Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

The New York Times and the “Israel lobby” (& Brandeis to honor Kushner)

April 26, 2006

* This dispatch primarily concerns Jews who either deliberately work for Israel’s destruction, like Tony Judt and Tony Kushner, or well-meaning but naive left-wing Jews who coddle up to the enemy, as explored in the pieces below by Dennis Prager and Julia Gorin

* This dispatch concerns America’s so-called “good Jews”; for more on their European equivalents, see Jews against Israel: King, Kaufman, & Judt, Europe’s so-called “good Jews” (Dec. 1, 2005)

 

CONTENTS

1. The New York Times gets in on the act
2. Troubled Jews at the forefront of many anti-Semitic movements
3. Dershowitz on the “The Israel Lobby”
4. “If you believe the left is morally confused… the Jews’ disproportionate involvement on the left is nothing less than a tragedy”
5. Brandeis to honor Tony Kushner
6. Penn State Univ. closes down art exhibit on Palestinian anti-Semitism
7. “Jews and Israel: More voices” (New York Times, April 22, 2006)
8. “A Jewish lobby? Let’s talk about it” (New York Times, April 20, 2006)
9. Unpublished letters to the New York Times in response to Tony Judt’s op-ed
10. “Why are so many Jews liberal?” (By Dennis Prager, Townhall.com, April 25, 2006)
11. “In Birmingham, the benevolent face of jihad” (By Julia Gorin, JWR, April 26, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

THE NEW YORK TIMES GETS IN ON THE ACT

I have not covered the tedious piece of pseudo-scholarship titled “The Israel Lobby” by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, published a month ago in The London Review of Books, because others have already effectively dismantled it for the shoddy, half-baked piece of conspiracy theory that it is.

The London Review of Books, owned and edited by an anti-Israeli Jew (Mary-Kay Wilmers), is known for its diatribes against the existence of the Jewish state. Few take its articles about the Middle East seriously.

The New York Times, which couches its anti-Zionism more carefully, is however taken seriously, and it strikes me as altogether more worrisome that it would invite Tony Judt on to its editorial pages last week to write a follow up to the Walt-Mearsheimer London Review of Books piece. Judt, a Jewish professor at NYU, has for some time campaigned for the destruction of Israel.

TROUBLED JEWS AT THE FOREFRONT OF MANY ANTI-SEMITIC MOVEMENTS

Judt’s article is riddled with falsehoods, distortions, and appeals to the authority of various non-authoritative opinions, all of them Jewish, of course. No doubt Judt is hoping that readers might not be aware that some troubled Jews have been at the forefront of almost every anti-Semitic movement in history, from those Jews who converted to Catholicism only to then advise the Spanish rulers to carry out the inquisition, to those Jewish communists who urged Stalin to persecute “the Jews,” to those Jews in Germany who even asked to join the Nazi party in 1930s Germany.

I don’t attach Judt’s piece – both because of its inaccuracies and because it has already received wide enough circulation on Islamist and far-right websites. I do, however, include a selection of letters (by Christopher Hitchens and others) criticizing the article published by The New York Times, and a further two, which were not. If you have time, I suggest these be read in full.

DERSHOWITZ ON THE “THE ISRAEL LOBBY”

For those outside the U.S. who may wish to know more about the reaction to the “The Israel Lobby” article, I suggest you read the extensive article on it by Alan Dershowitz, the leading Harvard law professor (and a subscriber to this email list).

www.ksg.harvard.edu/research/working_papers/dershowitzreply.pdf

Dershowitz adds: “Walt and Mearshimer repeatedly claim that they have written their paper, at least in part, in order to stimulate dialogue concerning the influence of the Lobby. They claim that it is the pro-Israel side that seeks to suppress public discussion: ‘[The Lobby] does mot want an open debate on issues involving Israel, because an open debate might cause Americans to question the level of support they currently provide.’ Yet the pro-Israel side has risen to the Walt- Mearsheimer challenge and has participated in the marketplace of ideas, only to be greeted by silence from the authors, who have generally refused to defend their views.”

“IF YOU BELIEVE THE LEFT IS MORALLY CONFUSED… THE JEWS’ DISPROPORTIONATE INVOLVEMENT ON THE LEFT IS NOTHING LESS THAN A TRAGEDY”

I also attach below a piece by Dennis Prager who writes that “The most frequently asked question I receive from non-Jews about Jews is, why are Jews so liberal?” (I should emphasize that the Jews to which Prager is referring are not hostile to Israel, like Judt is, but in Prager’s view misguided.)

After listing six reasons to explain why Jews are so liberal (a preoccupation with social justice, and so on), Prager concludes with two scenarios “If you believe that leftist ideas and policies are good for America and for the world, then you are particularly pleased to know how deeply Jews – with their moral passion, intellectual energies and abilities, and financial clout – are involved with the Left. If, on the other hand, you believe that the Left is morally confused and largely a destructive force in America and the world, then the Jews’ disproportionate involvement on the Left is nothing less than a tragedy – for the world and especially for the Jews.”

The final article below, by Julia Gorin, concerns the recent invitation by Rabbi Jonathan Miller of Temple Emanu-El in Birmingham, Alabama, to host Bosnia’s Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric. Ceric was invited to address an interfaith audience at his synagogue so that Jews and Christians might “make room in our hearts and souls for others who believe differently from us.”

Gorin, who then explains exactly who Ceric is and why she thinks he is dangerous, warns (perhaps somewhat alarmingly) that “If Jews continue public relations efforts for movements that wish them ill, they’ll find themselves in a position similar to what they were in during WWII.”

BRANDEIS TO HONOR TONY KUSHNER

Tony Kushner wrote the screenplay for the recent Steven Spielberg movie “Munich,” which many criticized for its sympathetic portrayal of anti-Israel terrorists, and its falsification of history. For more on Kushner, see Munich (2): Spielberg: “For me this movie is a prayer for peace” (Dec. 15, 2005).

Now, perhaps in part because of praise for “Munich” (the anti-Israeli polemicist Robert Fisk said the film was “magnificent”), Tony Kushner is to be awarded an honorary degree by Brandeis University on May 21, 2006.

What makes this decision even more strange is that Louis Brandeis, after whom the university is named, was not only a justice of the Supreme Court, but also a key figure in the history of American Zionism.

Not surprisingly, given Kushner’s record of attacking Israel, a student campaign has begun against this decision. Here is Kushner in his own words, supplied by the “Stop Kushner campaign” at Brandeis University:

* “[Israel was] founded in a program that was ethnic cleansing, and that today is behaving abominably towards the Palestinian people.”
– Yale Israel Review (winter 2005)

* Kushner: “Establishing a state means fucking people over. However, I think that people in the late 20th century or early 21st century – having seen the Holocaust, having seen the 20th century and all of its horrors – cannot be complacent in the face of that.”
Ha’aretz reporter: “But you are saying that the very creation of Israel as a Jewish state was not a good idea.”
Kushner: “I think it was a mistake.”
– Ha’aretz (April 7, 2004)

* “I’ve never been a Zionist. I have a problem with the idea of a Jewish state. It would have been better if it never happened.”
– The New York Sun reporting Kushner comments made at a conference in New York (October 14, 2002)

* “I am not a Zionist, in case you haven’t noticed.” Kushner cited “the shame of American Jews for failing to denounce Israel.”
– Chicago Tribune (April 10, 2002)

* “The existence of the state of Israel, because of the terrible way that the Palestinian people have been treated, is now in great peril and the world is in peril as a consequence of it. And we have now the spectacle of Jewish people all over the world, who in the past century had an absolutely magnificent tradition of rejecting barbarism and right-wing murderous politics, rallying behind Ariel Sharon who 10 years ago would never have been acceptable anywhere.”
– In These Times interview (March 4, 2002)

* “Israel is a foreign country. I am no more represented by Israel than I am by Italy.”
– Ha’aretz (April 7, 2004)

* “The Israeli-built security wall should come down.”
– Baltimore Jewish Times (June 4, 2004)

* “ [Israel is involved in] a deliberate destruction of Palestinian culture and a systematic attempt to destroy the identity of the Palestinian people.”
– New York Sun (October 4, 2002)

PENN STATE UNIV. CLOSES DOWN EXHIBIT ON PALESTINIAN ANTI-SEMITISM

Pennsylvania State University has forced the closure of an exhibit about the effects of Palestinian terrorism. The creator of the exhibit, Joshua Stulman, was told that the 10-piece exhibit titled “Portraits of Terror” “did not promote cultural diversity or opportunities for democratic dialogue.” The exhibit aimed to raise questions about anti-Semitic propaganda and cartoons in Palestinian newspapers and the indoctrination of Palestinian youth into terrorist acts.

By contrast, in 2003 Pennsylvania State University paid for an event titled “Islam Awareness Week.”

-- Tom Gross



FULL ITEMS

LETTERS TO THE NEW YORK TIMES

Jews and Israel: More voices
The New York Times
April 22, 2006

To the Editor:

Tony Judt says that I characterized the work of John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt as “slightly but unmistakably smelly.” But I was not referring to their criticism of Israeli conduct in the occupied territories: criticism that I stipulated was weaker than that policy deserves.

I was challenging their two further assertions that Israel (a) has induced the United States government to intervene in Iraq and (b) has brought the wrath of Al Qaeda on the United States.

Mr. Judt himself does not defend either of these highly dubious propositions. If an Israeli “lobby” were covertly manipulating our foreign policy, we would have intervened first in Iran. And if Osama bin Laden were moved principally by the suffering of the Palestinians – rather than by his demand to impose a caliphate on Afghans, Iraqis, Turks, Egyptians and others – then he would be at least morally in the right.

That last assumption probably deserves a much stronger condemnation than the word “smelly.”

Christopher Hitchens
Washington, April 19, 2006

***

NO MONOLITHIC “DOMESTIC PRESSURE GROUP, THE ‘ISRAEL LOBBY’”

To the Editor:

Re “A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy,” by Tony Judt (Op-Ed, April 19):

As a leader in the American Jewish community for three decades, I must point out that there is no monolithic “domestic pressure group, the ‘Israel Lobby.’”

Israel Policy Forum has publicly advocated a two-state solution – Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side in peace and security – for more than a decade, supported Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan and is urging the Bush administration to bolster those Palestinians who seek peace with Israel.

Other Jewish organizations have opposed these positions. Some have taken similar ones.

Beginning with President Harry S. Truman’s, every American administration has viewed Israel as an important strategic ally. Members of these administrations must have been stunned to read that they were “uncritical” of “Israeli behavior.”

They also must have been shocked to read that “American influence” in the Middle East “rests almost exclusively on our power to make war.” American influence led to peace agreements between Israel and Egypt, and between Israel and Jordan.

It is only American influence that can achieve an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, which will redound to America’s benefit around the world.

Seymour D. Reich
President, Israel Policy Forum
New York, April 20, 2006

***

“AMERICANS ARE SIMPLY NOT AFRAID TO DEBATE ISRAEL POLICY”

To the Editor:

Americans are simply not afraid to debate Israel policy. Editorial and opinion pages reflect that debate almost every day. What Americans should be afraid of is partisan political advocacy and thinly veiled anti-Semitism masquerading as scholarship.

There is also cause for concern when academics like Tony Judt, a constant critic of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, suggests that condemnation of the biased pseudo-scholarship of John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt amounts to stifling legitimate policy debate.

Mr. Judt’s contention that “fear” has caused a “continued silence” on the subject in the Jewish community is just wrong. The Anti-Defamation League, for one, has called the Walt-Mearsheimer essay exactly what it is – shabby scholarship and a classical conspiratorial anti-Semitic analysis invoking the canards of Jewish power and Jewish control.

Abraham H. Foxman
National Director
Anti-Defamation League
New York, April 19, 2006

 

“THE REASON AMERICANS SUPPORT ISRAEL IS THAT IT IS A DEMOCRACY THAT SHARES THEIR VALUES”

A Jewish lobby? Let’s talk about it
The New York Times
April 20, 2006

To the Editor:

Re “A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy,” by Tony Judt (Op-Ed, April 19):

Why should Jews apologize for having a powerful lobby that advances their interests? The elderly and Latinos have very powerful lobbies; no one accuses them of divided loyalties, starting wars or other conspiracy nonsense.

The reason Americans support Israel is that it is a democracy that shares their values. The United States is a democracy, and Zionists have every right to influence public opinion.

If others disagree, they can form their own organizations. Their inability to do so does not indicate a conspiracy, but a lack of a cogent argument the American people will accept.

Jonathan D. Reich
Lakeland, Fla., April 19, 2006

***

“PERHAPS IT IS THE EUROPEANS WHO HAVE FAILED TO UNDERSTAND THE PLIGHT OF THE ISRAELIS”

To the Editor:

In his discussion of “The Israel Lobby,” the essay by Stephen Walt of Harvard and John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, Tony Judt (Op-Ed, April 19) cites David Aaronovitch, “a Times of London columnist who, in the course of criticizing Mearsheimer and Walt, nonetheless conceded that ‘I sympathize with their desire for redress, since there has been a cock-eyed failure in the U.S. to understand the plight of the Palestinians.’”

This is nonsense. Americans are inundated with news about the Palestinians; newspapers almost daily print articles about their dire situation. I would argue that it is not American understanding that is lacking.

Americans seem to understand the situation in Israel very well. But unlike the Europeans, who are awash in anti-Semitism, Americans are not inclined to excuse the brutality of the Palestinian attacks.

Perhaps it is the Europeans who have failed to understand the plight of the Israelis.

Ronald Gans
New York, April 19, 2006

***

“MR JUDT WOULD BE HAPPIER IF ISRAEL DID NOT EXIST AT ALL”

To the Editor:

Tony Judt wears his anti-Zionism lightly, but nobody should be deceived: Mr. Judt would be happier if Israel did not exist at all, as he made clear in an essay published in The New York Review of Books three years ago.

The “uncritical” American support that Mr. Judt unfavorably compares with the virulently anti-Israel attitudes that prevail in Europe has not been uncritical at all. This is immediately apparent on a moment’s reflection on the various “reassessments” of American policy under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, as well as President Bill Clinton’s heroic efforts on behalf of territorial compromise.

What bothers Mr. Judt is not uncritical support, but any support at all for a small, besieged democracy that he considers a strategic liability.

Yes, the pro-Israel lobby is effective. But it is working in a hospitable environment. This environment is shaped by the fundamental decency of the American public and its instinctive sympathy for a democracy that has repeatedly sought compromise with its enemies and been answered by mass murder, vicious anti-Semitism and a fanatical commitment to its destruction.

Howard F. Jaeckel
New York, April 19, 2006

***

“WHAT IS TONY JUDT TALKING ABOUT?”

To the Editor:

What is Tony Judt talking about?

The issue of American support for Israel is debated openly and vigorously on every newspaper op-ed and letters page, on the Internet and on university campuses across the United States.

Mr. Judt’s dislike of the outcome of these debates hardly marks “a failure to consider a major issue in public policy.”

Joshua A. Brook
New York, April 19, 2006

***

“QUITE THE OPPOSITE OF BEING A TABOO…”

To the Editor:

After I read “The Israel Lobby” by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the one thing that stood out to me was the shocking lack of new information. I had heard it all before.

Since I’ve never studied international relations or spent much time outside the United States, and since I knew it all already, I find it hard to believe that criticizing America’s Israel policies is a legitimate taboo.

Taboos are things people avoid out of fear of ostracism. Here, it seems to me, people proudly proclaim their intention to criticize Israel, noting the dangers they face in shattering this supposed taboo, reminding everyone that it’s not necessarily anti-Semitic to do so.

Quite the opposite of being a taboo, criticizing Israel resembles a kind of intellectual ritual, with its distinct pattern and style.

Chad Levinson
Chicago, April 19, 2006

 

Attached below are some other unpublished Letters to The New York Times in response to Tony Judt’s op-ed:

IDEAS “WITHOUT BASIS IN FACT”

To the Editor:

When Tony Judt asks why the American news media do not debate the U.S.-Israeli relationship, one wonders what media he consumes.

Mr. Judt’s deeper objection seems to be that the American mainstream encompasses neither his own views nor those of Professors Walt and Mearsheimer, who attribute the invasion of Iraq to insidious Jewish and Israeli influence over the White House. Pity the professors whose controversial opinions make headlines only in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. Pity them more for having to endure the very debate they had called for.

However Mr. Judt may complain, he and like-minded people will have to continue to stomach criticism so long as they have the courage to speak their minds. Like it or not, stern criticism is what they will get when their loudly announced ideas remain so objectionable and without basis in fact.

Josh Pollack
Washington D.C.

***

“SUPPORTING A GOOD CAUSE REMAINS THE FINAL TEST”

To the Editor:

Taking positions hostile to American-Israeli relations is not new to Mr. Judt nor to the markedly left-wing paper he cites, the London Review of Books (to which I have been a subscriber). In supporting the Walt Mearsheimer diatribe on the subject of the “Israeli lobby” in the United States (published in the London Review of Books), Mr. Judt makes one very valid point: The subject should be discussed. But this is precisely what he does not do.

Instead he offers a rant in support of this report and very much opposed to America’s support for Israel. Indeed, at the end of his rant, Mr. Judt refers to Israel as a “small, controversial, Mediterranean client state.” I doubt that any Israeli or most objective observers would find that description accurate or unbiased although some Israelis might well revel in being found “controversial” and most would agree it’s “small”.

It is certainly true that there are organizations in this country which support Israel and which seek to influence public policy. It is also true that there are organizations in this country which support the Palestinian cause and seek to influence public policy, as there are organizations which seek to support all sorts of causes from curing diseases to promoting trade in Africa. Our governments policies are set by our elected representatives in the Executive and Legislative branches. These folks are free to pick and choose independently and from a wide menu of lobbying positions. That a majority has tended to favor a small, modern, democratic state which supports freedom of speech and religion, a unique phenomenon in its corner of the world, over neighbors who are rife with corruption and violence and sworn to its destruction, may have been influenced by the “Israeli lobby” but even if that were demonstrably the case, supporting a good cause remains the final test, and that test has been met.

Very truly yours,

Edmund Glass
New York City

 

WHY ARE SO MANY JEWS LIBERAL?

Why are so many Jews liberal?
By Dennis Prager
Townhall.com
April 25, 2006

www.townhall.com/opinion/columns/dennisprager/2006/04/25/194915.html

The most frequently asked question I receive from non-Jews about Jews is, why are Jews so liberal?

The question is entirely legitimate since Jews (outside of Israel) are indeed overwhelmingly liberal and disproportionately left of liberal as well. For example, other than blacks, no American group votes so lopsidedly for the Democratic Party. And the question is further sharpened given that traditional Jewish values are not leftist. That is why the more religiously involved the Jew, the less likely he is to be on the Left. The old saw, “There are two types of Jews – those who believe Judaism is social justice and those who know Hebrew,” contains more than a kernel of truth.

In no order of importance, here are six reasons:

1. Judaism is indeed preoccupied with social justice (as well as with holiness and personal morality), and many Jews believe that the only way to achieve a just society is through leftist policies.

2. More than any other major religion, Judaism has always been preoccupied with this world. The (secular) Encyclopedia Judaica begins its entry on “Afterlife” by noting that “Judaism has always affirmed belief in an afterlife.” But the preoccupation of Judaism has been making this world a better place. That is why the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) is largely silent about the afterlife; and it is preoccupied with rejecting ancient Egyptian values. That value system was centered on the afterlife – its bible was the Book of the Dead, and its greatest monuments, the pyramids, were tombs.

3. Most Jews are frightened by anything that connotes right wing – such as the words “right-wing” and “conservative.” Especially since the Holocaust, they think that threats to their security emanate from the Right only. (It is pointless to argue that Nazism stood for National Socialism and therefore was really a leftist ideology. Whether that is theoretically accurate doesn’t matter; nearly everyone regards the Nazis as far Right, and, therefore, Jews fear the Right.) The fact that the Jews’ best friends today are conservatives and the fact that the Left is the home of most of the Jews’ enemies outside of the Muslim world have made little impact on Jews’ psyches.

4. Liberal Jews fear most religion. They identify religion – especially fundamentalist religion and especially Christianity – with anti-Semitism. Jews are taught from birth about the horrors of the Holocaust, and of nearly 2,000 years of European, meaning Christian, anti-Semitism. They therefore tend to fear Christianity and believe that secularism guarantees their physical security.

5. Despite their secularism, Jews may be the most religious ethnic group in the world. The problem is that their religion is rarely Judaism; rather it is every “ism” of the Left. These include liberalism, socialism, feminism, Marxism and environmentalism. Jews involved in these movements believe in them with the same ideological fervor and same suspension of critical reason with which many religious people believe in their religion. It is therefore usually as hard to shake a liberal Jew’s belief in the Left and in the Democratic Party as it is to shake an evangelical Christian’s belief in Christianity. The big difference, however, is that the Christian believer acknowledges his Christianity is a belief, whereas the believer in liberalism views his belief as entirely the product of rational inquiry.

The Jews’ religious fervor emanates from the origins of the Jewish people as a religious people elected by God to help guide humanity to a better future. Of course, the original intent was to bring humanity to ethical monotheism, God-based universal moral standards, not to secular liberalism or to feminism or to socialism. Leftist Jews have simply secularized their religious calling.

6. Liberal Jews fear nationalism. The birth of nationalism in Europe planted the secular seeds of the Holocaust (religious seeds had been planted by some early and medieval Church teachings and reinforced by Martin Luther). European nationalists welcomed all national identities except the Jews’. That is a major reason so many Jews identify primarily as “world citizens”; they have contempt for nationalism and believe that strong national identities, even in America, will exclude them.

Just as liberal Jews fear a resurgent Christianity despite the fact that contemporary Christians are the Jews’ best friends, leftist Jews fear American nationalism despite the fact that Americans who believe in American exceptionalism are far more pro-Jewish and pro-Israel than leftist Americans. But most leftist Jews so abhor nationalism, they don’t even like the Jews’ nationalism (Zionism).

If you believe that leftist ideas and policies are good for America and for the world, then you are particularly pleased to know how deeply Jews – with their moral passion, intellectual energies and abilities, and financial clout – are involved with the Left. If, on the other hand, you believe that the Left is morally confused and largely a destructive force in America and the world, then the Jews’ disproportionate involvement on the Left is nothing less than a tragedy – for the world and especially for the Jews.

 

IN BIRMINGHAM, THE BENEVOLENT FACE OF JIHAD

In Birmingham, the benevolent face of jihad
By Julia Gorin
Jewish World Review
April 26, 2006

jewishworldreview.com/julia/gorin042606.php3

What is the world coming to when rabbis in Birmingham are inviting muftis from Bosnia?

Earlier this month, Rabbi Jonathan Miller of Birmingham’s Temple Emanu-El hosted Bosnia’s Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric to address an interfaith audience at his synagogue so that we Jews and Christians might “make room in our hearts and souls for others who believe differently from us,” as his op-ed in The Birmingham News read. According to one attendee, the mufti packed a big house and the evening was replete with Martin Luther King tie-ins and civil rights-era imagery.

The rabbi should have done some research first. Ceric recently called on the world to stand by Syria, a state that sponsors terrorism against Israel and U.S. forces in Iraq, among other targets. During the March, 2004 pogroms in Kosovo against Orthodox Christian Serbs by Albanian Muslims – in which 19 people were killed, dozens of churches and cemeteries destroyed, and close to 4,000 of Kosovo’s minority Serbs displaced – BBC.com reported that Ceric “expressed concern about the rise of anti-Islamic hysteria in the West.” He added that there was “no such thing as Islamic terrorism,” and assured reporters that there were no charities linked to al-Qaeda operating in Bosnia.

In fact, a CNSNews.com article titled “Jihadists Find Convenient Base in Bosnia” reported that “terrorists who previously targeted the U.S. are now in Bosnia, where they have access to a ‘one-stop shop’ of jihad training camps, weapons and illegal Islamic ‘charities’ – all at the doorstep of Europe.”

One charity that was funding millions of dollars to al Qaeda – the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation – closed in 2002 and then reopened under the name Vazir – an “association for sport, culture and education.”

“More ominously,” reported the Washington Times in 2003, “the greatest threat to peace and stability stems from the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism in Bosnia, which seeks to either wipe out or convert all Christians in the region. The country now serves as a base for al Qaeda operatives, where numerous terrorist cells are active and plotting attacks on targets throughout Europe. In the past, Saudi Arabia has sent millions of dollars in aid to “humanitarian” agencies that encourage Bosnian Muslims to promote the doctrines of Wahhabism…. Mosques have been established throughout the Muslim-Croat federation, many of whom preach the need for ‘jihad’ against the country’s Catholic Croats and Orthodox Christian Serbs.”

Further, “Osama bin Laden is actively directing terrorist cells in the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia,” read an October 2004 AFP dispatch. According to terror expert and author Yossef Bodansky, Bosnia’s Zenica region provided the training ground for the terrorists who conducted a series of suicide attacks in Baghdad in August 2003, including the UN bombing there that killed 22 people.

More damning still, at least two of the 9/11 hijackers – Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi – trained and fought in Bosnia, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “also honed his jihadist skills in Bosnia and financed some of the mujahedin operations there,” Brendan O’Neill wrote for The New Statesman in 2004.

Last October, a raid on a Sarajevo apartment turned up suicide vests, 65 pounds of exploding bullets, rifles and a machine gun, to be used in an imminent attack on the British embassy in Sarajevo. What’s more, reported the International Herald Tribune, “Bosnia gave passports to more than 800 former fighters and aid workers from the Middle East,” including to known terrorists and sometimes under aliases.

Even more disturbing, the Islamists have been creating cells of “White al Qaeda” – Caucasian Bosnian Muslims who can evade ethnic profiling. The rabbi might also be interested to know that the suicide attack in Netanya in December, which killed five and wounded 95, was organized by a Bosnian-based group called Al-Asifa. There are Balkans ties as well to the London and Madrid attacks, as well as New York on 9/11.

That a rabbi would invite a terror enabler to ingratiate himself and his religion to a Judeo-Christian audience is a disgrace. Miller isn’t doing Americans any favors by helping the Islamic PR campaign.

Yet he is not alone in his misguided efforts. Last year, the American Jewish Committee launched the Chicago Coalition for Interreligious Learning to “produce changes in how differing religions were presented in textbooks and classrooms in an effort to promote respect among communities.”

But the organization’s own counter-terrorism division warned about Islamist groups using interfaith to gain legitimacy, noting that most mainstream Muslim organizations are “pro-Saudi and pro-Muslim Brotherhood” and have learned that “interfaith dialogue is a good way to spread the ideology” since it “gives such organizations a public legitimacy that their ideology would deny them if they expressed it outright.” Further, “these organizations come to the Jewish community to talk about ‘interfaith,’ while they still teach anti-Western and anti-Christian doctrines to their followers.”

The dangers of inculcating fair-minded American masses aside, the vision of a Muslim cleric lecturing a Western audience on “making room in our hearts and souls for others who believe differently from us” borders on the obscene. “If we can do it here in Birmingham,” instructs the rabbi, “who knows, but that we might spread this message to all the corners of the world. And then wouldn’t God be pleased with us?” The glaring flaw in this pre-school-level thinking is that the Western world has done it, but the Muslim world isn’t taking an example – its religious foundations running precisely counter to openness. Nor would God be pleased with us, as he surely has little respect for those who are unwilling to defend their way of life – which is already perilously over-tolerant toward ideologies that abhor its very tolerance.

The rabbi and some Christian friends came together to bring the mufti to the Birmingham synagogue to “speak for a tradition of the one true living God” – a reference to the false but endlessly repeated cliche that Muslims believe in the same God as Christians and Jews. In fact, Islam teaches that only it knows “the true nature of God that Judaism and Christianity tell lies about,” as Balkans expert Dr. Serge Trifkovic has written.

If Jews continue public relations efforts for movements that wish them ill, they’ll find themselves in a position similar to what they were in during WWII. At that time, the mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, met with Hitler to offer support. Thousands of Bosnian Muslims answered the mufti’s call to volunteer for service in the Waffen SS. Al-Husseini is photographed proudly inspecting his Bosnian Muslim Nazi troops.

When we finally arrive at the logical conclusion of the current state of affairs, in which Jews are fleeing Europe once again and six million in Israel are threatened with “erasure” from the map, it won’t be because “the world” looked the other way. It’ll be because of my fellow Jews’ own fatal ignorance.

Never again? What a joke. Shame on this so-called rabbi, and shame on every Jew and Christian in the audience who applauded the speaker on cue.


“The mushroom cloud is on its way” (& American teen victim loses leg)

April 24, 2006

CONTENTS

1. “Guilty of apostasy, unbelief, and denial of the Islamic established facts”
2. “We are fully aware of their hiding places”
3. Saad Eddin Ibrahim another Muslim “dissident”
4. “The mushroom cloud is on its way”
5. American victim of Tel Aviv bombing loses part of leg, kidney & spleen
6. Hamas hopes for more funds from Belgian foreign ministry
7. New Olmert government to have 27+ ministries
8. Amir Peretz to defense?
9. Text of the death threat issued to Muslim reformers
10. New York City rally: “Israelis, how many women have you raped today?” (Counterterrorism blog, April 21, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

“GUILTY OF DENIAL OF THE ISLAMIC EXTABLISHED FACTS”

This is a follow-up to several dispatches on Arab reformers, including Speaking out against Sharia-backed sexual abuse of women and children (April 6, 2006). I feel it is important that the western media do much more to support the efforts of Arab reformers just as they should do much more to expose the Muslim extremists which some western politicians, such as the mayor of London, continue to coddle up to.

A group most likely from Egypt, calling itself in Arabic “Al-Munasirun li Rasul al Allah” (“Supporters of God’s Messenger”), has released a list of moderate Muslims whom they say will be killed if they fail to renounce their views. These include Dr. Wafa Sultan, mentioned previously on this list, who pointed out that the source of the latest threat differed from the dozens she had previously received because it was made by a group and not by an individual and because the threat included personal information about the recipients, as well as the names of some of their spouses and children.

The reformers are pronounced “guilty of apostasy, unbelief, and denial of the Islamic established facts” and given three days to “announce their repentance and disavow their writings in denial of the traditions of our prophet and to repent their support of the countries of unbelief and their rulers.” It demanded that repentance was made “publicly in the newspapers that they write in, and never to return to these writings and deeds again.”

“WE ARE FULLY AWARE OF THEIR HIDING PLACES”

The message from “Al-Munasirun li Rasul al Allah” (attached below) says “We are fully aware of their hiding places, their houses, their children’s schools, and the times when their wives are alone at home.”

The communiquι, signed by Abu Dhar al Maqdishi, identified as the group’s media spokesperson, was e-mailed to over 30 prominent political and religious reformers, including many in the West.

Some analysts have argued that this communiquι is indicative of the inner struggle in Islam. Threats have been used in the Middle East for over half a century to silence moderates who work to combat fanaticism, militancy and Fascistic tendencies among fellow Muslims.

SAAD EDDIN IBRAHIM, ANOTHER MUSLIM “DISSIDENT”

Among the targets is Egyptian sociologist and human-rights and democracy campaigner Saad Eddin Ibrahim. Ibrahim has argued in favor of a normalization of relations between Egypt and Israel. He was previously imprisoned by the Egyptian government for standing up for Coptic Christian rights and demanding free elections in Egypt. (For more information on Egyptian Copts, see the dispatch Red Cross: Persecution of Christians “outside our area of expertise” (& other items), Nov. 3, 2005.)

“THE MUSHROOM CLOUD IS ON ITS WAY”

“The mushroom cloud is on its way” and “The real Holocaust is on its way” were some of the slogans chanted in Arabic outside the Israeli Consulate in midtown Manhattan last Thursday during a rally held by the Queens-based Islamic Thinkers Society (ITS) to celebrate last week’s Tel Aviv bombing.

The protesters also held up signs saying “Islam will Dominate,” and a picture showing an Islamic flag flying over the White House, the New York Sun and other media (but not thus far The New York Times) report.

According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the Islamic Thinkers Society is a spin-off of the London-based group Al-Muhajiroun, which is most infamous for attempting to hold “The Magnificent 19” rally in memory of the 9/11 terrorists. (See London convention will celebrate 9/11 (and other items) Sept. 7, 2004.)

The Islamic affairs commentator Daniel Pipes sees last week’s Manhattan rally as “potentially an important turning point as it shows the burgeoning confidence of U.S.-based Islamists, who no longer think they must work within the system and [no longer] care at all what non-Muslims think.”

AMERICAN VICTIM OF TEL AVIV BOMBING LOSES PART OF LEG, KIDNEY & SPLEEN

This is an update to the note about the American teenager injured in last week’s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, mentioned in the dispatch “The victims are no different from those slain on September 11, 2001” (April 18, 2006).

Danny Wultz, 16, who lives in Weston, southern Florida, has now undergone his third operation: the latest to remove his leg from the knee down. He had already lost a kidney and his spleen. His father is recuperating with a broken leg in the same hospital. Mr Wultz and his son were having a light lunch in Tel Aviv last Monday when the Palestinian murderer struck at random. Danny Wultz was passionate about basketball, and had been expected to play competitively.

HAMAS HOPES FOR MORE FUNDS FROM BELGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY

On April 20, the French-language magazine “Le Pere Ubu” reproduced a letter written by the Palestinian representative to the European Union, Leila Shahid, to Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht dated April 10. This letter carried the emblem of the PA as well as a map of “Palestine” reaching from the Mediterranean to Jordan. Mrs. Shahid called Hamas the “movement of hope”. She thanked the Council of Ministers and minister de Gucht in particular for the financial aid given to the delegation in 2005 as well as previous years, along with its participation in the costs of the functioning of the delegation. She presented “a new request for 100,000 Euros (approximately $124,000) for 2006” and “firmly hoped that this request will receive the support of the Council of Ministers and of the Belgian Foreign Minister.”

NEW OLMERT GOVERNMENT TO HAVE 27+ MINISTRIES

According to Israeli press reports, the Kadima party that won 29 seats in last month’s Israeli elections will oversee a coalition government that comprises either 27 or 29 ministries or ministers, the largest government in Israel’s history. By comparison, the United States has 15 departments (the equivalent of ministries) in its executive branch; and Britain has 20 ministries. Considering that the Israeli coalition needs only 61 mandates to govern the 120-seat Knesset, the appointment of 27-29 of these 61 as government ministers is staggering

The movement for Quality Government in Israel called it “party hack welfare” and a gross waste of valuable economic resources.

Ha’aretz’s main editorial today states: “Ehud Olmert will lead a large cabinet in a small country, where ministers with and without portfolios will converge and look for something with which to occupy themselves, which will not always be found. A cabinet that is apparently meant to include about 30 ministers is not a real governing body that constitutes ‘the executive branch of the country’ by virtue of the Basic Law on government... Much of the quarter of a billion shekels needed, by some estimates, for annual maintenance of the cabinet – its ministers, deputy ministers and advisers – could have been used for far more important purposes than to be nice to everyone... If we add to the ministerial festivities some eight deputy ministers, who are considered part of the executive branch, then we will find that one-third of the Knesset members take no part in the obligation of parliamentary criticism of the cabinet.”

The Jerusalem Post writes today: “At what point in the coalition negotiations do the parties jointly decide, ‘it’s not our money, let’s stick it to the voters’? It is difficult to interpret the decision to form a government of a minimum of 27 ministers in another manner. Such profligacy is a form of corruption, and clearly starts the nascent government on the wrong foot.”

AMIR PERETZ TO DEFENSE?

Equally disconcerting for those who care about Israel’s security is the reported appointment by Olmert of Labor party leader Amir Peretz to the position of defense minister. Peretz has no military command experience, and he will lead Israel at a time of increasing Hamas militancy, Katyusha and Qassam rocket attacks and a possible confrontation with an Iranian government that is about to go nuclear and last week again swore to wipe Israel off the map.

Many in Israel had hoped that Shaul Mofaz, who is himself Iranian-born and understands very well the nature of the Iranian threat, would retain the post of defense minister.

Like Peretz, Olmert also has virtually no command-level military experience, in contrast to the previous Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon. (As an ordnance officer in Israel’s parachute brigade, Peretz was badly wounded in a military operation in 1974 and confined to a bed for a year.)

As predicted in the note of the dispatch of April 4, it seems Olmert is desperate to keep the Labor leader out of the finance ministry. If appointed finance minister, Peretz, a former trade unionist, was expected to severely set back Israel’s economic recovery begun during the period in which Benjamin Netanyahu served as finance minister.

I attach two items below relating to the above note.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ITEMS

“WE WILL HUNT THEM IN EVERY PLACE AND EVERY TIME”

The following is the text of the death threat issued to Muslim reformers: (Translation courtesy of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, Washington, DC)

“Statement Number 1 from the Supporters of God’s Messenger, Muhammad peace be upon him, to unbelievers, apostates, atheists and those who may ally with them.

“God, Allah almighty said ‘Say to the Unbelievers, if they desist their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already.’ and also said ‘O Prophet! strive hard against the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be firm against them. Their abode is Hell, an evil refuge indeed.’ And the messenger of God also said ‘He who changes his religion, kill him’.

“We, the Supporters of God’s Messenger, after discussion and consultation with our brothers, the leaders of the Islamic groups and organizations in the Muslim lands, and after they were informed of the verdicts that we reached in our consultation committee, concerning the expulsion of the leaders of apostasy [from the community of Islam], along with those who publicly deny our prophetic tradition, and who also call on others to join in their unbelief. After they departed from Islam and the Muslim umma, they have publicly supported leaders of unbelief, the worshipers of the cross, the Christians with whom they attend conferences, helping them against our spiritual leaders, and even demanding for them the right of ruling over our Muslim lands. Also, they support and cooperate with the sons of pigs and monkeys [i.e. Jews] against our brothers in our homeland of our Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“The consultation committee decided to give those who were found guilty of apostasy, unbelief, and denial of the Islamic established facts, three days’ time for them to announce their repentance and disavow their writings in denial of the traditions of the our prophet and to repent their support of the countries of unbelief and their rulers. They must announce this repentance publicly in the newspapers that they write in, and never to return to these writings and deeds again. If they do not respond to God and His messenger, we will hunt them in every place and every time. They are not far from the swords of the righteous, they are closer to our swords than to our shoes, they are under our eyes and ears (surveillance) day and night, we are totally aware of the their hiding places, residences, schools of their sons, and the times when their wives are alone at home. We have issued our commands to the soldiers of God to worship God by pouring out their blood and burning their homes.

“We thank God that most of these heads of unbelief and atheism do not live in Islamic lands, which will not be polluted by their rotten blood. They live in the lands of unbelief, the homelands of those who worship the cross and idols, countries like America, Switzerland, Canada and Italy. If they were in Islamic countries, we would wash the places in which they are killed seven times, once with dust to purify the Islamic homeland of their rotten blood. Their women are to be abducted; their children enslaved, and their money confiscated .This applies the ruling of Islam in handing over the possessions of the unbelievers to those who kill them.

“These are the names of those sentenced to be killed by the command of the consultation committee, if they do not repent three times:

Ahmed Subhy Mansour, leader of the Ahl ul-Quran, who escaped to the United States, the land of unbelief, with his sons; Muhammad, Sherif, Amir, Hosam, Sameh, Moner, and his wife.
Othman Muhammad Ali, leader of the Ahl ul-Quran in the Islamic land of Egypt, who escaped to Canada, the land of unbelief, and his wife.
Gamal Al-Banna, Egypt.
Abdelfattah Assaker, Egypt.
Mohamed Shebl, Egypt.
Mohamed Saied El Moshtohry, Egypt.
Mohamed Saied El Ashmawy, Egypt.
Hassan Ahmed Omar, Egypt.
Abdellatif Saied, Egypt.
Ayman Mohamed Abdelrahman, Egypt.
Waleed Mohamed Abdelrahman, Egypt.
Taha Helal, Egypt,
Khaled Helal, Italy.
Essam Nafiea, Egypt.
Ahmed Shaaban, Egypt.
Amr Abu Rassaa, Jordan
Ramadan Abdel Rahman Ali, Jordan.
Mohamed Shaalan, Egypt.
Saad Eddin Ibrahim, the owner of Ibn Zionist (Ibn Khaldun) center, Egypt.
Amr Ismaiel, Egypt.
Mohamed El Badri, Egypt.
Abdel Karim Soliman, Egypt.
Salah Mohsen, Canada.
Shaker Elnabulsi, USA
Nedal Na’eisa, USA.
Samir Hassan Ibrahim, Syria.
Wafa Sultan, USA.
Adli Abadeer, Switzerland.
Magdi Khalil, USA
Zakareya Botros, Holland.
Nahed Metwalli, Holland.
Alafeef Al-Akhdar, France.
Faten Nour, USA.

Signed by: Abu Dhar El Makdishi, media amir (commander)

 

The following web pages contain news in Arabic of the above death threats:

www.alarabiya.net/Articles/2006/04/09/22700.htm
www.elaph.com/elaphweb/ElaphWeb/Politics/2006/4/140660.htm?KeyWords =
www.asharqalawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&issue=9994&article=357349
www.ildp.net/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=594
www.copts-united.com/gnews/mixgn.php?subaction=showfull&id=1144497867&archive=&start_from=&ucat=12&
www.shbabmisr.com/XPage.asp?browser=View&EgyxpID=5466
www.rezgar.com/debat/show.art.asp?aid=61759
www.rezgar.com/debat/show.art.asp?aid=61850
www.rezgar.com/debat/show.art.asp?aid=61799

 

“HOW MANY WOMEN HAVE YOU RAPED TODAY?”

Islamists’ message to Israel at New York City rally: “The mushroom cloud is on its way!”
By Steven Emerson
Counterterrorism blog
Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) Newswire
April 21, 2006

counterterrorismblog.org/2006/04/islamists_message_to_israel_at_1.php

The Queens-based Islamic Thinkers Society (ITS) held a rally yesterday outside of the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan. Members of the Islamic Thinkers Society are easily identified by their Khilafah flags and provocative signs as well as rhetoric against homosexuals, Jews, Christians, Danes and others, depending on the hot button issue at the moment. Yesterday’s rally was held in response to last week’s Tel Aviv bombing that killed 9 and injured scores. While carrying signs including “Islam will Dominate” with a picture of an Islamic flag over the White House, the small but loud group of men chanted threatening slogans:

Excerpts:

Leader (in Arabic): With our blood and our lives we will liberate al Aqsa!
[The rest also respond in Arabic:] With our blood and our lives we will liberate al Aqsa!
Israeli Zionists What do you say? The real Holocaust is on its way
Takbeer!
Response: Allahu Akbar!
Takbeer!
Response: Allahu Akbar!

Israeli Zionists, What do you say?
How many women have you raped today?
Israeli Zionists, What do you say?
How many children have you killed today?

Zionists, Zionists You will pay! The Wrath of Allah is on its way!
Israeli Zionists You shall pay! The Wrath of Allah is on its way!
The mushroom cloud is on its way! The real Holocaust is on its way!

We are not your average Muslims, We are the Muslims of Was al Sunnah
We will not accept the United Nations, they are the criminals themselves
They get paid by the Israeli and the US government to do their job.
We don’t recognize United Nations as a body
We only recognize Allah

Israel won’t last long… Indeed, Allah will repeat the Holocaust right on the soil of Israel
Takbeer!
Response: Allahu Akbar!

No wonder they call you sons of apes and pigs because that’s what you are.

We know many government services are watching us
Such as the FBI…CIA…Mossad, Homeland Security…
We know we are getting on their nerves
And so are you….
So we say the hell with you!
May the FBI burn in Hell
CIA burn in Hell
Mossad burn in Hell
Homeland Security burn in hell!!

Islam will dominate the world
Islam is the only solution
Islam will dominate the world
Islam is the only solution
Takbeer!
La ilaha il Allah, Muhammad-ur Rasool Allah

Another mushroom cloud, right in the midst of Israel!
Takbeer!! Allahu Akbar!


“The victims are no different from those slain on September 11, 2001”

April 18, 2006

CONTENTS

1. A few dissident voices
2. Reveling in blood
3. “Arab Tel Aviv”
4. Egyptian government newspaper lauds attack
5. Al-Arian pleads guilty
6. American teen fights for life
7. Giving out sweets
8. The Independent’s “activists”
9. The BBC bends the truth, as usual
10. “Ill-timed excuses [in the NY Times]” (New York Sun, April 18, 2006)
11. “Islamic Jihad set up unit of bombers” (UPI, April 18, 2006)
12. “A look at Islamic Jihad” (Associated Press, April 17, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

Here are a few observations about yesterday’s deadly suicide attack at a Tel Aviv sandwich and falafel stand. The attack, which was carried out by the Iranian government-funded terror group Islamic Jihad and praised by the Hamas-led Palestinian government, killed at least nine people, and injured over 60, some severely. A 22-year-old Palestinian man attacked the same restaurant in January, killing himself and wounding two dozen Israelis.

A FEW DISSIDENT VOICES

My “Arab affairs” contacts tell me that on the Jihadi internet forums, following yesterday’s suicide bomb, there were several calls to stop such attacks because “they do not achieve the results we are striving for.” These calls are not very common.

REVELING IN BLOOD

However, in general such websites have reveled in the murder of Jews and have posted photos of the attacks too gruesome to be reprinted in most western papers.

For example, scroll down to see the photos (complete with a laughing yellow face) on:
http://www.palestinianforum.net/forum/showthread.php?t=57356&page=16

These sites are widely read by Arabic extremists not just in the Middle East but in America, Canada and Europe too.

“ARAB TEL AVIV”

Also of interest is the growing use of the Arab name of Tel Aviv on these forums. “Aviv,” as many of you may know, means “Spring” in Hebrew, and the name has started to be translated to Arabic as “Tel al-Rabi.” (“Rabi” means spring in Arabic.) This is part of the increasing efforts to erase Israeli identity.

EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT NEWSPAPER LAUDS ATTACK

The Egyptian state-controlled newspaper Al Gomhuria today praised yesterday’s suicide attack in Tel Aviv, calling it an act of sacrifice and martyrdom.

Al Gomhuria is one of the country’s three biggest newspapers. Its editor was appointed by President Hosni Mubarak.

In its lead editorial, Al Gomhuria calls the murders “heroic.” “There will be more later,” the daily adds, reminding readers that “In the Islamic faith, a martyr goes to heaven.”

AL-ARIAN PLEADS GUILTY

As part of his deal to avoid further prosecution in return for deportation, Professor Sami al-Arian has pleaded guilty to aiding Islamic Jihad, the group that carried out yesterday’s Tel Aviv bombing:

The Florida bureau of Reuters reports today that: “Former Florida university professor Sami al-Arian has pleaded guilty to aiding the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad and agreed to be deported, according to documents made public on Monday by a U.S. court in Florida.

“Al-Arian and three co-defendants were arrested in 2003 and charged with helping the group carry out attacks in Israel. In December, a federal jury found al-Arian not guilty on eight charges and failed to reach a verdict on nine others after a six-month trial. Al-Arian accepted the plea agreement on Friday to avoid another trial on the deadlocked charges.”

AMERICAN TEEN FIGHTS FOR LIFE

Among the injured still fighting for their lives following yesterday’s attack is an American teenager. The 16-year-old, who suffered severe injuries to his internal organs, is at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. His name has not been made public at the request of his family. The bomb was laced with nails and other sharp objects designed to cause maximum injury.

GIVING OUT SWEETS

As is the Palestinian tradition following the “successful” murder of Jews, in parts of Gaza, Islamic Jihad gunmen gave out sweets to celebrate the attack yesterday, reports Reuters.

On Monday U.S. ally Qatar said it would give another $50 million in aid to Hamas.

Japan said today it would not give new aid via the PA government until Hamas committed itself to peace. Japan has given $840m, and is one of the Palestinian Authority’s largest donors. Japan, which is strongly reliant on Mideast oil, says it will however continue to provide funds to private Palestinian NGOs.

THE INDEPENDENT’S “ACTIVISTS”

The British liberal-left newspaper The Independent today begins its front page report on yesterday’s attack by saying it was carried out by “a youthful activist.” Their piece then continues on with some sympathetic quotes from the bomber’s family and some strange remarks about “Jews... confiscating... olive, almond and fruit trees.”

The Independent is the only British newspaper to be edited by a Jew, Simon Kelner. It is difficult to know what Kelner and some of his anti-Israeli colleagues (some of whom are Jewish) make of the fact that on his website, David Irving, one of the world’s leading Holocaust revisionists, nominates the Independent’s Mideast correspondent Robert Fisk as “Bravest Journalist of the Year” and reproduces some of Fisk’s pieces from the Independent.

THE BBC BENDS THE TRUTH, AS USUAL

The BBC world service coverage, while less hostile to Israel than it has been in the wake of even worse suicide attacks 2-3 years ago, nevertheless contained a lot of drivel about “cycles of violence,” and nonsense about “massive Israeli retaliation.”

The BBC’s main online home page did use the word terrorist – but felt the need to put quotes round the word. On air, the BBC, of course, scrupulously avoided the use of the term. For more, please see The BBC discovers ‘terrorism,’ briefly.

Some British newspapers are now criticizing the BBC for this. For example, the lead editorial in today’s conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph starts:

“Yesterday’s suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv restaurant, described as ‘self-defence’ by Hamas, was a wicked act of terrorism. That is the first and most important thing to say (though the BBC once again declined to use the word ‘terrorism’ on its website to describe the slaughter of innocent civilians). The murders are a disaster not just for the victims and their families, but for the Palestinian people as a whole and – arguably – Hamas, which took over the running of the Palestinian Authority from the deeply corrupt Fatah following January’s elections. Hamas’s reference to ‘self-defence’ gives the impression that it approved of the atrocity... the ‘militants’ (as the BBC calls them) who are motivated by a Nazi-like determination to exterminate Israel; or Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, which has never come to terms with losing control of the Authority and all the lovely cash that went with it...”

I attach three pieces below. There will be no more dispatches this week due to very heavy other work commitments.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

“AMERICANS DON’T NEED THE NEW YORK TIMES AND HAMAS TO TELL THEM WHAT THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND. THEY KNOW THAT THE VICTIMS SLAIN YESTERDAY IN TEL AVIV ARE NO DIFFERENT FROM THOSE SLAIN ON SEPTEMBER 11, 2001”

Ill-timed excuses
New York Sun (Editorial)
April 18, 2006

www.nysun.com/article/31175?access=904599

Talk about timing. The suicide bombing that killed nine Israelis in an attack on a Tel Aviv felafel restaurant was preceded only a day by a full-page advertisement that was rolled out in the New York Times, claiming “Hamas has held a unilateral ceasefire for a year, while Israel has ignored it and continues its attacks.” The “ceasefire” must come as news to the families of the nine killed and nearly 70 wounded, as well as to those who read on the Web site of the Jerusalem Post that this particular felafel restaurant “was hit in a similar suicide attack three months ago, injuring 20 people.” And the “ceasefire” claim could have been checked by the Times quality control people with a few keystrokes.

According to Israel’s Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, seven suicide bombing attacks were made in 2005. They killed 23 persons and injured 160. It reports that another 15 suicide attacks were thwarted in progress. The Israeli foreign ministry says, “Hamas was responsible for the suicide bombing at the Beersheba bus station on 28 August 2005 in which two security guards were seriously wounded. In September 2005, Hamas terrorists abducted and murdered Jerusalem businessman Sasson Nuriel.” Lest it be said that the other suicide bombings took place over the objections of Hamas, a spokesman for the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority Interior Ministry, Khaled Abu Helal, yesterday blamed Israel for the terrorist attack, saying, “We think that this operation ... is a direct result of the policy of the occupation and the brutal aggression and siege committed against our people.”

The suicide bomber was sent by Islamic Jihad, the same terrorist organization that Sami al-Arian just confessed to conspiring to help. Al-Arian’s confession was accepted by the federal judge in the case yesterday. The suicide bombing came the same day that the New York Post published Robert Novak sharply criticizing Israel for restricting movement of Arabs into Israel from the West Bank. Not a peep out of Mr. Novak in respect of Egypt’s Easter-time oppression of its Christians, known as Copts, which has been frontpage news in The New York Sun.

Hamas’s line, that Israel is to blame for the suicide bombers killing Israeli civilians, is gaining ground in elite intellectual circles. Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, went so far as to bring in an Israeli leftist, Tom Segev, to argue that Israeli settlements are to blame. Yale University is trying to hire the anti-Israel professor Juan Cole, according to Mitch Webber and Eliana Johnson, writing on the adjacent page. Princeton is poised to bring aboard the most famous of Columbia’s anti-Israel professors, Rashid Khalidi, and Harvard’s Kennedy School is harboring as its academic dean Stephen Walt, another anti-Israel academic. Mr. Walt and his coauthor are featured on the Web site of the organization that ran the ad in the Times touting the falsities of Hamas.

Anyone with doubts about Hamas’s intentions can consult its charter, which contains such gems as “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.” Or that “enemies... used the money to establish clandestine organizations which are spreading around the world, in order to destroy societies and carry out Zionist interests. Such organizations are: the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, B’nai B’rith and the like. All of them are destructive spying organizations...Their scheme has been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Or they can consult the words of one of Hamas’s financial backers, President Ahmadinejad of Iran, who has repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel off the map. Iran was just voted vice chairman of the United Nations Disarmament Commission, Fox News’s Brit Hume reported last night.

The Times ad claims “Many Americans do not understand that Hamas is a typical anti-colonial insurgency responding to an Israeli occupation and what amounts to government terror against Palestinian civilians. It is not at all related to al-Qa’ida or 9/11.” In fact Hamas represents colonialism by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in the West Bank and Gaza. Its ideology reeks of Al Qaeda and bin Laden. Americans don’t need the New York Times and Hamas to tell them what they don’t understand. They know that the victims slain yesterday at a felafel restaurant in Tel Aviv are no different from those slain on September 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center. They are casualties in a war being levied by an enemy that aims to reestablish the caliphate and enforce Islamic law worldwide, an enemy that kills civilian women and children while Western sympathizers make ill-timed excuses.

 

“QUALITATIVE OPERATIONS AGAINST THE ZIONIST ENTITY”

Islamic Jihad set up unit of bombers
United Press International
April 18, 2006

Islamic Jihad said its military wing has set up a special detachment of suicide bombers ready to retaliate to Israeli attacks.

The announcement, made today by the commander of al-Quds Brigades, signaled a further escalation of Middle East violence.

The unidentified Brigades’ commander said in a statement released to the press that the detachment included 70 male and female bombers “who are ready to respond to the crimes of the occupation forces and waiting the moment of blowing themselves up.”

He said “resisting occupation is a sacred and legitimate duty,” vowing “qualitative operations against the Zionist entity.”

“The response to the crimes of occupation forces will be through martyr attacks and the continuation of resistance by dealing painful strikes to the terrorist Israeli army which has kept up its aggression against Palestinians,” the commander said.

He said the suicide attack which took place Monday in Tel Aviv and in which nine Israelis were killed “was the beginning of a series of operations which will be carried out by the Quds Brigades against the occupation and the settlers.”

He also cautioned Israel against “committing any stupidity” by targeting Jihad leaders, “because that will not weaken our movement or intimidate our mujahideen.”

 

BACKED BY IRAN AND SYRIA

A look at Islamic Jihad
The Associated Press
April 17, 2006

Islamic Jihad, a virulently anti-Israel group backed by Iran and Syria, claimed responsibility for Monday’s suicide attack in Tel Aviv, the deadliest Palestinian attack in 20 months.

The group has been behind most of the Palestinian attacks against Israel since the sides declared a truce in February 2005. It says the violence is a legitimate response to an Israeli crackdown on its members.

Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for eight of nine suicide attacks in Israel and the West Bank since the cease-fire declaration, and its militants in Gaza continue to fire homemade rockets at Israel on a daily basis.

The group is believed to have about 2,000 militants armed with M-16 and AK-47 automatic rifles, grenades and anti-tank weapons.

Last month, it claimed responsibility for firing a long-range Katyusha rocket into Israel. The attack, which caused no damage or injuries, marked a significant increase in its abilities.

Islamic Jihad is led by Ramadan Shallah, a Palestinian from Gaza who now lives in exile in Syria. It considers the 1979 Iranian Revolution to be the beginning of a new era for the Muslim world and wants to turn all of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza into an Islamic state. It rules out compromise with Israel.

Shallah, visiting Iran this week, said his group would step up its efforts to attack Israel with suicide bombers and rockets.


Football killing fields: International soccer singles out Israel

April 11, 2006

I attach a piece by myself published by National Review Online, one of America’s two most read opinion websites. I hope that even those of you who don’t follow soccer, will find this piece of interest.

-- Tom Gross



ET TU, FIFA?

Football killing fields
Outrage and disbelief as world soccer body condemns Israel, not Hamas

By Tom Gross
National Review Online
April 11, 2006

http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/gross200604111311.asp

Israel is used to being singled out for unjust criticism and subjected to startling double standards by the United Nations, the European Union, much of the western media and numerous academic bodies. But now FIFA – the supposedly non-political organization that governs the world’s most popular sport, soccer – is getting in on the act as well.

FIFA has condemned Israel for an air strike on an empty soccer field in the Gaza Strip that was used for training exercises by Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa martyrs brigade. This strike did not cause any injuries. But at the same time FIFA has refused to condemn a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli soccer field last week which did cause injuries.

With the soccer World Cup, which takes place only once every four years, just weeks away, it is a time of mounting emotion for the hundreds of millions of people across the globe who passionately follow the game.

As FIFA meets in the next few days to decide what action to take against Israel, the double standards involved could not be more obvious. Up to now FIFA, which sees itself as a purely sporting body, has gone out of its way to avoid politics, and has refrained from criticizing even the most appalling human rights abuses connected to soccer players and stadiums.

NOT A WORD ABOUT SADDAM AND THE TALIBAN

When Saddam Hussein’s son Uday had Iraqi soccer players tortured in 1997 after they failed to qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals in France, FIFA remained silent. Uday, who was chairman of the Iraqi soccer association, had star players tortured again in 1998. And in 2000, following a quarterfinal defeat in the Asia Cup, three Iraqi players were whipped and beaten for three days by Uday’s bodyguards. The torture took place at the Iraqi Olympic Committee headquarters, but FIFA said nothing.

Again, FIFA simply looked the other way while the Taliban used UN-funded soccer fields to slaughter and flog hundreds of innocent people who had supposedly violated Sharia law in front of crowds of thousands chanting “God is great”. (Afghan soccer coach Habib Ullahniazi said that as many as 30 people were executed in the middle of the field during the intermissions of a single soccer match at Kabul’s Ghazi Stadium.)

FIFA equally failed to speak out when soccer stadiums in Argentina were turned into jails.

AND CHILE AND CHECHNYA

FIFA’s silence was no less deafening when, according to the International Red Cross, about 7,000 prisoners were detained (and some tortured) in Chile’s national soccer stadium after Augusto Pinochet seized power in 1973.

Nor did the organization threaten Russia with sanctions after Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov was murdered by a bomb explosion at Grozny’s Dynamo stadium.

As for the Middle East, FIFA refused to criticize the decision to name a Palestinian soccer tournament after a suicide terrorist who murdered 31 people at a Passover celebration at the Park Hotel in Netanya in 2002. (At the tournament, organized under Yasser Arafat’s auspices in 2003, the brother of the suicide bomber was given the honorary role of distributing the trophies to the winning team.)

FIFA also failed to condemn the suicide bomb at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa in October 2003 which injured three officials from the leading Israeli soccer team Maccabi Haifa.

ISRAEL IS DIFFERENT…

But then last week, FIFA finally found a target worthy of its outrage, and leapt into action. That target was Israel.

The international governing body for soccer condemned the Jewish state, and announced that it was considering possible action over the Israeli air strike last week on the Gaza soccer field that had been used for terrorist training exercises. The field, which had also reportedly served as a missile launching pad, was empty at the time; the strike itself came in response to the continuing barrage of Qassam rocket attacks directed at Israeli towns and villages.

Only a couple of days earlier, one of those Qassam rockets landed on a soccer field at the Karmiya kibbutz in southern Israel, causing light injuries to one person. Several other Israeli children and adults needed to be treated for shock. The attack was claimed by the Al-Quds brigades, an armed wing of Islamic Jihad. The soccer pitch is regularly used by children and it was only a matter of luck that there were not greater injuries. (Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza last year, several members of the kibbutz, including a 10-month-old baby, have been wounded after their homes took direct hits from Qassams. Israelis elsewhere have died after being hit by these weapons.)

… BUT NOT QASSAM ROCKETS

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Jerome Champagne, FIFA’s Deputy General Secretary, who had personally condemned the attack on the Palestinian soccer pitch, refused to extend a similar condemnation to the attack on the Israeli pitch.

Champagne said he had discussed the matter with FIFA president Sepp Blatter and that a decision on what action to take against Israel would be announced soon. Champagne, a French national, also sent an official letter to the Israeli Ambassador to Switzerland. (FIFA is based in Zurich.)

A FIFA condemnation of Israel is no small matter. The incredible passions that soccer arouses in most countries around the globe seem to have few boundaries. For example, it was said that the only time the guns fell silent during the Lebanese civil war was during the 1982 World Cup matches.

Individual Israelis, outraged by FIFA’s blatantly one-sided decision, have been sending emails to FIFA asking why “they care more about the grass on an empty soccer pitch than the human lives saved by strikes on the Qassam launching pads.”

ANTI-SEMITIC BANNERS AND CHANTS

They have also asked where FIFA is when anti-Semitic banners go up in European soccer stadiums, and there are chants from spectators about sending Jews to the gas? And where, they wonder, are the FIFA sanctions against the Arab or Asian countries that refuse to allow Israel to compete in Asia?

Other questions have been raised, too – why, for instance, FIFA has moved games from Israel because guest teams were afraid to come to Israel, but has never banned any other national teams from playing home games on account of local Islamic violence. Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey were allowed to continue playing matches at home.

In response to some of this criticism Champagne – perhaps unaware of the phenomena of some radical Jews being at the forefront of whipping up hate against the Jewish state – wrote to the Jerusalem Post saying he couldn’t possibly be biased against Israel because his wife was Jewish.

AP FAILS TO MENTION QASSAM ATTACK

In its widely circulated report on the FIFA condemnation of Israel, the Associated Press also failed to mention the Qassam rocket attack on the Israeli soccer pitch. As a result, and not for the first time, AP gave its readers around the globe an unbalanced impression of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The popularity of soccer ensured AP’s story was used by dozens of news outlets – among others, Al-Jazeera, CBC News of Canada, and the Los Angeles Times. Only the Israeli press mentioned the Qassam attack on the kibbutz Karmiya soccer pitch, an attack which the Islamic Jihad website admits to carrying out.

“WE ARE NOT IN POLITICS”

The outrage felt in soccer-mad Israel at these astonishing double standards is all the greater since FIFA president Sepp Blatter has made it clear that FIFA should not become involved in politics. Following calls last December from German politicians that Iran should be banned from participating in the forthcoming World Cup (which starts in Germany on June 9, 2006) because of repeated Holocaust denial by the Iranian president, Blatter said “We’re not going to enter into any political declarations. We in football, if we entered into such discussions, then it would be against our statutes. We are not in politics.”

Indeed so emboldened does Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now feel by FIFA’s support that he announced last week that he will likely attend Iran’s opening match against Mexico in Nuremberg on June 11. Holocaust denial is a serious crime punishable by a prison term of up to five years in Germany, but Ahmadinejad no doubt feels that powerful international bodies like FIFA will protect him.

A BLIND EYE TO DUBAI

Meanwhile FIFA (and other sporting bodies) continually turn a blind eye to boycotts of Israeli sportsmen.

In February, Tal Ben Haim – the Israeli national soccer team captain, who plays his club soccer for the English Premiership team Bolton Wanderers – was banned from joining his Bolton teammates for their training matches in Dubai. FIFA pointedly ignored this. So did Bolton despite the fact that the team claims to be among the leaders of the campaign to “Kick racism out of football” in the UK.

Only last week, another English club, West Ham, left their two Israeli players, Yossi Benayoun and Yaniv Katan, at home when they went to Dubai. FIFA naturally had nothing to say.

Whilst Israel is often slandered as an “apartheid state," (despite having several Arabs playing in its national team), Dubai has received no criticism for what appears to be a clear “apartheid” policy.

Indeed, were Israel allowed to compete against other Asian teams for a World Cup berth, rather than against the likes of England and France, the relatively strong Israeli team would most probably have been able to qualify for this year’s World Cup.

RONALDINHO AIDS TERROR VICTIMS

Not all is rotten in world soccer. Some individuals still seem to know right from wrong. Last week, Ronaldinho, the Brazilian superstar widely regarded as the best current player in the world, donated signed footballs and shirts to Israeli child suicide bomb survivors, saying he hoped his gifts would “warm the hearts of the children who have suffered so much.”

But FIFA, meanwhile, apparently thinks it is acceptable for Palestinian terror groups to continue targeting such Israeli children, firing missiles from the Gaza Strip, even though Israel has left the area.

(Tom Gross is the former Jerusalem correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and New York Daily News. Among his previous pieces for NRO is “Jeningrad”.)


Iranian regime swoops on universities to crush dissent, cracks down on blogs

* Saudis admit Israel was right to destroy Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981
* Saudis to construct security fence along border with Iraq: no international outcry
* Iran’s nuclear program: “A problem for every civilized country”

[* This is an update to a number of recent dispatches on Iran, the last of which was “How Iran duped the west”; Iranian Holocaust (denial) conference “begins today” (March 7, 2006)]

 

CONTENTS

1. Saudi approval, 25 years later
2. Saudis “launch nuclear program”
3. Saudis to construct security fence along border with Iraq
4. Iranian flag on Chinese bikinis
5. Iran sets up “proxy front” on Israel’s northern border
6. Small coalition to pressure Iran
7. Ahmadinejad: “very good nuclear news in the coming days”
8. “Sabre-rattling”
9. Israel “unable to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities”
10. U.S. denies planning attack on Iran
11. France denies visas to Hamas parliamentarians
12. “A problem for every civilized country”
13. “Iranian hawk swoops on universities to crush dissent” (Guardian, March 27, 2006)
14. “Iran hard-line regime cracks down on blogs” (AP, March 29, 2006)
15. “‘Israel should not be on the forefront of a war against Iran’” (Time, April 9, 2006)


[Notes below by Tom Gross]

SAUDI APPROVAL, 25 YEARS LATER

Twenty-five years after Israel targeted Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, a senior Saudi official has admitted that Israel was right to do so. The entire world, including the U.S. government under Ronald Reagan, strongly condemned Israel at the time. Some newspapers, including The New York Times, were particularly vicious in their criticism of Israel and its Prime Minister Menachem Begin for the attack.

When asked a few days ago whether the Saudi government now welcomed the destruction of the Osirak nuclear reactor, given Iraq’s subsequent aggression against Kuwait, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., answered, “Probably, yes.” Faisal appeared caught off guard by the question, which came after he called on Israel to disarm to create a nuclear-free Middle East, according to the JTA news agency.

 

SAUDIS “LAUNCH NUCLEAR PROGRAM”

Meanwhile, on Saturday the German magazine Cicero reported that Saudi Arabia has launched its own nuclear program with assistance from Pakistan. Western intelligence sources quoted by the magazine suggested that Saudi Arabia began its nuclear program in 2003 in response to Iranian threats.

In one visit, between October 2004 and January 2005, Pakistani scientists spent up to three weeks away from their Saudi hotels to work on Riyadh’s nuclear program. The Pakistanis were said to have been disguised as Islamic pilgrims.

 

SAUDIS TO CONSTRUCT SECURITY FENCE ALONG BORDER WITH IRAQ

Saudi Arabia has invited bids for the construction of a security fence along the entirety of its desert border with Iraq. The barrier is intended to secure the Kingdom’s 4,000 miles of borders to improve both external and internal security.

As of yet, there has been no international condemnation of the Saudis for their “apartheid wall”. The General Assembly of the United Nations has yet to refer the Saudis to the International Court of Justice. And European and American universities have yet to call for a boycott of Saudi universities.

The Saudi decision comes only months after India decided to accelerate the construction of a 2,500 mile fence to seal its border with Bangladesh. For more, see the dispatch The real apartheid: Saudi teacher to be flogged for 15 weeks for praising Jews (Nov. 17, 2005).

 

IRANIAN FLAG ON CHINESE BIKINIS

Here’s something that Danish newspapers might be reluctant to reprint: Chinese bikini models proudly featuring the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Chinese models wore the bikinis with the flags of all the countries competing in the upcoming soccer World Cup, as part of the China Fashion Week in Beijing last week.

 

IRAN SETS UP “PROXY FRONT” ON ISRAEL’S NORTHERN BORDER

Iran has invested tens of millions of dollars in setting up a number of sophisticated monitoring posts along Lebanon’s border with Israel. An Israeli army commander told the British Daily Telegraph newspaper that “The Iranians are using Hizbullah to spy on us so that they can collect information for future attacks. And there is very little we can do about it.”

According to the Telegraph, Iranian Revolutionary Guards are training Hizbullah forces in new terror tactics. Iran has supplied Hizbullah with sophisticated weapons including heavy mortars and rockets with a 30-mile range.

 

SMALL COALITION TO PRESSURE IRAN

On March 30, 2006 the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. Iran has 30 days to cease those activities.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki slammed the UN declaration as an “angry precedent” and a “bad move.” Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Javad Zarif, said Iran would not bow to threats to give up its “right” to nuclear energy and added that his country was “allergic to pressure.”

Yehya Rahim Safavi, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander, recently warned that the “Americans should accept Iran as a great regional power and they should know that sanctions and military threats are not going to be benefit them.”

U.S. officials are also seeking other international help beside the UN. The Los Angeles Times reports that they hope to form a small coalition with Britain, France and others to exert economic and diplomatic pressure to persuade Iran’s rulers to halt uranium enrichment activities and cooperate with international inspectors.

 

AHMADINEJAD: “VERY GOOD NUCLEAR NEWS IN THE COMING DAYS”

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said yesterday that the EU could consider slapping sanctions on Iran, including a visa ban, if current UN-centered diplomatic efforts fail.

In a speech carried live on state television yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed he would not back down “one iota” over Iran’s nuclear programme. Speaking from the northeastern city of Mashhad, he said “Our enemies know they are unable to even slightly hurt our nation and they cannot create the tiniest obstacle on its glorious and progressive way.” Ahmadinejad also promised “very good nuclear news in the coming days.”

 

“SABRE-RATTLING”

In a concerted show of “sabre-rattling,” Iran has in the last two weeks announced several new developments in its military hardware, including a stealth flying boat, a radar-evading missile with multiple warheads, a rocket-torpedo, and an anti-ship missile that cannot be jammed. These developments came in the context of naval war games around the Straits of Hormuz, through which two fifths of the world’s oil passes, and were aimed “to display the Islamic system’s defensive capabilities.”

However, some doubt has been cast on the validity of the claims about these weapons. Several weapons experts described them as a combination of lies, exaggeration, wishful thinking and propaganda. Uzi Rubin, an Israeli missile expert, suggested that “they could be bluffing” about the radar-evading missile (known as the Fajr-3 missile). Rubin added “I definitely don’t believe that the Iranians could cook up such a sophisticated missile indigenously.”

 

ISRAEL “UNABLE TO DESTROY IRAN’S NUCLEAR FACILITIES”

Israel’s military is unable to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to a former leading U.S. intelligence chief. (Ret.) Col. Patrick Lang, director of the Middle East section of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, said that Israel does not have sufficient assets or support for a major attack required to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons program. He cited the absence of Israeli aircraft carriers and the need for warplanes to enter the air space of Arab rivals.

Lang added that the United States is the only country in the world that has capability of carrying out the estimated thousand strike sorties needed to destroy the Iran’s nuclear program. He added that “The objective has to be not to destroy the program, but to set it back a desired number of years.”

According to the UPI news agency, a “prominent armchair strategist,” has asserted that two U.S. B-2 bombers “could do the job in a single strike against multiple targets… With a crew of two per bomber, only four American lives would be at risk, an all-time record in the history of warfare.”

For more on the claim that the Iranian nuclear installations could be taken out in one night, see the article “In a Single Night” in the dispatch (1) Iranian fatwa approves use of nuclear weapons (2) Contain Iran: Admit Israel to NATO (February 22, 2006).

 

U.S. DENIES PLANNING ATTACK ON IRAN

Whilst much of the mainstream media has covered in great detail the recent article by radical investigative journalist Seymour Hersh about plans being developed by the Bush administration to bomb Iran, President George W. Bush said on Monday that reports of an attack on Iran were “wild speculation.”

Robert Baer, who was a C.I.A. officer in the Middle East, is quoted as saying in Hersh’s article that Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guard colleagues “are capable of making a bomb, hiding it, and launching it at Israel. They’re apocalyptic Shiites. If you’re sitting in Tel Aviv and you believe they’ve got nukes and missiles – you’ve got to take them out. These guys are nuts, and there’s no reason to back off.”

Iran dismissed the article as American “psychological war.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told a weekly news conference that “This is a psychological war launched by Americans because they feel angry and desperate regarding Iran’s nuclear dossier.”

 

FRANCE DENIES VISAS TO HAMAS PARLIAMENTARIANS

In a marked change of European attitudes towards Palestinian terrorism, France has denied visas to two Hamas members of the Palestinian legislature invited to talks at the Council of Europe, the headquarters of Europe’s leading human rights organization.

France and other members of the European Union have declared Hamas a terrorist organization and thus are now denying visas to the group’s members.

In another development, Norway, which is not a member of the EU but is closely associated with the “Palestinian cause” due to the failed Oslo accords, yesterday announced it would cut funding to Hamas. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said that his nation cannot support a government regardless of its policies and as a result it would withhold a $57 million donation to the Palestinian Authority government.

 

“A PROBLEM FOR EVERY CIVILIZED COUNTRY”

I attach three articles below. The first reports that Iranian “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is cracking down on Iran’s universities in an effort to crush a student pro-democracy movement and strengthen the hardliners’ grip on power.”

The second relates how the Iranian regime is also cracking down on bloggers: “Dozens of Iranian bloggers have faced harassment by the government, been arrested for voicing opposing views, and fled the country in fear of prosecution.”

The final piece is an interview in this week’s Time magazine with Ehud Olmert. On the subject of Iran, the man likely to be Israel’s next prime minister says that Israel should not be “on the forefront of this war… It’s a problem for every civilized country. Iran is a major threat to the well-being of Europe and America just as much as it is for the state of Israel.” Olmert adds that “it is incumbent upon America and Europeans to form a strategy and implement it to remove this danger of unconventional weapons in Iran.”

-- Tom Gross


FULL ARTICLES

“THEY WANT TO GAIN HEGEMONIC CONTROL OVER THE UNIVERSITIES”

Iranian hawk swoops on universities to crush dissent
By Robert Tait
The Guardian
March 27, 2006

www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1740267,00.html

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is cracking down on Iran’s universities in an effort to crush a student pro-democracy movement and strengthen the hardliners’ grip on power.

Leading student activists have been jailed or expelled from their studies, and lecturers have been sacked, while the government has proposed subjecting academics to strict religious testing.

The authorities have also begun a programme of burying the bodies of unknown soldiers on campus grounds in what student leaders say is a thinly disguised attempt to bring religious extremists into the universities on the pretext of holding “martyrs’ ceremonies”. Students fear that such a presence will be used to violently suppress their activities.

In one recent incident students at Tehran’s Sharif University were attacked by plain-clothed Basij (religious volunteers) during an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the burial of three soldiers from the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war inside the campus mosque. The incident was overseen by Mehrdad Bazrpash, a close aide to Mr Ahmadinejad and a former Basij leader.

The event took place against a backdrop of speeches by Mr Ahmadinejad, a former university lecturer, stressing the need for “martyrdom” in Iran’s confrontation with the west over its nuclear programme.

Student leaders say the developments amount to a takeover of the universities by Mr Ahmadinejad’s ultra-conservative forces. The campuses were hotbeds of pro-democratic protest during the presidency of the former, reformist leader, Mohammad Khatami. “They want to gain hegemonic control over the universities, which have always been important in influencing the social and political atmosphere and which normally support pro-democracy rather than authoritarian forces,” said Abdollah Momeni, an activist appealing against a five-year sentence imposed for leading a student protest.

“Through burying martyrs on campus they open the doors for the entry of armed militias and thus add the universities to their fiefdoms.”

Other activists have had their studies terminated after the intervention of Iran’s intelligence services. Students also say they have been denied permission for low-level political activities that were allowed during Mr Khatami’s presidency.

The purge has extended to academics and university administrators. One political science lecturer was dismissed for belonging to a human rights group.

The chancellor of Tehran’s Science and Industry University resigned in protest at government interference. Mr Ahmadinejad has also been accused of overturning an established practice of appointing chancellors and faculty heads from academic staff in favour of trusted cronies. A radical cleric was recently appointed to head Tehran University.

 

“EVERY BLOGGER IN IRAN WHO WRITES IN HIS/HER NAME MUST BE CAREFUL”

Iran hard-line regime cracks down on blogs
By Lara Sukhtian
The Associated Press
March 29, 2006

seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/1700AP_Iran_Cracking_Down_on_Blogs.html

On his last visit to Iran, Canadian-based blogger Hossein Derakhshan was detained and interrogated, then forced to sign a letter of apology for his blog writings before being allowed to leave the country.

Compared to others, Derakhshan is lucky.

Dozens of Iranian bloggers have faced harassment by the government, been arrested for voicing opposing views, and fled the country in fear of prosecution over the past two years.

In the conservative Islamic Republic, where the government has vast control over newspapers and the airwaves, weblogs are one of the last bastions of free expression, where people can speak openly about everything from sex to the nuclear controversy.

But increasingly, they are coming under threat of censorship.

The Iranian blogging community, known as Weblogistan, is relatively new. It sprang to life in 2001 after hard-liners – fighting back against a reformist president – shut down more than 100 newspapers and magazines and detained writers. At the time, Derakhshan posted instructions on the Internet in Farsi on how to set up a weblog.

Since then, the community has grown dramatically. Although exact figures are not known, experts estimate there are between 70,000 and 100,000 active weblogs in Iran. The vast majority are in Farsi but a few are in English.

Overall, the percentage of Iranians now blogging is “gigantic,” said Curt Hopkins, director of an online group called the Committee to Protect Bloggers, who lives in Seattle.

“They are a talking people, very intellectual, social, and have a lot to say. And they are up against a small group (in the government) that are trying to shut everyone up,” said Hopkins.

To bolster its campaign, the Iranian government has one of the most extensive and sophisticated operations to censor and filter Internet content of any country in the world – second only to China, Hopkins said.

It also is one of a growing number of Mideast countries that rely on U.S. commercial software to do the filtering, according to a 2004 study by a group called the OpenNet Initiative. The software that Iran uses blocks both internationally hosted sites in English and local sites in Farsi, the study found.

The filtering process is backed by laws that force individuals who subscribe to Internet service providers to sign a promise not to access non-Islamic sites. The same laws also force the providers to install filtering mechanisms.

The filtering “is systematically getting worse,” said Derakhshan, who was detained and questioned during a visit to Iran last spring, just before the election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But is the government threatened because the tens of thousands of Iranian blogs are all throwing insults at it, or calling for revolution? Not quite.

The debates on Iranian weblogs are rarely political. The most common issues are cultural, social and sexual. Blogs also are a good place to chat in a society where young men and women cannot openly date. There are blogs that discuss women’s issues, and ones that deal with art and photography.

But in Iran, activists say all debates are equally perceived as a threat by the authorities. Bloggers living in Iran understand that better than anyone else.

“I am very careful. Every blogger in Iran who writes in his/her name must be careful. I know the red lines and I never go beyond them,” said Parastoo Dokouhaki, 25, who runs one of Iran’s most popular blogs. “And these days, the red lines are getting tighter.”

Dokouhaki doesn’t directly write about politics. She sticks mostly to social issues, but in Iran, that is also a taboo subject.

“I write about the social consequences of government decisions and they don’t like it, because they can’t control it,” said Dokouhaki.

Outright political bloggers have an even tougher time.

Hanif Mazroui was arrested in 2004 and charged with acting against the Islamic system through his writings. He was jailed for 66 days and then acquitted.

“It’s normal for authorities to summon and threaten bloggers,” said Mazroui. The government continued to harass him and three months ago, he was summoned once again by the authorities and told never to write about the nuclear issue. Soon after his release, he shut down his weblog.

“They kept pressuring me,” he said.

Arash Sigarchi, an Iranian journalist and blogger, was arrested and charged with insulting the country’s leader, collaborating with the enemy, writing propaganda against the Islamic state and encouraging people to jeopardize national security.

He had been in jail for 60 days when he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He appealed, and was released on bail. Although his sentence has been reduced to three years, he still faces charges of insulting the leader and writing propaganda.

Another, Mojtaba Saminejad, has been in prison since February 2005. He was first arrested in November 2004 for speaking out against the arrest of three colleagues. According to the Committee to Protect Bloggers, Saminejad’s Web site was hacked into by people linked to the Iranian Hezbollah movement.

After his release, he launched his blog at a new address, which led to his second arrest in February 2005. He was sentenced to two years in prison, and then given an extra 10 months for inciting “immorality.”

Despite the crackdown, most Iranian bloggers say the government is not interested in eliminating blogging. Instead, they believe authorities want to use blogging to further their own goals.

Farid Pouya, a Belgian-based Iranian blogger, notes the government has just launched a competition for the best four blogs. The subjects: the Islamic revolution and the Quran.

“The government has observed carefully and learned that blogs are important ... and they want to capitalize on that,” he said. “They want to lead the movement, they want to control it.”

 

“IT’S A PROBLEM FOR EVERY CIVILIZED COUNTRY”

“Israel should not be on the forefront of a War against Iran”
By Romesh Ratnesar
Time Magazine
April 9, 2006

In an exclusive interview with TIME, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister warns about the threat from Iran, praises President Bush and vows to press ahead with West Bank withdrawals

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with TIME World Editor Romesh Ratnesar for a two-hour interview at Olmert’s home in Jerusalem. Here are excerpts from their discussion.

TIME: Would Israel take military action to stop Iran’s nuclear program?

Olmert: As the one who has to take the decision, I can tell you that I genuinely don’t think Israel should be on the forefront of this war. I don’t know why people think this is first and foremost a war for Israel. It’s a problem for every civilized country. Iran is a major threat to the well-being of Europe and America just as much as it is for the state of Israel. I don’t think America can tolerate the idea of a leader of nation of 30 million people who can openly speak of the liquidation of another country. And therefore it is incumbent upon America and Europeans to form a strategy and implement it to remove this danger of unconventional weapons in Iran. To assume that Israel would be the first to go into a military confrontation with Iran represents a misunderstanding of this issue.

TIME: How often do you speak to President Bush?

Olmert: I’ve spoken to him maybe three times since I became Prime Minister. There is a very strong emotional bond between the two of us, every time we speak we both feel it deeply. I know how he feels and he (knows) how I feel. I think it grew out of his first trip to Israel, when I hosted him in Jerusalem. He knows that I like him. I very much depend on the understanding and cooperation of President Bush. The reason I think (disengagement) can be done is because of the trust and understanding we have for each other. In my opinion President Bush will emerge in history as the person who had more courage to change the Middle East than any person before him. I know the war in Iraq is controversial in the States, but for us in the Middle East it has made a great and significant impact. The decision of the President made an enormous impact on the lives of Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians – every country who was the potential target of the aggression of Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The sense of mission that Bush feels about war on terror is of enormous significant. When I think from the perspective of an Israeli and who is the partner, the natural partner who I speak with about fighting terror, it’s President Bush.

TIME: You’ve said that you intend to begin a unilateral withdrawal from some settlements in the West Bank, which goes further than even what Sharon said he would do. Why are you pushing to do this now?

Olmert: I’m not certain that all those who are trying to be the authentic interpreters of Sharon’s legacy can say with great accuracy what he would have done. When Arik collapsed, Hamas was not in power and the prospect of possible negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was entirely different. This has changed as a result of Hamas coming to power. To continue the same old rhetoric only because I have to think what would Sharon have done is a mistake. I have to think about what is best to do under present circumstances – what can be done, what ought to be done. If there’s one thing Sharon represented it’s not so much the old thing than the desire not to sit and do nothing. I’m sure that he would also have changed the way he thinks if he witnessed these developments.

TIME: There’s a lot of opposition to the plan from the settler community and their supporters. Are you worried that your plan will split Israel?

Olmert: I believe that inside the population of settlers there is a significant group that understand that the time has come for us to redraw the lines. If we handle it with sufficient sensitivity, I believe that we can avoid unnecessary eruptions of emotional reactions. And the plan is not just about dismantling settlements – it’s also aimed at focusing and moving forward to augment the three major blocs of settlements in the West Bank.

TIME: Will the lines in place at the end of it be the political borders of Israel?

Olmert: At least for a period of time. They will be very very close to what may be the final borderlines. The idea is that we will be separated from the overwhelming majority of Palestinians. The whole idea is to separate Israelis from the Palestinians and to allow territorial contiguity for the Palestinians from which they can take the necessary steps to build and develop and independent Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel. I guess if at some point afterward there will be negotiations to finalize everything and in order to reach a comprehensive peace then maybe some adjustments. But the lines I want to draw are very close to the lines that I believe will become the political borders.

TIME: Would you consider going back to negotiations rather than continue with the unilateral strategy? Do you see any prospect for negotiations with Hamas if they moderate their rhetoric?

Olmert: They can’t just change their rhetoric They need to change their entire way of life, they need to change entirely their state of mind about Israel’s existence. It’s so much deeper than rhetoric. To just believe that if Ismail Haniyeh tomorrow starts using different words, that will make the difference? No way. This is a typical fundamentalist, extremist religious movement that does not think in political terms the way we’re accustomed to. Therefore I’m not very optimistic they can change overnight. They can change their rhetoric but they can’t change substance.

Their inability to accept the existence of two states and their total dedication to an Islamic religious fundamentalist state all across the Middle East to Africa to Asia is still their most dominant driving force. Don’t get it wrong, some of them are very sophisticated, well educated people. But they have a different concept of life.

TIME: Hamas says that if the international community – including the U.S. and Israel – continues to restrict aid, there is a real possibility of a humanitarian crisis in the territories. Doesn’t Israel have an interest in preventing a collapse of Palestinian society?

Olmert: We’re not going to wait for a collapse. We’re going to prevent it from the outset without any hesitation. I’m concerned about it independently of the issue of whether it would harm Israeli interests or not. It’s enough that it should do something bad for innocent human beings that I will want to prevent it. That doesn’t mean I have to cooperate with the Palestinian government. We have to find a way how to help the people without helping a government that can easily use these funds that will be transferred to them for different purposes altogether without any sense of regret or responsibility for the human needs of the population. We promise we will do everything we can to help meet the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people without any hesitation whatsoever.

TIME: How?

Olmert: There are many non-governmental organizations that can be of assistance, and money can be transferred directly to them. It doesn’t always have to go across the administration of the PA in order to become meaningful. We’re thinking about it. I’m having a discussion with my top advisers to see what we can do.

TIME: Will you release the $50 million in tax duties that you’ve withheld from the Palestinians?

Olmert: Don’t expect us to release the money to the Palestinian government. This is a terrorist government and there’s no way I can be sure that the money I release will go to the needs you want them for. They might go for financing terror – to Bin Laden, to Hezbollah – I have no idea. If we release the money it will not go through the Palestinian administration.

TIME: Do you visit Sharon in the hospital?

Olmert: Not at all. I have not been. I can’t talk to him. He’s unconscious. I talk to his doctors twice a week, so I know exactly what his situation is and I talk to his sons. For me Arik Sharon – I remember his courage and inspiration. I want to remember him the way he really was – not as an aging 80 year old man living in bed helpless and unconscious.

The last meeting I had with him was on the day of his collapse. He was to have an operation the next day. I was supposed to be acting Prime Minister for three hours while he had the operation. He asked me to meet with him. I remember joking with him and saying, “I’m not going to make any decision tomorrow except changing all your staff.” At the end of the meeting I stood up and said “Arik, this country needs you. Stay well. Come back. I am looking forward to hearing your voice on the phone tomorrow saying ‘Ehud I relieve you of your responsibilities. I’m back in town.’” Then I hugged him and he hugged me, and I said goodbye. I want to remember that.

TIME: Do you feel lucky to have been handed the opportunity?

Olmert: I’ve been working 33 years to reach this minute. I’ve been doing what I thought was right for the state of Israel. I was never hiding my opinions. I always was at the forefront in all the political battles over the last three decades. I am where I’m supposed to be. I don’t believe it was the only possible development that I would be Prime Minister. But I was among the 5 or 6 people in the room who everyone with political understanding would think could get the job.

So what happened was a natural outcome of a process of which I was a major part. There are things that can prepare you for doing this job – your wisdom or lack of it, your experience or lack of it, your personality, your frame of mind. But nothing totally prepares you for it because you’ve never been there before – you’ve never been in the place where as President Truman said, “The buck stops here.” It’s your decision that will count. I hope that I’m as ready as I can get. I hope that I’m as capable as I think I am to assume responsibility. But I’m not afraid, I’m not intimidated by anything. All my life I did everything to be ready now.

TIME: Do people treat you differently now that you’re Prime Minister?

Olmert: It takes getting used to. I received one of my friends at home the other day. I was in shorts and a T-shirt, which was fine. Then he had to leave, I saw him out the main door, and when I was outside, he said go back in the house. I said why, I thought he was worried about security, because the security doesn’t let me go outside. He said, ‘“Look how you’re dressed! You’re the Prime Minister!’” I thought, What the heck? This is how I dress. But life has changed, that’s for sure. I can’t go to the soccer game anymore, or I can’t go to the market. You have to measure the joy it gives you against the inconvenience to the average person.

TIME: Still, you became Prime Minister in pretty extraordinary circumstances, after Ariel Sharon’s stroke. Did you feel prepared for the job?

Olmert: A friend of mine who’s known me for 25 years told me, that perhaps the most striking effect for him was the fact I look so well-prepared for the job that’s unbelievable, as if I’ve prepared all my life. In a way he’s right. I know the professional experts of Israeli politics had other forecasts. But I knew one day I would be PM. I’ve felt for a long time that I knew what needs to be done and that I knew inside me that I had the emotional powers to be able to carry the burden that comes with it. It’s not something that was guiding me in everything I did every morning,. I’m not that kind of person, it’s just that I knew that one day I had to be ready to assume responsibility a the highest level, and that I had to think in this manner. There’s nothing that’s happened to me in the last few months that struck me as entirely different than anything else that I ever did in my entire life.

Media news 8: “First impressions are not the same as thoughtful commentary”

April 06, 2006

* This is another in the occasional series of dispatches about the news media itself. Included are articles from America, Australia and Britain.

 

CONTENTS

1. Al-Jazeera International launch postponed until September
2. Half the story
3. Robert Fisk claims 9/11 may have been the work of… Americans
4. “First impressions are not the same as thoughtful commentary”
5. More on Ghada Jamshir
6. “Aggressors and victims on both sides of the wall” (By Vincent Graff, IoS, April 2, 2006)
7. Letter to the Independent by Arnold Roth
8. “Are they all mad?” (By Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun, Australia, March 29, 2006)
9. “Hold that opinion” (By Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, April 5, 2006)
10. “Micklethwait to edit Economist” (Guardian, March 23, 2006)


[Note by Tom Gross]

AL-JAZEERA INTERNATIONAL LAUNCH POSTPONED UNTIL SEPTEMBER

The launch of Al-Jazeera International has been postponed again – my sources tell me until September. This follows all the recent press saying May was the launch date, following the January postponement.

The New York Times recently (Sunday, March 26, 2006) devoted almost 3000 words in two articles publicizing the launch of Al-Jazeera International. The Times described Al-Jazeera as “a uniting voice for the Arab world” and claimed its international launch was “the most ambitious television network start-up in recent years.”

Following in the footsteps of Sir David Frost (the leading former BBC presenter) and Rageh Omaar (the former BBC world affairs correspondent), among the latest western journalists to be lured by Al-Jazeera’s increased pay offers is Lucia Newman, CNN’s first and only correspondent in Havana, who has jumped to the new Al-Jazeera International network.

HALF THE STORY

The Sunday version of the British newspaper, the Independent, last weekend ran a piece on the western media’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, dubiously claiming that both sides are equally sinned against by media misreporting.

Arnold Roth, whose 15-year-old daughter Malki, was murdered in the Sbarro pizzeria suicide bomb in Jerusalem, tells The Independent: “In Western countries, the broad perception of Israel is of it being powerful and privileged… For someone like me, whose daughter was murdered by people who danced in the street afterwards, it is hard to take that viewpoint.”

In the same article, David Horovitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, cites the Israeli security barrier as an example of how the media only cover half the story. “Newspapers never talk about the thousands of Israeli children whose lives it has saved,” says Horovitz, who adds that “certain parts of the media are in the grip of an extreme misconception about who is the aggressor and who is the underdog.”

(Please note that attached after the Independent article below is a letter to the paper by Arnold Roth, who is a subscriber to this email list. The letter has not yet been published. For more on Malki Roth, see Zionists “secretly control” both Al-Jazeera and the National Geographic (December 15, 2004).)

ROBERT FISK CLAIMS 9/11 MAY HAVE BEEN THE WORK OF… AMERICANS

Andrew Bolt, writing in the Australian newspaper the Herald Sun, praises Tony Blair on his recent trip to Australia and suggests that the British prime minister appears “sane” because “much of the rest of the Left sounds so mad.”

Bolt highlights Robert Fisk, the Middle East correspondent for The Independent, as indicative of “madness in the Left”. Bolt asks “did you hear writer Robert Fisk, in a special ABC broadcast of his speech just the night before, suggest the September 11 attacks may have been the work of... Americans?

“What on earth has happened to the Left when it has made a conspiracy monger like Fisk one of the hottest speakers on our literary and activist circuit, and a best-selling author and much-petted guest on the ABC?”

For more on Fisk, see “The dangers of Fisking” (November 14, 2003).

“FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE NOT THE SAME AS THOUGHTFUL COMMENTARY”

In the penultimate article below, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby writes on the release of Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter released last week in Baghdad, and the rush to judgment that followed it. Jacoby wonders if the emphasis on speed within opinion journalism today is leading to “shallow, half-baked, or unfair commentary.”

Jacoby warns that “the pressure to generate instant reaction is only going to grow more intense… But it is an unhealthy impulse, and commentators – in every medium – should resist it. First impressions are not the same as thoughtful commentary. It’s nice to be first. It’s better to be right.”

The final article below profiles John Micklethwait, who has been appointed editor of the influential weekly, The Economist. Micklethwait was previously its U.S. editor and aims to give the magazine a “higher profile.”

I attach five articles below.

-- Tom Gross

 

UPDATE: GHADA JAMSHIR

In yesterday’s dispatch on Bahraini women’s rights campaigner Ghada Jamshir, I asked why the Western media wasn’t doing more to report on the abuse of children, women and others in the Muslim world. BBC World Service presenter Robin Lustig (one of several BBC staff who subscribe to this list) points out that he did actually interview her last September, as part of a documentary series called “Looking for Democracy.”

Here is an extract from that interview:

BBC (Robin Lustig): One of the ironies of Bahrain’s experience is that with a substantial traditionally-minded Muslim population, more democracy here might mean less freedom for women. I’m in a different part of town now, in a discreetly located coffee shop, and I’m with Ghada Jamshir. She’s one of Bahrain’s most outspoken women’s rights campaigners. She’s being prosecuted for insulting the judges of the traditional religious courts, the Sharia courts, which even after all the reforms introduced by the king after he came to power six years ago, still have sole jurisdiction over family cases such as divorces and children’s custody disputes. Ghada: why do you object to the Sharia courts?

JAMSHIR: The Sharia judges, they make the judgements from their brain.

BBC: There’s no written law?

JAMSHIR: No, there is no family law in Bahrain. Because there is no law, so every judge, he thinks something different than the other. So they just make judgements from their mind. So we don’t accept it. We are in twenty-first century and I feel these judges still they didn’t enter the twenty-first century.

BBC: Give me an idea what kind of men we’re talking about, these judges in the Sharia court. I mean, if one of them were to walk in here now, into this coffee shop, and saw you sitting here with me – you’re not married to me, I’m not a relative, I’m a strange man – what would they think?

JAMSHIR: They will think that I am un-straight woman.

BBC: An un-straight ... a bad woman?

JAMSHIR: Yeah, they will think like this. They think women are only for sitting in the home, to get pregnant, to take care of the children, to cook food. That’s it. They think the woman only for kitchen.

BBC: So what are you saying? Are you saying that women simply cannot get a fair hearing in front of a Sharia judge? Is that what you’re saying?

JAMSHIR: Yes, we don’t have rights in the Sharia courts. For example, if the woman wants to divorce her husband, the judge, he ask her to give the man a lot of money – two, three-thousand dinars, four-thousand dinars, it depends. But if the man, he wants to divorce the woman, he just pay like a hundred-and-twenty dinar and this is unfair. They shout to the women and they said to the women, you have to wear hijab, you have to cover your head. OK, if they don’t like our hair, I don’t like, for example, their beards.



FULL ARTICLES

“CERTAIN PARTS OF THE MEDIA ARE IN THE GRIP OF AN EXTREME MISCONCEPTION ABOUT WHO IS THE AGGRESSOR AND WHO IS THE UNDERDOG”

Aggressors and victims on both sides of the wall
In election week, Israelis and Palestinians agree on one thing: the Western media is biased
By Vincent Graff
The Independent on Sunday
April 2, 2006

news.independent.co.uk/media/article355069.ece

Arnold Roth did not choose to become entangled with the international media. That decision was taken for him by Izzedine al-Masri, a Palestinian man who walked into a Jerusalem restaurant four-and-a-half years ago with a bag containing nails and explosives strapped to his body. When al-Masri blew himself up, he took Roth’s 15-year-old daughter, Malki, and 14 other people with him.

Today, Roth is often approached by news gatherers from abroad looking for his reaction to the latest development in Israeli politics. He is considered and thoughtful but he objects to the fact that, as he sees it, media organisations from abroad paint Israel as a bully. “In Western countries, the broad perception of Israel is of it being powerful and privileged,” said Roth. “For someone like me, whose daughter was murdered by people who danced in the street afterwards, it is hard to take that viewpoint.”

I met Roth in Palestinian East Jerusalem last week. We were standing in the shadow of the 8 metre-high concrete wall Israel has built to protect itself from suicide bombers – sparking condemnation worldwide. Roth had been invited there by Sky News, to talk terrorism and democracy with its Middle East correspondent, Emma Hurd.

I spent much of last week with Hurd, her producer and crew as she attempted to report Israel’s election to a British audience. We travelled to West Bank settlements, to Arab East Jerusalem, and secular Jewish Tel Aviv. Hurd asked tough questions, dissecting a complicated political landscape. And I never heard anyone complain about bias in Sky’s coverage of the Middle East.

But when I talked in general terms to Israelis about the press and broadcasters, the story was always the same. Not one of them thought Israel’s image abroad was good. Most blamed the media. Interestingly, nor did I find one Palestinian who was happy with the media. When the injustice of one’s own life feels so overwhelming, one is tempted to think outsiders should pay more attention – and that they are ignoring you for a reason.

I should lay my cards on the table. I am many things: a journalist, British, Jewish though not religious. I was last in Israel was 20 years ago. I would not describe myself as a Zionist but I respect the fact that Israel is a democracy in a sea of dictatorships and I am certain the country ought to exist. I also recognise that Israel is surrounded by many nations that do not share that view.

David Horovitz, editor of the Jerusalem Post, believes journalists from outside Israel rush to snap judgements. Take the security barrier. It has made Palestinians’ lives more difficult, but that is only half the story, said Horovitz. “Newspapers never talk about the thousands of Israeli children whose lives it has saved.” Nor can they show the pictures of these children – unlike the Palestinian youngsters who have been injured or killed by the Israeli army. “Certain parts of the media are in the grip of an extreme misconception about who is the aggressor and who is the underdog,” said Horovitz.

His argument deserves house room. But it is also true that Israeli deaths receive more coverage than Palestinian ones. This may be because Jewish fatalities tend to occur in large groups, in everyday situations. Palestinian deaths tend to happen one or two at a time, at the hands of soldiers or police.

Every time a Palestinian or a Jewish Israeli expressed their dismay at the portrayal of their people and plight, I asked the same question: why is the media biased against you? The answers were depressing.

Listen to the words of Arye, a Jewish settler on the West Bank and Nisreen, a Palestinian housewife who lives a few miles from him in East Jerusalem. “Maybe it’s because of all the Arab oil,” said Arye. Nisreen countered: “The Jews are very powerful, in London and across the world.”

They would not admit it, but these two people, who wear different clothes, eat different foods and pray to different Gods, have more in common than they think.

 

“PERHAPS YOU NEED TO BE THE PARENT OF A MURDERED CHILD…”

(Tom Gross adds: Arnold Roth, who is referred to in the article above and, like David Horovitz, is a longtime subscriber to this list, tells me that he sent the following letter to the editor of the Independent in response to the article. Thus far, it has not been published.)

To the Editor
The Independent

It may lack significance to some, but Vincent Graff’s description (“Aggressors and victims on both sides of the wall” April 2, 2006) of my daughter’s murderer with “a bag containing nails and explosives strapped to his body” is inaccurate.

Perhaps you need to be the parent of a murdered child to be sensitive to the distinction. But the fact is he was carrying a guitar case. Inside the guitar case was a real guitar, and inside of that was a deadly load of explosives and nails. That is what he exploded when he went to his seventy-two virgins, ending my daughter’s life as well as the lives of fourteen other innocent visitors to a restaurant. 130 other people were maimed and injured, by far most of them women and children.

Two things about that massacre need to be understood in order to make sense of Mr Graff’s article’s title.

First, the name of my daughter’s killer has appeared on every published list of Palestinian “martyrs” since August 2001. When numeric comparisons are made between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs killed since the start of the Arafat War in 2000, my daughter’s murderer – along with many other murderers – is in the list of the Palestinian victims.

Secondly, Israel’s policy of having soldiers at crossover points check into whether musical instruments carried by Palestinian Arabs are real has been severely criticized in the past two years. That criticism, which I consider to be mostly unfair and wrong, takes on a different meaning when you know that one of the many massacres of Jews in Jerusalem was done via a booby-trapped guitar. Many people simply don’t know about it, which is why I am pointing it out here.

Sincerely,
Arnold Roth
Jerusalem

 

“FISK CAN’T BE DISMISSED AS JUST ANOTHER CRANK WHO REPRESENTS NO ONE”

Are they all mad?
By Andrew Bolt
Herald Sun (Australia)
March 29, 2006

www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,18636966%5E25717,00.html

Many of Tony Blair’s former comrades defend not democracy but mass-murdering fascists and head-lopping Islamists.

YES, Tony Blair did sound good when he spoke to our Parliament on Monday about Iraq.

No wonder the commentators were awed. But here’s his trick: it’s easy for the British Labour Prime Minister to sound so sane, because much of the rest of the Left sounds so mad.

I mean, did you hear writer Robert Fisk, in a special ABC broadcast of his speech just the night before, suggest the September 11 attacks may have been the work of... Americans?

What on earth has happened to the Left when it has made a conspiracy monger like Fisk one of the hottest speakers on our literary and activist circuit, and a best-selling author and much-petted guest on the ABC?

To contrast him here to Blair is to see that the true icon of the Left is now not the red flag but the white coat.

Poor Blair, who thought he was of the Left himself, has trouble understanding why many of his former comrades now defend not democracy, but mass-murdering fascists and head-lopping Islamists.

In his speech to the joint sitting of our Parliament, he rightly said Islamist terrorists were ideologues “at war with us and our way of life”.

But in a little-noted aside, he added: “Their case is that democracy is a Western concept we are forcing on an unwilling culture of Islam. The problem we have is that a part of opinion in our own countries agrees with them.”

He’s talking of his own Left here, and warns: “The strain of, frankly, anti-American feeling in parts of European and in world politics is madness when set against the long-term interests of the world we believe in.”

Madness? That brings me to Fisk, the ABC darling. But let me first describe the rank garden in which he thrives.

It was always going to be hard for Leftists to find ways to excuse the terrorists with whom we in the capitalist West are now at war. For many this strain of excusing the inexcusable has become just too much.

At first the cracks appeared only on fringes of the rational world, like France, where Thierry Meyssan, head of a Left-leaning think-tank, in 2002 wrote a book suggesting it wasn’t a plane at all that hit the Pentagon on September 11. No, it was a cruise missile.

And the planes that hit the World Trade Centre weren’t hijacked but piloted by remote control. And, you guessed it, it was all the work of people “from inside the American state apparatus”.

The claims of his L’Effroyable Imposture (The Frightening Fraud) were easily disproved – see, for instance, www.popularmechanics.com – but of course the facts didn’t matter.

This wasn’t about reason but hate, so the book quickly sold 200,000 copies in France alone and is now translated into 28 languages. The fantasy it spun span like a dervish in Muslim countries.

American activist filmmaker Michael Moore then produced his own blame-America fantasy in Fahrenheit 9-11, showing President George W. Bush as a shyster who’d been bought off by Saudi oil tycoons, and thus didn’t chase the real villains of September 11. And they weren’t al-Qaida, but... his Saudi mates.

As for Iraq, what a peaceful, loving place it was under Saddam Hussein. See the children playing before the Americans bombed them!

This sleazy stuff went down so well that Moore won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and was given a seat in the box of former US president Jimmy Carter at the Democrat convention.

It seemed you could tell any crazy lie to smear the US, and you’d be praised as a truth-teller. And so our own SBS ran a French documentary, The World According to Bush, arguing that Bush attacked Iraq just “for the benefit of Israel”, because he was a “political whore” who was a puppet of Jews and Christian Zionists. Goebbels couldn’t have put it better.

When such mad material is circulated even by state-funded broadcasters in the West, it’s no surprise to find the same lines turning up in the mouths of “politically aware” actors.

Cue Charlie Sheen, the Spin City star, who this month hinted darkly that the September 11 attacks were really an inside job, with Bush perhaps in on “some sort of rehearsal”.

“It seems to me like 19 amateurs with boxcutters taking over four commercial airliners and hitting 75 per cent of their targets, that feels like a conspiracy theory,” he said.

Consider the first plane to hit the World Trade Centre: “There was a feeling, it just didn’t look like any commercial jetliner I’ve flown on any time in my life and then when the buildings came down later on that day I said to my brother, ‘Call me insane, but did it sorta look like those buildings came down in a controlled demolition?’”

Of course, Sheen is just a dumb actor, right? No serious person of the Left would say he’d speak for them.

Robert Fisk, however, is a veteran British foreign correspondent and author living in Beirut and now working for the London Independent.

He has countless fans among the Left, especially in Australia, where he is a regular on ABC programs such as Lateline and Phillip Adams’ Late Night Live.

Just this month he was a guest of Adelaide’s Writers Festival and gave a long lecture at Sydney University that was broadcast in full on the ABC on Sunday.

Osama bin Laden would be delighted, I’m sure, since the al-Qaida leader in 2004 urged us to listen especially to Fisk because “I consider him to be neutral”. And he’d be even happier to hear Fisk’s message to us.

Apparently every bad thing in the Middle East is our fault. Said Fisk: “I see this immense world of injustice... and I must say given our constant interference in the Middle East, I’m amazed that Muslims have been so restrained.”

In fact, so “restrained” are they that Fisk isn’t sure how much they can be blamed even for September 11.

He often spoke in the US, he said, and “more and more people in the audience believe the American administration had some kind of involvement”.

“I have to say before you clap (indeed, some in his audience were applauding) I don’t have any proof of that.

“I mean, the worst I can envisage is that they know something was coming and they preferred it to happen so that their strategy could be put into place.”

(Hmm. What sinister strategy would that be, Bob?)

But Fisk could not leave it even at that: “Serious people across the States are asking – people in Iowa, for God’s sake – are asking me in letters, ‘What really happened? How did those buildings fall so neatly down?’

“And I can’t answer them except to say I am in Beirut and not New York and I can’t investigate this. But there are a lot of things we don’t know, a lot of things we’re not going to be told.”

Like this, perhaps: that although we’ve read that United Airlines flight 93 crashed when its passengers tackled their hijackers, Fisk thinks “perhaps the plane was hit by a missile”. An American missile.

“We still don’t know,” he claimed.

Don’t think such insidious conspiracy mongering is new to Fisk. Only a month ago he told Lateline it was “not logical” to believe Iraqis were killing Iraqis, and that “the real question” was “who are these people trying to provoke civil war?”.

Fisk’s hint? “Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities.

“I’d like to know what the Americans are doing to get at the people who are trying to provoke the civil war. It seems to me not very much.” Those evil Americans again.

Unlike Sheen, Fisk can’t be dismissed as just another crank who represents no one.

He is welcome in almost any ABC studio even today, his documentaries are reverentially presented on SBS, his books sell well in modish shops, and even at the end of his bizarre Sydney speech, the audience gave him a long and loving ovation.

This is the kind of madness in the Left that so worries Blair. And if it worries even a leader of that Left, it sure frightens me.

 

“IT’S NICE TO BE FIRST. IT’S BETTER TO BE RIGHT.”

Hold that opinion
By Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
April 5, 2006

www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/04/05/hold_that_opinion/

For obvious reasons, journalism places a premium on speed. When news breaks on Tuesday, reporters spring into action, intent on getting the story into the paper on Wednesday – and maybe even online or on the air by Tuesday night.

For reasons that are rather less obvious, opinion journalism – the business not of reporting what happened, but of commenting on it – also tends to place a premium on speed. When that story breaks on Tuesday, members of the pundits’ guild spring into action as well. Editorial writers and columnists tell their readers what the news means. TV talking heads and radio pontificators pass judgment. Internet bloggers – the commentariat’s newest, increasingly influential players – scramble to weigh in. And the more compelling or startling the news, the more immediate, and often the more adamant, the opinions expressed.

All of this is very democratic and robust; it certainly makes for a noisy and bustling marketplace of ideas. But does it make for a more thoughtful one?

I have always believed that racing to report a story makes a lot more sense than racing to express a point of view about it. No doubt there are some sages who don’t need time to reflect – or to wait for more facts, or to see how a story turns out – in order to generate some well-chosen words of genuine wisdom. My own experience is that insight and good judgment don’t usually work that way. I find that thought and a bit of distance vastly improve the odds of coming up with something worth saying – and that rushing to tell the world what to think of the latest headlines makes for shallow, half-baked, or unfair commentary.

Case in point: the release of Jill Carroll.

When the Christian Science Monitor reporter was set free in Baghdad last week, she insisted at first that her captors had not harmed her. “I was treated very well; it’s important people know that,” she said in an interview conducted by the Iraqi Islamic Party, the Sunni organization into whose hands she was released. “They never threatened me in any way.”

On the same day, a videotape made before she was freed was posted on the Internet. In it, Carroll denounced the United States and praised the insurgents as “good people fighting an honorable fight.” Asked by the interviewer if she has “a message for Mr. Bush,” her answer was one-sided and hostile:

“Yeah, he needs to stop this war. He knows this war is wrong. He knows that it was illegal from the very beginning. He knows that it was built on a mountain of lies... and he doesn’t care about his own people.”

To some people hearing this, it was plain that Carroll could only have been speaking under duress. “Jill Carroll forced to make propaganda video as price of freedom,” the Monitor headlined its story the next day. Anyone tempted to accuse Carroll of some other motive, cautioned Ellen Knickmeyer of The Washington Post, “should think about what they would do (after) three months with machine guns held to their heads.”

But others, in their haste to express an opinion, pronounced Carroll guilty of collaboration.

“May as well just come right out and say she was a willing participant,” one conservative blog announced. Declared another: “She was anti-America when she went over there and I say the kidnapping was a put up deal from the get go.” The executive producer of a prominent radio/television talk show described Carroll on the air as “the kind of woman who would wear one of those suicide vests. You know, walk into the – try and sneak into the Green Zone.... She’s like the Taliban Johnny or something.”

At a popular site on the left, meanwhile, there was scorn for the “totally inappropriate” assumptions that Carroll’s warm words about her captors could be “motivated by anything other than a desire to tell the truth.”

Yet one day later, once she was safely out of Iraq, Carroll issued a statement repudiating the “things that I was forced to say while captive.” She bitterly labeled the men who kidnapped her and murdered her translator, Alan Enwiya, as “criminals, at best.” What she thought of the opinionated prodigies who couldn’t wait to climb on their soapboxes and tell the world what to think about her, Carroll didn’t say. Perhaps she was being polite. Perhaps, unlike them, she prefers to think before she vents.

With the swelling influence of the Internet and the blogosphere, the pressure to generate instant reaction is only going to grow more intense. Dozens of traditional news outlets, for example, now maintain blogs of their own. But it is an unhealthy impulse, and commentators – in every medium – should resist it. First impressions are not the same as thoughtful commentary. It’s nice to be first. It’s better to be right.

(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)

 

JOHN MICKLETHWAIT TO EDIT THE ECONOMIST

Micklethwait to edit Economist
By Stephen Brook
The Guardian
March 23, 2006

media.guardian.co.uk/presspublishing/story/0,,1738229,00.html

John Micklethwait was appointed to one of the most prestigious jobs in journalism tonight, the editorship of the Economist.

Mr Micklethwait, the US editor of the news and business weekly periodical, becomes the 16th editor since it was first published in 1843.

He beat Ed Carr, the business affairs editor, to the top job after the Economist Group board – chaired by Sir Robert Wilson, the former chairman of Rio Tinto – met in the afternoon to interview the candidates.

The outcome was not announced until the trustees, chaired by Sir Campbell Fraser, met to ratify the decision at about 5.30pm.

Described as charismatic and a good television performer, the new editor is expected to give the magazine a higher profile than outgoing editor Bill Emmott, who preferred to let the magazine speak for itself.

Mr Micklethwait was described by one source close to the Economist as being “a bigger thinker” than Carr, who supervises the business, finance and science sections in the back half of the publication and whose career was said to more closely resemble that of Emmott when he was appointed 13 years ago.

The magazine’s international circulation now dwarfs its UK circulation, which is around 150,000.

The Economist deputy editor, Emma Duncan, has told colleagues she will stay despite missing out on the chance to become the magazine’s first female editor.

The appointment was announced to staff after a day of speculation at the company.

Mr Micklethwait has co-authored a number of books, including The Company: A Short History of a Revolutionary Idea. He was fancied to win the top job after he was linked to the editorship of the Spectator, which eventually went to Matthew d’Ancona.

Carr, a former news editor of the Financial Times who rejoined the Economist after five years last April, was regarded as a rising star at the 163-year-old title, which is thriving in the era of instant news and declining daily newspaper sales.

Emmott recently decided to stand down after doubling the publication’s worldwide circulation to 1,038,519.

Pearson, the owner of the Financial Times, owns 50% of the financial weekly.


Speaking out against Sharia-backed sexual abuse of women and children

[Note by Tom Gross]

GHADA JAMSHIR: ANOTHER MUSLIM “DISSIDENT”

Following on from the recent Wafa Sultan video, I attach another video clip, this time of a brave Bahraini woman, Ghada Jamshir, strongly denouncing Islamic fatwas authorizing the sexual abuse of children. Jamshir speaks on Al-Arabiya TV, the all-news channel that is based in Dubai and competes with Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV.

You can watch this remarkable video here.

For those who still haven’t seen the Wafa Sultan video, please see “How Iran duped the west”; Iranian Holocaust (denial) conference “begins today,” March 7, 2006.

AT CONSIDERABLE PERSONAL RISK

With increasingly open and democrat discussion in some parts of the Arab world, spurred on by the policies of the United States government, more and more Arab reformers are – at considerable personal risk – speaking out against the abuses of Islam and Arab dictatorship.

My sources in the Gulf tell me that the Bahraini government had previously put Jamshir on trial even before this new interview. For more on this in English, see here.

According to Wikipedia, Ghada Jamshir is a Bahraini Women’s Rights Activist. She heads a women’s committee lobbying for a law that would shift jurisdiction over family and women’s affairs from Islamic Sharia court to civil courts.

WHERE IS THE WESTERN MEDIA?

Both the Sultan and Jamshir video clips were translated by The Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri). Memri should be commended for its important work in helping to promote democracy and freedom in the Middle East, especially in light of the constant personal vitriol poured on the Israeli citizens who help run Memri by elements of the leftist European media. See, for example, The Guardian attacks Memri (August 13, 2002).

There is occasional reporting when Muslim victims of Muslim violence are Israeli – for example, the Israeli police today arrested an Israeli Arab doctor who murdered his teenage sister (using drugs he took from the hospital) in the name of family honor. But there is next to no reporting by the western media about tens of thousands of incidents of abuse across the Middle East and beyond.

These videos highlight the kind of abuse of children, women and others that is so widespread in the Muslim world and that major western news organizations, so obsessed with maligning Israel and the United States, shamefully fail to properly report on.

-- Tom Gross


Explorers find the “true” source of the Nile river (& Jesus “did walk on water”)

April 05, 2006

* “Kosher” cell phones set to hit the Arab market

* This is the second of two lighter, less political, dispatches this week. Yesterday’s contained articles on media, music and art. This one has items on exploration, the bible, and new technology.

 

CONTENTS

1. Explorers find “true source” of the Nile river
2. Environmental scientist seeks to prove Exodus
3. Global cooling? “Jesus walked on frozen water”
4. The last synagogue in Tajikistan is demolished
5. Microsoft’s new Vista operating system to be unveiled in Israel
6. What do you get when you cross an ultra-Orthodox rabbi with a cell phone?
7. “Team says it finds new source of Nile” (Reuters, April 1, 2006)
8. “Environmental scientist probes Exodus story” (AP, April 2, 2006)
9. “Did Jesus walk on water? Or ice?” (MSNBC, April 4, 2006)
10. “As a synagogue comes down, a culture disappears too” (NY Times, March 28, 2006)
11. “MS Vista to make official debut in Israel” (Globes, April 3, 2006)
12. “‘Kosher’ phone merges technology, faith” (AP, March 31, 2006)


EXPLORERS FIND “TRUE SOURCE” OF THE NILE RIVER

[Note by Tom Gross]

A group of explorers from Britain and New Zealand have completed an 80-day voyage and claim to have found the “true source” of the Nile in Rwanda’s lush Nyungwe rainforest.

The explorers used a Global Positioning System and believe the Nile is at least 107 km (66 miles) longer than previously thought. The British explorer, Neil McGrigor, told Reuters that “History has been rewritten.”

On the way, the group survived a rebel attack in Uganda that killed one of their team and braved crocodile-infested waters. The Nile is the world’s longest river. (For more, see the first article below.)

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST SEEKS TO PROVE EXODUS

Daniel Hillel, a professor of environmental science at the University of Massachusetts, has joined the perennial debate over the Exodus story from the second book of the Bible.

In his new book, “The Natural History of the Bible: An Environmental Exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures,” Hillel says there is no “solid” proof to support the Bible’s claims of Jewish national slavery in Egypt and “miraculous” journey through Red Sea, but admits that story is based on facts of ancient Egypt.

He says that if the accounts “were entirely contrived, they could hardly have had such lasting power” and “there appears to be a believable core of authenticity.”

With regards to the story of the Exodus, he argues that “whoever wrote the story of the Israelites in Egypt must have known the country very well, either must have lived there or must have received the information from others who had. The background is believable, the names seem authentic and the entire atmosphere and sense of place appear genuine.”

The article below details how items of the Exodus story, from brick-making to the proliferation of frogs, might be true, as well as the parting of the Red Sea – better translated the “reed sea,” which Hillel assumes was a marsh.

American ABC-TV is marking the Jewish Passover on April 10 and 11 with a lavish new two-part miniseries, The Ten Commandments, which dramatizes Moses’ story from birth through Mount Sinai.

For other non-political Passover articles, see the dispatch Viagra ruled Kosher for Passover; and Gorillas keeping Kosher too (April 21, 2005).

GLOBAL COOLING? “JESUS WALKED ON FROZEN WATER”

Meanwhile, Florida State University science professor Doron Nof says the New Testament’s account of Jesus walking on water in the Sea of Galilee is “entirely possible” – because the water was frozen at the time. Using records of the Mediterranean Sea’s surface temperatures and statistical models to examine the dynamics of the Sea of Galilee, Nof says that a period of cooler temperatures in the region between 1,500 and 2,600 years ago could have led to the formation of ice thick enough to support the weight of a man walking on the surface. He proposes Jesus could have walked on an isolated patch of floating ice on what is now known as Lake Kinneret in northern Israel.

THE LAST SYNAGOGUE IN TAJIKISTAN

The New York Times reports (article attached below) that the last synagogue in Tajikistan has been taken down to make way for a grand presidential palace. The removal of the synagogue, situated in the capital Dushanbe, is indicative of the declining influence of Judaism in the region. It also served as a community center, providing food, medicine and clothing. Thousands of Jews have left the city in recent years.

The New York Times quotes the U.S. ambassador, Richard E. Hoagland, who is certain that the redevelopment of the synagogue is “not a question of religious freedom, and anti-Semitism is not involved.” Nevertheless, as the article states “the Jewish heritage here risks being lost, along with the synagogue.”

MICROSOFT’S NEW VISTA OPERATING SYSTEM TO BE UNVEILED IN ISRAEL

Globes, the Israeli business daily, reports that “the first official presentation of Vista, the latest version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system will take place in Israel.”

The system will be unveiled at the Microsoft Tech-Ed Israel conference to be held next month in Eilat. This is the first major update since Windows XP was introduced five years ago.

For more on Microsoft and its chairman Bill Gates, see the dispatch Bill Gates to visit Israel (& Moshe Dayan’s eye patch for sale on eBay (August 8, 2005).

WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU CROSS AN ULTRA-ORTHODOX RABBI WITH A CELL PHONE?

In further technology news, the developers of the “kosher phone” are looking beyond Israel to introduce the phone to other Jewish communities as well as to some Arab countries.

The phone has deliberately limited use to make sure the strictly observant don’t stray from their beliefs. The phone can only make and receive calls and allows no text messaging, Internet access, video options or camera. Numbers for phone sex are also outlawed on this phone. 20,000 “kosher phones” were sold within their first three months of release on the market last year.

The chief executive officer at Mirs Communications Ltd., an Israeli subsidiary of Motorola Inc, told the Associated Press that “This was a unique product for a unique brand of customer, but we see some potential beyond this niche market.”

I attach six articles below.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

“HISTORY HAS BEEN REWRITTEN”

Team says it finds new source of Nile
By Arthur Asiimwe
Reuters
April 1, 2006

Surviving a rebel attack and braving crocodile-infested waters, a group of explorers has completed an 80-day voyage down the world’s longest river reaching what they say is the source of the Nile.

The three explorers from Britain and New Zealand claim to be the first to have traveled the river from its mouth to its “true source” deep in Rwanda’s lush Nyungwe rainforest.

“History has been rewritten,” British explorer Neil McGrigor told reporters on Friday. “This is the end of an 80 day amazing and exhausting journey.”

The expedition, dubbed “Ascend the Nile,” traveled over 6,700 km (4,163 miles) in three boats, tracing the Nile from the Mediterranean through five countries to what they say is its origin.

McGrigor and New Zealanders Cam McLeay and Garth MacIntyre suffered a rebel attack in northern Uganda, which killed one of their team, and overcame a cocktail of testing climates, massive rapids and crocodile charges before reaching their final destination.

The last leg of their journey saw them abandon their tiny boats and trek some 70 km (43 miles) for seven days through thick forest, sometimes being forced to wade in the fast-running Nile waters.

“We have followed the Akagera river system to its longest point up in the Nyungwe forest and it’s this point that we now finally know as being the longest source of the river Nile,” McGrigor told Reuters.

The team, which used a Global Positioning System (GPS), believes the Nile is at least 107 km (66 miles) longer than previously thought.

Debate over the real source of the Nile has raged since the late 1850s, when British explorers like John Hanning Speke began staking their reputations, fortunes and health on finding it.

It was not until the 1864 expedition by American journalist Henry Stanley – when he found missing British David Livingstone in 1871 and circumnavigated Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika for the first time – that much of the area was mapped and many questions answered.

 

“THERE APPEARS TO BE A BELIEVABLE CORE OF AUTHENTICITY”

Environmental scientist probes Exodus story
University of Massachusetts professor says no ‘solid’ proof to support Torah’s claims of national slavery in Egypt and ‘miraculous’ journey through Red Sea, but admits that story is based on facts of ancient Egypt
The Associated Press
April 2, 2006

American ABC-TV anticipates the Jewish Passover on April 10 and 11 with a lavish new two-part miniseries, The Ten Commandments, which dramatizes Moses’ story from birth through Mount Sinai.

For thousands of years, Jews have commemorated the liberation from Egypt led by Moses, fulfilling the Bible’s command: “You shall observe this as an institution for all time, for you and for your descendants.”

ABC’s version closely follows the Bible’s Book of Exodus, regarding which there’s perennial debate.

The latest example is a chapter in The Natural History of the Bible: An Environmental Exploration of the Hebrew Scriptures (Columbia University Press) by Daniel Hillel, professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Massachusetts.

The Bible is the earliest effort to “describe a people’s history as a continuous progression of events,” Hillel writes, and the Exodus is pivotal for that story.

No proof

The scientist is a middle-of-the-roader, neither accepting everything as literally true nor dismissing Exodus as a fable. Historical proof or disproof “is not easy, and perhaps not possible, to resolve entirely,” he says, since archaeological finds are chancy, much has been wiped away and the lack of remains doesn’t confirm anything.

Outside the Bible, there’s no hard proof of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt and escape. But Hillel figures if the accounts “were entirely contrived, they could hardly have had such lasting power” and “there appears to be a believable core of authenticity.”

He considers it unlikely that “a nation would ascribe to itself so humble and humiliating a national beginning as slavery, unless it had some basis in truth.” There are no surviving Egyptian accounts; perhaps the event seemed unimportant, or too embarrassing.

Inside information

Hillel thinks “whoever wrote the story of the Israelites in Egypt must have known the country very well, either must have lived there or must have received the information from others who had. The background is believable, the names seem authentic and the entire atmosphere and sense of place appear genuine.”

For instance: Nomadic farmers indeed entered Egypt’s eastern Nile delta during severe droughts in their traditional grazing grounds. Egyptian records back to the 18th century B.C. tell of numerous “Asiatic” slaves. One inscription specifies that a group named Israel lived in Canaan around the time of the Exodus.

Credible biblical themes include: centralized authority under the pharaoh, drought contingency planning, grain storage, emergency food distribution, sharecropping, taxation, independent priesthood, visiting nomads with high birthrates and resulting resentment, slavery and grand public works projects.

Building materials

Then there’s brick-making. To this day, he says, Egyptians make bricks by kneading clay with straw, pressing it into molds and baking it in the sun or ovens (Exodus 5:10-19).

Turning directly to his specialty of ecology, Hillel says the biblical author obviously knew about Egypt’s “mostly regular but occasionally anomalous water supply.”

The Nile was both a source of drinking water and a waste disposal, raising constant danger of pollution and especially during times of low flow. That could produce massive fish kills, proliferation of frogs that thrive in stagnant water and scourges of insects – just like the Exodus “plagues.”

Then, too, the freak hailstorms and eerie darkness (an eclipse of the sun? a dust storm?) were natural phenomena in Egypt that would have left a lasting impression, he thinks.

Parting the reeds

Even the parting of the Red Sea – better translated the “reed sea,” which he assumes was a marsh – might have referred to a natural occurrence. Those who escaped could hide in the delta’s reeds while heavily laden troops with chariots got bogged down in the mud and mire. And the pillar of cloud could have been one of the familiar dust devils that reach considerable heights in the region’s deserts.

Also of seasonal note: The Jewish Publication Society has reissued “Haggadah and History” by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, a handsome art book with photos and comments on Passover liturgies printed as far back as the 15th century.

 

DID JESUS WALK ON WATER? OR ICE?

Did Jesus walk on water? Or ice?
Scientist says Sea of Galilee could have had frozen patches in Jesus’ day
By Sara Goudarzi
LiveScience
MSNBC
April 4, 2006

msnbc.msn.com/id/12152740/

Rare conditions could have conspired to create hard-to-see ice on the Sea of Galilee that a person could have walked on back when Jesus is said to have walked on water, a scientist reported Today.

The study, which examines a combination of favorable water and environmental conditions, proposes that Jesus could have walked on an isolated patch of floating ice on what is now known as Lake Kinneret in northern Israel.

Looking at temperature records of the Mediterranean Sea surface and using analytical ice and statistical models, scientists considered a small section of the cold freshwater surface of the lake. The area studied, about 10,000 square feet (930 square meters), was near salty springs that empty into it.

The results suggest temperatures dropped to 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 degrees Celsius) during one of the two cold periods 2,500 to 1,500 years ago for up to two days, the same decades during which Jesus lived.

With such conditions, a floating patch of ice could develop above the plumes, resulting from the salty springs along the lake’s western shore in Tabgha. Tabgha is the town where many archeological findings related to Jesus have been found.

“We simply explain that unique freezing processes probably happened in that region only a handful of times during the last 12,000 years,” said Doron Nof, a Florida State University professor of oceanography. “We leave to others the question of whether or not our research explains the biblical account.”

Nof figures that in the last 120 centuries, the odds of such conditions on the low-latitude Lake Kinneret are most likely 1-in-1,000. But during the time period when Jesus lived, such “springs ice” may have formed once every 30 to 60 years.

Such floating ice in the unfrozen waters of the lake would be hard to spot, especially if rain had smoothed its surface.

“In today’s climate, the chance of springs ice forming in northern Israel is effectively zero, or about once in more than 10,000 years,” Nof said.

The findings are detailed in April’s issue of the Journal of Paleolimnology. Nof has posted a PDF file of the research to his Web site.

 

THE LAST SYNAGOGUE IN TAJIKISTAN

As a Synagogue comes down, a culture disappears, too
By Ethan Wilensky-Lanford
The New York Times
March 28, 2006

Even during Sabbath services on a Saturday in early March, as Rabbi Mikhail Abdurakhimov read Hebrew prayers and the faithful followed along using Russian transliterations, the rumble of construction was distracting.

This is a synagogue in its last moments of existence. While the congregants prayed, a bright orange bulldozer growled outside, continuing its work at the synagogue’s edge.

“They could do this anytime,” whispered David Kiselkov, 56. “But of course they choose to do it now.”

The synagogue is the last in Tajikistan, and will soon fall victim to redevelopment and the declining Jewish population in this remote post-Soviet state.

In late February, workers demolished part of the synagogue, including a ritual bath, or mikvah. Only a modest brick building remains, a Star of David on the aluminum door.

The house of worship is making way for a grand presidential palace currently under construction. A columned behemoth topped with a cupola, the garish building will stand on a 130-acre plot of parks and palisades.

Dushanbe, a quiet, verdant capital with a single central boulevard, is slowly changing, struggling to emerge from isolation, state Socialism and civil war.

Lenin’s statue was recently replaced by a towering golden monument to Ismail Samani, a 9th-century Persian shah reborn as a Tajik hero. A sparkling green bank stands next to an imposing Stalinist government building, freshly painted peach.

Judaism’s declining influence in this region can be seen as this synagogue lives out its final days.

About 12,000 Jews left Dushanbe after the Soviet Union’s collapse, encouraged, perhaps, by Islamic nationalism during a bloody civil war, from 1992 to 1997. “If they could fight among themselves like that, as if against a different nation or religion, what might they do to us?” Mr. Abdurakhimov said.

Most of the several hundred remaining Jews are elderly, and nearly all have relatives in Israel, Germany or the United States.

Julian Chilmodina, born in Volgograd, Russia, in 1931, was among many thousands of Ashkenazi Jews who moved to Central Asia during World War II, joining Persian-speaking Bukharian Jews who had settled in the region much earlier.

Now he wants to move to Israel, where his younger brother lives. In a bizarre twist reminiscent of Soviet times, he cannot get a visa, he says, because his official ethnicity is Russian, rather than Jewish.

Mr. Chilmodina says his parents disguised his ethnicity before the start of World War II. “I went to the police station, so that I could register as a Jew, but again my passport came back with me as a Russian,” he said, laughing at the bureaucracy.

While he waits to try to resolve the issue, Mr. Chilmodina attends services every Saturday. In early March, the prayer room was chilly and dimly lighted because the city had shut off most of the electricity the month before.

The city offered an empty plot a few miles away for a new synagogue, but the rabbi said the congregation was too poor to rebuild. Jews have worshiped at this site for generations, and the current structure was built in 1947, according to documents the rabbi has.

Shamsuddin Nuriddinov, head of Dushanbe’s municipal department of religious affairs, said that the Jews did not own the synagogue site and that that he hoped they would build a beautiful new one.

Many congregants, while they support the president’s new development, feel cast aside. “It will be beautiful, like the White House in America,” said Yuri Lukyanov, 30, of the planned palace. “I just wish they would compensate us for what is ours.”

During services, Mr. Lukyanov sat next to the rabbi, and left several times to report to him in hushed tones about the work going on outside.

Mr. Lukyanov’s mother and sister live near Tel Aviv. He plans to emigrate, too, when his younger brother finishes his mandatory military service.

He wants to marry a Jewish woman, but needs to meet one first. “I do not know any observant Jews here my age,” he said.

The synagogue also serves as a community center, where food, medicine and clothing are distributed. Religious holidays were once celebrated in the quiet courtyard, now filled with construction debris.

The United States ambassador, Richard E. Hoagland, said he was certain the land dispute was “not a question of religious freedom, and anti-Semitism is not involved.” A Russian military base was also destroyed for the construction project, along with hospitals, schools and countless residences.

But the Jewish heritage here risks being lost, along with the synagogue.

Anna Ferdman, 101, emigrated from Ukraine to Dushanbe, then known as Stalinobad, in 1945, after her husband, Ivan, died in the war. She regularly went to the synagogue until a recent fall left her bedridden. She has watched the Jewish population dwindle.

“Nobody here speaks Yiddish anymore,” Ms. Ferdman lamented in her home, after proudly singing for guests in Yiddish, the traditional Ashkenazi language. “Gone are the days when you could say ‘Hey! Are you Jewish? Let’s talk!’”

The congregation is visibly faltering. The rabbi has not been officially ordained. Rituals are clumsily observed, if at all. During Sabbath services, a red-haired man stood at the wrong time, only to be berated.

“What are you doing?” shouted Mr. Kiselkov. “How many years have you been coming here, and still you do not know when to stand up”

 

MICROSOFT TO UNVEIL LATEST VERSION OF WINDOWS IN ISRAEL

MS Vista to make official debut in Israel
Microsoft Windows team development head Steven Sinofsky will unveil Vista at Tech-Ed Israel 2006.
By Shmulik Shelah
Globes
April 3, 2006

www.globes.co.il/serveen/globes/docview.asp?did=1000079873&fid=942

The first official presentation of Vista, the latest version of Microsoft’s Windows operating system will take place in Israel. Microsoft senior VP and Windows development team head Steven Sinofsky will unveil the system at the company’s annual Tech-Ed Israel conference which will be held next month in Eilat.

Microsoft’s annual spring Tech-Ed conference focuses on training and technology presentations. This year’s conference will showcase the new Vista operating system.

Microsoft announced ten days ago that it was postponing the launch of Vista until January 2007. The company appointed Steve Sinofksy head of the Windows development team to speed up the pace of development of the system in place of Microsoft platforms and services division co-president James (Jim) Allchin who will retire at the end of 2006. Sinoksky, who heads the Microsoft Office development unit as well, will also unveil the 2007 version of Office at next month’s conference in Eilat.

 

THE “KOSHER PHONE”

‘Kosher’ phone merges technology, faith
By Brian Murphy
The Associated Press
March 31, 2006

It sounds like the setup for a punch line: What do you get when you cross an ultra-Orthodox rabbi with a mobile phone? But the “kosher phone” is real and its developers are serious about looking beyond the religious enclaves of Israel. Some Arab companies even have inquired about the phone’s main feature: keeping out sex lines and other worldly temptations.

“There’s interest out there in a conservative phone,” said Abrasha Burstyn, the chief executive officer at Mirs Communications Ltd., an Israeli subsidiary of Motorola Inc. and pioneer of the kosher mobile that debuted last year.

The phones carrying the seal of approval from Israel’s rabbinical authorities have been one of the most successful mergers of technology and centuries-old tradition in the ultra-Orthodox community, which is most widely recognized by the men’s black garb based on the dress of 19th century European Jews.

The kosher phone is stripped down to its original function: making and receiving calls. There’s no text messaging, no Internet access, no video options, no camera. More than 10,000 numbers for phone sex, dating services and other offerings are blocked. A team of rabbinical overseers makes sure the list is up to date.

These are the same rabbis who have told followers to scorn television and radio. But mobile phones are considered just too essential in one of the world’s most tech-friendly nations. The ultra-Orthodox account for about 7 percent of Israel’s 7 million people.

Now MIRS is thinking bigger. Talks are under way to introduce a kosher phone to Jewish communities in the United States and other nations possibly later this year. Israeli Arabs about 20 percent of the population have also taken notice of the phones as a possible option for those trying to protect conservative Islamic sensibilities.

Some Arab cell phone providers see the same attraction. They have sought information from MIRS via envoys from Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, said Burstyn, who declined to give further details of the contacts.

“This was a unique product for a unique brand of customer,” he said. “But we see some potential beyond this niche market.”

The kosher phone is an example of demand leading the way for supply.

In late 2004, a special rabbinical panel was formed to study how to bridge the need for cellular phones and ultra-Orthodox codes. The community was torn.

Some saw the phones as a non-threatening convenience. Others believed the sophisticated “third generation” phones offered an unhealthy freedom: the ability to download pornography or allow young people to make furtive contact with the opposite sex which is highly restricted in ultra-Orthodox society. The conservative magazine Family called the multitasking new phones “a candy store for the evil impulse.”

The rabbis’ solution find a cell phone that’s only a phone.

“They saw the future and were frightened,” said one of Israel’s most prominent attorneys, Jacob Weinroth, who was asked by the rabbis to approach Israel’s four main cellular companies with the idea of the pared-down phone. “In 10 years, we may have commercials coming over the phone. Maybe gambling, dating. The community wanted to keep the cell phones, but not allow this commercial world to enter their communities through them.”

Mirs Israel’s smallest cell phone in terms of market share was the first to take the challenge. But instead of simply blocking the non-call services, the new phones were specially engineered with hardware to prevent upgrades or sharing chips with other handsets.

The kosher phone was ready last March, backed by an unusual sales force: 80 men and 10 women from Israel’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods who went through a crash course in cell phones and door-to-door pitches. The classes were arranged to accommodate synagogue prayer schedules and Torah studies.

“These people were figures in their community. They weren’t nobodies. They started spreading the word in synagogues and wedding halls,” said Matanel Shalom, chief of marketing at Sales & Direct Marketing Ltd., a Tel Aviv-based company hired to market the kosher phone.

By summer, more than 20,000 kosher phones were sold. But it was just a foothold in an estimated market of at least 180,000 cell phone users among Israel’s 500,000 ultra-Orthodox. Two of Israel’s other three cell phone players have developed their own kosher phones. The options now come in a range of styles and colors from staid black to enamel red.

“If you think about it, the (ultra-Orthodox) religious community is not going to movies and other things. These days, the kind of phone you carry is part of who you are,” said Shalom. “Some rabbis didn’t like it, but that’s the reality.”


Dr. Ruth to lecture IDF officers (Hummus, Ricky Martin & other items)

April 04, 2006

* As dispatches on this email list are so often depressing, I sometimes try to send some “lighter” items. This dispatch, the first of two such lighter dispatches this week, contains articles on media, music and art.

 

CONTENTS

1. Dr. Ruth to help Israeli army
2. The BBC to train news staff about the Middle East using hummus
3. Al-Jazeera to feature “The Baaas” – a family of Welsh sheep
4. Sting, Ricky Martin & 50 cent to play in Israel
5. Damien Hirst donates artwork to Israel museum
6. Arab-Americans rap against “Israeli oppression”
7. “Dr. Ruth to lecture IDF officers” (Ynet news, March 31, 2006)
8. “The Arab-Israeli conflict? ‘It’s humus v falafel’” (Sunday Telegraph, April 2, 2006)
9. “A family of Welsh sheep – the new stars of al-Jazeera” (Times of London, April 3, 2006)
10. “Sting coming to Israel” (Ynet news, March 22, 2006)
11. “Netanya awards honorary degree to CNN host Larry King” (Itim, April 3, 2006)
12. “Top U.K. artist donates to Israel Museum” (European Jewish Press, March 15, 2006)
13. “Arab-Americans rap against ‘Israeli oppression’” (AP, March 24, 2006)


[Notes below by Tom Gross]

DR. RUTH TO HELP ISRAELI ARMY

Dr. Ruth, the renowned American sexologist and TV personality, has offered her professional services to the Israeli army and will lecture IDF officers on family life, relationships and sex, according to Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper.

IDF Personnel Directorate Head Elazar Stern said after meeting Dr. Ruth that “Army officers often face challenges regarding their family life, and I believe we must not only see to it that they receive vehicles and other benefits, but also see to it that they lead a healthy family life.”

Dr. Ruth (Westheimer) is a Holocaust survivor, who was wounded while fighting for Israel during her 1948 War of Independence. For more on Dr. Ruth and her solidarity visit to Israel in 2002, see Dr Ruth and “Star Wars” Queen stand up for Israel (July 1, 2002).

 

THE BBC TO TRAIN NEWS STAFF ABOUT THE MIDEAST USING HUMMUS

The (London) Sunday Telegraph reports that the BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, is introducing a training course for 8,000 BBC news staff so they can better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – by using the Middle East delicacy hummus.

According to the article (attached below), “Bowen says hummus and falafel are national dishes for Palestinians and Israelis. ‘They both claim to have invented them. There are two versions of the truth.’”

He continues “Now, what about the life-and-death issues here that really matter? Jerusalem; the Holy Places; the control of land and water; the future of Palestinian refugees? Well, just like hummus and falafel, there are two competing narratives.”

His contribution, available on the BBC’s intranet, is one of three training modules. The others deal with overall editorial policy and reporting on the European Union.

 

AL-JAZEERA TO FEATURE “THE BAAAS” – A FAMILY OF WELSH SHEEP

The new Al-Jazeera children’s channel will feature an “extended family of mixed-breed sheep that rap and sing opera while promoting recycling and racial tolerance,” according to the Times of London.

The Welsh programme called “The Baaas” has been re-voiced in Arabic and the scripts have been checked for any alleged anti-Islamic subtexts. “The Baaas” was chosen as it depicts an extended family which is said to reflect living arrangements in the Muslim world.

Criticized in the West for screening tapes of Osama bin Laden, Al-Jazeera is softening its image with a new children’s channel, designed to educate and entertain the region’s young.

Nia Ceidiog, the Welsh producer of The Baaas, said: “I was surprised and delighted that our show proved so popular with Al-Jazeera.” The programme will be seen across Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Al-Jazeera was voted the fifth most influential global brand behind Apple, Google, Ikea and Starbucks in a 2004 poll for brandchannel.com.

For more on Al-Jazeera, see Al-Jazeera to be launched in English in America (March 23, 2005). New Al-Jazeera news channels are also planned in Urdu, French, Spanish and Turkish.

 

STING, RICKY MARTIN & 50 CENT TO PLAY IN ISRAEL

Following hot on the heels of Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, who is giving a concert in Israel in June, it has been announced that Sting, Hispanic superstar Ricky Martin, and rapper 50 cent, will also perform in Israel.

According to the Ynetnews article below, Sting “has voiced expressed anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian sentiments on many occasions.” Sting previously played in Israel in 1995.

In other Israel-related celebrity news, CNN star Larry King has been awarded an honorary degree by Netanya College. (For more details, see the article below.)

 

DAMIEN HIRST DONATES ARTWORK TO ISRAEL MUSEUM

The leading British contemporary artist, Damien Hirst, has donated a collection of artwork to the Israel museum in Jerusalem that may be worth almost 1.5 million euros (around 1.8 million dollars).

The Israel Museum was the first museum in the world to buy Hirst’s work. His donations are part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Israel Museum.

 

ARAB-AMERICANS RAP AGAINST “ISRAELI OPPRESSION”

The final article attached below reports on Arab-American rappers whose songs “express longing for Jerusalem and anger at the hardships of life in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.” The rappers have never been to the Middle East, and have picked up much of their information from the media.

Omar Offendum and Ragtop of Los Angeles, have co-produced an album titled “Free the P”. The “P” stands for Palestinians. Although many of their songs focus on Palestinian issues they also rap about being Arab-Americans in a post 9/11 world. (Please note that this article contains quite a number of disputable points.)

I attach seven articles below.

-- Tom Gross


FULL ARTICLES

RENOWNED SEXOLOGIST TO LECTURE IDF OFFICERS

Dr. Ruth to lecture IDF officers
Renowned American sex therapist to lecture next generation of army commanders on family life, relationships and, of course, sex
By Yossi Yehoshua
Ynet news
March 31, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3234709,00.html

Renowned sexologist Dr. Ruth Westheimer is set to appear before IDF officers on a regular basis as of next year, Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday.

Dr. Ruth will lecture trainees at the IDF Command and General Staff College in Glilot on family life, relationships and, of course, sex.

Officers attending the college are marked as the next generation of IDF commanders.

During his recent trip to the U.S., IDF Personnel Directorate Head Elazar Stern met with Dr. Ruth, who offered her professional services to the IDF. Stern was enthused by the idea, saying he intended on adding Westheimer to the college staff.

“Standing army officers often face challenges regarding their family life, and I believe we must not only see to it that they receive vehicles and other benefits, but also see to it that they lead a healthy family life,” Stern said.

During a recent meeting between IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and the wives of IDF Battalion commanders at the Command and General Staff College, the wives complained of not seeing their husbands enough. Halutz immediately instructed college staff to grant the officers leave at least once a week so they may visit their families; he also ordered the cancellation of Friday physical fitness tests, as the activity came at the expense of weekend quality time for the officers and their families.

 

“JUST LIKE HUMMUS AND FALAFEL, THERE ARE TWO COMPETING NARRATIVES”

The Arab-Israeli conflict? ‘It’s houmous v falafel’
By Chris Hastings
The Sunday Telegraph (London)
April 2, 2006

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/04/02/nhoum02.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/04/02/ixhome.html

For more than half a century, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been one of the most complex and intractable struggles.

But, if the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen is to be believed, understanding the origins of houmous – mashed chickpeas with oil, lemon juice and garlic – and falafel – deep-fried chickpea balls – provides the key to unlock the Middle East.

Bowen, the Middle East editor, is introducing a training course to help 8,000 news staff understand the conflict. His contribution, available on the BBC’s intranet, is one of three training modules. The others deal with editorial policy and reporting the European Union.

The courses, overseen by Vin Ray, the deputy head of news gathering, are a response to the critical Hutton Inquiry into the death of David Kelly.

Journalists are supposed to spend more than an hour tackling imaginary news scenarios, and can make progress by ticking the correct boxes.

Some are refusing to do it. The module on the Middle East is the most controversial. In it, Bowen says houmous and falafel are national dishes for Palestinians and Israelis. “They both claim to have invented them. There are two versions of the truth,” he says.

“Now, what about the life-and-death issues here that really matter? Jerusalem; the Holy Places; the control of land and water; the future of Palestinian refugees? Well, just like houmous and falafel, there are two competing narratives.”

One BBC employee said that the course was an insult to staff who risked their lives covering the conflict. “It has not gone down well with staff who have spent a lot of time in the Middle East.”

A BBC spokesman said the courses had seen a positive response. “The course on the Middle East introduces some very serious issues.”

 

THE BAAAS, A FAMILY OF WELSH SHEEP – THE NEW STARS OF AL JAZEERA

A family of Welsh sheep – the new stars of al-Jazeera
By Adam Sherwin
The Times (of London)
April 3, 2006

www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,251-2115573,00.html

It is the Arabic broadcaster accused of being a mouthpiece for terrorists. But now al-Jazeera promises to bring harmony to the Middle East after signing a family of opera-singing Welsh sheep.

The wife of the Emir of Qatar, al-Jazeera’s founder, has fallen in love with The Baaas, a Welsh-language children’s series screened by S4C.

Criticised in the West for screening tapes of Osama bin Laden, al-Jazeera is softening its image with a new children’s channel, designed to educate and entertain the region’s young.

The new station is managed by Sheikha Mozah, the Emir’s wife. Its first stars will be The Baaas, an extended family of mixed-breed sheep that rap and sing opera while promoting recycling and racial tolerance.

Al-Jazeera has bought all 52 episodes of The Baaas from S4C for immediate screening. They have been revoiced in Arabic and the scripts cleared after being checked for antiIslamic subtexts.

The Baaas met the approval of al-Jazeera because its depiction of an extended family, with older aunts and uncles part of the unit, reflects living arrangements in the Muslim world.

Clearly taken with Welsh-language children’s television, al-Jazeera has bought a second S4C show, Sali Mali, an animated series based on a series of books written in the 1960s by Mary Vaughan Jones.

The programmes will be seen by millions of children across Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Al-Jazeera plans to extend the children’s channel broadcasts to North America and Europe.

Nia Ceidiog, the producer of The Baaas, said: “I was surprised and delighted that our show proved so popular with al-Jazeera.

“They wanted a colourful series which depicts the importance of family, citizenship and harmonious relations.”

The channel approved the inclusion of mixed-race sheep, a key element of Ms Ceidiog’s original concept for a pre-school children’s show that reflected multi-racial Britain.

The family has a patriarch, Costas, a Greek sheep, and a matriarch called Baalwen, a “black beauty”.

The opera-singing sheep met and fell in love in the chorus at La Scala in Milan. They are grandparents who live in their Welsh country cottage with daughter Megan and her mixed-race twins, Jason and Medea.

The BBC animated character Fireman Sam will also be dubbed into Arabic for al-Jazeera’s children’s channel. Sheikha Mozah said: “I hope this channel is a bridge for communication between Arab children and children around the world.”

President Bush was reported to have discussed bombing the station’s headquarters in Qatar in 2004 during a conversation with Tony Blair.

But al-Jazeera has also infuriated Arab regimes and is seeking to leave journalistic controversies behind. It has signed Rageh Omaar, the BBC correspondent who covered the Iraq war, and Sir David Frost to be the star presenters of its new international channel, which will be the first Englishlanguage television news service based in the Middle East.

AN ARABIC VOICE

• Al-Jazeera was launched in 1996 with a $150 million grant from the Emir of Qatar soon after the BBC closed its Arabic channel and with the help of many former BBC staff

• It now has staff operating from more than thirty bureaus around the world

• Criticised for screening tapes thought to be from Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders. The most recent believed to be from bin Laden was broadcast in January

• Voted the fifth most influential global brand behind Apple, Google, Ikea and Starbucks in a 2004 poll for brandchannel.com

• In January 2001 al-jazeera.net became the first mainstream Arabic news website

• New channels are also planned in Urdu, French, Spanish and Turkish

 

STING, RICKY MARTIN & 50 CENT TO PLAY IN ISRAEL

Sting coming to Israel
Long time critic of Israel joins growing list of music superstars planning concerts in Tel Aviv this summer, last appeared in Israel 11 years ago; Ricky Martin, rapper 50 Cent also due to appear
By Hagai Krauss
Ynet news
March 22, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3230891,00.html

The list of international music superstars on the way to Israel keeps growing. In addition to Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, this June will also feature concerts by Sting, rapper 50 Cent, and Ricky Martin, one of Latin America’s biggest stars.

The 54-year-old Sting, the former lead singer of British rock band The Police, has been one of rock music’s biggest names since embarking on a solo career following the band’s breakup in 1984. His music is a combination of soft pop and rock, fused with jazz and world music.

In addition, for years Sting has been an outspoken activist on environmental and human rights issues, and has voiced expressed anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian sentiments on many occasions.

His last studio album, “Sacred Love”, came out two-and-a-half years ago after a four year hiatus. Sting has performed in Israel once before, in 1995. 11 years later, he is scheduled to perform a single show on June 8th at the Ramat-Gan stadium.

Other stars

Ricky Martin, 34, one Latin pop’s biggest stars, will play five days earlier, on June 3rd, at the Amphitheater in Rishon Lezion.

Rapper 50 Cent, formerly known as Curtis Jackson, is scheduled to perform at the Ramat Gan stadium on June 3. Sources say that negotiations for his appearance are at an advanced stage.

By the age of 12, four years after the murder of his mother, Jackson was already a drug dealer (so was his mother).

He turned to hip-hop music and became known for songs that encouraged violence. When he was 25-years-old, he was shot nine times and, after recovering, established the G Unit record label, which got special attention from the genre’s super producers and artists Dr. Dre and Eminem.

His hits include the 2003 “Get Rich or Die Tryin” and “In Da Club,” which made him into one of the most successful rappers around.

Jewish-German agent and manager Marcel Abraham is responsible for bringing the acts to Israel, in cooperation with Tuvia Kessler from “Kupat Haifa”, Avishai Konfeld from “Rococo” and attorney Hagai Strevis.

 

NETANYA COLLEGE AWARDS HONORARY DEGREE TO LARRY KING

Netanya College awards honorary degree to CNN host Larry King
Itim (Israeli news agency)
April 3, 2006

www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/701994.html

Netanya College awarded an honorary degree to CNN host Larry King during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

Larry King’s program on CNN has some 150 million viewers from around the world every evening.

During the ceremony, Netanya College President Professor Zvi Arad said there is no personality more recognized, respected and admired more than King.

King serves on the board of directors of Netanya College’s Dan Avraham Strategic Dialogue Center.

The center is headed by former finance minister Dan Meridor.

 

DAMIEN HIRST DONATES ARTWORK COLLECTION TO ISRAEL MUSEUM

Top U.K. artist donates to Israel Museum
Damien Hirst gives artwork collection worth half a million euros
By Ashley Perry
European Jewish Press
March 15, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3228237,00.html

Top British artist Damien Hirst has donated a collection of artwork to the Israel museum in Jerusalem that could be worth almost one and a half million Euros. Hirst has produced 40 paintings with each being sold for a minimum of 25,000 euros.

Hirst’s donations made their fundraising debut at last week’s British Friends of the Art Museum of Israel dinner at Sotheby’s. One painting was sold at that event for 35,000 euros and over half of the 40 paintings have already been sold.

Hirst’s debt to Israel

The Director of the White Cube Gallery, which represents Hirst’s work, explained that Hirst is repaying a debt to the Israel Museum. Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle, director Daniela Gareh said, “The museum’s curator of contemporary art, Suzanne Landau, first met him in Paris in 1991 and was seriously looking at his art work long before anyone else.

“Then in 1994, a year before he won the Turner Prize (the UK’s premier contemporary art award), the Israel Museum became the first museum in the world to buy his work.”

The donated paintings are a series of diptychs, a folding pair of paintings, depicting coloured butterflies. The paintings are all part of a series which is titled ‘Love Love’.

Damien Hirst has a reputation of being not only one of the most gifted artists but also one of the most controversial. He often portrays motifs of death, mortality and rebirth and has been known to show cut-open animals in formaldehyde, such as the cow and sheep which were part of an exhibition which won him the Turner Prize in 1995.

40th anniversary of the Israel Museum

Hirst’s donations are part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Israel Museum. Although Hirst is by far the biggest name donating to the museum, he is by no means the only artist.

More than 50 artists agreed to auction their work to raise money for the institution. Israeli artists Zadok Ben-David and Gideon Rubin donated art as well as attending the dinner.

Israel Museum Curator Marie Shek, said “Everyone wanted to participate, Jewish or non-Jewish. I have been working in this job for 30 years and never have I had such an enthusiastic response.”

 

ARAB-AMERICANS RAP AGAINST “ISRAELI OPPRESSION”

Arab-Americans rap against ‘Israeli oppression’
Far away from the their parents’ homeland in Middle East, Arab-American rappers are trying to find their own voice in United States, rap about checkpoints, military oppression and refugee camps. ‘Palestinians in Israel and the territories are second-class citizens,’ Arab hip-hop artist says
The Associated Press
March 24, 2006

They rap about checkpoints, military oppression and refugee camps. Their songs express longing for Jerusalem and anger at the hardships of life in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

But they grew up in Tennessee or Virginia, live in Los Angeles and perform in New York City. Far away from the their parents’ homeland in the Middle East, Arab-American rappers are trying to find their own voice in the United States – expressing the frustrations of the Muslim world at a time when anti-Islamic feelings are on the rise following the Sept. 11 attacks. Their neophyte movement is spurred on by the success that rap and hip-hop have in voicing the grievances and reflecting the lives of other minorities in the United States.

Two of the Arab-American rappers, Omar Offendum and Ragtop of Los Angeles, are on the forefront of this small but growing trend in hip-hop music.

“Hip-hop has always been trying to voice resistance in the face of oppression,” said Omar Offendum, the performance alias of 24-year-old Omar Chakaki. “And if you’re growing up Arab, politics are very important because they affect every level of your life in many different ways.”

“There’s definitely a feeling of solidarity with other minorities, like African-Americans, and not just when it comes to the music,” added Ragtop, 25, whose real name is Nizar Wattad. “Palestinians in Israel and the territories are also second-class citizens.”

Their political lyrics resonate with young Arab-Americans. During a concert last week, more than 300 fans of mainly Middle Eastern background squeezed into the Coda Club in midtown Manhattan. The gig was organized by the Network of Arab-American Professionals of New York and the bands themselves.

Clapping and singing, the crowd enthusiastically applauded the hip-hop performances of Wattad and Chakaki. The two artists rapped in English and Arabic, combining electronic samples of popular and classical Arabic music from their parents’ generation with fast hip-hop drum beats.

‘We’d even play together with an Israeli band’

“I place my palms to the east where my people seek peace and freedom from police control, checkpoints and patrols,” Wattad and Chakaki rhymed in the song “Free the P” which stands for “Free the Palestinians.” “Domination from another nation; we used to be brothers like Cain; now they got us living under occupation.”

Wattad, who is of Palestinian origin and heads The Philistines, and Chakaki, the Syrian-American lead singer of The NOMADS, are currently on tour and have already played in Detroit, Dearborn, Michigan, and Oberlin, Ohio. The two rappers will perform in Vancouver on Friday.

They are promoting their co-produced album which like their duet is also called “Free the P,” A compilation of spoken word and hip-hop that features 24 different artists from the U.S., Canada and the Middle East. While many of their songs focus on the plight of Palestinians, Wattad and Chakaki also rap about their own experiences as Arabs, and Arab-Americans, in a post-Sept. 11 world where suspicion of Muslims runs high. “After 9/11, I got stripped-searched on 17 flights in a row,” said Wattad, offering an example of what he perceives as growing discrimination against Arabs in the United States.

Despite their anger about incidents like this, the two rappers reject violence as a solution for conflicts. “We don’t believe in violence on either side of the conflict,” said Wattad, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

‘Their music has a future’

“If we can help to clear up the hate, we’d even play together with an Israeli band.” While Arab immigrants in Europe and Palestinian youths in Israel and the Palestinian territories have been expressing their political frustrations and anger through hip-hop for many years, the Arab-American version of rap is a relatively new phenomenon.

In North America, there are only a few other Arab-American rappers like the Iron Sheik from Oakland, California, or the Iraqi-Canadian band Euphrates. Wattad and Chakaki have independently been producing rap songs for more than three years and both recorded a CD. But it is only in recent months that their music has gotten much media attention and that they have established a fan community.

They hope that eventually their fans will include people beyond the Arab-American community. At last week’s concert at the Coda Club, they managed to recruit some new fans, though mostly still of Arab descent. “They are very political but that is part of who we are,” said Mayida Zaal, a 27-year old design student of Palestinian background who had just bought the “Free the P” CD for her cousins.

“This music is like the original hip-hop from the Bronx before it was commercialized,” said Zaal. “I think their music has a future.”

Israeli cabinet to declare Sharon “incapacitated”; Olmert to form government

* Olmert: “Thirty five years of Aliza working on me are at last starting to bear fruit”
* Only one in eight Israelis queried said they would want Olmert as a dinner guest
* Israel to build a cable car around the edge of Jerusalem’s Old City

 

CONTENTS

1. Final Israeli election results
2. Cabinet to declare Sharon “incapacitated”
3. Katsav set to ask Olmert to form a government
4. Please run the country, but don’t come round for dinner
5. Bush, Rice to back Olmert
6. Heads of Israel’s right and left in fight for political survival
7. Respect one’s elders
8. Diaspora Jews choose Likud in mock elections
9. Suicide attack – bomber dressed as religious Jew
10. The victims – horrifically burned
11. Palestinians now firing Katyushas at Israeli civilians
12. Jerusalem cable car will avoid Muslim area
13. UN: Gaza pullout did not damage environment
14. “Apathy & Inconclusiveness” (By Emanuele Ottolenghi, NRO, March 29, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

FINAL ISRAELI ELECTION RESULTS

Several international newspapers continue to provide incorrect results for last week’s Israeli elections. The centrist Kadima party won 29 seats (not 28 as widely stated). Labor has 19 seats (not 20). (One of the Labor party’s Knesset seats was awarded to the United Arab List after the Israeli Central Elections Committee accepted an appeal from the UAL.)

Likud has 12 seats, putting it in joint third position with Shas (which also has 12 seats) and is not in fifth place, as several newspaper commentators continue to assert.

Israel Beitenu has 11 seats, NU/NRP 9 seats, the Pensioners 7 seats, United Torah Judaism 6 seats, Meretz 5 seats, the United Arab List 4 seats, Balad (an Arab party) 3 seats, and Hadash (the Arab-Jewish communist party) 3 seats.

Most commentators are referring to Israel Beitenu as “far right” but it could be argued that they are “far left” since they wish to cede territorial parts of sovereign Israel in order to make a Palestinian state bigger.

Other western analysts have said that the Labor Party made a strong recovery. In fact, they also only scored 19 seats at the last election, their poorest showing ever.

CABINET TO DECLARE SHARON “INCAPACITATED”

The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reports that the Israeli cabinet will next week declare Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “permanently incapacitated”.

Israel’s attorney general declared Sharon temporarily incapacitated after the prime minister suffered a severe stroke on January 4. At the time, Ehud Olmert, the vice premier, was declared acting prime minister.

The cabinet vote next Sunday – which will go into effect April 14 – will mean Olmert will officially be given the title of prime minister until such time that the new government is formed.

Doctors at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem this morning announced that Ariel Sharon’s surgery, scheduled for today, will be postponed because of a respiratory infection. The surgery was to restore a part of Sharon’s skull that was removed in previous operations after his debilitating stroke.

KATSAV SET TO ASK OLMERT TO FORM A GOVERNMENT

Olmert, who hopes to set a border unilaterally with the Palestinians by 2010, announced in the last hour that his Kadima party will officially open talks with Labor to form a coalition. Olmert added in a joint news conference that Labor would be a “senior partner”.

Israeli President Moshe Katsav is expected to formally designate Olmert as the new prime minister tomorrow. Once named by Katsav, Olmert has 42 days to form a government.

In a desperate bid to keep the Labor leader out of the finance ministry, Olmert is expected to offer Peretz the defense ministry. If appointed finance minister, Peretz, a former trade unionist, is expected to severely set back Israel’s economic recovery begun during the period in which Benjamin Netanyahu served as finance minister.

PLEASE RUN THE COUNTRY, BUT DON’T COME ROUND FOR DINNER

Olmert’s views on security have steadily shifted leftwards over the last two years. Olmert’s wife Aliza has long held left-wing views. His daughter Dana is a member of “Machsom Watch,” a group that monitors the treatment of Palestinians at Israeli army checkpoints. His son, Shaul, lives in New York, where he works as an online games designer. A decade ago, when he was a sergeant in the army, Shaul signed a petition refusing to serve in the West Bank.

Recently Olmert joked: “Thirty five years of Aliza working on me are at last starting to bear fruit.”

Olmert, 58, has yet to win the affection of most Israelis. In a poll last week, only one in eight Israelis queried said they would want him as a guest at their dinner partner.

The acting prime minister is a career politician, a relatively rare phenomenon in a country that during its 58-year history has been principally governed by a succession of founding fathers and ex-generals.

BUSH, RICE TO BACK OLMERT

U.S. President George W. Bush has indicated he will invite Olmert for talks as soon as he forms the next Israeli government. The two men have spoken by phone in recent days. In remarks last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice left open the possibility that Washington could support unilateral steps by Israel to impose final borders with the Palestinians.

Rice added it was hard to imagine negotiations with Hamas, responsible for dozens of suicide bombings in Israel, unless it recognized the Jewish state’s right to exist, renounced violence and accepted previous agreements between both sides. Washington has cut off all contact with Hamas, but Rice stressed the U.S. would stay in touch with President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah Party lost to Hamas in the Palestinian elections in January.

HEADS OF ISRAEL’S RIGHT AND LEFT IN FIGHT FOR POLITICAL SURVIVAL

Benjamin Netanyahu and Yossi Beilin usually have little in common. But now both men – the leaders of the right-wing Likud party and far left Meretz party respectively – are under pressure from inside their parties to step aside. Both have been accused by their parties’ membership of disastrous showings in last week’s election.

Limor Livnat, Danny Naveh and Silvan Shalom are among those seeking to depose Netanyahu in the Likud. Shalom did not turn up at Likud headquarters on election night and has not spoken to Netanyahu since.

Outgoing Likud MK Uzi Landau blamed the media for the drop in his party’s fortunes. He specifically mentioned Channel 2 and Yediot Ahronot for what he said was their incessant, biased coverage against the Likud and their character assassination of Benjamin Netanyahu.

RESPECT ONE’S ELDERS

The party platform of the Pensioners’ party, which to everyone’s surprise won seven Knesset seats, deals entirely with advancing the rights of the elderly, including ensuring pensions for all and medications for old people.

However, on foreign policy the Pensioners are farther right than Labor. Pensioners’ party leader Rafi Eitan, 79, is a former senior Mossad operative. He long ago earned a place in Israel’s history books as one of the team that snatched Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960 and smuggled him back to stand trial in Jerusalem. (For more, see “Better than James Bond” (The death of Peter Malkin).)

In the 1980s, Eitan was the controller of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, who is serving a life sentence in a North Carolina jail.

After retiring from the Mossad, Eitan made a fortune trading with Cuban farmers, buying medical equipment from Japan, and importing dolphins to Eilat. Eitan also became the personal guarantor for bank loans to fund the Pensioners’ party’s campaign.

With the departure of Ariel Sharon, Eitan becomes the last Israeli War of Independence Palmach veteran in the Knesset.

DIASPORA JEWS CHOOSE LIKUD IN MOCK ELECTIONS

In a marked contrast to the actual elections, Likud won mock elections held among Jews abroad on the same day as the real Israeli elections. Likud garnered 44 seats; Kadima 33; the National Union-National Religious Party 15 seats, and Labor 14.

Some 8,500 Jews abroad, primarily young people and students, voted in the mock elections organized by the Jewish Agency at community centers and on college campuses in 85 different countries.

SUICIDE ATTACK– BOMBER DRESSED AS RELIGIOUS JEW

The suicide attack in Kedumim that followed the elections in which four Israelis were horrifically murdered – burned alive – was unreported in many western media.

The bomber, who had dressed as a religious Jew, was a member of Fatah’s al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Fatah is headed by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, so often described as a “moderate.” The dead included an elderly couple, who had stopped to offer a ride to the terrorist, a girl from Herzliya, and a 16-year-old boy.

The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which claimed responsibility for the blast, was set up by Yasser Arafat and its initial funding came from diverted European Union aid money given to Arafat.

Analysts say the attack was timed to coincide with the formation of the Hamas government last week. For the time being, Hamas is refraining from attacks on Israelis, while encouraging Fatah and Islamic Jihad to carry them out instead. Hamas defended the murder as “resistance” against Israeli “crimes”. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said in a column published on Friday in the anti-Israeli British newspaper the Guardian that “we have every right to [use] all available means.”

THE VICTIMS – HORRIFICALLY BURNED

It took some time for Israeli forensic experts to identify the victims, so horrifically burned were their bodies. They are:

Helena Halevy, 58, who immigrated to Israel from Brazil 40 years ago, when she was 18, to volunteer at Kibbutz Be’erot Yitzhak. There she met and fell in love with Rafi, a counselor. Helena’s best friend, Miriam Tartner, related: “She knew right away that she had met the love of her life.”

Her husband Rafi Halevy, 63, was murdered alongside her. They were both agricultural workers. They are survived by four children, and three grandchildren, Shaun, 4, Rona, 3 and Maya, 1.

Re’ut Feldman, the 20-year-old girl from Herzliya murdered in the blast, was a medic and a voluntary helper for mentally ill people.

Shaked Lasker, 16, was a 10th-grade student in high school. He is survived by his parents, Danny and Avigail, two brothers and a sister.

The highly efficient Israeli security services have prevented dozens of other terror attacks in the last two weeks. These include a terrorist who was apprehended at Tel Aviv’s central bus station minutes before he was due to carry out an attack, and a 18-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt who was caught at the Beka’ot roadblock wearing a belt with 10kg of explosives.

PALESTINIANS NOW FIRING KATYUSHAS AT ISRAELI CIVILIANS

Also virtually unreported in the international media is the constant barrage of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory. This has become more serious since last week when for the first time Palestinians fired a 122-mm Katyusha rocket from Gaza into Israel. The nine-foot long Katyusha has a much longer range than the Qassam and unlike the Qassams, Katyushas carry a 45-pound warhead making them much more dangerous.

The PA, Egypt and the EU monitors on the Egypt-Gaza border are doing next to nothing to stop continued weapons smuggling, contrary to signed agreements.

Islamic Jihad murdered two Israelis (an adult and child) on the day of the election. They were Israeli Bedouin, and Islamic Jihad said they had hoped to kill Jews instead.

JERUSALEM CABLE CAR WILL AVOID MUSLIM AREA

Israel has announced plans to erect a cable car around the edge of Jerusalem’s Old City to carry thousands of visitors to the Western Wall.

Under the plan, gondolas carrying as many as 70 people will travel from west Jerusalem around the Old City’s walls, past the site where Christians believe the Last Supper occurred on Mount Zion to a terminus near Dung Gate. While it would be open to passengers of all faiths, the cable car is intended primarily to ease access to the Western Wall for tens of thousands of Jewish worshippers.

Previously, some Jewish worshippers have been murdered while crossing the Old City’s Muslim quarter on their way to the Western Wall. There is also the question of too much traffic heading to the wall on major Jewish holidays.

“The traffic problem has become worse and worse,” said Shmuel Elgrably, the head of Jerusalem’s transport planning team. “So we had to come up with a radical solution because people were routinely waiting two or three hours just to reach the Western Wall plaza. Access is limited by the narrow approach roads, so we thought, ‘Why not move people through the air?’ Modern cable cars give impressive performance in terms of speed and number of passengers.”

Before construction can begin, the project will be scrutinized by a series of planning committees at local and national levels. The gondolas could become a target for Palestinian terrorists.

UN: GAZA PULLOUT DID NOT DAMAGE ENVIRONMENT

Israel’s withdrawal last summer from the Gaza Strip and its demolition of thousands of buildings in the evacuated settlements did not cause significant damage to Gaza’s environment, a UN report released Thursday said. “The scientific assessment report gives the Gaza pullout an environmental clean bill of health.” There are “no environmental constraints to Palestinian settlement in the area,” the report said.

The report, published by the United Nations Environment Program, said that in the future, the Palestinians will be able to use the evacuated land for housing and agriculture. “Any further Israeli pullouts from the West Bank now have an important ecological benchmark by which they can be judged,” Klaus Toepfer, UNEP’s executive director, added in a statement.

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I attach one piece on the elections, written by Emanuele Ottolenghi, who teaches Israel studies at Oxford University and is a longtime subscriber to this email list.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLE

“THE LAST THING THE COUNTRY NEEDED WAS AN INCONCLUSIVE RESULT”

Apathy & Inconclusiveness
Election Day in Israel
By Emanuele Ottolenghi
National Review Online
March 29, 2006

www.nationalreview.com/comment/ottolenghi200603290743.asp

For Israel, this could have been a new dawn. Though not, admittedly, of the Age of Aquarius.

By 2006, voters had grown tired of the two visions that for decades vied for dominance in Israel, and the parties that embodied them. The Peace Now vision lay moribund, since the Intifada broke the Oslo illusion, and managed to survive only thanks to the often unwelcome and unwise interference of the international community. And the Greater Israel vision had become a pipe dream, in the face of the unbearable price of keeping millions of unwilling Palestinians under Israeli rule. Before long, Israelis understood, an international community with little patience for Jewish rights and little understanding for Jewish concerns would have forced Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines and face civil war or keep the post-1967 lines and become a Jewish minority in an Arab state set in its stead.

Today Israel could have woken up to a new political reality. Instead, it chose the old confused and checkered landscape of twelve parties, and no clear mandate. There are winners and losers of course. Israel Beteinu, with 12 projected seats, has humbled Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud. And with a combined force of 32 seats, the nationalist camp and its vision of a Greater Israel is forever lost. Labour’s Amir Peretz claims to be a winner, and demands already the finance and the education ministries. But his only strength is Ehud Olmert’s weakness: After all, Labour won 19 seats last time around and 20 this time. It held its ground no doubt, unlike Likud, but with its Meretz ally down to four seats and the Arab parties beyond the pale of consensus, the Left’s victory would not cause envy even to Pyrrhus. Olmert controls 28 seats, a far cry from what the polls suggested and his supporters hoped. It will not be easy to form a government that can both last and make fateful, controversial decisions without sparring a coalition meltdown or sowing the seeds of civil war.

The real losers are the Israelis and judging by their apathy, they probably deserve it: By not voting, they brought it upon themselves. Like their fallen hero, Ariel Sharon, who is in a deep coma in a hospital, they sleepwalked through an election where they had a chance to shape their destiny but instead gave their new and untested leaders an inconclusive verdict.

Still, a clear message emerged from this vote. Israelis are ready to partition the land, though they cannot trust the Palestinian give-and-take.

History offers its ironies, and it is remarkable that on the day Israelis voted to seal their willingness to endorse the partition of the land, a Hamas government won an easy majority in the Palestinian parliament and renewed its militant vision. While Israelis are prepared to endorse a two-state solution, Palestinians, through their Hamas-led Palestinian entity, are ready for a final solution only.

The new dawn therefore was not about making peace with old enemies. It was about seeking an ideal point of equilibrium on the map that could help Israel redeploy to defensible boundaries ahead of the long war of attrition with the Arab world and the Palestinians, while ensuring that this new line would be met with national consensus, not with the kind of deep division and national trauma that the Oslo accords caused.

The Kadima Gamble

When Ariel Sharon established Kadima in November 2005, he knew that a tectonic shift had occurred in Israeli public opinion. Israelis were prepared to make “painful concessions” and were willing to trust his judgment on their nature and extent. But they could not be led to believe, after five years of Palestinian terror, that their enemies were prepared to recognize, once and for all, Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign Jewish state. He toiled for three long years, trying to persuade his Likud party that a journey to the center was necessary if the party wished to survive. Its victory in 2003 after all had been thanks to Sharon and his newly invented image of a centrist statesman. His party thought otherwise: It felt that disengaging from the territories would only enhance terror’s capabilities and relinquishing historic Jewish rights in exchange for nothing would only reward violence and embolden its advocates. That’s why Sharon parted from Likud, though that is not why Likud lost the elections.

Sharon’s new political gamble, at 77, signaled a new season of Israeli politics and a chance for the public to turn the tables both on Likud and Labour, once and for all. With a charismatic leader at its helm – a farmer-warrior, a visionary and a man who embodied, for better or worse, the Zionist century of the Jewish people – Kadima could have been the new dawn, a new political chapter in Israel’s history, leading the country into the uncharted waters of the Islamist decade under the guidance of a seasoned leader, who could be both ruthless and prudent, and knew when was the right time for the former and not the latter.

But history, politics and biology rarely intersect. Ten minutes to midnight, Sharon walked out on history, and left a party whose very raison-d’etre was Sharon himself, without its greatest asset and the last gift the founding generation could offer to Israel – a vision and a hope where no vision was left and no hope had survived.

Now Kadima, a political project in its infancy, had to follow in the footsteps of Sharon without knowing what Sharon would do, with Hamas in power and the Iranian threat at Israel’s doorstep. Perhaps even Sharon himself did not know what demons he had awakened, what opportunities he had created, when he left Gaza to Hamas, and what steps he should next take. What we know now is that once Sharon left Kadima, the Israeli public lost its appetite for change.

Asked last week about what he considered a success for Kadima, Sharon’s successor, Ehud Olmert, said in an interview to the Israeli Internet daily, Y-net, that less than 36 seats would be ‘a disappointment’. On election night, he got barely 28.

Kadima was quick to claim victory, and Olmert was just as quick to visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. All the right messages were heard on election night: there is a left-of-center majority, Olmert has all the coalition options in the world; it is possible to form a stable and broad coalition with 70-80 Knesset members supporting it.

Katyusha’s Election-Day Message

But Olmert would do well to pause and think. Only 63.2 percent of Israel’s voters bothered to show up on a day when fateful decisions should have drawn the entire country to the ballot booth. Many who did bother to turn up, preferred the Pensioners’ list – winners of an astonishing 7 seats according to preliminary results – to Olmert and his talented team. At 28 seats, his party can hardly claim a blank check for its vision. And Israel’s coalitions have never been both broad and stable, unless their policy is no policy at all. In the last 20 years, only two leaders were gifted with the political power to change the map: One was Rabin, who in 1992 controlled 44 seats in the Knesset and could form a narrow leftist coalition and sign the Oslo accords. But with a narrow majority in parliament and a nation divided, he paid the ultimate price for pushing a vision that lacked Israel’s consensus and left the nation traumatized and ultimately exposed to its enemies’ vicious rage. The other one was Sharon, who in 2003, strong of his 40 Likud seats, could clubber the Palestinians on the headfirst and his former political allies on the right later. In between, there were two youthful prime ministers who controlled a number of seats similar to what Olmert has today, who formed broad coalitions, and whose ability to govern and deliver was quickly shipwrecked by the strict arithmetical logic of Israel’s fragmented political landscape.

Olmert wants to redraw Israel’s boundaries today. He will have to avoid the nightmarish scenario of a civil war that a narrow center-left coalition would no doubt usher in and will have to negotiate the consensus with the right. That, even in ideal conditions, would take longer than the time it took Rabin’s far more stable coalition to sign Oslo and it would cost infinitely more than the Disengagement did: this time, it would evict tens of thousands of settlers from their homes, and it is the heartland of Biblical Israel that they would be asked to abandon for an uncertain future.

But conditions are not ideal. While Israelis were busy voting (or not voting), a Katyusha rocket landed in southern Israel, killing two Beduin shepherds. No doubt, now commentators will bend over backward to say that it was not Hamas, but some “militant” group that “rejects” the “peace process.” Whoever pulled the trigger, Gaza today is closer to Tel Aviv than ever before. And the presence of much more efficient, elusive, and sophisticated weaponry in Gaza seven months only after the disengagement shows how frail and fragile the Kadima vision was, how unreliable the international community who should be monitoring the borders is, and how ineffectual (not to say worse) are the Egyptians in Sinai when it comes to weapons’ smuggling into Gaza. And that withdrawal does not a peace make.

With Israel now encircled by Iran’s proxies and Islamist fanatics, the last thing the country needed was an inconclusive result. It got just that. It will reap the whirlwinds of its apathy.