Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

Saudi detains dozens for “plotting to celebrate Christmas” (& “Jesus was a Palestinian”)

December 31, 2012


* Saudi religious police stormed a house belonging to a foreign diplomat in the Saudi Arabian province of al-Jouf, detaining more than 41 guests for “plotting to celebrate Christmas,” a statement from the police said.

The EU-funded Palestinian leadership’s falsification of both Palestinian and Jewish (and Christian) history continues unabated:

* Palestinian Authority leader Rajoub: “The greatest Palestinian in history since Jesus is Yasser Arafat”
* The Governor of Ramallah: “We all have the right to be proud that Jesus is a Palestinian”
* PA historian: “In the final analysis, Jesus is a Palestinian”
* Palestinian Authority official Mufti: “Jesus is a Palestinian par excellence”

* Palestinian Ma’an news agency: President Mahmoud Abbas announced he has no plans to amend laws that reduce sentences for suspects who claim an “honor” defense for murdering women
* Abbas had promised to crack down on “honor killing” in response to protests over the killing of university student Aya Baradiya in Hebron last year; now reneges on promise.


I attach five articles from recent days, below. Because of an infection in my wrists that makes typing very difficult, I am not able to add any additional summaries of my own -- Tom Gross


(You can comment on this dispatch here: Please also press “Like” on that page.)


1. “Saudi detains dozens for ‘plotting to celebrate Christmas’” (Al-Akhbar, Dec. 27, 2012)
2. “Abbas aide: No plans to outlaw ‘honor killing’” (Ma’an news agency, Dec. 26, 2012)
3. “The Palestinian ‘holy Trinity’: Jesus, Arafat and Abbas” (PMW, Dec. 26, 2012)
4. “Why Arabs hate and kill Palestinians” (By Khaled Abu Toameh, Dec. 26, 2012)
5. “Hamas outlaws contact with Israeli media outlets” (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 26, 2012)



Saudi detains dozens for “plotting to celebrate Christmas”
December 27, 2012

Saudi religious police stormed a house in the Saudi Arabian province of al-Jouf, detaining more than 41 guests for “plotting to celebrate Christmas,” a statement from the police branch released Wednesday night said.

The raid is the latest in a string of religious crackdowns against residents perceived to threaten the country’s strict religious code.

The host of the alleged Christmas gathering is reported to be an Asian diplomat whose guests included 41 Christians, as well as two Saudi Arabian and Egyptian Muslims. The host and the two Muslims were said to be “severely intoxicated.”

The guests were said to have been referred to the “respective authorities.” It is unclear whether or not they have been released since.

The kingdom, which only recognizes Islamic faith and practice, has in the past banned public Christmas celebrations, but is ambiguous about festivities staged in private quarters.

Saudi religious police are known to detain residents of the kingdom at whim, citing loose interpretations of Sharia and public statements by hardline religious leaders to justify crackdowns.

Saudi Arabia’s head mufti Sheikh Abdel Aziz bin Abdullah had previously condemned “invitations to Christmas or wedding celebrations.”

A member of the Higher Council of Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Mohammed al-Othaimin recently prohibited sending holiday wishes to “heretics” on Christmas or other religious Christian holidays.


On Thursday, the Beirut-based Gulf Center for Human Rights reported that Saudi human rights defender Raef Badawi is at risk of execution on apostasy charges.

Badawi is co-founder and editor of the Liberal Saudi Network. When he first appeared before the district court in Jeddah, he was charged with “insulting Islam through electronic channels” and “going beyond the realm of obedience.” The Judge then referred the case to the higher Public Court on an apostasy charge, which carries the penalty of death.

The General Court in Jeddah proceeded with apostasy charges on December 22.

Badawi was arrested this June after the Liberal Saudi Network called for “a day of liberalism” in Saudi Arabia, which included a conference that was later canceled after a warning from authorities.

Earlier this week, controversial Saudi novelist and political analyst Turki al-Hamad was arrested for criticizing Islam and the royal family in a series of tweets.

Al-Hamad is an outspoken liberal who writes about sexuality issues, underground political movements and religious freedom. The offending tweets suggested that Islam be rectified in the same way that the Prophet Muhammad is said to have revised earlier Abrahamic religions.



Abbas aide: No plans to outlaw ‘honor killing’
By Soraya Al-Ghussein and Hannah Patchett
Palestinian Ma’an news agency
December 26, 2012

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas has no plans to amend laws that reduce sentences for suspects who claim an “honor” defense for murdering women, his legal adviser says.

“Why change it? This would cause serious problems,” Hassan al-Ouri told Ma’an, adding that such a reform would “not benefit women.”

In May 2011, the president pledged to amend the law to guarantee maximum penalties for “honor killing” in response to protests over the killing of university student Aya Baradiya in Hebron.

The decision was announced in a phone call to a primetime show on state TV, drawing tears among crowds of mourners shown in a live link-up from the Ramallah studio to Baradiya’s hometown.

Abbas suspended Article 340, which offers a pardon for murder if the perpetrator committed the crime on finding his wife in bed with another man.

The reform was cosmetic: Article 340 had never been used in Palestinian courts since it was legislated in 1960.

“So why did we change the law? To garner public opinion,” al-Ouri said in an interview in the presidential compound in Ramallah.

“I, personally, was against the amendment because the crimes that happen in the street have no relevance to Article 340,” the legal adviser added.

Al-Ouri says the president will not change the go-to clauses for lawyers seeking leniency for clients who claim they committed murder to defend family “honor.”

Articles 97 to 100 of the Jordanian Penal Code, in force in the West Bank, still offer reduced sentences for any act of battery or murder committed in a “state of rage.”

“The (law) only addresses 1 percent of the problem. What we need is a new culture,” al-Ouri said.

Other officials insist the penal code is the problem.

The law “privileges the killer,” Interior Ministry official Haitham Arrar told Ma’an.

“It encourages some people to commit crimes against women, which will go (as far as) killing them,” said Arrar, who heads the ministry’s democracy and human rights unit.

Abbas fears ‘conservative forces’

The Palestinian Legislative Council has not met since 2007, when Hamas and Fatah split, but women’s rights expert Soraida Hussein dismisses arguments that reforms must wait until parliament reconvenes.

“For us, for women, all this is irrelevant,” said Hussein, general director of the Women’s Technical Affairs Committee, an umbrella group of women’s organizations. “Until now, our lives -- in law and in practice -- are seen as less than men’s.”

The president should issue a decree that “anybody killing anyone else will be sentenced to the highest sentence possible, whether it is a woman or a boy,” says Hussein.

“The minute the law is changed and applied, the minute people will think twice,” she says. “It’s simple and it’s not done.”

Hussein suggests Abbas is hesitant to pass legal reforms because “he is not ready yet to confront conservative forces.”

In 2009, Abbas ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, but al-Ouri, the legal adviser, says it will only be implemented “so long as it doesn’t contravene Islamic code.”

“Look, we are for total equality but if there is a basic tenet of Islamic code that we would be forced to change under CEDAW, then people would revolt and brand us as non-believers,” al-Ouri said.


Lax laws encourage murder suspects to claim “honor” in their defense, officials and women’s rights activists say.

“Because the penalty is one or two months, they consider killing her and dress it up as honor,” Minister of Women’s Affairs Rahiba Diab told Ma’an.

Khawla al-Azraq, who runs a women’s counseling center in Bethlehem, notes that femicide is a global issue but “now in Palestine, they call this honor killing.”

“Sometimes these girls are abused by someone in the family and they need to cover this (up) and they kill her; sometimes because they need her money,” she says. “These are the real reasons for killing.”

“In Palestine, this is the gap, that until now we don’t have our own legislation that really can protect women.”

The Independent Commission of Human Rights says 13 women have been killed this year, but the real figure is likely to be higher.

“There has been historically a problem of documentation,” says Hussein, the women’s rights expert. The cause of suspicious deaths of women was often recorded as “fate,” which could refer to forced “suicides” or being pushed from a building, she explained.

Despite repeated requests since September, the Ministry of Interior did not provide Ma’an with the official number of women whose deaths were recorded as “fate” in 2012.


(Itamar Marcus is a longtime subscriber to this list.)


The Palestinian “holy Trinity”: Jesus, Arafat and Abbas
By Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin
Dec. 26, 2012

The Palestinian leadership’s falsification of history by presenting Jesus as an ancient Palestinian increased in regularity as Christmas approached this year. In the last month alone, the PA media has transmitted six additional PA misrepresentations of Jesus as a Palestinian, including:

* The Governor of Ramallah: “We all have the right to be proud that Jesus is a Palestinian”
* PA historian: “In the final analysis, Jesus is a Palestinian”
* The PA Mufti: “Jesus is a Palestinian par excellence”

Palestinian Media Watch reported that the PA Mufti used the same expression already three years ago.

In addition, there is an attempt to connect Jesus to the Palestinian leaders themselves. Senior PA leader Jibril Rajoub said: “The greatest Palestinian in history since Jesus is Yasser Arafat,” and an editorial in the PA official daily referred to Arafat, Jesus and Abbas as the Palestinian “holy Trinity”:

“Jesus is a Palestinian; the self-sacrificing Yasser Arafat is a Palestinian; Mahmoud Abbas, the messenger of peace on earth, is a Palestinian. How great is this nation of the holy Trinity!” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 30, 2012]

PMW has documented the ongoing PA historical revision, which falsely connects the current Palestinian-Arab population to a fabricated ancient Palestinian-Arab nation. Although there is no record of any Palestinian-Arab history and no people ever identified as being part of a Palestinian-Arab nation until very recently, the PA claims they are an ancient Palestinian people in an attempt to compete with Israel’s well-documented Jewish history in the land.

While Christian tradition and the historical writings of the period portray Jesus as a Jew living in the land of Judea/Israel, the PA consistently tells its people that they are the ones connected to Jesus. This is not only a distortion of Jesus’ personal history as reported in Christian writings, it is also an anachronism. The Romans changed the name of Judea/Israel to “Palestine” in order to punish the Jewish nation after its unsuccessful rebellion a full 136 years after the birth of Jesus.

The following are recent examples of the PA’s misrepresentation of Jesus as a Palestinian:

Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub: “The greatest Palestinian in history since Jesus is Yasser Arafat.” [PA TV (Fatah), Nov. 29, 2011]

Official PA daily op-ed: “Jesus is a Palestinian; the self-sacrificing Yasser Arafat is a Palestinian; Mahmoud Abbas, the messenger of peace on earth, is a Palestinian. How great is this nation of the holy Trinity!” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Nov. 30, 2012]

Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories:

“The Palestinian nation is rooted in this land since the Canaanites and the Jebusites. The Arab presence - Christian and Islamic - on this land is uninterrupted. Jesus is a Palestinian par excellence.” [PA TV (Fatah), Nov. 30, 2012]

Governor of the Ramallah district Leila Ghannam: “The Palestinian pain is one and the joy is one. We all have the right to be proud that Jesus is a Palestinian and that Palestine is the birthplace of the religions...” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 24, 2012]

Palestinian historian Khalil Shoka: “The Christian religion started here [Bethlehem]... The entire world is focused on this city because of its important historical and traditional role... because in the final analysis, Jesus is a Palestinian.” [PA TV (Fatah), Dec. 16, 2012]

Official PA daily op-ed: “We can be proud, oh son of Mary, that you are the first Palestinian who redeemed” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida.]


(Leading West Bank-based, Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh is a longtime subscriber to this list.)


Why Arabs hate and kill Palestinians
By Khaled Abu Toameh
Gatestone institute
December 26, 2012

The Arab League did not hold an emergency meeting to discuss what Palestinians describe as “massacres “ against the refugees in a Syrian camp, home to more than 50,000 people. Those who meddle in the internal affairs of Arab countries should not be surprised when bombs start falling on their homes. Palestinians are not always innocent victims. They bring tragedy on themselves and then want to blame everyone else but themselves.


More than 800 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds others injured since the beginning of the crisis in Syria nearly two years ago.

In the past two weeks, thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee the Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus after Syrian jets bombed their homes, killing dozens of people.

More than 3000 refugees have fled to neighboring Lebanon, where some politicians and cabinet ministers are already calling for closing the border to stop the influx of Palestinians into their country.

The Arab world, meanwhile, has done nothing to help the Palestinians in Syria.

The Arab League did not hold an emergency meeting to discuss what Palestinians described as “massacres” against the refugees in Yarmouk, home to some 50,000 people.

This is not the first time that Palestinians living in Arab countries find themselves caught in conflicts between rival parties. Those who meddle in the internal affairs of Arab countries should not be surprised when bombs start falling on their homes.

The Palestinians have a long history of involving themselves in the internal affairs of Arab countries and later complaining when they fall victim to violence. They complain they are being killed but not saying why they keep getting into trouble.

Palestinians are not always innocent victims. They bring tragedy on themselves and then want to blame everyone else but themselves.

In Syria, a Palestinian terrorist group called Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, which is headed by Ahmed Jibril, had been helping the Syrian regime in its attempts to suppress the opposition. Jibril’s terrorists are reported to have kidnapped, tortured and murdered hundreds of anti-regime Syrians over the past two years.

The last time an Arab army bombed a Palestinian refugee camp was in Lebanon. In 2007, the Lebanese army destroyed most of the Nahr al-Bared camp after another terrorist group, Fatah al-Islam set up bases there and attacked army checkpoints, killing several soldiers.

In the 70s and 80s, Palestinians played a major role in the Lebanon civil war, which claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people.

The Palestinians also payed a price for meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq. After the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime, thousands of Palestinians were forced out of Iraq for helping the dictator oppress his people for many years.

After the liberation of Kuwait more than 20 years ago, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from the tiny emirate and other Gulf countries. Their crime was that they had supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait -- a country that for many years had provided the PLO with billions of dollars in aid.

Jordan was the first Arab country to punish the Palestinians for meddling in its internal affairs. In 1970, the late King Hussein ordered his army to crush armed Palestinian organizations that had severely undermined his monarchy. The violence resulted in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians and ended with the expulsion of the PLO to Lebanon.

What happened in the Yarmouk refugee camp in the past few days shows that the Palestinians have not learned from their previous mistakes and are continuing to meddle in the internal affairs of Arab countries. That is perhaps why the Arabs are reluctant to help the Palestinians overcome their financial hardships.

Arab League foreign ministers recently promised to provide the Palestinian Authority with $100m. per month to solve its financial crisis. But the Palestinians have not yet seen one dollar from the promised aid. And if they continue to meddle in the internal affairs of their Arab brothers, the only thing they will see is more bombs falling on their homes and thousands of people forced out of their refugee camps.



Hamas outlaws contact with Israeli media outlets
By Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
December 26, 2012

The Hamas government on Tuesday banned Palestinians from dealing or working with Israeli media outlets.

The decision was announced following the weekly meeting of the Hamas government in Gaza City.

Hamas said it decided to ban dealing or working with “Zionist media outlets because they are hostile.”

Hamas warned Palestinian journalists and media employees from working with or helping their Israeli counterparts.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has not officially banned Palestinians from working with the Israeli media.

However, many PA officials and political figures refuse to talk to Israeli media organizations.

The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Journalists Syndicate recently banned its members from holding meetings with Israeli journalists as part of a campaign to combat “normalization” between the two sides.

Christianity “close to extinction” in Middle East (& Top 10 Jewish Christmas songs)

December 25, 2012


* Human Rights Watch finally gets round to saying what we all knew, that “Palestinian rockets unlawfully targeted Israeli civilians” – but HRW deliberately does so on Christmas Eve to minimize media coverage, knowing that many papers don’t appear on Christmas day to report the news

* 2012 becomes the record year for tourism to Israel, as the U.S. State Department travel advisory now declares Israel, West Bank safe

* Top 10 Christmas songs written by Jews: From “Winter Wonderland” to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow,” and the best-selling single ever, “White Christmas”: How east European Jewish immigrants to the U.S. helped invent the modern Christmas


(You can comment on this dispatch here: Please also press “Like” on that page.)



1. Human Rights Watch finally states the obvious: “Palestinian rockets unlawfully targeted Israeli civilians”
2. Gaza terrorists fire pre-Christmas rocket at Israel, but it falls short and lands in Gaza
3. 60 percent of Palestinian casualties in recent Gaza fighting were terrorists
4. Israel: The National Rifle Association (NRA) has it wrong
5. 2012 - a record year for tourism to Israel
6. U.S. State Department travel advisory says Israel, West Bank are now safer
7. Christianity “close to extinction” in the Middle East
8. Tunisian imam in televised sermon: “Sterilize the wombs of Jewish women”
9. Benjamin Netanyahu launches an Arabic-language Twitter feed
10. A prayer fulfilled?
11. “Christianity ‘close to extinction’ in Middle East” (Daily Telegraph, Dec. 23, 2012)
12. Top 10 Christmas songs written by Jews

[Notes below by Tom Gross]


The leading American self-styled human rights organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has finally issued a statement criticizing the Palestinian terror group Hamas for targeting Israeli civilians with rockets.

This comes after years of being pressed to do so by organizations such as NGO-Monitor (a group that I serve on the advosory board of.)

In its scathing report Human Rights Watch says that indiscriminate fire on Israel is a “war crime” and calls on Gaza’s Islamist government to “stop unlawful attacks and punish those responsible.”

HRW called on Hamas to prosecute those responsible for firing the rockets, writing that “Hamas, the ruling authority in Gaza, is obligated to uphold the laws of war and should appropriately punish those responsible for serious violations.”

(Tom Gross adds: This is, of course, ridiculous, since Hamas is responsible for firing or ordering the firing of the vast majority of the rocket attacks.)

The report mentions that about 1,500 rockets were fired at Israel between November 14 and November 21, 2012, alone.

At least 800 of the rockets struck Israel, 60 of them in populated areas.

HRW notes that quite often these rockets miss Israel and kill Palestinians instead. For example, on November 16, a rocket launched from within Gaza hit a crowded street in Jabalya, killing a Palestinian man, 23, and a boy aged 4, and wounding five people

(Tom Gross adds: Media such as New York Times and the BBC often then add these fatalities to the overall number of Palestinian dead, in order to mislead readers and viewers into thinking that Israel was responsible for the deaths and injuries of these Palestinian civilians. In this particular incident in Jabalya, the media printed photos of the Egyptian ambassador kissing the forehead of the dead child, claiming he had been killed by Israel, when in fact he had been killed by Hamas. Only a handful of media outlets later apologized for running a misleading photo caption.)

The report noted that HRW has not been able to identify any instances in which a Palestinian armed group warned civilians to evacuate an area before a rocket launch.

In war, the group said, parties to an armed conflict are required to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians under their control from the effects of attacks and not to place military targets in or near densely populated areas.

The report (which contains a number of inaccuracies, including lowering the number of Israeli casualties) can be read here:



Terrorists in Gaza attempted to fire a Kassam missile at Israel yesterday, but it landed in an open area inside the Gaza Strip, causing no injuries or damage, an Israeli army spokesperson said.



A detailed study (by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center) of the identities of Palestinians killed during Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza last month reveals that of 169 Palestinians killed, 101 were terrorists and 68 were civilians. 71 of the terrorists were self-proclaimed members of Hamas; 17 were affiliated with Islamic Jihad; 6 belonged to the Popular Resistance Committees; 3 to Fatah; 2 to the Army of Islam; and 1 each to the PFLP and Salafists.

Experts say this demonstrates an incredible level of accuracy by the Israeli air force given the nature of the packed urban terrain they were fighting in as they tried to target rocket-launching squads operating in built-up civilian areas.



Israel has rejected claims made by America’s most powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, that Israel serves as evidence for its philosophy that the U.S. needs more weapons, not fewer.

An Israeli spokesperson said that contrary to the image of a heavily armed population, Israel allows its citizens to own firearms only if they can prove their professions or places of residence put them in severe danger.

Israel has far fewer private weapons per capita than the U.S., and gun rampages outside the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are unheard of. Israel’s school security system is part of a multi-layered defense strategy that focuses on prevention and doesn’t depend on “a guy at a gate with a gun”.



Despite the week-long flare up in November between Israel and Hamas, 2012 marks a record year for incoming tourism to Israel.

About 3.5 million tourists have visited Israel so far in 2012, an increase of 4% over last year’s figures. The top five countries of origin for tourists to Israel were the U.S., Russia, France, Germany and the UK.

The most visited locations were Jerusalem, followed by Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea, Tiberias and Nazareth.

Among related dispatches this year, please see here and here.



The latest U.S. State Department travel advisory to Israel and the West Bank praises Israel and the Palestinian Authority for their “considerable efforts” to protect tourists and says conditions in Tel Aviv and Haifa are “comparable to or better than” other major cities in the world.

In its new advisory, the State Department reverses the level of alarm about Israel and the West Bank given in its travel advisories in recent years, but still cautions about visiting the Gaza Strip.



The (London) Daily Telegraph highlights a new report by the British think tank Civitas, warning that “Christianity faces being wiped out of the ‘biblical heartlands’ in the Middle East because of mounting persecution of worshippers.”

“The ‘lion’s share’ of persecution faced by Christians arises in countries where Islam is the dominant faith, the report says, quoting estimates that between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have left the region or been killed in the past century.”

The study claims that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group. And it claims politicians in the West have been “blind” to the extent of violence faced by Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The only country in the Middle East where the Christian population is growing is Israel.

Beyond the Middle East, the report highlights hostility towards Christianity in China, India, Burma and elsewhere. The Daily Telegraph article is at the end of this dispatch.


Tom Gross adds: In Pakistan, the country’s only Christian minister was assassinated last year. In Nigeria, Christians have been suffering a wave of attacks, with several suicide bombers and gunmen this year murdering worshippers at prayer in Catholic churches. (In spite of this, the Pope in his Christmas midnight mass address last night, once again chose to highlight the Israeli-Palestinian conflict above all others.)



The Tunisian Association to Support Minorities is suing a prominent Tunisian imam for using hate speech against Jews.

During a Friday sermon broadcast live on Tunisian TV on November 30, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Suhayli of Rades, a suburb of Tunis, told his followers at the Khatib mosque that “God wants to destroy this sprinkling of Jews and is for sterilizing the wombs of Jewish women.”

Qais El-Beltagi, a lawyer representing the association, says that Al-Suhayli’s comments violated Tunisia’s 2011 Decree 115, which criminalizes “calls for hatred between races and religions, and the population.”

Tunisia’s once large Jewish community has shrunk to less than 2,000, most of whom live on the island of Djerba.

Since the misnamed “Arab spring” began in Tunisia almost two years ago, there has been a marked increase in hate speech and attacks against Jews in the country.



Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has begun an Arabic-language Twitter account, part of his government’s Arabic outreach efforts.

In his initial tweets, Netanyahu discusses the hot topics of Syria’s chemical weapons, Iran’s nuclear program, and Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Western Wall.

Netanyahu’s English-language Twitter feed has 130,000 followers.

Arabic is one of Israel’s three official languages. The Israeli Foreign Ministry’s Arabic-language Facebook page, which was launched last year (and has on occasion linked to these Middle East dispatches), has garnered over 220,000 “likes” from Facebook users.



A lucky worshipper at Jerusalem’s Western Wall last week peeked in a large envelope which had not been properly sealed and was resting against the ancient stones. He discovered 500 checks, each signed for $1 million dollars – a total of half a billion dollars, and handed them in to the Jerusalem police department. The rabbi of the Western Wall said many of the checks were apparently from a Nigerian bank. It is not clear whether they were real or forged.


I attach two items below.

[Notes above by Tom Gross]


Christianity ‘close to extinction’ in Middle East
By Edward Malnick
Daily Telegraph (London)
December 23, 2012

Christianity faces being wiped out of the “biblical heartlands” in the Middle East because of mounting persecution of worshippers, according to a new report.

The study warns that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group.

The most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam, it says, claiming that oppression in Muslim countries is often ignored because of a fear that criticism will be seen as “racism”.

It warns that converts from Islam face being killed in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Iran and risk severe legal penalties in other countries across the Middle East.

The report, by the think tank Civitas, says: “It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree.

“A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers.”

It cites estimates that 200 million Christians, or 10 per cent of Christians worldwide, are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”

“Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be political priorities across large areas of the world. That this is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of victimhood,” says the author, Rupert Shortt, a journalist and visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford.

He adds: “The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally.”

The report, entitled Christianophobia, highlights a fear among oppressive regimes that Christianity is a “Western creed” which can be used to undermine them.

State hostility towards Christianity is particularly rife in China, where more Christians are imprisoned than in any other country in the world, according to the report.

It quotes Ma Hucheng, an advisor to the Chinese government, who claimed in an article last year that the US has backed the growth of the Protestant Church in China as a vehicle for political dissidence.

“Western powers, with America at their head, deliberately export Christianity to China and carry out all kinds of illegal evangelistic activities,” he wrote in the China Social Sciences Press.

“Their basic aim is to use Christianity to change the character of the China and overturn it,” he added.

The “lion’s share” of persecution faced by Christians arises in countries where Islam is the dominant faith, the report says, quoting estimates that between a half and two-thirds of Christians in the Middle East have left the region or been killed in the past century.

“There is now a serious risk that Christianity will disappear from its biblical heartlands,” it claims.

The report shows that “Muslim-majority” states make up 12 of the 20 countries judged to be “unfree” on the grounds of religious tolerance by Freedom House, the human rights think tank.

It catalogues hundreds of attacks on Christians by religious fanatics over recent years, focusing on seven countries: Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, India, Burma and China.

It claims George Bush’s use of the word “crusade” after the September 11 attacks on New York created the impression for Muslims in the Middle East of a “Christian assault on the Muslim world”.

“But however the motivation for violence is measured, the early twenty-first century has seen a steady rise in the strife endured by Christians,” the report says.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq left Iraqi Christians “more vulnerable than ever”, highlighted by the 2006 beheading of a kidnapped Orthodox priest, Fr Boulos Iskander, and the kidnapping of 17 further priests and two bishops between 2006 and 2010.

“In most cases, those responsible declared that they wanted all Christians to be expelled from the country,” the report says.

In Pakistan, the murder last year of Shahbaz Bhatti, the country’s Catholic minister for minorities, “vividly reflected” religious intolerance in Pakistan.

Shortly after his death it emerged that Mr Bhatti had recorded a video in which he declared: “I am living for my community and for suffering people and I will die to defend their rights.

“I prefer to die for my principles and for the justice of my community rather than to compromise. I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us.”

The report also warns that Christians in India have faced years of violence from Hindu extremists. In 2010 scores of attacks on Christians and church property were carried out in Karnataka, a state in south west India.

And while many people are aware of the oppression faced in Burma by Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy activists, targeted abuse of Christians in the country has been given little exposure, the report says.

In some areas of Burma the government has clamped down on Christian protesters by restricting the building of new churches.

“Openly professing Christians employed in government service find it virtually impossible to get promotion,” it adds.



Top 10 Christmas Songs Written by Jews

(Compiled by Tom Gross)

10. “The Christmas Waltz,” music and lyrics by Sammy Cahn and Julie Styne. Sung by Frank Sinatra.

9. “Silver Bells,” music by Jay Livingston, lyrics by Ray Evans.

8. “Winter Wonderland,” music and lyrics by Felix Bernard.

7. “Santa Baby,” music and lyrics by Joan Ellen Javits and Philip Springer. Sung by Eartha Kitt.

6. “Sleigh Ride,” lyrics by Mitchell Parrish (born Michael Hyman Pashelinsky in Lithuania).

5. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” music by Buck Ram, lyrics by Walter Kent.

4. “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm,” music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.

3. “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow,” lyrics by Sammy Cahn, music by Julie Styne.

2. “The Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”), music and lyrics by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells.

1. “White Christmas,” music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Bing Crosby’s version is the best-selling single ever.

Iranian TV: “Israeli death squads involved in Newtown bloodbath”

December 20, 2012

Mila Kunis, condemned by Ukrainian political party for being Jewish


* Iranian government TV claims Israel is behind Sandy Hook shootings
* UN remains silent as Syria bombs and kills Palestinians; UN instead passes 9 resolutions against Israel on a single day
* Hungarian demonstration supports MP’s burning of Israeli flag: “Filthy Jews: to Auschwitz with you all”
* Bin Laden’s “right hand man” given $812,000 of UK government legal aid, while local vicar invited him to attend Christmas celebrations at his church

* You can comment on it here: Please also press “Like” on that page.



1. Press TV blames Sandy Hook shootings on Israel
2. UN silent as Syria bombs Palestinian civilians
3. Human Rights Watch expels U.N. official Richard Falk
4. Japanese peace keeping troops to be withdrawn from Golan Heights
5. While Arab world condemns West, plans for major Mohammed movie in Qatar
6. North Korean perfume would have mirrored Hamas fragrance
7. Hungarian parliamentarian arrested for burning an Israeli flag
8. Ukrainian Justice Ministry says it is ok for MPs to use “zhyd” slur for Jews
9. Radical cleric Abu Qatada received $812,000 of financial aid from the UK
10. “Chuck Hagel’s Jewish Problem” (By Bret Stephens, Wall St. Journal, Dec. 18, 2012)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


Iran’s government-funded Press TV has blamed the Sandy Hook shooting – in which 20 young American schoolchildren and 6 adults were murdered – on Israeli “death squads”. Press TV claimed that one-time Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, Michael Harris, said “Israeli revenge” was the motivation for “the terrorist attack in Connecticut.”

Press TV quotes Harris as saying: “The facts are now becoming obvious. This is another case where Israel has chosen violence and terrorism where their bullying in Washington has failed.”

As I have mentioned in previous dispatches, Press TV has offices abroad, including in London. Prominent British politicians, including former MP and former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and current MP George Galloway, have appeared on the station, lending it respectability. Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth also works for Press TV.

Chuck Hagel, the former senator from Nebraska who many analysts say is president Barack Obama’s front-runner choice to be the next U.S. Secretary of Defense, is said to be a soft touch on Iran, the very government behind Press TV. For more on Hagel, please see the article by Bret Stephens at the end of this dispatch.

Press TV’s article about the school massacre can be read here on their website:



Syrian government warplanes have been bombing the Palestinian Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria recent days, killing (in the words of a leading Palestinian) “far more Palestinians than Israel killed during the recent conflict in Gaza”. Syrian warplanes also fired into a mosque used by Palestinians in Syria. Thousands of Palestinians have been forced to flee for their lives this week from Syrian forces.

But the UN had nothing to say about this.

Instead on Tuesday alone, the UN passed nine resolutions slamming Israel and none criticizing Syria.

While the UN was silent, Hamas – which until recently had its headquarters in Damascus – denounced president Assad as a “war criminal”.

By the end of this week, the current 2012 UN General Assembly session will have adopted 22 country-specific resolutions on Israel – and only four on the rest of the world.


Here are the nine anti-Israel resolutions passed on Tuesday:

A/C.4/67/L.18 – The occupied Syrian Golan

“The Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect and demanded that Israel, the occupying Power, rescind forthwith its decision…”

A/C.4/67/L.17 – Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

“Expressing grave concern about the continuing systematic violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people by Israel, the occupying Power…

A/C.4/67/L.16 – Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan

“Reaffirms that the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan are illegal and an obstacle to peace and economic and social development…”

A/C.4/67/L.15 – Applicability of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 12 August 1949, to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the other occupied Arab territories

“Demands that Israel accept the de jure applicability of the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and other Arab territories occupied by Israel since 1967, and that it comply scrupulously with the provisions of the Convention…”

A/C.4/67/L.10 – Assistance to Palestine refugees

“Expressing grave concern at the especially difficult situation of the Palestine refugees under occupation, including with regard to their safety, well-being and socioeconomic living conditions…”

A/C.4/67/L.11 – Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities

“Reaffirms the right of all persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities to return to their homes or former places of residence in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967…”

A/C.4/67/L.12 – Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

“Gravely concerned about the extremely difficult socioeconomic conditions being faced by the Palestine refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, as a result of the continuing prolonged Israeli closures…”

A/C.4/67/L.13 - Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues

“Reaffirms that the Palestine refugees are entitled to their property and to the income derived there from, in conformity with the principles of equity and justice…”

A/C.4/67/L.14 – Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories

“Deplores those policies and practices of Israel that violate the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories…”



Human Rights Watch has finally expelled UN official Richard Falk from one of its committees, where he played a key role in HRW’s work around the world. Falk has been much criticized by organizations such as UN Watch, and writers such as myself, for his record of anti-Semitic remarks and his conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks.

Falk is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. His support for the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas has been so strong in the past that the Palestinian Authority even demanded he be removed, seeing him as a “partisan of Hamas”.

Last year, he published a cartoon on his website, depicting a dog with “USA” written on its body, wearing a Jewish head covering and urinating on a depiction of justice whilst devouring a bloody skeleton. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned this cartoon as “anti-Semitic”, as did British Prime Minister David Cameron and others.

Falk himself is Jewish, but that hasn’t stopped his promotion of anti-Semitism to further what he sees as the Palestinian cause.



The 47 Japanese troops in the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force monitoring the cease-fire in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, are likely to leave soon.

The decision has been made as a result of what they say are security concerns resulting from the continuing violence in Syria. A final decision will be made after Japan’s House of Representatives election on December 16.

It seems ironic that peacekeeping troops should be withdrawn because of a lack of peace.

Japan has had troops in the Golan Heights since 1996. On visits I have made to the demilitarized zone in between the Israeli and Syrian controlled parts of the Golan Heights I have observed the UN troops, including the Japanese, doing very little.



A new series of movies based on the life of Mohammed has had its budget increased from $1.5 million to $1 billion, according to the Qatar-based Alnoor Holding company behind the planned biopics.

Originally planned as a trilogy, the films will now be spread out over seven parts, produced in English, and translated into other languages. The films will not actually show Mohammed himself, as depicting him is forbidden by some interpretations of Islamic law. Alnoor’s chairman explained that the series will “correct the wrong image Western societies have of Islam.”

The prominent Sunni cleric Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi will lead the research for the films. Qaradawi has in the past stated that he “personally support[s]” female genital mutilation “under the current circumstances in the modern world”, and has also defended wife beating as “a method of last resort” for disciplining one’s wife. He has also advocated killing homosexuals, describing it as “the same punishment as [for] any sexual pervert.”

In July 2012, a short anti-Islamic clip from a low-budget, amateur movie was uploaded to YouTube, featuring an actor playing Mohammed. This clip was then used in September as a pretext for riots and violent attacks on American embassies in Arab countries, as discussed in previous dispatches, including this one.



The New Yorker’s Andy Borowitz wrote a satirical piece on the North Korean regime “launching a fragrance”. The piece was intended to be humorous, describing the imaginary perfume as combining “the sweet smells of North Korea’s native unicorns with the irresistible aroma of our Dear Leader himself.”

However, not everyone realized it was a joke, and this week many people started repeating the story on social network sites such as Facebook as if it were serious. Perhaps Borowitz was inspired by the new Palestinian perfume which I wrote about on December 7: Gazans name new perfume after deadly Hamas missile.

Following my dispatch, Reuters (many of whose senior staff subscribe to this list) subsequently covered this story on December 12.



In Budapest, independent parliamentarian Balazs Lenhardt has been arrested for burning an Israeli flag at a demonstration. He was released after questioning since he benefits from parliamentary immunity from prosecution. Lenhardt is a former member of the radical nationalist Jobbik party, the third biggest party in Hungary.

Chants of “filthy Jews” and “to Auschwitz with you all” were heard at the demonstration, which took place outside the Hungarian Foreign Ministry. Around 100 people took part.

The Hungarian Foreign Ministry condemned the speeches at the rally as well as the flag burning, describing it as “an act suited for instigating hatred against a country, against a nation.”

Last month, another Hungarian MP, Marton Gyongyosi of the Jobbik party, suggested that the government should draw up a list of people of Jewish origin in Hungary since he said they would pose a “national security threat.” The mayor of Budapest condemned those remarks saying that when people start drawing up lists of Jews, it can lead to genocide.

Among notes in previous dispatches on rising anti-Semitism in Hungary and the far right Jobbik party, see this dispatch from 2010.



The Ukrainian Justice Ministry has ruled that using the derogatory term “zhyd” (yid) to describe a Jew is legal.

Ukraine’s Jewish community had sought to have the phrase banned from being used in parliament by politicians as it was helping to promote anti-Semitism in Ukraine.

The ministry announced yesterday that there should be no prohibition against using the word, or its feminine derivative in Ukrainian “zhydivka”.

The Jewish community made its appeal after Igor Miroshnichenko, an MP and the deputy leader of Ukraine’s fast growing, ultra-nationalist Svoboda party (which sympathizes with Ukraine’s wartime Fascists that helped the Nazis commit the Holocaust) said that the Ukraine-born Jewish American actress “is not Ukrainian but a zhydivka.”

Svoboda has repeatedly said it will not stop using such terms that to describe Jews.

Kunis recently opened up about being Jewish, and the anti-Semitism that caused her to leave Ukraine, after being chosen as “the world’s most sexy woman” by readers of The Sun, one of the two best-selling newspapers in Europe:



It has been revealed that the radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada – said to have been Bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe – has moved into a new British taxpayer-funded house worth £450,000 ($730,000). Abu Qatada is wanted for extradition from Britain by Jordan, which seeks to put him on trial for terrorist activities.

The 51-year-old preacher arrived in the UK in 1993 using a fake passport, and spent 7 years in a British prison after he was arrested without any charges in 2002. The UK government has been attempting to extradite him to Jordan for many years, but has also granted him £500,000 ($812,000) in legal aid to fight his extradition. This figure is expected to rise as he continues his legal battle.

His new home is said to be in a leafy north London suburb, near a church. The vicar at the church has declared that “absolutely anyone is welcome to our church and I would encourage Mr Qatada and his family to join in our Christmas celebrations and reach out to the local community – especially at this time of year.”

The owner of the new house where Qatada is now living said, “‘I had no idea who was living there… we signed a contract with the company for six months but there is no way I would have given my permission to rent the house to a man like that – not ever.” It is not clear if they will now be able to evict him legally.

I attach one article below.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


Chuck Hagel’s Jewish Problem
By Bret Stephens
The Wall Street Journal
December 18, 2012

Prejudice – like cooking, wine-tasting and other consummations – has an olfactory element. When Chuck Hagel, the former GOP senator from Nebraska who is now a front-runner to be the next secretary of Defense, carries on about how “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here,” the odor is especially ripe.

Ripe because a “Jewish lobby,” as far as I’m aware, doesn’t exist. No lesser authorities on the subject than John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, authors of “The Israel Lobby,” have insisted the term Jewish lobby is “inaccurate and misleading, both because the [Israel] lobby includes non-Jews like Christian Zionists and because many Jewish Americans do not support the hard-line policies favored by its most powerful elements.”
Ripe because, whatever other political pressures Mr. Hagel might have had to endure during his years representing the Cornhusker state, winning over the state’s Jewish voters – there are an estimated 6,100 Jewish Nebraskans in a state of 1.8 million people – was probably not a major political concern for Mr. Hagel compared to, say, the ethanol lobby.

Ripe because the word “intimidates” ascribes to the so-called Jewish lobby powers that are at once vast, invisible and malevolent; and because it suggests that legislators who adopt positions friendly to that lobby are doing so not from political conviction but out of personal fear. Just what does that Jewish Lobby have on them?

Ripe, finally, because Mr. Hagel’s Jewish lobby remark was well in keeping with the broader pattern of his thinking. “I’m a United States Senator, not an Israeli Senator,” Mr. Hagel told retired U.S. diplomat Aaron David Miller in 2006. “I’m a United States Senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is I take an oath of office to the Constitution of the United States. Not to a president. Not a party. Not to Israel. If I go run for Senate in Israel, I’ll do that.”

Read these staccato utterances again to better appreciate their insipid and insinuating qualities, all combining to cast the usual slur on Jewish-Americans: Dual loyalty. Nobody questions Mr. Hagel’s loyalty. He is only making those assertions to question the loyalty of others.

Still, Mr. Hagel managed to say “I support Israel.” This is the sort of thing one often hears from people who treat Israel as the Mideast equivalent of a neighborhood drunk who, for his own good, needs to be put in the clink to sober him up.

In 2002, a year in which 457 Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks (a figure proportionately equivalent to more than 20,000 fatalities in the U.S., or seven 9/11s), Mr. Hagel weighed in with the advice that “Israel must take steps to show its commitment to peace.” This was two years after Yasser Arafat had been offered a state by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David.

In 2006, Mr. Hagel described Israe’s war against Hezbollah as “the systematic destruction of an American friend, the country and people of Lebanon.” He later refused to sign a letter calling on the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. In 2007, he voted against designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization, and also urged President Bush to open “direct, unconditional” talks with Iran to create “a historic new dynamic in U.S.-Iran relations.” In 2009, Mr. Hagel urged the Obama administration to open direct talks with Hamas.

In fairness to Mr. Hagel, all these positions emerge from his belief in the power of diplomatic engagement and talking with adversaries. The record of that kind of engagement – in 2008, Mr. Hagel and John Kerry co-authored an op-ed in this newspaper titled “It’s Time to Talk to Syria” – hasn’t been stellar, but at least it was borne of earnest motives.

Yet it’s worth noting that while Mr. Hagel is eager to engage the world’s rogues without preconditions, his attitude toward Israel tends, at best, to the paternalistic.

“The United States and Israel must understand that it is not in their long-term interests to allow themselves to become isolated in the Middle East and the world,” he said in a 2006 Senate speech. It’s a political Deep Thought worthy of Saturday Night Live’s Jack Handey. Does Mr. Hagel reckon any other nation to be quite so blind to its own supposed self-interest as Israel?

Now President Obama may nominate Mr. Hagel to take Leon Panetta’s place at the Pentagon. As a purely score-settling matter, I almost hope he does. It would confirm a point I made in a column earlier this year, which is that Mr. Obama is not a friend of Israel. Perhaps the 63% of Jewish-Americans who cast their votes for Mr. Obama last month might belatedly take notice.

Alternatively, maybe some of these voters could speak up now, before a nomination is announced, about the insult that a Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel would be. Jewish Democrats like to fancy their voice carries weight in their party. The prospect of this nomination is their chance to prove it.

Swedish artist uses Holocaust victims’ ashes for painting (& murder attempt on Israeli chlidren)

December 08, 2012

The ruins of the Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue in Jerusalem’s Old City


The Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue, as seen in this photo from 1940


* An Israeli court this week awarded the country’s first divorce to a gay couple, which experts called an ironic milestone since same-sex marriages cannot be legally conducted in Israel. (The couple had been married in Canada.)

* Stabbed in the face, woman fought off her Gazan attacker to save her children

* “There is absolutely no way” that Arafat was poisoned, says the leading doctor at the Paris hospital where the Palestinian leader died

(One or two of the items below are from last month, but I didn’t have time to include them in a dispatch until now.)

(You can comment on this dispatch here: Please also press “Like” on that page.)



1. Swedish artist uses Jewish Holocaust victims’ ashes for painting
2. Stabbed in the face, woman fought off her Gazan attacker to save her children
3. Israel gets same-sex divorce before same-sex marriage
4. Poles thwart anti-Semitic academic’s plot to blow up parliament
5. “Absolutely no way” Arafat was poisoned, says leading doctor
6. Mossad tried to kill Saddam with “book bomb” in the 1970s
7. Mossad tried to kill Eichmann’s henchman in Syria in the 1970s
8. Historic synagogue to be rebuilt in Jerusalem’s old city
9. Hamas PM asks Europe for end to listing group as “terrorist”
10. “Europe’s first gay-friendly Mosque tests taboos” (Reuters)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


A Swedish artist has been accused of desecrating the bodies of Jewish Holocaust victims after it was revealed he used ashes he stole from the crematoria at Majdanek extermination camp to paint a picture, the London Daily Telegraph reports.

Carl Michael von Hausswolff mixed the ashes with water to compose a small painting of grey streaks. The work is to go display next week in a gallery in the Swedish city of Lund.

Salomon Schulman, a Jewish man living in Lund, who lost many relatives in the Holocaust, condemned the painting as “revolting”.

“I will never go to this gallery,” he wrote in a letter to a local newspaper. “I am sickened by his work and obsession with necrophilia.”

Von Hausswolff took the ashes during a 1989 visit to Majdanek. During its 34 months in operation from 1941 to 1944, 79,000 mainly Polish Jews were murdered there.

Martin Bryder, the owner of the Lund gallery, defended the decision to exhibit the work. “Please come to the gallery, see the painting and judge for yourselves whether it’s controversial,” he said in an interview with the Polish News Agency.

“Mr Schulman has already declared in the papers that he won’t come and see it but if he did, perhaps he would have a different opinion,” added a highly insensitive Bryder.

In another interview, with Sverige Radio, Bryder said that he “sees no moral problem or flaw with exhibiting the painting.”

In response, Salomon Schulman, who teaches Yiddish in Sweden, said “Nowhere was the Third Reich more popular than among the educated academics. Today, the Holocaust and racism are still part of their salon talks.”

Andrzej Fijolek of the Lublin police said that the Polish police have not opened an investigation into how the artist came into possession of the ashes, since no complaint has been filed.

The exhibition is scheduled to open at the Martin Bryder Gallery on Dec. 15.


Tom Gross adds: Of course, one does not need to “see” the painting in order to decide whether using the remains of murdered Holocaust victims as paint is disgusting and tasteless. The comment of the gallery owner merely makes the situation even more abhorrent: it reveals his desire to highjack the “controversy” by posing a fake moral question to create PR spin for the gallery in order to increase the number of visitors.

In past dispatches in this list, I have explained that Sweden, far from being the tolerant country many believe it to be, has some of the worst anti-Semitism in Europe. Many of the protests against Israel in Sweden are characterized by blatant hostility to Jews.

For example, in the dispatch from 2004 (cited below), I wrote about an “art exhibit” glorifying a Palestinian terrorist at the Stockholm’s Historical Museum. Titled “Snow White and the Madness of Truth,” the exhibit consisted of a small ship carrying a picture of Islamic Jihad suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat (who was a lawyer and mother of two) sailing, “with the smile of an angel,” in a rectangular pool filled with red-colored water. Jaradat killed herself and 22 others, including Israeli Arabs and a number of Israeli Jewish children, in a suicide bombing on October 4, 2003, at Maxim’s jointly owned Jewish-Arab restaurant in Haifa, Israel.

As background music to his exhibit, the “artist,” Dror Feiler, mixed music from Bach’s 199 Cantata “My Heart Swims in Blood.” Tel Aviv-born Feiler is well-known as a self-loathing Israeli active in radical circles in Sweden where he lives. His Swedish wife Gunilla Skoeld Feiler, helped create the instillation. Some Jews, too, can be anti-Semites.

* This dispatch also links to two other dispatches on Sweden.



Despite being stabbed in the face and shoulder, an Israeli woman (identified only by her first name, Yael, at her own request) fought off a knife-wielding Palestinian who last week broke into her home in Sde Avraham, near to the Gaza border.

The attacker entered Israel by cutting a hole in the border fence.

The brave mother, having already being slashed by her attacker at 4 a.m., as she slept, managed to protect her four children from the Palestinian assailant who was armed with a crowbar and a knife. Her 2- and 4-year-old children watched terrified as she fought him off in a life-and-death struggle using only household implements.

She was able to push the attacker into the adjacent bathroom and bar the door with the bed, and then call her neighbors who came running to help her. He was later shot dead by an Israeli soldier after he escaped from the house and tried to plunge his knife into another Israeli civilian.

The IDF is investigating how he managed to cut through the Israeli border fence undetected, and why the electronic fence and IDF surveillance did not notice his entry to Israel.

This year there have been seen several terror attacks on Israeli civilians launched from Gaza and Sinai. Sde Avraham was also hit by several rockets during the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Tom Gross adds: Readers might recall last year’s murders of a Jewish family in Itamar and consider what the consequences might have been if the mother in this case hadn’t managed to stop the assailant. The BBC gave virtually no coverage to that horrific attack, in which a three month old baby had her throat slit by the Palestinian attacker, along with her parents and siblings, aged 3 and 11. The Director General of the BBC eventually apologized for the appalling and deliberate BBC misreporting of that incident to Louise Mensch MP in his “farewell” interview with the House of Commons media committee. Mensch (who is a subscriber to this list) wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph at the time criticizing the BBC for all but ignoring the story. So it is depressing how under reported this unsuccessful copycat attack was.

One wonders what level of coverage the story might have got if an Israeli broke into Gaza and tried to stab children and a mother in their sleep. Probably much more.

In the Itamar incident, the BBC at first doubted the three Israeli children who had had their throats slit might actually have been killed.

Please see this dispatch from last year:

* As Israelis have their throats slit, can anyone explain this BBC headline?



A decision this week by a Tel Aviv area family court ended the marriage between former Israeli parliamentarian Uzi Even, 72, and his partner of 23 years, Amit Kama, 52.

Legal experts see the ruling as a precedent in the realm of gay and civil rights in a country where religious courts still try and oversee ceremonies such as marriages, divorces and burials.

While Israel’s Interior Ministry still has the power to veto the decision, it would have to go court in order to do so, their lawyer, Judith Meisels, said.

A 2006 high court decision forced the same ministry, headed by an ultra-Orthodox cabinet member, to recognize same-sex marriages performed abroad and ordered the government to list a gay couple wed in Canada as married.

Same-sex marriages are frequently performed in Israel by non-Orthodox rabbis, but they have no formal legal status.

“The irony is that while this is the beginning of a civil revolution, it’s based on divorce rather than marriage,” newly divorced Kama, a senior lecturer in communications in Yezreel Valley College, told Reuters.

He and Even, both Israelis, married in Toronto in 2004, not long after Canada legalized same-sex marriage. They separated last year, Kama said.

They divorced in Israel because they could not meet Canada’s residency requirements to have their marriage dissolved there.

By winning a ruling from a civil court, Kama and Even may have also set a precedent for Israeli heterosexual couples, who until now have had to have rabbis steeped in ancient ritual handle their divorces, legal experts say.

“This is the first time in Israeli history a couple of Jews are obtaining a divorce issued by an authority other than a rabbinical court, and I think there is significant potential here for straight couples” to do so as well, said Zvi Triger, deputy dean of the Haim Striks School of Law near Tel Aviv.


You may also wish to read the article at the end of this dispatch by Reuters: “Europe’s first gay-friendly Mosque tests taboos”.

Among other recent dispatches on gay rights issues, please see:

* Burgers, fries and marijuana (& Knesset members join the fun)

* Tel Aviv voted world’s best gay city

* Omar Sharif Jr. comes out -- twice: “I’m gay and I’m Jewish”

* Brave Iranians publically display gay flags

* Leading Iranian ayatollah says gays are “worse than dogs and pigs”

* Portuguese gay activist: Why I no longer hate Israel



A Polish university researcher driven by anti-Semitic hatred (claiming that Poland was being governed by Jews) was arrested for planning to detonate a four-ton bomb in front of the parliament building in Warsaw with the president, prime minister, government ministers and lawmakers inside, the Associated Press reported last month.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said the suspect and his plot were discovered as investigators were researching Polish links to the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. Polish security officials have said that Breivik bought some of the explosives for his bomb-making in Poland.

Prosecutors said that they arrested the suspect in Krakow, a Polish city near the site of the Auschwitz death camp. They said he is a 45-year-old Polish researcher employed at the University of Agriculture in Krakow who had access to chemistry laboratories. He was in illegal possession of explosive materials, munitions and guns.

The rector at the suspect’s university, Wlodzimierz Sady, said the man was a chemist who taught courses and carried out research there. Two others university staff working with him were also arrested for the illegal possession of weapons, and two more have been questioned.

The investigation and arrests were carried out by the Polish Internal Security Agency, who said that they also found film footage of test explosions carried out by the suspect in a rural area.



Dr Roland Masse, a professor and a specialist on radioactivity at Percy military hospital in Paris, where Yasser Arafat died in 2004, says that Arafat was tested for radioactive poisoning, and symptoms would have been “impossible to miss”.

As mentioned in a dispatch last week on this list, Arafat’s body was recently exhumed in Ramallah, after an anti-Israel journalist at al-Jazeera TV claimed that Arafat was poisoned and that he had discovered polonium among his personal affects 8 years later.

The Palestinian Authority has said they may now seek to try Israel at ICC for Arafat’s “murder”.

Dr. Masse, a member of the prestigious Académie de Médecine who teaches radiopathology at Percy Hospital, said that there is “absolutely no way” the Palestinian leader was poisoned.

“A lethal level of polonium simply cannot go unnoticed,” he said in an interview with Israeli media outlets. “When in contact with high levels of polonium, the body suffers from acute radiation which translates into a state of anemia and a severe decrease in white blood cells. And yet Arafat did not present any of those symptoms. What did decrease was his platelets, not his white blood cells.”

“If abnormal levels of radioactive polonium were found on Arafat’s clothing in July, eight years after his death, the Palestinian leader would have had to be in contact with an extremely high level of the chemical before his death. This would have been impossible to miss for any doctor at the time.”

“Take the Litvinenko case,” added Masse, who was in charge of “national radioactivity supervision” in France in the 1990s. “We discovered after his death that hundreds of people had been subjected to various levels of contamination, in the UK and other countries. There was nothing remotely similar in Arafat’s case.”

At the time of his death, Arafat, 75, was reported by his team of Palestinian, Egyptian, Jordanian and Tunisian doctors in Ramallah to be suffering from “flu, nausea and nasal congestion.” His condition deteriorated, and he was flown in a French government plane to Paris, where he was also diagnosed with “thrombocytopenia and persistent digestive problems and other ailments.” He died eight days later.



In the 1970s, long before the West turned against Saddam Hussein, but in a period where the Iraqi tyrant had already butchered tens of thousands of people, the Israeli secret intelligence service, the Mossad, tried to kill him with a bomb hidden in a book.

The revelation was made in a documentary aired last month by Israel’s Channel 1 TV, which included interviews with various retired military and intelligence officials.

The attempted hit on Saddam left him unscathed, and instead killing another high-ranking Baathist Iraqi official who opened the book sent to Saddam. (The official who died was himself also responsible for murdering many Iraqi civilians.)



The same TV documentary also revealed how the Mossad sent a letter bomb to the Damascus home of Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann’s deputy. Brunner, who was personally responsible for sending hundreds of thousands of Jewish adults and children to their deaths, spent most of the post-war period living in comfort in Syria, under the protection of the Hafez and later Bashar Assad regime.

The attempted hit on Brunner failed to kill him but did injure his hand. Brunner is believed to have died about four years ago in Damascus and never faced justice. Israel was not able to ask for his extradition because the Syrian government was protecting him.

“We didn’t manage to kill him; he was only injured. He was one of the most despicable of he Nazi leaders,” said Yitzhak Hofi, the head of the Mossad from 1974 to 1982.

SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Alois Brunner sent 56,000 Austrian Jews to death camps; organized the deportation of 43,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece to their deaths in just 8 weeks; and sent 23,000 French Jews to their deaths, including 340 Jewish orphans who were killed just weeks before the Allies liberated France.

Adolf Eichmann referred to him in his memoirs as his “best man.”

In November 1987, Brunner told the Chicago Sun Times, in a telephone interview from Damascus, that “all of them deserved to die, because they were human garbage. I have no regrets and would do it again.”



The Tiferet Yisrael synagogue, which was blown up by the Jordanian Army in 1948, will once again dominate the Old City’s skyline.

The Jerusalem Municipality has announced plans to rebuild the iconic three-story domed structure, which dominated the skyline of the Jewish Quarter before it was destroyed.

The synagogue is currently in ruins, with only one wall left partly standing. The rebuilding will take three years and cost NIS 50 million ($13 million). When completed, the synagogue will once again be the highest structure in the Old City, due it being built on elevated ground.

Another famous Old City synagogue destroyed in 1948, the Hurva, was rededicated in 2010.

For a picture of the Tiferet Yisrael synagogue, please see the top of this webpage.



Following a noticeable increase in visits to the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip by foreign envoys, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that the group should be removed from terrorist lists kept by governments.

He used the occasion of a visit by European politicians and academics to argue that, “It is time to remove Palestinian resistance movements, that resist under international law, from the list of international terrorist groups.”

Please see the new Hamas logo produced for its 25th anniversary rally in Gaza today to judge for yourself whether Hamas is now suddenly interested in peace.


I attach one article below.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]


Europe’s first gay-friendly Mosque tests taboos
November 30, 2012

In a neighborhood in the suburbs of Paris, Europe’s first gay-friendly mosque is opening its doors.

The mosque’s founder, Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed, comes to inspect the location for this unusual place of worship for the first time -- a small room inside a Buddhist dojo, a meditation room.

For Zahed, a gay man and a practicing Muslim, the location has the advantage of being both anonymous and nonpolitical, he says.

From November 30, every Friday, this room will welcome gay, transgender, and transsexual individuals for an ultra-progressive Muslim prayer in which women will be encouraged to sit next to men, and to lead the prayer.

The room, though small, will officially become France’s first gay-friendly and feminist mosque.

The project was made possible thanks to a Buddhist monk, Federico Joko Procopio, a homosexual who fights for gay rights.

Up until now, Zahed would pray in the Great Mosque of Paris, blending in with thousands of his fellow-worshipers each Friday. But he says he hopes the new mosque will be more welcoming for those who feel on the margins of the Muslim faith.

“It is a secure place which welcomes all Muslims and others, people who want to share an authentic moment of spirituality, of exchange, of sharing, of profound and soothing intellectual reflection on very diverse questions which concern the daily lives of all Muslims in France,” Zahed says. “Things that we can’t always easily talk about in other circumstances, in other mosques.”

The 35-year-old Franco-Algerian expects about 20 attendees for the first prayer. But he hopes the space will attract more and more people, as did his association Homosexual Muslims of France, which started with six people and is now 325-members strong.

But Zahed’s experience is still rare, and he says that in the crowds at conventional Friday prayers, some individuals stand out.

“There are homosexuals, trans-identity people who are very effeminate and in a phase of transition. This is not against nature, I mean, it’s not their fault, it is part of nature, it is the God who created them that way,” Zahed says. “Some of them want to pray but they don’t dare go because they are very effeminate and they are spotted immediately so they tell themselves -- rightly or not -- ‘This kind of mosque could allow me to ask myself more questions on who I am, where I come from, is pursuing spirituality something I want or not?’ So I think that from now on it will bring together people with very different and varied circumstances.”

With this new mosque open to all, he says he intends to offer a safe haven to those who don’t feel comfortable in more traditional places of worship.

Three members of his association are currently doing weekly training to act as the mosque’s imams.

The initiative has not been backed by any Muslim institution, and many of France’s Muslim clerics said they considered the project as contrary to the principles of Islam.

“This is something which is outside of the [Muslim] community,” says Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, “which means that he [Zahed] will not be a member of the community and his mosque will not be one that others will visit or will come to pray at because it is built on foundations of a condemnation by religion of the very principles which brought the place together.”

Zahed, though relaxed about hostile reactions within the Muslim community, asked reporters covering the opening to avoid disclosing the location of his “all-inclusive mosque” to protect its visitors.

The mosque opens just as France is being entangled in a heated debate on gay marriage and adoption.

Zahed says the mosque’s opening was not planned to coincide with this national debate.

Inclusive mosques such as Zahed’s already exist in South Africa, the United States, and Canada, but Zahed’s is a first in Europe. The grassroots organization Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), founded in 2007 in the United States, counted about six such places in North America.

Although small in numbers -- MPV has about 1,500 members in the United States -- these “progressive Muslims” say they intend to embody an “alternative Islam”.

Zahed adds that his goal is not to convince everyone to “become a homophile” but says he feels opinion is slowly starting to change on such questions.

He says he’s surprised at the number of e-mails of support and questions he has received since news of his project broke, in addition to the threats he expected.

Gazans name new perfume after deadly Hamas missile; & UK editor speaks out

December 07, 2012

The logo Hamas has released for its massive 25th anniversary rally planned for tomorrow. Those Westerners that claim Hamas is now interested in a two-state solution might want to take a look at it


* “The fragrance is pleasant and attractive, like the missiles of the Palestinian resistance, and especially the M-75”
* Chants of ‘Jews to the gas’ and bomb threat greet Israeli musicians in Belgium
* Stevie Wonder pulls out of pro-Israel concert after pressure from staff at the UN
* Young Afghan woman beheaded by her husband for refusing to work as a prostitute

(One or two of the items below are from last month, but I didn’t have time to include them in a dispatch until now.)

(You can comment on this dispatch here: Please also press “Like” on that page.)



1. MacKenzie: anti-Israel coverage is “a form of proxy for anti-Semitism”
2. New perfume in Gaza named after Hamas missile
3. Huge billboards in Gaza say “Thank You, Iran” in Arabic and Hebrew
4. Two arrested for beheading teenage girl in Afghanistan
5. Chants of ‘Jews to the gas’ and bomb threat greet Israeli musicians on European tour
6. Batsheva dance performance interrupted in Britain
7. Stevie Wonder pulls out of yesterday’s “Friends of the IDF” concert after UN pressure
8. Krauthammer: The UN became a playpen for dictators
9. Despite ongoing atrocities, Ivory Coast elected as UN Commission Vice-Chair
10. Iranian writers, poets call for end to censorship
11. Iran to investigate jailed blogger’s death
12. Two Israeli documentaries make shortlist for Oscars

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


Kelvin MacKenzie, the former editor of the best-selling British daily tabloid, The Sun, said at a charity dinner this week that hostile media coverage of Israel is “a form of proxy for anti-Semitism by journalists in the West.”

“Israel is pro-gay, pro-democracy, pro-women. It’s the most liberal establishment probably for 1,000 miles in any direction. You would have thought every journalist would embrace that thought process.”

“The most interesting thing was the way the people from Gaza treated those guys they claimed were Israeli spies – they shot them in public and dragged around their bodies.

“Compare that with the Israelis when they captured the guy who let off the bomb in Tel Aviv and then followed due process and the law. That is never portrayed in the British media. Never.

“Is British journalism basically anti-Semitic? Do they hide [their] anti-Semitism in the way they report the battle for survival of Israel?” MacKenzie asked.

(MacKenzie is a longtime subscriber to this email list.)


As I have pointed out on this email list in the past, The Sun is just about the only paper in Britain that gives Israel a fair hearing. See the last three paragraphs of this article, for example: Jeningrad.



Various bottles of Hizbullah perfume (complete with a picture of Hassan Nasrallah) have long held pride of place on my own mantelpiece collection of “terrorist kitsch” -- together with various items that friends have brought me from North Korea, Saddam’s Iraq and Assad’s Syria. (The Hizbullah perfume was purchased at Damascus airport.)

Now the Palestinian Islamist daily Al-Resalah reports that a cosmetics firm in Gaza has named a new scent M-75 in honor of the “victory” against Israel last month.

M-75 is the name of the missile designed by Hamas and fired at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It has a range of 46 miles (or 75 kilometers).

“The fragrance is pleasant and attractive, like the missiles of the Palestinian resistance, and especially the M-75,” Shadi Adwan, the owner of the cosmetics firm, told the paper.

The perfume comes in male and female scents and costs twice the price of other perfumes due to “special ingredients it contains, worthy of Hamas’s great victory.”



Billboards have appeared throughout the Gaza Strip expressing gratitude to Iran for sending rockets that were used to kill and injure Israeli civilians.

The billboards were placed at key intersections of Gaza roadways, say, “Thank you, Iran” in Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew and English and feature images of the Fajr-5 missiles.

Hamas is planning a huge celebration tomorrow (Saturday) for the 25th anniversary of its founding.

There is a picture at the top of this page of the logo for the rally for those clueless Westerners that claim Hamas is interested in a two-state solution.

(Hat tip: Elder of Ziyon)



Two men have been arrested in Afghanistan’s northern Konduz province for beheading a 14-year-old girl.

Afghan police officer Nizamuddin Hakimi said that the girl’s body was found on November 27. He said that that the two suspects had asked the girl’s parents if one of them could marry her. When the 14-year-old objected, the men beheaded her.

Last month, a 20-year-old Afghan woman was beheaded in Herat Province, for refusing (yes, refusing) to work as a prostitute. Four suspects, including the victim’s husband and in-laws, were arrested for that killing.



Members of the Israel Defense Forces Youth Orchestra were called “stinking murderers” by protesters during their annual tour of Europe two weeks ago. Part of the tour coincided with Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the response by the Israeli air force against rocket depots and rocket-launching squads in Gaza.

As the world-renowned youth orchestra played a concert in the Belgian city of Antwerp, more than a hundred protesters shouted “Hamas, Hamas, all the Jews to the gas” outside the venue, according to Belgian newspaper reports. The left-wing demonstrators were reportedly joined by a group of neo-Nazis as well. (Before the Holocaust, Antwerp had a sizeable Jewish community most of which were indeed gassed to death.)

(Incidentally, this chant is no longer rare, and has been heard at several protests this year on the streets of London and elsewhere.)

Later, as the concert was underway, an anonymous caller told police that a powerful explosive would soon be detonated in the concert hall. The crowd of 300 was evacuated and the concert brought to an abrupt end. No explosives were found.

After Antwerp, the band performed in The Hague, where another crowd of protesters tried to disrupt the concert.

A small crowd of predominantly non-Jewish counter protestors in Holland also stood outside the hall. One told a local paper: “We came not to support Israeli policies, but because we wanted to show these young Israelis that after the disgusting anti-Semitic demonstration in Belgium, they do have friends in Europe.”

The European tour takes place annually by the IDF orchestra. Many of the concerts are organized by local European chapters of B’nai B’rith and by Christians for Israel, an international organization based in the Netherlands.

While protests and pro-Hamas chants were continuing outside, inside the hall, the orchestra performed a mix of Hebrew and English songs, songs by Leonard Cohen, and successful Israeli hits from the Eurovision song contest.

The Palestine Youth Orchestra also gives similar concerts in Europe without anyone protesting.



Anti-Israel protesters disrupted performances by Israel’s world acclaimed Batsheva Dance Company at London’s Saddler’s Wells, and in Birmingham, England. At least 50 police were deployed each night to protect those attending the concerts, in addition to a number of private security guards hired by the organizers.

The next stop on their tour (in Brighton) was canceled because of the high security costs.

One protester was arrested in Birmingham for racial harassment after using a racial slur about Jews toward a ticket holder outside the venue before the performance. He was later released at the request of the victim.

Five other protesters were removed from the audience for disturbing the performance. They shouted slogans such as “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free, and Israel will be no more.”

The protest in Birmingham was organized by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine and by Sue Blackwell, an anti-Israel academic and former lecturer in English Literature at the University of Birmingham.



African-American superstar Stevie Wonder called off a concert (due to be held yesterday) for a group that raises money for injured Israeli soldiers. The singer says he had wanted to perform but United Nations officials had called him to warn that unless he cancelled, his status as a “UN Messenger for Peace” may be put in jeopardy.

Wonder has often expressed sympathy with Israel and performed at a 1998 gala honoring Israel’s 50th anniversary.

To the best of my knowledge, the UN hasn’t pressured an artist from performing at, say, a fundraiser for American or British injured soldiers, who are brutally occupying Afghanistan and other places.



Pulitzer-prize winning syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said earlier this year on TV:

“The UN is inherently a corrupt organization because it’s a sandbox of dictators. It began as something essentially run by the Western democracies and it ran somewhat efficiently the first decade or so.

“Then you had decolonization. You ended up with 100, 150 countries, very few of whom are democratic. It is a playpen of dictators. And they run it that way. And the idea that they would use it for anything other than to promote authoritarianism and to attack the West is a fiction.

“It will always be this way because it’s a universal organization. The alternative is to form a league of democracies, which over a generation or two would take over the functions and the stature of the UN.”

(Krauthammer is a subscriber to this list.)



Despite massive ongoing human rights abuses by the government, Côte d’Ivoire was elected on Wednesday by the UN to serve as Vice-Chair of its Disarmament Commission.

Hillel Neuer, the director of UN Watch (and a subscriber to this list) said: “A government whose military has just committed arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, extortion, inhuman treatment, and torture, should not be made vice-chair of a U.N. arms control body. The U.N. should recognize that it has sent absolutely the wrong message at the wrong time, cancel the decision, and apologize to the victims.”

President Ouattara’s is also reportedly carrying out mass atrocities against members of other ethnic groups.


For more on the UN’s appalling record on human rights, please see aragraphs of this article, for example: this article.



In an open letter published on December 2 on an opposition website, more than 100 Iranian writers, poets, and translators (many of whom are still living in Iran) called for an end to book censorship.

They wrote, “Iran is one of the rare countries in the 21st century where authors have to ask for a license from the state in order to publish books, even though the requirement is not stated in the constitution.”

The required permit is increasingly difficult to obtain, according to writers and publishers, who say censorship has intensified in the Islamic republic in recent years.

In one recent case, only two pages of a lengthy book were granted a license for publication.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has spoken out against non-Islamic books warning they may be “harmful”.



In an unusual step, Iran’s official news agency says that the parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy will investigate the death of blogger Sattar Beheshti, 35, who was arrested in October and reportedly tortured to death.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists had called on Iran to release the details of what it called the “suspicious death” of the blogger. The U.S. State Department also demanded an investigation.

Dozens of journalists and bloggers have been arrested in Iran over the past few years, after criticizing the government or the ruling Islamic clerics. Several have never been heard of again.



The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced earlier this week that they have reduced the 126 documentaries eligible for a 2013 Oscar to fifteen finalists, two of which are Israeli films.

“The Gatekeepers” provides an interesting insider perspective on the first 50 years of Israeli history, through interviews with six past directors of Israel’s Shin Bet secret service. The men share reflections on their responsibilities towards advancing the peace process with Palestinians, while simultaneously working to protect Israel’s domestic security.

“5 Broken Cameras” is a 2011 film that records peaceful Palestinian protests against Israel in the West Bank village of Bil’in.

Three other films on the Academy’s shortlist were produced or edited by Israelis or by Jews with Israeli connections, including “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”.

The fifteen films will be narrowed down to five in January, and the winner will be announced at the Academy Awards on February 24.

[All notes above by Tom Gross]

The Economist: Better to be born in Israel than in Italy, Japan, France, Britain, Spain

December 03, 2012

* The Economist magazine: Babies born in Israel in 2013 will have a better life than those born in Italy, Japan, France, Britain, Spain and most other countries

* At Harvard, “Jews need not apply”

* Syrian regime may be preparing to use chemical weapons


(You can comment on this dispatch here: Please also press “Like” on that page.)



1. UN Twitter feed calls for “one-state” solution (i.e. elimination of Israel)
2. The Economist: Babies born in Israel will have a better life than those born in Italy, Japan, France, Britain, Spain
3. Israel ranked 14th in the World Happiness Report, and as world’s 6th healthiest country
4. Western Intelligence: Syria may be preparing to use chemical weapons
5. New terror organizations
6. At Harvard, flyer for new student club tells students “Jews need not apply”
7. “The lottery of life: Where to be born in 2013” (The Economist magazine)
8. “Campus reacts to inflammatory flyers” (Harvard Crimson, Dec. 1, 2012)

[All notes below by Tom Gross]


The UN twitter feed sent out a tweet at the end of last week saying:

“On Day of Solidarity with Palestinians, Ban Ki-moon stresses urgency of reaching 1-state solution”

The twitter feed has since been deleted, but you can view it below:



In an extensive new study compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a sister company of The Economist, and published in The Economist, Israel ranks 20th in the best countries to be a baby born in 2013.

The detailed study included factors such as education, health and safety.

Switzerland came top of the list, followed by Australia.

America only ranked in 16th place (down from first place in the 1980s).

In the 2013 list, Israel was ahead of Italy (which ranked 21), Japan (25), France (26), Britain (27), Spain (28) and Russia (72).

Health, education and lifestyle rank very highly in Israel, which also has a low rate of violent street crime.

Here is the graph:

(The full article from The Economist is attached further down this dispatch.)



As I have pointed out previously, Israel was ranked:

* 14th in the World Happiness Report.

* The world’s 6th healthiest country.

That list was topped by Singapore.

Israel in 6th place was well ahead of countries like Germany, France, Britain and the U.S.



The New York Times reported yesterday that Western intelligence officials have observed what appears to be activity by the Syrian regime at facilities used to house chemical weapons.

The Times quoted a source identified only as a “senior U.S. intelligence official” as saying that the Syrians “are doing some things that suggest they plan to use the weapons. It’s not just moving things around. These are different kinds of activities.”

Syrian stockpiles include chemical and biological weapons like sarin, VX and tabun.

Syria is believed by some intelligence officials to have the biggest stockpile of these weapons in the world, after China.

Anti-regime rebels have intensified their activities in and around the Syrian capital Damascus in recent days.

The Obama administration has also been embarrassed by new reports that Iraq has emerged as the key country that is helping Assad re-arm his troops. Rockets, anti-tank missiles, RPGs and mortars are being flown to Syria via Iraq.



In an announcement yesterday, the Israeli Cabinet decided as follows:

Pursuant to Article 8 of the 1948 Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, to declare that the following bodies of persons or organizations, according to the names included herein or by any other name by which they may be known, including any faction, branch, center, committee, group, faction and institution of said organization, are terrorist organizations:

* “The Al-Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards”
* The Change and Reform List or “Al-Atzlach v’Al-Tajair”
* The Charity Coalition (Atlaf Alchayir)
* The Iranian (or) Palestinian Humanity Support and Coordination Staff, the Popular Committee for Support of the Palestinian People, and the Iranian Popular
Committee for Support of the Palestinian Intifada.
* The Al-Quds Institution and Al-Qods International Institution
* The Palestinian and Lebanese Families Welfare Trust
* The Popular Resistance Committees and its military arm, the Saladin Brigade
* The IHH (“Insan Haklary ve Hurriyetleri”), Vakfi International Humanitarian Relief Organization, “Internationale Humanitere Hilfsorganisation”

“The declaration applies to these organizations even if they are known by other names, nicknames or acronyms, or translation into any other language, whether permanently or occasionally, and all of their factions and attached bodies.”



On Friday morning, Harvard University students living on campus woke up to discover that flyers that had been slid under their doors for “The Pigeon, Harvard’s Newest Finals Club,” stated “Jews need not apply”.

The leaflet went on to say: “Seriously, no fucking Jews. Coloreds OK”.

The dean of Harvard College, Evelynn M. Hammonds, emailed students to say: “As Dean of the College, and as an educator, I find these flyers offensive. They are not a reflection of the values of our community.” (There is a full report in an article from The Harvard Crimson, at the end of this dispatch.)

Tom Gross adds: Many think that Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, would not have been spurred into founding the social networking site Facebook if he had not been effectively shunned by another student club at Harvard that discriminated against “geeky Jews” and tried to exclude him on that basis.

-- Tom Gross



The lottery of life: Where to be born in 2013
The Economist magazine
November 21, 2012

Warren Buffett, probably the world’s most successful investor, has said that anything good that happened to him could be traced back to the fact that he was born in the right country, the United States, at the right time (1930). A quarter of a century ago, when The World in 1988 light-heartedly ranked 50 countries according to where would be the best place to be born in 1988, America indeed came top. But which country will be the best for a baby born in 2013?

To answer this, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a sister company of The Economist, has this time turned deadly serious. It earnestly attempts to measure which country will provide the best opportunities for a healthy, safe and prosperous life in the years ahead.

Its quality-of-life index links the results of subjective life-satisfaction surveys – how happy people say they are – to objective determinants of the quality of life across countries. Being rich helps more than anything else, but it is not all that counts; things like crime, trust in public institutions and the health of family life matter too. In all, the index takes 11 statistically significant indicators into account. They are a mixed bunch: some are fixed factors, such as geography; others change only very slowly over time (demography, many social and cultural characteristics); and some factors depend on policies and the state of the world economy.

A forward-looking element comes into play, too. Although many of the drivers of the quality of life are slow-changing, for this ranking some variables, such as income per head, need to be forecast. We use the EIU’s economic forecasts to 2030, which is roughly when children born in 2013 will reach adulthood.

Despite the global economic crisis, times have in certain respects never been so good. Output growth rates have been declining across the world, but income levels are at or near historic highs. Life expectancy continues to increase steadily and political freedoms have spread across the globe, most recently in north Africa and the Middle East. In other ways, however, the crisis has left a deep imprint – in the euro zone, but also elsewhere – particularly on unemployment and personal security. In doing so, it has eroded both family and community life.

What does all this, and likely developments in the years to come, mean for where a baby might be luckiest to be born in 2013? After crunching its numbers, the EIU has Switzerland comfortably in the top spot, with Australia second.

Small economies dominate the top ten. Half of these are European, but only one, the Netherlands, is from the euro zone. The Nordic countries shine, whereas the crisis-ridden south of Europe (Greece, Portugal and Spain) lags behind despite the advantage of a favourable climate. The largest European economies (Germany, France and Britain) do not do particularly well.

America, where babies will inherit the large debts of the boomer generation, languishes back in 16th place. Despite their economic dynamism, none of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) scores impressively. Among the 80 countries covered, Nigeria comes last: it is the worst place for a baby to enter the world in 2013.

Quibblers will, of course, find more holes in all this than there are in a chunk of Swiss cheese. America was helped to the top spot back in 1988 by the inclusion in the ranking of a “philistine factor” (for cultural poverty) and a “yawn index” (the degree to which a country might, despite all its virtues, be irredeemably boring). Switzerland scored terribly on both counts. In the film “The Third Man”, Orson Welles’s character, the rogue Harry Lime, famously says that Italy for 30 years had war, terror and murder under the Borgias but in that time produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance; Switzerland had 500 years of peace and democracy – and produced the cuckoo clock.

However, there is surely a lot to be said for boring stability in today’s (and no doubt tomorrow’s) uncertain times. A description of the methodology is available here: food for debate all the way from Lucerne to Lagos.

(Laza Kekic: director, country forecasting services, Economist Intelligence Unit)



Campus Reacts To Inflammatory Flyers
By Rebecca D. Robbins
Harvard Crimson
Updated version published December 1, 2012

Students in at least six River Houses found this flyer for “The Pigeon” under their doors early Friday morning. The flyer featured inflammatory language regarding minority students, race, and religion, sparking controversy across campus.

Students in all nine River Houses received sealed invitations under their doors early Friday morning professing to come from “Harvard’s Newest Final Club” – with the inflammatory statements that “Jews need not apply” and “Coloreds OK.”

The enclosed flyer, bearing a crest of a griffin encircled by a laurel wreath, invited recipients to the first introductory punch event of the purported social club “The Pigeon.”

The invitation listed three virtues, each with asterisked notes. The first principle, “Inclusion,” came with the footnote, “Jews need not apply.” The second, “Diversity,” was followed by the words, “Seriously, no fucking Jews. Coloreds OK.” And the third, “Love,” directed readers to the term “Rophynol” – a misspelled rendering of rohypnol, the date rape drug better known as roofies.

The flyer also instructed aspiring members to wear “Semi-Bro Attire” to the punch event, to be held at frozen yogurt shop Berryline at 11:02 p.m. – two minutes after closing time – on Dec. 13, or to send their regrets to a room in Mather House.

One student who lives in the five-person suite that includes the room specified in the flyer said that she and her suitemates were not involved in creating or distributing the invitations. The Matherite, who was granted anonymity by The Crimson because she said she did not want to be associated with language that she finds offensive, added that she and her suitemates have no knowledge of who was behind the flyers.

Also in the wee hours of Friday morning, two Northeastern University students vandalized a menorah on Northeastern’s campus. They were later identified in a surveillance video and will face disciplinary action at Northeastern. No evidence has been reported to suggest a link between the two incidents.

The mock invitations distributed at Harvard drew a swift response from College administrators, who summoned at least one student organization leader on Friday as they began investigating the incident.

Owen T. L. Bates ‘13, president of the Harvard Lampoon, adamantly said his organization had “nothing to do with” the flyers, which he said were “basely crass” in a tone inconsistent with the Lampoon’s style of “pretentiously crass” humor. Still, he said he received an email and a phone call from the Office of Student Life on Friday morning asking him to meet with Interim Associate Dean of Student Life David R. Friedrich. When they met midday on Friday, Bates said, Friedrich indicated that the conversation was prompted in part by speculation in the comments section of an earlier version of this article that the Lampoon, a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine, may have been responsible for the incident.

Though many Harvard community members guessed that the flyers were an attempt at satire of the exclusive all-male final clubs, they roundly condemned the inflammatory references in the invitations.

Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds wrote in an emailed statement on Friday that the flyers were “deeply disturbing” to her and others in the Harvard community.

“As Dean of the College, and as an educator, I find these flyers offensive. They are not a reflection of the values of our community,” Hammonds wrote. “Even if intended as satirical in nature, they are hurtful and offensive to many students, faculty and staff, and do not demonstrate the level of thoughtfulness and respect we expect at Harvard when engaging difficult issues within our community.”

Christopher H. Cleveland ‘14, president of the Harvard Black Men’s Forum, wrote in an email that he thought the invitations, regardless of their intent, had gone too far.

“As students of a university with a very peculiar history concerning ethnic and racial relations, we should be working together to build up each other,” Cleveland wrote. The first final club to admit a black member was the Spee, in 1965; the Porcellian had no black members until 1983.

“Publications that alienate specific ethnic and racial groups are not aligned with that goal,” Cleveland added.

The invitations are not the first of their kind. In 2010, a group of undergraduates distributed flyers under doors, in the tradition common to real final clubs, encouraging students to refrain from joining the clubs or attending their parties. Organizers claimed that Harvard’s eight male and five female final clubs, which are not recognized by the University, promote an exclusive and dangerous social environment. And in a similar campaign in 2011, organizers slipped letters under the doors of sophomore men asking them not to participate in punch in part due to the “unequal access to social space” enjoyed by the male clubs over the female ones.