Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Reuters employee issues “Zionist pig” death threat

May 30, 2006

* American blogger told: “I look forward to day when you pigs get your throats cut”
* Reuters confirms it has suspended an employee

 

CONTENTS

1. “I think it’s more than fair to say that Reuters has a big problem”
2. “Zionists up to mischief”
3. “A news agency that will not call a terrorist a terrorist”
4. Online petition to get Guy Goma a job at the BBC
5. “Reuters employee issues ‘Zionist pig’ death threat” (Yediot Ahronot, May 30, 2006)
6. “Reuters recruits 100 journalists” (Guardian, May 30, 2006)
7. “Petition launched to get Guy Goma a BBC job” (Daily Telegraph, May 30, 2006)
8. “The case of Reuters” (By Tom Gross, National Review, July 26, 2004)



[Note by Tom Gross]

“I THINK IT’S MORE THAN FAIR TO SAY THAT REUTERS HAS A BIG PROBLEM”

“I look forward to the day when you pigs get your throats cut,” was the message an employee for the Reuters news agency sent to American blogger Charles Johnson, publisher of the popular Little Green Footballs weblog.

The Reuters employee, who has since been suspended, left his email address as “zionistpig” at hotmail.com, but it was later identified as coming from a Reuters IP.

Johnson commented that “I was surprised to receive a threat from a Reuters IP, but only because it was so careless of this person to use a traceable work account to do it.” He added that “I think it’s more than fair to say that Reuters has a big problem.”

Johnson, who is not Jewish, has criticized Reuters for its often-biased coverage towards Israel. In the past, Johnson has recommended my article “The case of Reuters” on his site (attached at the foot of this email, or at www.tomgrossmedia.com/Reuters.htm.)

“ZIONISTS UP TO MISCHIEF”

In an additional twist, Johnson traced the movements of the sender of the threat, and found direct parallels between the internet locations of the sender and Inayat Bunglawala, Media Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain. It is thought the two may be connected.

Bunglawala, who has contributed an editorial to the website of the British daily The Guardian, previously declared that the British media was “Zionist-controlled.”

In the comment section of the Guardian, underneath his own editorial, Bunglawala denied sending the threat, instead blaming “Zionists up to mischief.”

Last year, Bunglawala was selected as one of seven “conveners” for a (British government) Home Office task force with responsibilities for tackling extremism among young Muslims. This is in spite of his having a long track record of anti-Semitic comments when he was editor of “Trends,” the “magazine for young Muslims.” These include: “the Zionist movement is at the core of international banking and commerce” (Vol. 3 issue 6); “Michael Green, of the tribe of Judah, Michael Grade. Alan Yentob. So that’s what they mean by a ‘free media’” (Vol. 4 issue 4); his description of Israel as “the Zionist cancer” and as Hamas as “a source of comfort for Muslims all over the world” (Vol. 6 issue 2); and so on.

Perhaps it is not surprising that The Guardian has now invited Bunglawala to contribute to its website.

“A NEWS AGENCY THAT WILL NOT CALL A TERRORIST A TERRORIST”

Reuters has also announced that it is in the process of hiring 100 journalists after three years of reorganization. The Guardian (article attached below) reports that “Reuters is also hiring special journalists to write about religion, terrorism, health and entertainment.”

It will be interesting to see how the new Reuters special journalists write about terrorism, since as I commented in “The case of Reuters,” Reuters is the “news agency that will not call a terrorist a terrorist.”

ONLINE PETITION TO GET GUY GOMA A JOB AT THE BBC

Included in the dispatch BBC slips up with taxi driver (& Rapper Jay-Z: Anti-Semitism not cool) (May 18, 2006), was a video and article on the man mistakenly interviewed live on the BBC.

Guy Goma, a graduate from the Congo, was mistaken for a leading internet expert as he waited to be interviewed for a job in the BBC’s IT department. Goma was also mistaken for a taxi driver by Reuters in the article included in that dispatch.

Goma, who has now gained near-celebrity status in Britain and beyond as a result of the BBC’s mishap, has become the focus of an online petition, launched to get him a job at the BBC, and stop him from being deported as it is thought he may have overstayed his visa. The petition and commentary, which can be found at www.guygoma.com, urges the BBC to give him the job he wanted, or, preferably, a better one. For more, see the Daily Telegraph article below.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

REUTERS EMPLOYEE ISSUES “ZIONIST PIG” DEATH THREAT

Reuters employee issues ‘Zionist pig’ death threat
Worker suspended after telling American blogger: ‘I look forward to day when you pigs get your throats cut’
By Yaakov Lappin
Yediot Ahronot
May 30, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3256534,00.html

A Reuters employee has been suspended after sending a death threat to an American blogger. The message, sent from a Reuters internet account, read: “I look forward to the day when you pigs get your throats cut.”

It was sent to Charles Johnson, owner of the Little Green Footballs (LGF) weblog, a popular site which often backs Israel and highlights jihadist terrorist activities.

In the threat, the Reuters staff member, who has not been named, left his email address as “zionistpig” at hotmail.com.

Reporting the message to his readers, Johnson wrote on his website: “This particular death threat is a bit different from the run of the mill hate mail we get around here, because an IP lookup on the sender reveals that he/she/it was using an account at none other than Reuters News.”

Speaking to Ynetnews, Johnson said: “I was surprised to receive a threat from a Reuters IP, but only because it was so careless of this person to use a traceable work account to do it.” He added: “I think it’s more than fair to say that Reuters has a big problem.”

After bringing the threat to the attention of Reuters, Johnson was told by the news organization’s Global Head of Communications, Ed Williams: “I can confirm that an employee has been suspended pending further investigation. The individual was not an employee of Reuters’ news division.”

In an additional twist, Johnson traced the movements of the sender of the threat, and found direct parallels between the internet locations of the sender and Inayat Bunglawala, Media Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain.

Bunglawala, who contributed an editorial to the Guardian website, has attracted negative attention in the past after making anti-Semitic outbursts, and has declared that the British media was “Zionist-controlled.”

In the comment section of the Guardian, underneath his own editorial, Bunglawala denied sending the threat, blaming “Zionists” instead. “That was not me! Methinks some Zionists are up to mischief,” he wrote.

“There is strong circumstantial evidence connecting Bunglawala to the threat, but there is no way for me to verify this for certain. Only a Reuters network administrator would have access to the necessary records,” Johnson said.

 

REUTERS IN THE PROCESS OF HIRING 100 JOURNALISTS

Reuters recruits 100 journalists
By Stephen Brook
The Guardian
May 30, 2006

media.guardian.co.uk/presspublishing/story/0,,1784142,00.html

Reuters, the international news and financial information company, is in the process of hiring 100 journalists after three years of cost cutting and reorganisation.

While the new hirings will boost the ranks of Reuters journalists to 2,400, this is still short of the 2,500 journalists who worked for Reuters in 2000.

“At a time when other media organisations shrink, we are expanding our global reach,” said David Schlesinger, the global managing editor and head of editorial operations. “First, we had to right our ship. Now the ship is righted, we can look to new markets.”

The company is hiring 21 political and general news journalists across the world and 12 new editors for its global picture desk, which is now run from Singapore following a reorganisation.

Reuters is also hiring special journalists to write about religion, terrorism, health and entertainment.

The company, founded by Paul Julius Reuter in London in 1851 to transmit stock market data from London to Paris, is also expanding its presence in several US cities, including Cincinnati.

To cover its financial services business, the company will recruit business journalists to report on the US treasury, equities, commodities and the energy industry.

Additional journalists are being hired to cover China and India. “This really is the China century,” Mr Schlesinger said. “We will now have 160 to 170 journalists in greater China. When I was Beijing bureau chief in 1990s, we had four people in Beijing, four people in Hong Kong and three people in Taiwan.”

The new staff will work across Reuters’ operations, including its news wire service, new media activities and its financial services operations, which generate the bulk of its revenues.

In recent years, the company has expanded its online operations to make its stories more widely available to the general public in addition to Reuters’ traditional clients – newspapers and other media groups.

The company is also expanding its coverage of sport, with three sport writers in the US and a sports writer in Beijing, as well as a sports editor in Singapore in preparation for the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Reuters has made extensive preparations to cover the World Cup next month. The company will have 56 photographers in place for the tournament, plus 11 from Action Images, the London-based sports picture agency Reuters bought in September.

Forty journalists writing in four languages, 10 video staff and Reuters’ German bureaux will cover the sporting event.

Reuters has extensively reorganised its picture operations in time for the World Cup. “Five minutes after the action has happened on the field, we will have the picture on our website for our clients,” said Monique Villa, the managing director of Reuters Media, the division that covers picture operations and news wires.

Last month, Reuters released a first-quarter revenue statement that showed a 13% increase in turnover to £633m. Revenues rose by 4% (if currency fluctuations, disposals and acquisitions are excluded) beating analysts’ forecasts of a 2.5% increase in organic turnover. Ms Villa said Reuters Media’s growth was approaching double digits this year.

 

THE RIGHT GUY FOR THE JOB

Petition launched to get Guy Goma a BBC job
The Daily Telegraph
May 30, 2006

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/05/30/ugoma.xml&sSheet=/news/2006/05/30/ixnews.html

An online petition has been launched to get the man mistakenly interviewed on BBC News 24 a job at the corporation.

Guy Goma, a graduate from the Congo, was mistaken for a leading internet expert as he waited to be interviewed for a job in the BBC’s IT department.

He was thrust onto live TV and asked for his opinions on the Apple vs Apple court case, a subject he clearly knew little about.

Despite his bravery and perseverance in pressing ahead with the bizarre exchange, Mr Goma has since discovered that he has not got the data support cleanser post he had applied for.

Now the www.guygoma.com website has started an online campaign to get him a job at the BBC. The petition urges the corporation to give him the job he wanted, or, preferably, a better one

The mix-up which shot Mr Goma to fame occurred when a producer went to collect an expert from the wrong reception in BBC Television Centre in west London.

The producer asked for Guy Kewney, editor of Newswireless.net, who was supposed to be interviewed. After being pointed in Mr Goma’s direction by a receptionist, the producer – who had seen a photo of the real expert – checked: “Are you Guy Kewney?”

The economics and business studies graduate answered that he was, and was then whisked up to the studio, where his live ordeal began.

Mr Goma’s interview led to several TV appearances, including The Jonathan Ross Show and manning the phones for the Prince’s Trust broadcast.

He is also auctioning the lucky blue shirt he wore during the interview for Oxfam, at www.15minutesauction.com.

 

THE CASE OF REUTERS

The case of Reuters
A news agency that will not call a terrorist a terrorist
By Tom Gross
The National Review
July 26, 2004

www.nationalreview.com/issue/gross200407120846.asp

Many people still think of Reuters as the Rolls-Royce of news agencies. Just as the House of Morgan was once synonymous with good banking, Reuters has long been synonymous with good news-gathering. In 1940, there was even a Hollywood film about Paul Julius Reuter, the German-Jewish immigrant to London who as early as 1851 began transmitting stock-market quotes between London and Paris via the new Calais-Dover cable. (Two years earlier he had ingeniously used pigeons to fly stock prices between Aachen and Brussels.)

His agency quickly established a reputation in Europe for being the first to report scoops from abroad, such as news of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Today, almost every major news outlet in the world subscribes. Operating in 200 cities in 94 countries, Reuters produces text in 19 languages, as well as photos and television footage from around the world.

Though it may report in a largely neutral way on many issues, Reuters’s coverage of the Middle East is deeply flawed. It is symptomatic, for instance, that Reuters’s global head of news, Stephen Jukes, banned the use of the word “terrorist” to describe the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks. Even so, such is the aura still surrounding Reuters that news editors from Los Angeles to Auckland automatically assume that text, photos, and film footage provided by Reuters will be fair and objective. Reuters and Associated Press copy is simply inserted into many correspondents’ reports – even in papers such as the New York Times and Washington Post – without, it often seems, so much as a second thought given to its accuracy.

This has led to some misleading reporting from Iraq, and still worse coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The newswires are much more influential in setting the news (and hence diplomatic) agenda of that struggle than most people realize.

“REUTERS SETS THE TONE AND SPIN IS EVERYTHING”

One veteran American newspaper correspondent in Jerusalem, eager to maintain anonymity so as not to jeopardize relations with his anti-Israel colleagues, points out that “whereas foreign correspondents still write features, they rarely cover the actual breaking news that dominates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In terms of written copy on the conflict, I would estimate that 50 percent of all reporting, and 90 percent of the attitude, is formed by these news agencies. The important thing about Reuters is that it sets the tone, and here spin is everything.”

“If, for example, a Reuters headline and introduction say that Israelis killed a Palestinian, instead of saying that a Palestinian gunman was killed as he opened fire on Israeli civilians, this inevitably leaves a different impression of who was attacking, and who defending.”

In a study last year, the media watchdog HonestReporting found that in “100 percent of headlines” when Reuters wrote about Israeli acts of violence, Israel was emphasized as the first word; also, an active voice was used, often without explaining that the “victim” may have been a gunman. A typical headline was: “Israeli Troops Shoot Dead Palestinian in W. Bank” (July 3, 2003). By contrast, when Palestinians attacked Israelis (almost always civilians), Reuters usually avoided naming the perpetrator. For example: “New West Bank Shooting Mars Truce” (July 1, 2003). In many cases, the headline was also couched in a passive voice.

Often it is a question of emphasis: Important and relevant information is actually contained in Reuters text, but buried deep down in the story. Many newspaper readers, however, never get beyond the headlines, and for space reasons many papers carry only the first few paragraphs of a report – often inserted into their own correspondents’ stories. When the TV networks run only brief headlines, or Reuters news ribbon at the foot of the screen, the full text is never shown.

Sometimes, Reuters presents unreliable information as though it were undoubtedly true. Most people are unlikely to notice this. For example, Reuters will note that “a doctor at the hospital said the injured Palestinian was unarmed” – when in fact the doctor couldn’t possibly have known this, since he wasn’t present at the gunfight. But because he is a doctor, Reuters is suggesting to readers that his word is necessarily authoritative. Yet, Reuters headlines and text are used unchanged by newspaper editors because they assume it is professional, balanced copy, which doesn’t need any further editing.

Reporters of course can’t be everywhere at once. The increased speed of the Internet and the demand for instant, 24-hour TV news coverage means that the world’s news outlets rely heavily on Reuters and the AP, which in turn rely on a network of local Palestinian “stringers.” Virtually all breaking news (and much of the non-breaking news) on CNN, the BBC, Fox, and other networks comes from these stringers.

PROVOKING THE WRATH OF ARAFAT’S SECURITY FORCES

Such stringers are hired for speed, to save money (there is no need to pay drivers and translators), and for their local knowledge. But in many cases, in hiring them, their connections to Arafat’s regime and Hamas count for more than their journalistic abilities. All too often the information they provide, and the supposed eyewitnesses they interview, are undependable. Yet, because of Reuters’s prestige, American and international news outlets simply take their copy as fact. Thus non-massacres become massacres; death tolls are exaggerated; and gunmen are written about as if they were civilians.

As Ehud Ya’ari, Israeli television’s foremost expert on Palestinian affairs, put it: “The vast majority of information of every type coming out of the area is being filtered through Palestinian eyes. Cameras are angled to show a tainted view of the Israeli army’s actions and never focus on Palestinian gunmen. Written reports focus on the Palestinian version of events. And even those Palestinians who don’t support the intifada dare not show or describe anything embarrassing to the Palestinian Authority, for fear they may provoke the wrath of Arafat’s security forces.”

One Palestinian journalist told me that “the worst the Israelis can do is take away our press cards. But if we irritate Arafat, or Hamas, you don’t know who might be waiting in your kitchen when you come home at night.”

Some of Reuters’s Palestinian stringers are honest and courageous. But, according to several ex-Reuters staffers, they feel the intimidating presence of Wafa Amr, Reuters’s “Senior Palestinian Correspondent.” Amr – who is a cousin of former Palestinian minister Nabil Amr, and whose father is said to be close to Arafat – had this title specially created for her (there is no “Senior Israeli Correspondent,” or the equivalent in any other Arab country) so that her close ties to the Palestinian Authority could be exploited.

As one former Reuters journalist put it: “She occupies this position in spite of lacking a basic command of English grammar. The information passed through her is controlled, orchestrated. Reuters would never allow Israeli government propaganda to be fed into its reports in this way. Indeed, stories exposing Israeli misdeeds are a favorite of Reuters. Amr has never had an expose on Arafat, or his Al-Aqsa Brigades terror group.”

But things may well be improving. Lately, with a new Jerusalem bureau chief, Reuters has taken some steps to ensure greater balance. For example, it no longer claims Hamas’s goal is merely “to set up an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza” (which it is not), but instead writes that Hamas is “sworn to Israel’s destruction” (which it is).

Reuters no longer carries the highly misleading “death tolls” at the end of each story that lumped together Palestinian civilians, gunmen, and suicide bombers. (Agence France-Presse continues to do this.) And, apparently, there are plans to relocate Wafa Amr by next year. Is it too much to hope that one day soon Reuters might actually call terrorism terrorism?


Tel Aviv, Beersheba within range of new Hizbullah rocket (& Israel re-enters Gaza)

* Hillel Halkin on how The New York Times selectively reports the West Bank checkpoint issue

CONTENTS

1. Iranian foreign minister: “No such country as Israel”
2. Israel sends ground force into Gaza
3. Iran gives Hizbullah long-range missiles
4. British national arrested for assisting Hamas
5. The confiscated money went to Hamas after all
6. PFLP to join Hamas-led government
7. IDF stops suicide bomber en route to attack in Israel
8. Police search for attacker who stabbed boy in Jerusalem
9. Israeli set to join OECD body of industrialized nations
10. Polish chief rabbi assaulted as pope visits
11. Iraqi athletes killed for wearing tennis shorts
12. Islamist organizations in Kashmir warn women not to use cell phones
13. U.S. pop show victor attracts more votes than any President
14. “Tel Aviv within range of new Hezbollah rocket” (Ha’aretz, May 29, 2006)
15. “Israeli soldiers thwart suicide attack” (Associated Press, May 29, 2006)
16. “The purpose of checkpoints” (By Hillel Halkin, New York Sun, May 30, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

As with past dispatches, I attach the following news items because the so-called mainstream media, from which the vast majority of opinion-formers and policy-makers obtain their news, have barely reported on them, if at all.

IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: “NO SUCH COUNTRY AS ISRAEL”

“There is no such country” as Israel, Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, said yesterday. Mottaki was speaking at a ministerial meeting of the Nonaligned Movement held in the Malaysian city of Putrajaya. The Iranian foreign minister also declared that the United States was too tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan to be able to launch an attack on Iran.

ISRAEL SENDS GROUND FORCE INTO GAZA

In a pre-dawn raid this morning, Israel sent special forces ground troops deep into Gaza for the first time since it unilaterally withdrew from the territory last fall. The target was an Islamic Jihad Qassam rocket crew that was preparing to fire rockets into Israel from what used to be the Israeli settlement of Dugit. Since that time, Dugit has often been used as a base from which to launch rockets at Israeli towns and villages. The Israeli commandos waited for the Palestinian rocket crew to arrive and then tried to prevent them from launching Qassams. Three Jihadists were killed in the fierce gun battle that ensued. There were no injuries to the Israeli force, which left the Strip soon after the clash.

IRAN GIVES HIZBULLAH LONG-RANGE MISSILES

Iran has transferred to the Lebanon-based Hizbullah terrorist group much longer-range rockets capable of hitting Tel Aviv and even Beersheba in southern Israel, Israel’s leading defense journalist, Ze’ev Schiff, reports.

Schiff, writing in the daily Ha’aretz, says the new rockets are called the Zelzal-2; its earlier model was called the Zelzal-1. Another Iranian name for the rocket is Nazeat. The weapons have doubled Hizbullah’s effective range, to about 125 miles (200 kilometers), putting all of Israel’s major urban centers within striking distance. The new missiles carry a 1300-pound (600- kilogram) warhead.

The rockets were first seen in a military parade in Teheran on September 2005, the first such event following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. Six Shehab-3 surface-to-surface ballistic missiles were also on display. In response to slogans written on the Shehab-3 rockets, calling for “Death to Israel” and “Death to the U.S.,” the military attaches of France, Italy, Greece and Poland, invited to the event, left the VIP platform.

Hizbullah fired a barrage of shorter-range Katyusha rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel on Sunday. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559 demands that all armed militias in Lebanon disarm.

BRITISH NATIONAL ARRESTED FOR ASSISTING HAMAS

The Israeli government announced yesterday that a British national, Iyaz Ali, was arrested in Israel by Israeli police three weeks ago, on May 10, after a tip-off from Israeli intelligence. Ali, who was born in Pakistan, is accused of transferring funds and assistance to Hamas institutions and operatives, in violation of Israeli law.

Ali is an activist in the UK-based Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), which was established in 1984 in the British city of Birmingham, and has a branch in Gaza. It has NGO status in the U.K.

In addition to incriminating files about financial payments to Hamas found on Ali’s computer, also found were photographs of swastikas superimposed on the Star of David, photographs of senior German Nazi officials, of Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as well as many photographs of Hamas’ “military activities.”

Ali, 36, was released yesterday (Monday), with police restrictions placed on his movements within Israel. He will be deported from Israel in the coming days and will be barred from returning.

THE CONFISCATED MONEY WENT TO HAMAS AFTER ALL

Some 640,000 Euros confiscated from a Hamas official at the Rafah crossing earlier this month has been given to Hamas after all. Some of it will pay for a militia manned by Izaddin Al-Kassam terrorists.

The cash, the equivalent of $820,000, was discovered in the baggage of the Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, as he made his way into Gaza from Egypt. European Union inspectors confiscated the money, which was over 400 times more than the amount permitted to be imported without declaration.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had ordered the money transferred to the prosecution offices of the PA, and demanded an investigation into the Hamas spokesman and his activities.

However, Abu Zuhri announced to the Palestinian Information Center, thought to be the main media outlet for Hamas, that the money went to “the correct party.” It is thought that Abu Zuhri’s reference to the “correct party” is a reference to Hamas operatives.

PFLP TO JOIN HAMAS-LED GOVERNMENT

Representatives of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), one of the most extreme Palestinian terrorist groups, announced on Sunday that they had agreed to join the Hamas-led government. They also said they would be willing to participate in the new Hamas security force.

IDF STOPS SUICIDE BOMBER EN ROUTE TO ATTACK IN ISRAEL

Israeli security forces intercepted a suicide-bombing attempt on Sunday morning. Military sources said the two Palestinians were a suicide bomber and his driver who were on their way to carry out an attack in Israel. Their bag was found to contain a belt packed with explosives, which was then safely detonated by IDF explosives experts. (For more on this, please see the articles below, from the Associated Press, and the excellent commentary by Hillel Halkin criticizing The New York Times’s coverage of the checkpoint issue.)

POLICE SEARCH FOR ATTACKER WHO STABBED BOY IN JERUSALEM

Israeli police are continuing their search for the Arab man who stabbed a 14-year old Jewish boy in the back in Jerusalem on Saturday night. It was the second stabbing in two days. On Friday, a Palestinian stepped out of his car to ask an Israeli man for water and stabbed him in the neck when he turned his back.

ISRAEL SET TO JOIN OECD BODY OF INDUSTRIALIZED NATIONS

Israel expects to become a full member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the prestigious world body of 30 industrialized countries. Over the last 10 years of negotiations, Israel faced a number of hurdles. Some member states objected to the Jewish State’s inclusion because of its conflict with the Palestinians.

Efforts to join the OECD were launched in 1996 under then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Full membership will automatically improve Israel’s credit rating, widen Israel’s exposure to international bidders and lure foreign investors. Israel will also benefit from exchanging information and data in the economic and social fields with leading industrialized nations.

Member states will vote on the expansion of the body from 30 to 40 members, with Russia, India, Brazil, China and Chile also expected to now become full members.

The Israeli economy grew at a record 6.6% in the first quarter of 2006 – far above early forecasts and the growth rate for all of 2005, which was 5.2%. The standard of living has risen by 9% in the last year. These positive trends are thought to be the direct result of the pro-market policies implemented by the previous Likud-led government under the finance ministry of Benjamin Netanyahu.

POLISH CHIEF RABBI ASSAULTED AS POPE VISITS

As an update to the previous dispatch about the pope’s trip to Poland, Matthias Goering Goes Kosher (& Film shows suffering of Jews Britain sent to Outback) (May 24, 2006), the pope’s visit to Auschwitz was reported very prominently in media throughout Europe yesterday, with it being the lead story in several papers in France, Spain, Italy and elsewhere.

However, most papers failed to report on the anti-Semitic attack on Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, in central Warsaw on Saturday, a day before Pope Benedict XVI visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

Schudrich, who became chief rabbi of Warsaw in 2000 and of all of Poland in 2004, was attacked on the street by a man shouting “Poland is for Poles.” The assailant hit the rabbi and then sprayed him with what was believed to be pepper gas.

Both Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and President Lech Kaczynski called Schudrich following the incident and strongly condemned the attack. Presidential undersecretary of state Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka said Poland would not tolerate anti-Semitism.

Schudrich, 50, an American, oversees the small remaining Jewish community in Poland. Schudrich linked the attack to what he said was a rise of intolerance connected to a new governing coalition that includes the League of Polish Families, a small extreme right-wing party with ideological ties to a prewar anti-Semitic party.

IRAQI ATHLETES KILLED FOR WEARING TENNIS SHORTS

An Iraqi tennis coach and two of his players were shot dead on Thursday in Baghdad because they were wearing shorts, Manham Kubba, secretary-general of the Iraqi Tennis Union, said Saturday, reporting the latest in a series of recent attacks attributed to Islamic extremists.

The triple-murder came only days after Islamic terrorists warned against dressing in shorts. Leaflets were distributed warning people in the mostly Sunni neighborhoods of Saidiyah and Ghazaliyah not to wear shorts “because it violates the principals of Islam,” police said

It was the second incident involving athletes in just over a week. Fifteen members of Iraq’s Olympic tae-kwan-doe team remain missing after being kidnapped west of Baghdad on May 17. A $100,000 ransom has been demanded.

ISLAMIST ORGANIZATIONS IN KASHMIR WARN WOMEN NOT TO USE CELL PHONES

Islamist organizations in Kashmir have issued pamphlets urging women to refrain from carrying mobile (cell) phones and warned them to stay away from public parks, according to the London-based, Saudi-owned daily al-Sharq al-Awsat.

The statement issued by the Islamic Jihad movement in Kashmir stated, “This is a warning to young women not to use mobile phones and stay away from public parks, and for fathers to look after their daughters. This is our final warning.”

Al-Sharq al-Awsat notes that another organization based in Kashmir, Badr, had issued a similar threat two weeks ago. The paper also adds that women carrying mobile phones have been violently attacked by Muslim extremists on Kashmiri streets in recent weeks.

The article in Arabic can be read at:
http://aawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&issue=10045&article=365723.

U.S. POP SHOW VICTOR ATTRACTS MORE VOTES THAN ANY PRESIDENT

As another indication of increasing apathy about politics in the U.S. and elsewhere, Taylor Hicks last week won American Idol, the most popular talent contest in America, if not the world, with a record 63.4 million votes. The host of American Idol, Ryan Seacrest, announced with excitement that the figure was “more than any president in the history of our country has received.”

Hicks is a prematurely gray, chubby-faced 29-year-old singer from Alabama whose husky-voiced soul numbers and quirky dance moves won him an army of fans, according to media reports.

“It is getting to the point where the series has become a conduit for displaced political passion,” wrote Alessandra Stanley in the New York Times. “It is an arena where young people feel that their vote counts.”

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

IRAN HAS EQUIPPED HIZBULLAH WITH ROCKETS CAPABLE OF HITTING TEL-AVIV

Tel Aviv within range of new Hezbollah rocket
By Zeev Schiff
Ha’aretz
May 29, 2006

www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/720681.html

Iran has equipped the Lebanese-based radical Islamic group Hezbollah with long-range rockets capable of hitting targets up to 200 kilometers away, putting all of Israel’s major urban centers within striking distance.

The solid-fuel rockets lack an independent guidance system and their accuracy is questionable but they can still cause considerable damage.

According to intelligence estimates, the rockets are meant to strike non-specific areas, such as towns and cities, and carry a warhead estimated to weigh 600 kilograms. This latest development doubles the range of weapons previously in Hezbollah’s arsenal.

In this latest transfer of military technology, Iran is seeking to improve its strategic options against Israel rather than better Hezbollah’s capabilities. Equipping a Lebanese group considered by the west to be a terrorist organization with such rockets also poses a danger to Lebanon.

The government of Lebanon has been pressured in the past by Hezbollah to disregard the United Nations Security Council resolution 1559, which demands that all armed militias in the country disarm. Hezbollah maintains that it is not a militia and is therefore not obliged to disarm, but the Security Council has not accepted this argument.

The rockets delivered to the Hezbollah have appeared under different names. One is Zelzal-2, and its earlier model is the Zelzal-1. Another Iranian name for the rocket is Nazeat.

The rocket was first seen in a military parade in Tehran in September 2005, the first such event following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. Six Shehab-3 surface-to-surface ballistic missiles were also on display.

In response to slogans written on the Shehab-3 rockets, calling for “Death to Israel” and “Death to the U.S.,” the military attaches of France, Italy, Greece and Poland, invited to the event, left the VIP platform.

Earlier supplies of rockets to the Hezbollah from Iran via Syria, involved Katyusha rockets with a range of 12-22 kilometers.

These rockets were used on occasion in attacks against Israel.

At later dates the Iranians supplied the Fajr-3 rockets, capable of reaching targets 45 kilometers away. The Hezbollah has never used these weapons.

The Syrians also provided the Hezbollah with rockets of their own make, believed to be of 220mm caliber, whose range is several dozen kilometers.

Iran later provided Hezbollah with Fajr-5 rockets with a range of 75 kilometers; it is capable of striking the Haifa bay and its strategic industrial installations.

The latest Iranian delivery is of rockets whose estimated capability is 200 kilometers (the Zelzal-1 rocket had a range of 150 kilometers). The rocket is 8.3 meters long and is 61mm in diameter. At launch, it weighs about 3.5 tons.

Because the rocket is propelled by solid-fuel, it can be easily moved.

International defense journals have reported that the Iranian rockets have been stored by the Hezbollah in special bunkers in a number of locations in the Bekaa near Lebanon’s border with Syria.

 

SOLDIERS FOUND A BOMB WEIGHING 15 POUNDS WITH NAILS AND PIECES OF SMALL METAL

Israeli soldiers thwart suicide attack
By Amy Teibel
The Associated Press
May 29, 2006

Israeli soldiers, acting on intelligence reports, prevented two Palestinian militants on Monday from carrying out a suicide bombing inside Israel, the military said. The militants were spotted carrying a suspicious bag near the West Bank city of Nablus and tried to flee, said Lt. Col. Arik Chen, a battalion commander in the Nablus region.

They threw away the bag, then led troops on a three-hour foot chase, until they were cornered and gave themselves up, he said. The men surrendered only after troops fired in the air.

Inside the bag, soldiers found a bomb weighing 15 pounds, packed with nails and pieces of small metal, which heighten the deadly effect, Chen said. Sappers later blew it up.

Security forces had been tipped off late Sunday that militants in the Nablus area were planning an attack inside Israel, and deployed a large number of soldiers around the West Bank town, a militant stronghold, Chen said.

The militants were taken into custody, and in initial questioning, they admitted they planned to blow themselves up in Israel, but did not say where, the army said. They belonged to a cell of activists from the Islamic Jihad, Fatah and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine militant groups, the military said.

In other news, Israeli soldiers killed an armed Palestinian near the fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel, the military said.

Soldiers identified three men near the fence, and fired at them, suspecting they intended to carry out an attack, the military said. At least one of the men was hit, and was later evacuated by Palestinian rescue services, it said.

The Popular Resistance Committees, a small Palestinian militant group, identified the man as Abdel Moati Shukri, a group member.

 

“THE NEW YORK TIMES OWES ITS READERS MORE”

The purpose of checkpoints
By Hillel Halkin
The New York Sun
May 30, 2006

www.nysun.com/article/33559

“... The Zaatara checkpoint, where I was waiting, is one of dozens inside the occupied Palestinian territories, restricting the movement of people and goods... I looked at the two young soldiers arrogantly manning the checkpoint, with dozens of people awaiting a sign from them...

“ [A soldier] shouted at a woman holding a crying baby. He ordered her to dump her bag’s contents on the ground... While we waited in a long queue under searing heat, Israeli settlers in air-conditioned vehicles bypassed the checkpoint in their special lane.

“Israel says these measures are vital to stop suicide bombers from flooding into Israeli cities to terrorize the civilian population. But I can’t imagine a suicide bomber standing in a long line deep inside the West Bank, waiting for soldiers to check his ID and car. Determined people can always travel through the hills, avoiding the checkposts.”

– Fareed Tamallah, identified as a Palestinian “peace activist,” writing in a May 25, 2006, New York Times Op-ed.

“This morning, IDF forces arrested a suicide bomber and an aide who were apparently on their way to a terrorist strike within Israel. The two were caught at a surprise checkpoint put up near Nablus...

“Yesterday, as a result of intelligence passed [to the army] by the General Security Service, many checkpoints were put up in the Nablus area. This morning a battalion of the Haruv Brigade spotted the bomber and his aide north of Nablus. The two threw a bag with the bomb in it out the window of their car and tried unsuccessfully to escape. The bag, in which there was a powerful explosive charge, was exploded by sappers of the security forces.”

– MSN Internet news, May 29, 2006

I can assure you that the above news item did not appear in today’s May 30 Times. Why should The Times have published it? It was an incident, after all, in which no one was killed or even wounded. Dozens of Israeli lives may have been saved because of it, but surely one can’t expect The Times to run a story every time a life isn’t lost.

But one can expect even The Times to refrain from publishing blatant anti-Israel idiocy, not only in its own news and feature articles, but in its op-eds that are written by others, too.

Presumably, The Times has one or more op-ed editors. What exactly went through such an editor’s mind when he read Fareed Taamallah’s statement that, “I can’t imagine a suicide bomber standing in a long line deep inside the West Bank, waiting for soldiers to check his ID and car.” Was the editor fast asleep? Why didn’t he or she get on the phone to Mr. Taamallah at once and say:

“Listen, this sentence of yours is absurd. Of course a suicide bomber would be unlikely to stand in a long line deep inside the West Bank waiting to be checked by Israeli soldiers. That’s one reason the checkpoints are there. If they weren’t, what would keep suicide bombers from driving merrily along main highways instead of having to seek out arduous (and, because of Israel’s security fence, increasingly impossible) alternatives? Do me a favor and rewrite those words, please.”

In fact, Mr. Taamallah’s entire op-ed is absurd. Take the poor woman with the baby, the contents of whose bag were dumped on the ground. One sympathizes with her. There should have been a table to dump them on, and one hopes the Israeli army will acquire some for its checkpoints.

But just suppose for a moment that a nice soldier – a most non-arrogant soldier – had felt sorry for the woman and waved her on without emptying her bag. And suppose it soon became known that at Checkpoint X there are nice Israeli soldiers who do such things. How long does Mr. Taamallah – how long does The New York Times – think it would take before a suicide bomber approached such a woman and persuaded her to stick his bomb in her bag? Would our bomber mind “standing in a long line deep inside the West Bank” then?

Indeed, Palestinian women have been caught at checkpoints with bombs in their bags and clothing, just as have Palestinian schoolchildren. The next time Mr. Taamallah sees a schoolchild with tears in its eyes because a checkpoint has made it late for school, he might think of that.

And because the woman with the baby and the child on its way to school are checked thoroughly at checkpoints, and because this takes a long time, and long lines of cars back up on major roads that have good visibility, a suicide bomber who spots such a line ahead of him has plenty of time to turn around and try a back way. And it is precisely when he does that he can be caught at a surprise checkpoint like the one near Nablus yesterday, when coming around a bend in a narrow road he suddenly runs into a barrier that is seen by him when it is already too late.

The checkpoints are a major source of frustration and indignity to the West Bank’s Palestinians and it is understandable that they are resented and hated. It is even understandable that Fareed Taamallah – who, “peace activist” that he may or may not be, clearly doesn’t lose any sleep at night over dead Israelis – should seek to denounce them in a less than honest manner. But The Times owes its readers more. The purpose of the checkpoints is to save Israeli lives, not to embitter Palestinian ones, even if they end up doing both. Surely that’s part of all the news that’s fit to print.


EU falls for Palestinian protection racket (& Will anyone speak up for the chickens?)

May 25, 2006

CONTENTS

1. Just how dangerous is Iraq?
2. Da Vinci update: Now Albinos complain
3. Will anyone speak up for the chickens?
4. Targeted assassinations continue
5. Dahlan said to be ultimate Hamas target
6. A humanitarian gesture
7. Guardian anti-Semitism watch
8. BBC as anti-Israel as ever
9. In universities and cafes and on the bus
10. Florida teen’s death called “gift from Allah”
11. Protection racket
12. Israel seizes more explosives at sea
13. Hamas planning 9/11-style attack on Tel Aviv skyscrapers
14. Israeli General skips UK trip over arrest fears
15. Sharon to go to long-term care



[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch contains a variety of short items and observations on different matters.

JUST HOW DANGEROUS IS IRAQ?

Congressional Representative Steve King of Iowa this week offered some interesting figures on Iraq. According to Mr. King, the violent death rate in Iraq is 25.71 per 100,000 people per year. That may sound high, but not when you compare it to places like Colombia (61.7), South Africa (49.6), Jamaica (32.4) and Venezuela (31.6).

Challenging King’s figures, opponents of the Iraq war say the death rate in Iraq is in fact 31.03 per 100,000 – a higher rate but still considerably lower than many U.S. cities. New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina was 53.1. FBI statistics for 2004-05 put Washington at 45.9, Baltimore at 37.7 and Atlanta at 34.9.

DA VINCI UPDATE: NOW ALBINOS COMPLAIN

Not only Arab states, some Christians and most film critics are unhappy about the “The Da Vinci Code.”

The Associated Press reports that:

“Albinos are bothered that one of their own has yet again been depicted as a villain…

“Michael McGowan, an albino who heads the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation, in the U.S., said ‘The Da Vinci Code’ will be the 68th movie since 1960 to feature an evil albino.

“Silas is just the latest in a long string,” McGowan said. “The problem is there has been no balance. There are no realistic, sympathetic or heroic characters with albinism that you can find in movies or popular culture.”

(For more, see: www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12820726/, and “Da Vinci Code” movie banned by Egypt, Lebanon, Syria & Jordan (May 16, 2006).)

WILL ANYONE SPEAK UP FOR THE CHICKENS?

Among the victims of the ongoing (but virtually unreported by most western media) Katyusha rocket attacks fired from the Gaza Strip were 30 chickens that were blown to bits when a chicken coop in the farming community of Nativ Haasara in southern Israel was hit last week.

Fortunately, no human was killed or injured even though the Grad-type Katyusha Rocket carried six kilograms (13 pounds) of explosives.

But also of note is the lack of concern shown about the incident by PETA, a leading animal rights group. PETA infamously complained to Yasser Arafat about his Fatah group using donkeys to carry suicide bombs when one donkey blew up, but when asked by journalists, refused to condemn Arafat for killing Jews with those same bombs.

Please see the dispatch of Feb. 24, 2003, titled Donkeys more important than Israelis, suggests animal rights group.

PETA’s letter to Arafat can be found here: www.peta.org/feat/arafat/

TARGETED ASSASSINATIONS CONTINUE

Senior Hamas and Fatah “military” chiefs continue to be targeted for assassination in Gaza: several have been killed in recent days, along with civilian bystanders, by masked gunmen and roadside bombs. Those carrying out the assassinations are Fatah and Hamas.

When Israel killed some Hamas terrorists, this prompted worldwide outrage. Among those at the forefront of lambasting Israel was UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the European Union’s “foreign policy chief” Javier Solana, and former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. This time, there is virtual silence by the international community.

DAHLAN SAID TO BE ULTIMATE HAMAS TARGET

Fatah chief Mohammed Dahlan is believed to have become the leading target for Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian security sources said Hamas has been steadily moving toward the elimination of Dahlan in its campaign to control the Gaza Strip. The sources said Hamas has assessed that killing or driving Dahlan into exile would terminate the Fatah threat to them.

“Dahlan, with U.S. money, controls about 3,500 armed, equipped and trained fighters,” a security source said. “He’s the only one Hamas fears.” Hamas’s ally, the Popular Resistance Committees, has threatened Dahlan with assassination. So far, Hamas’s attacks have targeted Dahlan’s allies.

A HUMANITARIAN GESTURE

When the Palestinian Authority Intelligence Chief, Tareq Abu Rajab, an ally of President Mahmoud Abbas, was seriously wounded by a Hamas bomb packed with metal pellets at his headquarters on Saturday, he was transferred to Tel Aviv for medical treatment, where Israeli doctors have saved his life.

Abu Rajab remains at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, the same hospital where so many suicide bomb victims, including Danny Wultz, have died. That virtually no media outside Israel have reported on this is surprising.

GUARDIAN ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH

The Guardian’s much-touted blog “Comment Is Free” continues to allow itself to be used as a platform for anti-Semites to air their views.

Last week, for example, the following comment remained on The Guardian website for more than a day after repeated complaints by British Jews:

“There is no ‘global outcry’ because the global media is controlled by International Jewry... Jewish money has seen to it that the Israeli point of view is the dominant one... The Jews by their own grasping, cantankerous, uncompromising, dishonest nature will be the reason for their own destruction in Palestine.”

The Guardian’s reporting is bad enough as it is, with its constant inaccuracies and skewered stories, without now inviting readers of what is supposedly not a racist newspaper, to spread their hate.

British journalist (and subscriber to this email list) Stephen Pollard says some in Britain have dubbed The Guardian’s “Comment Is Free” blog, one of Britain’s most read blogs, “Anti-Semitism is welcome.”

The Guardian’s slanders against Israel, and some would say Jews, is unrelenting. Last week, a writer in The Guardian again compared Rachel Corrie to Anne Frank.

BBC AS ANTI-ISRAEL AS EVER

Following on from the dispatch “The BBC pro-Israeli? Is the Pope Jewish?” (& American teen Danny Wultz dies), May 15, 2006, it looks as if the BBC’s new chief Israel correspondent, Caroline Hawley, may not be that much better than her predecessors, Orla Guerin and Barbara Plett.

In her report on May 23, she questioned why the Israeli army had arrested its most wanted terrorist, Hamas “military” chief in the West Bank Ibrahim Hamad, after years of trying to locate him:

“Hamas has not carried out any suicide attacks for 15 months and Israeli military operations in the past few months have focused instead on the militant Islamic Jihad group, which has been responsible for most of the recent bombs.”

IN UNIVERSITIES AND CAFES AND ON THE BUS

Perhaps for Hawley it’s difficult to understand why Israel would want to arrest a man they have been after for years, who is behind the mass murder of Israeli citizens.

As I pointed out previously, the BBC this month triumphantly reported that its world service radio audience has now risen to 163 million worldwide. Tens of millions of others watch its various TV networks and read its online reporting.

Here, for Hawley’s benefit and for BBC listeners and viewers, are some of the crimes which Hamad, 41, is accused of masterminding (some of which he boasted about organizing):

* The murder of nine people (including five Americans) in a suicide attack in the cafeteria of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in July 2002

* The March 2002 suicide bombing of the Moment coffee shop in Jerusalem, in which 12 young Israelis including the waitresses were killed

* The attack on the Sheffield pool hall in Rishon Lezion in May 2002, which killed 16 people

* The double suicide bombing and simultaneous car bombing in central Jerusalem in 2001, in which 11 people were killed and dozens injured

* The double suicide bombing in September 2003, which killed a total of 17 people at the Hillel Cafe in Jerusalem’s German Colony, and at the Tsrifin junction

Hamad has boasted of his part in organizing the murder of dozens of civilians. That is why he has been arrested. Hawley might also have told her audience that the Israelis managed to locate Hamad in a building just yards from Mahmoud Abbas’s Ramallah HQ. Could it be that now that Hamas has turned its guns on Fatah, Abbas gave him up?

For more on Hawley, who says her “romantic memories of camels in deserts and starry nights” when she grew up in Oman, inspired her to study Arabic and Islamic studies at Oxford University, see the dispatch “Possibly the most maligned country on the planet is in the news again” (March 16, 2006).

FLORIDA TEEN’S DEATH CALLED “GIFT FROM ALLAH”

The death of Daniel Wultz, the Florida teenager critically injured in the Tel Aviv suicide bomb last month, who died last week, has been welcomed as a “gift from Allah” by Abu Nasser, a leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. He said he was especially happy when American Jews died.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades was set up by Yasser Arafat after he launched his Intifada. Much of its weaponry was bought with European Union aid money.

PROTECTION RACKET

Last week, in a leaflet issued in the Gaza Strip, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threatened to strike at European interests if the European Union didn’t give their parent party, Fatah, more money – a day later several European diplomats indeed called on the EU to rush another bundle of European taxpayers’ money to Fatah-related “non-government” organizations.

Only last week, yet another senior Palestinian official – Fuad Hejazi Muhammad Shubaki, from Gaza, admitted that international funds transferred to the PA were used to finance arms purchases. Shubaki, who was in charge of finances for the PA General Security service, said that from 2000 onwards, Arafat personally ordered him to use international aid money to purchase large quantities of weapons for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

Instead of just continuing to give Palestinian gunmen money, could not the EU condition offer of future aid upon guns and rockets being handed in by Palestinians, in return?

Yesterday, Fatah and Hamas gunmen were engaged in a shootout at Gaza’s Shifa hospital. But most western media failed to report this and instead showed patients in Palestinian hospitals in an effort to try convince viewers that there are somehow more sick people in Gaza hospitals than hospitals elsewhere in the world.

ISRAEL SEIZES MORE EXPLOSIVES AT SEA

While the Palestinian Authority continues to tell gullible CNN journalists that they have no money, Israel continues to try and intercept the large quantities of weapons being smuggled into Gaza.

Last Sunday, for the second time in a week, the Israeli navy intercepted a shipment of explosives heading to Gaza. Again, the incident began when Israeli seamen spotted a Palestinian vessel crossing the Israeli-declared “no-sail zone” off the southern Gaza coast and into Egyptian waters. When the same vessel returned to the zone sailing in the direction of the Gaza coast, it was ordered by the Israeli navy to stop. Following the firing of warning shots and a sea-chase during which bags were thrown overboard, the boat was seized and searched. Several hundred pounds of high-grade explosives and parts of mines were discovered.

HAMAS PLANNING 9/11-STYLE ATTACK ON TEL AVIV SKYSCRAPERS

Abu Abdullah, a leader of Hamas’ military wing, has threatened to attack Israel using small airplanes containing explosives to be flown into important targets in Israel. Palestinian security officials believe Hamas recently smuggled three small airplanes into the Gaza Strip.

Abdullah said: “The goal is to have these planes carry maximum quantities of explosives and that they will be able to hit the targets that are fixed for its operation at a high level of accuracy… We will choose precious targets and I do not want to speak about strategic or any other targets... We know that the enemy is building new and high buildings in Tel Aviv.”

ISRAELI GENERAL SKIPS UK TRIP OVER ARREST FEARS

Agence France Presse reports that the Israeli Army has scrapped plans to send one of its generals on a course at a British military academy over fears he could be arrested on war-crime allegations. General Aviv Kohavi, commander of the division which protects southern Israel from ongoing Palestinian rocket fire, had been due to attend the prestigious Sandhurst Royal Academy.

Last September, a retired Israeli soldier, Doron Almog, refused to leave a plane at London’s Heathrow airport after learning a warrant had been issued for his arrest over his time commanding troops in Gaza.

Almog was due to give a talk in Britain about a charitable project he is involved with in the Negev that helps Israeli Jews and Arabs with severe mental and physical disabilities. (Almog’s own child is severely disabled.) For more, see Islamic militant Hizb ut-Tahrir infiltrates Reuters (& Prince Harry apologizes) (Sept. 15, 2005).

INCREDIBLE DOUBLE STANDARDS

In March of this year, Major-General Salah Abdullah Gosh, the man accused of being one of the main instigators of the ongoing genocide in Darfur, visited Britain. The British Foreign Office, then headed by Jack Straw, granted him a visa despite UN sanctions against Sudan. During his stay Gosh received “medical treatment,” and also met with unnamed British government officials.

During the last week, over 300 people, almost all Afghans, have been killed in heavy fighting in Afghanistan. British troops were involved in the assault, which included British apache attack gunships. Is Britain also going to arrest its own military commanders for “war crimes”?

SHARON TO GO TO LONG-TERM CARE

Ariel Sharon is to be moved to a long-term care facility next week. The Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv reports that doctors believe there is no chance that the former Israeli prime minister, who was felled by a stroke in January, will regain consciousness.

Sharon is expected to be moved from the intensive care unit at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem to a coma ward at Shiba Hospital in Tel Hashomer. The Knesset Finance Committee last week approved state funding for the next five years of Sharon’s hospital treatment.

-- Tom Gross

Matthias Goering Goes Kosher (& Film shows suffering of Jews Britain sent to Outback)

May 24, 2006

* “Holocost” rap duo conquers Paris
* Suffering of Jewish scientists deported by Britain to Australia in appalling conditions n 1940 revealed by new film, news reports, despite still being under embargo by Britain’s Official Secrets Act until 2040
* German Pope to visit Auschwitz on Sunday

 

CONTENTS

1. A German Pope goes to Auschwitz
2. “They think I’ve got a screw loose”
3. The darker side of Britain’s fight against Nazi Germany
4. In Italy, separation fence compared to Auschwitz
5. “Ala. Democrats scramble to bounce Shoah denier from primary ballot” (Forward, May 19, 2006)
6. “Film shows suffering of Jews Britain sent to Outback exile” (Daily Telegraph, May 17, 2006)
7. “Matthias Goering goes kosher” (Der Spiegel, May 10, 2006)
8. “Yad Vashem for renaming Auschwitz” (Associated Press, May 11, 2006)
9. “A German pope’s duty at Auschwitz” (International Herald Tribune, May 12, 2006)
10. “Italy: Holocaust cartoon stirs row” (Yediot Ahronot, May 14, 2006)
11. “Nazis ‘shipped arms to Palestinians’” (Yediot Ahronot, May 7, 2006)
12 “BBC to make Nazi trial epic” (The Guardian, May 8, 2006)
13. “‘Holocost’ rap duo conquers Paris” (Yediot Ahronot, May 15, 2006)
14. “‘More than 3000 Mountain Jews were killed by Armenians during 1918-1919’” (Today. AZ, April 21, 2006)
15. “Armenians believe that Jews made Turks and Armenians hostile” (Journal of Turkish Weekly, May 17, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

A GERMAN POPE GOES TO AUSCHWITZ

Tomorrow Pope Benedict XVI begins a four-day tour of Poland, his first since the German cardinal, a former Hitler Youth, acceded to the papacy. On Sunday he will visit Auschwitz after paying homage to the nearby birthplace of John Paul II, who died in April of last year. John Paul II visited the former death camp on his first visit to Poland as pope in 1979. Writing in the International Herald Tribune (article below) Timothy W. Ryback says: “If he was able to speak as a German to the dead Waffen SS soldiers in La Cambe two years ago, let’s hope Benedict XVI can do the same for Germany’s victims at Auschwitz.”

A church official said yesterday that Benedict will now walk into the Auschwitz death camp, dropping plans to enter by car, in order to honor the camp’s inmates, who also had to enter on foot. The pope had planned to drive under the infamous words “Arbeit macht Frei” – Work Sets You Free – in his popemobile, before the Polish organizers pointed out to him that Nazi commanders and troops drove through the gate in cars, while the inmates were forced to walk.

“THEY THINK I’VE GOT A SCREW LOOSE”

Partly to mark this occasion, I attach a series of articles relating to the Holocaust. Of particular interest may be the interview with Matthias Goering, a descendant of Hermann Goering, Adolf Hitler’s right-hand man. After 44 years of “despising Jews” Matthias Goering, a 49-year-old physiotherapist, has become “a full-on Israel lover.” He wears a skullcap, keeps kosher, celebrates the Jewish Sabbath, is learning Hebrew and is even considering converting to Judaism.

Goering, who now volunteers to work with the Israeli victims of suicide bombings, admits his family thinks he has “got a screw loose.”

Goering is not the only Nazi descendent to feel drawn to Israel. Katrin Himmler, the great-niece of SS commander Heinrich Himmler, is married to an Israeli. Last year she published a book denouncing her uncle’s war crimes.

THE DARKER SIDE OF BRITAIN’S FIGHT AGAINST NAZI GERMANY

The second article below concerns the horror experienced by Jewish and anti-Nazi outcasts shipped to the Australian Outback by the British Government during the war. It has been documented in a new Australian film that highlights the darker side of Britain’s fight against Nazi Germany. The filmmakers say the episode is well known in Australia, but in the UK it is still under embargo by Britain’s Official Secrets Act until 2040.

The 2,500 internees, including many scientists, academics and artists who had fled to Britain from Nazi Austria and Germany, were dispatched by ship from Liverpool in July 1940 on the orders of Winston Churchill.

They endured appalling conditions. According to the (London) Daily Telegraph, “They were stripped of their personal possessions, including documents and false teeth, many of which were thrown away [by the British troops guarding them]. They were beaten and insulted as ‘Jewish swine’ and forced to sleep on floors awash with human waste.”

“Their arrival in Australia was seen as the greatest injection of talent to enter Australia on a single vessel,” according to the Daily Telegraph. After the war most stayed in Australia, only a handful returned to Britain.

IN ITALY, SEPARATION FENCE COMPARED TO AUSCHWITZ

Other articles in this dispatch report on how the Italian Communist Party is refusing to apologize for an anti-Semitic caricature that shows Israel’s separation fence with a welcome sign paraphrasing Auschwitz’s “Work Liberates,” how French rappers are misusing the Holocaust, and new records that reveal greater collaboration than previously thought between Palestinian Arab nationalists and the Nazis.

ON TURKS, ARMENIANS AND BLAMING THE JEWS

On a separate note, I also attach a report: “More than 3000 Mountain Jews were killed by Armenians during 1918-1919,” and an anti-Semitic text in this week’s Turkish Weekly, falsely charging “that the Jews encouraged the Ottoman Turks to commit genocide against Armenians.”

There are summaries first for those who don’t have time to read the articles in full.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR ALABAMA ATTORNEY GENERAL EXPOSED AS A HOLOCAUST DENIER

“Ala. Democrats scramble to bounce Shoah denier from primary ballot” (By Jennifer Siegel, Forward, May 19, 2006, www.forward.com/articles/7814; Summary only)

A Democratic Party candidate for Alabama’s attorney general’s office has been exposed as a Holocaust denier less than a month before the state’s June 6 primaries. Larry Darby believes that there were no more than 140,000 Jewish deaths during World War II – most of them having been brought on by typhus – and that the historically accepted figure of 6 million killed is a lie promoted by the “Holocaust industry,” The Associated Press reported last week.

The revelation about Darby has sent the state’s Democratic Party scrambling to keep him out of the two-way primary, which also includes Mobile County’s district attorney, John Tyson Jr… Darby, a self-described Dixiecrat, reportedly favors the imposition of martial law to stop illegal emigration from Mexico. “Someone needs to speak up for the white man,” he told the Decatur Daily News. “It’s been a long time since someone took up that bat and took a swing for the white man.”

He also said that Alabama should recall its National Guard troops from Iraq because “they are fighting for Israeli interests and not for Alabama or United States interests.”

Although Darby’s antisemitism did not draw widespread attention until last week, the candidate was previously involved with prominent Holocaust deniers. One of them is David Irving, to whom he played host at a meeting last July…

Last weekend, Darby traveled to Elmwood Park, N.J., to attend a meeting of the New Jersey unit of the National Vanguard, including David Duke…

 

“THE GREATEST INJECTION OF TALENT TO ENTER AUSTRALIA ON A SINGLE VESSEL”

“Film shows suffering of Jews Britain sent to Outback exile” (By Kate Connolly, The Daily Telegraph, U.K., May 17, 2006)

The horror experienced by Jewish and anti-Nazi outcasts shipped to the Australian Outback by the British Government during the war has been documented in a new film that highlights the darker side of Britain’s fight against Nazi Germany.

The men, mainly scientists, academics and artists who had fled to Britain from Nazi Austria and Germany at the outbreak of the war, were considered a security threat after the fall of France. On the orders of Winston Churchill, they were dispatched from Liverpool on the Hired Military Transport ship Dunera in July 1940.

Their arrival in Australia – after a 57-day journey in appalling conditions – was seen as the greatest injection of talent to enter Australia on a single vessel.

They were taken to a detention camp in the Outback, where they set up an impromptu university to pass the time… Among the passengers were Franz Stampfl, the athletics coach to the four-minute-mile runner Roger Bannister, Wolf Klaphake, the inventor of synthetic camphor, and the photographer Henry Talbot.

… Watched over by 309 poorly trained British soldiers, the men endured horrendous conditions. They were stripped of their personal possessions, including documents and false teeth, many of which were thrown overboard. They were beaten and insulted as “Jewish swine” and forced to sleep below deck on floors awash with human waste. The hatches and portholes were battened shut…

Klaus Wilcynski, 86, author of The Prison Ship, recalled being told to walk on the deck in bare feet. “Soldiers had smashed beer bottles so people cut their feet.”…

 

MATTHIAS GOERING GOES KOSHER

“Matthias Goering goes kosher” (By Ruth Elkins, Der Spiegel, May 10, 2006)

Growing up with the name Goering wasn’t easy for the descendents of Hitler’s right-hand man Hermann Goering. One of them has now discovered a love for Israeli wine – and is considering converting to Judaism…

… Even so, it is very odd to be having lunch in a Jewish restaurant with a direct descendent of Adolf Hitler’s right-hand man. Matthias Goering, though, couldn’t be happier here. After 44 years of “despising Jews” and suffering the curse of his family name, the 49-year-old physiotherapist has become a full-on Israel lover. He wears a kippa, keeps kosher, celebrates Shabbat, is learning Hebrew and is even considering converting. His family thinks he has gone mad.

“They think I’ve got a screw loose,” grins the man who now works with the victims of suicide bombings. “But I know what has happened to me is completely and utterly real.”

Despite only having a distant tie to the Nazi Luftwaffe Chief – Matthias’s great grandfather’s brother was Hermann Goering’s grandfather’s brother...

Matthias Goering, with his bright blue eyes and Star of David necklace, is not the only Nazi descendent to feel drawn to Israel. Katrin Himmler, the great-niece of Heinrich Himmler, published a book last year exploring the SS commander’s war crimes and asking the question: What does it mean to be a Himmler? She married an Israeli, saying “it was as if we were predestined to meet.” Her book, “The Brothers Himmler”, is the latest in a flourishing genre in Germany of Nazi descendents trying to come to terms with the curse of their family histories…

Beate Niemann, daughter of feared SS Major Bruno Sattler, made a prize-winning film, “The Good Father” which documented her hopeless search for a man she could be proud of. Instead, she found herself seeking apologies from Jewish camp survivors in Eastern Europe after discovering her father was a mass murderer who ordered the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews. Monika Goeth, daughter of Amon Goeth – the Plaszow Concentration camp commandant who would randomly shoot Jewish laborers from his villa balcony – has also spent years seeking rapprochement with those who survived her father’s crimes. “I am completely drawn to Judaism,” she said last year on the 60th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. “Jews were the real heroes and I feel nothing but contempt for those who still idolize the Nazis.”

… “My parents seemed to have to lose any religious belief they had after the war,” says Goering. “When the other school children had religious instruction, my siblings and I were forced to sit alone out in the corridor.” Money was tight. “Our parents would always say to us: ‘you can’t have that, because all our money’s gone to the Jews,’” he says. “They became a symbol of everything we couldn’t have.”…

Goering now wants to write a book on his experiences. “The Israelis are so friendly to me,” he says. Even when they find out your name? “Yes, they say they’re so thankful I’ve made contact,” says Goering. “I used to feel cursed by having the name Goering,” he smiles. “Now I feel blessed.”

 

YAD VASHEM SUPPORTS POLAND’S BID TO RENAME AUSCHWITZ

“Yad Vashem for renaming Auschwitz” (The Associated Press, May 11, 2006; summary only, for space reasons)

Yad Vashem supports Poland in its attempt to officially rename Auschwitz to emphasize that German Nazis ran the death camp, but has asked for an additional change, the director of the Israeli Holocaust memorial said. Poland’s government requested in March that UNESCO change the official name of Auschwitz on its world heritage registry from “Auschwitz Concentration Camp” to “Former Nazi German Concentration Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.”

Foreign media sometime refer to Auschwitz – a death camp located in occupied Poland where Nazi Germany killed more than 1 million people – as a “Polish concentration camp.” Such phrasing deeply wounds sensitivities in Poland, which was subjected to a brutal occupation by Adolf Hitler’s forces.

Avner Shalev, Yad Vashem’s director general, said his group supports Poland’s wish to see Nazi German guilt emphasized in the name, but also wants the word “extermination” added to underline that Adolf Hitler’s regime sought to wipe out European Jewry.

“You can’t skip the word ‘extermination,’” Shalev told The Associated Press during a visit to Warsaw. “This is important from the point of view of historical objectivity. Birkenau was the largest death camp that served as a major tool of the Final Solution. It was an industry and its purpose was the murder of the Jews in Europe until the very last person.”

… The matter would be decided at an annual gathering of member states this July in Vilnius, Lithuania.

 

A GERMAN POPE’S DUTY AT AUSCHWITZ

“A German pope’s duty at Auschwitz” (By Timothy W. Ryback, The International Herald Tribune, May 12, 2006)

Pope Benedict XVI will visit Auschwitz on his scheduled trip to Poland later this month. This will be his second Auschwitz visit. In 1979, when Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich, he accompanied Pope John Paul II to the former Nazi death camp, where they celebrated Holy Communion.

“It was a moving idea and a moving moment to look across these horrific fields of death in which four million human beings lost their lives, and to experience the resurrection as the only true and only adequate response,” he told a group of German priests afterward. There was no talk of personal remorse, no mention of German guilt. It was a singularly Catholic experience…

When Benedict XVI returns to Auschwitz [next week], a quarter century after his last visit, he will arrive not only as the leader of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics, but also as the most prominent moral spokesman for 80 million Germans. It will be an opportunity rich in symbolic and moral potential: a former Hitler Youth passing through the gates of a former Nazi death camp as one of the world’s leading spiritual authorities…

Let’s hope Benedict XVI brings his full moral authority, his eloquence and his insight, to help us better understand the historical and moral responsibilities of the German people 60 years after the Holocaust. If he was able to speak as a German to the dead Waffen SS soldiers in La Cambe two years ago, let’s hope he can do the same for Germany’s victims at Auschwitz this spring.

 

ANTI-SEMITIC CARICATURE PUBLISHED BY ITALIAN COMMUNIST PARTY

“Italy: Holocaust cartoon stirs row” (By Yossi Bar, Yediot Ahronot, May 14, 2006)

An anti-Semitic cartoon which appeared Friday in Liberzione, the journal of the Italian Communist Party, stirred a row among Italian Jews, the Israeli Embassy and parliament members.

The journal of the Rifondazione Communista party, set to be part of the coalition that will form the Italian government, published an anti-Semitic caricature showing the separation fence with a gate bearing the sign “Hunger Liberates,” similar to the welcome sign at the entrance to the Auschwitz extermination camp, which read “Work Liberates.”…

… However, Italian Lower Chamber Speaker Fausto Bertinotti, leader of the Communist party, as well as other party members, did not apologize and failed to even respond to the cartoon publication.

 

“ARABS ADMIRE OUR FUHRER”

“Nazis ‘shipped arms to Palestinians’” (By Yaakov Lappin, Yediot Ahronot, May 7, 2006)

Historical documents in Britain’s National Archives in London show that Nazi Germany attempted to ship arms to Palestinian forces in the 1930s.

A British Foreign Office report from 1939 reports of “news of a consignment of arms from Germany, sent via Turkey and addressed to Ibn Saud (king of Saudi Arabia), but really intended for the Palestine insurgents.” Britain’s chief military officer in Mandatory Palestine also noted reports “regarding import of German arms at intervals for some years now.”…

One Nazi agent, Adam Vollhardt, arrived in Palestine in July 1938, and was reported to have gained strong influence with Arab leaders, meeting with Palestinian leaders throughout 1938. Vollhardt held several meetings with leading Arab politicians and told them “that the Palestine question would be settled to the satisfaction of the Arabs within a few weeks,” adding that “it would be fatal to their (Palestinians’) cause if at this juncture they showed any signs of weakness or exhaustion.”…

German documents photographed and sent to Whitehall by an American spy revealed that in 1937, German officials had calculated that “Palestine under Arab rule would… become one of the few countries where we could count on a strong sympathy for the new Germany.”

“The Palestinian Arabs show on all levels a great sympathy for the new Germany and its Fuhrer, a sympathy whose value is particularly high as it is based on a purely ideological foundation,” a Nazi official in Palestine wrote in a letter to Berlin in 1937.

… The records also show that the news of increased Nazi-Arab cooperation panicked the British government, and caused it to cancel a plan in 1938 to bring to Palestine 20,000 German Jewish refugees, half of them children, facing danger from the Nazis…

 

BBC TO SCREEN “EPIC” DOCUDRAMA OF NUREMBERG TRIALS

“BBC to make Nazi trial epic” (By Leigh Holmwood, The Guardian, May 8, 2006)

The BBC is to mark the 60th anniversary of the trial of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg by screening an “epic” docudrama series telling the behind-the-scenes story. The Nuremberg Trial – Inside the Nazi Mind, which will be made in partnership with Discovery, will be based on trial transcripts and new sources unearthed by the production team.

… The docudrama will be the BBC’s major historical series this year and follows previous landmark programmes such as last year’s six-part history of the Auschwitz concentration camp and Nazis – a Warning from History.

 

“HOLOCOST” RAP DUO CONQUERS PARIS

“‘Holocost’ rap duo conquers Paris” (By Sefi Hendler, Yediot Ahronot, May 15, 2006)

A French rap duo calling themselves “Holocost” caused a stir in Paris recently after they pasted promotional posters up around the city announcing the release of their new album. The black posters with the word “Holocost” printed in yellow and an image of an automatic weapon were seen throughout the French city and its suburbs.

… The lyrics of Holocost’s songs express severe social criticism directed chiefly towards French society. In one of their songs they sings, “When the police come to my ghetto, it’s an Intifada, Palestine.” The album, which was released in mid-April, was well received in the rap community according to reviews in online rap websites and blogs.

… Saban noted that the suburban rap scene has also seen anti-Semitic songs in the past. “There was a rap song called ‘Screw the Jews’ a year or two ago. There was an investigation launched, but the clip was anonymous and no band took responsibility for it,” Saban said. Prominent figures in the Jewish community in Paris said that they have no intention of protesting the musical group. “Why should we give them free publicity?” they explained.

 

“MORE THAN 3000 MOUNTAIN JEWS WERE KILLED BY ARMENIANS DURING 1918-1919”

“‘More than 3000 Mountain Jews were killed by Armenians during 1918-1919’” (By Rovshan Mustafayev, Today.AZ, April 21, 2006)

… Semen Ikhiilov, Head of Mountain Jews’ community, writes to the Human Rights Institute of the National Academy of Science: “In 1980s I discovered unknown facts regarding to mass killings of Jews during the period of Azerbaijanis’ genocide in 1918-1919. According to the witnesses and some documents, together with Azerbaijanis more than 3000 Jews were killed. For the moment we identified 87 names. Each year on March 31st, on the day of Azerbaijanis’ genocide of 1918-1919, special requiem prayers for 87 killed Jewish children, women and men are being read in the synagogues. We continue the researches of other places of mass burial in the regions of our Motherland, Azerbaijan. This letter is accompanied with the list of victims, who were killed by monsters on 19th Iyar, 5679, in Guba city,” the letter says…

After we received the message from Jewish community the experts group was created for working with archives. We discovered this mass killings were committed by group headed by Amazasp under Stepan Shaumian’s command…

There will be a statue erected by Mountain Jews in memory of the victims and the names will be written there. That’s why the complete identification is needed…

 

“JEWS ENCOURAGED THE OTTOMAN TURKS TO COMMIT GENOCIDE AGAINST ARMENIANS”

“Armenians believe that Jews made Turks and Armenians hostile” (The Journal of Turkish Weekly, May 17, 2006, www.turkishweekly.net/news.php?id=31932
Summary Only.)

… Turkish journalist Mrs. Ece Temelkuran’s interviews from Armenia continue in Turkish daily Milliyet newspaper. In today’s part (17 May 2006) Turkish journalist Ece Temelkuran met with Arsak Sarkisyan:

Sarkisyan argues that the Jews encouraged the Ottoman Turks to commit genocide against Armenians. Sarkisyan continues: “Talat Pasha was a Jewish. They made Turks and Armenians hostile. Turks would not have committed genocide. But all of the Jon Turks (Young Turks) were Jewish”.



FULL ARTICLES

FILM SHOWS SUFFERING OF JEWS BRITAIN SENT TO OUTBACK EXILE

Film shows suffering of Jews Britain sent to Outback exile
By Kate Connolly
Daily Telegraph, U.K.
May 17, 2006

The horror experienced by Jewish and anti-Nazi outcasts shipped to the Australian Outback by the British Government during the war has been documented in a new film that highlights the darker side of Britain’s fight against Nazi Germany.

The men, mainly scientists, academics and artists who had fled to Britain from Nazi Austria and Germany at the outbreak of the war, were considered a security threat after the fall of France.

On the orders of Winston Churchill, they were dispatched from Liverpool on the Hired Military Transport (HMT) ship Dunera in July 1940.

Their arrival in Australia – after a 57-day journey in appalling conditions – was seen as the greatest injection of talent to enter Australia on a single vessel.

They were taken to a detention camp in the Outback, where they set up an impromptu university to pass the time.

Among the passengers were Franz Stampfl, the athletics coach to the four-minute-mile runner Roger Bannister, Wolf Klaphake, the inventor of synthetic camphor, and the photographer Henry Talbot.

John Burgan, 44, the director of Friendly Enemy Alien, which premiered in Berlin this week, said he made the film to illustrate that, while refugees are often seen as a burden, they contribute a lot to the countries in which they settle.

“Refugees are invariably unwanted and unloved when they arrive, but being at the bottom of the heap they knuckle down and make the best of the chance they’ve been given, to become an asset to their adopted country,” said Mr Burgan.

“Nowhere is that better illustrated than with the story of the Dunera boys, many of whom had lost everything in the Holocaust. They made the best of what they had.”

When the overcrowded Dunera set sail from Liverpool, its 2,500 internees were told they were bound for Canada.

Watched over by 309 poorly trained British soldiers, the men endured horrendous conditions. They were stripped of their personal possessions, including documents and false teeth, many of which were thrown overboard. They were beaten and insulted as “Jewish swine” and forced to sleep below deck on floors awash with human waste. The hatches and portholes were battened shut.

“There was so little air that to get the job of peeling potatoes on deck was seen as a life-saver,” said Walter Kaufmann, 82, a Jewish refugee now living in Berlin whose book Touching Time details the Dunera experience.

Klaus Wilcynski, 86, author of The Prison Ship, recalled being told to walk on the deck in bare feet. “Soldiers had smashed beer bottles so people cut their feet.”

Mr Burgan said the story was well-known in Australia. But it is still under embargo by Britain’s Official Secrets Act until 2040.

The medical army officer Alan Frost, who was the first Australian to go on board when the Dunera docked at Sydney’s Darling Harbour, was appalled by the conditions.

His report led to the court martial of the officer-in-charge, Lt Colonel William Scott.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, the men were reclassified as “friendly aliens”, and hundreds were recruited into the Australian army. After the war most stayed in Australia. Only a handful returned to Britain and several to East Germany.

 

“I HAD TO GO TO ISRAEL”

Matthias Goering goes kosher
By Ruth Elkins
Der Spiegel
May 10, 2006

service.spiegel.de/cache/international/0,1518,415430,00.html

Growing up with the name Goering wasn’t easy for the descendents of Hitler’s right-hand man Hermann Goering. One of them has now discovered a love for Israeli wine – and is considering converting to Judaism.

Mr. Goering is determined to discover the origin of the wine we’re drinking. The waiter, an old man with snow white hair and a dark blue kippa, toddles over and says: “It’s from a small vineyard near Haifa, Sir.” Goering leans back in his chair, satisfied. “Ah, Israeli wine,” he sighs, “Perfect.”

That’s Matthias Goering, not Hermann. Even so, it is very odd to be having lunch in a Jewish restaurant with a direct descendent of Adolf Hitler’s right-hand man. Matthias Goering, though, couldn’t be happier here. After 44 years of “despising Jews” and suffering the curse of his family name, the 49-year-old physiotherapist has become a full-on Israel lover. He wears a kippa, keeps kosher, celebrates Shabbat, is learning Hebrew and is even considering converting. His family thinks he has gone mad.

“They think I’ve got a screw loose,” grins the man who now works with the victims of suicide bombings. “But I know what has happened to me is completely and utterly real.”

Despite only having a distant tie to the Nazi Luftwaffe Chief – Matthias’s great grandfather’s brother was Hermann Goering’s grandfather’s brother – his own branch of the Goerings suffered after the fall of the Third Reich. “It wasn’t the happiest of childhoods,” he says. “The Goering name meant my siblings and I were bullied mercilessly.”

“I had to go to Israel”

After leaving home at 18 to join the circus, Goering eventually carved out a normal life. He became a physiotherapist, married and had a son. Life was good. But it didn’t last.

By 2000, Goering’s Swiss physiotherapy practice had gone bankrupt and his wife had left him, taking their son with her. Broke and lonely, Goering was close to suicide. For the first time in his life he prayed. “I told God, ‘if you really exist, I need your help. Not in two weeks, right now. If you help me I’ll do whatever you want.’” A few minutes later, Goering’s phone rang. It was physiotherapy practice near Zurich offering him job. “I couldn’t believe it,” says Goering. “I spent the next couple of years popping into every church I saw to say thank you”.

Two years later came a second sign. “I awoke at dawn and God told me: ‘I want you to guard the gates of Jerusalem,’” says Goering. “I said, ‘hang on, you know my name, I think you’ve got the wrong man’. But he said, ‘no, you.’ I knew then,” he says, “I had to go to Israel.”

Matthias Goering, with his bright blue eyes and Star of David necklace, is not the only Nazi descendent to feel drawn to Israel.

Katrin Himmler, the great-niece of Heinrich Himmler, published a book last year exploring the SS commander’s war crimes and asking the question: What does it mean to be a Himmler? She married an Israeli, saying “it was as if we were predestined to meet.” Her book, “The Brothers Himmler”, is the latest in a flourishing genre in Germany of Nazi descendents trying to come to terms with the curse of their family histories.

Propelled by guilt

Beate Niemann, daughter of feared SS Major Bruno Sattler, made a prize-winning film, “The Good Father” which documented her hopeless search for a man she could be proud of. Instead, she found herself seeking apologies from Jewish camp survivors in Eastern Europe after discovering her father was a mass murderer who ordered the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews. Monika Goeth, daughter of Amon Goeth – the Plaszow Concentration camp commandant who would randomly shoot Jewish laborers from his villa balcony – has also spent years seeking rapprochement with those who survived her father’s crimes. “I am completely drawn to Judaism,” she said last year on the 60th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. “Jews were the real heroes and I feel nothing but contempt for those who still idolize the Nazis.”

Such personal expeditions into the soul of a nation attempting to deal with war guilt appear a natural reflex; a simple exercise in quashing guilt feelings by embracing the culture of the Nazi’s victims. But Matthias Goering believes his religious conversion is more than that.

“I don’t feel any guilt, myself,” he says. “There is a spiritual guilt in our family, guilt in the German nation and it is our responsibility to declare it openly. I think God is taking this opportunity to use my name to change something in the hearts of others.”

But as Matthias tucks into his Kosher Schwarma and shows off his orange anti-disengagement bracelet protesting Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories (the Hebrew inscription reads: “Jews don’t evict Jews”), one can’t help but wonder whether part of his enthusiasm for Jewish life is connected with a deep yearning for a place in a community, away from Germany and his family’s Nazi past, to call home.

Before the war, the Goerings were an affluent, tight-knit family. Hermann Goering’s extravagant lifestyle was legendary. His luxury villas, hand-made uniforms and looted art gave him the most raffish image of the Nazi elite. But after the Third Reich’s collapse, the money and security vanished. The Goering name was in tatters. “The family lost touch with each other. It was every man for himself,” says Goering.

Feeling blessed to be a Goering

Matthias’s father, Ernst Wilhelm Goering, a military doctor, was a prisoner of war in the Soviet Union after the war. When he returned to Germany he set up a surgery near Heidelberg. “Then a 14-year-old boy my father was treating for bulimia died,” sighs Goering. The town started a witch hunt. “They said: you’ve killed him, just like your family killed the Jews.” Ernst Wilhelm was sent back to jail.

“My parents seemed to have to lose any religious belief they had after the war,” says Goering. “When the other school children had religious instruction, my siblings and I were forced to sit alone out in the corridor.” Money was tight. “Our parents would always say to us: ‘you can’t have that, because all our money’s gone to the Jews,’” he says. “They became a symbol of everything we couldn’t have.”

“Certainly guilt is a big motivating factor,” says Dr. Sara Savage, social psychologist at Cambridge University who has researched extensively into the psychology of religious conversion. “But there is also a recognized psychological phenomenon whereby ‘outsiders’ yearn to be associated with a ‘winning group’ in society.”

Back in Basel’s Topas Jewish restaurant Matthias Goering is telling me about the beauty of the Golan Heights. “The warmth of the sun is heavenly,” he sighs, “you can pick fresh mangoes and dates off the trees. It’s wonderful”. Would he ever move to Israel? “I would go tomorrow if I could,” he says. “It feels like home.”

Goering now wants to write a book on his experiences. “The Israelis are so friendly to me.” he says. Even when they find out your name? “Yes, they say they’re so thankful I’ve made contact,” says Goering. “I used to feel cursed by having the name Goering,” he smiles. “Now I feel blessed.”

 

A GERMAN POPE’S DUTY AT AUSCHWITZ

A German pope’s duty at Auschwitz
By Timothy W. Ryback
The International Herald Tribune
May 12, 2006

www.iht.com/articles/2006/05/12/opinion/edryback.php

The Vatican recently announced that Pope Benedict XVI will visit Auschwitz on his scheduled trip to Poland later this month. This will be his second Auschwitz visit. In 1979, when Joseph Ratzinger was archbishop of Munich, he accompanied Pope John Paul II to the former Nazi death camp, where they celebrated Holy Communion.

“It was a moving idea and a moving moment to look across these horrific fields of death in which four million human beings lost their lives, and to experience the resurrection as the only true and only adequate response,” he told a group of German priests afterward. There was no talk of personal remorse, no mention of German guilt. It was a singularly Catholic experience.

When Benedict attended the 60th anniversary commemoration two years ago of the D-Day landings in Normandy, he cast aside his Vatican identity to bare his German soul. The day before he appeared with Queen Elizabeth II, Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroder and George W. Bush for the official events on the beach at Arromanches, he visited a German military cemetery at La Cambe, where 21,000 German soldiers are buried, among them several hundred former members of the notorious Waffen SS, some of whom participated in the massacre of hundreds of men, women and children in the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane.

“As Germans we cannot help but be moved to realize that their idealism and their duty to the state was misused by an unjust government,” Benedict said of the war dead at La Cambe. He expressed regret that the Germanic virtue of obedience – Pflicht – had been exploited and misused by the Nazis, and said that this did nothing to diminish their honor or service to the Fatherland.

As with Auschwitz, there was no talk of personal culpability, not a word about German guilt. “They simply tried to do their duty – even during times of terrible self-doubt, and inner conflict,” he said, noting that it was not his place to judge the dead of La Cambe “into whose conscience only God can see.”

Last year, when Ratzinger became the Vatican’s first German pontiff in several centuries, there was much talk about “God’s Rottweiler,” the “Panzer Cardinal” and Ratzinger’s brief stint as a German soldier and a Hitler Youth. Since then, the sniping has ceased. Benedict XVI has shown himself to be a pontiff who embraces the global community of Roman Catholics, transcending national identity and political borders with his eloquence, intelligence and compassion. He set the tone for his papacy earlier this year with the opening words of his first encyclical letter: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him”

Later this month, however, when Benedict XVI returns to Auschwitz, a quarter century after his last visit, he will arrive not only as the leader of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics, but also as the most prominent moral spokesman for 80 million Germans. It will be an opportunity rich in symbolic and moral potential: a former Hitler Youth passing through the gates of a former Nazi death camp as one of the world’s leading spiritual authorities.

One hopes that Benedict will use this moment the way, for example, that Chancellor Willy Brandt did in 1970 when he fell to his knees, speechless with remorse, before the monument to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, or the way President Richard von Weizsacker did in 1985 when he marked the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II with a landmark speech about the Germans’ collective responsibility to their past. “All of us, whether guilty or innocent, whether young or old, must accept the past,” Weizsacker said. “We are all affected by its consequences and are liable for it.”

Let’s hope Benedict XVI brings his full moral authority, his eloquence and his insight, to help us better understand the historical and moral responsibilities of the German people 60 years after the Holocaust. If he was able to speak as a German to the dead Waffen SS soldiers in La Cambe two years ago, let’s hope he can do the same for Germany’s victims at Auschwitz this spring.

(Timothy W. Ryback codirects the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation at the Salzburg Seminar.)

 

ITALY: HOLOCAUST CARTOON STIRS ROW

Italy: Holocaust cartoon stirs row
Anti-Semitic caricature published by Italian Communist Party shows separation fence with welcome sign paraphrasing Auschwitz’s ‘Work Liberates’
By Yossi Bar
Yediot Ahronot
May 14, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3250556,00.html

An anti-Semitic cartoon which appeared Friday in Liberzione, the journal of the Italian Communist Party, stirred a row among Italian Jews, the Israeli Embassy and parliament members.

The journal of the Rifondazione Communista party, set to be part of the coalition that will form the Italian government, published an anti-Semitic caricature showing the separation fence with a gate bearing the sign “Hunger Liberates,” similar to the welcome sign at the entrance to the Auschwitz extermination camp, which read “Work Liberates.”

Yasha Reibman, spokesman of Milan’s Jewish community, told Yediot Ahronot that the cartoon publication was a very severe act and demanded that the newspaper editor be dismissed immediately in a bid to prove that the stances presented by the journal do not represent the stances of the party it represents.

Israeli Ambassador to Rome Ehud Gol said in response that the anti-Semitic cartoon was shameful and humiliating and that he plans to respond to it harshly.

Parliament members from the democratic Left in Italy also slammed the cartoon.

However, Italian Lower Chamber Speaker Fausto Bertinotti, leader of the Communist party, as well as other party members, did not apologize and failed to even respond to the cartoon publication.

 

NAZIS “SHIPPED ARMS TO PALESTINIANS”

Nazis ‘shipped arms to Palestinians’
British National Archives unveil presence of Nazi S.S. agents in Mandatory Palestine, working closely with Palestinian leaders
By Yaakov Lappin
Yediot Ahronot
May 7, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3248081,00.html

Historical documents in Britain’s National Archives in London show that Nazi Germany attempted to ship arms to Palestinian forces in the 1930s.

A British Foreign Office report from 1939 reports of “news of a consignment of arms from Germany, sent via Turkey and addressed to Ibn Saud (king of Saudi Arabia), but really intended for the Palestine insurgents.” Britain’s chief military officer in Mandatory Palestine also noted reports “regarding import of German arms at intervals for some years now.”

British documents from the same period, and German records photographed by an American spy and sent to the British government, said that a number of Nazi agents were sent to Mandatory Palestine, in order to forge alliances with Palestinian leaders, and urge them to reject a partition of the land between the Jewish and Arab populations.

One Nazi agent, Adam Vollhardt, arrived in Palestine in July 1938, and was reported to have gained strong influence with Arab leaders, meeting with Palestinian leaders throughout 1938. Vollhardt held several meetings with leading Arab politicians and told them “that the Palestine question would be settled to the satisfaction of the Arabs within a few weeks,” adding that “it would be fatal to their (Palestinians’) cause if at this juncture they showed any signs of weakness or exhaustion.”

“Germany was interested in the settlement of the (Palestine) question on the basis of the Arabs obtaining their full demands,” Vollhardt was reported to say to Palestinian leaders, according to a report by the British War Office. Vollhardt also assured Arab leaders that “the Germans could continue to support the Palestinian Arab cause by means of propaganda.”

German documents photographed and sent to Whitehall by an American spy revealed that in 1937, German officials had calculated that “Palestine under Arab rule would… become one of the few countries where we could count on a strong sympathy for the new Germany.”

‘Arabs admire our Fuhrer’

“The Palestinian Arabs show on all levels a great sympathy for the new Germany and its Fuhrer, a sympathy whose value is particularly high as it is based on a purely ideological foundation,” a Nazi official in Palestine wrote in a letter to Berlin in 1937. He added: “Most important for the sympathies which Arabs now feel towards Germany is their admiration for our Fuhrer, especially during the unrests, I often had an opportunity to see how far these sympathies extend. When faced with a dangerous behaviour of an Arab mass, when one said that one was German, this was already generally a free pass.”

A second Nazi agent, Dr. Franz Reichart, was reported to be actively working with Palestinian Arabs by the British Criminal Investigation Division “to help coordinate Arab and German propaganda.” Reichart was also head of the German Telegraphic Agency in Jerusalem.

German records show that the Nazis viewed the establishment of a Jewish state with great concern. A 1937 report from German General Consulate in Palestine said: “The formation of a Jewish state… is not in Germany’s interest because a (Jewish) Palestinian state would create additional national power bases for international Jewry such as for example the Vatican State for political Catholicism or Moscow for the Communists. Therefore, there is a German interest in strengthening the Arabs as a counter weight against such possible power growth of the Jews.”

Jewish refugees abandoned

The records also show that the news of increased Nazi-Arab cooperation panicked the British government, and caused it to cancel a plan in 1938 to bring to Palestine 20,000 German Jewish refugees, half of them children, facing danger from the Nazis.

Documents show that after deciding that the move would upset Arab opinion, Britain decided to abandon the Jewish refugees to their fate.

“His Majesty’s Government asked His Majesty’s Representatives in Cairo, Baghdad and Jeddah whether so far as they could judge, feelings in Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia against the admission of, say 5,000 Jewish children for adoption… would be so strong as to lead to a refusal to send representatives to the London discussions. All three replies were strongly against the proposal, which was not proceeded with,” a Foreign Office report said.

“If war were to break out, no trouble that the Jews could occasion us, in Palestine or elsewhere, could weigh for a moment against the importance of winning Muslim opinion to our side,” Britain’s Minister for Coordination of Defence, Lord Chatfield, told the British cabinet in 1939, shortly before Britain reversed its decision to partition its mandate, promising instead all of the land to the Palestinian Arabs.

 

BBC TO MAKE NAZI TRIAL EPIC ON 60TH ANNIVERSARY OF NUREMBERG

BBC to make Nazi trial epic
By Leigh Holmwood
The Guardian
May 8, 2006

The BBC is to mark the 60th anniversary of the trial of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg by screening an “epic” docudrama series telling the behind-the-scenes story.

The Nuremberg Trial – Inside the Nazi Mind, which will be made in partnership with Discovery, will be based on trial transcripts and new sources unearthed by the production team.

Executive producer John Farren said the series, which will air on BBC2 later in the year, had been “thoroughly researched” and would provide “gripping” television.

“This will be a dialogue-driven and actor-led drama documentary series,” he said.

Series producer Detlef Siebert said: “This series offers a unique chance to delve into the minds of the Nazi leadership.

“Rather than relying on the trial transcripts alone, we have unearthed a large number of other sources, which uncover what was going on behind the scenes of the trial.

“We can show what top Nazis like Goering, Speer or Hess revealed during their interrogations or in confidential conversations with psychologists or their co-defendants.”

The docudrama will be the BBC’s major historical series this year and follows previous landmark programmes such as last year’s six-part history of the Auschwitz concentration camp and Nazis – a Warning from History.

 

“HOLOCOST” RAP DUO CONQUERS PARIS

‘Holocost’ rap duo conquers Paris
New Parisian rap duo chooses particularly provocative name; black and yellow posters reading ‘Holocost’ in large print pasted around city advertise album release. Rappers - African and Cambodian immigrants – say: Our people undergoing holocaust too
By Sefi Hendler
Yediot Ahronot
May 15, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3250983,00.html

A French rap duo calling themselves “Holocost” caused a stir in Paris recently after they pasted promotional posters up around the city announcing the release of their new album. The black posters with the word “Holocost” printed in yellow and an image of an automatic weapon were seen throughout the French city and its suburbs.

The rap album, called “L’Argent de la Brinks,” was produced by the record label Ghetto Fabulous, which represents independent artists. The two artists behind Holocost are Shone, an immigrant to France from Burkina Faso, and KER, of Cambodian origin. Both the rappers are from Clichy/Montfermeil outside Paris, near the suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois where the race riots began last autumn.

On their website, the two explain why they chose the provocative name. “When we created ‘Holocost’…we wanted to find a name that makes you ask, why are they called that? There is a certain provocation, but it is to attract interest. ‘Holocost’ means to say the extermination of a race, agreed? We consider slavery as a manner of exterminating a race. We appropriated the term because we were also subjected to a holocaust, and there isn’t a separate expression for that.”

The lyrics of Holocost’s songs do not have an anti-Semitic bent, but rather express severe social criticism directed chiefly towards French society. In one of their songs they sings, “When the police come to my ghetto, it’s an Intifada, Palestine.”

The album, which was released in mid-April, was well received in the rap community according to reviews in online rap websites and blogs.

“The place of rap in suburban culture is extremely important,” Jewish French author Michael Saban, who writes about the subject, said Sunday. “It started as a copy of the American model and turned into the most significant voice today among residents of French suburbs. There is consistent attention to police, violence, prisons and immigrant’s problems.”

According to Saban, the name chosen by the rappers is not surprising. “It’s a phenomenon that has existed for a while in France, a sort of ‘contest’ of suffering and memory. You might say that they want their own holocaust, that it also be recognized.”

Saban noted that the suburban rap scene has also seen anti-Semitic songs in the past. “There was a rap song called ‘Screw the Jews’ a year or two ago. There was an investigation launched, but the clip was anonymous and no band took responsibility for it,” Saban said.

Prominent figures in the Jewish community in Paris said that they have no intention of protesting the musical group. “Why should we give them free publicity?” they explained.

 

“MORE THAN 3000 MOUNTAIN JEWS WERE KILLED BY ARMENIANS DURING 1918-1919”

“More than 3000 Mountain Jews were killed by Armenians during 1918-1919”
By Rovshan Mustafayev
Today. AZ
April 21, 2006

www.today.az/news/politics/25410.html

Day.Az presents exclusive interview with Rovshan Mustafayev, the Director of the Human Rights Institute of the National Academy of Science.

– Mr Mustafayev, the facts of Jews’ genocide committed by Armenians in Guba region were announced today within a framework of round table organized by you. Tell our readers what was the point of origin for such researches?

– Recently the representatives of Mountain Jews community appealed to our Institute and told us about tragic events which took place during 1918-1919 in Guba city. According to them during those years there were mass killings of Mountain Jews committed by Armenian bandits.

Semen Ikhiilov, Head of Mountain Jews’ community, writes to the Human Rights Institute of the National Academy of Science: “In 1980s I discovered unknown facts regarding to mass killings of Jews during the period of Azerbaijanis’ genocide in 1918-1919. According to the witnesses and some documents, together with Azerbaijanis more than 3000 Jews were killed. For the moment we identified 87 names. Each year on March 31st, on the day of Azerbaijanis’ genocide of 1918-1919, special requiem prayers for 87 killed Jewish children, women and men are being read in the synagogues. We continue the researches of other places of mass burial in the regions of our Motherland, Azerbaijan. This letter is accompanied with the list of victims, who were killed by monsters on 19th Iyar, 5679, in Guba city,” the letter says.

Moreover, you can find in archives facts that during those times the Jewish problem was presented as the Tat problem, without a national identity. That’s why it was a problem of genocide committed by Armenians against the Tat ethnic group of Azerbaijan.

After we received the message from Jewish community the experts group was created for working with archives. We discovered this mass killings were committed by group headed by Amazasp under Stepan Shaumian’s command.

All the materials were collected by scintillas. But even though the information content is not so wide we can still receive faithful image of murderous deeds committed by Armenians against Mountain Jews, Lezghins, Azerbaijanis during those years in Guba.

– But what was a reason of killing Mountain Jews by Armenians?

– Jews just rejected proposal to join the Dashnak’s brigade against the Muslim population and tried to prevent a bloodshed. But Jewish envoy was brutally killed by the Amazasp’s brigade and the mass killings were started.

– How many persons killed by Armenians thugs were identified?

– For the moment we were able to identify 87 names. Moreover, we have numerous reports from Mountain Jews about their relatives being killed by Armenians and we are working on them.

There will be a statue erected by Mountain Jews in memory of the victims and the names will be written there. That’s why the complete identification is needed.

– And how those killings of Mountain Jews were committed by Armenians?

– How? And how the mass killings were committed during the Holocaust, in Babiy Yar, Hojaly, Hatyn...? Recently we received a letter from the Azerbaijan’s Georgian Jews Community offering their help in restoring historical truth.


“Much of Europe prefers a traditional Muslim woman who keeps her mouth shut”

May 22, 2006

CONTENTS

1. Important stories from Amsterdam, Boston, Pakistan and Riyadh
2. “The Netherlands & much of Europe prefer a traditional Muslim woman who keeps her mouth shut”
3. Saudi schoolbooks still contain messages “to fight the Jews”
4. Osama bin Laden warns those who would “interfere with [Saudi] school curricula”
5. “Dutch Courage” (Wall Street Journal Europe, May 21, 2006)
6. “This is a Saudi textbook” (Washington Post, May 21, 2006)
7. “Muslim reformer still a target” (Boston Globe, May 17, 2006)
8. “Rescued – the Pakistan children seized by Islamist slave traders” (Sunday Times of London, May 21, 2006)


IMPORTANT STORIES FROM AMSTERDAM, BOSTON, PAKISTAN AND RIYADH

[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch contains four significant and interesting stories about radical Islam and its spread across the globe. With the exception of the third piece, from the Washington Post about unchanged Saudi schoolbooks, they are unconnected to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

I attach these pieces because finally at least some articles are appearing in mainstream western media about the true cause of Islamic terrorism: radical Islam. (Most media, such as the BBC and The NY Times-owned International Herald Tribune continue on an almost daily to sell the lie that “western colonialism” or “poverty” are to blame.)

I believe it is a positive development that yesterday the (London) Sunday Times ran a piece about young Pakistani Christian children seized by Islamist slave traders. Buried among highly exaggerated reports of a supposed “humanitarian crisis” and “starvation” in the Gaza strip, at least one major mainstream media publication has finally run a report on the slave trade of Christian and other children. (Slavery is still widespread in several Muslim countries, not that you would know that if you only read the main headlines on CNN, The New York Times, and so on.) The depressing, shocking Sunday Times piece about children aged six to 12, is placed last below, because of its length.

“THE NETHERLANDS & MUCH OF EUROPE PREFER A TRADITIONAL MUSLIM WOMAN WHO KEEPS HER MOUTH SHUT”

Before that is an excellent editorial by Daniel Schwammenthal, a long-time subscriber to this email list, in The Wall Street Journal. (It was published in the U.S. on Saturday and in the Wall Street Journal Europe today.)

The Dutch treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has been living for years with death threats for her criticisms of radical Islam, including a five-page manifesto titled “Open Letter to Hirsi Ali” which was pinned to Theo Van Gogh’s chest by his murderer, should serve as a warning to us all.

Schwammenthal writes: “But in the end it was not her former coreligionists who have caused her to seek refuge in the U.S. It was rather the native-born citizens of her adopted country, the Netherlands, that drove her off. It is the role of Dutchmen that is most worthy of contempt in this tale.”

“Many of her countrymen would like nothing more than to believe that Ms. Hirsi Ali is leaving the Netherlands because she was caught in a lie. But this would be the biggest lie in this whole affair. The Somali-born politician is leaving – no, fleeing – her adopted homeland because the Netherlands and much of Europe prefer a traditional Muslim woman who keeps her mouth shut over one who objects to Islamic intolerance.

“Luckily she has found a country that doesn’t fear her willingness to criticize the religion into which she was born. While visiting the Netherlands last Thursday, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said the former Dutch legislator could come to the U.S. regardless of her status in the Netherlands.

“How can it be that this recognition, so self-evident to an American official just passing through, has escaped most of the Dutch? Nearly half of her countrymen want her stripped of her citizenship. They have succumbed to the dangerous illusion that if only she were to go away, all the problems of radical Islam would go away with her.

“Ms. Hirsi Ali might be the first, but won’t be the last, post-9/11 dissident to seek refuge in the land of the brave and the free. And so, any recovery of property prices in Ms. Hirsi Ali’s neighborhood will be short-lived. Where the defenders of democracy have to flee while the enemies of free society roam the streets, not only real estate is bound to become very cheap. So will be life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

SAUDI SCHOOL BOOKS STILL CONTAIN MESSAGES “TO FIGHT THE JEWS”

Another important article appeared yesterday in Sunday’s Washington Post. Nina Shea writes: “A review of a sample of official Saudi textbooks for Islamic studies used during the current academic year reveals that, despite the Saudi government’s statements to the contrary, an ideology of hatred toward Christians and Jews and Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine remains in this area of the public school system.”

Among the passages still in effect, sixth grade pupils are told “The Arabs and Muslims will emerge victorious, God willing, against the Jews… and fight a true jihad for God.”

Eighth graders are told: “The apes are Jews while the swine are the Christians, the infidels of the communion of Jesus… God told His Prophet, Muhammad, about the Jews… [They] obey the devil… They are the Jews, whom God has cursed and with whom He is so angry that He will never again be satisfied… The Jews worship the devil, not God.”

Scholars estimate that within the Saudi public school curriculum, Islamic studies make up to a third of students’ weekly classroom hours in lower and middle school, plus several hours each week in high school.

OSAMA BIN LADEN WARNS THOSE WHO WOULD “INTERFERE WITH [SAUDI] SCHOOL CURRICULA”

Educators who question or dissent from the official interpretation of Islam can face severe reprisals. Last November, for example, a Saudi teacher who made positive statements about Jews and the New Testament was fired and sentenced to 750 lashes and a prison term. (He was eventually pardoned after international protests. For more on this, see The real apartheid: Saudi teacher to be flogged for 15 weeks for praising Jews, Nov. 17, 2005.)

Education is at the core of the debate over freedom in the Muslim world. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden understands this well; in a recent audiotape he railed against those who would “interfere with school curricula.”

Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., announced recently: “The kingdom has reviewed all of its education practices and materials, and has removed any element that is inconsistent with the needs of a modern education. We have eliminated what might be perceived as intolerance from textbooks.” The Saudi government even took out a full-page ad in the New Republic to claim it has changed its school curricula.

As the Washington Post article makes clear, this is simply not true. The passages cited in the Post article are shaping the views of the next generation of Saudis and Muslims worldwide.

BOSTON MUSLIM REFORMER STILL A TARGET

The third piece below, by Jeff Jacoby in The Boston Globe, asks why Ahmed Mansour, the Islamic reformer who fled his native Egypt in 2001 after receiving death threats and, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, was granted political asylum in the U.S., is now being targeted by radical Islamists at the Islamic Society of Boston. And why, Jacoby wonders, did the Islamic Society of Boston, whose large new mosque is being helped along with some generous financial assistance by Boston city officials, have as one of its trustees Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a radical Islamist who praises suicide terrorism and endorses the killing of Americans in Iraq and of Jewish civilians in Israel?

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

“IT IS SELF-DECEIT TO IMAGINE THAT THESE ISSUES WILL DISAPPEAR”

Dutch Courage
A Muslim dissenter is no longer welcome in Holland.
By Daniel Schwammenthal
The Wall Street Journal Europe
May 21, 2006

America welcomed a victim of political and religious persecution this week. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been living for years with death threats for her criticisms of radical Islam. But in the end it was not her former coreligionists who have caused her to seek refuge in the U.S. It was rather the native-born citizens of her adopted country, the Netherlands, that drove her off. If the reader will forgive a little indulgence in the soft bigotry of low expectations, it is the role of her fellow Dutchmen that is most worthy of contempt in this tale.

Ms. Hirsi Ali first achieved international prominence when Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh was stabbed to death on an Amsterdam street in 2004. The killer pinned a five-page manifesto to his victim’s chest with the knife he’d used to kill him. The letter was titled “Open Letter to Hirsi Ali.”

Ms. Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born Dutch immigrant, a female member of the Dutch Parliament and an outspoken critic of Islam, particularly Islamic attitudes toward women. Ms. Hirsi Ali had scripted Van Gogh’s film “Submission,” on the mistreatment of Muslim women.

For making this film, Van Gogh was killed and, the letter from his killer explained, Ms. Hirsi Ali was condemned to “torture and agony.” Holy war against the U.S. and Europe was also threatened. Already under police protection since 2002 for having renounced her faith, Ms. Hirsi Ali had to go into hiding. For the second time in her life she became a refugee, this time in her adopted homeland.

Now she is being put on the run again, this time by the Dutch who have grown tired of protecting such an outspoken critic of Islamic extremism. Last month a Dutch judge ordered her out of her apartment. Her fellow tenants had argued that her presence endangered them and lowered their property values, in violation of their “human rights.” The judge agreed and ordered her evicted.

The final betrayal came last Monday when Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, from the supposedly liberal VVD party, told Ms. Hirsi Ali that she was no longer a Dutch citizen, or, to be more precise, never was one because she gained her citizenship with an incorrect name and date of birth. She had also already fled Somalia for Kenya when she applied for asylum in Holland. The funny thing is, Ms. Hirsi Ali admitted this years ago without prompting as much as a yawn from the authorities. But when a left-leaning state TV channel “exposed” these same facts nine days ago, in a report titled “The Holy Ayaan,” Ms. Verdonk declared Ms. Hirsi Ali – a fellow party member and lawmaker – non-Dutch.

Bibi de Vries, another VVD parliamentarian, warned that “if anything happens to Hirsi Ali, there will be people within the VVD with blood on their hands.” But Ms. Hirsi Ali does not plan to stick around long enough to prove Mr. de Vries correct. Last Tuesday, she announced that she would be moving to America, where the American Enterprise Institute has offered her a position as a fellow.

Many of her countrymen would like nothing more than to believe that Ayaan Hirsi Ali is leaving the Netherlands because she was caught in a lie. But this would be the biggest lie in this whole affair. The Somali-born politician is leaving – no, fleeing – her adopted homeland because the Netherlands and much of Europe prefer a traditional Muslim woman who keeps her mouth shut over one who objects to Islamic intolerance. Ms. Hirsi Ali could take the threats against her own life. But she could no longer take being abandoned by the Dutch simply for fighting for the values they taught her but now lack the courage to defend.

Luckily for Ms. Hirsi Ali, she has found a country that doesn’t fear her willingness to criticize the religion into which she was born. While visiting the Netherlands last Thursday, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick said the former Dutch legislator could come to the U.S. regardless of her status in the Netherlands. “We recognize that she is a very courageous and impressive woman, and she is welcome in the U.S.”

How can it be that this recognition, so self-evident to an American official just passing through, has escaped most of the Dutch? Nearly half of her countrymen want her stripped of her citizenship. They have succumbed to the dangerous illusion that if only she were to go away, all the problems of radical Islam would go away with her. Ms. Hirsi Ali offered a final warning on that score this week. “I am... preparing to leave Holland,” Ms. Hirsi Ali told reporters. “But the questions for our society remain. The future of Islam in our country, the subjugation of women in Islamic culture; the integration of the many Muslims in the West: It is self-deceit to imagine that these issues will disappear.”

There are striking parallels between the way many in Europe view the U.S. and the way the Dutch and many Europeans view Ms. Hirsi Ali. Outrage over September 11 soon gave way to a reversal of cause and effect. The victim, the U.S., was held responsible for the destruction it supposedly brought upon itself through its policies and provocation of Muslims. Similarly, solidarity with Ms. Hirsi Ali quickly changed to attacking Ms. Hirsi Ali for being too provocative. Government adviser Jan Schoonenboom accused Ms. Hirsi Ali of “Islam bashing,” a theme often repeated in the media.

Ms. Hirsi Ali might be the first, but won’t be the last, post-9/11 dissident to seek refuge in the land of the brave and the free. And so, any recovery of property prices in Ms. Hirsi Ali’s neighborhood will be short-lived. Where the defenders of democracy have to flee while the enemies of free society roam the streets, not only real estate is bound to become very cheap. So will be life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

(Mr. Schwammenthal is an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.)

 

“EDUCATION IS AT THE CORE OF THE DEBATE OVER FREEDOM IN THE MUSLIM WORLD”

This is a Saudi textbook. (After the intolerance was removed.)
By Nina Shea
The Washington Post
May 21, 2006

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/19/AR2006051901769.html

Saudi Arabia’s public schools have long been cited for demonizing the West as well as Christians, Jews and other “unbelievers.” But after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis – that was all supposed to change.

A 2004 Saudi royal study group recognized the need for reform after finding that the kingdom’s religious studies curriculum “encourages violence toward others, and misguides the pupils into believing that in order to safeguard their own religion, they must violently repress and even physically eliminate the ‘other.’” Since then, the Saudi government has claimed repeatedly that it has revised its educational texts.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, has worked aggressively to spread this message. “The kingdom has reviewed all of its education practices and materials, and has removed any element that is inconsistent with the needs of a modern education,” he said on a recent speaking tour to several U.S. cities. “Not only have we eliminated what might be perceived as intolerance from old textbooks that were in our system, we have implemented a comprehensive internal revision and modernization plan.” The Saudi government even took out a full-page ad in the New Republic last December to tout its success at “having modernized our school curricula to better prepare our children for the challenges of tomorrow.” A year ago, an embassy spokesman declared: “We have reviewed our educational curriculums. We have removed materials that are inciteful or intolerant towards people of other faiths.” The embassy is also distributing a 74-page review on curriculum reform to show that the textbooks have been moderated.

The problem is: These claims are not true.

A review of a sample of official Saudi textbooks for Islamic studies used during the current academic year reveals that, despite the Saudi government’s statements to the contrary, an ideology of hatred toward Christians and Jews and Muslims who do not follow Wahhabi doctrine remains in this area of the public school system. The texts teach a dualistic vision, dividing the world into true believers of Islam (the “monotheists”) and unbelievers (the “polytheists” and “infidels”).

This indoctrination begins in a first-grade text and is reinforced and expanded each year, culminating in a 12th-grade text instructing students that their religious obligation includes waging jihad against the infidel to “spread the faith.”

Freedom House knows this because Ali al-Ahmed, a Saudi dissident who runs the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs , gave us a dozen of the current, purportedly cleaned-up Saudi Ministry of Education religion textbooks. The copies he obtained were not provided by the government, but by teachers, administrators and families with children in Saudi schools, who slipped them out one by one.

Some of our sources are Shiites and Sunnis from non-Wahhabi traditions – people condemned as “polytheistic” or “deviant” or “bad” in these texts – others are simply frustrated that these books do so little to prepare young students for the modern world.

We then had the texts translated separately by two independent, fluent Arabic speakers.

Religion is the foundation of the Saudi state’s political ideology; it is also a key area of Saudi education in which students are taught the interpretation of Islam known as Wahhabism (a movement founded 250 years ago by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab) that is reflected in these textbooks.

Scholars estimate that within the Saudi public school curriculum, Islamic studies make up a quarter to a third of students’ weekly classroom hours in lower and middle school, plus several hours each week in high school. Educators who question or dissent from the official interpretation of Islam can face severe reprisals. In November 2005, a Saudi teacher who made positive statements about Jews and the New Testament was fired and sentenced to 750 lashes and a prison term. (He was eventually pardoned after public and international protests.)

The Saudi public school system totals 25,000 schools, educating about 5 million students. In addition, Saudi Arabia runs academies in 19 world capitals, including one outside Washington in Fairfax County, that use some of these same religious texts.

Saudi Arabia also distributes its religion texts worldwide to numerous Islamic schools and madrassas that it does not directly operate. Undeterred by Wahhabism’s historically fringe status, Saudi Arabia is trying to assert itself as the world’s authoritative voice on Islam – a sort of “Vatican” for Islam, as several Saudi officials have stated – and these textbooks are integral to this effort. As the report of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks observed, “Even in affluent countries, Saudi-funded Wahhabi schools are often the only Islamic schools” available.

Education is at the core of the debate over freedom in the Muslim world. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden understands this well; in a recent audiotape he railed against those who would “interfere with school curricula.”

The passages below – drawn from the same set of Saudi texts proudly cited in the new 74-page review of curriculum reform now being distributed by the Saudi Embassy – are shaping the views of the next generation of Saudis and Muslims worldwide. Unchanged, they will only harden and deepen hatred, intolerance and violence toward other faiths and cultures. Is this what Riyadh calls reform?

FIRST GRADE

“Every religion other than Islam is false.”

“Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire): Every religion other than ______________ is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters ____________.”

FOURTH GRADE

“True belief means... that you hate the polytheists and infidels but do not treat them unjustly.”

FIFTH GRADE

“Whoever obeys the Prophet and accepts the oneness of God cannot maintain a loyal friendship with those who oppose God and His Prophet, even if they are his closest relatives.”

“It is forbidden for a Muslim to be a loyal friend to someone who does not believe in God and His Prophet, or someone who fights the religion of Islam.”

“A Muslim, even if he lives far away, is your brother in religion. Someone who opposes God, even if he is your brother by family tie, is your enemy in religion.”

SIXTH GRADE

“Just as Muslims were successful in the past when they came together in a sincere endeavor to evict the Christian crusaders from Palestine, so will the Arabs and Muslims emerge victorious, God willing, against the Jews and their allies if they stand together and fight a true jihad for God, for this is within God’s power.”

EIGHTH GRADE

“As cited in Ibn Abbas: The apes are Jews, the people of the Sabbath; while the swine are the Christians, the infidels of the communion of Jesus.”

“God told His Prophet, Muhammad, about the Jews, who learned from parts of God’s book [the Torah and the Gospels] that God alone is worthy of worship. Despite this, they espouse falsehood through idol-worship, soothsaying, and sorcery. In doing so, they obey the devil. They prefer the people of falsehood to the people of the truth out of envy and hostility. This earns them condemnation and is a warning to us not to do as they did.”

“They are the Jews, whom God has cursed and with whom He is so angry that He will never again be satisfied [with them].”

“Some of the people of the Sabbath were punished by being turned into apes and swine. Some of them were made to worship the devil, and not God, through consecration, sacrifice, prayer, appeals for help, and other types of worship. Some of the Jews worship the devil. Likewise, some members of this nation worship the devil, and not God.”

“Activity: The student writes a composition on the danger of imitating the infidels.”

NINTH GRADE

“The clash between this [Muslim] community (umma) and the Jews and Christians has endured, and it will continue as long as God wills.”

“It is part of God’s wisdom that the struggle between the Muslim and the Jews should continue until the hour [of judgment].”

“Muslims will triumph because they are right. He who is right is always victorious, even if most people are against him.”

TENTH GRADE

The 10th-grade text on jurisprudence teaches that life for non-Muslims (as well as women, and, by implication, slaves) is worth a fraction of that of a “free Muslim male.” Blood money is retribution paid to the victim or the victim’s heirs for murder or injury:

“Blood money for a free infidel. [Its quantity] is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, whether or not he is ‘of the book’ or not ‘of the book’ (such as a pagan, Zoroastrian, etc.).

“Blood money for a woman: Half of the blood money for a man, in accordance with his religion. The blood money for a Muslim woman is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, and the blood money for an infidel woman is half of the blood money for a male infidel.”

ELEVENTH GRADE

“The greeting ‘Peace be upon you’ is specifically for believers. It cannot be said to others.”

“If one comes to a place where there is a mixture of Muslims and infidels, one should offer a greeting intended for the Muslims.”

“Do not yield to them [Christians and Jews] on a narrow road out of honor and respect.”

TWELFTH GRADE

“Jihad in the path of God – which consists of battling against unbelief, oppression, injustice, and those who perpetrate it – is the summit of Islam. This religion arose through jihad and through jihad was its banner raised high. It is one of the noblest acts, which brings one closer to God, and one of the most magnificent acts of obedience to God.”

(Nina Shea is director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House.)

 

BOSTON MUSLIM REFORMER STILL A TARGET

Muslim reformer still a target
By Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
May 17, 2006

When Ahmed Mansour learned a lawsuit had been filed against him by the Islamic Society of Boston, he had one urgent question: “Will they put me in jail?”

The answer was no – in America, people don’t go to prison for publicly expressing their views. But Mansour had good reason to worry. He had learned the hard way that Muslim reformers who speak out against Islamist fanaticism and religious dictatorship can indeed end up in prison – or worse. It had happened to him in his native Egypt, which he fled in 2001 after receiving death threats. He was grateful that the United States had granted him asylum, enabling him to go on promoting his vision of a progressive Islam in which human rights and democratic values would be protected. But would he now have to fight in America the same kind of persecution he experienced in Egypt?

Mansour is just one of many people and organizations being sued for defamation by the Islamic Society of Boston, which accuses them all of conspiring to deny freedom of worship to Boston-area Muslims. In fact, the defendants – who include journalists, a terrorism expert, and the founder of the American Anti-Slavery Group, plus the Episcopalian lay minister and the Jewish attorney who together with Mansour formed the interfaith Citizens for Peace and Tolerance in 2004 – appear to be guilty of nothing more than voicing concerns about the ISB’s construction of a large mosque in Roxbury.

Unsettling questions have been raised about the ISB and its mosque project. For example:

Why did city officials provide the land for the mosque for just $175,000, when the parcel was publicly valued at $400,000? And where did that $400,000 figure come from, when the land’s value had earlier been assessed at $2 million?

What is the Islamic Society’s relationship to Yusef al-Qaradawi, a radical Islamist who praises suicide terrorism and endorses the killing of Americans in Iraq? For several years the ISB listed him as a trustee, though now it says that was an “oversight.” Was it also an oversight when a videotaped message of support from Qaradawi, who is banned from the United States, was played at a fund-raiser in 2002?

When it was reported that another trustee, Walid Fitaihi, had written that Jews are “murderers of the prophets” who will be punished for “oppression, murder, and rape of the worshipers of Allah,” why did the ISB resist for seven months before unequivocally repudiating his words?

But if anything should raise eyebrows, it is the decision of the Islamic Society to pursue Mansour for his comments about the ISB at a press conference in 2004. He had gone to pray at the ISB’s current mosque in Cambridge, and described at the press conference what he had observed: “I am here to testify that this radical culture is here, inside this society,” he said. He had seen “Arabic-language newsletters filled with hatred against the United States.” Books and videos in the mosque’s library promoted “fanatical beliefs that insult other people’s religions.” A religious man, Mansour stressed that he was “not against the mosque.... I’m against extremists.”

If Mansour doesn’t have the expertise to form such opinions, it would be hard to say who does.

He holds three degrees from Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the foremost religious university in the Islamic world, where he was appointed a professor of Muslim history in 1980. He would probably be there still if his scholarship hadn’t gotten in the way. The deeper Mansour delved into the history of Islam, the clearer it became to him that the faith had been perverted into a “false doctrine of hate” – a doctrine that has been spread across much of the Muslim world and that has fueled great cruelty and bloodshed.

His mounting opposition to Wahhabist radicalism drew the wrath of the powerful Al-Azhar sheiks, who removed him from his classroom and tried him in a religious court. For two years, he says, he was pressured to recant. In 1987 he was fired. Then the Egyptian government imprisoned him for two months.

Undeterred, Mansour continued to write and speak out against radical Islam. He has authored 24 books and more than 500 articles, many of them denouncing as heretical any Muslim creeds that “persecute and kill peaceful humans and violate their human rights.” The real infidels, he has argued, are those who share “the traits of Osama bin Laden and his followers.” Before fleeing for his life, he worked with Egypt’s leading human-rights activists, promoting democratic values, funneling assistance to persecuted Christians, and advocating for the reform of religious education.

This is the Islamic Society of Boston’s idea of an anti-Muslim conspirator? Then what, one wonders, is its idea of Islam?

 

RESCUED – THE PAKISTANI CHRISTIAN CHILDREN SEIZED BY ISLAMIST SLAVE TRADERS

Rescued – the Pakistan children seized by Islamist slave traders
Hoax saves boys held for months
By Marie Colvin
The Sunday Times (of London)
May 21, 2006

The slave traders came for 10-year-old Akash Aziz as he played cops and robbers in his dusty village in eastern Punjab.

Akash, still in the maroon V-neck sweater and tie that he had worn to school that day, was a “robber”. But as he crouched behind a wall, waiting for the schoolfriend designated as the “cop” to find him, a large man with a turban and a beard grabbed him from behind and clamped a cloth over his nose and mouth before he could cry for help.

He recalls a strange smell and a choking sensation. “Then I fainted,” said Akash, a delicate little child from a loving family that takes pride in his enthusiasm for English lessons at school.

Akash woke up in a dark room with a bare brick floor and no windows. The heat was suffocating. As he languished there over the next month, 19 other panic-stricken boys were thrown into the room with him.

The children, all Christians, had fallen into the hands of Gul Khan, a wealthy Islamic militant and leading member of Jamaat-ud Daawa (JUD), a group linked to the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Khan lives near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, but when in the Punjab he stays at the JUD’s headquarters in Muridke, near Lahore, where young men can be seen practising martial arts with batons on rolling green lawns patrolled by guards with Kalashnikovs. Osama Bin Laden funded the centre in the late 1990s.

The JUD, which claims to help the poor, says that it has created a “pure Islamic environment” at Muridke that is superior to western “depravity”. Khan’s activities explode that myth. He planned to sell his young captives to the highest bidder, whether into domestic servitude or the sex trade. The boys knew only that they were for sale.

This is the story of the misery that Akash and his friends, aged six to 12, endured in captivity; of their rescue by Christian missionaries who bought their freedom and tried to expose the kidnappers; and of the children’s moving reunions with their loved ones who had believed they were dead.

Last week I had the privilege of taking six of the boys home to their families, including Akash. The astonishment of mothers and fathers who had given up hope and the fervent, tearful embraces made these some of the most intensely emotional scenes I have witnessed.

That joy was a long time coming. On the first day after his abduction, Akash was left in no doubt about the brutality of the regime he would endure.

“I drank from a glass of water and one of the kidnappers pushed me so hard I fell on the glass and it broke in my hands,” he said. His slender fingers still bear the scars. No more glass for him, he was told: he was fit to drink only from a tin cup.

The boys were ordered not to talk, pray or play. Five of them were playing a Pakistani equivalent of scissors, paper, stone one day when the guards burst in and beat them savagely on their backs and heads. On another occasion Akash was repeatedly struck by guards yelling “What is in your house?” “I kept telling them, ‘We have nothing’,” he said anxiously. “I was so afraid they would go back and rob my father and mother.” It is painful to imagine blows raining down on the ribs of so slight a figure.

The guards mostly sat outside playing cards, shaded from the 116F heat by a tree. But the boys were allowed out of their room only to use a filthy hole-in-the-ground lavatory. All they could see were high walls around the two-room building that was their prison. The other room was always locked.

The children were fed once a day on chapatis and dhal, but never enough. Akash slept huddled against the others on the floor and woke each morning a little more resigned to his fate.

“We just sat around the walls thinking,” Akash said. “We were remembering our homes and our mothers and fathers and hoping someone would rescue us. But nobody came.”

I first saw Akash in a photograph among those of 20 boys who were being touted for sale in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan on the Afghanistan border renowned as a smugglers’ paradise and home to fugitives of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. He was just another black market commodity along with guns, grenades and hashish.

Unbeknown to Akash, a Pakistani Christian missionary and an American evangelist who runs a tiny charity called Help Pakistani Children had seen the boys’ photographs and taken up their cause. Neither man is willing to be identified today for fear of the consequences.

An elaborate sting was conceived. The Pakistani missionary would pose as a Lahore businessman named Amir seeking boys to use as beggars who would give their cash to him.

The two men would also collect evidence that could be used in any police action against the kidnappers. “We knew if we just purchased the boys, the slavers would just restock. We would be fuelling the slave trade,” said the American evangelist, who asked to be referred to as “Brother David”.

They had no idea how hazardous their enterprise was until Amir used some black market contacts to engineer a meeting with Khan and discovered his links to the JUD. “We realised we were out of our depth,” Brother David said ruefully. But they persevered – and prayed a good deal.

Amir played his part well. Within a week he had bought three of the boys for $5,000 (£2,650) and put down a $2,500 deposit on the 17 others, including Akash.

The first three were handed over on a Quetta street in April and returned to their families. But Khan wanted $28,500 for the lot. He gave Amir two months to come up with the money, saying he did not mind if the deadline was missed: he could earn more if he sold them for their organs, he claimed.

Brother David went home to America to raise funds. Amir travelled again and again to Quetta, taking Khan to lunch as his bodyguards lounged outside in pickup trucks, their Kalashnikovs at the ready. He enlisted police officers who insisted that the eventual transaction be recorded with a secret camera so that the evidence against Khan would be irrefutable.

Twelve days ago Amir received a call from Khan summoning him to a meeting at a crossroads on a dirt road near the JUD’s Muridke camp.

There was no cover here, just newly harvested wheatfields and water buffalo wallowing in a pond. Six policemen dressed as labourers with the intention of alerting colleagues in cars concealed a mile away to arrest Khan once the cash had been exchanged for the children.

Amir and a young assistant waited for an hour at the crossroads before one of Khan’s men walked up and directed him to another location. The police had been wrong-footed.

Amir finally found his quarry under a large, shady tree where he was sitting on a rope bed while an acolyte massaged his shoulders. “You have the money?” Khan asked.

When Amir handed him the $28,500 cash in a black knapsack, he examined it briskly. Then, without explanation, he broke his promise to hand over the boys there and then.

“I will check the dollars are real first,” he said. “If your dollars are good, you will get the children.”

A second blow followed. Khan announced that he was going to take Amir’s assistant as hostage. If the money was real, he said, the children would be delivered in two hours. If it was counterfeit, the hostage would not be seen again.

It was a heart-stopping moment, not least because the young man posing as Amir’s bag carrier had hidden the secret camera under his shirt. Amir motioned him to the back of his car as if to retrieve something from the boot, and ripped the camera from his body.

The hostage was blindfolded and driven to a building where he was held alone in a room. “I was so praying that your money was good,” he later told Amir.

Another anxious wait ensued. The police were off the scene and the two hours passed with no word from the kidnappers. Nor was there any news the next day.

Finally, a call came through from Amir’s assistant in the dead of night. He had just been dropped off by the side of a road 15 minutes’ drive from JUD headquarters with the remaining 17 boys. They were afraid but alive, he declared. They were being taken to a shack nearby. I drove there immediately and found Akash asleep on a plastic mat surrounded by his 16 friends.

Their thin limbs were sprawled and their bodies curled against each other for comfort. One boy gripped the sleeve of another as he slept. They stank of urine.

As the children awoke, the bewilderment showed in their eyes. The first task of the missionaries was to reassure them but few seemed to believe Brother David when he said: “We will protect you. We will take you home to your mothers and fathers. The bad men who took you are gone.” Not one boy smiled. It had been too long since they had dared to hope.

Yet after a cold wash under an outdoor tap and a change into fresh clothes, preparations began for the first of the long car journeys back to their homes in remote Punjab villages. As the boys gradually warmed to their liberators, they talked a little about their ordeal.

Asif Anjed, 8, one of the smallest, had the biggest personality. But his concept of time was so childish that when I asked him how long it had been since he had seen his parents, he thought hard for a moment and said: “Six or seven years.” It had been five months.

Asif had retained a sense of outrage from the moment of his abduction. “They put me in a bag!” he kept saying indignantly. He picked out a bright orange T-shirt because he liked its bear logo, the symbol of a football team in Chicago.

Like Akash, Asif said he had lost consciousness when a man with a beard and turban put a rag over his mouth. He became indignant again when I asked whether he had tried to escape. “The men told us if we ran out of the door they would cut our throats,” he said.

Asif seemed to have few memories of home. “My friend was Bilal,” he said. He grew quiet when he realised he had forgotten what his mother looked like.

As if exhausted by the effort of trying to remember, he fell asleep across my lap during the 15-hour drive to his home in the desert of southern Punjab on the Indian border. As we drew near, the garrulous Asif looked solemn, perhaps not knowing quite what to expect. At a place where fertile green fields gave way to white desert sands, he pointed to his house at the end of a path across a stretch of wasteland.

His father, Amjed, must have seen him getting out of the car. He came running out of the house, barely able to believe that the boy walking hesitantly towards him in plastic sandals was his son. Then he flung out his arms, scooped up Asif and squeezed him against his chest.

Asif’s mother, Gazzala, came bustling down the path as fast as she could in her flowered salwar kameez, dragging his younger sister, Neha, by the hand.

She collapsed on her knees in front of Asif, her only other child, weeping and clutching him to her, the long months of anguish etched into the lines on her face.

Like any other boy of his age, Asif seemed embarrassed by these extreme displays of emotion, glowering as his mother clung to him for longer than he would have liked.

Both parents remembered every detail of the day their boy had failed to return home from school. Asif’s father manages a small chicken farm and usually collects him on a bicycle for the 3km ride. He still cannot forgive himself for staying home to work that day.

When Asif did not appear his father started a frantic search, stopping strangers on his bicycle to ask, “Have you seen my little boy?” In common with other families, Asif’s did not go to the police. “The police will only take interest if they are paid and we have nothing,” Amjed said.

“We thought someone had killed him,” his mother added, the tears streaming down her cheeks. “I couldn’t stop imagining that maybe they had broken his arms and legs.”

As the reality sank in, both parents began to smile. They looked at Asif in shock as he repeated his customary line – “they put me in a bag” – but were soon planning a family feast to celebrate. “It’s a miracle!” Amjed said.

Khan would also be shocked if he knew that his captives had not been sold into slavery. Their rescuers fear retribution and are also worried because the exposure of Khan has implications for the way religious extremist groups are treated in Pakistan. Even the police said the reach of such groups was too long for them to be dealt with in a straightforward way.

Why should it be so difficult to prosecute slave traders who cloak themselves in the garb of pious Muslims? For one thing, the JUD offers free medical care and education and won hearts and minds by providing blankets, tents and food after last year’s Kashmir earthquake. Few Pakistanis care to know how closely it is associated with Lashkar-i-Toiba, a group proscribed by Pakistan and Britain as a terrorist organisation that participated in an Al-Qaeda attempt to assassinate Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, in 2003.

There can be no denying Khan’s connections with the JUD. After he collected his $28,500, he was seen driving directly into its headquarters.

Brother David and Amir are ready to present their dossier of evidence, including the secret tape of Khan taking the money for the boys.

In almost any other country, an investigation into Khan and his work for the JUD would be automatic. It is not so simple in Pakistan. Musharraf has announced numerous crackdowns on the extremist religious militants but the extremists continue to gather strength.

The stories of these boys cry out for action. “The slavers must be stopped and brought to justice,” Brother David said. “I pray that a public outcry will arise in Pakistan and around the world that will put an end to their vile business.”

Akash, the first boy to be returned to his family, constitutes the strongest possible case for an end to child trafficking.

For the first few hours of the journey to his village, Akash sat on the edge of the back seat next to me. He rested his hands on the front seats, gazing out through the windscreen, answering any question with a monosyllable and flexing his fingers over and over again.

He recalled that his best friend was called Rashed – they played cricket together – but he could not remember the name of his school.

He shook as we approached his village. I thought he would collapse. Then came a quiet, uplifting moment that brought tears to my eyes.

The driver stopped by a canal to ask directions. Taking the initiative for the first time, Akash tentatively raised his arm, pointing down a narrow dirt road running with sewage.

He had not even reached the door of his house before his grandmother, wrapped in a colourful shawl, engulfed him in an embrace in the dirt alley outside, her face contorted with delight.

Akash’s mother was so strangely impassive that it made me angry until I realised she was too shocked to take in the fact that the son she had thought was dead was snuggling up to her. Finally, she hugged him, kissing him over and over again on the top of his head. “We were hopeless,” she said. “His father searched and searched. We prayed. But we thought he was gone.”

Akash had another surprise waiting for him at home: a two-month-old brother he had never seen.

Home at last, resting against his mother, he smiled broadly for the first time and, just a few hours after getting into a car for the first time, declared his ambition to become a pilot.


Israel to have its own baseball league (& Iran bars women from soccer matches)

May 19, 2006

* This is the third of three lighter, less political, dispatches this week. This one concerns sport. The other two deal with business and society; and media, music and entertainment.

 

CONTENTS

1. Plans afoot to create Israeli baseball league
2. American bus will be flag-free
3. World Cup 1, Politics 0
4. “Israel dreams big, as in big league” (New York Times, May 13, 2006)
5. “Israel tennis star Shahar Peer now ranked 32 in world” (Ha’aretz, May 15, 2006)
6. “Iranian women barred from matches” (AP, May 9, 2006)
7. “WC: United States team bus to show no flag” (AP, May 5, 2006)
8. “How our fans will see games on Nazi jail TV” (Sunday Mirror, May 14, 2006)
9. “Football-mad President may fall foul of Holocaust law” (Times, UK, May 4, 2006)
10. “In Mexico, World Cup overwhelms politics” (AP, May 7, 2006)
11. “Brazil wants Israelis to secure Pan American Games” (Yediot Ahronot, May 15, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

PLANS AFOOT TO CREATE ISRAELI BASEBALL LEAGUE

Larry Baras, the founder and operator of a specialty baking company in Boston, has an ambitious plan: to create an Israeli baseball league. Since Israel already has an amateur baseball league and three softball leagues, as well as youth leagues, there is speculation that Israel could well end up participating in the next World Baseball Classic in 2009. In the New York Times article (attached below) Baras explains his motivation for wanting to set up the league.

In another sign of progress for Israeli sport, Shahar Peer won her second WTA Tour title at the Prague (tennis) Open last weekend. As a result, Peer is now ranked 32 in the world and will be hoping to make an impact at one of the big Grand Slam tennis tournaments this year.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has reversed a decision by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to allow Iranian women to attend soccer matches. Iran’s Islamic law imposes stringent restrictions on women and Ahmadinejad’s decision, a month ago, to allow women into stadiums had provoked outrage among hard-line Shiite Muslim clerics who supported his election last year.

AMERICAN BUS WILL BE FLAG-FREE

With the 2006 soccer World Cup only three weeks away (kick off June 9, in Germany, after a four year wait), many in the world’s media are focusing on each and every detail of preparation for the eagerly-awaited tournament. I attach several articles on this.

The official bus for the U.S. soccer team will be the only team-bus not to bear a flag due to security concerns.

In a highly insensitive move, ticketless English soccer fans have been invited to watch the World Cup on giant TVs inside a former Nazi jail. Live games will be beamed to 1,500 fans in the 19th Century Tauberbischofsheim jail used by the Nazis to imprison rounded-up Jews before they were sent to Dachau concentration camp where they were murdered.

If Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends the World Cup, as he has said he might, perhaps he could join the English fans in the former Nazi jail to dispel his own doubts about the Holocaust.

Dr. Jurgen Ruttgers, the minister-president of North Rhine-Westphalia, has stressed that Ahmadinejad won’t be a welcome guest: “We don’t want anybody to create trouble. We want to have a nice and pleasant World Cup.” The official motto of the 2006 World Cup is “A Time To Make Friends.”

For more on FIFA, soccer’s governing body, please see Football killing fields: International soccer singles out Israel (April 11, 2006).

Fresh from leading Barcelona to victory over London club Arsenal in Wednesday’s European soccer championship final in Paris, international star Samuel Eto’o is to arrive in Israel next week on a goodwill mission that will include an exhibition match with Jewish and Arab players. Eto’o will be the guest of the (Shimon) Peres Center for Peace. It will be his first visit to Israel. During the three-day visit, Eto’o also plans to tour Jerusalem holy sites.

WORLD CUP 1, POLITICS 0

As a further illustration of the world-wide appeal of the World Cup, I also attach an article on Mexico whose presidential election, to be held on July 2, will be completely overshadowed by Mexico’s participation in the month-long soccer extravaganza, according to political analysts. Mexico’s first game, June 11, is against Iran.

The final article below reports that Brazil is seeking the aid of Israeli companies in providing security for the Pan-American Games, to be held in July 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. A previous dispatch titled EU body shelves report on anti-Semitism (Nov. 24, 2003), noted how Israel helped Greece to handle terror threats during the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

There are summaries first for those who don’t have time to read the articles in full.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

DREAMING OF A BIG LEAGUE

“Israel dreams big, as in big league” (By Murray Chass, New York Times, May 13, 2006)

People go to Israel for different reasons. Some go to see historic sites, some go for religious reasons, some go to visit their children and grandchildren. Larry Baras goes to Israel to build a professional baseball league…

The man has an ambitious plan, considering that baseball and Israel usually are not mentioned in the same sentence. But interest in the sport has been growing, and the country has an amateur baseball league and three softball leagues as well as youth leagues….

Given that Israel has no baseball stadiums, Baras’s project, especially its estimated time of arrival, may be unrealistic, but a former major league general manager likes the idea so much that he has joined as director of player development….

“We would recruit some Jewish-American major leaguers and minor leaguers,” Baras said. He noted that Mike Piazza played for Italy in this year’s inaugural classic and said, “They did it with a bit of a stretch. We don’t have that stretch. We have the law of return.”

Under that concept, any Jew is eligible to become a citizen of Israel. That means an Israeli team could include Kevin Youkilis, Gabe Kapler and Adam Stern of Boston, David Newhan of Baltimore, Shawn Green of Arizona, Brad Ausmus of Houston, Mike Lieberthal of Philadelphia, Jason Marquis of St. Louis, Scott Schoeneweis of Toronto, John Grabow of Pittsburgh and Scott Feldman of Texas…

[Among those he hopes will help are] Daniel Kurtzer, former United States ambassador to Israel, who is set to be the league’s commissioner, Andrew Zimbalist, the Smith College economist, and Marvin Goldklang, a limited partner in the Yankees and owner of five minor league teams…

 

ISRAEL TENNIS STAR SHAHAR PEER WINS PRAGUE OPEN

“Israel tennis star Shahar Peer ranked 32 in world after Prague win” (Ha’aretz, May 15, 2006)

Shahar Peer won her second WTA Tour title Sunday, rallying past Samantha Stosur of Australia 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to claim the Prague Open… The win earned Peer just under $23,000, along with 95 points, which will catapult her to No. 32 in the world…

 

IRANIAN WOMEN BARRED FROM ATTENDING SOCCER MATCHES

“Iranian women barred from matches” (The Associated Press, May 9, 2006)

Iran’s women will be barred from attending soccer games, a reversal by the president that comes a month before the national team plays in the World Cup.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ruled in April that he would allow women to go to soccer games and sit in a separate section of the stands, saying he wanted to “improve soccer-watching manners and promote a healthy atmosphere.”

But Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – who under the Islamic Republic’s constitution has the final say – opposed the move…

 

U.S. TEAM BUS AT WORLD CUP WILL NOT SHOW STARS AND STRIPES

“WC: United States team bus to show no flag” (The Associated Press, May 5, 2006)

The official team bus to be used by the United States during the World Cup will not bear a flag for security reasons. The 32 official buses were presented Thursday in Frankfurt and the other 31 buses have large national flags of the their teams painted on rear sides…

National teams use their buses to go from their hotels to practices, games and airports. They will have police escorts, and the Americans’ exhibition game at Dortmund on March 22 was used as a test of security plans… Officers of the U.S. State Department routinely travel with the U.S. team when it plays outside the United States.

 

U.K. SOCCER FANS TO WATCH CUP – FROM INSIDE A FORMER NAZI JAIL

“How our fans will see games on Nazi jail TV” (By Justin Penrose And John Bynorth, The Sunday Mirror, London, May 14, 2006)

English soccer fans are being invited to watch the World Cup... from inside a former Nazi jail. Live games will be beamed to 1,500 fans in the prison courtyard surrounded by barbed wire and searchlights. It will be the venue for hundreds of England fans who missed out on match tickets to watch games on giant screens.

The 19th Century Tauberbischofsheim jail was used by the Nazis to imprison rounded-up Jews before they were sent to Dachau concentration camp and killed…

The Tauberbischofsheim Town Council, thought up the fan camp idea after 5,000 people turned up to an all-day party in the prison to celebrate the town’s 1,250th anniversary last year…

Tauberbischofsheim used to have a 106-strong Jewish community. Of those, 49 survived by fleeing to the US before World War Two. Only six of the rest survived the Holocaust.

 

FOOTBALL-MAD PRESIDENT MAY FALL FOUL OF HOLOCAUST LAW

“Football-mad President may fall foul of Holocaust law” (By Roger Boyes, The Times of London, May 4, 2006)

Forget football hooligans. The thorniest dilemma facing Germany as it prepares to host the World Cup is what to do about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s hardline President, if he insists on coming to watch his team play next month.

Germany is obliged to admit the head of state of a participating nation, and the tournament’s official motto is “A Time To Make Friends”. But Mr Ahmadinejad has demanded Israel’s destruction and has repeatedly denied the Holocaust – a crime in Germany.

Iran’s first match is in Nuremberg, used by Hitler for his mass rallies, and German neo-Nazis are planning a march in support of Mr Ahmadinejad. Israel, Iranian exiles and German politicians are demanding he be kept away. “The question is whether Germany as host can prevent the visit of a head of state who has shown himself to be a repulsive and embarrassing anti-Semite,” Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, said…

 

IN MEXICO, WORLD CUP OVERWHELMS POLITICS

“In Mexico, World Cup overwhelms politics” (By Will Weissert, The Associated Press, May 7, 2006)

(Summary only)

World Cup 1, Politics 0. The world’s top soccer tournament begins June 9 in Germany, and that means Mexico’s presidential race – just like almost everything else in the country – will grind to a virtual halt for as long as the national team keeps winning.

“Soccer is first. The craziness surrounding soccer is second. Then there is the rest of the world,” said writer and social critic Carlos Monsevias.

Ranked sixth internationally, Mexico opens play June 11 against Iran. Pollsters say all three major presidential candidates already have trouble getting Mexicans to care about them – and that sharing the national stage with soccer will only make things tougher in the final weeks before the July 2 vote…

Surveys show a tightening race between Calderon, Madrazo and former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who prefers baseball to soccer.

And while Calderon and Lopez Obrador wouldn’t describe their plans in detail, the start of the tournament means the candidates most likely will run wall-to-wall TV and radio campaign ads, especially when Mexico is playing and voters by the millions tune in. “It’s the most important product placement there is” …

And unlike in the United States, few Mexican sports stars later run for office, something fans say the parties might want to reconsider. “You put the national team up there. I mean any player, and you would get more votes than the candidates,” said Luis Sanchez, a 22-year-old mechanic. “For us, they are heroes.” …

 

BRAZIL WANTS ISRAELIS TO SECURE 2007 PAN AMERICAN GAMES

“Brazil wants Israelis to secure Pan American Games” (By Arieh Egozy, Yediot Ahronot, May 15, 2006)

Brazil is seeking the aid of Israeli companies in providing security services for the Pan-American Games, to be held in July 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil’s National Secretary of Public Safety Luis Fernando Correa arrived in Israel on Sunday, and is set to meet with the representatives of 25 local companies engaged in homeland security in the coming days…

The Pan American Games, Latin America’s version of the Olympic Games, will take place in Rio between July 13-29. Some 5,500 athletes from 42 countries are set to participate in the competitions…



FULL ARTICLES

PLANS TO BUILD A PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL LEAGUE IN ISRAEL

Israel dreams big, as in big league
By Murray Chass
The New York Times
May 13, 2006

www.nytimes.com/2006/05/13/sports/baseball/13chass.html?_r=1&ei=5087%0A&en=df00781945d12445&ex=1147665600&pagewanted=print&oref=slogin

People go to Israel for different reasons. Some go to see historic sites, some go for religious reasons, some go to visit their children and grandchildren. Larry Baras goes to Israel to build a professional baseball league.

Baras, founder and operator of a specialty baking company in Boston, is going to Israel next Thursday for the next step in getting his league ready for what he plans to be its debut next year.

“Hopefully I’m going to select some of the venues,” he said in a telephone interview. “As soon as I get some of the venues in place, we’ll go after sponsorships and start selling tickets.”

The man has an ambitious plan, considering that baseball and Israel usually are not mentioned in the same sentence. But interest in the sport has been growing, and the country has an amateur baseball league and three softball leagues as well as youth leagues.

Given that Israel has no baseball stadiums, Baras’s project, especially its estimated time of arrival, may be unrealistic, but a former major league general manager likes the idea so much that he has joined as director of player development.

“I met with Larry and was really impressed with his enthusiasm,” Dan Duquette, former general manager of the Boston Red Sox, said yesterday. “The program and the objectives of the league really excited me.”

Commissioner Bud Selig is also enthusiastic about the idea. “I am 100 percent not only supportive,” he said, “but I have been trying to figure out ways to make it happen. It’s a subject very near and dear to my heart.”

Duquette, who has created a youth sports academy in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, recalled that when he worked for the Montreal Expos, the owner, Charles Bronfman, talked about “bringing baseball to Israel.”

By establishing the league, Baras has another goal: getting Israel into the next World Baseball Classic in 2009.

“We would recruit some Jewish-American major leaguers and minor leaguers,” Baras said. He noted that Mike Piazza played for Italy in this year’s inaugural classic and said, “They did it with a bit of a stretch. We don’t have that stretch. We have the law of return.”

Under that concept, any Jew is eligible to become a citizen of Israel. That means an Israeli team could include Kevin Youkilis, Gabe Kapler and Adam Stern of Boston, David Newhan of Baltimore, Shawn Green of Arizona, Brad Ausmus of Houston, Mike Lieberthal of Philadelphia, Jason Marquis of St. Louis, Scott Schoeneweis of Toronto, John Grabow of Pittsburgh and Scott Feldman of Texas.

But first the Israel Baseball League has to come into existence. To achieve that goal, Baras has recruited some impressive non-playing talent.

Besides Duquette, he has Daniel Kurtzer, former United States ambassador to Israel, who is set to be the league’s commissioner. As advisers, he has Andrew Zimbalist, the Smith College economist, and Marvin Goldklang, a limited partner in the Yankees and owner of five minor league teams.

“It’s a project that is so intriguing to me I have to be involved,” Goldklang said. “Whether we can make it happen for 2007 remains to be seen.”

In his visit next week, Baras will study soccer stadiums in Israel with the thought of converting them for baseball use for what he expects to be a season of about 48 games with six teams, 20 players to a team.

“From what I have been told,” Baras said, “there are some soccer stadiums that seat between 3,000 and 5,000, which is what we’re looking for. We’re not going to start with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv because they don’t have the facilities we’re looking for.”

Rather, he said, he will look at towns like Bet Shemesh, which is between those two major cities.

“A lot of Americans live there,” Baras said. “They have 200-plus kids playing baseball there, and they have a soccer stadium. It’s near the main highway, and the train from Jerusalem stops near the stadium, I am told.”

Israel may be the land of milk and honey, but it’s not a land of baseball players. Where will Baras find them? He plans to model the league on the Italian league, where, he said, 60 percent of the players are from the United States.

Baras, 54, said he would advertise for players in baseball publications and seek minor league players, former players and undrafted college players. Israel has a thriving basketball league populated by many foreign players.

The long-range plan, though, is to grow their own players. Duquette’s goal, Baras said, “is to develop players so that by the start of Year 6 at least a quarter of the players will be native Israelis.”

Duquette said they will develop players at an academy they will build in Israel. Their timing is good. Israel has just established a sports ministry, and its head has said there will be a new emphasis on sports in the country, especially on sports other than soccer and basketball.

In trying to attract an audience, the Israeli league will also follow the model of the Italian league. There, Baras said, “a lot of the entertainment value transcends the game itself” with pre- and post-game and between-innings entertainment.

“It will be a family-oriented fun venue,” he said. “Israeli spectator sports have a male-dominated audience. You seldom see women and children.”

Baras, an orthodox Jew, said he came up with the idea for the league last summer.

“My first thought was what can I do to help Israel,” he related. “I had reached the stage of my life where I wanted to do something. Being passionate about both Israel and baseball and having familiarity with minor league baseball, specifically unaffiliated baseball, I said, ‘Why can’t we do that over there?’

“Not only was I met with some skepticism, but I was skeptical,” he added. “But as time went on, I realized it could be done.”

Now he just has to do it.

 

ISRAEL TENNIS STAR SHAHAR PEER GOES TO 32 IN WORLD

Israel tennis star Shahar Peer ranked 32 in world after Prague win
Ha’aretz
May 15, 2006

www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/716092.html

Shahar Peer won her second WTA Tour title Sunday, rallying past Samantha Stosur of Australia 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to claim the Prague Open.

Fifth-seed Stosur, the world’s top-ranked doubles player who was making her first appearance in a WTA final, led 3-0 in the first set. Peer managed to pull back to 5-4 before the Australian closed it out.

Peer, seeded third, then broke Stosur twice in each of the second and third sets to claim victory. Peer beat Stosur in Amelia Island, Fla., last year in their only other meeting.

The win earned Peer just under $23,000, along with 95 points, which will catapult her to No. 32 in the world.

Peer also swept the doubles in Prague, combining with France’s Marion Bartoli to beat U.S. duo Ashley Harkleroad and Bathanie Mattek 6-4, 6-4. Peer’s other WTA title was at Pattaya City, Thailand, in February.

Elsewhere, the Israeli men’s doubles team of Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich was set to face Armor Noles and Daniel Nestor in the finals of the Rome Masters late Sunday night.

 

IRANIAN WOMEN BARRED FROM WATCHING SOCCER

Iranian women barred from matches
The Associated Press
May 9, 2006

Iran’s women will be barred from attending soccer games, a reversal by the president that comes a month before the national team plays in the World Cup.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ruled in April that he would allow women to go to soccer games and sit in a separate section of the stands, saying he wanted to “improve soccer-watching manners and promote a healthy atmosphere.”

But Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – who under the Islamic Republic’s constitution has the final say – opposed the move.

“The president has decided to revise his decision based on the supreme leader’s opinion,” Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham said yesterday.

Ahmadinejad’s decision to allow women into stadiums had provoked outrage among hardline Shiite Muslim clerics, who supported his election last year.

Iran’s Islamic law imposes stringent restrictions on women. They need a male guardian’s permission to work or travel, and have rarely been allowed to attend public sports events.

The month-long World Cup begins June 9 in Germany. Iran is grouped with Mexico, Angola and Portugal in the 32-team tournament.

 

U.S. TEAM BUS AT SOCCER WORLD CUP WILL NOT SHOW FLAG

WC: United States team bus to show no flag
The Associated Press
May 5, 2006

The official team bus to be used by the United States during the World Cup will not bear a flag for security reasons.

The 32 official buses were presented Thursday in Frankfurt and the other 31 buses have large national flags of the their teams painted on rear sides.

German and U.S. security officials came to the conclusion to leave the flag off the U.S. team bus, an official of the German organizing committee said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the topic.

The bus is predominantly blue in color.

National teams use their buses to go from their hotels to practices, games and airports. They will have police escorts, and the Americans’ exhibition game at Dortmund on March 22 was used as a test of security plans.

At the 2002 World Cup, the United States was among the most heavily guarded teams. When the Americans arrived at Incheon International Airport, about 500 police formed a corridor the players walked through as they came out of customs, with SWAT team commandos mixed in.

When the team’s charter flight landed at Daegu Airport before a game against South Korea, two tanks were on the runway. Metal detectors were placed at the entrance of the team hotel throughout the team’s stay.

Officers of the U.S. State Department routinely travel with the U.S. team when it plays outside the United States.

 

ENGLISH SOCCER FANS WILL SEE GAMES ON NAZI JAIL TV

How our fans will see games on Nazi jail TV
By Justin Penrose And John Bynorth
The Sunday Mirror (U.K.)
May 14, 2006

www.sundaymirror.co.uk/news/tm_objectid=17075103&method=full&siteid=62484&headline=hi-di-heil--name_page.html

English soccer fans are being invited to watch the World Cup... from inside a former Nazi jail.

Live games will be beamed to 1,500 fans in the prison courtyard surrounded by barbed wire and searchlights.

The 19th Century Tauberbischofsheim jail was used by the Nazis to imprison rounded-up Jews before they were sent to Dachau concentration camp and killed.

But that doesn’t deter organiser Michael Hofman, who says proudly: “Holding a fan camp in a prison is a unique idea which won’t be repeated anywhere else in Germany.”

The jail, which was built in 1850 and has just 22 cells, was in use as an ordinary prison until 2004 but was then abandoned because prisoners kept escaping.

Now it will be the venue for hundreds of England fans who missed out on match tickets to watch games on giant screens.

Beer from a local brewery and pizza, schnitzel and bratwurst will be on sale at the free viewing. Pop concerts are also being laid on at the ex-jail throughout the Cup.

Mr Hofman, from Tauberbischofsheim Town Council, thought up the fan camp idea after 5,000 people turned up to an all-day party in the prison to celebrate the town’s 1,250th anniversary last year.

He said: “It was such a big success we wanted to repeat it during the World Cup.” The prison is virtually unchanged with intimidating corridors, spartan cells with iron bars across the tiny windows and just a wash basin and toilet.

The small town is 90 minutes from the venues of England’s opening Group B matches against Paraguay in Frankfurt and Trinidad & Tobago in Nuremberg.

Fellow organiser Michael Karle said: “We would like England fans to come to our prison because the atmosphere will be like nowhere else. We won’t be serving the English fans porridge like in your TV show – there will be plenty for them to eat and drink.”

Tauberbischofsheim used to have a 106-strong Jewish community. Of those, 49 survived by fleeing to the US before World War Two. Only six of the rest survived the Holocaust.

 

“THE SPIRIT OF THE WORLD CUP IS AN ABSOLUTE CONTRADICTION TO THE SPIRIT THAT HE REPRESENTS”

Football-mad President may fall foul of Holocaust law
By Roger Boyes
The Times (of London)
May 4, 2006

www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,251-2163656,00.html

Forget football hooligans. The thorniest dilemma facing Germany as it prepares to host the World Cup is what to do about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s hardline President, if he insists on coming to watch his team play next month.

Germany is obliged to admit the head of state of a participating nation, and the tournament’s official motto is “A Time To Make Friends”. But Mr Ahmadinejad has demanded Israel’s destruction and has repeatedly denied the Holocaust – a crime in Germany.

Iran’s first match is in Nuremberg, used by Hitler for his mass rallies, and German neo-Nazis are planning a march in support of Mr Ahmadinejad. Israel, Iranian exiles and German politicians are demanding he be kept away. “The question is whether Germany as host can prevent the visit of a head of state who has shown himself to be a repulsive and embarrassing anti-Semite,” Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, said.

“The spirit of the World Cup is in absolute contradiction to the spirit that he represents.”

An editorial in the Jerusalem Post accused Germany of trading with Iran and appeasing its nuclear ambitions:

“Germany’s behaviour toward Iran is a clear sign that for all its Holocaust memorialising, for all its anti-Nazi legislation, and for all its protestations of friendship with Israel and the Jewish people, Germany has not learnt the lessons of the Holocaust.”

Edmund Stoiber, prime minister of Bavaria, said: “Such a man is not welcome.” But the German Government is pressing ahead. Wolfgang Schauble, the Interior Minister, says that the President “can naturally come to the matches”. Differences of opinion over the Holocaust, Israel and nuclear power could be aired during the visit.

Herr Schauble’s deputy, August Hanning, a former Security Service chief, has agreed with Tehran that there should be no political demonstrations in the stadiums. The two states will also exchange intelligence on possible threats.

For Iranian exiles, expected to attend the matches against Mexico, Angola and Portugal in large numbers, that smacks of appeasement. “Naturally we are worried that information from the Germans will be used against our families in Iran,” said Hassan Nayeb-Agha, who played as a midfielder for Iran in the 1978 World Cup.

“We must not let the Iranian regime misuse the World Cup in the same way that Hitler did with the 1936 Olympic Games.”

Iran is expected to decide if Mr Ahmadinejad should travel to Germany within the next few days, but there is little doubt that he wants to go. “Our President loves soccer,” said Muhammad Ali Dadkan, head of the Iranian Football Association, as he inspected the Nuremberg pitch last month.

One Israeli lawyer living in Germany has lodged an application with the federal prosecutor to serve an international arrest warrant on the President as soon as he gets off the plane.

Mr Ahmadinejad would, however, probably enjoy diplomatic immunity and some lawyers doubt that his denial of the Holocaust breaches German law as his comments were made abroad.

 

BRAZIL SEEKING ISRAELI SECURITY FOR 2007 PAN-AMERICAN GAMES

Brazil wants Israelis to secure Pan American Games
Brazil’s national secretary of public safety arrives in Israel to meet with 25 homeland security companies, in bid to seal deals on securing Pan American Games
By Arieh Egozy
Yediot Ahronot
May 15, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3250994,00.html

Brazil is seeking the aid of Israeli companies in providing security services for the Pan-American Games, to be held in July 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil’s National Secretary of Public Safety Luis Fernando Correa arrived in Israel on Sunday, and is set to meet with the representatives of 25 local companies engaged in homeland security in the coming days.

The meetings were set up by The Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute and the Defense Minister.

Export Institute officials assessed Sunday that Israel companies would be able to attain at least a third of the Olympic event’s security budget, which stands at USD 150 million.

The Pan American Games, Latin America’s version of the Olympic Games, will take place in Rio between July 13-29. Some 5,500 athletes from 42 countries are set to participate in the competitions.

The Export Institute reported that the safety and security field’s exports grew by 25 percent in 2005, and amounted to about USD 1 billion. The Institute estimates that exports will increase by another 15 percent in 2006 and reach USD 1.15 billion.


Bon Appetite: Buffalo meat declared kosher (& Aliza Olmert’s art quadruples in value)

May 18, 2006

* Israeli said to buy Van Gogh portrait for $40.3 million

* This is the second of three lighter, less political, dispatches this week. This one contains articles on business and society. The other two concern media, music and entertainment, and sport.

 

CONTENTS

1. When Warren met Zion
2. Israeli police shut down Marijuana day… because it’s illegal to play music
3. Will El Al now serve Buffalo?
4. “Buffett to buy 80 percent of Israel’s Iscar” (Reuters, May 6, 2006)
5. “Israeli businessman buys Van Gogh portrait?” (Yediot Ahronot, May 4, 2006)
6. “Israeli first lady’s paintings rise in value” (Jewish Telegraph Agency, May 16, 2006)
7. “Israeli Internet surfers lead the world” (Globes, May 8, 2006)
8. “Jerusalem: Haredim destroy internet cafe” (Yediot Ahronot, May 2, 2006)
9. “Inspectors close down ‘Marijuana Day’” (Yediot Ahronot, May 6, 2006)
10. “New regulation: Gays can inherit partners’ assets” (Yediot Ahronot, May 7, 2006)
11. “Buffalo meat declared kosher” (Yediot Ahronot, May 9, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

WHEN WARREN MET ZION

For those who haven’t yet read the news elsewhere, Warren Buffett, the world’s second richest man, has bought 80 percent of Iscar, an Israeli company that manufactures metalworking tools used by makers of heavy equipment such as cars and airplanes. This deal is being widely regarded as a fantastic vote of confidence in the well-being of the Israeli economy. It is Buffett’s first large-scale non-American investment, and his third-largest investment anywhere.

As Jerusalem Post columnist Amotz Asa-El writes: “As the world’s most successful and admired investment guru, you have just made a statement more effective than 1,000 Zionist spin doctors will ever be able to make. The fact that you had your $136 billion company put a fortune in this famously turbulent country without even visiting it has been particularly heartening for us.” For more on the deal, see the first article below.

Both the New York Times and Independent (UK) newspapers have claimed that Israeli businessman Sami Ofer was the mysterious buyer of Vincent Van Gogh’s 1890 painting, “L’Arlesienne, Madame Ginoux.” The painting was sold for $ 40.3 million at auction by Christie’s.

In other art-related news, it has been reported that paintings by Aliza Olmert, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, are now being sold for four times their value since her husband was elected to office.

ISRAELI POLICE SHUT DOWN MARIJUANA DAY… BECAUSE IT’S ILLEGAL TO PLAY MUSIC

According to the most thorough survey ever conducted on Internet use (by a company in Virginia), Israelis spend on average 57.5 hours per month online, more than any other people in the world – the global average is 31.3 hours. In second place is Finland (49.3 hours). However, these statistics clearly do not take into account Haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews) who have recently resorted to destroying an Internet cafe in Jerusalem. Some Haredi rabbis have outlawed use of the Internet as they claim it incites the Haredi community to commit what they regard as sins. (See articles below.)

May 6, 2006 was International Marijuana Day. In Tel Aviv Israeli police shut down the event being held in a Tel Aviv park, but not because of the use of the banned weed – but because the planners failed to obtain the appropriate permit to play music.

WILL EL AL NOW SERVE BUFFALO?

As another reminder of the liberal side of Israel, the penultimate article below reports that the Israeli Ministry of Justice has recommended that Israeli homosexuals can now inherit their partners’ assets. Additionally, in Israel one can prepare a will using a video recording, a first of its kind decision – no other country in the world permits the preparation of a visual will.

The final article reports on the latest culinary development in the Jewish state, with news that, in case you had your doubts, buffalo meat is, indeed, kosher. The new kosher ruling made by none other than Israel’s chief rabbi, follows lengthy deliberations between the rabbi and scientists from Bar Ilan University. Buffalo meat will now be produced for the mass market.

I attach eight articles below, with summaries first for those who don’t have time to read them in full.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

BUFFET INVESTS IN ISRAEL

“Buffett to buy 80 percent of Israel’s Iscar” (Reuters, May 6, 2006)

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., moving to bolster its international presence, said on Friday it would buy 80 percent of Israel’s Iscar Metalworking Cos. in a transaction valuing the closely-held tool firm at USD 5 billion…

The acquisition helps fulfill Buffett’s long-stated desire to make “major” acquisitions, which he said in March were needed to produce “truly satisfactory gains” in operating earnings at Berkshire, his insurance and investment company. It also reflects the billionaire’s plan to buy stakes in companies that earn much of their profits outside the United States.

“Iscar is a pretty easy business to understand and Buffett likes that,” said Donald Light, an insurance analyst with Celent LLC, who covers Berkshire. “You take metal, you bend it and you ship it out.” …

Iscar, based in Tefen, Israel, is controlled by the Wertheimer family, which will retain a 20 percent stake after the closing. Chairman Eitan Wertheimer, Chief Executive Jacob Harpaz and the rest of current management will remain in place. Eitan Wertheimer’s father founded the firm 50 years ago…

 

A MYSTERIOUS (ISRAELI?) BUYER PURCHASED THE PAINTING FOR $ 40.3 MILLION

“Israeli businessman buys Van Gogh portrait?” (Yediot Ahronot, May 4, 2006)

Israeli businessman Sami Ofer is apparently the man behind the recent purchase of a Van Gogh portrait for USD 40.3 million, the New York Times and the British Independent newspapers estimated…

The 1890 painting, “L’Arlesienne, Madame Ginoux,” is a portrait of one of the most recognizable figures in the history of art, Madame Ginoux, who was the owner of Cafe de la Gare in Arles, France. Vincent Van Gogh used to visit the cafe until he committed suicide, and Ginoux’s portrait was painted both by him and Paul Gauguin...

Franck Giraud, a Manhattan dealer, told the New York Times that the price the buyer paid “was a bargain.” ...

 

ALIZA OLMERT PAINTINGS QUADRUPLE IN PRICE

“Israeli first lady’s paintings rise in value” (Jewish Telegraph Agency, May 16, 2006)

(Full item)

The value of paintings by Ehud Olmert’s wife reportedly have quadrupled since he became Israeli prime minister. Yediot Ahronot reported Tuesday that Sotheby’s recently auctioned off a diptych titled “Pines” by Aliza Olmert for $12,000, after opening bids at $4,000. Though Olmert long has been an artist of note, before her husband became Israel’s prime minister last month her paintings generally sold for around $3,000, the newspaper noted.

 

ISRAELIS LEADS THE WORLD IN INTERNET USE

“Israeli Internet surfers lead the world” (By Ran Dagoni, Globes, May 8, 2006)

Israel leads the world in Internet use, according to a survey by comScore Networks, based in Reston, Virginia. The comScore World Metrix is the first true estimate of global online audience size and behavior. comScore says 694 million people, aged 15+, used the Internet worldwide from all locations in March 2006, 14% of the world’s total population within this age group…

According to comScore, average monthly hours online per unique visitor aged 15+ in Israel in March 2006 was 57.5, more than any other country, and double the figure for the US, which did not even make the list of top 15 countries in this category. The global average in March was 31.3 hours…

The top 15 online properties worldwide, among visitors aged 15+ in March were MSN-Microsoft sites (538.6 million visitors), Google sites (495.8 million) and Yahoo! sites (480.2 million)…

 

JERUSALEM: HAREDIM DESTROY INTERNET CAFE

“Jerusalem: Haredim destroy internet cafe” (By Haim Levinson, Yediot Ahronot, May 2, 2006)

Dozens of riled up ultra-orthodox broke into a Jerusalem internet cafe Monday, broke the doors and shattered the computers, claiming the place incites the haredi community to commit sins… The haredi crowd shattered the glass doors, went in and broke the computers and the cash register…

“They have been harassing us for six months since most of the customers here are ultra-orthodox,” said Max, who works at the place. “We will rebuild the place and will not give up.”

Thus far the ultra-Orthodox community resorted to taking pictures of the customers and intimidating them. Last week, however, rabbis of the community met and decided to escalate the fight and destroy other internet cafes.

 

ISRAELI POLICE SHUT DOWN MARIJUANA DAY… BECAUSE IT’S ILLEGAL TO PLAY MUSIC

“Inspectors close down ‘Marijuana Day’” (By Miri Chason, Yediot Ahronot, May 6, 2006)

People across the world, including Israel, marked on Saturday the International Marijuana Day. Special events were held in honor of the controversial plant in Jerusalem, Eilat and Tel Aviv, where the celebrations did not quite go as planned.

About an hour after the Tel Aviv event was opened in Hayarkon Park, municipal inspectors arrived at the place and asked that the music be turned off, as planners of the celebrations failed to obtain the appropriate permit to play music. Consequently, the several dozen people that were in the park to party were forced to leave the place…

 

NEW REGULATION: GAYS CAN INHERIT PARTNERS’ ASSETS

“New regulation: Gays can inherit partners’ assets” (By Tal Rosner, Yediot Ahronot, May 7, 2006)

Major changes in the inheritance and wills regulations in Israel: According to a recent Ministry of Justice memorandum, which is based on research conducted by the Inheritance Committee, gays can inherit their partners’ assets. The decision is pending approval of the Ministers’ Legislative Committee and the Knesset’s, but it is expected to be approved by both the ministers and MKs.

According to the new memorandum, one can prepare a will using a video recording, a first of its kind decision – no other country in the world permits the preparation of a visual will…

Attorney Irit Rosenblum, the founder and chairperson of the New Family organization, said: “The inheritance memorandum includes the rights of same-sex couples to inherit each other, a required right in light of the 18,000 same-sex couples who live together in Israel. This should serve as the opening shot in the campaign for equality of financial rights of same-sex couples.” …

 

BON APPETITE: BUFFALO MEAT DECLARED KOSHER

“Buffalo meat declared kosher” (By Neta Sela, Yediot Ahronot, May 9, 2006)

The Chief Rabbinate has rendered water buffalo meat kosher. The kashrut certification was issued by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar following a request by two researchers from Bar-Ilan University…

Some identify the water buffalo with an animal mentioned in the bible, and according to data from the British Mandate, about 5,000 buffalos used to live in Israel…

Dr. Zohar Amar and Dr. Ari Zivotofsky, researchers from Bar-Ilan University, have been working in the past two years to find proof that would allow water buffalo meat to be declared kosher...

According to the researchers, water buffalo meat is very popular worldwide and offers great market potential, while buffalo milk is considered to be of very high quality, particularly for the production of cheese. In addition, it is said to have many medicinal qualities.



FULL ARTICLES

BUFFET TO BUY 80 PERCENT OF ISRAEL’S ISCAR

Buffett to buy 80 percent of Israel’s Iscar
World’s second richest man bids for 80 percent of Iscar, which manufactures metalworking tools used by makers of heavy equipment such as cars and airplanes; deal said worth USD 5 billion
Reuters
May 6, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3247579,00.html

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., moving to bolster its international presence, said on Friday it would buy 80 percent of Israel’s Iscar Metalworking Cos. in a transaction valuing the closely-held tool firm at USD 5 billion.

Berkshire also said that its first-quarter profit rose 70 percent to USD 2.31 billion, or USD 1,501 per share, helped by increasing auto insurance premiums and a successful bet the US dollar would fall.

The acquisition helps fulfill Buffett’s long-stated desire to make “major” acquisitions, which he said in March were needed to produce “truly satisfactory gains” in operating earnings at Berkshire, his insurance and investment company.

It also reflects the billionaire’s plan to buy stakes in companies that earn much of their profits outside the United States.

“Iscar is a pretty easy business to understand and Buffett likes that,” said Donald Light, an insurance analyst with Celent LLC, who covers Berkshire. “You take metal, you bend it and you ship it out.”

The purchase was announced on the eve of Berkshire’s annual shareholder meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, where it is based.

There had been mounting market speculation that Buffett, the world’s second-richest person, would unveil a major acquisition to help rid Berkshire of some of its enormous cash stake. Berkshire ended March with USD 42.86 billion of cash.

Iscar, based in Tefen, Israel, manufactures metalworking tools used by makers of heavy equipment such as cars and airplanes. It has facilities in Tefen, the United States, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy, Japan and Korea.

The firm is controlled by the Wertheimer family, which will retain a 20 percent stake after the closing. Chairman Eitan Wertheimer, Chief Executive Jacob Harpaz and the rest of current management will remain in place. Eitan Wertheimer’s father founded the firm 50 years ago.

“As a truly international business, IMC is a top performer in its industry, with exposure to European, Asian and Latin American markets, as well as significant opportunities for growth as it continues to penetrate the North American market,” Buffett said. “We have the benefit of investing in a stable business with very significant growth prospects.”

UBS and the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz advised Iscar on the transaction. The law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP advised Berkshire. The purchase requires regulatory approval.

Earnings rise, currency stake falls

Quarterly net income for Berkshire rose from USD 1.36 billion, or USD 886 per share, a year earlier.

Profit before investment gains totaled USD 1.79 billion, or about USD 1,160 per share. On that basis, analysts polled by Reuters Estimates on average forecast USD 1,082 per share. Revenue rose 29 percent to USD 22.76 billion.

In insurance, auto insurer Geico Corp. posted a 10 percent increase in earned premiums. This helped offset a 14 percent decline at reinsurer General Re Corp., which was hurt by North American cancellations and nonrenewals.

Berkshire posted a USD 151 million gain from its bet the U.S. dollar will fall, but its stake in foreign currency contracts declined to USD 5.4 billion from USD 13.8 billion at year end.

 

ISRAELI BUSINESSMAN BUYS VAN GOGH PORTRAIT FOR $ 40.3 MILLION?

Israeli businessman buys Van Gogh portrait?
New York Times, Independent newspapers estimate mysterious buyer who paid USD 40.3 million for famous painting at Christie auction was none other than Israeli businessman Sami Ofer
Yediot Ahronot
May 4, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3247279,00.html

Israeli businessman Sami Ofer is apparently the man behind the recent purchase of a Van Gogh portrait for USD 40.3 million, the New York Times and the British Independent newspapers estimated.

A mysterious buyer purchased the painting by phone Tuesday evening at a Christie auction.

The 1890 painting, “L’Arlesienne, Madame Ginoux,” is a portrait of one of the most recognizable figures in the history of art, Madame Ginoux, who was the owner of Cafe de la Gare in Arles, France. Vincent Van Gogh used to visit the cafe until he committed suicide, and Ginoux’s portrait was painted both by him and Paul Gauguin.

Speculators outside the auction house estimated that the mysterious buyer was none other than Sami Ofer. Franck Giraud, a Manhattan dealer, told the New York Times that the price the buyer paid “was a bargain.”

According to estimations, the painting is worth USD 40 to 50 million.

A Picasso painting was sold in the same auction for USD 95 million. Out of the 50 painting on sale at the auction, 43 paintings were sold for a total of USD 180.2 million.

 

ISRAEL LEADS THE WORLD IN INTERNET USE

Israeli Internet surfers lead the world
Surfers in Israel spent on average 57.5 hours online in March, compared with a global average of 31.3 hours.
By Ran Dagoni
Globes
May 8, 2006

www.globes.co.il/serveen/

Israel leads the world in Internet engagement, according to a survey by comScore Networks, based in Reston, Virginia. The comScore World Metrix is the first true estimate of global online audience size and behavior. comScore says 694 million people, aged 15+, used the Internet worldwide from all locations in March 2006, 14% of the world’s total population within this age group. This number marks the first worldwide universe estimate based on a consistent methodology across all countries.

According to comScore, average monthly hours online per unique visitor aged 15+ in Israel in March 2006 was 57.5, more than any other country, and double the figure for the US, which did not even make the list of top 15 countries in this category. The global average in March was 31.3 hours.

In second place after Israel is Finland (49.3 hours), South Korea (47.2 hours), the Netherlands (43.5 hours), Taiwan (43.2 hours), Sweden (41.4 hours), Brazil (41.2 hours), Hong Kong (41.2 hours), Portugal (39.8 hours), and Canada (38.4 hours).

comScore Media Metrix president and CEO Peter Daboll said, “Today, the online audience in the US represents less than a quarter of Internet users across the globe, versus ten years ago when it accounted for two-thirds of the global audience.”

The top 15 online properties worldwide, among visitors aged 15+ in March were MSN-Microsoft sites (538.6 million visitors), Google sites (495.8 million) and Yahoo! sites (480.2 million). Daboll said, “While the ‘big three’ properties remain consistent among worldwide and US audiences, Wikipedia has emerged as a site that continues to increase in popularity, both globally and in the US.”

 

NO SINS PLEASE (BUT WE ARE ALLOWED TO BURN DOWN CAFES)

Jerusalem: Haredim destroy internet cafe
Dozens of ultra-Orthodox break into internet cafe, claiming place incites haredi community to commit sins
By Haim Levinson
Yediot Ahronot
May 2, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3246296,00.html

Religious dispute in Jerusalem: Dozens of riled up ultra-orthodox broke into a Jerusalem internet cafe Monday, broke the doors and shattered the computers, claiming the place incites the haredi community to commit sins.

On Monday night, the ultra-Orthodox crowd arrived at the internet cafe located in the center of the capital and began harassing other haredi people who were at the place surfing the internet. The rowdy crowd attempted to break into the place, but was unsuccessful after an employee locked the doors.

The haredi crowd shattered the glass doors, went in and broke the computers and the cash register, Israel’s leading newspaper reported Tuesday.

‘We won’t give up’

A special police force was dispatched to the place and forcefully dispersed the crowd, arresting five men.

“They have been harassing us for six months since most of the customers here are ultra-orthodox,” said Max, who works at the place. “We will rebuild the place and will not give up.”

Thus far the ultra-Orthodox community resorted to taking pictures of the customers and intimidating them. Last week, however, rabbis of the community met and decided to escalate the fight and destroy other internet cafes.

 

GONE TO POT

Inspectors close down ‘Marijuana Day’
Municipal inspectors pull plug on International Marijuana Day events in Tel Aviv after organizers failed to obtain permit to play music during celebration
By Miri Chason
Yediot Ahronot
May 6, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3247680,00.html

People across the world, including Israel, marked on Saturday the International Marijuana Day. Special events were held in honor of the controversial plant in Jerusalem, Eilat and Tel Aviv, where the celebrations did not quite go as planned.

About an hour after the Tel Aviv event was opened in Hayarkon Park, municipal inspectors arrived at the place and asked that the music be turned off, as planners of the celebrations failed to obtain the appropriate permit to play music. Consequently, the several dozen people that were in the park to party were forced to leave the place.

“It’s very disappointing that the organizers didn’t obtain the proper permits,” Alex Katznelson, 18, who came to Tel Aviv all the way from the southern town of Arad said. “The Marijuana Day events in the last few years have been very successful, and we expected that this time too there will be music, nice people smoking water-pipes, booze, and of course policemen and reporters. We knew they will close the party down, but we didn’t think it would happen so fast,” he added.

Eran Vered, who organized the event in previous years, lashed out at the people behind Saturday’s failed celebration: “What happened here today is a disgrace. I produced this event in the last eight years and it was never like this before. The organizers this year are like ‘toy anarchists,’ and that is why they refused to get the permits.”

One of the Day’s planners, who refused to be identified, said that she attempted to obtain an authorization for the event, “but the municipality wouldn’t give it to us, because this is serious business: You need a business license, as well as firefighters and Magen David Adom to be at the place. Nothing was organized beforehand.”

 

NEW REGULATION: GAYS CAN INHERIT PARTNERS’ ASSETS

New regulation: Gays can inherit partners’ assets
Major changes in inheritance regulations: Gays can inherit their partners’ assets; additionally: Admissible wills on video and wills for teens over 15
By Tal Rosner
Yediot Ahronot
May 7, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3248122,00.html

Major changes in the inheritance and wills regulations in Israel: According to a recent Ministry of Justice memorandum, which is based on research conducted by the Inheritance Committee, gays can inherit their partners’ assets. The decision is pending approval of the Ministers’ Legislative Committee and the Knesset’s, but it is expected to be approved by both the ministers and MKs.

According to the new memorandum, one can prepare a will using a video recording, a first of its kind decision – no other country in the world permits the preparation of a visual will.

There are four ways to prepare a will in Israel: Hand written will, a will that was read in front of witnesses, a will directed at authorities, and an oral will of a person on his/her death bed.

Another change the committee recommended is that couples who are separated for over three years but still officially registered as married cannot inherit each other.

Also, people who are officially registered as married but live a full family life with another partner are allowed to have their life-partner inherit them. In such a case, married couples have to be separated for over three years and live in the same household with their respective partner for the inheritance law to take effect.

‘New step is morally correct’

Another important clause in the memorandum is that teens over the age of 15 will be allowed to write their own wills after receiving court permission, since the current law forbids it. The court that will handle the teens’ cases only on the issue of whether the teen fully understands the judiciary ramification of his/her act.

Attorney Irit Rosenblum, the founder and chairperson of the New Family organization, responded to the new recommendations: “The inheritance memorandum includes the rights of same-sex couples to inherit each other, a required right in light of the 18,000 same-sex couples who live together in Israel. This should serve as the opening shot in the campaign for equality of financial rights of same-sex couples.”

Itay Pinkas, an advisor to Tel Aviv’s mayor on gay issues and a member of Tel Aviv’s City Council, said that the decision is appropriate and realistic. “I believe that the new step is morally correct and reflects reality. There are many gay couples who live together and there is no reason for their rights not to be secured – just like any other citizen in Israel,” Pinkas said.

 

BUFFALO MEAT DECLARED KOSHER

Buffalo meat declared kosher
Bad news for water buffalos: Chief rabbi issues kashrut certification after closely examining issue
By Neta Sela
Yediot Ahronot
May 9, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3248717,00.html

Bon Appetite: The Chief Rabbinate on Monday rendered water buffalo meat kosher. The kashrut certification was issued by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar following a request by two researchers from Bar-Ilan University.

Water buffalos used to be common in Israel, particularly near swamps and streams. Buffalo remains were found near the brooks of Israel’s coastal plane, Tiberias and the Hula nature reserve.

Some identify the water buffalo with an animal mentioned in the bible, and according to data from the British Mandate, about 5,000 buffalos used to live in Israel. Few of them can still be seen in the Hula nature reserve. Since then, no water buffalos have been bred in Israel and the buffalo meat was not rendered kosher by the Chief Rabbinate.

In order to declare meat kosher it is not enough for the specific animal to bear the signs mentioned in the bible testifying to its kashrut. According to the Halacha (Jewish law), there must also be a “tradition” testifying to the fact that the same animal was consumed in the past by kosher-keeping Jews.

Dr. Zohar Amar and Dr. Ari Zivotofsky, researchers from Bar-Ilan University, have been working in the past two years to find proof that would allow water buffalo meat to be declared kosher.

The two presented the chief rabbi with Halachic and historical sources proving that water buffalo slaughtering was a custom among Jewish communities in the past, as well as testimonies of elderly butchers, who were responsible for slaughtering buffalos in the past in Jerusalem, Petach Tikva, Bnei Brak and the Galilee.

Rabbi Shlomo Amar later met with the research team and representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture in the Hula nature reserve, where he closely watched the buffalos in the area and personally examined the teeth structure and hoofs of a water buffalo skeleton presented to him.

This week, the rabbi once again examined buffalos being raised in Moshav Bitzron in the south of Israel, where he declared that after looking at all the data presented to him he will issue the longed-for kashrut certification.

Following the rabbi’s ruling, water buffalo breeders will be able to market the animal’s meat and milk under an official Chief Rabbinate authorization.

According to the researchers, water buffalo meat is very popular worldwide and offers great market potential, while buffalo milk is considered to be of very high quality, particularly for the production of cheese. In addition, it is said to have many medicinal qualities.


BBC slips up with taxi driver (& Rapper Jay-Z: Anti-Semitism not cool)

* Jim Carrey, Ricky Martin & “Captain Kirk” William Shatner all visit Israel
* Israel’s first evangelical TV channel
* Saudis ban pictures of women in newspapers

* This is the first of three lighter, less political, dispatches this week. This one contains articles on media, music and entertainment. The other two concern business and society, and sport.

 

CONTENTS

1. More expertise on the BBC
2. “‘Cab driver’ becomes internet expert in BBC mix-up” (Reuters, May 15, 2006)
3. Jim Carrey, Ricky Martin & William Shatner all visit Israel
4. “Saudis nix pictures of women in newspapers” (AP, May 16, 2006)
5. “Jim Carrey visits Israel” (Yediot Ahronot, May 4, 2006)
6. “Ricky Martin to play Ra’anana” (Yediot Ahronot, May 7, 2006)
7. “Star Trek’s Jewish captain to visit Israel on do-good mission” (INN, May 14, 2006)
8. “Rapper Jay-Z: Anti-Semitism not cool” (Yediot Ahronot, May 1, 2006)
9. “Moss pays lip(s) service” (AFP, May 16, 2006)
10. “‘Can I get a Hallelujah?’ Israel gets 24/7 evangelical broadcast” (JTA, May 16, 2006)

 



[Note by Tom Gross]

MORE EXPERTISE ON THE BBC

As a follow-up to the BBC dispatch earlier this week (“The BBC pro-Israeli? Is the Pope Jewish?”), I attach an item about the BBC, which while amusing, actually says quite a lot about the quality of BBC programming and interviews.

As is so often the case in the BBC’s Middle East coverage, BBC anchors and reporters (including in this case, the reporter with the umbrella at the end of the video) just repeat whatever they hear from each other, whether or not they know what they are talking about, and however wrong they may be.

Please first read the Reuters report below, and then watch this video of the incident: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOpLG7fyw3U&search=BBC

“CAB DRIVER” BECOMES INTERNET EXPERT IN BBC MIX-UP
(Reuters, May 15, 2006)

today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=2006-05-15T134344Z_01_L15667803_RTRIDST_0_OUKOE-UK-BRITAIN-EXPERT.XML

The BBC has apologized after putting a mystery man, possibly a taxi driver, on the air in a live interview, mistaking him for a computer expert who was waiting at the reception desk.

The man’s mouth opened in horror as the camera cut to him in the BBC’s News-24 television studio, where he had been seated on a stool by a floor manager, a microphone clipped to his lapel.

A business presenter, sitting opposite, introduced the clearly startled man as the editor of a technology Web site, and asked if he was surprised by computer company Apple’s victory in a trademark dispute over The Beatles’ Apple Corps.

“I’m very surprised to see this verdict to come on me because I was not expecting that,” he replied, with a strong French accent, in broken English. “When I came they told me something else and I’m coming... so a big surprise anyway.”

He gamely answered two more questions about music downloading, before the presenter thanked him and moved on.

The BBC said it still did not know who he was but newspapers reported he was thought to be a taxi driver who happened to be at reception when a floor manager came to fetch the guest.

The real Web site editor, Guy Kewney, who watched with astonishment at reception, said the mix-up was hard to explain because BBC staff had seen his picture in advance. Kewney is white and the mystery guest was black.

“He seemed as baffled as I felt,” Kewney wrote on his Web site www.newswireless.net, which has a link to the interview, broadcast live on Friday.

JIM CARREY, RICKY MARTIN & WILLIAM SHATNER ALL VISIT ISRAEL

Other “light” articles in this dispatch include Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah telling his country’s newspaper editors to stop publishing pictures of women “as they could make young men go astray.”

Also attached below are items on visits to Israel by Jim Carrey (no longer “Dumb and Dumber”), Hispanic superstar Ricky Martin (Livin’ La Vida Loca) and “Captain James T. Kirk” William Shatner (Beam him up, Scottie).

The final articles deal with African-American hip-hop star Jay-Z, who told U.S. TV viewers that “anti-Semitism is not cool,” British model Kate Moss, who kissed Jemima Khan to raise £60,000 ($114,000) for a Palestinian charity (it should be noted that Khan, the daughter of Sir James Goldsmith is of Jewish origin, as is fashion retail tycoon Philip Green who arranged the event); and the latest addition to Israeli cable television: an evangelical channel.

There are summaries first for those who don’t have time to read the articles in full.

-- Tom Gross

 

SUMMARIES

“DON’T WRITE ANYTHING THAT CAN BE HARMFUL TO THE COUNTRY”

“Saudis nix pictures of women in newspapers” (AP, May 16, 2006)

King Abdullah has told Saudi editors to stop publishing pictures of women as they could make young men go astray, newspapers reported. The king’s directive, made in a meeting with local editors, caused surprise as the monarch has been regarded a quiet reformer since he took office in the ultra-conservative country last August…

“One must think, do they want their daughter, their sister, or their wife to appear in this way. Of course, no one would accept this,” the newspaper Okaz quoted Abdullah as saying. “The youth are driven by emotion... and sometimes they can be lead astray. So, please, try to cut down on this,” he said… His instruction to editors indicates that Islamic conservatives remain a powerful force in the kingdom and brake on reform.

The king also called on editors to stop printing stories that portray the country in a negative light. “Don’t write anything that can be harmful to the country,” Abdullah said… All media in Saudi Arabia are either state owned or state guided.

 

JIM CARREY ARRIVES FROM SINAI

“Jim Carrey visits Israel” (Yediot Ahronot, May 4, 2006)

Hollywood funnyman Jim Carrey arrived in Israel Wednesday night for a private visit. Taba border crossing employees were surprised to see the superstar waltz in to the terminal at around 9 p.m. accompanied by three Israeli friends. The four came into the country after visiting Egypt. Following a quick passport check and after posing for a few photos with the terminal workers, Carrey jumped into a car and drove off with his friends en route to Jerusalem… Carrey’s visit marks the third by a Hollywood actor in recent weeks, after Ewan McGregor and Will Smith both spent a week in Israel.

 

RICKY PLAYS RA’ANANA

“Ricky Martin to play Ra’anana” (Yediot Ahronot, May 7, 2006)

Ricky Martin’s local appearance, scheduled for July 3 at the Rishon Lezion Amphitheater, has been moved to the Amphi-Park in Ra’anana… Martin’s performance coincides with hip-hop band “Black Eyed Peas” at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv…

 

WARP SPEED AHEAD

“Star Trek’s Jewish captain to visit Israel on do-good mission” (Israel National News, May 14, 2006)

Jewish Actor William Shatner, famous for his role as captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek series, plans to visit Israel in the coming weeks. Shatner, whose parents immigrated to Canada from Ukraine, is visiting the Jewish State as part of the Jewish National Fund’s efforts to raise $10 million for therapeutic riding centers across Israel…

 

RAPPER JAY-Z: ANTI-SEMITISM AIN’T COOL

“Rapper Jay-Z: Anti-Semitism not cool” (Yediot Ahronot, May 1, 2006)

Grammy-award winning hip-hop star Jay-Z, considered one of the world’s most important rappers, has decided to take part in the war on anti-Semitism. In the next few days he is expected to star in an TV commercial which will be broadcast on American television under the banner: “Anti-Semitism is not cool.”

… In the ad, rapper Jay-Z asks viewers not to join groups speaking against Jews because “anti-Semitism is not cool.” …

 

KATE MOSS AND JEMIMA KHAN KISS FOR PALESTINE

“Moss pays lip(s) service” (AFP, May 16, 2006)

A charity for Palestinian refugee children is £60 000 better off after a kiss between Kate Moss and Jemima Khan, a London newspaper reports. Fashion retail tycoon Philip Green fronted up the money at Monday’s auction in the exclusive Annabel’s club which raised more than £200,000 for the Hoping Foundation.

He was to get a kiss from Moss for his money, but when he declined – in deference to wife Tina – the supermodel puckered up instead with Khan, the Evening Standard newspaper reported… “We thought it was going to be a kiss on the cheek,” one “eyewitness” was quoted as saying. “It lasted just over 60 seconds.” Khan, 32, ex-wife of cricketer Imran Khan, is going out with Hollywood star Hugh Grant…

 

ISRAEL GETS 24/7 EVANGELICAL CHANNEL PREACHING GOSPEL

“‘Can I get a Hallelujah?’ Israel gets 24/7 evangelical broadcast” (JTA, May 16, 2006)

Shortly before Passover this year, the Jewish state inaugurated something decidedly non-Jewish – an evangelical channel preaching the Gospel around the clock.

The Communications Ministry confirmed that it issued a license to Daystar, the second-largest U.S. Christian television network, whose evangelical programming kicks off with a half-hour show produced by its Jerusalem affiliate, Tarshish.

The remaining content is supplied from Daystar’s home base in Texas through the company’s worldwide satellite network. It will be carried in Israel via cable providers HOT, which reaches about 1 million households, and YES, which reaches 500,000…

Merav Strosberg-Alkabetz, a spokeswoman for the Israel Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting, said the council had awarded Daystar a license because “religious broadcasting (and it does not matter which religion is referred to) is permitted in the State of Israel, as long as it meets a number of basic criteria determined by the council.”…

… Middle East Television, with televangelist Pat Robertson, is available on cable in Israel, but it is broadcast from Cyprus…



FULL ARTICLES

“DON’T WRITE ANYTHING THAT CAN BE HARMFUL TO THE COUNTRY”

Saudis nix pictures of women in newspapers
The Associated Press
May 16, 2006

news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060516/ap_on_re_mi_ea/saudi_women

King Abdullah has told Saudi editors to stop publishing pictures of women as they could make young men go astray, newspapers reported Tuesday.

The king’s directive, made in a meeting with local editors, caused surprise as the monarch has been regarded a quiet reformer since he took office in the ultra-conservative country last August.

In recent months, newspapers have published pictures of women – always wearing the traditional Muslim headscarf – to illustrate stories with increasing regularity. Usually the stories have had to do with women’s issues. The papers have also started publishing a range of views on causes that are not generally accepted in Saudi Arabia – such as women having the right to drive and vote.

The king told editors on Monday night that publishing a woman’s picture for the world to see was inappropriate.

“One must think, do they want their daughter, their sister, or their wife to appear in this way. Of course, no one would accept this,” the newspaper Okaz quoted Abdullah as saying.

“The youth are driven by emotion... and sometimes they can be lead astray. So, please, try to cut down on this,” he said.

Although the king has broached topics – such as women eventually acquiring driving licenses – that were previously seen as nonstarters, his instruction to editors indicates that Islamic conservatives remain a powerful force in the kingdom and brake on reform.

The country adheres to a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Women are not allowed to vote and stand in municipal elections – the only type of election permitted in the kingdom.

The king also called on editors to stop printing stories that portray the country in a negative light.

“Don’t write anything that can be harmful to the country. Some reporters, they want to stand out and they end up going too far and this should not be allowed to happen,” Abdullah said according to Okaz.

The king added that newspapers should ignore the foreign press, especially when what it publishes is “against Islam or against Arabs.”

All media in Saudi Arabia are either state owned or state guided.

 

JIM CARREY VISITS ISRAEL

Jim Carrey visits Israel
Hollywood funnyman surprises Taba terminal employees as he enters country following stay in Egypt
Yediot Ahronot
May 4, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3246861,00.html

Hollywood funnyman Jim Carrey arrived in Israel Wednesday night for a private visit, Israel’s leading newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported.

Taba border crossing employees were surprised to see the superstar waltz in to the terminal at around 9 p.m. accompanied by three Israeli friends. The four came into the country after visiting Egypt. Following a quick passport check and after posing for a few photos with the terminal workers, Carrey jumped into a car and drove off with his friends en route to Jerusalem.

Carrey will stay in Israel for the next few days; on Sunday he is scheduled to visit the Western Wall in the Old City.

Carrey rose to superstardom with hits such as “Ace Ventura” and “The Mask,” but also showed near unlimited range in dramas such as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

Carrey’s visit marks the third by a Hollywood actor in recent weeks, after Ewan McGregor and Will Smith both spent a week in Israel.

 

RICKY MARTIN TO PLAY RA’ANANA

Ricky Martin to play Ra’anana
US superstar moves Israel show to smaller venue
By Or Barnea
Yediot Ahronot
May 7, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3247851,00.html

Ricky Martin’s local appearance, scheduled for July 3 at the Rishon Lezion Amphitheater, has been moved to the Amphi-Park in Ra’anana.

In addition, ticket prices for lawn seats have been dropped to NIS 209, whereas prices for reserved seats have gone up to NIS 309.

It should be noted that the Ra’anana theater is significantly smaller than its Rishon Lezion counterpart. Martin’s performance coincides with hip-hop band “Black Eyed Peas” at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv.

Many people have wondered whether the Israeli concert market is sufficiently large to support two major performances simultaneously, both in terms of ticket sales and media coverage.

Martin’s local producer, Haggai Stravis, said the concert was moved for “production reasons,” and added that Martin’s performance in Rishon Lezion had not been finalized when news reports appeared in the media.

 

STAR TREK’S WILLIAM SHATNER TO VISIT ISRAEL

Star Trek’s Jewish captain to visit Israel on do-good mission
By Ezra HaLevi
Israel National News
May 14, 2006

www.israelnn.com/news.php3?id=103626

Jewish Actor William Shatner, famous for his role in the Star Trek series, plans to visit Israel in the coming weeks.

Shatner, whose parents immigrated to Canada from Ukraine, is visiting the Jewish State as part of the Jewish National Fund’s efforts to raise $10 million for therapeutic riding centers across Israel.

Shatner enjoys breeding and showing American Saddlebreds and Quarter Horses and has a 360-acre horse farm in Kentucky named Bellreve, where he raises the winning horses.

The actor is excited about the construction of centers using riding as therapy across Israel. One such center is located at Kibbutz Grofit. It offers psychological evaluations and therapy designed to meet the needs of physically, emotionally, and mentally handicapped children. The center, staffed by medical professionals and using horses, runs the length of the school year, September through July.

Shatner said he hopes to create cooperation on the project between Israelis and Arabs from both the PA-controlled areas and the Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan. “What better way to create dialogue than by helping handicapped children from different countries feel good about themselves” Shatner said of the project.

 

RAPPER JAY-Z: ANTI-SEMITISM NOT COOL

Rapper Jay-Z: Anti-Semitism not cool
Hip-hop star set to take part in television ad encouraging Americans to act against anti-Jew groups
By Itamar Eichner
Yediot Ahronot
May 1, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3245893,00.html

Grammy-award winning hip-hop star Jay-Z, considered one of the world’s most important rappers, has decided to take part in the war on anti-Semitism. In the next few days he is expected to star in an TV commercial which will be broadcast on American television under the banner: “Anti-Semitism is not cool.”

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem received a report on the initiative from Aryeh Mekel, Israel’s consul-general in New York.

In the ad, rapper Jay-Z asks viewers not to join groups speaking against Jews because ‘anti-Semitism is not cool.’

Russell Simmons, a senior member of the U.S. hip-hop industry and one of the people who brought hip-hop culture into the American mainstream, is also expected to participate in the ads.

 

KATE AND JEMIMA SMOOCH FOR GAZA

Moss pays lip(s) service
AFP (Agence France Presse)
May 16, 2006

www.news24.com/News24/Backpage/HotGossip/0,,2-1343-1344_1934004,00.html

A charity for Palestinian refugee children is £60 000 better off after a kiss between Kate Moss and Jemima Khan, a London newspaper reports.

Fashion retail tycoon Philip Green fronted up the money at Monday’s auction in the exclusive Annabel’s club which raised more than £200 000 for the Hoping Foundation.

He was to get a kiss from Moss for his money, but when he declined – in deference to wife Tina – the supermodel puckered up instead with Khan, the Evening Standard newspaper reported on Tuesday.

“We thought it was going to be a kiss on the cheek,” one “eyewitness” was quoted as saying. “It lasted just over 60 seconds. A few people were shocked but everyone was laughing after.”

Khan, 32, ex-wife of cricketer Imran Khan, is going out with Hollywood star Hugh Grant, himself the object of intense bidding when a guest paid £12 000 to play golf with him, with Khan as the caddy.

Hard-partying Moss, also 32, is enjoying a career rebound after she was dumped by the likes of H and M, Chanel and Burberry last year after a London tabloid published of pictures of her apparently taking cocaine.

 

HALLELUJAH? ISRAEL GETS 24/7 EVANGELICAL CHANNEL

‘Can I get a Hallelujah?’ Israel gets 24/7 evangelical broadcast
By Ilan Chaim
Jewish Telegraph Agency
May 16, 2006

www.jta.org/page_view_story.asp?intarticleid=16614&intcategoryid=5

Shortly before Passover this year, the Jewish state inaugurated something decidedly non-Jewish – an evangelical channel preaching the Gospel around the clock.

The Communications Ministry confirmed that it issued a license to Daystar, the second-largest U.S. Christian television network, whose evangelical programming kicks off with a half-hour show produced by its Jerusalem affiliate, Tarshish.

The remaining content is supplied from Daystar’s home base in Texas through the company’s worldwide satellite network. It will be carried in Israel via cable providers HOT, which reaches about 1 million households, and YES, which reaches 500,000.

Before the inauguration of the Gospel channel, Tarshish produced a television program entitled “Christian Covenant with Israel” for Daystar viewers to raise money for what Tarshish called its “many humanitarian projects” in Israel. Tarshish claims the program aims to “teach about the spiritual ties existing between the Jewish people and the world’s Christian community.”

However, a promotional DVD distributed by Tarshish features interviews with two Jerusalem residents who are the recipients of its aid – both described as “Messianic Jews.”

Marcus Lamb, Daystar’s president and an evangelical broadcaster, dramatically announced the Israeli license during the network’s Spring Telethon in late March. Lamb said the license is for a full-time television channel that will reach “every home” in Israel, “preaching the gospel 100 percent of the time.”

Lamb asked his viewing audience – some 43 million homes in the United States and untold millions in about 200 other countries via satellites, TV and cable systems – to contribute the $1 million necessary to fund the Holy Land link.

His studio guest, Pastor John Hagee, a televangelist and founder of Christians United for Israel, appeared pleasantly surprised at the announcement.

“It’s just all I can do to keep from getting up and dancing,” he exclaimed. “It’s a joy and it’s a dream come true. If we are able to preach the gospel without reservation... it’s a major breakthrough.”

Hagee immediately offered to purchase the first “Friend of Israel” certificate for $1,000.

“Up until now, there has never been a 100 percent, full-time Christian television channel in the history of the nation of Israel,” Lamb said during the telethon. “It’s been illegal, or impractical, or it has been impossible, or it’s been prohibitive in the past.”

Middle East Television, with televangelist Pat Robertson, is available on cable in Israel, but it is broadcast from Cyprus.

Hagee noted that the Bible “talks about the gospel going forth from Jerusalem, and if this is in fact the announcement that the gospel can go forth without any limitations, without any editing and so forth... This is a first.”

Joni Lamb, Marcus Lamb’s wife and broadcasting partner, affirmed that the Israeli government would not edit the Daystar content in any way.

“That was part of the deal, that it couldn’t be edited. That was an issue in the past,” she said during the telethon.

Marcus Lamb said the license had been issued after a trial period of six to nine months during which the station’s Celebration program was aired daily in order to gauge the response from the Orthodox public. The trial reassured Israeli officials that no editing would be necessary.

“They didn’t get hardly any complaints and they got a lot of good, positive responses, because they’ve heard various things about American Christian television – so nobody is more astounded and more amazed than we are,” Lamb said.

Merav Strosberg-Alkabetz, a spokeswoman for the Israel Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting, said the council had awarded Daystar a license because “religious broadcasting (and it does not matter which religion is referred to) is permitted in the State of Israel, as long as it meets a number of basic criteria determined by the council.”

These essentially are prohibitions on harming other religions, exercising undue influence, threats or humiliation, soliciting donations, and a warning to exercise extreme caution in these matters.

She added that Daystar would be closely monitored to ensure it meets the licensing criteria and confirmed that its test broadcasts had not met with resistance. On the other hand, it’s virtually impossible to gauge how many Orthodox Jewish Israelis actually saw any of these broadcasts: While cable TV reaches some 65 percent of Israeli households, many fervently Orthodox Israelis do not own televisions. and even those who do may not be drawn to Daystar’s programming, which is in English and does not have Hebrew subtitles.

Lamb told viewers the negotiations had been going on for a year, during which Israeli legislators and businessmen had visited the channel, he said. He then made an appeal for funds.

“They are good Jewish businesspeople and they’re not going to do this out of the kindness of their hearts. The cost is, I believe, more than worth it, but it’s over $1 million a year,” he said. “Our Jewish friends are consummate business professionals. They have asked us to pay the entire first year up front.”

Lamb called for 1,000 viewers to pledge $1,000 each over the coming year to fund the Jerusalem station. After Hagee made the first pledge, Lamb promised to send a signed certificate and a copy of Hagee’s latest book, “The Jerusalem Countdown,” to all who followed suit.

“Will you be one of 1,000 to help us preach the gospel to thousands in the land of the Bible?” he asked.


“Da Vinci Code” movie banned by Egypt, Lebanon, Syria & Jordan

May 16, 2006

* The eagerly awaited film of Dan Brown’s international mega-bestseller “The Da Vinci Code,” has its world premiere tomorrow evening in Cannes, but already several Muslim-majority states have announced they will ban it

 

CONTENTS

1. “The Da Vinci code” banned across much of the Middle East
2. “Harms Christian and Muslim religious symbols”
3. Did God have grandchildren?
4. Cannes film festival to devote a full day to Israeli cinema
5. “The Da Vinci Code’s” influence on Arab feminists
6. “Da Vinci code film may be banned in Jordan” (Sapa-AFP, May 6, 2006)
7. “‘Da Vinci’ unlikely to pass Egypt censors” (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 14, 2006)
8. “Catholics protest at Da Vinci film” (Al-Jazeera.net, May 11, 2006)
9. “‘Code’ as a blessing in heretical disguise” (Washington Post, May 14, 2006)



[All notes below by Tom Gross]

“THE DA VINCI CODE” BANNED ACROSS MUCH OF THE MIDDLE EAST

The eagerly awaited film version of “The Da Vinci Code,” which stars Tom Hanks, will open the prestigious Cannes Film Festival tomorrow (Wednesday) evening, two days before its release at movie theaters worldwide.

However Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan have all said they will ban the movie.

At this time, Bahrain, Israel, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are the only Middle Eastern countries scheduled to show the screen version of Dan Brown’s mega-bestseller.

The film will be released in cinemas in Israel, and in several European, Asian and South American countries on Thursday, and in the US, UK and elsewhere on Friday.

A list of the countries that are showing the film can be found here:
www.sonypictures.com/movies/davincicode/international.

 

“HARMS CHRISTIAN AND MUSLIM RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS”

Jordan and Egypt are banning the film because it “harms Christian and Muslim religious symbols by calling into question what is written in the Gospels and the Koran on the personality of Christ,” according to the secretary general of the Jordanian Council of Churches, Archbishop Hanna Nour.

Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt had all previously banned “The Da Vinci Code” book.

Jordan has recently banned a number of films, including Syriana, Paradise Now and Munich.

In the past, Egypt banned Elizabeth Taylor’s “Cleopatra” (1963), on the grounds that Taylor was a “Zionist agent.” Egypt also banned “The Devil’s Advocate,” starring Al Pacino, in 1997. But Mel Gibson’s controversial “Passion of the Christ” (2004) (denounced as anti-Semitic by many Jewish groups) was shown in Egypt, as was last year’s “Kingdom of Heaven,” a portrayal of the Crusades and the battle for Jerusalem, which played in Cairo to favorable reviews, but was denounced by some American commentators as pro-al Qaeda propaganda.

Christian groups around the world have also protested against the showing of “The Da Vinci Code,” and the Vatican has condemned the film.

However, as the Washington Post article (attached below) notes, many Christians around the world “say they view the movie as a disguised gift: a historic evangelizing moment in which Christians will have a ready opportunity to speak with nonbelievers about God’s word.”

 

DID GOD HAVE GRANDCHILDREN?

The film, based on a novel by American author Dan Brown, is built upon the premise that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, one of his followers, with whom he had children, whose descendants have survived up to the present day.

The novel, which was published in 2003, has sold over 60 million copies worldwide, and has inspired tours to the museums, chateaux, churches and monuments mentioned in it. It has also spawned Web sites and nonfiction accounts debating its merits and has bolstered the sale of other Holy Grail books (including one whose authors recently claimed, unsuccessfully, at London’s High Court, was plagiarized by Brown). At least 45 books have come out to rebut points in Dan Brown’s novel, as well as more than a dozen CDs and DVDs.

Ron Howard, The Da Vinci Code’s director, has defended the film’s subject matter: “This is a work of fiction. It’s not theology. It’s not history. Spy thrillers don’t start off with disclaimers,” he said.

 

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL TO DEVOTE A FULL DAY TO ISRAELI CINEMA

In a bid to show “the cultural diversity of world cinema,” this year’s Cannes film festival will devote a full day to Israeli cinema in the framework of its “Tous les Cinemas du Monde” program. (It should be mentioned that many Israeli-made films are very pro-Palestinian.)

The program also includes Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, Venezuela, Tunisia and Chile, as well as Israel.

Israel Film Day in Cannes will conclude with a party for Israeli filmmakers held on the boardwalk.

I attach four articles below, which report on the diverse reactions across the world to what will most likely be the biggest movie of 2006. Please note that article about Catholic objection comes from one of al-Jazeera’s websites.

-- Tom Gross

 

“THE DA VINCI CODE’S” INFLUENCE ON ARAB FEMINISTS

A special correspondent from the Arab world contacts me to add, specially for this website:

Not everyone in the Arab world wants to ban “The Da Vinci Code”; some say there are lessons to be learned.

On October 2, 2005, Rana Abu Ata, a local correspondent in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) for the al-Arabiya TV channel, wrote an article in the London-based international mainstream Arab daily al-Hayat. The article deals with the affects of the novel “The Da Vinci Code,” as perceived by the writer, on educated young women in the Muslim world and is titled “Women’s rights in Islam: between renewal and imprecation.”

Rana Abu Ata opens by mentioning the important role women played in the formation of Christianity according to Dan Brown, and then goes on to say she was recently surprised to find out the depth of influence the novel has had on educated young Arab women. The novel, she says, “has opened doors that were locked behind veils” of the role of religion in daily life. The heart of the discussion, she adds, is the need to discuss the status of women in modern Arab societies and the unfair reduction of their rights which came even though the Koran says the status and rights of men and women should be equal.

The writer sees “the process of marginalization of women” as a “snowball which gains size and dynamics on its way from the top to the bottom [of the hill]”, and blames the current situation on the fact that most of the Arab countries were established under French law, and no sufficient progress has been made since. The writer suggests personal rights should be re-discussed, especially the right to divorce which, she states, is a legislative [shar’i] right for women.

The article appeared here: www.alarabiya.net/Articlep.aspx?P=17309



FULL ARTICLES

DA VINCI CODE FILM BANNED IN JORDAN

Da Vinci code film may be banned in Jordan
Sapa-AFP
May 6, 2006

www.iol.co.za/index.php?click_id=3&art_id=qw114692292034R131&set_id=

The head of the Jordanian Council of Churches called Saturday for the controversial film “The Da Vinci Code” to be banned from cinemas in Jordan, state news agency Petra reported.

The council’s secretary general, Archbishop Hanna Nour, was quoted as saying the film “harms the image of Christ,” pointing out that the book of the same title, written by American author Dan Brown, is already banned in Jordan.

It “harms Christian and Muslim religious symbols by calling into question what is written in the Gospels and the Koran on the personality of Christ,” Nour said.

The film, scheduled for global release on May 19, explores the idea that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene, had children, and that their descendants have survived up to the present day.

It depicts a conservative Roman Catholic order, the Opus Dei, as involved in a dark plot to avoid discovery of Jesus’s descendants.

The director of Jordan’s audiovisual authority, Mohammed Shawabkeh, said there is a “good chance the film will be banned because of the negative reactions it is likely to provoke among Christians in Jordan.”

Last week, an aide to Pope Benedict XVI called on the public to shun the movie, describing the novel as perversely anti-Christian.

 

“BASICALLY, IT IS SELF-CENSORSHIP”

‘Da Vinci’ unlikely to pass Egypt censors
By Betsy Hiel
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
May 14, 2006

www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/middleeastreports/s_453828.html

“The Da Vinci Code,” the film based on Dan Brown’s best-selling book, will not be seen in Egypt when it is released worldwide Friday.

Nor will the long-awaited film play in Jordan or Lebanon, which banned Arabic translations of the book.

Observers here blame fears that the film’s controversial take on Christ’s life will fan sectarian tension. The thriller posits the idea that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and their heirs exist today in secret.

Christian-Muslim relations in Egypt are especially strained after two deadly clashes in Alexandria, the country’s second largest city.

Youssef Sidhom, editor of a Christian newsweekly, thinks many Egyptians may view the film as “a conspiracy against Christianity.” But he opposes banning it, which he expects would provoke more curiosity – and a greater demand for pirated copies.

“If the movie was green-lighted by the censors, it would be criticized by the Coptic Church,” Egyptian film critic Sherif Awad said.

Coptic Christians make up 10 to 15 percent of Egypt’s 73 million people.

Moustafa Darwish worked as a film critic and directed government censorship in the 1960s. He recalls “many films (that) had something to do with religion... were forbidden,” although he felt they contained “nothing against public order or morals.”

Films showing “the face or voice of a prophet or his disciples” were routinely banned, he says.

Darwish was fired because he allowed movie trailers of Elizabeth Taylor’s “Cleopatra” (1963), “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966) and “The Taming of the Shrew” (1967) to run in Egyptian theaters. At the time, Taylor was considered a “Zionist agent,” he said, laughing.

Religious films are always controversial, and “Da Vinci Code” has stirred debate and criticism from clergymen worldwide.

Jordan’s Council of Churches urged the government to ban the film, according to the official Petra news agency. Council secretary-general Hanna Nour said the film tarnishes the memory of Christian and Islamic figures and “contradicts the truth as written in the Bible and the Quran about Jesus.”

A 1976 film, “The Message,” about the Muslim prophet Muhammad, remains banned in Egypt, according to Darwish. Mustafa Akkad, the film’s Syrian producer-director (and executive producer of many of the “Halloween” films), died in a 2005 terrorist attack in Amman, Jordan.

Egypt’s censors, a shadowy group, have long been part of filmmakers’ and critics’ lives.

“In 1954 and ’55,” Darwish said, “(American director) Cecil B. DeMille came to Egypt for the movie ‘The Ten Commandments.’ The crossing of the Red Sea, where the Egyptian army drowned and the Israelis crossed – all that was filmed in Egypt. We gave them our army (to film it).”

But some Egyptians claimed the film was used as Zionist propaganda, playing in New York just days after Israel’s invasion of the Egyptian Sinai in 1956.

“So we banned it, and until now it is banned. See? Made in Egypt, and banned in Egypt,” he said, shaking his head.

“The Devil’s Advocate,” starring Al Pacino, played in Cairo theaters briefly in 1997, according to film critic Awad. But Pacino’s final climactic speech as the devil was not subtitled in Arabic, and the film was soon banned.

Mel Gibson’s controversial “Passion of the Christ” (2004) hit screens here only after Egyptian Christians pressured the film’s local distributor to pass it by censors, he said.

Last year’s “Kingdom of Heaven,” a portrayal of the Crusades and the battle for Jerusalem, played here to favorable reviews.

Darwish explains the lines of reasoning weighing against “Da Vinci” opening in Egypt: “One is that the film will be sent here after the agents are sure it will be approved by the censors. Two, the producers decided not to send it here because the agent advised that it could be banned. ... Basically, it is self-censorship.”

Government censorship director Ali Abu Shadi insisted censors have not seen the film, adding: “We cannot ban it if a copy hasn’t come to us.”

Allied Film Distributors, the film’s local agent, removed movie trailers and publicity material from Cairo theaters.

“The company in America has to decide whether we are going to offer it or not because of a 90 percent chance it will be banned,” said Allied spokeswoman Nevene Refaat.

Awad thinks “Da Vinci” could earn $350,000 to $520,000 in Egypt, calling that “big money” for a foreign film. Ticket prices here typically range from $1 to $4.

For now, Bahrain, Israel, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are the only Middle Eastern countries scheduled to show “Da Vinci” upon its release.

“The only thing to fear is fear itself,” Darwish said, quoting Franklin Roosevelt. “Here in the Middle East, there is more fear than ever.”

(Betsy Hiel is a Middle East correspondent for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.)

 

CATHOLICS PROTEST AT DA VINCI FILM

Catholics protest at Da Vinci film
Al Jazeera.net
May 11, 2006

english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/AD0C766C-7316-42D2-A40E-5CB9941CB557.htm

Christian groups across the globe are protesting against The Da Vinci Code, the soon-to-be-released film based on the best-selling novel.

In India on Wednesday about 2,000 Roman Catholics marched through Mumbai, many carrying placards saying: “Stop hurting our faith.”

In the Philippines, where more than 80% of the population is Catholic, a government official called for the film to be banned in the country, describing it as blasphemous.

“I think we should do everything not to allow it to be shown,” Eduardo Ermita, executive secretary to the president, said on Wednesday.

The Vatican has also condemned the film, and Cardinal Francis Arinze urged Christians to take legal action to protect their faith from “those who blaspheme Christ”.

Meanwhile in Jordan, a Muslim country, the Council of Churches called for the film to be banned.

Catholic leaders in Greece and Austria have also condemned the film.

Director’s defence

The film is based on the eponymous novel by Dan Brown, an American author. It contains the premise that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, one of his followers, with whom he had children.

The film and novel have been criticised by Opus Dei, a conservative Catholic organisation that features heavily in the novel and which claims it has been unfairly depicted.

“Those who do further research and exercise critical judgment will discover that assertions made in The Da Vinci Code... lack support among reputable scholars,” the group said in a statement.

It has also demanded that the film carry a disclaimer before any film screening, saying that the events it depicts are fictional.

However, Ron Howard, the film’s director, rejected the demand and defended the film’s subject matter.

“This is a work of fiction... it’s not theology, it’s not history. Spy thrillers don’t start off with disclaimers,” he told the Los Angeles Times newspaper.

 

“A DISGUISED GIFT”

‘Code’ as a blessing in heretical disguise
In a shift, some Christians see movie as bridge to nonbelievers
By Michelle Boorstein and Alan Cooperman
The Washington Post
May 14, 2006

www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/13/AR2006051301104.html

Greg Beatty’s first look at “The Da Vinci Code” came when a neighbor reached across his back fence in 2003 and handed the Catholic lawyer the book and a question: Is this true?

After reading the novel, Beatty saw the questioning spread from his Springfield yard to his downtown office at the National Labor Relations Board. Was Jesus really married? Do some members of the Catholic group Opus Dei really wear self-mutilating belts? Beatty could answer some things but not others.

Forty-five million copies later, his challenge is about to get bigger. On Friday, Hollywood will release its version of “The Da Vinci Code,” but Beatty – along with many other Christians – is ready.

Hundreds of churches have distributed books and DVDs meant to expose what they say are the film’s many historical inaccuracies. Pastors are delivering sermons about issues raised by the movie. In classes and seminars, Christians of several denominations are being trained in how to talk about the themes.

Many people involved in these programs say they view the movie as a disguised gift: a historic evangelizing moment in which Christians will have a ready opportunity to speak with nonbelievers about God’s word.

That’s where Beatty fits in. Last week, he attended a talk at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Alexandria, where people were coached in how to handle post-film conversations. “This is a chance to teach people a whole lot more than they might have learned if they hadn’t read the book,” he said. “And they are bringing the subject to you, so now you are free to really explore it with them.”

Some Catholic activists and authorities, including top Vatican officials, have urged Christians to boycott the movie. But the fact that so many churches are taking the opposite tack reflects what some see as religion’s growing engagement with mainstream culture, not unlike skateboard ministries or hip-hop preachers.

“This is how young people find things out, through the media,” said the Rev. Terry Specht, who works for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and has given pre-movie lectures at bars and schools in the past couple of weeks.

“If I walk into a high school and say I’m going to talk about Constantine – nothing,” he said, referring to the 4th-century Christian emperor. “If I say I’m going to talk about this film and then Constantine, it connects. These are the things that are real to them.”

In addition to being an evangelizing moment, this is a big-business moment. At least 45 books have come out to rebut points in Dan Brown’s novel, as well as more than a dozen CDs and DVDs tied to the film’s release that explore the book, church history and the New Testament.

The novel follows a Harvard professor and a Paris police cryptographer who, while trying to solve a murder, stumble across a secret covered up by a centuries-old clandestine society: that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that they had a daughter.

Although the drumbeat of Christian defenders grew slowly after Brown’s book came out in 2003, the campaign pegged to the movie’s release has been broad and highly organized. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in March launched a documentary and a Web site, http://jesusdecoded.com. Hundreds of churches are using debunking “kits” created by a coalition of nondenominational megachurch ministers. And at least seven television specials in which historians, theologians and archaeologists take issue with “The Da Vinci Code” are scheduled to air this month.

Whether Brown’s thriller deserves to be taken so seriously by religious leaders is unclear. A survey released this month by the Barna Group, a religious polling firm, found that 5 percent of U.S. adults who had read the book said it had changed some of their religious beliefs or perspectives. Although a quarter of the respondents called the book “helpful” to their spiritual growth, George Barna, the company’s founder, said he thought the book simply confirmed people’s doubts. “I think that 24 percent were skeptics,” he said.

However, pastors and Christian activists say their sense, from overhearing people chatting about the book at the bus stop or the barber shop, is that many aren’t versed enough in church history to distinguish fact from fiction.

“I think some folks take everything they read at face value. And 10 times as many people are likely to see a movie as read a book,” said Mark Norman, pastor at Grace Community Church near Laurel, where congregants are holding a four-week series of pre-movie talks.

“Conversations about Jesus don’t happen with outsiders much. People have spiritual interest and no forum to talk about it,” he said.

Steve Weidenkopf, who runs parish talks for the Diocese of Arlington, agrees that the film holds great potential for sparking thoughtful dialogue. He finds it hard to believe that tens of millions of people were drawn to “The Da Vinci Code” out of anti-Christian venom and instead sees the book’s success as evidence of a spiritual hunger.

“People like it because they think they are learning about Christ and about church history. And modern man has in his heart a desire to know God,” Weidenkopf said. The book’s epic success “has to be drawing on something that’s in people.”

Not everyone takes such a sanguine view. Cardinal Francis Arinze, the Vatican’s chief liturgist and one of several Roman Catholic officials who have spoken out against the film, said Christians should consider legal action against the filmmakers.

One Roman Catholic organization plans to protest at 1,000 movie theaters across the country, and another is calling for Christians to instead buy tickets for the children’s film “Over the Hedge,” which comes out the same day.

The Rev. Mike Licona was boycott-minded in 1988, when “The Last Temptation of Christ” came out. In hindsight, that action created the impression that Christians weren’t open to debate, said Licona, who is the director of interfaith evangelism for the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board. This time, he has been training church groups to understand and respond to the film. This movie, he says, “is a big juicy softball lobbed at anyone” who wants to talk about Jesus.

“It’s easy to knock out of the park, because so much of it is demonstrably false,” he said. “There are much harder questions that could be thrown, like what is the origin of evil? ‘The Da Vinci Code’ doesn’t ask that.”


“The BBC pro-Israeli? Is the Pope Jewish?” (& American teen Danny Wultz dies)

May 15, 2006

* Latest in a long list of untruths put out by the BBC’s defenders: “Israeli victims receive more air time.” Yet there was extensive coverage of Palestinian “militants” who died yesterday while there was no mention of Israeli Lior Anidzar (26) who died Saturday or American teen Daniel Wultz (16) who died yesterday, both as a result of the Tel Aviv Passover suicide bombing

* Melanie Phillips: “With the BBC, through its distortions and omissions, loaded questions, double standards, partial language, rigged panel discussions and systematic decontextualisation of violence which have succeeded in reversing the roles of victim and aggressor in the Middle East in the minds of millions of people, constituting the single most influential weapon worldwide in the monstrous campaign to prepare the ground for the destruction of Israel”

* Martin Walker, the editor of UPI: “The official report for the governors of the BBC on its coverage of the Palestine-Israeli conflict found predictably that there was ‘was little to suggest systematic or deliberate bias’ but then went on to list a series of measurements by which the BBC could be said to be biased in favour of Israel. Despite a catalogue of examples to the contrary, the governors insist there is bias *against* the Palestinians. This produced mocking guffaws in my own newsroom…”

* Press release: “The Council for Arab-British Understanding welcomes the findings of the independent panel looking into the BBC’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian issue”

* The Guardian media correspondent, Ben Dowell: “BBC sources expressed surprise that the report accused the corporation of demonstrating bias towards Israel”

 

CONTENTS

1. It pours forth its worldview in almost every language of the Middle East
2. “Little to suggest deliberate or systematic bias”
3. “We think they should call terrorist acts ‘terrorism’”
4. “State-terrorism”
5. BBC report receives varied reviews in UK; Arab media not interested
6. “One side is in control…”
7. “No link between BBC bias and anti-Semitism"
8. “Israelis receive more air time”
9. Lior Anidzar and Daniel Wultz
10. “Bad news from Israel" read by all members of the panel
11. “One of the most dreadful stories ever broadcast by the BBC”
12. A history of BBC reports
13. Australian politician criticizes anti-Israel media bias
14. Guffaws of laughter
15. “The BBC pro-Israeli? Is the Pope Jewish?” (Times of London, May 11, 2006)


[Note by Tom Gross]

IT POURS FORTH ITS WORLDVIEW IN ALMOST EVERY LANGUAGE OF THE MIDDLE EAST

This is a more detailed dispatch on the BBC governors’ report, which was set up to determine whether the BBC is biased in its treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, following criticism of its coverage by many parties, including myself.

It should be emphasized that the BBC is possibly the most influential news service in the world. It broadcasts in dozens of languages, on TV, radio and online.

Its radio service alone attracts over 163 million listeners daily, according to new figures released by the BBC yesterday, up from 153 million previously.

It pours forth its worldview in almost every language of the Middle East: Pashto, Persian, Arabic and Turkish. Needless to say it declines to broadcast in Hebrew, even though it does broadcast in the languages of other small nations: Macedonian and Albanian, Azeri and Uzbek, Kinyarwanda and Kyrgyz, and so on. (It doesn’t broadcast in Kurdish either; but then the BBC doesn’t concern itself with Kurdish rights or aspirations since they are persecuted by Moslem-majority states like Syria and Iran. We didn’t hear much on the BBC, for example, when dozens of Syrian Kurds were killed and injured by President Assad’s regime.)

(For the record, there are the same number of Hebrew and Kinyarwanda speakers, each about 7 million. Only 3 million people speak Kyrgyz, and only 1.6 million speak Macedonian. At the time I write, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is presently at the top of the BBC Macedonian home page: www.bbc.co.uk/macedonian.)

“LITTLE TO SUGGEST DELIBERATE OR SYSTEMATIC BIAS”

The “Report of the independent panel for the BBC governors on impartiality of BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” released earlier this month and referred to in a previous dispatch on this list, contained both criticism and praise of BBC coverage. It appears that the report was an attempt to pander to both sides in an attempt to seem “fair” and “impartial,” even though it seems clear to unbiased parties that most BBC reporters’ opinions are heavily tilted against Israel, whether they cry for Yasser Arafat, or are secretly recorded telling Hamas rallies that they are “waging the campaign shoulder to shoulder together with the Palestinian people.”

Yet, the panel concluded that there was “little to suggest deliberate or systematic bias” within the BBC coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the same time, the report criticized “the elusiveness of editorial planning, grip and oversight” of its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and said the BBC does not “consistently give a full and fair account.”

The importance of the BBC coverage was outlined in the report in which it was admitted that its international influence means the BBC and its coverage are “important prizes” in a conflict where “the media themselves are part of the contest ground.”

The full report can be seen here: www.bbcgovernors.co.uk/docs/reviews/panel_report_final.pdf

“WE THINK THEY SHOULD CALL TERRORIST ACTS ‘TERRORISM’”

The inquiry, led by Sir Quentin Thomas, the president of the British Board of Film Classification, argued that the BBC should be less cautious over its use of the word “terrorism” because “that is the most accurate expression for actions which involve violence against randomly selected civilians.”

The report justified the use of the word “terrorism” since “it was readily used [by the BBC] in respect of the tube and bus bombs in London on 7th July 2005.” The inquiry concluded that “If it appears to adopt one policy in covering terrorist attacks in London, or Madrid, [the BBC] must expect to face questions if it appears to take a different line in Israel.”

For more on this see this article written days after the London bombs, The BBC discovers ‘terrorism,’ briefly.

“STATE-TERRORISM”

The panel, which quite clearly wanted to keep proceedings as “fair” as possible, also said the BBC should use “terrorism” to describe violence against civilians with the intention of causing terror for ideological objectives, “whether perpetrated by state or non-state agencies.”

Steve Hewlett, writing in The Guardian, argued that this new definition may include “the allied bombing of Dresden – as it was aimed at random individuals and designed to create terror.”

If these guidelines are adopted we could soon see BBC condemnation of any number of countries practicing “state-terrorism.”

Hewlett concluded his piece in “hope that the new governance arrangements at the BBC are robust enough to take what is good from the panel’s report but to reject what is not.”

BBC REPORT RECEIVES VARIED REVIEWS IN UK; ARAB MEDIA NOT INTERESTED

Following the publication of the BBC Governors report, The Times of London headlined its news piece “BBC news ‘favours Israel’ at expense of Palestinian view” whilst The Guardian titled its article: “BBC cleared of bias in Israeli coverage.”

According to my sources that closely monitor the Arab media for this list/website, both al-Sharq al-Awsat and al-Hayat, the two main international daily papers in the Arab world, which are both Saudi-owned and based in London, have not reported at all on the internal BBC inquiry. The London-based, Saudi-affiliated, ELAPH also neglected to mention the report.

Al-Quds al-Arabi, a London-based Palestinian daily edited by Abd al-Bari Atwan, also failed to mention the report. This is particularly surprising as Atwan has been a frequent guest commentator on the BBC in recent years.

(Incidentally, in an editorial today, on page 19, al-Quds al-Arabi, says “Israeli law [is] Nazi in its racism.” See: www.alquds.co.uk:8080/TodayPages/qds19.pdf. But the BBC never mentions what an extremist Atwan is when it uses him as one of their favorite and supposedly impartial commentators. Al-Quds al-Arabi is also published in New York and Frankfurt as well as in London.)

IRNA, the Iranian news agency, and KUNA, the Kuwaiti news agency, contained short reports on the BBC bias report.

Writing in Arab News (May 9, 2006), the British Arabist Sir Cyril Townsend, said: “Slightly to my surprise, for I keep a close eye on this subject, a study for the BBC’s governors reported on May 2 that the BBC’s coverage of the Arab-Israel conflict implicitly favors the Israeli side… the BBC comes out of all this rather well, and I expect many of its top staff, who face powerful and sustained criticism from the articulate pro-Israeli lobby, will feel this critical study gives them much useful ammunition. It is much to the credit of the BBC that it called for the study in the first place… I end with a word of praise for Orla Guerin, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent. She has reported on Sharon and Jewish settlers and Hamas, in a calm, thoughtful, exemplary and impartial manner day after day.”

“ONE SIDE IS IN CONTROL…”

The report also asserts that “one side is in control and the other lives under occupation,” and that “Israelis are necessarily in the position of authority, while the Palestinians are frequently in the position of challenger.”

Leading journalist and commentator, Melanie Phillips, a longtime subscriber to this email list, argues “What occupation? Ever since Oslo, the Arabs in the disputed territories have lived under rule by the Palestinian Authority. The only occasions when Israeli rule impinges on their daily lives occur when Israel takes defensive security measures to stop the Arabs from murdering its citizens.”

“NO LINK BETWEEN BBC BIAS AND ANTI-SEMITISM”

The panel also claimed that: “We did not find evidence that any increase in anti-Semitic behaviour could be attributed to BBC coverage.”

Melanie Phillips responded to this claim: “This of course is mere assertion based on no evidence at all. Indeed, how can it be otherwise? Since the panel has concluded there is no BBC bias against the Jewish state, how can it have contributed to animosity against the Jews?”

Whilst the report claimed there was no link between BBC bias and increased anti-Semitism in the UK and elsewhere, it did assert that “Although the evidence put to us by those supportive of the Palestinian side did not emphasise this point, it is easy to see that there is also the possibility of an adverse impact on Muslim communities.”

In other words, the study for the BBC governors attempted to equate anti-Semitism with anti-Muslim sentiment in Britain on the basis of precisely none of the evidence with which they had been presented.

“ISRAELIS RECEIVE MORE AIR TIME”

According to the study, deaths of Israelis received greater coverage than Palestinian fatalities, while Israelis received more airtime on news and current affairs programs. In their pieces on the BBC report, newspapers in Britain, such as the Independent, put great stress on this claim, as if it were true.

Martin Walker, the editor of United Press International (UPI), notes in his article, attached below, “given the media-wise presence of the Peace Now movement and Israel’s lively democracy, much of that nominally ‘Israeli’ talk time would have been highly critical of the Sharon Government.”

Dr. Irene Lancaster of the University of Manchester, also questioned the study’s assumption that the fact that the BBC supposedly broadcast more interviews with Jews and Israelis than with Palestinians demonstrated a pro-Israel leaning. The BBC regularly reports the opinions of anti-Israeli Jews, Dr Lancaster said, which under the report’s methodology would count as a pro-Israel broadcast.

The “prestigious Reith Lectures, currently running on [BBC] Radio 4 and repeated several times a week on the BBC World Service is a typical example of the BBC using Jews, both running the show and featuring Jews, in this case Daniel Barenboim, the conductor, in order to demonize Israel and thus the Jewish people by ridiculously adulating Muslim culture, in this case that of the Palestinians,” she said.

LIOR ANIDZAR AND DANIEL WULTZ

The report also claimed that “a small percentage of Palestinian fatalities were reported by BBC News… (whilst) the killing of more than one Israeli by Palestinians either by gun or bomb was reported on national broadcast programs.”

This is simply untrue. Today, for example, the BBC News website reports on six Palestinian “militants” killed in an Israeli anti-terror operation. Yet there is no mention on their website of Daniel Wultz or Lior Anidzar, the two most recent victims of the April 17 suicide attack on a Tel Aviv falafel stand during the Jewish holiday of Passover.

(Nor was there any mention in the BBC story on air or on line, that the senior Islamic Jihad terrorist who, with his gang, died in a shootout yesterday had planned several suicide bombings that killed almost forty people – including the April 17 suicide attack in which Anidzar and Wultz died – and was planning to carry out another terror attack shortly. He received funding directly from Islamic Jihad headquarters in Damascus. Nor in the midst of countless reports about how the Palestinians don’t have any money was there mention of the 10 kilogram explosive belt seized in a Palestinian car by the Israeli army in Nablus on Saturday en route to be used in a terror attack in Israel this week; nor that yesterday the Israel Navy intercepted another Palestinian gun boat near Gaza, this one carrying about 450 kilograms (992 pounds) of TNT and parts of mines, and additional bags of explosives. This is where the international aid money goes.)

Lior Anidzar, 26, of Tel Aviv, who had married his wife Maya just 13 days earlier, died of his wounds on Saturday (May 13) in Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital. Anidzar’s sister, Dalia, who is six months pregnant, said yesterday that she would name her baby Lior after “her darling, sweet little brother.”

Daniel Wultz, 16, an American on vacation in Israel, died from his injuries yesterday. Wultz was referred to in the dispatches “The mushroom cloud is on its way” (& American teen victim loses leg) and Al Aqsa leader: American Jewish teens are our ideal target (& Fisk on Walt).

There is no mention of either Lior Anidzar or Daniel Wultz on the BBC website.

Nor was there any mention of them in this morning’s BBC radio World Briefing program despite the fact that the first four reports in the program all dealt with the alleged humanitarian crisis faced by Palestinians (and another report later in the program was also on the Palestinians). Two of my journalist colleagues, working for respected international media in Gaza last week, told me privately that there was in fact plenty of food in Gaza despite some media claiming that “the Palestinians are facing starvation and hunger.”

Nor, among a mass of other reports about suffering Palestinians yesterday, did the BBC mention the Israeli injured by a bomb near Ramallah. Even the Jordan news agency ran the story, but not the BBC. See: www.petra.gov.jo/nepras/2006/May/14/16.htm.

It is also worth noting the contrast between the lack of coverage over American teen Daniel Wultz, who was murdered in Tel Aviv, and the obsessional coverage of American political activist Rachel Corrie, who died in an accident.

Doctors said that during Wultz’s four-week fight for life, he was able to communicate with his family by batting his eyelids, despite being in great pain.

At least one other of the 70 injured in the bombing remains in critical condition and may not survive.

“BAD NEWS FROM ISRAEL” READ BY ALL MEMBERS OF THE PANEL

Page 17 of the BBC report asserts that all members of the panel read the book “Bad news from Israel” by Greg Philo and Mike Berry. Amazingly, “Bad News from Israel” claims systematic pro-Israeli bias on the BBC and other television channels. Following publication of this book last June, Philo appeared on a number of different BBC programs.

It is therefore not surprising that one of the conclusions of this report was that “there was little reporting of the difficulties faced by the Palestinians in their daily lives.”

For more on this book, see the dispatch BBC’s former Mideast correspondent: BBC is much too pro-Israel (June 22, 2004). (Even for those with limited time, I suggest you take a look at some of the items in that dispatch.)

“ONE OF THE MOST DREADFUL STORIES EVER BROADCAST BY THE BBC”

One of the BBC reports cited by the panel was “a report on how a modern day traveller might undertake a journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.” No mention was made in the BBC Governors report that an Israeli Foreign Ministry Official said at the time that “this was one of the most dreadful stories ever broadcasted by the BBC.”

For more on this, see the third note in the dispatch Venezuelan President Chavez: “The descendants of the Christ-killers” control the world (Jan. 2, 2006).

Additionally, no mention is made in the whole report of BBC Jerusalem correspondent Barbara Plett who said on air that she “started to cry” in sorrow when Yasser Arafat left the West Bank shortly before his death in October 2004.

The BBC’s Board of Governors criticized BBC news chiefs for not sanctioning Plett in November 2005. There is no mention of this sanction in the report even though it comes under the specific time period the report was investigating.

For more on this, see BBC sanctions reporter who cried for Arafat (& “Hitler” running in Fatah primaries) (Nov. 28, 2005).

A HISTORY OF BBC REPORTS

Unsurprisingly, a report provided by the BBC, about its own coverage, by a supposedly independent panel nominated and serviced by the BBC, has produced a report which reeks of BBC “impartiality.”

This is not the first time the BBC has failed to sufficiently criticize its own Mideast reporting. In 2003, a report which was also provided for the BBC Governors, prepared by the Royal Institute for International Affairs, concluded that “BBC coverage was impartial and accurate.”

Another internal report prepared in 2003 for BBC Management by “Senior Editorial Adviser on the Middle East” Malcolm Balen has still not been made public, although this 2006 report claims that “a number of its recommendations have been implemented.”

AUSTRALIAN POLITICIAN CRITICIZES ANTI-ISRAEL MEDIA BIAS

Other broadcasters elsewhere also seem to be inspired by the BBC agenda. For example, last week Connie Fierravanti-Wells, an Australian Liberal Party Senator, criticized two Australian television stations for their “anti-Jewish, anti-U.S. slant that some broadcasters relish in adopting.” The legislator, having returned from Israel to see the untruth of the “Israeli apartheid lie” with her own eyes, added that stations ABC and SBS often “tell only one side of the story.”

GUFFAWS OF LAUGHTER

I attach below a commentary piece on the BBC report by Martin Walker, Editor of United Press International (UPI), who says that the conclusions of the report that there was no anti-Israeli bias in the BBC “produced mocking guffaws in my own newsroom.” Walker cites several examples of such bias, borrowed with my permission from this email list/website.

Unlike the other big news agencies (Reuters, AP, AFP), UPI at least attempts at fair coverage of the Middle East. The systematic anti-Israeli errors of other news agencies are too numerous to be catalogued. For example, the caption for one of the main AP photos sent this morning by AP to newspapers and websites worldwide reads: “A Palestinian man stands at the border fence as he looks to the Israeli settlement of Metulla, during a rally to mark the 58th anniversary of ‘al-Nakba,’ or ‘the catastrophe,’ at the Fatima Gate in the village of Kfar Kila on the Lebanon-Israel border, on Sunday May 14, 2006.”

Metulla is of course not a settlement but a town in northern Israel, founded in 1896.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLE

THE BBC PRO-ISRAELI? IS THE POPE JEWISH?

The BBC pro-Israeli? Is the Pope Jewish?
By Martin Walker
The Times (of London)
May 11, 2006

www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,6-2174641,00.html

Despite a catalogue of examples to the contrary, the governors insist there is bias against the Palestinians

The official report for the governors of the BBC on its coverage of the Palestine-Israeli conflict found predictably that there was “was little to suggest systematic or deliberate bias” but then went on to list a series of measurements by which the BBC could be said to be biased in favour of Israel.

This produced mocking guffaws in my own newsroom, where some of the BBC’s greatest hits – or perhaps misses – remain fresh in the memory. There was the hagiographic send-off for Yassir Arafat by a BBC reporter with tears in her eyes and that half-hour profile of Arafat in 2002 which called him a “hero” and “an icon” and concluded that the corrupt old brute was “the stuff of legends”.

There was Orla Guerin’s unforgettably inventive spin on the story of a Palestinian child being deployed as a suicide bomber, which most journalists saw as a sickening example of child abuse in the pursuit of terrorism. Guerin had it as “Israel’s cynical manipulation of a Palestinian youngster for propaganda purposes”.

There was the disturbing case of Fayad Abu Shamala, the BBC Arabic Service correspondent, who addressed a Hamas rally on May 6, 2001, and was recorded declaring that journalists in Gaza, apparently including the BBC, were “waging the campaign shoulder to shoulder together with the Palestinian people”. Pressed for an explanation, the subsequent BBC statement said: “Fayad’s remarks were made in a private capacity. His reports have always matched the best standards of balance required by the BBC.”

There was the extraordinarily naive coverage of the London visit of Sheikh Abdur-Rahman al-Sudais, the predominant imam of Mecca, to open London’s largest new mosque. He was described as a widely respected religious figure who works for “community cohesion”, and a video on the BBC website was captioned “The BBC’s Mark Easton: ‘Events like today offer grounds for optimism’.”

The BBC must have missed his sermon of February 1, 2004, that said “the Jews of yesterday are the evil fathers of the Jews of today, who are evil offspring, infidels... calf-worshippers, prophet-murderers, prophecy-deniers... the scum of the human race whom Allah cursed and turned into apes and pigs... These are the Jews, a continuous lineage of meanness, cunning, obstinacy, tyranny, licentiousness, evil, and corruption...”

These are isolated examples, but they stick longer in the memory because they are reinforced by a broader pattern of coverage that seems to play down that Israel is a democracy that elects Israeli Arabs to the Knesset and which does not engage in systematic terrorism and suicide bombing of civilians. So it was startling to read the report for the BBC governors finding so much bias in favour of Israelis. This was based largely on the quantitative content analysis done by outside researchers which found “significant differences across BBC news programmes and services in the allocation of talk time”.

The detailed survey found disparities (in favour of Israelis) in the amount of talk time given to Israelis and Palestinians, and that “Israeli fatalities generally receive greater coverage than Palestinian fatalities”.

The methodology of the survey may be a complicating factor. The period analysed went from August 2005, the time of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, and January 2005, when Ariel Sharon had his stroke and the Palestinians held their elections. The greater use of Israeli voices in this period seems reasonable when the big stories were the domestic political implications for the settler movement of the Gaza withdrawal and of Sharon’s eclipse. And given the media-wise presence of the Peace Now movement and Israel’s lively democracy, much of that nominally “Israeli” talk time would have been highly critical of the Sharon Government.

Moreover, the terms of reference of the report that the BBC governors commissioned excluded both the BBC World Service and the international TV channel BBC World, although it did include the BBC website. This excluded a large fraction of the BBC’s international coverage along with the often more detailed coverage that the World Service provides.

It is important to consider the context of the report’s finding that Israeli deaths tend to get more coverage is that the Israeli victims are overwhelmingly and deliberately civilians, targeted at random. The Palestinian fatalities vary widely. Some are killed in internal feuds between Hamas and Fatah, and some are executed as “collaborators”, some are terrorists caught in the act and some are the victims of Israeli targeted killings. These tend to be the ones that result in the tragic collateral killing and wounding of civilians and children. And it can be difficult for journalists, even those with the resources and exemplary bravery and professional persistence of most BBC reporters, to establish which is which in time for a news report.

The report on which the governors will now rely to develop new guidelines for BBC coverage tends to skate over some of the professional problems that make even-handed reporting difficult in Gaza and in the West Bank. Journalists have been kidnapped and cameras stolen, and their sources are often intimidated.

By contrast, Israeli politics are easily followed in Israel’s free press, where critics of the occupation and of Israeli military tactics abound and where the Israeli media does sterling work, including the kind of combative investigative reporting that is virtually unknown in the Palestinian press.

There is one piece of good news. BBC reporters will henceforth be allowed to use the T-word to describe “relevant events, since it is the most accurate expression for actions which involve violence against randomly selected civilians with the intention of causing terror for ideological, including political or religious, objectives, whether perpetrated by state or non-state agencies”.

But even here BBC reporters will be faced with a tricky dilemma, since the report goes on to say: “While those immediately responsible for the actions might be described as terrorists, the BBC is right to avoid so labelling organisations, except in attributed remarks.”

So think of the poor hack on deadline in a flak jacket trying to remember whether to say some crazed Jihadist killer was “a terrorist from Hamas” rather than “a Hamas terrorist” while squeezing more historical background and more Palestinian talk-time into the news report. It’s amazing that the coverage is as decent as it is, and that most of us in the business concede privately that, for all its flaws, the BBC still does a better job that any other news organisation on Earth.


Olmert calls Ahmadinejad a “psychopath” who “speaks like Hitler”

May 02, 2006

* Iran says it may give nuclear aid to regime in Sudan
* Iran shells Kurds in Iraq
* For first time, UN admits Iran aids Hizbullah
* Israel has world’s largest Jewish population for first time in almost 2,000 years

 

CONTENTS

1. “Olmert: Ahmadinejad is ‘psychopath’ who ‘speaks like Hitler’” (Ha’aretz, April 30, 2006)
2. “Iran’s secret plan if attacked by US codenamed ‘Judgement Day’” (Asharq Al-Awsat, April 27, 2006)
3. “Iran’s president recruits terror master” (Sunday Times of London, April 23, 2006)
4. “UN says Iran aids Hezbollah” (UPI, April 21, 2006)
5. “Senior Iran cleric tells Sudan that nuclear aid is available” (New York Times, April 26, 2006)
6. “Iran chalks U.S. threats up to failure to build coalition” (Beirut Daily Star, April 22, 2006)
7. “Families flee Iranian shelling on Kurdish rebels in Iraq” (AFP, May 2, 2006)
8. “Iran enriched uranium to over 4 pct, says official” (Reuters, April 30, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

This dispatch should be read in conjunction with the other dispatch on Iran sent today. Below, I attach a series of recent news reports on Iran. There are summaries first, for those who don’t have time to read the full articles. (There will be no more dispatches for the next week because of other work commitments.)

The first article reports on Ehud Olmert’s comments to the German best-selling Bild newspaper in which he called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a “psychopath” who “speaks like Hitler.” The next article, an “exclusive” from the London-based Saudi-owned daily Asharq Al-Awsat, reports on Iran’s secret plan, codenamed “Judgment Day,” if attacked by the U.S.

Other articles below report on Ahmadinejad’s recruitment of Imad Mugniyeh, the Lebanese commander of Hizbullah’s overseas operations, who could be in charge of any Iranian retaliation. This comes only days after the UN, for the first time, named Iran a supporter of Hizbullah.

The final articles report on the offer from Iran to Sudan of nuclear aid, Iranian accusations against the U.S., reports that Iran shelled Kurdish rebels causing casualties and families to flee their homes, and news that Iran has enriched uranium to over four percent.

On another depressing note, the Islamic regime’s worldwide suicide-bombers internet registration site has recommenced operations according to this report: www.iranpressnews.com/source/012531.htm

-- Tom Gross

 

ISRAEL HAS LARGEST JEWISH POPULATION FOR FIRST TIME IN ALMOST 2,000 YEARS

On a separate matter, United Press International reports today that for the first time in almost 2,000 years, Israel has the largest Jewish population of any country in the world. New statistics announced yesterday by the Israeli government say that about 76 percent of the population of 7.3 million is Jewish, about 5.3 million people. The last survey of the U.S. Jewish population put it at about 5.3 million in 2001, but statisticians think that the numbers may have declined slightly.

 

SUMMARIES

“HE SPEAKS LIKE HITLER DID OF THE EXTERMINATION OF THE JEWISH NATION”

“Olmert: Ahmadinejad is ‘psychopath’ who ‘speaks like Hitler’” (Ha’aretz, April 30, 2006)

Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert launched an unprecedented attack on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an interview with a German newspaper published Saturday, labeling him an anti-Semitic “psychopath of the worst kind. He speaks like Hitler did of the extermination of the entire Jewish nation.”

“I hope that he will never become so dangerous and destructive, like Adolf Hitler was,” Olmert goes on. “I hope he never gets the chance to transfer his threats into the deeds, but if one wants to judge a statesman based on his words, I can say Ahmadinejad speaks today as Hitler spoke before the seizure of power.”

“Suffice to say that the west, led by the United States, will not agree under any circumstances to allow Iran to have nuclear weapons. U.S. President George W. Bush is a brave man who understands this very well.”

 

IRAN’S SECRET PLAN IF ATTACKED BY U.S. CODENAMED “JUDGEMENT DAY”

“Iran’s secret plan if attacked by US codenamed ‘Judgement Day’” (Asharq Al-Awsat, By Ali Nouri Zadeh, April 27, 2006)

Eight fundamentalist Islamist organizations have received large sums of money in the last month from the Iranian intelligence services, as part of a project to strike U.S military and economic installations across the Middle East, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

The plan, which also includes the carrying out of suicide operations targeting US and British interests in the region, as well as their Arab and Muslim allies, in case Iran is attacked, was drawn up by a number of experts guerilla warfare and terrorist operations, and was revealed by a senior source in the Iranian armed forces’ joint chief of staff headed by the veterinary doctor Hassan Firouzabadi…

As for the Lebanese Hezbollah, several loads of arms have been sent to; they include rockets, explosives, and guided missiles. Hezbollah’s arsenal includes more than 10 thousand rockets short-range rockets and missiles including Fajr, Nour, Arash, Hadid.

An estimated 80 members underwent private training last year on how to carry out suicide operations from the air (through the use of kite planes) and undersea operations using submarines…

 

AHMADINEJAD RECRUITS TERROR MASTER

“Iran’s president recruits terror master” (By Sarah Baxter and Uzi Mahnaimi, The Sunday Times of London, April 23, 2006)

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attended a meeting in Syria earlier this year with one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, according to intelligence experts and a former national security official in Washington. US officials and Israel intelligence sources believe Imad Mugniyeh, the Lebanese commander of Hezbollah’s overseas operations, has taken charge of plotting Iran’s retaliation against western targets should President George W Bush order a strike on Iranian nuclear sites.

Mugniyeh is on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” list for his role in a series of high-profile attacks against the West, including the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jet and murder of one of its passengers, a US navy diver.

Now in his mid-forties, Mugniyeh is reported to have travelled with Ahmadinejad in January this year from Tehran to Damascus, where the Iranian president met leaders of Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas…

Jane’s Intelligence Review cited “reports in recent weeks” of Mugniyeh’s presence alongside the president… “It’s hard to identify Mugniyeh because he is said to have changed his face and his fingerprints”…

Mugniyeh lives in Iran and has evaded capture for more than 20 years, despite a $5m American bounty on his head… The young Mugniyeh first attracted the attention of the West when he was involved in the kidnapping, torture and mutilation of William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut, in 1984…

 

UN NAMES IRAN A SUPPORTER OF HIZBULLAH FOR FIRST TIME

“UN says Iran aids Hezbollah” (By William M. Reilly, United Press International, April 21, 2006)

The United Nations has for the first time named Iran a supporter of Hezbollah, an Islamic Shiite resistance group based in Lebanon and a bitter foe of Israel. The mention came in a report to the U.N. Security Council under Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s name, but prepared by his special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen. Among its requests, the report calls for the removal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.

The semi-annual report was sent to the panel of 15 nations earlier this week and a copy was obtained by United Press International prior to its official publication.

The prime target of the report was the Syrian military and Palestinian militias based in the Arab country. Annan said in the report, “I note the assurance of the Lebanese Army Command that it has the capacity to collect the arms of Palestinian militias if and when a political decision to that effect is taken.”…

“Hezbollah maintains close ties, with frequent contacts and regular communication, with the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Annan said in the report…

 

“IRAN IS PREPARED TO TRANSFER THE EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE AND TECHNOLOGY OF ITS SCIENTISTS”

“Senior Iran cleric tells Sudan that nuclear aid is available” (By Nazila Fathi, New York Times, April 26, 2006)

Iran’s supreme leader said Tuesday at a meeting here with the Sudanese president that Iran was ready to share its nuclear technology with other countries.

“Iran’s nuclear capability is one example of various scientific capabilities in the country,” the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said to President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge and technology of its scientists.”…

 

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

IRAN CHALKS U.S. THREATS UP TO FAILURE TO BUILD COALITION

“Iran chalks U.S. threats up to failure to build coalition” (The Beirut Daily Star, April 22, 2006)

Iran on Friday dismissed a U.S. warning it could strike Iranian nuclear installations in the name of self-defense, with the foreign ministry arguing the threat was a sign of frustration in Washington. “America is angry because no other country has taken its side,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency.

“The U.S. is trying to weaken international institutions by using lies and tricky unilateralist policies. The U.S. is trying to make up for its inability to get other countries on side,” he added…

 

“DOZENS OF FAMILES WERE FORCED TO LEAVE THEIR HOMES”

“Families flee Iranian shelling on Kurdish rebels in Iraq” (AFP, May 2, 2006)

Iranian forces shelled Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq for the second day, forcing dozens of Kurdish families to flee.

“The Iranians shelled PKK positions from 9 pm on Sunday until 5 am on Monday,” Rustom Judi, a leader of the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq’s northern province of Sulaimaniyah, told AFP. “Dozens of families were forced to leave their homes,” he said Monday. “We have casualties,” he added, but did not provide further details…

 

“WE HAVE DONE ENRICHMENT IN THE RANGE OF ABOVE 4 PERCENT”

“Iran enriched uranium to over 4 pct, says official” (Reuters, April 30, 2006)

Iran has enriched uranium to more than 4 percent, an Iranian official said on Saturday, a level higher than Iran previously told the U.N. nuclear watchdog but still in the range used for fuel in nuclear power stations.

Iran had told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in mid-April that it had enriched uranium to 3.6 percent, a level which the IAEA confirmed from samples it took…



FULL ARTICLES

“HE SPEAKS LIKE HITLER DID OF THE EXTERMINATION OF THE JEWISH NATION”

Olmert: Ahmadinejad is ‘psychopath’ who ‘speaks like Hitler’
Ha’aretz
April 30, 2006

Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert launched an unprecedented attack on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an interview with a German newspaper published Saturday, labelling him an anti-Semitic “psychopath” who “speaks like Hitler.”

Olmert told Bild newspaper that the Iranian president “is a psychopath of the worst kind. He speaks like Hitler did of the extermination of the entire Jewish nation.”

“I hope that he will never become so dangerous and destructive, like Adolf Hitler was,” Olmert goes on. “I hope he never gets the chance to transfer his threats into the deeds, but if one wants to judge a statesman based on his words, I can say Ahmadinejad speaks today as Hitler spoke before the seizure of power.”

The prime minister said that it was the duty of the entire world to work together to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

“So you see, we are dealing with a psychopath of the worst kind, with an anti-Semite,” Olmert said. “God forbid that this man ever gets his hands on nuclear weapons, to carry out his threats.”

Olmert also touched on the possibility of a military strike to deter Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Tehran said Saturday that it would allow the United Nations to resume snap inspections of its nuclear sites as long as the country was not referred to the UN Security Council.

“Suffice to say that the west, led by the United States, will not agree under any circumstances to allow Iran to have nuclear weapons. U.S. President George W. Bush is a brave man who understands this very well.”

The Iranian president provoked an international outcry last year when he denied the Holocaust had occurred, and said that Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

In February, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki had said Ahmadinejad’s October 2005 comments had been misunderstood and that he had been speaking about the Israeli “regime,” not the country. Mottaki had said a country could not be removed from the map.

But earlier this month, the Iranian president called Israel a “rotten, dried tree” that will be annihilated by “one storm.”

“There might be doubts in the Holocaust, but there are definitely no doubts about the holocaust happening in the recent years in Palestine,” Ahmadinejad said in an April 14 address.

The land of Palestine, he said, referring to the British mandated territory that includes all of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, “will be freed soon.”

He did not say how this would be achieved, but insisted to the audience of at least 900 people: “Believe that Palestine will be freed soon.”

He most recently repeated the comments on Tuesday, as Israel marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, saying that the Jews of Israel should return to Europe.

 

IRAN’S SECRET PLAN IF ATTACKED BY U.S. CODENAMED “JUDGEMENT DAY”

Iran’s secret plan if attacked by US codenamed “Judgement Day”
Asharq Al-Awsat Exclusive
By Ali Nouri Zadeh
April 27, 2006

Eight fundamentalist Islamist organizations have received large sums of money in the last month from the Iranian intelligence services, as part of a project to strike U.S military and economic installations across the Middle East, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

The plan, which also includes the carrying out of suicide operations targeting US and British interests in the region, as well as their Arab and Muslim allies, in case Iran is attacked, was drawn up by a number of experts guerilla warfare and terrorist operations, and was revealed by a senior source in the Iranian armed forces’ joint chief of staff headed by the veterinary doctor Hassan Firouzabadi.

The source added that the forces of the Revolutionary Guards’ al Quds Brigades, under Brigadier General Qassim Suleimani is responsible for coordinating and providing logistical support for the groups taking part in the execution of the plan, codenamed al Qiyamah the Islamic word for “Judgment Day”.

The plan includes three steps, which Asharq al Awsat has examined in earlier reports. The source gave more details about how the plan will be implemented. He said, “Most of Iran’s visitors in the last four months, including the leaders of revolutionary groups in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, as well as the heads of Hezbollah cells in the Persian Gulf and Europe and North America were asked, when they met with the Iranian intelligence minister Gholamhossein Mohseni Ezhei and his aides: are you ready to defend the Islamic revolution and vilayat e faqih? If you agree to take part in the great jihad, what would you need to be ready for the great fight?

Amongst the leaders who visited were the head of one of the Iraqi armed group who was very clear and honest. He said his men would transform Iraq into a hell for the Americans if Iran were attacked.

The source also said that the military training camps of the Guards were opened for the fighters of the Mehdi army in Iran to receive the necessary training. Iran had also increased its financial assistance to Moqtada al Sadr to more than 20 million dollars.

The same applied to Islamic Jihad in Palestine which has received large sums of money, large quantities of arms and military training for its cadres in Isfahan, including street fighting methods.

As for the Lebanese Hezbollah, several loads of arms have been sent to; they include rockets, explosives, and guided missiles. Hezbollah’s arsenal includes more than 10 thousand rockets short-range rockets and missiles including Fajr, Nour, Arash, Hadid.

An estimated 80 members underwent private training last year on how to carry out suicide operations from the air (through the use of kite planes) and undersea operations using submarines.

While denying that Hamas had joined the list of organizations ready to help Iran in its likely war with the U.S, the source indicated that the external success of the movement, which enjoys considerable Iranian support both financial and military, was strengthened following the latest visit by its leaders to Tehran. This was translated in the Palestinian masses’ support for Iran, against Israel and the United States.

According to Iran, the latest military plan includes:

1 – A missile strike directly targeting the US bases in the Persian Gulf and Iraq, as soon as nuclear installations are hit.

2 – Suicide operations in a number of Arab and Muslim countries against US embassies and missions and US military bases and economic and oil installations related to US and British companies. The campaign might also target the economic and military installations of countries allied with the United States.

3 – Launch attacks by the Basij and the Revolutionary Guards and Iraqi fighters loyal to Iran against US and British forces in Iraq, from border regions in central and southern Iraq .

4 – Hezbollah to launch hundreds of rockets against military and economic targets in Israel.

According to the source, in case the US military attacks continue, more than 50 Shehab-3 missiles will be targeted against Israel and the al Quads Brigades will give the go-ahead for more than 50 terrorists cells in Canada, the US and Europe to attack civil and industrial targets in these countries.

What about the last stage in the plan?

Here, the Iranian source hesitated before saying with worry; this stage might represent the beginning of a world war, given that extremists will seek to maximize civilian casualties by exploding germ and chemical bombs as well as dirty nuclear bombs across western and Arab cities.

 

AHMADINEJAD RECRUITS TERROR MASTER

Iran’s president recruits terror master
Plot for revenge attacks on West
By Sarah Baxter and Uzi Mahnaimi
The Sunday Times (of London)
April 23, 2006

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, attended a meeting in Syria earlier this year with one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, according to intelligence experts and a former national security official in Washington. US officials and Israel intelligence sources believe Imad Mugniyeh, the Lebanese commander of Hezbollah’s overseas operations, has taken charge of plotting Iran’s retaliation against western targets should President George W Bush order a strike on Iranian nuclear sites.

Mugniyeh is on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” list for his role in a series of high-profile attacks against the West, including the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jet and murder of one of its passengers, a US navy diver.

Now in his mid-forties, Mugniyeh is reported to have travelled with Ahmadinejad in January this year from Tehran to Damascus, where the Iranian president met leaders of Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

The meeting has been dubbed a “terror summit” because of the presence of so many groups behind attacks on Israel, which Ahmadinejad has threatened to wipe from the map.

Jane’s Intelligence Review cited “reports in recent weeks” of Mugniyeh’s presence alongside the president.

Michael Ledeen, a Middle East expert and former Pentagon and National Security Council official who wrote that Mugniyeh had “probably” been there, said last week senior American officials had confirmed it.

“It’s hard to identify Mugniyeh because he is said to have changed his face and his fingerprints,” Ledeen said. “But senior government officials have told me I was right. He was there.”

Shortly after the Damascus summit Henry Crumpton, head of counter-terrorism at the state department, singled out the elusive Mugniyeh as a threat. The Iranians, Crumpton said, “have complete command and control of Hezbollah. Imad Mugniyeh works for Tehran. And you can’t talk about Hezbollah and not think about Iran. They really are part and parcel of the same problem.”

Mugniyeh lives in Iran and has evaded capture for more than 20 years, despite a $5m American bounty on his head. Western intelligence reports claim he has many connections to terrorist cells in Europe, Africa, Latin America and the US and he is said to have met Osama Bin Laden.

“When and if the Iranians decide to hit the West in its soft belly, Imad will be the one to act,” a western intelligence source said last week.

An Israeli defence source claimed Mugniyeh was in regular touch with the new Iranian intelligence minister, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ezhei. The minister is a long-time confidant of Ahmadinejad and was appointed by him.

“We know that Mohseni Ezhei holds routine meetings with Mugniyeh, who is today Iran’s head of overseas operations,” said the Israeli defence source. “Since we know from previous Iranian terror attacks that it takes about a year to plan a substantial one, we should not be surprised if operations against western targets are already in high gear and Mugniyeh is certainly playing a major role.”

The young Mugniyeh first attracted the attention of the West when he was involved in the kidnapping, torture and mutilation of William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut, in 1984. He kept his victim at the Sheikh Abdullah camp in the Lebanese Bekaa valley and was allegedly the last person Buckley saw before he died.

“Imad had good reason to retaliate,” said a well-informed source. “A car bomb killed his brother Jihad, who had taken Imad’s old job as bodyguard to Hezbollah’s spiritual leader.” Mugniyeh blamed the CIA, and Buckley was chosen to pay the price.

The kidnapping led to the Iran-contra affair, one of the most embarrassing episodes of the Reagan presidency, in which arms were swapped for hostages. But by the time the Americans were negotiating with the Iranians, Buckley was already dead.

Mugniyeh has also been linked to the demolition of the American embassy and marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and is wanted in Argentina for his role in recruiting the bombers of the Israeli embassy and Jewish centre in Buenos Aires in the early 1990s.

Mugniyeh left Lebanon for Iran in 1994 with his wife and son after an assassination attempt. He is since believed to have played an active role in fomenting trouble in Iraq. Ledeen described him last week as the “spinal column of the terror war against America in Iraq from the beginning”.

According to Robert Baer, a former CIA agent who pursued Mugniyeh in the 1980s, “he is the most dangerous terrorist we have ever faced. Mugniyeh is probably the most intelligent, most capable operative we have ever run across, including the KGB or anybody else.

“He enters by one door, exits by another, changes his cars daily, never makes appointments by telephone – he is never predictable. He is the master terrorist, the grail we have been after since 1983”.

Elite Iranian army officers who arrived in south Lebanon this month have taken command of thousands of rockets aimed at cities across Israel. They are believed to have been given control of the missiles by Hezbollah to deter possible Israeli attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

 

UN NAMES IRAN A SUPPORTER OF HIZBULLAH FOR FIRST TIME

UN says Iran aids Hezbollah
By William M. Reilly
United Press International
April 21, 2006

The United Nations has for the first time named Iran a supporter of Hezbollah, an Islamic Shiite resistance group based in Lebanon and a bitter foe of Israel.

The mention came in a report to the U.N. Security Council under Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s name, but prepared by his special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen. Among its requests, the report calls for the removal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.

The semi-annual report was sent to the panel of 15 nations earlier this week and a copy was obtained by United Press International prior to its official publication.

The prime target of the report was the Syrian military and Palestinian militias based in the Arab country. Annan said in the report, “I note the assurance of the Lebanese Army Command that it has the capacity to collect the arms of Palestinian militias if and when a political decision to that effect is taken.”

He also welcomed recent statements from both groups indicating a willingness to put their arms “under the state’s authority.”

The report further called for “free and fair” elections in a Lebanon not dominated by Syria, which has maintained a vast “intelligence network in its neighbor.”

As for Hezbollah, the direct link it shares with Iran – considered the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism – is underscored midway through the document.

“Hezbollah maintains close ties, with frequent contacts and regular communication, with the Syrian Arab Republic and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Annan said in the report. “In this context, particularly, I have taken note of statements by senior Syrian officials urging a continuation of the ‘resistance.’”

The group is described by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations as “a Lebanese umbrella organization of radical Islamic Shiite groups and organizations. It opposes the West, seeks to create a Muslim fundamentalist state modeled on Iran, and is a bitter foe of Israel.”

The council added, “Hezbollah is also a significant force in Lebanon’s politics and a major provider of social services, operating schools, hospitals, and agricultural services, for thousands of Lebanese Shiites.”

It has long been regarded as funded largely by Tehran.

“There has not yet been any noticeable change in the operational status and capabilities of Hezbollah,” the report said. “A group engaged in the democratic political process of opinion formation and decision-making can not simultaneously possess an autonomous armed operational capacity outside the authority of the state.”

Hezbollah’s inclusion in the government underlined the significance of its possible transformation into solely a political party, Annan said, reiterating his belief “the carrying of arms outside the official armed forces is impossible to reconcile with the participation in power and in government in a democracy.”

He also said leaders of most Lebanese political factions had told him they view with favor the eventual integration of Hezbollah into the armed forces.

However, Annan said arms are still being shipped to Hezbollah, as recently as February.

“Arms destined for Hezbollah had been transferred from Syria into Lebanon,” the secretary-general said he was told. “Twelve trucks carrying ammunition and weapons of various kinds, including Katyusha rockets, crossed the border from Syria.

“Discovered a few days later at a checkpoint inside Lebanon, the trucks were allowed to continue their journey towards their destination in South Lebanon,” he continued, adding an army statement indicated “transportation and storage of ammunition belonging to the ‘resistance,’ once inside Lebanon, were subject to the ministerial policy statement of the current Lebanese government, which considered the ‘resistance’ to be legitimate.”

Beirut confirmed the Lebanese military had not been authorized to prevent further movement of the material “which had been a common practice for more than 15 years.”

However, Annan said Roed Larsen has been assured by the Lebanese government and military “further cases of arms transfers would be put to the direct decision of Prime Minister (Fouad) Siniora, and that no further transfers of ammunitions and weapons have occurred since this incident.”

Hezbollah continues to justify its existence as a “resistance” movement by Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Shaaba farms area, which the United Nations had determined to be Israeli-occupied Syrian territory but which many Lebanese claimed.

Lebanon and Syria recently agreed it should be regarded as Israeli-occupied Lebanese territory when the border between Lebanon and Syria is demarcated.

 

“IRAN IS PREPARED TO TRANSFER THE EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE AND TECHNOLOGY OF ITS SCIENTISTS”

Senior Iran cleric tells Sudan that nuclear aid is available
By Nazila Fathi
The New York Times
April 26, 2006

Iran’s supreme leader said Tuesday at a meeting here with the Sudanese president that Iran was ready to share its nuclear technology with other countries.

“Iran’s nuclear capability is one example of various scientific capabilities in the country,” the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said to President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, the news agency IRNA reported. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to transfer the experience, knowledge and technology of its scientists.”

Mr. Khamenei made his comments just days before the Friday deadline set by the United Nations Security Council for Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment.

At a conference on Tuesday in Tehran on its nuclear program, senior officials vowed that Iran would continue its enrichment activities.

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said that in the event of Security Council sanctions, Iran would suspend cooperation with the United Nations nuclear agency. If there is a military strike aimed at destroying its facilities, Iran will simply hide its nuclear program, he added.

“You may inflict a loss on us, but you will lose also,” he said. Mr. Larijani said Iran was willing to cooperate if its case was returned to the International Atomic Energy Agency, but warned, “Do not expect us to act otherwise if you drag the case to the Security Council.”

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a senior cleric and head of the powerful Expediency Council, speaking at the conference, denounced the role of the nuclear agency and said it had failed to support Iran’s program. “I am not saying that the agency has had bad intentions,” he said. “But it has not fulfilled its duty to support countries to enjoy their right to have nuclear technology.”

 

“DOZENS OF FAMILES WERE FORCED TO LEAVE THEIR HOMES”

Families flee Iranian shelling on Kurdish rebels in Iraq
AFP (Agence France Presse)
May 2, 2006

Iranian forces shelled Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq for the second day, forcing dozens of Kurdish families to flee. “The Iranians shelled PKK positions from 9 pm on Sunday until 5 am on Monday,” Rustom Judi, a leader of the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Iraq’s northern province of Sulaimaniyah, told AFP.

“Dozens of families were forced to leave their homes,” he said Monday. “We have casualties,” he added, but did not provide further details.

Iranian troops targeted positions around the villages of Laradu, Rushga and Qalaa Tuka about 190 kilometers (118 miles) north of Sulaimaniyah in the region’s rugged mountains, Judi said.

On Sunday, Iraq’s defence ministry said Iranian forces had entered Iraqi territory and shelled PKK positions over a period of 24 hours.

Iran on Monday refused to confirm or deny its troops had crossed into Iraqi soil. “I do not confirm the entry of our forces into the territory of neighbouring countries, notably Iraq,” government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters.

“We have security cooperation accords with neighbouring countries and we act within the framework of these accords. There is no cause for concern over this kind of thing with neighbouring countries,” he said.

On April 20, Iranian shelling killed at least two people and injured 10 others in Iraq, the PKK said, while a group linked to the rebels, Pejak, killed four fighters inside Iran in weekend violence.

 

“WE HAVE DONE ENRICHMENT IN THE RANGE OF ABOVE 4 PERCENT”

Iran enriched uranium to over 4 pct, says official
Reuters
April 30, 2006

Iran has enriched uranium to more than 4 percent, an Iranian official said on Saturday, a level higher than Iran previously told the U.N. nuclear watchdog but still in the range used for fuel in nuclear power stations.

Iran had told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in mid-April that it had enriched uranium to 3.6 percent, a level which the IAEA confirmed from samples it took.

Experts said uranium enriched to a range of roughly 3 to 5 percent is a low level used in atomic power reactors. Uranium would have to be enriched far higher, to 80 percent or more, to make nuclear weapons, which is what the West fears Iran wants.

“We have done enrichment in the range of above 4 percent,” Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency, said on a discussion programme on Iranian state television.

He also repeated Iran’s position that it would not give up enrichment, describing it as an “issue of life and death for Iranian society” and saying the goal enjoyed broad support.

“It is up to Iran to decide if it will keep enrichment at a pilot level or move towards an industrial scale,” he said.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Iran will pursue large-scale enrichment in defiance of U.N. demands for suspending the sensitive nuclear work.

The world’s fourth largest oil exporter insists it has no military nuclear programme and says it wants to enrich fuel for nuclear power stations.

Western diplomats at the United Nations in New York have said they plan to introduce a resolution to the Security Council within a week giving legal force to the Council’s demands.

The United States, backed by Britain and France, support limited sanctions but the other two veto-wielding permanent Council members, Russia and China, are more guarded.

“I am sure that Russia and China will not support any draft that could lead to a Chapter 7 resolution in the Security Council,” Iran’s envoy to the IAEA in Vienna, Ali-Asghar Soltanieh, told the television programme by telephone.

A resolution adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter makes council resolutions mandatory under international law. Chapter 7 allows for sanctions or even war but a separate resolution is required to specify either step.

Western diplomats have said China and Russia were unlikely to veto a resolution, but may block any eventual sanctions.


Mainstream media ignores yesterday’s anti-regime protests in Iran

* The BBC governors report on BBC bias just out: criticizes BBC for not using word terrorism when suicide bombs go off

 

CONTENTS

1. Mainstream media ignores exceptional Iranian May Day protests
2. “Tehran found even closer to nukes” (Washington Times, May 1, 2006)
3. “Iranians accused in Iraq bombing deaths of Italian soldiers” (Washington Times, May 1, 2006)
4. “May Day workers rally brings out tens of thousand and exposes the regime’s lies” (Iran Press News, May 1, 2006)
5. “Iran workers in rare protest on May Day” (AFP, May 1, 2006)
6. “Iran has missiles that put Europe in range-report” (Reuters, April 27, 2006)
7. “Chirac: ‘Militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable’” (Beirut Daily Star, April 20, 2006)
8. “Russia helps Israel keep an eye on Iran” (AP, April 26, 2006)
9. “Iran says Russia and China will not back sanctions” (Reuters, May 2, 2006)
10. “Iran-India gas link deal close despite US ire” (Reuters, April 23, 2006)
11. “Saudi Arabia, Iran among world’s top executors” (AFP, April 21, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

MAINSTREAM MEDIA IGNORES EXCEPTIONAL IRANIAN MAY DAY PROTESTS

One of the reasons I am sending this today is that The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and The Guardian have shied away from revealing that yesterday’s exceptional May Day demonstration by workers in Tehran included protests against the regime’s stances on the Palestinians and its nuclear ambitions.

Despite its top story being on Iran last night, plus running a supposed “in depth” feature on Iran, the BBC News website did not mention this.

Instead of publishing photos of the mass anti-government protests, The Guardian today publishes an Iranian-government organized picture of Tehran May Day demonstrators peacefully propping up a wall painted with an anti-US caricature of the Statue of Liberty with a lurid grinning death’s head. (www.guardian.co.uk/gall/0,,1765265,00.html – 7th picture on page)

For pictures of the actual anti-government protests, see
regimechangeiran.blogspot.com/2006/05/photos-of-labor-protest-today-in.html

Below, I attach a series of recent news reports on Iran. There are summaries first, for those who don’t have time to read the full articles. (Today’s dispatch is divided into two for space reasons. There will be no more dispatches for the next week because of other work commitments.)

-- Tom Gross

 

GAZA JOURNALISTS GET THREATS OVER HAMAS COVERAGE

On a separate matter, Reuters correspondent Nidal al-Mughrabi reports today that “Palestinian journalists in Gaza have received death threats for their critical coverage of Hamas since it began running the PA government in March, the Palestinian Journalists' Union said Monday. Radio and the government-run television station have been highly critical of Hamas policies since the group took office. ‘Since Hamas came to power, they want journalists all to talk the same language, the Hamas language,’ said journalist Waseem Gharib.”

I am glad to see that Reuters is at least reporting on such threats. They failed to do so in the days of Yasser Arafat’s rule. See The Case of Reuters: A news agency that will not call a terrorist a terrorist.

 

BBC GOVERNORS REPORT ON BBC BIAS JUST OUT

The BBC governors report on BBC bias, written up last month, was made public a short time ago, and as someone who the BBC took evidence from I have been emailed the link by the BBC. I have not had time to read it yet. It can be found here:

http://www.bbcgovernors.co.uk/docs/reviews/panel_report_final.pdf

One point I note from a quick glance of the report is that the governors say BBC coverage has “not been full and fair” and that BBC journalists should use the word terrorism when describing terrorist acts while reporting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Readers may wish to contrast the report with this article.

 

SUMMARIES

IRAN FOUND EVEN CLOSER TO NUKES

“Tehran found even closer to nukes” (By Abraham Rabinovich, The Washington Times, May 1, 2006)

Israel has told the Bush administration that Iran is closer to having a nuclear weapon than was previously thought... The head of the Mossad intelligence service, Meir Dagan, traveled to Washington last week to meet with counterparts in the CIA and pass on Israel’s latest findings on Iran’s nuclear progress.

An Israeli satellite launched last week from a Russian cosmodrome in Siberia began sending high-resolution photographs over the weekend. Israeli specialists termed the results “amazing.”…

Ehud Olmert did not say what Mr. Dagan told his American counterparts last week. But the London Sunday Times quoted an Israeli source yesterday as saying that the Mossad had evidence of hidden uranium enrichment sites in Iran “which can shortcut their timetable in the race for their first bomb.”…

 

“TEHRAN MASTERMINDED THE ATTACK ON THE ITALIANS”

“Iranians accused in Iraq bombing deaths of Italian soldiers” (By John Phillips, The Washington Times, May 1, 2006)

Iranian agents were accused yesterday of masterminding a bomb attack that killed three Italian soldiers in Iraq last week and intensified political pressure for the incoming government to speed up its withdrawal of troops from that country.

Thousands of politicians, soldiers and police solemnly filed past the coffins of the three soldiers at a chapel at Rome’s Celio military hospital yesterday. An honor guard from Italy’s Corrazieri cavalry regiment stood stiffly by the coffins, each draped with the Italian tricolor flag and the swords and berets of the dead.

The soldiers, whose deaths are being treated as a national tragedy, were killed on Thursday by a remotely detonated roadside bomb that exploded next to their armored vehicle near Nasariyah. Pathologists said temperatures in the vehicle exceeded 5,000 degrees.

The newspaper la Repubblica yesterday quoted officials of the Military Intelligence and Security Service, known by its Italian acronym SISMI, saying the attack was organized by Iranian agents, who were first spotted in the province in early April.

 

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

“LET GO OF THE PALESTINIANS AND START THINKING ABOUT US”

“May Day workers rally brings out tens of thousand and exposes the regime’s lies” (Iran Press News, May 1, 2006)

www.iranpressnews.com/english/source/012597.html

… The workers who had shown up at the ex-U.S. embassy due the Islamic regime’s threats and intimidation of the loss of their jobs were meant to be nothing more than window-dressing for the Islamic regime’s own self-promotion. They had been told to chant slogans about “nuclear power is our absolute right”; instead however, in defiance of their oppressors, they began chanting slogans such as: “Incompetent labor minister, resign, resign, strike, strike... is our absolute right” or “Imprisoned worker must be freed” or “Let go of the Palestinians and start thinking about us.” At this point the regime’s plans for a pro-regime seeming demonstration was dashed…

 

“TO STRIKE IS OUR UNDENIABLE RIGHT!”

“Iran workers in rare protest on May Day” (AFP, May 1, 2006)

A few thousand angry Iranian workers held a rare protest in Tehran, using international Labor Day to press demands for more jobs, better contracts and the payment of wage arrears.

The gathering had been organized by the Islamic regime to show off public support for its disputed nuclear drive but quickly transformed into a protest over economic conditions.

Several people chanted “To strike is our undeniable right!” and “Permanent employment is our undeniable right!” instead of the regime’s current favourite slogan “Nuclear technology is our undeniable right”…

 

IRAN HAS MISSILES THAT PUT EUROPE IN RANGE

“Iran has missiles that put Europe in range-report” (Reuters, April 27, 2006)

Iran has received a first shipment of missiles from North Korea that are capable of reaching Europe, Israel’s military intelligence chief was quoted as saying. Known in the West as BM-25s, the Russian-designed missiles have a range of around 2,500 km (1,500 miles), giving them a longer reach than the Iranian-made Shihab-4 missiles which are capable of hitting Israel…

The BM-25 was originally manufactured in the Soviet Union, where it was known as the SSN6, a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead… After the Russians decommissioned the SSN6, the missiles were sold to North Korea, which adapted them to carry a heavier payload… a German diplomat, citing his country’s intelligence data, confirmed a German newspaper report that said Iran had purchased 18 disassembled BM-25s from North Korea…

 

CHIRAC: “MILITARILY NUCLEARIZED IRAN IS UNACCEPTABLE”

“Chirac: ‘Militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable’” (Beirut Daily Star, April 20, 2006)

… The Iranian leaders “must understand that, for the international community, the prospect of a militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable,” French President Jacques Chirac said in an interview with the Egyptian state-owned daily Al-Ahram. He insisted that the door remained open for a resumption of talks as soon as Iran goes along with the requests of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Security Council. “More than ever the choice is in the hands of the Iranian leaders,” he said…

… Chirac is also scheduled to officially inaugurate the French University in Egypt, which first opened three and a half years ago and whose first graduates should receive their diplomas in a few weeks. France is the fourth largest investor in the Egyptian economy and its exports increased by 40 percent in 2005 compared to the previous year.

 

RUSSIA LAUNCHES SPY SATELLITE FOR ISRAEL

“Russia helps Israel keep an eye on Iran” (AP, April 26, 2006)

Russia launched a satellite for Israel that the Israelis say will be used to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities. The Eros B satellite was launched from Svobodny, in eastern Russia… The Itar-Tass news agency in Russia and Channel 10 television in Israel reported that the launching was successful.

The satellite is intended to help Israel gather information on Iran’s nuclear program and its long-range missiles, which are capable of striking Israel, said an Israeli military official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The most important thing in a satellite is its ability to photograph and its resolution,” the official said...

 

IRAN SAYS RUSSIA AND CHINA WILL NOT BACK SANCTIONS

“Iran says Russia and China will not back sanctions” (Reuters, May 2, 2006)

Iran’s foreign minister was quoted today as saying that Russia and China had officially informed Tehran they would not support sanctions or military action over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program…

 

IRAN, INDIA AND PAKISTAN CLOSE TO SIGNING GAS PIPELINE DEAL

“Iran-India gas link deal close despite US ire” (Reuters, April 23, 2006)

Iran, India and Pakistan are close to signing a gas pipeline deal, the Iranian and Pakistani oil ministers told Reuters, defying U.S. opposition to the project. The plan to pump Iranian gas to India through Pakistan was first proposed more than a decade ago, but progress has been slow because of hostility between India and Pakistan and, more recently, U.S. opposition to Iran because of its nuclear programme.

Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri said he had an understanding with India and Pakistan and was unconcerned by U.S. opposition. “We have a very good understanding,” Vaziri said…The $7 billion pipeline through Pakistan would link Iran’s abundant gas reserves, the world’s second biggest, to India’s booming economy. It would carry 150 million cubic meters per day of gas for 25 years, Vaziri said.

 

SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN AMONG WORLD’S TOP EXECUTORS

“Saudi Arabia, Iran among world’s top executors” (AFP, April 21, 2006)

China carried out 80 percent of the world’s 2,148 known executions last year, while Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States accounted for most of the rest, Amnesty International said… Amnesty said at least 2,148 prisoners were executed in 22 countries in the 12 months to December 2005.

It added that some 1,770 executions were reported in China – although it suspected the real figure could be as high as 8,000 – and at least 94 in Iran, 86 in Saudi Arabia… It said executions are also known to have taken place in Bangladesh, Belarus, Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, Kuwait, Libya, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palestinian areas, Singapore, Somalia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen…

It called on Iran – “the only country known to Amnesty International to have executed juvenile offenders in 2005” – to follow the lead of the United States in March 2005 and ban the death penalty for under-18s.

Iran executed eight people last year who had committed crimes when they were children, including two who were still under the age of 18 at the time of their execution. Execution is carried out by hanging or stoning…



FULL ARTICLES

IRAN FOUND EVEN CLOSER TO NUKES

Tehran found even closer to nukes
By Abraham Rabinovich
The Washington Times
May 1, 2006

Israel has told the Bush administration that Iran is closer to having a nuclear weapon than was previously thought, but acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he is confident that the West will not allow that to happen.

The head of the Mossad intelligence service, Meir Dagan, traveled to Washington last week to meet with counterparts in the CIA and pass on Israel’s latest findings on Iran’s nuclear progress.

An Israeli satellite launched last week from a Russian cosmodrome in Siberia began sending high-resolution photographs over the weekend. Israeli specialists termed the results “amazing.”

However, Mr. Dagan’s report was based on earlier information that Israeli sources say indicates that Iran is closer to nuclear capability than is generally realized.

Mr. Olmert, in a weekend interview with the German newspaper Bild, denounced Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in some of the strongest language yet heard from an Israeli leader.

“Ahmadinejad talks today like Hitler spoke before seizing power,” Mr. Olmert was quoted as saying. “We are dealing with a psychopath of the worst kind, with an anti-Semite. God forbid this man from ever getting his hands on nuclear weapons.”

Iran, which reiterated yesterday that it would go ahead with plans to enrich uranium in defiance of the U.N. Security Council, maintains its program is for peaceful purposes. Most Western countries reject that claim, and Mr. Olmert said he did not think Tehran would be allowed to succeed.

“The West, above all under the leadership of the United States, will ensure that Iran under no circumstances comes to possess unconventional weapons,” he said.

Mr. Olmert did not say what Mr. Dagan told his American counterparts last week. But the London Sunday Times quoted an Israeli source yesterday as saying that the Mossad had evidence of hidden uranium enrichment sites in Iran “which can shortcut their timetable in the race for their first bomb.”

The source said Mr. Dagan presented American officials with that evidence and told them: “This is what we know and this is what we’ll do if you continue to do nothing.”

Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defense committee, also described his concern about the Israeli intelligence findings. “When I read the recent reports regarding Iran, I saw a monster in the making,” said Mr. Steinitz, whose committee oversees the Mossad.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report Friday accusing Tehran of failing to comply with a Security Council deadline to freeze its nuclear fuel enrichment and instead speeding up its nuclear activities.

The eight-page IAEA report said Iran had curtailed its cooperation with agency inspectors, making it increasingly difficult to track Tehran’s nuclear program. The agency expressed concern over the “gaps” in its knowledge about Iran’s centrifuge program and the role of Iran’s military in nuclear development.

Three of the five veto-wielding Security Council members – the United States, Britain and France – are expected to introduce a resolution this week under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter for a mandatory halt to uranium processing.

The chapter leaves military action as a last resort, but the other two permanent members – China and Russia – are reluctant to approve even economic sanctions. Diplomats are discussing compromises that include a ban on foreign travel by top Iranian officials.

The Tehran government remained defiant yesterday. “Iran will not implement any forced resolution,” chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani was quoted as saying in speech to university students in Tehran. “Iran’s plan is to have research and development and the nuclear fuel cycle in Iran.”

The negotiator also referred again to remarks by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said last week that Iran would harm U.S. interests around the world if it was attacked.

 

“THE TEHRAN GOVERNMENT WAS THE DIRECT MASTERMIND OF THURSDAY’S ATTACK ON ITALIAN SOLDIERS”

Iranians accused in Iraq bombing deaths of Italian soldiers
By John Phillips
The Washington Times
May 1, 2006

Iranian agents were accused yesterday of masterminding a bomb attack that killed three Italian soldiers in Iraq last week and intensified political pressure for the incoming government to speed up its withdrawal of troops from that country.

Thousands of politicians, soldiers and police solemnly filed past the coffins of the three soldiers at a chapel at Rome’s Celio military hospital yesterday. An honor guard from Italy’s Corrazieri cavalry regiment stood stiffly by the coffins, each draped with the Italian tricolor flag and the swords and berets of the dead.

The soldiers, whose deaths are being treated as a national tragedy, were killed on Thursday by a remotely detonated roadside bomb that exploded next to their armored vehicle near Nasariyah in southern Dhi Qar province. Pathologists said temperatures in the vehicle exceeded 5,000 degrees.

The newspaper la Repubblica yesterday quoted officials of the Military Intelligence and Security Service, known by its Italian acronym SISMI, saying the attack was organized by Iranian agents, who were first spotted in the province in early April.

The SISMI sources were quoted as saying the Iranians met with radical Shi’ite leaders to plot that attack and another roadside bomb that exploded near three Carabinieri paramilitary police armored vehicles close to a bridge over the Euphrates River on April 22.

A spy in a local police station evidently provided the Iranians with the route to be taken by the soldiers’ convoy. Iraqi officers at the Nasariyah police station were trained by the Italian contingent, but many are considered unreliable.

“The Tehran government was the direct mastermind of Thursday’s attack, not just a political reference point,” la Repubblica said. It said plans for Italy to withdraw all its forces from the country by the end of this year “makes it [essential] for Tehran to dominate the radical guerrilla panorama in southern Iraq.”

The bodies were flown home yesterday, and a state funeral tomorrow in Rome’s Basilica of St. Mary Major will be broadcast live on state-run television. Doctors were fighting to save the life of a fourth soldier wounded in the attack, whose condition was described as “critical but stable.”

Italy, a staunch ally of Washington under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, sent 3,000 soldiers to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Involvement in the war has been unpopular at home and was a key issue in close-run parliamentary elections last month.

The attack Thursday was the worst on the force since November 2003 when 19 Italians, mostly Carabinieri, were killed in a suicide attack in Nasariyah. Italy has about 2,600 troops in Iraq.

Oliviero Diliberto, head of the Italian Democratic Communist Party, a coalition partner of Prime Minister-designate Romano Prodi, said the new government could withdraw all Italian forces from Iraq by this summer.

Mr. Prodi “completely agrees with me” on speeding up withdrawal, he said. But political sources said Mr. Prodi, who is set to form a government after Mr. Berlusconi resigns tomorrow, was unlikely to accelerate the phased withdrawal so dramatically.

“There are already nearly 1,000 Italian troops scheduled to leave Iraq in May who won’t be replaced,” a diplomat said. “June is unrealistic, but Prodi might speed up the schedule to pull out by October.”

 

IRAN WORKERS IN RARE MAY DAY PROTEST

Iran workers in rare protest on May Day
AFP (Agence France Presse)
May 1, 2006

A few thousand angry Iranian workers held a rare protest in Tehran, using international Labour Day to press demands for more jobs, better contracts and the payment of wage arrears.

The gathering had been organised by the Islamic regime to show off public support for its disputed nuclear drive but quickly transformed into a protest over economic conditions.

Several people chanted “To strike is our undeniable right!” and “Permanent employment is our undeniable right!” instead of the regime’s current favourite slogan “Nuclear technology is our undeniable right”.

“Under the temporary contracts, there is no job security. You can be fired any minute. And if you complain, employers say ‘take it or leave it’,” 48-year-old Esmail Ramezanzadeh, who works in a cooking oil factory, told AFP.

“It has been 14 months that we have not been paid,” complained another protestor, among a group of men from a textile plant in central Iran. “The market is doing poorly but why should we suffer from this situation?

“Inflation is backbreaking,” said the textile worker, 39-year-old Ali Arabi. “Now that they cannot pay us, they are planning mass lay-offs.”

The demonstration in central Tehran was largely calm but there were scuffles between workers and frustrated organisers.

“Workers usually have no opportunity to spell out their demands. What is going on today is only a part of the pain our labourers are going through,” said Arash Faraz, who works for a governmental organisation dealing with worker’s rights.

“Organisational activities to support workers are restricted and their unfulfilled demands are building up.”

Iran’s economy is closely protected and dominated by the state, but many sectors have experienced upheavals amid efforts to force through a privatisation plan aimed at kick-starting the stagnant economy.

 

IRAN HAS MISSILES THAT PUT EUROPE IN RANGE

Iran has missiles that put Europe in range-report
Reuters
April 27, 2006

Iran has received a first shipment of missiles from North Korea that are capable of reaching Europe, Israel’s military intelligence chief was quoted on Thursday as saying. Known in the West as BM-25s, the Russian-designed missiles have a range of around 2,500 km (1,500 miles), giving them a longer reach than the Iranian-made Shihab-4 missiles which are capable of hitting Israel.

The intelligence chief, Major-General Amos Yadlin, was quoted by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper as saying in a lecture on Wednesday that some BM-25s had arrived in Iran.

The BM-25 was originally manufactured in the Soviet Union, where it was known as the SSN6, a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, Haaretz reported.

After the Russians decommissioned the SSN6, the missiles were sold to North Korea, which adapted them to carry a heavier payload, the newspaper’s military affairs correspondent said.

In February, a German diplomat, citing his country’s intelligence data, confirmed a German newspaper report that said Iran had purchased 18 disassembled BM-25s from North Korea.

Israel has been urging the international community to pressure Iran to halt its nuclear programme as well as its efforts to obtain long-range missiles.

Iran, the world’s fourth largest producer of crude oil, says its nuclear programme is a peaceful project to provide electricity.

Israel is widely believed to have more than 200 nuclear warheads. It declines to comment on its atomic programme, saying only it will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East.

 

CHIRAC: “MILITARILY NUCLEARIZED IRAN IS UNACCEPTABLE”

Chirac: ‘Militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable’
The Beirut Daily Star
April 20, 2006

French President Jacques Chirac arrived Wednesday in Egypt for a two-day visit during which he was expected to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran’s nuclear ambitions with his counterpart. Chirac went straight into talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Iran’s controversial nuclear drive and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict topped the agenda of the summit.

The Iranian leaders “must understand that, for the international community, the prospect of a militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable,” Chirac said in an interview to the Egyptian state-owned daily Al-Ahram published Wednesday. He insisted that the door remained open for a resumption of talks as soon as Iran goes along with the requests of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Security Council. “More than ever the choice is in the hands of the Iranian leaders,” he said.

The French president reaffirmed Iran’s “legitimate right” to civil nuclear energy, but on the condition that the country give “objective guarantees on the peaceful nature of its program. “The IAEA found that its nuclear activities had been carried out in an underhand way,” he said. “Besides, Iran is pursuing a worrying missile program.”

Egypt is calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis but is also worried by the fact that Israel refuses to sign the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Experts believe Israel has some 200 nuclear warheads.

The French leader called on the Hamas-controlled Palestinian government and Israel to “make the necessary gestures” for a resumption of “real” peace negotiations. “In the immediate future we call on Hamas to understand that the way of violence is pointless and to continue its transition toward political action, continuing to respect the truce and committing to a process of renouncing violence and recognizing Israel,” Chirac said.

Chirac continued: “But we also say to the Israelis that they must brush aside the temptation of unilateralism, end targeted killings and the pursuit of settlements.”

In other remarks, Chirac defended the cautious reforms carried out by Egypt, including electoral changes, describing them as “fruitful.” He said France had “no hidden agenda concerning Syria,” implicitly denying that Paris wanted a regime change in Damascus.

Chirac also touched on Iraq’s future after U.S.-led forces leave Iraq. Though a UN Security Council resolution provides for the forces, “this foreign presence arouses the hostility of a section of Iraqi opinion,” he said. “Once a timetable has been set for this withdrawal, the Iraqis will be able to embark more easily on a process of reclaiming responsibility,” said Chirac, who was a strong critic of U.S. plans to invade Iraq in 2003. France has no troops there.

French presidential spokesman Jerome Bonnafont said Wednesday that France was “convinced that Egypt had a very special part to play in convincing Hamas to change its positions.”

Chirac’s visit to Egypt, his first since 2002, is a chance “to take stock of the situation, after four years which have seen many changes in Egypt and across the region,” a French diplomat told AFP.

The French president traveled to Egypt with his wife Bernadette and an 80-strong delegation.

On Thursday, Chirac is scheduled to officially inaugurate the French University in Egypt, which first opened three and a half years ago and whose first graduates should receive their diplomas in a few weeks.

France is the fourth largest investor in the Egyptian economy and its exports increased by 40 percent in 2005 compared to the previous year.

 

RUSSIA HELPS ISRAEL KEEP AN EYE ON IRAN

Russia helps Israel keep an eye on Iran
The Associated Press
April 26, 2006

Russia launched a satellite for Israel on Tuesday that the Israelis say will be used to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities.

The Eros B satellite was launched from Svobodny, in eastern Russia, said Aleksei Kuznetsov, a spokesman for the Russian space forces. The Itar-Tass news agency in Russia and Channel 10 television in Israel reported that the launching was successful.

The satellite is intended to help Israel gather information on Iran’s nuclear program and its long-range missiles, which are capable of striking Israel, said an Israeli military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“The most important thing in a satellite is its ability to photograph and its resolution,” the official said. “This satellite has very high resolution.” He added that it could take up to 10 days to assess the quality of the images transmitted by the satellite.

Israel has for years regarded Iran as a threat, disputing Tehran’s claims that its nuclear activities are for peaceful purposes only. The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has questioned Israel’s right to exist.

Earlier this month, speaking in Tehran at a conference on the Palestinians, Mr. Ahmadinejad said Israel was a “constant threat” and predicted that it was on the verge of “being eliminated.” His comments followed his remark last year about “wiping Israel off the map.”

 

IRAN SAYS RUSSIA AND CHINA WILL NOT BACK SANCTIONS

Iran says Russia and China will not back sanctions
Reuters
May 2, 2006

Iran’s foreign minister was quoted on Tuesday as saying that Russia and China had officially informed Tehran they would not support sanctions or military action over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

U.N. ambassadors from the United States, Britain and France are expected to introduce a resolution this week to legally oblige Iran to comply with U.N. Security Council demands it halt all uranium enrichment work.

When asked how far Russia and China, veto-wielding permanent members of the council, would support Washington, Manouchehr Mottaki told the Kayhan newspaper:

“The thing these two countries have officially told us and expressed in diplomatic negotiations is their opposition to sanctions and military attacks.”

“At the current juncture, I personally believe no sanctions or anything like that will be on the agenda of the Security Council,” he said in the interview.

Western diplomats say China and Russia will probably back a U.N. resolution demanding a halt to Iran’s fuel work, but are not yet ready to back moves toward sanctions.

Iran has been hauled before the U.N. Security Council after failing to convince the international community that its nuclear power station program is not a front for building an atom bomb.

China and Russia both have big energy interests in Iran, the world’s fourth biggest oil exporter. In 2005, more than 11 percent of China’s crude imports came from Iran. Russia’s LUKOIL is exploring the Anaran oilfield in western Iran.

China is also planning a multi-billion-dollar deal to buy Iranian Liquefied Natural Gas when it comes onstream in return for an upstream stake in a huge southern Iranian oilfield.

Russia has been helping Iran build its first nuclear power station at the southern port of Bushehr, a $1 billion project, and Tehran has said it is keen for foreign firms, particularly Russian, to play a role in building more reactors.

However, both China and Russia also have strong trade ties with the United States and European Union whose positions on Iran are becoming increasingly united.

 

IRAN, INDIA AND PAKISTAN CLOSE TO SIGNING GAS PIPELINE DEAL

Iran-India gas link deal close despite US ire
Reuters
April 23, 2006

Iran, India and Pakistan are close to signing a gas pipeline deal, the Iranian and Pakistani oil ministers told Reuters on Saturday, defying U.S. opposition to the project.

The plan to pump Iranian gas to India through Pakistan was first proposed more than a decade ago, but progress has been slow because of hostility between India and Pakistan and, more recently, U.S. opposition to Iran because of its nuclear programme.

Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri said he had an understanding with India and Pakistan and was unconcerned by U.S. opposition. “We have a very good understanding,” Iranian Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri told Reuters. “They are willing and Iran is ready.”

Asked when the deal would be signed, he said only: “I hope we are going to have a ministerial meeting in Tehran in June,” adding it would be attended by the same three ministers.

Speaking after talks with his Iranian and Indian counterparts on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum in Doha, Pakistan’s oil minister Amanullah Khan Jadoon told Reuters only technical issues had to be resolved.

The $7 billion pipeline through Pakistan would link Iran’s abundant gas reserves, the world’s second biggest, to India’s booming economy. It would carry 150 million cubic meters per day of gas for 25 years, Vaziri said.

Although Pakistan is a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, it has said the pipeline would aid economic growth and foster better ties with India after years of brinkmanship between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Iran had said it would go ahead without India if it did not agree to join the pipeline by May. The Indian oil minister Murli Deora declined to comment following Saturday’s talks.

 

SAUDI ARABIA, IRAN AMONG WORLD’S TOP EXECUTORS

Saudi Arabia, Iran among world’s top executors
AFP (Agence France Presse)
April 21, 2006

China carried out 80 percent of the world’s 2,148 known executions last year, while Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States accounted for most of the rest, Amnesty International said Thursday. The London-based human rights group said in a statement that these countries bucked a steady two-decade trend toward the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world, with Mexico and Liberia the most recent examples.

“It is a glaring anomaly that China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the U.S. stand out for their extreme use of this form of punishment as the ‘top’ executors in the world,” Amnesty International’s Secretary General Irene Khan said.

Amnesty said at least 2,148 prisoners were executed in 22 countries in the 12 months to December 2005.

It added that some 1,770 executions were reported in China – although it suspected the real figure could be as high as 8,000 – and at least 94 in Iran, 86 in Saudi Arabia.

Sixty were carried out in the United States.

It said executions are also known to have taken place in Bangladesh, Belarus, Indonesia, Japan, North Korea, Kuwait, Libya, Mongolia, Pakistan, Palestinian areas, Singapore, Somalia, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

In China, a person can be sentenced and executed for as many as 68 crimes, including nonviolent ones such as tax fraud, embezzlement and drug offenses, Amnesty said.

Amnesty warned that there are fears that high profits behind organ transplants from people executed in China might be acting act as an incentive to maintain the death penalty.

In Saudi Arabia, people have been taken from their prison cells and beheaded without knowing that they had been condemned to death, Amnesty said.

In the United States, which uses lethal injection and electrocution, two men were released from death row in 2005 upon presentation of evidence of their innocence.

Khan called on Iran – “the only country known to Amnesty International to have executed juvenile offenders in 2005” – to follow the lead of the United States in March 2005 and ban the death penalty for under-18s.

Iran executed eight people last year who had committed crimes when they were children, including two who were still under the age of 18 at the time of their execution. Execution is carried out by hanging or stoning.

Khan renewed her organization’s long-held call for the death penalty to be abolished, arguing that it was not a “unique deterrent” to crime and it was instead the “ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights.”

“It is often applied in a discriminatory manner, follows unfair trials or is applied for political reasons. It can be an irreversible error when there is miscarriage of justice.”

“The momentum against the death penalty has become unstoppable,” said Khan.

She said in 1977, only 16 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes. By 2005, that figure had risen to 86.


Al Aqsa leader: American Jewish teens are our ideal target (& Fisk on Walt)

May 01, 2006

CONTENTS

1. “I regret that Wultz is still alive”
2. More conspiracy: “Israelis warned before Dahab attacks”
3. Not how to report a suicide bombing
4. Robert Fisk interviews Stephen Walt
5. The Independent and neo-Nazi sites
6. Letters to The Independent
7. Hamas still directing terror operations
8. YMCA threatened by Hamas in West Bank
9. London Jews say “no” to Livingstone
10. Dilpazier Aslam update
11. “Comatose Florida teen ‘best target we can dream of’” (WND, April 27, 2006)
12. “West Bank: Islamic clerics want to close YMCA” (Daily Telegraph, April 28, 2006)
13. “London Jews say ‘no’ to mayor” (Something Jewish, April 27, 2006)
14. “Egyptian police detain Al Jazeera TV’s Cairo bureau chief” (Reuters, April 27, 2006)
15. “Israelis warned to leave prior Dahab bombings” (Tehran Times, April 30, 2006)
16. “Q & A with The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger” (Asharq Al-Awsat, April 29, 2006)



[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach a series of news items. Most of them are follow-ups to other recent items on this list.

“I REGRET THAT WULTZ IS STILL ALIVE”

Abu Nasser, a senior leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank, has said that Danny Wultz was the “best target combination we can dream of – American and Zionist.” (Wultz was referred to in the dispatch of April 24 titled “The mushroom cloud is on its way” (& American teen victim loses leg).)

This morning officials at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital said Wultz, 16, from Florida, was (according to today’s Ha’aretz) still “fighting for his life.” Having already had one of his legs amputated, doctors are still trying to save his other leg, which is suffering from severely reduced blood flow. He has already lost a kidney and his spleen.

Abu Nasser added “It is known that the Jews are sly and not honest, and they are leading into this trap of the Middle East in order to carry out their plan of controlling the world.” (The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which was established by Yasser Arafat after he launched the Intifada, remains under the control of Palestinian President Abbas’s Fatah party.)

Abu Ayman, a leader of another terror group, Islamic Jihad, which jointly took responsibility for the April 17 Tel Aviv bombing with the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, threatened all Americans and Jews worldwide and expressed regret that Wultz is still alive. (For more details, see the article below.)

MORE CONSPIRACY: “ISRAELIS WARNED BEFORE DAHAB ATTACKS”

Continuing its conspiracy theories against Israel, the Iranian-government backed Tehran Times claimed yesterday that “Israelis were warned to leave (Egypt) prior (to the) Dahab bombings” last week that killed 21 people. The Iranian newspaper added that “some experts stated that they believe that Israel was behind the operation, referring to some reports saying that Israelis were advised to avoid Egypt prior the attacks.”

This claim follows a pattern of alleging that Israelis were warned to leave prior to a terror attack and therefore Israelis, not Islamic terrorists, were somehow behind such atrocities. Notable previous examples include:

* The September 11 attacks

* Following the attacks in London on July 7, 2005, the Associated Press falsely claimed that the then Israeli Finance Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in London at the time, was “warned to stay in his hotel room.” For more on this, see the article The BBC discovers ‘terrorism,’ briefly.

* Shortly after the attacks in Amman on Nov. 9, 2005, many Arab websites picked up and expanded on a false report in Ha’aretz that “A number of Israelis… were evacuated before the bombing… due to a specific security alert.” For more, see Tehran Times today: The phenomenal lie of the “Holocaust” (& Ha’aretz’s dangerous misreporting) (Nov. 10, 2005).

Meanwhile, Egyptian police have detained Hussein Abdel Ghani, Al Jazeera television’s Cairo bureau chief, accusing him of spreading “false” information while reporting the Dahab bombings. (For more, see the Reuters article below.)

NOT HOW TO REPORT A SUICIDE BOMBING

Last week in his column “On The Press,” Stephen Glover, one of the founding editors of the British daily The Independent, criticized his own paper for its coverage. It is remarkable for a senior journalist at any anti-Israeli newspaper to criticize his own paper in this way.

Glover, who is sent dispatches on this list by another senior UK journalist who subscribes to it, follows up the criticism of the Independent made in the dispatch “The victims are no different from those slain on September 11, 2001” (April 18, 2006).

In an item headlined “Not how to report a suicide bombing” (April 24, 2006, The Independent, news.independent.co.uk/media/article359749.ece), Glover writes:

“Perhaps the reader will believe me when I say that in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict I am as neutral as it is possible to be. So last Tuesday I was a little dismayed by the manner in which the Independent – though it was not alone – reported the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. The opening paragraphs of the piece were entirely devoted to the youth of the bomber, Samer Samih Hamad, and to the anti-Israeli remarks of his relatives, who sought to justify the bombing. There was little description of the horrors that the bomber had inflicted, and scant details about the nine victims. Generally, I do not go along with suggestions by members of the Jewish lobby that reporting of Israel is skewed. On this occasion, I could see their point.”

ROBERT FISK INTERVIEWS STEPHEN WALT

On the other hand, on April 27, The Independent continued its series of not infrequent anti-Israeli (and some believe anti-Semitic) articles, with another piece by its chief Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk. This time Fisk interviews Stephen Walt (of the infamous Mearsheimer/Walt paper on “The [Jewish] Lobby” in America) with a picture of the American flag in which the stars of the union are replaced by Stars of David, under the headline: “The United States of Israel?”

As Melanie Phillips points out: “The image makes the claim that America is run by the Jews. As such, it is merely a variant on the ‘Jewish conspiracy’ theory that has long been a defining feature of anti-Jewish prejudice… The idea that America’s Jews have had more influence over the policy of the United States than the Arab oil lobby has had is, of course, ludicrous. And as anyone who has addressed an audience of American Jews on the east or west coast rapidly discovers, to support Bush or the war in Iraq is often to provoke a hostile reaction, since American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat (supporting the party that is most lukewarm towards Israel), have views on Bush which are unprintable and did not generally support the war in Iraq.”

THE INDEPENDENT AND NEO-NAZI SITES

Harry’s Place, a left-wing, pro-Israeli, pro-American (and I might add, non-Jewish) blog neatly juxtaposes the Independent illustration with near-identical ones from neo-Nazi and other racist websites. I suggest you take a look at both the Independent magazine’s front cover and the neo-Nazi covers by scrolling down on this posting.

LETTERS TO THE INDEPENDENT

On April 28, 2006, The Independent printed two letters on Fisk’s piece. Both the authors (Carol Gould and Henry Grunwald) are subscribers to this email list, as is Melanie Phillips, quoted above:

Why Americans admire Israel

Sir: In “United States of Israel?” (27 April) Robert Fisk asserts that the mainstream US press and television are “pro-Israeli, biased and gutless”. I watch the CBS, ABC and NBC news every evening on UK cable and Israel rarely, if ever, gets a mention. I read the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and Washington Post and Israel news is buried inside if at all.

Lobbyists aside, here is why Americans admire and support Israel: like the USA with its Mayo Clinic and Microsoft and Nasa, Israel has its phenomenal Weizmann Institute and Herzliya Centre for Neurological Diseases along with countless other outstanding institutions and immense cultural life that rose from the ashes of Auschwitz.

The reason why so many Americans of all faiths and backgrounds love the state of Israel is because, like the USA, it rose like a phoenix due to the sheer sweat and dedication of its founding colonists, and has been a haven for the oppressed who are willing to work hard to achieve their dreams.

Carol Gould
London NW8

Sir: Replacing the American stars with Stars of David on the US flag is the stock in trade of neo-Nazi and far right groups around the world. It is the simplest way for them to make their facile and antisemitic charge that Jews control the world’s sole superpower.

The Independent will adamantly claim that Robert Fisk’s allegations that “pro-Israelis” control American media, politics, and warfare is not to be confused with antisemitic conspiracy theories – but if a picture speaks a thousand words, then its chosen illustration of Stars of David on the US flag speaks volumes.

As Robert Fisk himself says in the article, referring to the views of Noam Chomsky, the well-known critic of Israel, “he [Chomsky] suggests that American corporate business has more to do with US policy in the Middle East than Israel’s supporters”. This makes the front page of Fisk’s article (Independent Extra, 27 April) both unworthy and unjustified.

Henry Grunwald QC
President, The Board of Deputies of British Jews, London WC1

HAMAS STILL DIRECTING TERROR OPERATIONS

Whilst much of the mainstream western media have reported that Hamas continues to abide by a truce, Israeli intelligence says this is not true and that Hamas is still directing operations. For example, the attempted triple suicide and gun attack on the Karni crossing last Wednesday, April 26, was carried out under the direction of Hamas by a cell from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine led by Mamtaz Dougmoush.

Dougmoush and his cell have been operating since January 2005 (when Hamas declared the beginning of the so-called “period of calm”) with full authorization, funding, supply of weapons and professional guidance from the senior Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip. This has allowed Hamas to continue to pursue terror activity through them, while maintaining its desired image to western journalists and diplomats of non-violence.

Despite the fact that the Karni goods crossing serves as the main conduit of commodities and consumer goods for the Palestinian population in Gaza, it has been a preferred target for attacks by terror organizations over the course of the past several years.

Whilst Hamas has repeatedly declared its commitment to the wellbeing of the Palestinian people, it is in fact Hamas which stands behind a longstanding plan to attack the largest goods crossing in Gaza and it is therefore directly and fully responsible for the hardships stemming from the closing of the crossing. Despite very good Israeli intelligence, some of the attacks have been “successful,” such as the one that killed 6 Israeli civilians at Karni last year.

YMCA THREATENED BY HAMAS IN WEST BANK

Muslim clerics in the West Bank have demanded the closure of a YMCA branch office, highlighting growing tensions between the Christian community and the new Hamas government. Recently, firebombs were thrown into a YMCA office in Qalqilya, forcing the Christians to move to new premises. Islamic leaders have written demanding that the YMCA office close as “the presence of this office will lead to negative consequences”.

Hashem al Masri, the deputy mayor of Qalqilya and a Hamas member, admitted that the YMCA’s name alone was a “challenge to the city.” The YMCA has offices across the West Bank and provides work for 140 Palestinians, of whom 84 are Muslim. In Qalqilya, the YMCA provides wheelchairs and prosthetics for children.

LONDON JEWS SAY “NO” TO LIVINGSTONE

Londoners unhappy with Mayor Ken Livingstone’s criticism of Israel and his inappropriate Holocaust references and slurs on Iranian Jews, can now buy a Hebrew and English sticker to show their displeasure.

The “Say lo to Ken” sticker uses the Hebrew word for “no” which is “lo,” and plays on the word “ken” which means “yes” in Hebrew. It costs £1 (approximately $1.80) with 10 percent of the revenue going to an Israeli charity that helps disabled people take part in sport. So far, 200 stickers have been sold from an initial print run of 1000.

In February Livingstone was found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute after he compared a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard in an unprovoked remark, and refused to apologize.

Two weeks after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel should be wiped off the map, Livingstone told a UK Jewish publication that questioning the morality of Israel’s foundation was “a perfectly valid thing to say.”

For more on Livingstone, see several previous dispatches on this list.

DILPAZIER ASLAM UPDATE

Last year I sent two dispatches on Dilpazier Aslam, the Guardian journalist who belonged to an organization that advocated killing Jews on its website and in leaflets it handed out to British Muslims. See, for example, Dilpazier Aslam, extremist member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, sacked by The Guardian (July 26, 2005).

Readers may be interested that on Saturday Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, gave an interview about Dilpazier Aslam to Faisal Abbas, of the London-based Saudi daily Asharq Al-Awsat. In the article (attached below) Rusbridger comments that Aslam’s membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir “did cause a stir but that was not the reason behind his departure.”

I attach six articles below.

-- Tom Gross


FULL ARTICLES

“BEST TARGET COMBINATION WE CAN DREAM OF – AMERICAN AND ZIONIST”

Comatose Florida teen ‘best target we can dream of’
Terror leaders rejoice in injuries of boy critical after Tel Aviv bombing
By Aaron Klein
WorldNetDaily.com
April 27, 2006

www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=49952

Daniel Wultz, a Florida teenager lying in a coma after being critically injured last week in a suicide bombing at an Israeli restaurant, is the “best target combination we can dream of – American and Zionist,” Abu Nasser, a leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, one of the groups responsible for the deadly blast, told WorldNetDaily.

Abu Ayman, a leader of the Islamic Jihad, which also took responsibility for the April 17 bombing in which Wultz was injured, threatened all Americans and Jews worldwide and expressed regret Wultz is still alive.

Wultz, 16, was one of over 60 people injured in the attack in which a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a crowded section of Tel Aviv as Israelis celebrated the fifth day of the Passover holiday. The blast ripped through a falafel restaurant just outside the city’s old central bus station, killing nine. The same restaurant was hit by a suicide attack in January, wounding 20 people.

Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Brigades, the declared military wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party, claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Wultz is a resident of Weston, Fla. He was on Passover vacation in Israel along with his family. The teenager was seated with his father, Yekutiel, at an outside table of the targeted restaurant when the bomb was detonated.

Described as an avid basketball player, Wultz lost his spleen and a kidney in the attack. Last Friday, one of his legs was amputated, and doctors at Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital have reportedly been fighting to save his other leg, which is suffering from severely reduced blood flow.

Wultz’ father suffered a fractured leg in the attack.

Wultz has been lying in a coma in the intensive care unit since the bombing, though he briefly was aroused earlier this week.

His story has generated extensive media coverage and has prompted a flurry of e-mails across the Internet asking people worldwide to pray for the young terror victim.

In a WND exclusive interview yesterday, Abu Nasser, a senior leader of the Al Aqsa Brigades in the West Bank, rejoiced in Wultz’ injuries. Abu Nasser is part of the Brigades leadership in the Balata refugee camp suspected of plotting the attack.

“We are sorry there was not more of this stuff. American and Zionist – this is the best target combination we could dream of. This is the ideal target. He is a young American who came to encourage the enemy to continue his war against us,” Abu Nasser said.

The terror leader went on to blast America’s role in the Middle East, which he said was aimed at achieving Jewish world domination:

“I want to use this occasion of speaking to the American people to tell them that the unfair support of your people to Israel is the reason that you are targeted almost everywhere in the world. Second, I want to bring to your knowledge that the most cruel settlers are those who came from America. It is known that the Jews are sly and not honest, and they are leading into this trap of the Middle East in order to carry out their plan of controlling the world.”

Also speaking to WND, Islamic Jihad senior member Abu Ayman warned Americans are now enemies of the Palestinian people.

“The Americans are now the typical enemy of the believers like it is mentioned in the holy Quran. They think that they are all mighty and invincible, and they seem to not have the right conclusions from what happened to them in the last few years. The Americans are now the best representatives of the devil on earth,” Abu Ayman said.

Asked whether his terror group would target a restaurant here if they were informed it contained American civilians and not Israelis, Abu Ayman replied, “This is a hypothetical question, but in my opinion at the execution step [of an attack] nothing changes.”

He said Jews of all backgrounds are targets:

“The meaning and the goal of our lives is to fight the devil spiritually and physically. The Jews are the expression of both kinds of devil. No mercy for devils.”

Abu Ayman expressed regret Wulz wasn’t killed in last week’s terror attack.

“The only sorrow that I feel is that the Jewish parents of this Daniel Wultz did not suffer like an average Palestinian family who lost its child. Maybe if their child was killed they and the Americans would have to pay attention to the suffering of thousands of Palestinian families who lost their children.”

 

WEST BANK: ISLAMIC CLERICS WANT TO CLOSE YMCA

West Bank: Islamic clerics want to close YMCA
By Tim Butcher
The Daily Telegraph
April 28, 2006

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/04/28/wpak128.xml

An attempt by Muslim clerics to close a YMCA branch office in the West Bank has exposed growing tensions between the Holy Land’s dwindling Christian community and the new Palestinian government led by Hamas.

Firebombs were recently thrown into the office of the YMCA in Qalqilya, a Hamas stronghold, forcing the group to move to new premises.

Islamic leaders have written to the local council demanding that the YMCA branch office close. Their letter concludes: “The presence of this office will lead to negative consequences.”

While the religious leaders were not members of Hamas, the failure of the local Hamas-run council to protect the YMCA is concerning local Christians.

Hashem al Masri, the deputy mayor and a Hamas member, admitted that the YMCA’s name alone was a “challenge to the city”.

“I know it is not civilized to attack it, but it is a challenge to the feeling of our people,” he said.

The YMCA has offices across the West Bank giving work for 140 Palestinians, of whom 84 are Muslim.

In Qalgilya, it provides wheelchairs and prosthetics for children. This year’s budget is £50,000 and if the office closes the money will be spent elsewhere.

For decades, Christians have felt squeezed and persecuted and have seen their numbers dwindle from about 10 per cent of the population to less than two per cent in Israel and the Palestinian territories. They have been overtaken by Jewish migrants and large Muslim families and have moved on to friendly countries in the West.

The election of the Hamas government adds further pressure on the community. So sensitive is the issue that YMCA leadership in the West Bank declined to speak to The Daily Telegraph.

Instead, Norris Lineweaver, the director-general of the YMCA in West Jerusalem, explained that the problem arose simply because the word Christian appears in the group’s name.

“It is true that we have a long and proud Christian heritage but it is strictly against our policy to proselytise,” he said.

“The problems arise because of an unfortunate misunderstanding about our role. We are there simply to help the local councils, whether they are Muslim or Christian, with any youth development programmes they might have.”

Marouf Zahran, the town’s former mayor who was ousted by Hamas last year, blamed the new council for not doing enough to protect the office. “The council and other organisations did nothing to stop incitement against the YMCA.”

A local YMCA worker said Muslims and Christians should work together.

“We belong to two different religions but we are Palestinian nationalists,” he said. “We live together – Muslims and Christians.”

 

LONDON JEWS SAY “NO” TO MAYOR

London Jews say ‘no’ to mayor
Bumper sticker campaign targets Ken Livingstone, London mayor who has antagonized British Jews by criticizing Israel and using inappropriate Holocaust references
By Leslie Bunder
Something Jewish
April 27, 2006

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3244705,00.html

Londoners fed up with their Mayor Ken Livingstone can now buy a Hebrew and English sticker that offers a message direct to him.

The ‘Say lo to Ken’ sticker takes the Hebrew word for ‘no’ which is ‘lo’ and costs £1 with 10 percent of the revenue going to an Israeli charity that helps disabled people take part in sport.

Already over 200 stickers have been sold from an initial print run of 1000.

“I’m sure Mr Livingstone’s parents never meant to give him a name which lends itself to a play on words in Hebrew,” said Mark Rivlin who runs Create Services, a design agency that counts Elite Tiles and the League Against Cruel Sports as clients.

Rivlin feels not enough is being done to curb the London Mayor and his various verbal attacks being made on members of the Jewish community which is why he decided to produce the stickers and let Jewish Londoners express how they feel.

Two weeks after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Israel should be wiped out the map, Livingstone told a UK Jewish publication that questioning the morality of Israel’s foundation was “a perfectly valid thing to say after so many wars.”

In February Livingstone was found guilty of bringing his office into disrepute for comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard.

The Adjudication Panel of England, which hears complaints against local authorities, imposed a month suspension on Livingstone after a three-man panel ruled against him in a complaint brought by a Jewish group for his Nazi jibe.

A spokeswoman for the Adjudication Panel of England said the body, which hears complaints against local authorities, would decide what penalty to impose after a three-man panel ruled against Livingstone in a complaint brought by a Jewish group.

“Either we take it on the chin like the Board of Deputies and don’t do anything, or we stand up and say what we think about Livingstone. I wanted to see how much feeling there is in the community and judging by the responses I have been getting, I would say Mr Livingstone is about as popular as a Manchester United fan at Elland Road.

 

EGYPTIAN POLICE DETAIN AL JAZEERA CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF

Egyptian police detain Al Jazeera television’s Cairo bureau chief
Reuters
April 27, 2006

Egyptian police detained Al Jazeera television’s Cairo bureau chief, accusing him of spreading “false” information while reporting the Sinai bombings, Egypt’s Interior Ministry said on Thursday.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said Hussein Abdel Ghani had been taken in for questioning after reporting an explosion in the eastern Egyptian province of Sharkia on Wednesday, a report the ministry said was false and spread confusion.

“He said there were incidents in Sharkia and nothing happened. He’s spreading confusion,” the spokesman said.

“When he said there were was an explosion in Sharkia, leading everyone to ask about it, about something that didn’t happen, where did he get that from?” he added.

Al Jazeera said during its morning bulletin that police seized Hussein Abdel Ghani from his hotel in the budget resort of Dahab, where bomb attacks killed at least 18 people this week.

“The prosecutor ordered Hussein’s arrest pending investigations into charges of broadcasting false information which the authorities said was aimed at spreading chaos in the country,” the popular Arabic channel said on its Web site.

Al Jazeera has been banned from several Arab countries due to its hard-hitting – and sometimes controversial – coverage of events in a region accustomed to state-controlled media.

At least two of its correspondents are under arrest – the most prominent is Tayseer Alouni, who was convicted by a Spanish court of allegedly conspiring with Al-Qaida militants.

 

“SOME EXPERTS STATED THAT THEY BELIEVE THAT ISRAEL WAS BEHIND THE OPERATION”

Israelis were warned to leave prior Dahab bombings
Tehran Times
April 30, 2006

www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=4/30/2006&Cat=4&Num=006

Although no organization has yet taken responsibility for the terrorist attack in Dahab last week, Egyptian Interior Minister Habib el-Adly linked the bombings to similar attacks carried out in the same region last year and in 2004.

“The latest operations are linked to the previous attacks,” el-Adly told state television.

Recent attack in Egypt’s Sinai is the third in 18 months – one in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh last July and Taba in October 2004, could not have come at a worst time for Egypt.

And while some analysts and officials suggest a possible link between Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network and the bombings, arguing that the attacks bore some of Al Qaeda’s hallmarks, others suggest that they appeared to be carried out by some home-grown ‘religious fanatics’.

On the other hand, some experts stated that they believe that Israel was behind the operation, referring to some reports saying that Israelis were advised to avoid Egypt prior the attacks.

Just a few weeks ago, Counter-Terrorism Bureau Head Danny Arditi issued a warning to Israelis to refrain from visiting any Arab country. Speaking to Ynet, Arditi claimed that “the warnings in our hands lead to small organizations affiliated with Al Qaeda in one way or another. A month ago we issued a travel warning to Israelis against traveling to Egypt, including Sinai, following ‘relatively reliable’ intelligence on intentions to carry out terror attacks against foreign and Israeli tourists.” On what basis did Israel issue such warning? And what was its intelligence sources?

“According to this report there were fears that a terror attack or an abduction of Israelis in Sinai could be carried out. We strongly advised Israeli citizens to avoid all visits in Sinai, and for Israelis staying in Sinai to leave immediately,” Arditi said. “I repeated the warning that Sinai is a dangerous place according to the information in our hands. Sinai is dangerous to tourists in general and to Israelis specifically. I call on everyone planning to travel to Sinai on Independence Day and in the near future not to do it and for Israelis in Sinai to return to Israel immediately.”

It’s noteworthy that the three terrorist attacks in the Sinai over the past 18 months all fell in days commemorating historic events.

On October 6, 2004, an attack on Taba that killed 30 people, came on the day Egypt and Syria launched the October (1973) War. On July 23, 2005, an attack on Sharm el-Sheikh coincided with Egypt’s Revolution Day, the celebration of the bloodless military coup led by Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser that toppled the monarchy.

Last week’s attacks that hit three separate targets almost simultaneously with the aim of causing as many deaths as possible, indicate that the operation couldn’t be by any means linked to Al Qaeda, Khaleej Times article suggested, arguing that, unlike previous attacks where mainstream media and officials accused Al Qaeda, this time the bombings were carried out using electronic timers and not “suicide bombers”.

And since no “suicide bombers” were used in the operation; with good police work and some luck, the attackers could be easily arrested; they are still around.

 

“WHAT ABOUT THE INCIDENT WITH YOUR INTERN, DILPAZIER ASLAM?”

Q & A with The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger
By Faisal Abbas
Asharq Al-Awsat
April 29, 2006

www.asharqalawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=5&id=4741

(Excerpt only)

Q) What about the incident with your intern, Dilpazier Aslam, who was part of Hizb-u-Tahrir? There were rumors that Jonathan Freedland threatened to resign if the intern was not shown the door.

A) The difficulty [with this issue] is that this will be the subject of the employment tribunal. I can say that that is not true but I cannot comment on the details of the case, as it will be going to court.

Q) At the time he was hired, did the paper know he was part of Hizb-u-Tahrir?

A) In the public statement that we made at the time he left, we said that he did not tell us that he was a member of the organization, though the application form he filled in was completed fully about his social and political activities and did not mention it. At the time he was hired we did not know though he made no secret of it later.

Q) Was it his opinion piece that caused a stir?

A) It did cause a stir but that was not the reason behind his departure. It is on the public record that we said it would be very difficult for him to be a reporter and belong to this organization. A strong belief of mine and I am not talking about him now, is that it is important for the credibility of the newspaper or organization that reporting may be affected by your membership to an organization. If that comes into question, then a choice has to be made. Either, I’m first and foremost a journalist or I’m interested in politics and if your editor says to you these two roles are in danger or jeopardizing each other, then you have to make the choice and everybody is free to choose, but if you are going to be a reporter, you have to take account of the paper’s reputation. That is the general rule we operate and we stay true to that in this case. In terms of opinion, I think the Guardian has a broader range of Arab and Muslim opinions certainly more so than any other paper in Britain and possibly, in Europe. Therefore, the notion that we were suddenly surprised by the reaction to his piece is not true.