil of the Jews.” (Her article is attached below.)

A counter petition in support of the film delivered to the Academy drew about 8,300 online signatures.

 

HANY ABU-ASSAD

The Israeli-born director of Paradise Now, Hany Abu-Assad, has made his views on Israel clear in recent weeks. When asked if he would consider become a “Shahid” (martyr-suicide murderer) in an interview with Yediot Ahronot, he replied “yes”.

In the same interview Abu-Assad suggested the most accurate term for a suicide bombing would be “a counter-terrorist act.”

 

SYRIANA: “OSAMA BIN LADEN COULD NOT HAVE SCRIPTED THIS FILM WITH MORE CONVICTION”

George Clooney last night won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in “Syriana,” which critics say is yet another film that also glorifies suicide bombers.

In the final article below, leading Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer writes:

“Nothing tells you more about Hollywood than what it chooses to honor. Nominated for best foreign-language film is ‘Paradise Now,’ a sympathetic portrayal of two suicide bombers. Nominated for best picture is ‘Munich,’ a sympathetic portrayal of yesterday’s fashion in barbarism: homicide terrorism. But until you see ‘Syriana,’ nominated for best screenplay (and George Clooney, for best supporting actor) you have no idea how self-flagellation and self-loathing pass for complexity and moral seriousness in Hollywood.”

Krauthammer argues that this film carries “the most vicious and pernicious mendacities about America to a receptive world” and “Osama bin Laden could not have scripted this film with more conviction.”

I attach four articles below.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

“HELL NOW”

Israelis ask Oscars to drop suicide bomb film: Paradise Now
By Dan Williams
Reuters
March 1, 2006

A group of Israelis who lost children to Palestinian suicide bombings appealed on Wednesday to organizers of next week’s Academy Awards to disqualify a film exploring the reasoning behind such attacks.

The bereaved parents said they had gathered more than 32,000 signatures on a petition against the nomination in the best foreign film category of “Paradise Now,” a drama about two West Bank friends recruited to blow themselves up in Tel Aviv.

The controversial film was made by an Israeli Arab director and actors working with a Palestinian crew and locations. The producer was a Jewish Israeli and the funding was European.

Yossi Zur, whose teenage son Asaf was killed in a bus bombing, accused the film of sympathetically portraying a tactic hailed by many Palestinians waging a 5-year-old uprising.

“What they call ‘Paradise Now’ we call ‘hell now’, each and every day,” Zur told reporters. “It is a mission of the free world not to give such movies a prize.”

Film industry experts said it was unheard of for an Oscar nomination to be withdrawn. This year’s ceremony is on March 5.

Major Israeli cinema chains have shunned “Paradise Now,” with distribution experts citing concern that its portrayal of suicide bombers could spell a low box-office turnout and even boycotts.

The film shows Palestinians bemoaning the travails of life under Israeli occupation, yet its characters also debate whether this warrants resorting to violence.

One of the protagonists takes on his deadly mission to exonerate guilt over a relative who spied for Israel, a comment on the complex pressures within Palestinian society.

Palestinians seeking independence in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel captured in a 1967 war, won limited self-rule under interim accords that formed the Palestinian Authority. Some Jews opposed ceding the land, seeing it as their biblical birthright.

Fighting that erupted in 2000 and last month’s victory in Palestinian elections of the Islamic militant group Hamas have dimmed hopes for peaceful two-state co-existence.

Despite its controversial subject, “Paradise Now” won a Golden Globe prize in January, boosting its Oscar prospects.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is already debating how to present the provenance of the film. The academy’s Web site had listed it as coming from “Palestine,” drawing Israeli complaints as the state does not yet exist.

The controversy around “Paradise Now” compounds an already fraught Academy Awards for Israel, thanks to several nominations garnered by Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.”

A thriller about the reprisals the Jewish state launched after 11 of its athletes died in a Palestinian raid on the 1972 Olympic Games, Munich has been accused by pro-Israel groups of skewing history and criticizing Israeli security policies.

Spielberg called the film his “prayer for peace.”

 

ANTI-SEMITISM NOW

Anti-Semitism now
By Irit Linor
Yediot Ahronot
February 7, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3212503,00.html

Two years ago, the creators of Paradise Now asked the Israel Film Foundation for public funding to help produce the film. They were turned down thanks to a number of reviewers – including myself – who were taken aback by its moral character.

Thus, Israel missed out on the chance to be part to an exciting, quality Nazi film.

I don’t use the term “Nazi” frivolously or out of anger. Such a claim must be backed up, particularly when the subject is a film that conforms to all the criteria of quality filmmaking, and which barely contains any Jews. One could, perhaps, have been content with the phrase “anti-Israel” or “anti-Semitic”.

But the film hasn’t got any “Jews” in it and no “Israel,” because Jewish Israel is referred to in the film as “them,” or “occupation, ” or “killing” or an “injustice” that has no historic background or human form.

Ugly Jews

The only Jewish Israeli given a name is called Abu Shabab, the man who takes the terrorists to Tel Aviv and receives payment only after the terror attack (or “operation,” in the film’s phrasing) takes place. As he takes the terrorists to the Dolphinarium parking lot, the only Hebrew word in the film escapes his lips as he wishes the murderers “good luck.”

And so, in just a few seconds, Beyer and Abu-Assad manage to define the Israeli, that is, the caricature Jew: fat, ugly, older, bearded, hungry for young Aryan girls and prepared to do anything for money.

Why use a Jewish Israeli character for this role, when there have been no more than three Jewish collaborators over more than 1000 terror attacks, and in fact most of the Israelis who do aid terror are Arab? How did the creators come to surrender their link to reality? Was it artistic or ideological?

No choice

And since all the participants in the film repeatedly emphasize that all peaceful Palestinian efforts at solving the problems of occupation and ethnic cleansing have failed, and that there is therefore no alternative but to conduct suicide “operations,” the film’s subtext suggests a solution to the problem: mass murder.

And so we can rightly call “Paradise Now” a Nazi film: it spins a thin thread of understanding for those who resorted to desperate measures to solve the problem of the constant, unremitting evil of the Jews.

No Victims

And who are the suicide bombers in the film? They are no more than innocent victims of an occupation devoid of reason or purpose. Forget politics at the film’s conclusion, I was sadder about hottie Kais Nashef in the role of the suicide bomber than I was about a bunch of statistics in the role of Israelis on a Tel Aviv bus, most of whom were soldiers, as is the norm on Tel Aviv buses, and who we didn’t even see die.

The suicide bombing to which the innocent heroes go is an act that, from its genesis to its conclusion, is devoid of victims. There may not even be a bombing, just a close-up on Nashef’s soft eyes, and a white screen. Not even a ‘boom.’

Maybe in the end he just changed his mind. The two murderers are kind, their clothes Tarantino style fit them well, so you like them. How could you not?

Likeable killers

We liked Jackson and Travolta in “Pulp Fiction,” and they, too, where murderers who wore the tailored suits. Tarantino prepared the ground for us to like barbaric killers, and to feel good about it.

So although true “martyrs” don’t usually appear wearing suits, that’s how Hany Abu-Assad chose to portray them. He knew the image it presents.

“Ah, come on,” the critics will say, “that’s propaganda? What do you mean? It’s homage! At most, they’ll argue whether the clothes came from “Pulp Fiction” or the “Blues Brothers.”

Another purely artistic consideration was the banding together of hotties Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman in the role of the murderers. I’d have to rack my brain to recall the martyr who could have sidelined as a male model.

But there we’ve got Kais as one of the bombers, and it’s clear that whoever causes him to suffer ought to be punished.

Humble terrorist

It is purely out of artistic considerations, of course, that he recites his ideological speech some lying, sanctimonious Hamas drivel not with fanatic shouting, but rather with humility, sadness.

This is no Hitler in a stadium, but rather a delicate wildflower, ravaged by the spring winds and by the occupation, of course, which is a ritual cleansing bath for every Palestinian moral blight.

The girl who opposes the suicide bombings (and who is also madly attracted to Kais) opposes it so vehemently not because she is opposed to killing civilians but rather because “it just gives them (that is, the Israeli root of evil) the alibi to continue killing.”

In other words: it just isn’t practical. And she’s the humanist in the film. She’s also cute.

Out of artistic considerations, the taxi driver in the film explains to Nashef that the settlers poisoned the wells by Nablus in order to harm the quality of Palestinian offspring. Nashef doesn’t raise an eyebrow. Neither will viewers abroad. They’ve already internalized the link between Jews and well poisoning.

The bomber is me

The message of “Paradise Now” is simple: “We’re all people, even mass murderers.” You see, anyone has the potential to blow up children and babies in a restaurant. It can happen to anyone, like dandruff.

The movie is a success because of the sophisticated direction of Hany Abu-Assad. There is no blood, and Nablus apartments with exposed cinderblock walls look every bit as romantic as a Tuscan villa. Everything is so beautiful, it’s clear the terrorists are just like us, just with more tastefully decorated homes.

And again the message is clear: if these people can become murderers than clearly so could I.

Out of artistic considerations, you understand, Hany Abu-Assad doesn’t linger on the less photogenic aspects that can lead someone to commit mass murder a distorted mentality of honor, an anti-Semitic education, Islamic radicalism, the cheapening of human life.

He only sells us a humanity whose outer characteristics we find palatable: young heroes, sweet families like us not religious fanatics, but marginally traditional, t-shirt wearing secular folk. You know, just like us.

But that’s not wholly accurate, because the two murderers of “Paradise Now” aren’t quite like us, nor are they like most other Western viewers. They’re much more than that.

Son of God

They’re the son of God, in all his splendor and glory. Yes indeed, the screenwriters were well aware of the film’s Christian audience, so they prepared something especially for them.

Just before they go out to blow you and me up, the two cool killers sit down to eat a final meal, together with eleven men, in the exact arrangement and with the exact number of participants in Leonardo’s famous painting of the Last Supper.

In order to prevent any of the non-Jews from interpreting the scene inappropriately and to maintain its visual context, there are no cuts during the scene.

There isn’t a Christian on the planet who isn’t familiar with that painting, or who doesn’t know who’s sitting around that table. The Christian whose mind will have no trouble conjuring up the association of Jesus just prior to his crucifixion.

So we’ve got a modern day Jesus and an innocent victim who will die because of whom? An interesting question.

And Abu-Assad marches towards his Oscar, and we’ll receive the next martyr. Let’s just hope he’s as hot as Nashef.

 

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN BANNED IN UAE DUE TO HOMOSEXUAL CONTENT

UAE bans Brokeback Mountain
By Afkar Abdullah
Khaleej Times
February 9, 2006

www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle.asp?xfile=data/theuae/2006/February/theuae_February243.xml§ion=theuae

The Ministry of Culture and Information will not allow the screening of the Hollywood film Brokeback Mountain in the UAE because of scenes involving homosexuals.

Brokeback Mountain is a film which has nothing positive about it. The portrayal of the sexual behaviour of its main character is offensive to eastern societies, particularly Muslims and the Arabs since Islam forbids abnormal behaviors like homosexuality, said Dr Abdullah Al Amiri, Chairman of the Committee of Financial, Economical and Industrial Affairs of Sharjah Consultative Council yesterday.

“The film will upset the people of this culture and tradition,” he said, explaining that there were scenes showing two men romantically inclined to each other.

The decision of the Ministry of Information was hailed by the members of the Sharjah Consultative Council during the meeting yesterday. The members thanked the ministry for its efforts in protecting the society from unethical and immoral practices.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, an official from the Ministry of Information said that the rules and regulations of the censor section at the ministry did not allow “these kinds of movies to be screened in the country.” The censorship department is making great efforts to review all the movies before it allows its screening in the theatres in the country. This kind of movies will destroy the values and morals of the society, he explained.

Despite criticism, the controversial movie was named ‘Best Picture’ at the 17th Annual Producers Guild of America (PGA) awards on January 22, 2006.

 

SYRIANA: “CARRYING THE MOST VICIOUS AND PERNICIOUS MENDACITIES ABOUT AMERICA TO A RECEPTIVE WORLD”

Oscars for Osama
By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
March 3, 2006

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/02/AR2006030201209.html

Nothing tells you more about Hollywood than what it chooses to honor. Nominated for best foreign-language film is “Paradise Now,” a sympathetic portrayal of two suicide bombers. Nominated for best picture is “Munich,” a sympathetic portrayal of yesterday’s fashion in barbarism: homicide terrorism.

But until you see “Syriana,” nominated for best screenplay (and George Clooney, for best supporting actor) you have no idea how self-flagellation and self-loathing pass for complexity and moral seriousness in Hollywood.

The “Syriana” script has, of course, the classic liberal tropes such as this stage direction: “The Deputy National Security Advisor, Marilyn Richards, 40’s, sculpted hair, with the soul of a seventy year-old white, Republican male, is in charge” (Page 21). Or this piece of over-the-top, Gordon Gekko Republican-speak, placed in the mouth of a Texas oilman: “Corruption is our protection. Corruption is what keeps us safe and warm.... Corruption... is how we win” (Page 93).

But that’s run-of-the-mill Hollywood. The true distinction of “Syriana’s” script is the near-incomprehensible plot – a muddled mix of story lines about a corrupt Kazakh oil deal, a succession struggle in an oil-rich Arab kingdom, and a giant Texas oil company that pulls the strings at the CIA and, naturally, everywhere else – amid which, only two things are absolutely clear and coherent: the movie’s one political hero and one pure soul.

The political hero is the Arab prince who wants to end corruption, inequality and oppression in his country. As he tells his tribal elders, he intends to modernize his country by bringing the rule of law, market efficiency, women’s rights and democracy.

What do you think happens to him? He, his beautiful wife and beautiful children are murdered, incinerated, by a remote-controlled missile, fired from CIA headquarters in Langley, no less – at the very moment that (this passes for subtle cross-cutting film editing) his evil younger brother, the corrupt rival to the throne and puppet of the oil company, is being hailed at a suitably garish “oilman of the year” celebration populated by fat and ugly Americans.

What is grotesque about this moment of plot clarity is that the overwhelmingly obvious critique of actual U.S. policy in the real Middle East today concerns America’s excess of Wilsonian idealism in trying to find and promote – against a tide of tyranny, intolerance and fanaticism – local leaders like the Good Prince. Who in the greater Middle East is closest to the modernizing, democratizing paragon of “Syriana”? Without a doubt, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, a man of exemplary – and quite nonfictional – personal integrity, physical courage and democratic temperament. Hundreds of brave American (and allied NATO) soldiers have died protecting him and the democratic system they established to allow him to govern. On the very night the Oscars will be honoring “Syriana,” American soldiers will be fighting, some perhaps dying, in defense of precisely the kind of tolerant, modernizing Muslim leader that “Syriana” shows America slaughtering.

It gets worse. The most pernicious element in the movie is the character at the moral heart of the film: the beautiful, modest, caring, generous Pakistani who becomes a beautiful, modest, caring, generous... suicide bomber. In his final act, the Pure One, dressed in the purest white robes, takes his explosives-laden little motorboat headfirst into his target. It is a replay of the real-life boat that plunged into the USS Cole in 2000, killing 17 American sailors, except that in the “Syriana” version, the target is another symbol of American imperialism in the Persian Gulf: a newly opened liquefied natural gas terminal.

The explosion, which would have the force of a nuclear bomb, constitutes the moral high point of the movie, the moment of climactic cleansing, as the Pure One clad in white merges with the great white mass of the huge terminal wall, at which point the screen goes pure white. And reverently silent.

In my naivete, I used to think that Hollywood had achieved its nadir with Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” a film that taught a generation of Americans that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA and the FBI in collaboration with Lyndon Johnson. But at least it was for domestic consumption, an internal affair of only marginal interest to other countries. “Syriana,” however, is meant for export, carrying the most vicious and pernicious mendacities about America to a receptive world.

Most liberalism is angst- and guilt-ridden, seeing moral equivalence everywhere. “Syriana” is of a different species entirely – a pathological variety that burns with the certainty of its malign anti-Americanism. Osama bin Laden could not have scripted this film with more conviction.


The barbarians of Europe

March 01, 2006

EQUATING DANISH MOHAMMED CARTOONS WITH HOLOCAUST DENIAL IS A FORM OF ANTI-SEMITISM

Attached below is a piece by myself from the leading Canadian newspaper, the National Post (no British or French paper agreed to publish this article), concerning Ilan Halimi, David Irving and Ken Livingstone. (The piece is also scheduled to appear on Friday in the Jerusalem Post.)

Among the points made is that there is no comparison between denying the Holocaust, which is not an article of religious faith but a historical fact, and the issue of Danish cartoons that allegedly show disrespect for religion. Those who accept the parallel are falling for a propaganda trick and playing into the hands of anti-Semites and Islamic extremists.

“SHARIA LAW FROM THE JEWISH LOBBY IN ENGLAND”

Please note that since the piece was written, Livingstone’s suspension as mayor of London has been frozen by the British High Court pending a statutory appeal to be heard next month at the earliest. Many on both left and right have rallied to Livingstone’s defense. These include the generally pro-Semitic commentator Andrew Sullivan who says, surprisingly, in his website (which is now hosted by Time magazine) that “Sharia law from the Jewish lobby [has been applied] in England.” Livingstone himself has a particularly duplicitous piece in the Guardian today.

-- Tom Gross


THE BARBARIANS OF EUROPE

The Barbarians of Europe
By Tom Gross
The National Post (Toronto)
February 28, 2006

http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/issuesideas/story.html?id=1a969d4f-35b2-4b75-9524-c69eebf4fb33&p=1

Three events in the last few days suggest that Europeans are finally taking the threat of renewed anti-Semitism seriously. First, pseudo-historian David Irving, a major source of inspiration for neo-Nazis, was jailed for three years in Austria – a land where not so long ago Kurt Waldheim was elected president and Jorg Haider’s Freedom party welcomed into the governing coalition.

Then, last Thursday, the entire French political establishment, including President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and the archbishop of Paris, attended a memorial service at Paris’s main synagogue for murdered Jew Ilan Halimi, while thousands paid their respects outside.

And on Friday, London mayor Ken Livingstone was suspended from office for four weeks effective March 1 after he refused to apologize or show contrition for likening a Jewish journalist to a Nazi concentration camp guard in an unprovoked outburst.

Although many commentators have rallied to Irving’s and Livingstone’s defense, frequently making bogus comparisons with the recent Mohammed cartoons, it seems that others in Europe are showing an increased resolve to stop the renewed spread of anti-Semitism, a sickness with which the continent has been all too familiar in past centuries.

(For the record, there is no comparison between denying the Holocaust, which is not an article of religious faith but a historical fact, and the issue of cartoons that allegedly show disrespect for religion. Those who accept the parallel are falling for a propaganda trick and playing into the hands of anti-Semites and Islamic extremists. If the cartoons had claimed that Mohammed didn’t exist, the comparison might be valid, but they weren’t saying anything of the sort.)

These first hints of new European steadfastness are in striking contrast to reactions (or the lack of them) only a short time ago. In Nov. 2003, for example, a young French Jewish DJ, Sיbastien Selam, was approached by his Muslim neighbor, Adel Boumedienne, in their building’s underground garage. Boumedienne slit Selam’s throat, gouged out his eyes with a carving fork and then ran upstairs and told his mother, “I killed my Jew, I will go to paradise.” In the two years before the murder, the Selam family had been repeatedly harassed by their neighbors for being Jewish.

As with the perpetrators of other attacks on French Jews in recent years, Boumedienne was clearly inspired by the most vicious anti-Semitism. Yet the case was barely commented on in the French media and there was no response of any significance from the French government.

The reaction this month to the murder of another young French Jew, Ilan Halimi, has been very different. After some initial dragging of feet and evasiveness, the authorities and the media have been altogether more resolute in recognizing the anti-Semitic aspects of the case.

On Jan. 21, Halimi, a 23-year old Paris store clerk, was seduced into going out on a date by a young woman who walked into the cellphone shop where he worked.

The woman had been sent as bait in order to lure Halimi to a spot from where he could be kidnapped. She had been sent by a gang named “The Barbarians,” from Bagneux, a suburb south of Paris. The 15-strong gang, which includes Muslim radicals (one was the son of an Egyptian newspaper correspondent), overpowered Halimi and took him to an apartment in Bagneux.

Over the next three weeks they contacted Halimi’s family and demanded a ransom of up to 500,000 Euros ($600,000). On Feb. 13, Halimi was found tied naked to a tree, handcuffed, gagged, hooded and starved, with severe burns and torture marks and cuts all over his body.

He died of his wounds as he was taken to hospital. The French police officer leading the investigation said the gang “kept him naked and tied up for weeks. They cut bits off his flesh, fingers and ears, and in the end poured flammable liquid on him and set him alight. It was one of the cruelest killings I have ever seen.”

The gang phoned the family several times and made them listen to verses from the Koran while Ilan screamed as he was tortured in the background. Even when it became clear that the family, who are not rich, couldn’t pay, the gang continued committing violence against Ilan for its own sake because, the police say, he was Jewish. One of the young torturers now under arrest told police his accomplices took turns to stub out cigarettes on Ilan’s forehead while voicing hatred for Jews.

The police also found literature linking the suspects to extremist Muslim causes and discovered that the gang had already tried to kidnap four other Jews in recent weeks, hospitalizing at least one 50-year-old Jew who was pistol-whipped before managing to escape, and throwing a hand-grenade at a Jewish doctor in another attack.

Yet at first, the Paris public prosecutor, Jean-Claude Marin, told French journalists that there was nothing anti-Semitic about the murder. And certain newspapers, such as Le Figaro in Paris and The Observer in London reported the case while scrupulously avoiding any mention of the fact that the victim was a Jew. (It is hard to imagine that The Observer, or its affiliate newspaper The Guardian, would report on an unprovoked racial attack on a black or Asian Muslim without mentioning that it was a racial attack, or who the perpetrators and victim were.)

Following an outcry by French Jews, both the police and the judge presiding over the case admitted that anti-Semitism had played a key role, while Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told the French National Assembly that the gang had targeted Jews because “they were convinced that ‘the Jews have money.’”

Prime Minister de Villepin also accused the police of initially failing to acknowledge the anti-Semitic aspects of the murder.

Meanwhile there has been a similar belated but welcome willingness to recognize the facts on the part of the media. After doing its best to confuse the issue and downplay the anti-Semitism of the perpetrators, The Independent in London was suddenly running a piece titled “This anti-Semitic attack is terrifying”. Major U.S. papers such as The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, which had been silent about the story, have now reported it. In France itself the significance of the killing has been widely discussed and analyzed. An editorial in Le Monde called it “a crime of an era, a sort of looking glass onto the true state of our society.”

Taken together, the outcry over Halimi, the sentencing of Irving and the suspension of Livingstone certainly represent a milestone in the official European response to contemporary anti-Semitism. But whether they also mark a turning-point remains to be seen.

(The writer is a former Jerusalem correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph.)