Tom Gross Mideast Media Analysis

“Because if he is released, I will no longer be able to live”

July 29, 2013

Relatives of Israelis killed in terror attacks yesterday hold up signs as they demonstrate outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem as the Israeli Cabinet voted to approve Netanyahu’s proposal to free 104 convicted terrorists

Israeli police search for clues in the aftermath of a Palestinian terror attack


There is a follow-up to this dispatch here.



[Note by Tom Gross]

As you may have heard (and many of you may not have done since most Westerners aren’t paying much attention to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s effort to re-start Middle East peace talks), the Israeli government – under pressure from Kerry and Barack Obama – have agreed to release all “pre-Oslo” convicted Palestinian murderers. 104 prisoners in total will be released as a “goodwill gesture” to the Palestinians.

In turn, the Palestinians are giving nothing. In fact, European-funded official Palestinian media are today glorifying these killers as heroes.

Below is an op-ed that was published today in Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s highest-selling newspaper, by Adi Moses who was injured when she was 8 years old in a Palestinian terrorist attack in which her pregnant mother and 5-year-old brother were burned alive. (With thanks to Daniel Seaman for translating Adi’s op-ed from Hebrew for this email list.) Adi’s father Abbie Moses wrote a separate “open letter to Netanyahu” that was published last Friday.

After this article I attach an article of my own published in The Wall Street Journal in 2009 – often, the survivors of terror attacks are forgotten about. There are thousands of other Israeli children like Adi Moses who have lost relatives in terror attacks.



Most Israeli papers today criticize Netanyahu for the deal.

The headline in today’s Yediot Ahronot reads “the murderers will be released.”

In its lead editorial, Ma’ariv says “This is a Shylock deal. The Americans, the Arabs and the Europeans are asking the senior Jewish representative, the private and collective Israel: Cut some flesh from your body so that we will know that you are serious.”

Among the 104 prisoners going free:

* Abu Na’ame Abrahim Mahmus Samir, who blew up a bus in Jerusalem, killing six passengers.

* Kamal Awad Ali Ahmad, currently serving 16 life terms, for the torture and murder of 16 people.

* Ahmed Mahmed Jameel Shahada, who was sentenced to a 47 year term for the rape and murder of a 13 year-old Israeli boy. The boy was killed by being beaten on the head with an Iron bar.


* Thank you to all those who have recommended this dispatch, for example, Douglas Murray in The Spectator (last paragraph here).

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


But me, you do not really know at all
By Adi Moses
Yediot Ahronot
July 29, 2013

“You know the story of my family. In 1987 a terrorist threw a firebomb at the car my family was travelling in. He murdered my mother and my brother Tal, and injured my father, my brother, his friend and myself. It is a story you know. But... Me, you do not really know.

I was 8 years old when this happened. While my father was rolling me in the sand to extinguish my burning body, I looked in the direction of our car and watched as my mother burned in front of my eyes. This story did not end that day in 1987. This story is the difficult life I have led since then.

I am still 8 years old, hospitalized in critical condition. Screaming from pain. Bandaged from head to toe. And my head is not the same. No longer full of golden long hair. The head is burnt. The face, back, the legs and arms, burnt.

I am surrounded by family members, but my mother is not with me. Not hugging and caressing. She is not the one changing my bandages. In the room next door, my brother Tal in lying. Screaming in pain. I call out to him to count sheep with me so he can fall asleep. Three months later, little Tal dies of his wounds. I am seated, all bandaged up, on a chair in the cemetery and I watch as my little brother is buried.

For many months I am forbidden to be out in the sun because of the burns, so I wear long pants and long sleeved shirts to school. In July and August as well. And under the clothes I yet wear a pressure suit meant to [prevent hypertrophic] scarring. It is painful and hot and itchy.

Here I am at 12 years old, entering another operation to correct a scar that limited movement in my leg. And then I am celebrating my Bat Mitzvah. And my mother is not at the celebration. So I cry quietly at night and write to her.

I grow older. I don’t like that people in the street stare at me, don’t like it when the cashier at the supermarket asks – “Oh, child, what happened to you?” I don’t like it that every such look and every such question make me run and cry.

I reach the age of 14 and still live in Alfei Menashe. I have a father, an older brother and friends, I am a good pupil. But I also have unbearable scars. I do not have a mother. So I lay in the road and say to myself that if a car comes, whatever happens, happens. But it doesn’t happen. So I pick myself up and return home.

All those years of adolescence, my friends preferred activity is to go to the beach. But I don’t go because I have scars. Because I am burnt. And I am ashamed.

Then I am 18 and want to enlist but I am not drafted. The army refuses to take responsibility for my scars. So I volunteer in the military and serve for a year and a half.

After the army I study for my bachelors degree. At college I meet new people who, of course, ask me what happened to me. I respond “terror attack”. And they always answer “wow, really? I thought hot water spilled on you when you were little.”

And the clothes? The shirts with the long sleeves were replaced with short sleeves but no tee shirt, not at all, because I have an ugly scar under the left shoulder. Absolutely no short skirts or pants – because I have ugly scars on the legs.

Today I am 34 years old, exactly my mother’s age at the time of the attack. From now on she will forever be younger than me. And still, at least four times a week I answer questions about what happened to me. And sometimes I wonder whether that guy is not interested in me because of the scars. And I always have to explain my scars and tell where they are exactly before I expose myself to a man.

I am 34 years old but the last few days I have returned to being that 8 year old facing that burning car and waiting for her mother to come out of it.

Yitzhak Rabin, who was Minister of Defense at the time of the attack, promised my dad that they will catch the terrorist. And they did. And they sentenced him. To two life sentences and another 72 years in prison.

And you cabinet ministers? With the wave of a hand you decided to free him. He who caused all of this story. And you will not convince me that you understand my pain because you don’t. And no explanations that claim to be rational will help.

You are heartless beings and abstruse. With your decision to release the murderer you spit on the graves of my mother and my brother Tal. You erase this story from the pages of the History of the State of Israel. And in return for what?

I beg you to remove him from the list of those to be released. Leave him in jail. That he rot as he should rot. Don’t light again the fire that he lit. Don’t destroy those who are left in this family. Save us. Because if he is released – my father, brother and I will no longer be able to live.”


Tom Gross adds: Incidentally, on behalf of another family whose lives were devastated in a 2002 terror attack, and who are in dire financial need while still trying to cope with the aftermath of that attack, if anybody of substantial means wishes to help them, please email me and I will put you in touch with them.


Israel Can’t Afford Any More Dangerous Concessions
By Tom Gross
The Wall Street Journal
March 2, 2009

TEL AVIV– Hillary Clinton arrives in Israel today on her first visit since becoming Secretary of State, at a time when many influential people in America and beyond are clamoring for the Obama administration to pressure Israel into making major concessions.

Before she succumbs to those pressures, she might want to bear in mind the pain Israel suffered the last time it was forced to make such concessions – when Mrs. Clinton’s husband was president.

It is a pain that has many names and faces. One of them is Kinneret Chaya Boosany. At the very moment that Barack Obama was delivering his historic victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park in the early hours of November 5, a small miracle was happening over 6000 miles away in Israel when Kinneret gave birth to her first child.

Six years earlier, Kinneret, then a 23-year-old part-time dancer and student of alternative medicine, was blown up as she worked as a waitress in a small coffee shop on Tel Aviv’s Allenby Street. (Like many young Israelis, she worked as a waitress to earn extra money. She was also exceptionally good-looking: Heads would turn wherever she went.)

Her injuries that night were so horrific that the doctors gave her only a 2 percent chance of survival. She remained in a coma for four months. When she awoke, she changed her name from Kinneret to Kinneret Chaya (meaning “Kinneret Lives” in Hebrew). In her own words, “Kinneret died that night in the flames, but Kinneret Chaya was born.”


She is just one of the thousands of Israelis – both Jews and Arabs – injured by Palestinian suicide bombers who were sent out on their deadly missions by either the Islamist Hamas movement or by the Fatah faction headed by “moderate” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. The number of Israelis killed in buses and pizza parlors and shopping malls has been greatly reduced in recent years after the government built a security fence to make it harder for bombers to get through.

Today Kinneret has one fully operating lung, sees in only one eye and hears in only one ear. Her skin still bears the scars of burns over 85 percent of her body. She spends many hours in a heavy pressure suit and face mask to prevent the scarring getting worse, and she cannot go out in the day because the sun has become her enemy.

But Kinneret has struggled back to life, through countless operations and long sessions of physiotherapy, learning to accept her disfigured body and to smile in spite of her scarred face. And then in November, even though the doctors said she had only a very slim chance of a successful pregnancy, this beautiful former teenage ballerina, who got married at the start of last year, gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

This story is worth reflecting on as Hillary Clinton arrives here in Israel. Barely a day goes by without Jimmy Carter and assorted European politicians calling on Obama to coerce Israel into hastily withdrawing from more land no matter what the security risks. The reigning Nobel Peace Prize laureate, for instance, former Finnish Prime Minister Martti Ahtisaari, went so far as to use the prize ceremony as a soapbox to urge Obama to make pressure on Israel the principal focus of his first year in office.


Like most Israelis Kinneret Chaya, who I saw again last week, desperately wants peace with the Palestinians. Indeed it is my experience of covering the region as a reporter for many years that no one wants the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to be peaceably resolved more than Israelis do.

But Israelis are also very aware of the dangers of naively handing over territory to terrorists, as was done during the presidency of Secretary of State Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton, in the 1990s. The vote by Israelis in elections two weeks ago was not a vote against peace as many Western commentators claim. It was a vote for realism and security.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s likely next prime minister, has been wrongly vilified as being against a two-state solution. In fact he is open to the creation of a Palestinian state but only if it is one that will live in peace with Israel. And for this, Netanyahu argues, you can’t simply wave a magic wand at some fancy signing ceremony on the White House lawn and say “hey presto” – which is exactly what leftist politicians tried to do at the Oslo signing ceremony in 1993.

First the Palestinians need to do the hard work of building institutions that would allow such a state to succeed – a functioning economy, the rule of law, and so on. And Netanyahu is very willing to offer Israeli assistance in building such mechanisms.

Avigdor Lieberman, one of Netanyahu’s possible coalition partners, who has been misleadingly described as an extreme rightist by many journalists, has been even more explicit than Netanyahu in calling for a two-state solution, including the division of Jerusalem between Israel and a future Palestinian state.


Even Shimon Peres, Israel’s dovish president, now has second thoughts about unilateral Israeli concessions. Having long championed territorial withdrawals to attain peace, Peres last week acknowledged that it was a mistake for Israel to withdraw from Gaza in 2005 without first having a peaceful and democratic Palestinian party to hand that territory to.

Israel has always shown a willingness to make peace if a peace partner exists, as it did in the case of the late Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Jordan’s King Hussein. Israelis are still waiting for a Palestinian Anwar Sadat.

One of Netanyahu’s most difficult challenges during his first term as prime minister from 1996 to 1999 was coping with the Clinton administration that berated him for his belief that peace must be built from the bottom up through the liberalization of Palestinian society, rather than from the top down by giving land to terrorists. The question is whether President Obama and Hillary Clinton have come round to Netanyahu’s way of thinking.

Kinneret Chaya is an exemplary and courageous figure. The international community owes it to her and the countless other terror victims to confront the basic realities of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. By all means pressure Israel into making concessions that do not threaten its security – into not expanding West Bank settlements, for instance. But Israeli concessions will never resolve the conflict in themselves. They will only work if there is corresponding pressure on the Palestinians to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state and to make aid to the Palestinians conditional on putting an end to their inciting for the destruction of Israel.

The “Al Jazeera Decade” (& Morsi charged with collaborating with Hamas)

July 27, 2013

The new Qatari emir


* The Egyptian state prosecutor orders that ousted President Morsi be charged with collaborating with Hamas, Egypt’s official MENA news agency reported yesterday.

* The Associated Press: Egypt’s new government has imposed the toughest border restrictions on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in years, sealing smuggling tunnels, blocking most passenger traffic and causing millions of dollars in economic losses.

* Palestinian Ma’an news agency: First Egypt closed the land border with Gaza and now the Egyptian government has banned Palestinian fishing along the northern coast of Sinai (whereas Israel has always permitted fishing off of that coast).

* Tom Gross: Where’s the international outrage? The usually highly vocal, Western government-funded, and supposedly pro-Palestinian NGOs, are suddenly silent about the Egyptian-imposed suffering on Gazans.

* Where next for Qatar? Since the discovery of oil in 1941, Qatar has become rich beyond its dreams, with the highest GDP per capita on earth. Along with great wealth, Qatar’s brand new ruler has just inherited the world’s most famous television station, Al Jazeera. And therein lies the problem. The emirate has no coherent policy.

* The former emir adorned Doha with Western jewels, including the 2022 World Cup, Qatar-owned European soccer teams, a branch of the Guggenheim museum, outposts of prestigious American universities and research institutions, like Georgetown, Cornell, and Brookings. Pretty much all of the soft power and prestige was made possible by a single investment he made in 1996 with the creation of an Arabic-language satellite news network that allowed him to project power far beyond the natural ability of his modest emirate.

* Qatar’s grand strategy seems to be only to aggravate its much larger and richer neighbor, Saudi Arabia.

* Qatar gave radical Muslim Brotherhood preacher Yussuf al-Qaradawi an electronic pulpit with his own show on Al Jazeera. When the Brotherhood came to power in Egypt, Qatar invested its money and prestige in the Brotherhood, helping keep Mohamed Morsi’s government afloat with more than $8 billion in aid. And now Morsi and the Brotherhood are gone, and the rest of Egypt is mad at Qatar and Al Jazeera.

* Turkey’s fears of an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria are not justified. The 20-year history and experience of Iraqi Kurdistan testifies that an autonomous Kurdish region is not a threat to any of its neighbors. On the contrary, it can be a stabilizing factor in the region.

* A stable Syrian Kurdistan could also give Turkey great economic opportunities. It would be yet another market for Turkish exports. About 60 percent of Syria’s oil is located in the Kurdish areas. Ankara can access these fields in the future, the same way it is doing in Iraqi Kurdistan.

* Turkey is not interested in a diplomatic reconciliation with Israel, but rather in humiliating it and bringing it to its knees, Israeli officials said on Thursday, after the Turkish deputy PM’s remarks.


Tom Gross:: I attach a variety of articles from the last few days concerning Qatar, Egypt, Gaza, Turkey and the Syrian Kurds.

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



1. “In Al Jazeera, an electronic mirror for the new Emir of Qatar” (By Lee Smith, Tablet, July 25, 2013)
2. “Al Jazeera demands the immediate release of its staff members detained in Cairo” (Al Jazeera press release, July 4, 2013)
3. “Morsi accused of murder, kidnapping” (Al Arabiya, July 26, 2013)
4. “Egyptian border restrictions on Gaza toughest yet” (Associated Press, July 24, 2013)
5. “Egypt bans fishing in north Sinai as security measure” (Ma’an, July 20, 2013)
6. “Turkey’s options in Syria: Stable Kurdish self-rule or jihadist enclave?” (By Yerevan Saeed,, July 25, 2013)
7. “Israeli official: Turkey wants to humiliate Israel, not reconcile with it” (By Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, July 25, 2013)




In Al Jazeera, an Electronic Mirror for the New Emir of Qatar
By Lee Smith
Tablet Magazine
July 25, 2013

Last month the 61-year-old emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, stepped aside to make room for his son, 33-year-old Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. While there are few details out of Doha, the assumption is that Sheikh Hamad, long rumored to be ill, feels death on his doorstep. He passed power on to his son now to avoid the sort of succession crisis that often plagues the Persian Gulf’s Arab monarchies.

Along with great wealth, Qatar’s new ruler has inherited the world’s most famous television station, Al Jazeera, which since its 1996 inception has been seen by many as largely reflecting Qatari interests. And therein lies the problem. While some commentators have argued that the young emir is taking the helm at an opportune time, in reality what can be divined from Al Jazeera is that the emirate has no coherent policy. The paradox then is that for the young emir to build on the legacy his father has left, he will have to reject much of it. After the model of advice to untested Renaissance rulers, this week Agents of Influence offers counsel to the rising emir.



Congratulations, your excellency, for the maker of all things has favored you from birth, in place and parentage. Since the discovery of oil in 1941, Qatar has become rich beyond your ancestors’ dreams, thanks to the liquefied natural gas of which it is the world’s largest exporter. Of your tiny emirate’s almost 2 million inhabitants, you need share the wealth only among the one-eighth of the population that are Qatari nationals, giving your subjects the highest GDP per capita on earth. The rest – the construction workers from the Asian subcontinent who build your skyscrapers and the European lawyers and executives who steward Qatar’s dreams – seem content with the fact that they are much better compensated in Doha than they ever could be at home.

Your father was only a few years older than you when he removed your grandfather in a bloodless coup in 1995. He made Qatar what it is today, but what really seems to have made him is your mother, Sheikha Moza, the emir’s second wife and his favorite. The region’s rumor mill whispers that it was she who not only sought your advancement, but ensured your survival by arranging for your uncle, Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, to be retired with your father’s abdication. Your mother, who one imagines would have had no trouble navigating the political intrigues of an Ottoman harem, recognized that the ambitious man who served your father as prime minister and foreign minister would otherwise stand as a threat to you after your father’s imminent death. Now that the realm is secured, it is time to take inventory of your assets.

The former emir adorned Doha with Western jewels, including the 2022 World Cup, European soccer teams, a branch of the Guggenheim museum, outposts of prestigious American universities and research institutions, like Georgetown, Cornell, and Brookings. All of the soft power and prestige your father won was made possible by a single investment he made in 1996 with the creation of an Arabic-language satellite news network that allowed him to project power far beyond the natural ability of your modest emirate.

Indeed, what began with the Sept. 11 attacks might best be described as the “Al Jazeera Decade.” When Al Jazeera journalists transmitted messages from Osama Bin Laden and his colleagues and sided with anti-American and pro-Saddam forces after the 2003 invasion it angered the Americans and thereby galvanized the Arabs, raising the station’s profile. There was finally, it seemed, a TV station that broadcast Arab power and dignity, outrage and resistance throughout the world.

It’s sometimes said that Al Jazeera reflects the policy of Qatar – this may be true, insofar as Qatar appears to have no discernible policy. It’s true that, in foreign affairs, as the Americans and Europeans are fond of saying, there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests – and Qatar’s grand strategy seems to be only to aggravate your much larger and richer neighbors in Saudi Arabia.

Qatar’s policies are variable as the wind. Your father visited Gaza to invest hundreds of millions in support of Hamas, while he was also on friendly terms with the Jewish state that Hamas wishes to destroy. You share the world’s largest natural gas field with your Iranian neighbors while you host the United States military’s central command. To you, a military man, this toying with larger powers perhaps seems dangerous. Having graduated from Sandhurst, surely you understand that, were it not for your alliance with the Americans, a platoon of Swiss Guard bearing only their ceremonial lances could overrun your country’s Pakistani-led armed forces in a matter of hours. The emir and the prime minister saw time and again the limits of their ability to shape the world around them.

At first, Qatar helped rebuild areas demolished in the 2006 war with Israel and brokered an agreement favorable to Hezbollah after the group turned on their Sunni countrymen in 2008. And yet after the uprising against Hezbollah ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad broke out in March, 2011, your predecessors had a change of heart: They dropped Assad and Hezbollah and chose instead to arm and fund their adversaries. The fact that the arms and cash Qatar provided Brotherhood-affiliated rebel units has not brought Assad’s demise any closer, while angering the White House, is yet more evidence that Qatari influence is written in water.

It seems that with the outbreak of the Arab Spring, your father and uncle believed that the Muslim Brotherhood’s time had finally come, a likely boon to Doha, too. Ever since the 1950s, when Egyptian President Gamal abd el-Nasser scattered the Brotherhood across the globe, Qatar has appeared to welcome Islamists. Your father gave Brotherhood preacher Yussuf al-Qaradawi an electronic pulpit with his own show on Al Jazeera. When the Brotherhood came to power in Egypt, Qatar invested its money and prestige in the Brotherhood, helping keep Mohamed Morsi’s government afloat with more than $8 billion in aid.

And now Morsi and the Brotherhood are gone, and the rest of Egypt is angry with you. But the point is not the money or the anger. So what if lots of Egyptians are mad at Qatar and Al Jazeera? Your father and uncle saved them from starving, and the reality is that just as Egypt’s initial blandishments turned to curses, they may soon again turn to praise. The history of your region shows it is unwise to put too much stock in popular acclaim. What matters is reputation – Qatar backed another loser. In spending its prestige so carelessly, Qatar has earned contempt.

Your father and uncle seemed to have seen the world like PR flacks. They were always happy to see their names in bold print and supposed that any publicity was good. They seemed interested in a variation on what American media experts used to call “synergy.” In the 1990s, the idea was for large conglomerates to master various forms of media – from music to books, and television to information technology. Similarly, your father and uncle seemed to want to marry news coverage to political gambits.

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the outgoing mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg mastered the technique of creating self-fulfilling prophecies. For them it was not magic but an advanced stage of political warfare. The difference between them and your father and uncle is that they actually controlled the political systems of the institutions they sought to shape through the coverage of their media organizations. Because Qatar has no such control over a political network as unwieldy as the Middle East, your father and uncle’s bets merely undermined the power of the network. The other option is to forget about the magic and make Al Jazeera a real broadcast network, not reflecting Qatar’s fitful ambitions and political amusements, but embodying the values of a real country.



Egyptian authorities target Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera press release (July 4, 2013)

Al Jazeera is demanding the immediate release of staff members detained overnight in Cairo.

Egyptian forces raided Al Jazeera premises overnight. Twenty-eight Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr staff members were detained, with most released later. The channel’s managing director Ayman Gaballah and Al Jazeera Arabic broadcast engineer Ahmad Hasan remain in custody however.

In the latest development, Associated Press Television News has been ordered to deny Al Jazeera channels access to their live services. Cairo News Company (CNC) has also been told to withhold access to broadcast equipment such as satellite trucks.

Mostefa Souag, acting Director General of Al Jazeera Media Network, condemned the moves:

“Ayman and Ahmad must be released unharmed immediately. Media offices should not be subject to raids and intimidation. journalists should not be detained for doing their jobs.

“There are big events taking place in Egypt and the world tunes in to Al Jazeera at times like these. The viewing public will not accept being cut-off from news and information. Regardless of political views, the Egyptian people expect media freedoms to be respected and upheld.

“We are grateful to all the media organisations giving us their support on these matters.

“Al Jazeera has always reported comprehensively in Egypt, even in difficult circumstances. We will continue to do that with our usual approach of encompassing all opinions with accuracy, balance and fairness.”



Morsi accused of murder, kidnapping
Al Arabiya (TV network)
July 26, 2013

The Egyptian state prosecutor ordered that ousted Islamist President Mohammad Morsi be detained for 15 days for questioning on charges of collaborating with Palestinian militant group Hamas, official MENA news agency reported on Friday.

Morsi will be asked on whether he worked with Hamas in attacks on police stations and prison breaks in early 2011, during which the Islamist and other political inmates escaped during the revolt against strongman Hosni Mubarak, it added.

However, the news agency reported that the prosecutor has already questioned the ousted president and “confronted him with the evidence.”

State accusations against Morsi include killing prisoners and officers as well as kidnapping soldiers, said MENA.

The case concerns the mass jailbreak of dozens of Brotherhood officials during the uprising that toppled Morsi’s predecessor, Mubarak. There have been many reports in Egyptian media that the Brotherhood collaborated with Hamas – which has condemned Egypt’s decision to detain Morsi.

Muslim Brotherhood officials have said they were aided by local residents in breaking out of prison, not foreigners.

The report came just hours before people were expected to take to the streets in mass rallies for and against the ousted president. Egypt’s army has been holding Morsi in an undisclosed location since deposing him on July 3.



Egyptian border restrictions on Gaza toughest yet
By Mohammed Daraghmeh and Ibrahim Barzak
The Associated Press
July 24, 2013

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Egypt’s new government has imposed the toughest border restrictions on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip in years, sealing smuggling tunnels, blocking most passenger traffic and causing millions of dollars in economic losses.

Some in Hamas fear the movement is being swept up in the same Egyptian military campaign that earlier this month toppled the country’s democratically elected Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi – like the Gaza rulers part of the region’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt’s military has said the Gaza restrictions are part of its security crackdown in the Sinai and has not suggested it is trying to weaken the Hamas government or bring it down in the process.

Past predications that Gazans fed up with the daily hardships of life under blockade will rise up against Hamas have not materialized.

However, the new Gaza border restrictions are tougher than any enforced by Morsi’s pro-Western predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, a foe of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Gaza residents and Hamas officials.

And an ongoing border closure is bound to further weaken Hamas’ popularity in Gaza, as the economy takes a new hit and Gazans are once again unable to travel.

“It’s getting worse every day,” Gaza City taxi driver Khaled Jaradeh said of the shortage of cheap Egyptian fuel caused by the closure. Jaradeh was waiting in a slow-moving line outside a gas station, with about 30 cars in front of him.

“Even when Mubarak was president, we used to get fuel through the tunnels,” Jaradeh said.

At the time of Morsi’s ouster, some officials in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, Hamas’ main rival, privately expressed hope that the Hamas government would be next.

Hamas leaders have been careful not to criticize Egypt’s border clampdown in public, for fear of being accused of meddling in Egypt’s internal affairs. However, Gaza’s top Hamas official, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, has complained that Egyptian media reports “about Hamas interference in the Egyptian affairs in support of President Morsi are not true.”

Some Egyptian media outlets have described Hamas as a troublemaker aiding Muslim militants in Egypt’s lawless Sinai peninsula, next to Gaza. Morsi is believed to have held back on security clampdowns for fear of angering more radical supporters.

Speaking privately, a senior Hamas official who frequently deals with the Egyptian authorities stopped short of saying Egypt’s military is intentionally trying to weaken Hamas rule in Gaza through the new restrictions. However, he said he views the Gaza clampdown as part of an attempt by the Egyptian army to justify its continued campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Authorities in Egypt moved quickly against the Brotherhood after Morsi’s July 3 ouster. They arrested several of the group’s leaders, and have kept Morsi incommunicado at an undisclosed location. Sinai militants have taken advantage of the turmoil and launched daily attacks against Egyptian security forces, killing more than a dozen soldiers and policemen this month alone.

The clampdown and the Sinai violence are only intensifying.

On Wednesday, Egypt’s military chief called on his countrymen to hold mass demonstrations later this week to voice their support for the army. And in four new Sinai attacks, suspected militants killed two soldiers and wounded three others…

In Egypt, newspapers – many known for their anti-Morsi stance – are full of talk about Hamas. They repeatedly carry poorly sourced reports of Hamas’ alleged involvement in Egypt’s affairs.

Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram newspaper raised eyebrows with a front-page article this week that claimed Morsi would be detained on a number of charges, including phoning Hamas leaders days before his ouster to alert them to prepare attacks in northern Sinai against the military and police. Egypt’s top prosecutor dismissed the article as unfounded, and the paper’s editor-in-chief was questioned by prosecutors.

The steady campaign against Palestinians by some of Egypt’s state-owned and liberal media intensified after authorities said Palestinians, along with Syrians, were detained in violent pro-Morsi protests in recent weeks. No further details were given.

TV talk shows have also fueled the anti-Palestinian rhetoric. A guest on one claimed that Morsi is of Palestinian origin, while another said it would soon provide proof that Hamas was behind a Sinai attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers last year.

It’s not clear how long the Egyptian clampdown on Gaza will continue, though in Egypt’s current climate it appears unlikely the restrictions will be eased anytime soon.



Egypt bans fishing in north Sinai as security measure
Palestinian Ma’an News agency
July 20, 2013

EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma’an) – Egypt has prohibited fishing off the coast of northern Sinai as a security measure to stop militants entering the peninsula by sea.

Egyptian security officials told Ma’an that the decision aims to prevent Palestinians and members of militant groups from entering Egyptian territory.

The ban will continue indefinitely, officials said, and will affect fishermen in El-Arish, Rafah and other northern coastal areas.

Since a crackdown on smuggling tunnels two months ago, people have increasingly begun entering Egypt using fishing boats, usually at night.

Egyptian coast guards recently intercepted a boat carrying 10 Palestinians, six of whom managed to escape.

Four of the men arrested were said to belong to a militant Jihadist group in Gaza, officials said.

Since the military coup that toppled Morsi after massive nationwide protests against his rule, militant groups have launched almost daily attacks on troops and police in Sinai.

Several members of the security forces have died in the unrest, as well as two Egyptian Christians, one of whom was found decapitated five days after being kidnapped.

Analysts attribute the Sinai violence to Islamist extremists seeking to take advantage of the political insecurity in the country after Morsi’s removal.



Turkey’s Options in Syria: Stable Kurdish Self-Rule or Jihadist Enclave?
By Yerevan Saeed
July 25, 2013

Turkey’s unease over armed Kurdish fighters just across the border in Syria has been turning into alarm, especially after the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) recently routed the radical Islamic Jabhat al-Nusrah in Serekaniye, and recaptured the Kurdish border town.

Hours after the fierce fighting for Serekaniye (also known as Ras al-Ayn), YPG fighters showed reporters passports seized from Islamist guerrillas, noting they had traveled through Turkish airports on different passports, including American and of several Arab countries.

It goes without saying that, from the beginning of the Syrian uprising more than two years ago, Turkey’s Islamist government – the Justice and Development Party (AKP) – has facilitated the arrival of jihadist fighters from across the Muslim world, and supplied them with weapons and field hospitals.

Turkey’s unease turned to alarm on July 19, when officials of the dominant but controversial Democratic Union Party (PYD) announced their intention of declaring autonomy.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu immediately reacted, saying: “It’s not possible to accept any de facto declaration of an autonomous entity in Syria, and that could only lead to further crisis.”

On the other hand, since the Kurdish fighters have been gaining strength in Syria in the face of Arab rebels, the Turkish army has been building up its presence with heavy weaponry at the border. Its unmanned drones scan the area.

This is not the first time Turkey reacts to events in the PYD-controlled areas of Syria.

Ankara is deeply suspicious over the PYD’s close ties to the militant and outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey. The PYD is accused of surreptitious ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and holds sway over most of Syria’s Kurdish regions.

Turkey has already warned that, although it did not react when Iraqi Kurds declared autonomy, Ankara would not just stand by if Syrian Kurds made a similar bid.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told journalists in December that, “Should a similar development take place (in Syria), we would react differently than how we did in the case of Iraq.”

Though the Turkish military has beefed up border forces and gone on alert in response to Kurdish developments in Syria, it did not react similarly when fighters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Al-Qaeda affiliates controlled the area until several weeks ago.

It is important to ask if Turkey’s fears of an autonomous Kurdish region in Syria are really justified. Is it foreign Islamist fighters that pose a threat to Syrian stability, or is it a Kurdish free enclave that threatens the region?

The 20-year history and experience of Iraqi Kurdistan testifies that an autonomous Kurdish region is not a threat to any of its neighbors. On the contrary, it can be a stabilizing factor in the region.

Initially Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria were apprehensive of Iraqi Kurdistan’s self-rule. But now proven wrong, they should weigh twice their suspicions about the Syrian Kurds and their ambitions for autonomy.

If Kurds run their eastern areas in Syria, the world will have one less jihadist enclave to worry about.

A stable Syrian Kurdistan could also give Turkey great economic opportunities. It would be yet another market for Turkish exports. Approximately 60 percent of Syria’s oil is located in the Kurdish areas. Ankara can access these fields in the future, the same way it is doing in Iraqi Kurdistan.

At this time, it would be wiser if Syria’s Kurds did not defer to Turkish fears and continue to keep jihadist fighters at bay. Turkey’s threats to cross the border militarily could well be nothing but a bluff.

A second course of action would be to engage Ankara diplomatically and reassure the Turks that a Kurdish entity will not endanger Turkey’s national security or economic interests.

PYD leader Salih Muslim has already made some conciliatory statements to Turkey. But he could do more. He could tell the Turks of the future plans of the Kurds across the border.

On the other hand, leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan can and should mediate between PYD and Ankara, to ensure that the two sides do not go to war.



Israeli official: Turkey wants to humiliate Israel, not reconcile with it
By Herb Keinon
Jerusalem Post
July 25, 2013

Turkey is not interested in a diplomatic reconciliation with Israel, but rather in humiliating it and bringing it to its knees, Israeli officials said on Thursday.

The comments came after Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told the Turkish media that the reason for the deadlock in compensation talks with Israel over the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident was that Jerusalem was not willing to admit that the compensation payment was the result of a wrongful act.

Up until now the assumption was that the two sides were not yet normalizing ties because they could not agree on the size of the compensation package, with the Turks demanding much more than Israel was willing to pay.

But Arinc, leading the Turkish team in the three rounds of talks that have already been held, said earlier this week that money was not the issue.

“In our first meeting [the Israelis] showed no opposition to this. But in the second meeting, they intended to give an ex gratia payment [one made without the giver recognizing any liability or legal obligation] as a form of reparation because they fear compensation [as a result of their wrongful act] will set an example for other cases, which is not a concern to us,” the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported him as saying.

On March 22, just as US President Barack Obama was leaving Israel after his visit and at his urging, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and offered an apology for any operational errors that might have led to the death of nine Turkish activists on the Mavi Marmara ship trying to break the blockade of Gaza in 2010.

“The amount of money is not the problem,” Arınc said.

“There are two problematic areas. The first one is that Israel should accept that it’s paying this money as a result of its wrongful act. Nothing less than this will be accepted. And second, we are waiting for them to realize our third condition of cooperating with Turkey is making life conditions easier for Palestinians. We are not talking about the amount of money as our first two conditions have not been met,” he added.

One Israeli official said that Arinc’s comments reveal that Ankara is not genuinely interested in settling the dispute over the Mavi Marmara with Israel, but rather the aim is to humiliate Jerusalem.

“All of a sudden he says the money is not the issue. Indeed, they want to bring us to our knees and read the text that they dictate to us.”

The official said that the formula for the apology was very carefully crafted, so as not to admit any Israeli legal culpability. Now, he said, this is no longer enough for the Turks. Regarding lifting the blockade on Gaza, Israel has made clear that it has no intention of doing so, and that it will ease restrictions there to the degree that the rocket and missile fire from the area into Israel stops.

One senior Israeli official, when asked several weeks ago about the Turks apparent adding on conditions before returning their ambassador to Israel, replied that “enough is enough,” implying that Israel did what it felt it had to do to try and improve the ties with Turkey, but would go no further.

One Israeli official said on Thursday that while there was US pressure in the past on Israel to make gestures to reconcile with Turkey, there are currently no such demands. Netanyahu did what the Americans expected him to do, the official said, and from their standpoint this whole episode should now be over.

Israel’s alleged underwater attack on Syria should serve as a warning to Iran

July 21, 2013

* American and European diplomats who have reconciled themselves to the idea of allowing Iran to go nuclear have not taken on board the full range of Israel’s ability to attack Iranian nuclear installations – not just from the air, but from the sea, and elsewhere.

* The Israeli air force has limited flight range while carrying heavy payloads, but submarines can place themselves much closer to Iranian nuclear installations.

* An electromagnetic pulse of the kind Israel has developed can be emitted from installations the size of a suitcase smuggled into Iran by land and used to disable, for example, the office of the Iranian defense minister, to make it impossible for him to communicate by phone or computer with the outside world.

I attach an article by myself, published yesterday.


Above, a Dolphin submarine, and a Yakhont missile

Was Israel’s Latest ‘Air’ Attack on Syria from a Submarine?
By Tom Gross
The Weekly Standard (Washington DC)
July 20, 2013

An attack two weeks ago that destroyed an advanced Russian missile shipment delivered to Syria’s Assad regime should also serve as a warning to Iran – and to those complacent Western diplomats who have (dangerously in my view) reconciled themselves to the idea of allowing Iran to go nuclear and then trying to contain it. For it seems that the July 5 attack on an arms depot near the Syrian naval base of Latakia, which has been attributed to Israel, came not from the air (as CNN and the New York Times reported last weekend) but from under the water.

Many Western officials who have apparently concluded that Israel could only destroy Iran’s nuclear program from the air – and that Israel does not have the capability to carry out such long-range air strikes in a decisive way – should take note. In recent years, Israel has greatly advanced its sea-based capabilities, and the geographical range of operations that Israel can mount from the sea, I am reliably told, now spans the entire globe. Israeli submarines are no longer confining themselves to the Mediterranean.

Last Saturday, the United States appeared to confirm that Israel was behind the July 5 attack on 50 Russian Yakhont anti-ship missiles in Latakia. Both the New York Times and CNN quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying the strike was carried out by Israel from the air. The state-of-the-art Yakhont missiles have a range of 300 kilometers and are considered to be among the best of their kind in the world – for example, they can evade radar by flying just above water surface. They were of significant concern to both the U.S. and Israel because their range and sophistication meant they could neutralize the ability of both nations’ navies to patrol the region, and they could also complicate the ability of the U.S. or other states to enforce a future no-fly zone over Syria should they wish to implement one. Israel was also concerned that Syria would allow the missiles to fall into the hands of its arch enemy, the Iranian-controlled Hezbollah militia.

But on Sunday, a more intriguing scenario was raised when the (London) Sunday Times reported that the attack was not carried out from the air, but by precision-guided missiles fired from Israel’s German-made Dolphin-class submarines. I am told by informed sources that this is a more likely scenario.

When asked in a CBS interview about reports of Israeli responsibility for the Latakia strike, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in line with Israel’s long-standing policy of neither confirming nor denying such actions, said, “Oh God, every time something happens in the Middle East, Israel is accused. I’m not in the habit of saying what we did or we didn’t do. I’ll tell you what my policy is: My policy is to prevent the transfer of dangerous weapons to Hezbollah and other terror groups. And we stand by that policy.”

“The fact that the crisis in Syria is getting worse by the minute is the central consideration in my eyes,” he added. “Syria is disintegrating, and the huge advanced weapons stockpiles are beginning to fall into the hands of different forces.”

Even more alarming for Israel, however, is that Iran is said to be only weeks away from crossing Netanyahu’s “red line” of possessing 250 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium – enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb.

Netanyahu told CBS that Iran was now just 60 kilograms short of crossing this line, and “they should understand that they’re not going to be allowed to cross it.” His assessment is in line with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report in May, which alleged that Iran possessed 182 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium.

Israel fears that the Iran situation is becoming critical at the exact same time when there has been a lowering of the sense of urgency among many Western officials. Many in the West have become distracted from the Iranian nuclear issue due to a focus on events in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere, coupled with the election last month of the regime-approved Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s new president, whom Netanyahu called “a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” In Israel Rouhani is viewed as far more sly and dangerous than the outgoing Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who often embarrassed himself with outrageous statements about the Holocaust, homosexuals, and so on.

Israel believes that a nuclear Shia Islamic regime in Tehran will not only prove to be a threat to the entire region and beyond, but it will almost certainly result in nuclear proliferation among the Sunni powers such as Saudi Arabia (who could simply buy a nuclear arsenal from fellow Sunni Pakistan) and Egypt, states which are liable to become far less stable in future. (Israel is believed to have had nuclear weapons for the last 50 years but it has never threatened to use them – or even acknowledged their existence – and it is only the specter of Iran gaining them that now so worries the Arab states.)

American and European diplomats I have spoken to recently seem to have concluded that America doesn’t have the willingness to stop Iran from going nuclear, and Israel doesn’t have the means.

They have not taken on board the full range of Israel’s ability to attack Iranian nuclear installations. The Israeli air force has limited flight range while carrying heavy payloads, but submarines can place themselves much closer to Iranian nuclear installations. Iran has sonar capabilities, and has devoted considerable resources to confronting both surface and underwater naval threats, yet it remains vulnerable to both. It is much harder to track the movement of submarines than it is of aircraft.

Combine this with the sophisticated electronic measures Israel is known to have mastered, for example, the use of EMP (electromagnetic pulses) and malicious computer code introduced into critical infrastructure, and possible special forces operations launched remotely, and it appears Iran and the West have more than an Israeli air strike to consider.

An EMP of the kind Israel has developed, for example, can be emitted from installations the size of a suitcase smuggled into Iran by land and used to disable specific buildings or target specific offices – for example, the office of the Iranian defense minister, to make it impossible for him to communicate by phone or computer with the outside world for a period of time.

It is still not too late for the Iranian regime to stand down or for the West to ratchet up sanctions to make them do so. If Iran does back down it may be a result of a realization that Israeli capacity to attack and stop them is far greater than might at first be apparent.

(Tom Gross is a former Mideast correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph.

The twisted reality of an Italian freelancer in Syria

July 12, 2013

Francesca Borri dodges sniper fire in Aleppo



I attach an interesting piece by Francesca Borri, an Italian freelance journalist reporting from the frontlines of the war in Syria. She describes in graphic terms what we knew already: that war is hell – and that the Syrian war is particularly difficult to report on, not least because of some seemingly heartless news editors in the West.

It is a courageous piece. Unfortunately, however, Borri, who previously worked as “a human-rights officer” for “Israel/Palestine,” can’t resist taking a dig at Israel in her piece, claiming that “Gaza, as usual, was being bombed.”

As an astute reader points out: “Really? It’s Sderot that’s bombed daily, not Gaza.”

For example, from mid-June 2007 to mid-February 2008, 771 rockets and 857 mortar bombs were fired at the small Israeli town of Sderot and the western Negev, an average of three or four each day.

(With the exception of photographer Alessio Romenzi, the names in the article below have been changed for reasons of privacy.)

-- Tom Gross

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Woman’s work: The twisted reality of an Italian freelancer in Syria
By Francesca Borri
Columbia Journalism Review (New York)
July 1, 2013

He finally wrote to me. After more than a year of freelancing for him, during which I contracted typhoid fever and was shot in the knee, my editor watched the news, thought I was among the Italian journalists who’d been kidnapped, and sent me an email that said: “Should you get a connection, could you tweet your detention?”

That same day, I returned in the evening to a rebel base where I was staying in the middle of the hell that is Aleppo, and amid the dust and the hunger and the fear, I hoped to find a friend, a kind word, a hug. Instead, I found only another email from Clara, who’s spending her holidays at my home in Italy. She’s already sent me eight “Urgent!” messages. Today she’s looking for my spa badge, so she can enter for free. The rest of the messages in my inbox were like this one: “Brilliant piece today; brilliant like your book on Iraq.” Unfortunately, my book wasn’t on Iraq, but on Kosovo.

People have this romantic image of the freelancer as a journalist who’s exchanged the certainty of a regular salary for the freedom to cover the stories she is most fascinated by. But we aren’t free at all; it’s just the opposite. The truth is that the only job opportunity I have today is staying in Syria, where nobody else wants to stay. And it’s not even Aleppo, to be precise; it’s the frontline. Because the editors back in Italy only ask us for the blood, the bang-bang. I write about the Islamists and their network of social services, the roots of their power – a piece that is definitely more complex to build than a frontline piece. I strive to explain, not just to move, to touch, and I am answered with: “What’s this? Six thousand words and nobody died?”

Actually, I should have realized it that time my editor asked me for a piece on Gaza, because Gaza, as usual, was being bombed. I got this email: “You know Gaza by heart,” he wrote. “Who cares if you are in Aleppo?” Exactly. The truth is, I ended up in Syria because I saw the photographs in Time by Alessio Romenzi, who was smuggled into Homs through the water pipes when nobody was yet aware of the existence of Homs. I saw his shots while I was listening to Radiohead – those eyes, staring at me; the eyes of people being killed by Assad’s army, one by one, and nobody had even heard of a place called Homs. A vise clamped around my conscience, and I had to go to Syria immediately.

But whether you’re writing from Aleppo or Gaza or Rome, the editors see no difference. You are paid the same: $70 per piece. Even in places like Syria, where prices triple because of rampant speculation. So, for example, sleeping in this rebel base, under mortar fire, on a mattress on the ground, with yellow water that gave me typhoid, costs $50 per night; a car costs $250 per day. So you end up maximizing, rather than minimizing, the risks. Not only can you not afford insurance – it’s almost $1,000 a month – but you cannot afford a fixer or a translator. You find yourself alone in the unknown. The editors are well aware that $70 a piece pushes you to save on everything. They know, too, that if you happen to be seriously wounded, there is a temptation to hope not to survive, because you cannot afford to be wounded. But they buy your article anyway, even if they would never buy the Nike soccer ball handmade by a Pakistani child.

With new communication technologies there is this temptation to believe that speed is information. But it is based on a self-destructive logic: The content is now standardized, and your newspaper, your magazine, no longer has any distinctiveness, and so there is no reason to pay for the reporter. I mean, for the news, I have the Internet – and for free. The crisis today is of the media, not of the readership. Readers are still there, and contrary to what many editors believe, they are bright readers who ask for simplicity without simplification. They want to understand, not simply to know. Every time I publish an eyewitness account from the war, I get a dozen emails from people who say, “Okay, great piece, great tableaux, but I want to understand what’s going on in Syria.” And it would so please me to reply that I cannot submit an analysis piece, because the editors would simply spike it and tell me, “Who do you think you are, kid?” – even though I have three degrees, have written two books, and spent 10 years in various wars, first as a human-rights officer and now as a journalist. My youth, for what it’s worth, vanished when bits of brain splattered on me in Bosnia, when I was 23.

Freelancers are second-class journalists – even if there are only freelancers here, in Syria, because this is a dirty war, a war of the last century; it’s trench warfare between rebels and loyalists who are so close that they scream at each other while they shoot each other. The first time on the frontline, you can’t believe it, with these bayonets you have seen only in history books. Today’s wars are drone wars, but here they fight meter by meter, street by street, and it’s fucking scary. Yet the editors back in Italy treat you like a kid; you get a front-page photo, and they say you were just lucky, in the right place at the right time. You get an exclusive story, like the one I wrote last September on Aleppo’s old city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, burning as the rebels and Syrian army battled for control. I was the first foreign reporter to enter, and the editors say: “How can I justify that my staff writer wasn’t able to enter and you were?” I got this email from an editor about that story: “I’ll buy it, but I will publish it under my staff writer’s name.”

And then, of course, I am a woman. One recent evening there was shelling everywhere, and I was sitting in a corner, wearing the only expression you could have when death might come at any second, and another reporter comes over, looks me up and down, and says: “This isn’t a place for women.” What can you say to such a guy? Idiot, this isn’t a place for anyone. If I’m scared, it’s because I’m sane. Because Aleppo is all gunpowder and testosterone, and everyone is traumatized: Henri, who speaks only of war; Ryan, tanked up on amphetamines. And yet, at every torn-apart child we see, they come only to me, a “fragile” female, and want to know how I am. And I am tempted to reply: I am as you are. And those evenings when I wear a hurt expression, actually, are the evenings I protect myself, chasing out all emotion and feeling; they are the evenings I save myself.

Because Syria is no longer Syria. It is a nuthouse. There is the Italian guy who was unemployed and joined al-Qaeda, and whose mom is hunting for him around Aleppo to give him a good beating; there is the Japanese tourist who is on the frontlines, because he says he needs two weeks of “thrills”; the Swedish law-school graduate who came to collect evidence of war crimes; the American musicians with bin Laden-style beards who insist this helps them blend in, even though they are blonde and six-feet, five-inches tall. (They brought malaria drugs, even if there’s no malaria here, and want to deliver them while playing violin.) There are the various officers of the various UN agencies who, when you tell them you know of a child with leishmaniasis (a disease spread by the bite of a sand fly) and could they help his parents get him to Turkey for treatment, say they can’t because it is but a single child, and they only deal with “childhood” as a whole.

But we’re war reporters, after all, aren’t we? A band of brothers (and sisters). We risk our lives to give voice to the voiceless. We have seen things most people will never see. We are a wealth of stories at the dinner table, the cool guests who everyone wants to invite. But the dirty secret is that instead of being united, we are our own worst enemies; and the reason for the $70 per piece isn’t that there isn’t any money, because there is always money for a piece on Berlusconi’s girlfriends. The true reason is that you ask for $100 and somebody else is ready to do it for $70. It’s the fiercest competition. Like Beatriz, who today pointed me in the wrong direction so she would be the only one to cover the demonstration, and I found myself amid the snipers as a result of her deception. Just to cover a demonstration, like hundreds of others.

Yet we pretend to be here so that nobody will be able to say, “But I didn’t know what was happening in Syria.” When really we are here just to get an award, to gain visibility. We are here thwarting one another as if there were a Pulitzer within our grasp, when there’s absolutely nothing. We are squeezed between a regime that grants you a visa only if you are against the rebels, and rebels who, if you are with them, allow you to see only what they want you to see. The truth is, we are failures. Two years on, our readers barely remember where Damascus is, and the world instinctively describes what’s happening in Syria as “that mayhem,” because nobody understands anything about Syria – only blood, blood, blood. And that’s why the Syrians cannot stand us now. Because we show the world photos like that 7-year-old child with a cigarette and a Kalashnikov. It’s clear that it’s a contrived photo, but it appeared in newspapers and websites around the world in March, and everyone was screaming: “These Syrians, these Arabs, what barbarians!” When I first got here, the Syrians stopped me and said, “Thank you for showing the world the regime’s crimes.” Today, a man stopped me; he told me, “Shame on you.”

Had I really understood something of war, I wouldn’t have gotten sidetracked trying to write about rebels and loyalists, Sunnis and Shia. Because really the only story to tell in war is how to live without fear. It all could be over in an instant. If I knew that, then I wouldn’t have been so afraid to love, to dare, in my life; instead of being here, now, hugging myself in this dark, rancid corner, desperately regretting all I didn’t do, all I didn’t say. You who tomorrow are still alive, what are you waiting for? Why don’t you love enough? You who have everything, why you are so afraid?

Muslim Brotherhood says Egypt’s new president is secretly Jewish

July 06, 2013

A man wound yesterday in clashes in Cairo



[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach four articles connected to the ongoing change of government / coup / anti-Islamic revolution in Egypt.

In the first article, Roger Boyes writes in The Times of London about how “the Arab Spring unleashed disorder, not democracy.” He says “What is happening in Egypt marks the death of an idea: that greater political choice and free speech could swiftly transform the Middle East. That turns out to have been a Western mirage in the desert. None of the European points of reference, from the uprisings of 1848 to the toppling of communism in 1989, really applied to the modern Arab world, not to the teeming urban poor of Cairo, nor the frustrated medical students of Bahrain nor the warlords of Libya. We wanted a different outcome. We wanted dictatorship to be replaced by democracy. Instead it was replaced by the escalating collapse of nation states… Here’s the rub: you can’t have a coup d’état without an état. And there just isn’t much of a state structure left, not in Egypt, not in Libya, not in Syria.”

In the second piece, Fraser Nelson writes in the (London) Daily Telegraph that “It is capitalism, not democracy, that the Arab world needs most.” (Tom Gross: And I would add, among other things: a free press, and tolerance and respect for minorities.)

In the third piece, the Washington Post reports that IkhwanOnline, the official website of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, posted an article on Thursday asserting that the country’s new interim president, Adly Mansour, is secretly Jewish.

The website also stated that Mohamed ElBaradei (the relatively moderate former nuclear negotiator who some think should now be appointed Egyptian prime minister) was also a secret friend of the Jews because ElBaradei had refused to participate in a conference that denied the Holocaust.

(Tom Gross adds: Millions of Egyptians routinely engage in conspiracy theories – often anti-Semitic and anti-American. Western diplomats expressed astonishment at the outright anti-Semitism former president Morsi expressed last year in private meetings with them. If they were aware of Morsi’s long record of making anti-Semitic statements, they would not have been surprised.)

In the fourth piece, Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab writes that Hamas stands to be the major loser in the popular revolt in Egypt against the Muslim Brotherhood. (Hamas is ideologically part of the Muslim Brotherhood.)

-- Tom Gross


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1. “The Arab Spring unleashed disorder, not democracy” (By Roger Boyes, The Times of London, July 2, 2013)
2. “It is capitalism, not democracy, that the Arab world needs most” (By Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph (London), July 5, 2013)
4. “Muslim Brotherhood site says Egypt’s new president is secretly Jewish” (By Max Fisher, Washington Post, July 5, 2013)
4. “Hamas, First Victim of Egypt Revolt” (By Daoud Kuttab, Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse, July 3, 2013)



The Arab Spring unleashed disorder, not democracy
By Roger Boyes
The Times (of London)
July 2, 2013

The Arab Spring has failed. Angry crowds ransacked the offices of Egypt’s democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi, this week just as they once forced their way into the marble palaces of the region’s dictators. The mob set the place on fire and if there had been a statue of the president they would surely have toppled it.

What is happening in Egypt is not just part of a global revolt against austerity or a protest against the yawning gulf between rich and poor. It marks the death of an idea: that greater political choice and free speech could swiftly transform the Middle East. That turns out to have been a Western mirage in the desert. None of the European points of reference, from the uprisings of 1848 to the toppling of communism in 1989, really applied to the modern Arab world, not to the teeming urban poor of Cairo, nor the frustrated medical students of Bahrain nor the warlords of Libya.

We wanted a different outcome. We wanted dictatorship to be replaced by democracy. Instead it was replaced by the escalating collapse of nation states. In the squares and streets of Cairo we can watch this tumbling-down in real time. There are plenty of men with weapons in the mob; guns have been flooding in from the Libyan surplus stockpiles and amateur armourers make improvised ones, called fards, that fire birdshot. These were fired at President Morsi’s HQ this week. Because the police are all but invisible, because there has been a twelvefold increase in armed robberies since the 2011 “Spring”, because the murder rate has increased 300 per cent, the small arms market is booming.

In all other respects, though, the economy is shrivelling. One quarter of the population are struggling to live below the very low Egyptian poverty line. Unemployment has soared. To keep fuel and food subsidies — and thus head off further unrest — President Morsi has dipped into foreign reserves, which have plunged from $36 billion before the Spring to $13 billion last March.

You could put this down to Mr Morsi’s incompetence, or at least to the failure of his Muslim Brotherhood to reinvent itself as a governing class. More charitably, you could blame the huge corruption and wastefulness of his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. But it is a more general malaise. The Egyptians were rightly proud that they (like the Tunisians before them) were able to unseat their dictator themselves rather than by a Western invasion in the manner of Saddam Hussein.

That brief satisfaction has now given way to fury that the State can no longer meet expectations of security or prosperity — and a gathering sense that the Islamists are actually afraid to govern, or to accept the consequences of leadership. Thus Mr Morsi eagerly accepted $4 billion from Qatar and Saudi Arabia this year because it was easier to be in hock to Arab oil-producers than to swallow the conditions of an IMF rescue package.

Across the region the State is only just functioning. In Libya the Gaddafi-enforced consensus among tribes has given way to outright rivalry. In Syria few still believe that Bashar Assad will be able to rescue even the shell of the state that he inherited from his father. Rather, the to-and-fro of the fighting, seemingly random to Western outsiders, seems to reflect Assad’s determination to establish a secure Alawite enclave connected through a land corridor to Hezbollah-controlled areas of northern Lebanon.

Much blood has still to flow but the Syrian outcome may well be two dysfunctional states, one controlled by Assad or by Alawite generals who have displaced him, and the other by a Western-backed rebel administration.

Nobody in the region is getting what he or she wants. Minorities feel threatened. Women are more marginalised than before the Spring. Justice is as corrupt. In Egypt official courts have virtually withdrawn from the Sinai, replaced by Sharia justice. And according to some estimates 80 per cent of the secret police were previously employed by Mr Mubarak.

Is that what the West wants? Probably not, but nobody is really asking us: two years after the Arab Spring, the West is even more helpless than it was. The Army may soon become a pivotal force in Egypt again.

Yesterday it gave the Government of President Morsi 48 hours to satisfy the (unspecified) demands of the people, otherwise it would take over the reins. The military high command says that the swirling crowds have now become a matter of national security (code for a putsch that would probably throw its weight behind a transitional government of technocrats until parliamentary elections later in the year).

So the West’s dilemma is more or less the same as it was two years ago: do we accept a military takeover that brings a semblance of stability to a strategically important country? Or do we speak out for a democratic process that is in part the product of our imaginations? My bet is that, in our funk, we will accept the Army as the least-worst option and pretend to believe its self-portrayal as the guardian of the people.

But here’s the rub: you can’t have a coup d’état without an état. And there just isn’t much of a state structure left, not in Egypt, not in Libya, not in Syria.



It is capitalism, not democracy, that the Arab world needs most
Property rights for aid: this could be the most effective anti-poverty strategy in history
By Fraser Nelson
Daily Telegraph (London)
July 5, 2013

To watch events in Egypt is like seeing a videotape of the Arab Spring being played backwards. The ballot box has been kicked away, the constitution torn up, the military has announced the name of a puppet president – and crowds assemble in Tahrir Square to go wild with joy. The Saudi Arabian monarchy, which was so nervous two years ago, has telegrammed its congratulations to Cairo’s generals. To the delight of autocrats everywhere, Egypt’s brief experiment with democracy seems to have ended in embarrassing failure.

Normally, Western leaders would be lining up to deplore a coup d’etat, but yesterday even William Hague seemed lost for words. As a rule of thumb, he says, Britain prefers civilian rule. But when asked to condemn the Cairo coup, he declined. The Arab world’s Twitter accounts, once full of revolutionary optimism, have turned into a depository of despair. “Egypt has taught me that democracy is a lie and an elected president is a myth,” wrote Ahmed al-Husseini, a Sunni preacher from Bahrain. “No parliament, no elections, no ballot boxes. All lies.”

He has a point. Egypt’s election turned out to be like an Irish EU referendum: voters could give any answer they liked, as long as it was the right one. The army didn’t like how things were going, so it has asked voters to choose again. While the West was celebrating Egypt joining the comity of democratic nations, Egyptians themselves were sliding into an economic abyss, with terrifying shortages of fuel, food and security. Sectarian violence has been thrown into the mix, with persecution of the Coptic Christians followed by Sunni v Shia strife. The murder rate trebled. Things were falling apart, which is why the generals were welcomed back.

But the Arab Spring was a demand for freedom, not necessarily democracy – and the distinction between the two is crucial. Take, for example, the case of Mohammed Bouazizi, who started this chain of events by burning himself alive on a Tunisian street market two years ago. As his family attest, he had no interest in politics. The freedom he wanted was the right to buy and sell, and to build his business without having to pay bribes to the police or fear having his goods confiscated at random. If he was a martyr to anything, it was to capitalism.

All this has been established by Hernando de Soto, a Peruvian economist who travelled to Egypt to investigate the causes of the Arab Spring. His team of researchers found that Bouazizi had inspired 60 similar cases of self-immolation, including five in Egypt, almost all of which had been overlooked by the press. The narrative of a 1989-style revolution in hope of regime change seemed so compelling to foreigners that there was little appetite for further explanation. But de Soto’s team tracked down those who survived their suicide attempts, and the bereaved families. Time and again, they found the same story: this was a protest for the basic freedom to own and acquire ras el mel, or capital.

Bouazizi killed himself after police confiscated all his fruit and a pair of second-hand electronic scales. This was all he had. He was a gifted trader; he had hoped to save enough money to buy a car and grow his business. On the face of it, losing some fruit and a £100 pair of scales seems like an odd basis for suicide. But having made enemies of the police, Bouazizi realised he would not be allowed to trade again. His family say he felt his life had ended and that, if he died for any cause, it should be that the poor should be able to buy and sell.

For most of the developing world, no such right exists. In theory, everyone is protected by law. But in practice, the process of acquiring a legal licence is so riddled with bribery and bureaucracy that only a small minority can afford to go through with it. To de Soto, this explains much of world poverty. Step out of the door of the Nile Hilton, he says, and you are not leaving behind the world of internet, ice machines and antibiotics. The poor have access to all of these things if they really want it. What you are leaving behind is the world of legally enforceable transactions of property rights. These traders do not really break the law – the law breaks them.

Take Fadoua Laroui, a Moroccan mother, whose suicide was filmed. She explained her reasons before setting herself alight. “I am going to immolate myself,” she said. “I am doing this to protest against hogra and economic exclusion.” Hogra means contempt towards small traders, the contempt which Bouazizi was shown by the police. A similar story was told by the survivors, and the relatives of the deceased. As Bouazizi’s brother explained to de Soto: “People like Mohammed are concerned with doing business. They don’t understand anything about politics.”

Technically, the law covers everyone. But under Hosni Mubarak, for example, opening a small bakery in Cairo took more than 500 days of bureaucracy. To open a business in Egypt means dealing with 29 government agencies. The same story is true throughout the region: the average Arab needs to present four dozen documents and endure two years of red tape to become the legal owner of land or business. If you don’t have the time or money for this, you are condemned to life in the black market: no matter how good you are, you will never trade your way out of poverty. Arabs are so angry about this that they are burning themselves alive.

William Hague said yesterday that Egyptians want the freedom to express their views and choose their governments. Stability, he said, “comes from democratic institutions”. Yet there has been depressingly little evidence of this stability in democratic Egypt – as the Saudis are gleefully pointing out. This sets a terrible example to other fledgling democracies: that if things get tough, the army can eject the government and start again. Whoever follows Mohammed Morsi as president will know that, in effect, he serves at the pleasure of the military.

A few weeks ago, de Soto told the US Congress that the West has fundamentally misread the Arab Spring and is missing a massive opportunity. Bouazizi, and the five Egyptians who self-immolated, spoke for 380 million Arabs who lack property rights or any legal protection. This applies to Britain: if we were to become champions of these people, and demand the extension of property rights in return for our foreign aid, it could be the most effective anti-poverty strategy ever devised. And it might make us millions of new friends in the Arab world.

This is not a new idea, but the revival of an old one. As Margaret Thatcher once put it, “being democratic is not enough – a majority cannot turn what is wrong into right”. Freedom, she said, depends on the strength of the institutions: law and order, a free press, the police and an army that serves the government rather than supervises it. History is proving her right – in Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq and now in Egypt. The façade of democracy can be horribly deceptive; it is the strength of institutions that decides if nations rise or fall.



Muslim Brotherhood site says Egypt’s new president is secretly Jewish
By Max Fisher
Washington Post
July 5, 2013

IkhwanOnline, the official Web site of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, posted an article on Thursday asserting that the country’s new interim president, Adly Mansour, is secretly Jewish. The article, since taken offline, suggested that Mansour was part of an American and Israeli conspiracy to install Mohamed ElBaradei, a former U.N. official and Egyptian opposition figure, as president.

Mansour, the supreme justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, was sworn in as interim president on Thursday after the military announced that President Mohamed Morsi was no longer in charge. Morsi was a close ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has held large demonstrations protesting his ouster. That the Muslim Brotherhood would be suspicious of Mansour, and of the military that toppled Morsi to install him, is not surprising.

Still, the IkhwanOnline article suggests that some elements of the Muslim Brotherhood may be indulging in conspiracy theories that ignore their own role in public outrage about Morsi’s rule and may be promoting the anti-Semitic ideas that engendered so much international skepticism of their rule. There is no indication that there is any truth to the article.

The article cited as its source the purported Facebook page of an al-Jazeera Arabic broadcaster, although it’s not clear whether the Facebook page is real. The article claims that Mansour is “considered to be a Seventh Day Adventist, which is a Jewish sect” (in fact, Seventh Day Adventism is considered part of Protestant Christianity). It further claims that Mansour tried to convert to Christianity but was rebuffed by the Coptic pope, a major Egyptian religious figure, who supposedly refused to baptize him.

The article goes on to connect Mansour’s appointment as president to a global conspiracy involving the United States, Israel and Mohamed ElBaradei. According to a translation by the site MBInEnglish, which is run by Cairo-based journalists and dedicated to translating Brotherhood-penned articles into English, the article claimed that ElBaradei had refused to participate in a conference that denied the Holocaust. This, it says, was “a token gesture offered to the Jews by ElBaradei so that he can become President of the Republic in the fake elections that the military will guard and whose results they will falsify in their interests. All with the approval of America, Israel and the Arabs, of course.”

The article has since been removed, suggesting perhaps that someone in the Brotherhood had acknowledged the potential for criticism. It would be wrong to conclude from just this one article that the Muslim Brotherhood was retreating back into some of its worst habits: conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism, the insistence that no disagreement could be legitimate. But now that the group has been forced from power, this is a very real risk — not just for the group and its chances of regaining power, but for an Egyptian political system that is dangerously divided.



Hamas, First Victim of Egypt Revolt
By Daoud Kuttab
Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse
July 3, 2013

Hamas stands to be the major loser in the latest popular revolt in Egypt, which pits millions of Egyptians against now deposed President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Islamic Resistance Movement, known for its Arabic acronym Hamas, a year ago welcomed Morsi’s election. Both Hamas and Morsi ideologically belong to the same Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, although there is no organizational link between the two groups. In fact, contrary to conventional thinking, Hamas and the Morsi administration have had a rocky relationship despite their ideological closeness. Many Egyptians accuse Hamas of responsibility for the killing of 16 of its soldiers in August 2012 near the Gaza-Egypt border. Egypt’s government-controlled al-Ahram observed as late as April that Egyptian support for Hamas was declining.

Reports that some 7,000 Hamas militants were in Egypt to support the Brotherhood circulated in the media despite persistent denials by Egyptian as well as Hamas spokesmen. Like Hezbollah, Hamas is accused in Egyptian courts of engineering the jailbreak of several senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Morsi, in 2011.

Egyptians also believe that Hamas members have been the key source of instability in Sinai. In April, Egyptian soldiers and officers were abducted there, and Hamas was accused of involvement. Although Hamas denies the allegations, they persist, putting Hamas officials on the defensive.

When opponents of the Morsi regime announced mass protests demanding Morsi’s resignation, anti-Hamas sentiment escalated with rumors that Hamas militants would be infiltrating from Gaza to help keep Morsi in power. The rumors caused the Egyptian government to ratchet-up its efforts to close the Rafah tunnels between Gaza and Egypt to control the movement of people and to put the rumors to rest.

Despite these efforts, the rumors implicating Hamas in propping up the Morsi regime continued to circulate, prompting additional Egyptian attempts to close the tunnels and restrict movement, a process that is causing severe shortages in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Whatever the truth regarding Hamas’ involvement or lack thereof, perceptions in the streets and squares of Egypt put the Hamas movement in the same corner with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Because of this, now that Morsi has fallen, one of the first groups to pay the price will be Hamas.

This comes at the worse possible time for the Islamist movement, which recently lost its base in Syria and financial support from Iran as a result of its decision to oppose former ally and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and join the rebels in trying to bring him down.

Even friendly Qatar might discontinue its political and financial support of Hamas. The change in leadership in Doha, with the transfer of power to Prince Tamim, is said to be the result of a yet undeclared policy to moderate Qatar’s foreign policy. When the pro-Qatari Islamist ideologue Yusuf al-Qaradawi traveled to Egypt this week, he went out of his way to point out that he had not been deported from Qatar.

The fate of Morsi and Hamas have been linked, and the coming days will determine the fate, for years to come, of the Palestinian Islamist organization that has held the Gaza Strip under its sole control since 2007, refusing every opportunity for reconciliation or elections.

Daily Muslim call to prayer on British public TV (& Israeli rabbis: Weed “can be kosher”)

July 03, 2013

Andrew Pochter, the idealistic American-Jewish student stabbed to death in Cairo


* The British broadcaster says the daily Muslim call to prayer is an act of “deliberate provocation” aimed at viewers who “might associate Islam with extremism”

* Channel 4: “Let’s not forget that Islam is one of the few religions that’s flourishing, actually increasing in the UK. Like Channel 4’s target audience, its followers are young”

* Ha’aretz: Netanyahu willing to cede 90% of the West Bank in compromise

* Much-needed Israeli electoral reform on its way

* Cisco CEO John Chambers: Israel will be the first fully digital nation

* Rabbi Hagai Bar Giora, head of the “kitchens, bakeries, factories, catering and events divison” of the Israeli chief rabbinate, on cannabis: “If you smoke it, there is no problem whatsoever.” Rabbi Efraim Zalmanovich, clarifies the remarks: Smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes is kosher, but using weed for fun is forbidden


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



1. Britain’s Channel 4 to air daily Muslim call to prayer during Ramadan
2. Turkish Jews fear attack after Deputy PM links Jewish Diaspora to protests
3. U.S. citizen killed in Egypt identified as idealistic Jewish college student
4. Egyptian President “must be held responsible for mob attack on Shia”
5. Russia and Iran to hold joint naval exercises in Caspian Sea
6. Reuters: Iran importing missile-grade French, German alumina ore
7. Ha’aretz: Netanyahu willing to cede 90% of the West Bank in compromise
8. Israel set to raise Knesset electoral threshold
9. Cisco CEO: Israel will be the first digital state
10. Israeli Rabbi: Weed can be kosher if used for a good reason

[Notes below by Tom Gross]


Channel 4 (the British public-service television broadcaster known for the left-wing slant in its news coverage) has announced that it will air the Muslim call to prayer live every morning during the month of Ramadan. Channel 4 says it will broadcast the three-minute call to prayer at about 3 am for 30 days from the start of Ramadan on July 9. A short film of two to three minutes, called “Ramadan Reflections,” will run ahead of each morning’s call to prayer.

The broadcaster said it was an act of “deliberate provocation” aimed at viewers who “might associate Islam with extremism.”

In addition, on the first day of Ramadan Channel 4 will interrupt programming four times during the day – to mark subsequent calls to prayer – with a 20-second film to remind viewers of the approaching prayer time.

Ralph Lee, Channel 4’s head of factual programming, said: “Observing the adhan on Channel 4 will act as a nationwide tannoy system, a deliberate ‘provocation’ to all our viewers in the very real sense of the word.”

Lee added in an article published in the Radio Times: “Let’s not forget that Islam is one of the few religions that’s flourishing, actually increasing in the UK. Like Channel 4’s target audience, its followers are young. It’s recently been reported that half of British Muslims are under 25.”

The Muslim Council of Britain said it applauded Channel 4’s move.

Channel 4 is also launching a season of programs around the period of prayer, called 4Ramadan, starting on July 8.

The broadcaster – which does not broadcast church bells ringing on Sunday mornings, nor candle lightings to mark the start of the Jewish Sabbath, nor does it mark Hindu and Sikh and other holy days – controversially invited the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to deliver its alternative “Christmas message” in 2008, at the height of Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial.

For more on that, please see this dispatch:
New low for British media: Ahmadinejad invited to address UK on Christmas (Dec. 24, 2008)


London mayor Boris Johnson (who is said to have ambitions to be a future British prime minister) today sent out a tweet saying he was very excited that London would this year be hosting the “World Islamic Economic Forum” – the “1st time outside a Muslim country.”



Turkey’s small remaining Jewish community is fearful that comments by Turkey’s deputy prime minister who said the “Jewish Diaspora” was behind recent anti-government unrest, could trigger violence against Jews in Turkey.

Besir Atalay, one of four Turkish deputy prime ministers, on Monday accused “foreign powers and the Jewish Diaspora” of triggering the demonstrations that have brought parts of Turkey’s cities to a standstill in recent weeks. According to the Turkish Interior Ministry, millions of people have demonstrated in 79 of the 81 Turkish cities. Several people have been killed and many thousands injured, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

“World powers and the Jewish Diaspora prompted the unrest and have actively encouraged it,” Atalay said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan added in cryptic comments that “the interest rate lobby” was behind the protests.

The Turkish Jewish Community, the body which represents most of Turkey’s 23,000 Jews, said Atalay’s remarks could lead to violence against its members in a mostly Muslim country of 76 million.

Most Turkish Jews trace their roots to the 15th Century when their ancestors found refuge in the Ottoman Empire after they fled the Spanish Inquisition.

Earlier this year, Erdogan called Zionism “a crime against humanity.”

On Twitter on June 16, the mayor of the Turkish capital Ankara, Melih Gokcek, who is member of Erdogan’s ruling party, said the Gezi protests were a “a game of the Jewish lobby”.

I noted in this dispatch in June that the pro-Erdogan media were already blaming Jews for the mass anti-government protests. Please see the first item here.

Deputy Prime Minister Atalay’s anti-Semitic remarks have been widely reported in the Turkish media, for example, here in Hurriyet Daily News:



The American stabbed to death by protestors during last weekend’s clashes in Cairo has been identified as 21-year-old Kenyon College student Andrew Driscoll Pochter, of Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Pochter was an intern at AMIDEAST, a nonprofit organization that claims it is devoted to promoting education in the Middle East and North Africa. (For more about AMIDEAST, see below.)

Pochter’s parents told CNN: “Our beloved 21-year-old son and brother Andrew Driscoll Pochter went to Alexandria for the summer, to teach English to 7 and 8 year old Egyptian children and to improve his Arabic. He was looking forward to returning to Kenyon College for his junior year and to spending his spring semester in Jordan.”

“As we understand it, he was witnessing the protest as a bystander and was stabbed by a protester. He went to Egypt because he cared profoundly about the Middle East, and he planned to live and work there in the pursuit of peace and understanding.”

Pochter’s professor at Kenyon College said Pochter (who was Jewish) had wanted to show Egyptians that Jews wanted to help them.

Pochter was an active member of a group of Kenyon students interested in approving links between Jews and Arabs.

Here is a piece from the American Jewish paper The Forward on American Jewish idealists living in Egypt:


AMIDEAST, the organization for whom Andrew Pochter interned, this past February 2013 marked the end of the tenure of Al-Azhar Grand Mufti Sheik Ali Gomaa (also spelled “Ali Gum’a”) with a public ceremony for the cleric who helped preside over Sunni Islamdom’s equivalent of the Vatican, giving him an engraved silver plate that read:

“AMIDEAST recognizes and honors the prominent role of the Grand Mufti Dr. Ali Gomaa in strengthening mutual understanding and cooperation between Americans and the peoples of the Muslim world.”

But critics, such as Andrew Bostom, point out that Dr. Gomaa is a notorious anti-Semite (as well as holding very hostile views on women and gays). For example, Gomaa said in 2006 that the “Hebrew entity” is full of “bloodsuckers” who prepared Passover matzos with “human [non-Jewish] blood,” to cite but on example of Gomaa’s bigotry:



The organization “Shia Rights Watch” has strongly condemned the mob attack on Shia Muslims last week in which Sheikh Hassan Shehata and three other Egyptian Shia Muslims were brutally murdered in the village of Zawya Abu Muslim in Giza

Shia Rights Watch alleged that “crimes against Shia are supported by the Egyptian president since he promotes hate speeches against Shia by clerics in public.”

News reports indicate the Shia were publically lynched by a mob of over 1,000 people.



The Russian Navy, which is stationed in the Caspian Sea, has announced plans for joint exercises with the Iranian Navy at a date yet to be made public in the second half of this year.

The announcement was made after a meeting last week between the Russians and the commander of the Iranian guided-missile boats fleet who was visiting the port of Astrakhan. Iran has dispatched two domestically manufactured missile-launching frigates to Astrakhan.

The Iranian navy has recently been increasing its presence in international waters.



Iran has been exploiting a loophole in Western sanctions, in order to import high grade refined alumina ore from several European countries, including Germany and France, that Tehran could use to make armor parts and missile components, according to a report by the Reuters news agency.

The refined ore has been excluded from European Union sanctions, but tightened U.S. sanctions that came into effect on July 1 seek to close this loophole. According to a U.S. Treasury briefing, the latest measures will cover “raw or semi-finished metals” that include aluminum.

Export data from the independent firm Global Trade Information Services revealed that between January 2012 and March 2013, around 4,000 tons of alumina was sold to Iran mostly from Germany and France, but also from Slovenia, Italy, Hungary and Belgium.

Experts say the high price paid of $700-$1,000 a ton and relatively low amounts involved indicate the exports were probably high purity chemical grade alumina, a powder that is combined with other materials to make ceramic composites for missiles and armor.



Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is willing to cede 90% of the West Bank to the Palestinians in a peace deal so long as Israel’s security needs are met, according to the (anti-Netanyahu) Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz.

The paper reports that Netanyahu is willing to discuss final status borders if U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry succeeds in re-launching the peace talks with the Palestinians, but maintains that the Palestinian state must be demilitarized and not be used as a future springboard to declare war on Israel.



Two new bills, submitted by Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party and by Avigdor Lieberman’s rightist Yisrael Beitenu party, aim to double the threshold for gaining seats in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, therefore trying to boost political stability in Israel.

Because of the low threshold to gain entry to parliament in Israel’s “pure democracy,” ruling coalitions sometimes comprise as many as eight parties, leading to constant instability. Israel has had 33 governments (in 19 Knessets) in 65 years, many lasting for only half their allotted terms.

Both bills are likely to pass, and will raise a party’s threshold for entering the Knesset from the current level of 2% of all votes cast, to 4%.

That would strengthen bigger parties and make it harder for smaller parties to enter the Knesset -- such as Meretz, United Torah Judaism and the Kadima party, which has just two seats in the current Knesset.

The current government has 21 ministers (not including the prime minister) and eight deputy ministers overseeing 30 ministerial portfolios. If the bills pass, no more than 18 ministers (not including the PM) and four deputy ministers would be able to serve in any one government. Both bills make clear that the changes would only go into effect in the next Knesset.


For analysis of the election results earlier this year, please see:

Israeli democracy is alive and well (Jan. 24, 2013).



Cisco CEO John Chambers said it appears that Israel will be the first end-to-end digital nation in the world. Chambers noted that whereas most countries upgrade one area at a time, Israel is moving to connect homes with fiber-optic networks and infrastructure in businesses, education, healthcare and security all at once. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has asked Cisco to help with the upgrade.

“It’s a project that Cisco is very much committed to and proud to do,” Chambers said. “This is going to be the first digital nation, if we’re successful.”

Netanyahu said in a meeting with Chambers, that it was vitally important to have strong technological infrastructure in place to achieve the rapid growth in the coming years.

Over the course of the next decade, it is estimated that private companies worldwide will be able to generate $14 trillion in profits from the ever-increasing connectivity of devices known as “The Internet of Everything.”

According to Chambers, the next wave of network technology that doesn’t just connect computers but also appliances, objects, processes and data, will integrate fields as disparate as healthcare and education. Based on Cisco’s estimates, in 2013 alone the “Internet of Everything” profits will reach $613 billion.



Efraim Zalmanovich, the orthodox rabbi of Mazkeret Batia, a town south of Tel Aviv, has made a halachic ruling that distributing and smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes is kosher, but using weed for fun is forbidden.

His ruling was reported in the Israeli paper Ma’ariv, which noted that rabbis frequently make rulings to try and reconcile halacha (Jewish religious law), with modern lifestyles.

Zalmanovich’s ruling was made to clarify an opinion given by Rabbi Hagai Bar Giora, head of the “kitchens, bakeries, factories, catering and events divison” of the Israeli chief rabbinate, who in March told Israel’s “Magazine Cannabis”: “If you smoke it, there is no problem whatsoever.”

About 11,000 Israelis use medicinal marijuana, including those with post-traumatic disorders and Parkinson’s disease, according to the Israeli health ministry.

Israel distributes more medical marijuana than any European country, Health Minister Yael German said in a recent Knesset statement: “Israel distributes nearly 400 kilograms of cannabis per month, in comparison with, for example, the Netherlands which provides only 150 kilograms in a whole year.”

[Notes above by Tom Gross]