Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Up to 20 terrorists involved in today’s multiple attack on Israel (& Welcome grant for MEMRI)

August 18, 2011

* At least eight Israelis murdered and many injured today in a series of well-planned terrorist attacks organized from Gaza, reportedly with Egyptian complicity. Many other Israeli lives saved by the alertness and bravery of an Israeli bus driver.

* Terror continues this evening: Two critically wounded by fresh gunfire within the last hour, over 8 hours after terror attacks on southern Israel began. Within the last few minutes, the Iron Dome defense system intercepts a rocket fired from Gaza at the Israeli city of Ashkelon.

* I would like to applaud my friend David Horovitz, the recently retired editor of the Jerusalem Post, for hanging up the phone in a discussion on BBC World Service radio after repeated justifications by invited BBC guests of the unprovoked murder, today, of Israeli civilians.

* Tom Gross: Gunning down working class Israeli civilians traveling by bus on their way to their vacation is as much murder as gunning down Norwegian teenagers.

* Israeli media report two children among the dead today, and many more injured.

* Amazing: The EU calls it a “terror” attack.

* Michael Rubin: If the unholy alliance between the Egyptian military and Muslim Brotherhood leads Egyptian security elements to turn a blind eye toward terrorists infiltrating the Sinai peninsula, it could both lead to great insecurity in the region and reinforce the feeling of many Israelis that the land for peace formula which provided the basis for all peace talks since Camp David brings not peace, but greater vulnerability to terrorism.



1. Finally, Obama calls on Assad to step down
2. MEMRI receives $200,000 grant from US State Department
3. Obama’s too late on Assad
4. Islamist terrorist group that killed Sadat resurgent in Egypt
5. Indonesia bans labor to Saudi Arabia after beheading of grandmother

[Note by Tom Gross]


As predicted in the dispatch last week, President Obama for the first time today called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, months after Assad began slaughtering his own citizens on an hourly basis.

Obama accused the Syrian government of perpetrating a “sustained onslaught” against its people. A few minutes later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed the president in calling for Assad to “get out of the way.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel today also issued a statement calling for Assad to step down.

“Better late than never,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tweeted in response to the announcements by Obama and other Western politicians today.

In fact, Obama’s statement is too little, too late, as Jonathan Tobin points out in the piece below. Over 2,000 pro-democracy protestors have been murdered while Obama dithered, while more than 12,000 have been arrested and thousands more Syrians have fled the country.

Here is today’s full statement by President Obama:


I attach four articles below. (I am quoted in the first article.) The third article, about the resurgence of Islamic militancy in Egypt, may provide background context to the terror attacks on Israel today.

-- Tom Gross


MEMRI receives $200,000 grant from US State Department
By Benjamin Weinthal
The Jerusalem Post
August 16, 2011

The US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has announced a $200,000 grant to the Middle East Media Research Institute.

According to a statement issued by the office of Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, the funds will be used “to conduct a project that documents anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and Holocaust glorification in the Middle East.

“This grant will enable MEMRI to expand its efforts to monitor the media, translate materials into ten languages, analyze trends in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and glorification, and increase distribution of materials through its website and other outlets.”

Rosenthal, who was named President Obama’s anti-Semitism czar in 2009, is responsible for combating and monitoring US-based and global anti-Semitism.

Her office’s work falls under the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in the US State Department.

The decision to award MEMRI the grant received widespread praise from European and American Middle East experts. The British-born political commentator Tom Gross told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that “this is not just financially important for MEMRI but it is of enormous symbolic significance in determining what kind of Middle East the rest of the world is hoping for in the wake of the Arab spring.”

“Anti-Semitism is not just an issue for Jews. Its absence is a litmus test for the well-being of a society, and on that count many Arab societies fail miserably,” said Gross.

“The Americans are to be applauded, but it would be even more important if European governments followed suit, given how much funding from Europe to the Middle East over the years, particularly to the Palestinians, has found its way to media outlets and educational organizations that have spread virulent anti-Semitism and incitement to kill Jews,” added Gross, who has written extensively about modern anti-Semitism for the international media.

Noah Pollak, executive director of the Washington-based Emergency Committee for Israel, told the Post on Monday, “It is welcome news that the State Department is choosing to confront, rather than smooth over, anti-Semitism in the Arab world. Hopefully State will soon turn its attention to a similar form of anti-Semitism that is just as prevalent as Holocaust denial: the denial of Jewish history in Israel.

“This form of denial not only attacks Jews and Judaism, but stands in the way of peace by claiming that the ancient Jewish State is a fabrication concocted to justify the modern Jewish State.”

The US State Department noted that “through translations and research, MEMRI aims to inform and educate journalists, government leaders, academia, and the general public about trends in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in the Middle East and South Asia, thus generating awareness and response to these issues. MEMRI is a non-governmental organization based in Washington, DC, whose research is translated into ten languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Hebrew.”

Writing on his blog on the website of the Council of Foreign Relations, where he is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Elliott Abrams said: “Hats off to the Department and especially to the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal.

I must acknowledge a special interest here: I sit on MEMRI’s board, and am a member of the US Holocaust Memorial Council.”

Abrams, a former senior director for democracy and human rights, senior director for the Near East, and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W.

Bush administration, added “it is noteworthy that the grant, by referring to Holocaust denial, clarifies that this is a form of anti-Semitism. These topics are extremely sensitive, dealing as they do with Muslim anti-Semitism, and this helps explain why the US Government has sometimes shied away from confronting the phenomenon.

For this reason as well, the new grant announced by Ms. Rosenthal deserves notice and commendation.”

According to MEMRI’s website, the organization was launched “in February 1998 to inform the debate over US policy in the Middle East” and “is an independent, nonpartisan” NGO with a staff of “over 80 employees worldwide.”



Obama’s too late on Assad
By Jonathan Tobin
Commentary magazine
August 18, 2011

After several months of dithering President Obama has finally issued a call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down. But coming as it does only after Assad seems to have successfully suppressed Syrian protesters in a bloody crackdown, Obama’s statement is clearly too little and too late. Hundreds of Syrians have been slaughtered in the streets while the United States refused to take action or even speak roughly of Assad until recently.

Had the United States come out quickly and forcefully called for Assad’s resignation it might have had some impact on the situation. Certainly, it might have encouraged protesters and soldiers and security personnel who would be asked to kill their fellow countrymen. And it might have led to more pressure from the rest of the Arab world that could have also offset Iran’s all-out push to save their ally. But Obama’s characteristic indecision contributed to Assad’s belief that he was safe from foreign pressure and encouraged him to unleash his armed forces on critics in a manner that wasn’t tried when dictators fell earlier this year in Tunisia and Egypt. No matter what Obama or Secretary of State Clinton said today, the administration’s decision to give Assad a pass earlier this year materially contributed to his bloodstained victory in the streets of Syria.

Though Obama has sought to reach out to the Arab and Muslim world repeatedly throughout his presidency, his inaction on Syria shows he clueless he still is. For too long this administration bought into the myth that Assad’s minority Alawite regime could be pried away from the embrace of its powerful Iranian ally. The intention all along was to bribe the Syrians into joining the Arab moderates. Israel would pay the bribe in the form of the Golan Heights that would be surrendered to Assad’s regime as part of a general peace deal.

But was Assad was never the “moderate” that Obama and Clinton believed him to be. Syria never had any interest in peace with Israel or giving up its alliance with Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. Peace with Israel would undermine the dictatorship’s raison d’être and the friendship of a potentially nuclear Iran and its terrorist auxiliaries always struck Assad as more valuable than even that of the United States.

Yet despite the clear signs that Assad was in trouble, both Obama and Clinton clung to their illusions about him being a key to the peace process with which they are obsessed and ignored more sensible advice about taking a tough stance on Syria. In the end, they were forced by the spectacle of Assad’s horrible revenge on his critics (the very same thing that Obama said had motivated him to intervene in Libya) to say what they should have said long ago when it might have made a difference.

Rather than enhance the chances of peace or win friends in the Arab world what Obama and Clinton have done is to help keep in place one of the men who are the prime obstacles to Middle East peace and sent Syrian protesters the message that you can’t count on the United States.



Islamist militant group resurgent in Egypt
Report by CNN
August 15, 2011

El Arish, Egypt (CNN) -- The town of el Arish in Egypt sits on the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean, its fine beaches lined by palm-trees. Developers have built luxury resorts close to this town of about 100,000 people.

But in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, el Arish is becoming known for something far different from tourism. A well-armed jihadist group is making its presence felt on the dusty streets here, intimidating opponents and demanding Egypt becomes an Islamist state.

On a scorching hot day late in July, several dozen people were demonstrating outside the al Nasr mosque in el Arish after Friday prayers. They were Salafists - conservative Islamists who want Egypt governed according to Islamic law. But not conservative enough for members of the Takfir-wal Higra - a group sympathetic to al Qaeda’s goal of establishing an Islamic Caliphate.

Mohamed Mahmoud, who was among the protestors, recalls what happened that day. “The Takfiris stormed in by the hundreds mounted on pickup trucks and motorcycles waving black flags, a symbol of Jihad,” he told CNN from a safe house not far from el Arish.

“The militants were heavily armed with machine guns, hand grenades and rocked-propelled grenades,” he said.

“They attacked two police stations and scared the residents under the name of Jihad. We only call for Jihad if someone attacks our Islamic country or people,” added Mahmoud.

The head of security in North Sinai, General Saleh al Masry, told CNN that Takfir-wal-Higra had become active during the revolution that led to the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak.

“The terrorists were joined by members of Palestinian factions and they are currently being questioned by military intelligence. We arrested 12 assailants including three Palestinians,” General al Masry said.

“I guarantee there is no al Qaeda presence in Sinai but the Takfiris are in the thousands,” he added.

“They are definitely organized but we have not identified their Emir or leaders yet. There is a possibility he may have been released among those granted amnesty during the revolution,” Al Masry added.

But at least some of them appear to identify with al Qaeda.

One flyer distributed to residents of el Arish calling for an Islamic state was labeled: “A statement from al-Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula.”

It described Islam as the only religion of truth and goes on to criticize the Camp David agreement which led to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

“I was handed this paper by one of the men who covered their faces with scarves during the protest,” Ahmed Amr told CNN.

Seven people were killed in clashes that Friday - including civilians, police and army officers and one Palestinian.

Dozens of injured people were taken to El-Arish hospital - as were two of the dead, including a Palestinian who appears to have been among the Takfiri.

The manager of the hospital morgue, Iraqi Mohamed, told CNN that three men with their faces covered stormed into the morgue and retrieved the body of the dead Palestinian.

“They had a Palestinian accent so I did not resist them,” he said.

For neighboring Israel, the lack of state authority in Sinai is becoming a source of anxiety. The gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel that runs through Sinai has been sabotaged several times this year.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a Knesset committee recently that Egypt was having difficulty exercising its sovereignty over Sinai.

“We saw this in the two gas pipe explosions that occurred there,” Netanyahu said. “What’s happening in Sinai is that global terrorist organizations are meddling there and their presence is increasing because of the connection between Sinai and Gaza.”

Gaza is run by radical Palestinian faction Hamas and in the last year or so has seen the emergence of several hardline Salafist groups that associate themselves with al Qaeda.

Palestinians have arrived in El-Arish in growing numbers since the Egyptian government opened the frontier crossing with Gaza some 40 kilometers away.

Many of them arrive legally - looking for a better life away from the poverty and tension in Gaza. But a few appear to be linked with Takfir-wal Higra.

Bedouin smugglers who control the majority of underground tunnels into Gaza were not happy to learn that Palestinians were among the attackers.

Mohamed Younis, one of the tunnel operators, told CNN: “I charge 50 dollars to smuggle them in for trade purposes in coordination with Hamas on the other side. After the attack we have banned any Palestinians from coming through. We are trying to bring peace to the area and don’t need trouble.”

Takfir-wal Higra was founded by Shukri Mustafa in the 1970s as a splinter group of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its austere philosophy included isolation from society and rejection of the Egyptian state. In many ways it was in line with the views of the current al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri, who was then a radical Islamist trying to overthrow the Egyptian state

To discover more about Takfir-wal Higra I was taken by Bedouin smugglers to an area called Wadi Amr, just two kilometers from the Israeli border. I agreed to be blindfolded for the drive, which took an hour across the northern Sinai desert.

I was escorted to a tent where two heavily bearded Sheikhs identifying themselves as Abu Abdulla and Abu Mohamed sat on the floor surrounded by armed men.

“This is the first time we speak to a journalist because we want our correct message to reach the masses through foreign media, not our state-run agencies,” said Abu Abdulla.

Abu Mohamed, pouring himself some camel milk, continued.

“We don’t kill innocent women and children and we only carry arms to defend ourselves. The Egyptian government has tortured us and killed members of our tribes in cold blood for years. Thanks to the revolution we are now free and the truth must prevail through the true Islam.”

Abu Abulla praised al Qaeda’s role in Afghanistan.

“Al Qaeda’s Al Zawahiri, and bin Laden’s higra or flight to fight in Afghanistan is totally acceptable Jihad for the sovereignty of a Muslim country attacked by the infidels.”

But he said the group had been vilified by the Salafists.

“The Salafis outright hate us because we do not relate to their methods. They will tell you we drink alcohol, shave our heads and beards to infiltrate Westerners and kill infidels, but this is not right,” he said.

“We follow the beliefs of Prophet Muhamed as a movement that will only bear arms to support the next Caliphate of Islam,” Abu Abdulla said.

Whatever their intentions and beliefs, the Takfiris’ new-found organization and audacity in Sinai adds another dimension to Egypt’s many troubles.



Indonesia bans labor to Saudi Arabia after beheading of grandmother
By Irfan Al-Alawi
Hudson NY
August 15, 2011

After Saudi Arabia beheaded a 54-year old Indonesian grandmother in June for stabbing her Saudi employer to death, Indonesia declared a moratorium on the migration of its nationals for domestic employment in the desert kingdom, effective August 1. Although the two countries were to adopt a bilateral agreement for protection of Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia this year, no such document has been signed.

Ruyati Binti Satubi, a household worker from West Java, was executed for murder after she confessed slaying the man who had contracted her. The Indonesian migrant, who has three children, said she killed her employer because she was denied permission to return to her native land.

Media in Indonesia and elsewhere indicated that Ruyati Binti Satubi had been subjected to other forms of abuse while working in the Saudi home, located in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. Neither the Indonesian authorities nor her family was informed of the death sentence until after it was carried out, an action for which the Saudi regime apologized to Jakarta. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono wrote in protest to Saudi King Abdullah after the execution, and the Indonesian authorities followed up with the moratorium on exporting laborers, enforced visibly at airports and through contracting agencies.

The beheading of Ruyati Binti Satubi was only the most recent in a series of shocking cases involving Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. In April, Saudi authorities overturned a three-year prison sentence against a 53-year old Saudi woman in Medina, for “torture” in the beating and burning of her 23-year old maid, Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa.

That incident, like the execution of Ruyati Binti Satubi, caused widespread protest in Indonesia, as well as increased reluctance to undergo the risks of working in Saudi Arabia, which Indonesian workers described as “horror stories.” Indonesian media report that the flow of migrant workers to the kingdom had already decreased by 30 percent in the first quarter of this year. With imposition of the August labour embargo, Indonesia was expected to lose $350 million worth of income.

Some 20 Indonesians, mainly women, are said to face capital punishment in Saudi Arabia.

Indonesian officials say that 370,000 of their citizens went to work in Saudi Arabia in 2010. Of these, more than 90 percent are employed in the so-called “informal sector,” that is, paid in cash, without record-keeping or government oversight. British media state, however, that 1.5 million Indonesians are working in Saudi Arabia. Complaints of physical abuse and murder of Indonesian domestic servants by Saudis have produced hundreds of cases, but like other emigrant labourers in Saudi Arabia, Indonesians have no rights.

Indonesia had imposed new regulations on the employment of emigrants to Saudi Arabia, under which the Saudi employee would be required to earn at least $2,800 per month, and the number of family members and layout of the residence would be registered.

Because of the rigid oversight of relations between family and non-family members as dictated by Wahhabism, the Saudi state form of Islam, the kingdom has one of the highest proportions of immigrant laborers in the world; they currently account for 5.5 million out of 26 million people, or 20 percent. Foreign observers describe the Saudi demand for foreign housemaids, drivers, and similar employees as inexhaustible. Saudi subjects are discouraged from such work.

Millions of Pakistanis, Indonesians, Filipinos, South Koreans, and Sri Lankans receive low wages, when not subjected to outright slavery and extreme abuse, while toiling for Saudi masters. Domestic and other low-skill workers live apart from the Anglo-American, other European, and similar foreign technicians who serve the petrochemical and other advanced industries, and who reside in segregated, protected communities that seek to reproduce the conditions in their advanced countries of origin.

While no religion other than Islam is permitted public observance in Saudi Arabia, foreign petrochemical and defence professionals are allowed to hold Christian and other services within their homes. But Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus from the Philippines, South Korea, and Sri Lanka are prohibited from practicing their faiths; and even Pakistani and Indonesian Muslims who work in Saudi Arabia face religious discrimination. For example, preaching in South and Southeast Asian languages in mosques and similar activities are forbidden, as are Sufi observances, popular in Pakistan and Indonesia alike. No other Muslim state imposes such restrictions. Nevertheless, many Muslims are lured to work in the kingdom because of its religious prestige.

With 86 percent of its population of 245 million counted as Muslims, Indonesia has the largest Islamic population of any country in the world. Indonesian domestic workers earn about $200 per month in Saudi Arabia, a wage superior to those an Indonesian migrant villager with a primary-school education would be paid in the east Asian industrialized nations, such as Japan or Taiwan.

At the beginning of August, the official Saudi Arab News announced that two Indonesian women sentenced to beheading would be reprieved and repatriated. Identified only by their first names, Emi was convicted of killing her employer’s child, and Nesi of using “black magic” against her employer. Executions for alleged “witchcraft” are common in the kingdom, which has experienced recurrent panic over “sorcery.”

UK paper fires anti-Israel writer for supporting London riots (& Libya deaths underreported)

August 11, 2011

* But The Independent didn’t object to the same writer two weeks ago blaming the Norwegian massacre on “Zionism”

* London University event planned: “Riots, Recession, Resistance”

* 85 Libyan civilians, including 33 children and 32 women, “killed in botched NATO air raid”; Rupert Murdoch-owned media report properly on the victims; leftist media don’t

Monika Konczyk, who arrivd in London four months ago from Poland, jumps from the window after her home was set alight

London rioters “go shopping”



1. UK paper fires anti-Israel writer for supporting London riots
2. The perpetrators include teachers
3. London University event planned: “Riots, Recession, Resistance”
4. Huffington Post also dissociates itself from the same writer
5. Not the first time Israel has been called “shitty” in The Independent
6. The Independent forced to apologize for Robert Fisk, pays substantial damages
7. 85 Libyan civilians apparently killed in NATO air raid; Western media quiet
8. Finally, Obama set to tell Assad that he should step down
9. Ethiopian-Israeli elected Deputy Knesset Speaker

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


The British paper The Independent has fired its online columnist Jody McIntyre following his support for the violence in London this week, in which hundreds of ordinary people were beaten up, had their homes and businesses wrecked, and in some cases were murdered.

As a writer for the online edition of The Independent, McIntyre had regularly been allowed by the paper to argue that Israel should not exist and was a “racist” and “apartheid state.”

Last month in a piece for The Independent he alleged that “Zionism” was to blame for the massacre in Norway perpetrated by Andres Behring Breivik.

The Independent – a paper which is a popular daily read among British schoolteachers and academics, and whose chief Middle East correspondent is the notorious Robert Fisk – apparently welcomed McIntyre’s smears on Israel and “Zionists”.

Only last month he wrote another article for The Independent (an article which remains on the paper’s website) calling Israel “a rogue state”.

But The Independent was forced to take action yesterday after The Daily Mail, a right-of-centre British daily, cited McIntyre’s tweets in support of the London rioters, such as this one:

“Be inspired by the scenes in #tottenham, and rise up in your own neighbourhood. 100 people in every area = the way we can beat the feds.”



Tom Gross adds: Far from all being “deprived” and “jobless” as many media commentators assumed, the first London rioters charged in London courts yesterday included an assistant primary school teacher, a trainee accountant, a law student, a graphic designer, a dental assistant, a postal employee, an army recruit, and other professionals, and the rioters and looters used the newest and most expensive models of BlackBerry phones to coordinate their criminal activities. Some of those arrested gave home addresses to police of houses and apartments worth more than $500,000.

There was dismay among many in Britain that the BBC insisted on calling the rioters “protestors” until the BBC finally relented and called them rioters. (In the wake of the 7/7 London terror attacks, the BBC said that to use the word “terrorist” would be a “barrier to understanding” – for more on that, see here.)

This short video of a young Malaysian honors student who had just been beaten up in London, with blood streaming from his face, being helped up by “Good Samaritans” only to then be mugged by them, has now been watched by 2.5 million people on YouTube.



A group calling itself “Coalition of Resistance: Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay” is organizing an event called “Riots, Recession, Resistance” at the University of London.

Among the speakers is Labour MP John McDonnell, and Andrew Murray, an activist for the British Communist party which has praised North Korea (where incidentally there is nothing to loot, and anyone who tried it would probably then have their entire family wiped out.)

This is the event poster:



The Huffington Post has now followed suit and removed its interview with McIntyre about the riots, replacing it with “an Editor’s note” which states:

“The Huffington Post’s editorial policy prohibits the promotion of incitement to riot. It has been brought to our attention that some of the comments made by the interviewee in this article could be construed as inciting others to take part in unlawful activity. As such, we have removed this post.”


In January this year, McIntyre gave an address to the London Palestine Solidarity Campaign, in which he said:

“I say this at a time when people across the Arab world are setting alight to themselves in protest against their governments. We must take inspiration from them this year when we set the streets of London alight.”

Jody McIntyre has been a regular guest “expert” on BBC World News programs.

The Independent also recently suspended another of its writers, Johann Hari, for allegedly making up quotes -- though The Independent has taken no action in the case of Hari’s regular slurs on Israel.

For example, in a column for The Independent in 2008, Hari wrote: “Whenever I try to mouth these words [of reassurance for Israel], a remembered smell fills my nostrils. It is the smell of shit.”

For more on Hari, a former winner of the prestigious British journalism award, the Orwell Prize for political writing, see: Journalist of the year calls Israel “shit,” as Israel marks Holocaust Memorial Day

London burning this week



Nine years ago I wrote an article in which I said the following:

Deborah Orr, a columnist for The Independent, writes “anti-Semitism is disliking all Jews, anywhere, and anti-Zionism is just disliking the existence of Israel and opposing those who support it. This may be an academic rather than a practical distinction, and one which has no connection with holding the honest view that in my experience Israel is shitty and little.”

In her article, in which she described Israel as “shitty” and “little” no fewer than four times, Orr was supporting remarks made by the then French Ambassador to London Daniel Bernard.

(Please see for the full article.)


Deborah Orr remained a columnist for The Independent for years after that, before she was snapped up by The Guardian where she is now a columnist. She continues to be invited to appear on BBC radio and television programs.



Last week (on August 4), The Independent published the following small item tucked away on its foreign news pages:

“In his Friday essay on 15 April 2011 (‘The Arab Awakening – a long time coming”) Robert Fisk quoted from an order said to have been issued by the Saudi Minister of the Interior, HRH Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud on 11 March, in which he alleged that Prince Nayef ordered his security forces to show no mercy and to use live rounds on unarmed demonstrators.

Although the essay was published in good faith, we now accept that the ‘Order’ in question is in fact a forgery, and that Prince Nayef did not issue any such order. We apologise sincerely to Prince Nayef for the damage and embarrassment which our reporting of it has caused him.”


However, what The Independent declined to tell its readers is that they paid what the BBC described as “substantial” damages to Prince Nayef, who has been Saudi interior minister for over 40 years.

Yet The Independent has never apologized for years of slanderous and false reporting by Fisk on Israel. For example, in 2006, in a story that occupied the entire front page of The Independent, Fisk claimed that Israel had used uranium-based weapons against Lebanon. To this day, this fabricated story remains online on the paper’s website with no retraction from Fisk or The Independent, and continues to be linked to and cited by pro-Jihadist websites as well as neo-Nazi ones.

The Independent’s editor at the time was a British Jew called Simon Kelner who apparently didn’t mind his writers providing concocted material for anti-Semites.

Apparently threats by Saudi Arabia against The Independent work, but polite requests by democratic governments like Israel’s to tell the truth don’t.


Among past dispatches on Fisk, please see this one from November 4, 2004:

* Osama Bin Laden praises Robert Fisk

* I also noted in another earlier dispatch in 2004 that when The Independent asked convicted Holocaust denier David Irving for a quote about his plans for a lecture tour of Britain, he replied: “I will be happy to assist any journalist on the newspaper that publishes Robert Fisk.”



Western journalists were shown many of the bodies, including a baby girl aged two still in her diapers (nappies), who the Libyans say were among at least 85 civilians killed in an air raid on Monday on the city of Majar in the eastern part of the country. NATO said the air strikes on villages near the town were designed to open the way for anti-Qaddafi ground forces to enter the town, and that intelligence provided to it was that the targets would be of a “military” nature.

The few Western journalists that did report prominently on this attack said they saw at least 30 body bags at a local hospital on Monday evening. For example, The (Rupert Murdoch-owned) Times of London mentioned the deaths on their front page yesterday and led its international news coverage with the story. The Times named some of the child victims that their correspondent saw and reported that 33 children and 32 women were among the victims and that “several farm houses had been reduced to rubble”.

But other papers, which are regularly hysterical about the slightest thing Israel might or might not have done, such as The Independent, buried the story about the death of so many Libyan civilians at the hands of American and European pilots, and mentioned it in only a single paragraph within another story on page 25 in yesterday’s paper, although it did acknowledge in passing that “20 Libyan families had been killed by NATO”.

One can only imagine the reaction of the so-called anti-war movement and the international liberal-left media if Israel, rather than American and European jets had killed members of 20 Arab families on Monday?


The BBC World Service Radio finally reported this morning on Monday night’s NATO killings in Libya on in its World News Hour, noting that among the rubble were fridges, pots and pans, children’s items and so on. But the BBC ran its report only 41 minutes into its News Hour – squeezed between relatively trivial stories about smoking and about ladybird spiders. Several times per week the same BBC World News Hour runs lead stories attacking Israel.



After months of inaction and confusion about what to do, and as the Syrian regime continued to murder dozens of people every day in towns throughout Syria, the Obama administration is preparing to explicitly demand the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials said yesterday as the State Department signaled for the first time that American efforts to “engage” the Syrian government are finally being abandoned.

The Associated Press reported that “The new formulation will make it clear that Assad can no longer be a credible reformist and should leave power.”

Tom Gross adds: Obama’s stance against Assad comes only after Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia recalled their ambassadors from Damascus on Sunday. Some commentators hailed it as one of Obama’s foreign policy “achievements” that he used a “recess appointment” to send an American ambassador to Syria at the end of last year, bypassing Republicans in Congress who had tried to block this engagement with Assad given his long-running central support for terrorist groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas (which is headquartered in Damascus), and his probable murder of the former Lebanese Prime Minister. Now that even Syria’s fellow Arab dictators have withdrawn their ambassadors, the U.S. will, I would guess, soon follow suit.

Even many of Obama’s most ardent admirers can’t understand the American administration’s perplexing refusal to call for the resignation of Assad during months of violence against peaceful civilians.


Among past dispatches on Syria please see:

* Peres tells Arab media “Assad must go,” and Netanyahu again hints at it too
* Syria’s Assad is worse than Gaddafi in many ways



Shlomo Molla, an Ethiopian-born member of parliament for Israel’s centrist Kadima party, was elected deputy Knesset speaker yesterday.

Consequently, on occasions when both Israeli President Shimon Peres and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin are abroad, Molla would serve as Israel’s acting president.

Molla (pictured below) moved to Israel from the Gondar province of Ethiopia at age 19 in 1984. Ethiopians continue to make good progress in many areas of life in Israel.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

The only “armed terrorist gang” in Syria

August 02, 2011

* Syrian political activist: “Assad never had any legitimacy to lose”

* What BBC anchors and others don’t seem to want to convey to their audience is that there is only one big “armed terrorist gang” in Syria and it is called the Syrian government

* Syria’s propaganda press agency (the same one that The New York Times has quoted as a reliable source in its reports on Israel) yesterday praised Syria’s army for being “honorable and brilliant” and showing “valor in providing security and stability for all citizens”

* Leading Arab papers carry the reports that many (non-Rupert Murdoch owned) media in the West refuse to print: that not only Muslims but Christians are being tortured in Syria, including widespread use of the “flying carpet” (a procedure during which an electric rod is shoved under the genitals of a prisoner strapped to a chair)

* Obama’s ratings in the Arab world fall below Bush’s


The dispatch below concerns Syria (and also its ally Hizbullah). There is a related dispatch today which concerns Iran, and also touches on Syria. It can be read here.



1. Syrian slaughter continues, world yawns
2. The BBC
3. Even Obama finally condemns Assad, as Obama’s ratings in the Arab world fall below Bush’s
4. Asharq Al-Awsat: Syrian regime tortures indiscriminately
5. Syrian political activist: “Al-Assad never had any legitimacy to lose”
6. Lebanese newspaper: Hizbullah threatened by Syrian unrest
7. UN peacekeepers wounded by roadside bomb in South Lebanon
8. Nasrallah admits hiding in bunker
9. “Syrian e-army foils plots of seditious media targeting Syria”

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


At least 140 peaceful protestors have been murdered by President Assad’s death squads in Hama over the last two days, and scores wounded according to a local doctor who spoke by telephone to the Reuters news agency. He also reported a shortage of blood for transfusions and the presence of unattended bodies in the streets. As is the normal Syrian army procedure, water and electricity were cut to Hama before the siege began and tanks started to move in from four directions, witnesses said. Reuters reported tank shells falling at a rate of four per minute during the height of the attack.

Hama is the city where President Assad’s father killed tens of thousands in order to put down a rebellion in 1982. Peaceful protestors have been shot dead by government snipers in several other cities in recent days too.

On Saturday, Syrian troops fired over the border on families fleeing from Syria into Lebanon according to the leading Lebanese paper the Beirut Daily Star (the editors of which subscribe to this list). According to the report, the gunfire continued for about 20 minutes.



The British foreign office-funded BBC World Service (which is the world’s biggest news broadcaster) yet again gave credence in its reports on Sunday and again today to Syrian government propaganda, claiming there are “armed terrorist gangs” threatening Syria when in fact the protestors were unarmed and peaceful.

What BBC anchors and others don’t seem to want to convey to their audience is that there is only one big armed gang in Syria and it is called the Syrian government.

(There is a further “armed terrorist gang” too, called Hamas, which is headquartered in Damascus under the protection of Assad.)



Even U.S. President Barack Obama, who naively invested so much hope in engaging the despicable regime in Damascus, has finally properly condemned Assad, saying at the weekend that he was “appalled” by the Syrian government’s use of violence against its own people. However, Obama has still hasn’t called on Assad to step down in the way he so clearly did with America’s ally Egyptian President Mubarak.

Over and over again we are seeing how at best Obama has no consistent foreign policy, and at worst, he is making the wrong choices. The millions of dollars Assad has spent in recent years charming Washington politicians, such as John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Hagel, have obviously paid off.

Obama has come under scathing criticism in the Arab world for his failure to speak out properly in support of democracy and human rights in Syria and other Arab countries, and his poll ratings have now fallen below the lowest point reached by George W. Bush according to Arab opinion polls.

America’s approval in the Arab world has also plummeted. For example, just 5 percent of Egyptians view the U.S. favorably, half the number who viewed America favorably when Bush left office.


For the first time yesterday, Assad’s ally Russia condemned the violence in Syria.

Meanwhile, the state-run Syrian SANA news agency praised Bashar Assad’s army for its “honorable and brilliant image of the military institution ... through its valor in providing security and stability for all citizens.”



The leading pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reports prominently what many (non-Rupert Murdoch owned) media in the West won’t: that the Syrian regime is not only murdering its people, but the widespread and indiscriminate use of torture has very much increased recently.

Asharq Al-Awsat carries graphic accounts of not only Muslims but Christians being tortured in the town of Latakia. The Syrian interrogators used a number of torture procedures including the “flying carpet” (a procedure during which an electric rod is shoved under the genitals of a prisoner strapped to a chair), the “wheel” and others. In addition to this, reports the paper, Syrian civilians have been subject to more mundane forms of torture, including being whipped and beaten.

The paper reports that “last week alone 840 people were arrested in Douma and taken to torture centers, 300 people were arrested in Rakn al-Din, 1,500 people were arrested in Qaboun, and 420 people were arrested in Barzah.”

According to Syrian human rights groups, in addition to the over 2,000 people killed by Assad’s forces in recent months at least 3,000 people have been arrested and “disappeared” (i.e. killed in detention) by the regime.

I have repeatedly drawn attention in these dispatches to the U.S. State Department’s most recent (2009) report on Syria, in which it says the Syrian government has engaged in “arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life” and “enforced disappearances” and the vanishing of “an estimated 17,000 persons.”

The State Department report describes the methods of torture used in Syria’s prisons. Among them: “electrical shocks; pulling out fingernails; burning genitalia; forcing objects into the rectum; beating, sometimes while the victim was suspended from the ceiling; other times on the soles of the feet.”

Why is it so hard to find this information from the U.S. government on the BBC and CNN? Why does The International Herald Tribune (the self-styled “global edition of The New York Times”) run op-eds critical of Israel day after day – even though Israel and West Bank are the most peaceful places in the Middle East just now?

Why does the chief Middle East correspondent of The New York Times, Ethan Bronner, who has become even more cruel recently in his denigration of the Jewish state, twice run news reports in the last month suggesting there are comparisons to be made between Israel and Nazi Germany? Why do The New York Times and International Herald Tribune editors continue to highlight and print such wicked reports when they claim to be a respectable newspaper?



Leading Syrian political activist Suhair Atassi has again criticized Western diplomats and politicians for suggesting that President Bashar Assad (who politicians like British Foreign Secretary William Hague has been hailing as a reformer for years) “had any legitimacy to lose”.

She said that Assad did not have any legitimacy to begin with, since he was merely handed power by his equally brutal father. “We shouldn’t be called the Syrian republic. We should be called the Assad republic,” she said.

Atassi is the president of the Jamal Atassi Forum for National Dialogue, which is calling for the ousting of Assad. She was arrested and questioned by the Assad regime earlier this year for her political activities, before eventually being released. She told Western rights groups by phone that she was repeatedly called a “whore”, slapped, insulted, and threatened by police, who accused her of being an Israeli agent.



The Beirut Daily Star reports that with no signs of Syrians backing away from their determination to bring down the Assad regime, Hizbullah is trying to keep a low profile so as “not to be at odds with what is happening on the ground and not to alienate itself.”

Although foreign reporters have been banned from Syria, video clips posted on YouTube by demonstrators show posters of Hizbullah chief Nasrallah being torn down and burned in street protests in Syria. (I have highlighted these in past dispatches, and also posted videos of Syrians burning Iranian and Russian flags, for example, here.)

Hizbullah’s need to keep a low profile is said to be the most likely reason it is refraining for the time being from launching attacks against Israel that were expected as a means to divert attention from Assad’s problems. (On the other hand yesterday there was cross-border fire by the Lebanese army into Israel. One Lebanese soldier was reported lightly wounded by return fire from the Israelis.)



A roadside bomb exploded near the port city of Sidon in southern Lebanon last week wounding five French members of the United Nations peacekeeping force, UNIFIL. The injured were riding in a UN convoy when the bomb was detonated.

The attack is the most recent in a spate of violence aimed at the UNIFIL force. No one claimed responsibility but experts in Lebanon said Hizbullah was almost certainly behind the attack.

Hizbullah wishes to show it still has cards to play and can disrupt life in Lebanon as the tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri closes in on the Hizbullah operatives who most likely perpetrated that attack on behalf of the Assad regime.



The Iranian news agency IRNA reported last week that Hizbullah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has admitted that instead of fighting he hid in a bunker after the organization attacked Israel in July 2006, sparking a month long war.

He was speaking by video link to a large TV screen as he addressed crowds in the “Dignity and Victory” Festival at al-Raya Stadium in Beirut’s Southern Suburb, commemorating the fifth anniversary of “the Divine Victory achieved by the Mujahedeen against the Israeli enemy in the July 2006 war.”



The Syrian government (propaganda) news agency SANA reports as follows (the bad use of English is theirs):

Syrian E-Army Foils Plots of Seditious Media Targeting Syria

DAMASCUS, (SANA) – Administrators of the Syrian Electronic Army Website have succeeded in foiling the schemes of a number of western, Arab and Arabic-speaking media responding to the misleading media attack targeting Syria.

The website administrators said the electronic army is currently engaged in an electronic war whose soldiers are armed with science and strong belief in the cause.

The main vision of the Syrian youth in the electronic army is represented by the phrase “Let’s Fight with their Weapons”. They started their job right from the beginning of the events, working on divulging the falseness of the conspiracy and delivering the complete truth to the expatriates who were exhausted watching the fabricated videos and the detective stories broadcast by TV channels which claim objectivity and honesty.

“Our goal is to convey the true image about Syria and what is really going on in the country,” said one the website’s administrators.

“We are defending Syria’s electronic borders in the same way the army defends the land, air and maritime borders,” the administrator said, adding that the e-army has foiled the plots of the tendentious media through exposing the fabrication of the videos about demonstrations in Syria which either exaggerate the number of demonstrators, or in other times make up non-existing photos.

The e-army members are not hackers; their job focuses on clearing the true image of the events in Syria through monitoring what is being published on Arab and foreign web pages and then leaving hundreds of thousands of messages on these pages the present the truth unfolded, said a member of the website.

The administrators underlined that the e-army website has been able several times to force the pages and the websites to omit comments that include sectarian terms and instigative phrases.

The administrators underlined from the first moment of launching the website that they do not belong to any certain party, pointing out that they are Homeland-loving Syrian youth who chose to convey the true image of Syria and its deep-rooted civilization.

They stressed that the e-army members will not stay arm-folded in the face of the media distortion and seditious campaigns which seek to spread hatred and grudge among the Syrians through the Facebook and YouTube websites.


Among other dispatches on the Syrian uprising:

* Syria: Where massacre is a family tradition
* They couldn’t even muster a press statement (& The Syria Lobby)
* As Syria slaughters hundreds, its ambassador gets wedding invite denied to Blair and Brown
* Peres tells Arab media “Assad must go,” and Netanyahu again hints at it too

Iran: “Zionist regime directed terrorist attacks in Norway” (& Iran to sue West)

* Ahmadinejad instructs Foreign Ministry to file complaint against Allies for invading Iran in WWII

(This dispatch concerns Iran. There is also a related dispatch today which concerns Iran’s allies Syria and Hizbullah, which can be read here.)



1. Iran: “Zionist regime directed terrorist attacks in Norway”
2. Ahmadinejad instructs Foreign Ministry to file complaint against Allies for invading Iran in WWII
3. Iran: U.S., Israel hiring Saudi, Lebanese mercenaries to foment unrest in Syria
4. Iran considering $5.8 billion loan to Syria
5. Iranian forces enter Iraq and kill Kurds
6. “U.S. spy drone shot down by Iran over nuclear enrichment plant”
7. Photos of the day: the prettier side of Iran this summer

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


The following is a report from Iran’s government-controlled (i.e. propaganda) Fars news agency on Saturday (the bad use of English is theirs):

Commander Blames Zionist Regime for Directing Terrorist Attacks in Norway

TEHRAN (FNA) - Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi took the Zionist regime responsible for directing and sponsoring the last-week terrorist attacks in Oslo, Norway, which killed scores of innocent people.

“The West should know that Zionists are behind the so-called religious extremists and terrorist and racist actions,” Firouzabadi said on Saturday, adding that the Zionist regime misuses the world people to materialize its wrong and racist beliefs.

He referred to the terrorist attacks in Norway, and said that any probe into the incentives and goals of these terrorist attacks without investigating their links with the Zionists will be fruitless.

“Since Zionists realized their failure and weakness, they have tried to expand and spread Christian Zionism which is a big danger for the Christian world, and the West as well as the Church should take it seriously,” he added.


Tom Gross adds: Palestinian websites (including Fatah sites paid for with funds from European charities and governments) have also accused Israel of being behind the attacks, as have anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists in Britain and elsewhere, who have sent out fake videos on the internet.



The following is a report from Iran’s government-controlled Fars news agency:

Ahmadinejad Urges FM to Collect Documents on Iran’s Occupation in WWII

TEHRAN (FNA) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the country’s foreign ministry to set up a committee to collect more documents regarding the country’s occupation during WWII to lodge complaints with international bodies against the occupiers.

He made the remarks in a ceremony unveiling a five-volume book series which includes documents on the occupation of Iran during the Second World War.

“These documents lay bare the face of plunderers,” Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday.

The Iranian president called on researchers and historians to gather documents dating back to World War I despite all odds.

He highlighted the need for the Foreign Ministry to set up a committee to collect more documents regarding the country’s occupation during WWII.

“We could present one by one of these documents before international courts to lodge a case,” he noted.

Ahmadinejad pointed out how the colonialist West has altered its disguise at a time when liberation and independence-seeking movements have yielded fruit.

They are those who organized plunders in the world, unprecedented in history, he noted.

“The plunderers have created a global economic establishment to enable them to automatically rob other nations...They have set the dollar as the world’s dominant currency and published more than 32 trillion dollars of money without backing in recent years,” he went on to say.

The Iranian president called for a change in the financial and monetary systems -- including the World Bank -- which currently dominate the world.

“As long as these structures do not change, [and] the basis of the [UN] Security Council and the world’s financial and monetary structure is not disturbed, the plunders will continue,” Ahmadinejad warned.



Iran’s government-controlled Fars news agency reports as follows (based on some information from a professor at London university):

TEHRAN (FNA) - The US and Israel are trying to divide the Syrian nation and government by sparking tension in the Arab state through hiring Saudi and Lebanese March 14 forces, a senior Iraqi analyst warned on Saturday.

“The US and Israel are hiring and leading a number of regional forces like (the Lebanese) March 14 and Saudis to show Damascus insecure by creating unrests,” Head of the Center for the Southern Iraq Studies and Professor of London University Ali Ramazan al-Ousi told FNA.

Al-Ousi also blasted certain regional-religious streams like the Wahhabies and also the Saudi government for preventing establishment of Islamic governments in the region through following the US-Zionist policies in the region.

Earlier, the Iranian foreign ministry in a statement had warned that the US and the Zionist regime of Israel have hatched plots to create a rift among the Syrian people.

The ministry said in a statement that the wave of unrest that has swept across Syria in recent weeks is a plot by Washington and Tel Aviv to undermine the country’s national solidarity and sovereignty.

The ministry also called on both the people and the government in Syria not to lose sight of their national reform plans in the face of enemy plots to undermine their efforts.

“The Syrian leadership and nation’s reform effort in the framework of the county’s national interests is an important responsibility. By practicing moderation in both voicing and addressing demands, a grand victory for Syria can be achieved,” read the statement.

The statement also said that Syria’s 60-year opposition to the Israeli oppression of the Lebanese and Palestinians is the main reason why the nation has become a target of Western plots.


(Just to remind readers, the text in the above items is from the Fars news agency. The text below is mine -- Tom Gross)



As Syria’s economic situation worsens as a result of the daily protests by millions of people in towns throughout Syria which has brought some parts of the country to a near standstill, Syria’s closest ally Iran, concerned at the possible fall of Assad, is reported to be considering making a $5.8 billion loan to Syria, in addition to giving Damascus 290,000 free barrels of oil. The Syrian government has denied the reports.

Since the beginning of the uprising against the Assad regime in Syria, Iran has assisted it in both the security and propaganda aspects of its violent repression of the protests.

Iran has sent to Syria members of its Al-Quds Force (responsible for subversion and special operations outside of Iran), advisers from Iran’s domestic Law Enforcement Services, and Hizbullah fighters from Lebanon to help put down the protests in Syria.

Iran has also provided Syria with advanced eavesdropping equipment in order to help monitor phone calls and social networks to identify and then arrest activists.



Iranian Revolutionary Guards entered northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish fighters last week, and shot several of them dead. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said they had killed “many” Kurds in the operation.

The brutally repressed Kurds of Iran are demanding independence, just like Kurds in Syria, Iraq and Turkey.

As usual, the liberal Western media has not reported on this properly, and Western NGOs have virtually nothing to say about Kurdish rights.



Iran’s Fars news agency reports that a U.S. drone was shot down by Iran on July 20 over the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant in the Central Qom province.

An Iranian official stated that the U.S. drone was on a mission to identify the location of the Fordo nuclear enrichment plant and gather information about the nuclear facility for the CIA.



Here are some scenic photos of Iran, courtesy of the Fars news agency.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]