February 2006 Archives



A friend brought my attention to the front page headline in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (courtesy of the LA Times). It's a shocker.

Hamas, Israel on collision course

In honor of this enlightening and hitherto unforeseen news, I suggest a few other equally informative and newsworthy headlines for, perhaps, tomorrow's papers:


or maybe






actually, that would be news, because mostly they just talk past each other, so how about


I mean, come on, folks, I know it's been a slow news week and there's only so much you can scrape out of Dick Cheney's hunting accident, but this ... is pathetic.

But, seriously, here's a preview of at least one of tomorrow's actual headlines:

Bin Laden vows never to be captured alive in new audiotape

So who wants him alive?



Where the heck have I been? Dunno. My blogging muse has been strangely absent this week. Whether or not she returns in the near future, posting here will be spotty at best for a while. I leave for Israel in a few days and there never seems to be enough time to write much while I'm there. OTOH, my mom now has broadband access so blogging won't be as frustrating as it's been in the past. So we'll see.

In the meantime, a few cartoon comments to close out the week.

(Forgive me if this has been observed elsewhere, but I haven't heard it, so maybe you haven't, either.) The general interpretation of the message behind the most well-publicized Mohammed cartoon -- the one with the bomb fuse on the turban -- seems to be that Mohammed was a terrorist, or that Muslims in general are terrorists, or that the Koran glorifies terrorism, or something along those lines. It's funny. My personal interpretation (or at least one message I've collected from considering the drawing) is quite different.

To me, it suggests that the "image" of Mohammed is being (mis)used by certain elements as a fuse to trigger violent confrontation between Muslims and "the West" and to justify the actions of extremists. Maybe I'm giving the artist too much credit. Maybe I'm reading far too much into what was intended to be simply an insulting and offensive picture. But maybe not. That cartoon can just as easily be read as an indictment of those who "hijack" Islam for their own illegitimate purposes as a condemnation of either the religion or its Prophet.

Now, I'm not actually an adherent of the "hijacking" theory. But that's entirely beside the point. When you're handed a lemon, why not make lemonade? Some of these cartoons could have served to encourage dialogue about the cynical abuse of religious doctrine and the exploitation of faith to serve aggression. Instead, the response embodies the essence of those evils.

And then there's this. Of all the possible assinine responses to the cartoon controversy, it would be hard to top Amitai Sandy, the Israeli graphic artist who's decided that the best way to fight Muslim antisemitism is to pile on some Jewish antisemitism. Way to go, Amitai. That'll show 'em.

That's it for this week. Next Shabbat in Jerusalem!

Shabbat Shalom.



Now this is cool. Until I actually went there several years ago, I'd always referred to the host city of this year's Winter Olymics as 'Turin.' So, I imagine, did a lot of other Americans who've never visited Italy's northwest corner. Not any more.

My personal focus on that area has always been on the delectable wines and prohibitively expensive but awesome white truffles that come from the region just south of Torino. But for the next few weeks, it's all fun and games. Well, games anyway.

Shabbat Shalom.



This article appeared in the International Herald Tribune on the first of January, back when the cartoon riots were just starting to achieve launch speed. The second half of the piece sheds considerable light on the Danish approach to freedom of speech, particularly with respect to its Muslim citizens -- no matter how offensive.

Danish counterterrorism officials say a growing number of young Danish Muslims are being drawn to Hizb ut-Tahrir, or the Party of Liberation, a radical Muslim group that calls for creation of an Islamic caliphate and whose goal is the unification of all Muslim countries under one leader who would implement Sharia, the Islamic legal code. The group, which distributes its literature at mosques and on the Internet, is banned in most of the Muslim world, as well as in Russia and Germany, but it is allowed to operate in Denmark and Britain.

Terrorism experts say the group has played a major role in the radicalization of disaffected Muslim youth. But because its main weapon is ideology rather than explosives, Danish officials say, it is allowed to operate under the same permissive rules that allowed the publication of the cartoons.

Under Danish law, inciting someone to commit an act of terror is illegal, but spouting vitriol against the West or satirizing Muhammad is not. The State Prosecutor's Office investigated the group in the spring of 2004 and decided not to ban it since it was not breaking the law.

Still, legal experts say that groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir are pushing the limits of Denmark's free-speech rules. Claus Bergsoe, a Danish lawyer who has defended Islamic militants, said that balancing civil liberties and fighting terrorism had become harder since Sept. 11 and that the government was beginning to clamp down.

In the first prosecution under new counterterrorism laws introduced in 2002, a Moroccan-born Danish publisher, Said Mansour, was charged in September with inciting fellow Muslims to holy war by producing and distributing CDs and DVDs showing beheadings in Chechnya and glorifying suicide bombers. His defense counsel described the material as "controversial art." Mansour remains in custody.

Yet Hizb ut-Tahrir continues to flourish. Abu-Laban, the Muslim community leader, who also does outreach work with Muslim youth, said he had personally observed the influence of the group. He said Hizb ut-Tahrir recruited his son Taim, a 17-year-old student, by focusing on the grievances of the Muslim world in Iraq, Palestine and Chechnya, and playing on his sense of alienation by offering him instant heroism and a strong sense of identity.

In December, Taim, formerly a straight-A pupil, was expelled from Vester Borgerdyd, a Danish public school with a large Muslim minority, after teachers overheard him giving sermons calling for the destruction of Israel and assailing Danish democracy during Friday prayers at the school.

Abu-Laban blames Hizb ut-Tahrir for encouraging Taim, who has since been ordered out of the house by his father.

Consequences followed.

At the Vester Borgerdyd school, whose walls are lined with photographs of smiling students in Muslim dress, the headmistress, Anne Birgitte Rasmussen, said that Taim had been attracting a large following and that she feared his sermons would raise tensions among the school's more moderate Muslims.

After his expulsion, a committee of Danish rectors banned Friday prayers at all public schools across Denmark. Danish officials say that the maintenance of civil order trumps freedom of speech in the public school system.

"The tone of the political debate in this country, the talk about Muslims and immigrants, is making it very difficult for us," Rasmussen said.

It's also making it difficult for the Muslim immigrants. But, as always, the blame must lie elsewhere. It's never their fault.

In a secluded community center a few blocks from the school, Fadi Abdul Latif, the spokesman of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Denmark, said in an interview that the ban on school prayer was just the latest outrage from a political establishment that was trying to criminalize Islam in order to discredit the religion.

"The government says it's O.K. to make jokes about urinating on the Koran," Abdul Latif said. "They are inciting violence and provocation so that they can make new laws that discriminate even more against Muslims."

He added that the anti-Muslim rhetoric of the Danish People's Party had contributed to a swelling of Hizb ut-Tahrir's ranks in recent months.

"When Muslims see the discrimination here, they begin to listen," Abdul Latif said.

In 2002, Abdul Latif was charged with distributing hate literature that attacked Jews and praised suicide bombers as martyrs. A leaflet quoted a verse from the Koran: "And kill them from wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out." He received a 60-day suspended sentence.

In 2004, Abdul Latif distributed a flyer exhorting Muslims to "go help your brothers in Falluja and exterminate your rulers if they block your way."

Abdul Latif, a Palestinian who grew up in a refugee camp in Lebanon before moving to Copenhagen in 1986, said the call to arms was aimed at fighters in the Muslim world - not in Denmark. He said he had been called in for questioning by the police over the summer, but had continued to distribute his pamphlets unhindered.

And yet ... And yet ...

Even Hizb ut-Tahrir's fiercest critics, such as Rose, the editor behind the Muhammad cartoons, say the group should be allowed to operate as long as it does not break the law.

But Rose acknowledges that even his liberalism has its limits. He said he would not publish a cartoon of Israel's Ariel Sharon strangling a Palestinian baby, since that could be construed as "racist." He would, however, publish a cartoon poking fun at Moses or one of Jesus drinking a pint of beer.

"Muslims should be allowed to burn the Danish flag in a public square if that's within the boundaries of the law," he said. "Though I think this would be a strange signal to the Danish people who have hosted them."

Bad information


The global cartoon crisis continues to escalate. So today Condi Rice calls it like it is:

"Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes, and the world ought to call them on it," she said at a joint news conference with Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni.

I rag on Condi a lot, so I'll give her extra bonus points for this observation. But equally noteworthy was Syria's response:

Although Tehran did not immediately respond, Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, denied Rice's accusation and tried to turn the blame for the violence on Israeli and U.S. policy decisions unrelated to the cartoon row.

"We in Syria believe anti-Western sentiments are being fueled by two major things: the situation in Iraq and the situation in the occupied territories, the West Bank and Gaza," Moustapha said.

He added, "We believe that if somebody would tell Secretary Rice that Syria is not the party that occupies Iraq and is not the party that occupies the West Bank and Gaza, then probably she would know it is not Syria who is actually fueling anti-Western sentiments."

Leaving aside the all-too-predictable knee-jerk attempt to deflect a controversy that involves neither Israel nor the United States onto (who else?) the Jooos, perhaps somebody should tell Mr. Moustapha that the party that currently occupies Gaza is called the Palestinian Authority. He seems to have missed the memo.


In other 'toon headlines, some more journalists stand up for free speech.

NEW YORK -- The editorial team at the New York Press resigned after the alternative weekly newspaper decided not to run the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that have set off a worldwide furor.

And the Arab News demonstrates once again just how widely it continues to miss the mark:

JEDDAH, 9 February 2006 — Muslims are expressing further disappointment with the Danish newspaper that published sacrilegious cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) after The Guardian of London reported that the same publication had earlier refused to run cartoons of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) contending they could be offensive to readers.

An editor at Jyllands-Posten dismissed the report maintaining that the Jesus cartoons were “unsolicited material” and “silly” as protests against the blasphemous cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad claimed three more lives yesterday.

What's wrong with this?


Here's a story from Ynet about the latest Kassam attack on the Israeli town of Sderot.

Two Qassam rockets landed in the south of Israel Tuesday. The first rocket hit a house in the town of Sderot, causing damage to property and killing a cat that was hurt by shrapnel in the backyard.

The rocket landed a few meters away from two kindergartens. Following the fall, the children were rushed into reinforced rooms.

The second rocket landed in an open area at a western Negev community.

[ . . . ]

Sderot resident Avner Dadon, whose house was hit by the rocket, told Ynet that "the Qassam hit the external wall of the children's room and then flew to the backyard. The window and wall were damaged and the great luck was that the children are at school."

[ . . . ]

Etti Altman, spokesperson for the Let Animals Live organization, expressed great anger over the cat's death in the attack.

"The organization regrets the fact that Qassam rockets also hit animals, and that a poor cat in the yard was killed as a result of the firing. The responsible groups should take this into consideration and understand that the terror organizations also have the animal rights organizations to deal with," she said.

Now hold it right there. I'm a cat person. I love cats. But, really. Someone needs to get her priorities straight here.

OTOH, if Let Animals Live wants to take on the terror organizations, it's ok with me. At the moment, their outrage over the cat seems to exceed the government's outrage over the kindergartens, so maybe they could do a better job.

Idle Speculation


Are the cartoon rioters (let alone Iran) aware that the Danish newspapers aren't controlled by the Danish government?

Are they aware that there is such a thing as a newspaper that isn't controlled by its government?

Going nuts


As I said, Pittsburgh is my home town. And I'm afraid I'll be dust before the Eagles win a Superbowl. So, I'm celebrating this.


The Wicked Son


David Bogner has crafted a simply devastating indictment of Ehud Olmert's orchestrated assault last week against Amona and its origins in Sharon's 2003 Herzliya Conference speech. Most impressively, he's tied it to The Four Sons of the Passover Haggadah in a way that, for me at least, gives new and clearer meaning to that allegory. It's also forced me to rethink some of what I said about Amona, here.

An excerpt:

Ehud Olmert assumed (correctly, in my opinion) that the majority of Israeli voters hate the settlers far more than they do Hamas. So in the wake of being caught completely flat-footed by Hamas' win in the PA elections, he opted to regain his composure by playing out the only scenario where he was guaranteed to be perceived as both strong and decisive: He decided to beat Israel's 'wicked son' like a rented mule.

In the aftermath of the violence, a television crew that was stationed at a Jerusalem hospital recorded an exchange that took place between a police officer and the parents of a teenager who was in serious condition after having his skull fractured by a policeman's metal club. Unprovoked, the policeman approached the mother and said "It's a shame he didn't die". When the parents demanded the policeman's identity so they could file a complaint (something that by law is supposed to be displayed and/or offered upon demand), the policeman refused... and another policeman physically dragged the parents away from the scene.

Not surprisingly the public outrage that would have erupted had the para-military action in Amona instead been carried out against any of the thousands of illegal Arab building projects, has failed to materialize.

I hope David's essay will get the widespread attention it deserves. In the meantime, please read the rest of it, now.

And now, something nice


It's February 3rd. Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow yesterday. Tu B'Shevat is still ten days away. And I'm in the Philadelphia suburbs, where snow in March isn't unusual.

But already there are all sorts of little green growing things poking up out of the dirt in my neighborhood. It was sixty degrees here today and mostly sunny, and they seem very happy. I hope they stay that way.

Shabbat Shalom.

Oy, Palazzi again


So the JPost website had another front page story up a few days ago about my favorite Zionist Sheikh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi. I love this guy. He says all the things that so desparately need to be said by Muslims about Islamists, hatred and terror, and he's a very strong supporter of Israel. What more could we ask for?

Well, maybe a little better background checking. If you snoop around enough, you can find plenty of questions about Palazzi's credentials and background. I do notice that three of his more questionable credentials ("Secretary General of the Italian Muslim Association," "Resident Professor of Middle East Studies, Research Institute for Anthropological Sciences, Rome" and "lecturer in the Department of the History of Religion at the University of Velletri in Rome") no longer seem to be included in his resume. Good for him, because the first group disavows any connection with him (though it's clear he was there up until August, 2003, when new leadership took over) and the latter two institutions don't appear to exist.

Palazzi showed up last week on Daniel Pipes' website with a comment entitled "I agree with Daniel Pipes." I'm glad to see that Palazzi doesn't hold a grudge. A few years back, he attacked Dr. Pipes rather vehemently and sent the attack 'round the world (via a rather extensive email list). Since then, that (rather odd) attack has been published on the web, together with Dr. Pipes' response (which includes the word "fruitcake"). (For the record, that's when and why I started questioning who Palazzi really was.)

As for the organization that he clearly is affiliated with (the Islam-Israel Fellowship of The Root and Branch Association, Ltd.), it appears to be only a shadow its former self, but take a look anyway. It used to have quite a lavish website with a rather impressive international board of directors. Not any more.

And yet, Palazzi has been defended by a number of distinguished people, among them Irshad Manji, Nonie Darwish and even Jeff Jacoby. I'd put more stock in such supportive statements if they reflected any personal knowledge of the man or his background.

Then there's the other end of the spectrum, represented by this attack site (frames -- and unless you read Italian, you have to scroll down and click on "VERSIONE IN LINGUA INGLESE" to get to the English version). Not buying most of that, either, especially since the author's sympathies seem to lie somewhat to the left of Marx, but she's collected a fascinating list of accusations against Palazzi, including Holocaust denial sympathies, UFO cult membership and association with known Israeli right-wing "extremists."

And in that vein, I see the Post also saw fit to publish this strange piece of self-promotion by Palazzi's buddy Barry Chamish, a raving conspiracy-theorist who is perhaps best known for his claim that Yigal Amir didn't assassinate Yitzhak Rabin (Shimon Peres did it). Palazzi's Root & Branch Association organized and sponsored a conference promoting that claim* back in 2000. Chamish seems to think it's an idea whose time has come. (For balance, the Post also published this analysis of Chamish's conspiracy theories by Steven Plaut -- highly recommended.) (*yes, that's David Irving's website)

Don't get me wrong. I would love for Sheikh Palazzi to be the real deal, and I've been trying to find some hard evidence one way or the other for a few years now. So far, it doesn't look so good.

Showing his true colors


Little Green Footballs posted this Arab News essay by Ray Hanania -- a "comedian" who often gets away with posing as a "moderate" in the Western media.

This week, we witnessed the power of the Islamic and Arab worlds to bring a Western nation virtually to its knees. I was amazed at that power. This is over an issue that the nation’s government had nothing to do with. All I can wonder is why the Islamic and Arab world doesn’t harness that power more effectively and change policies that directly impact our causes and our beliefs?

A newspaper in Denmark, Jyllands-Posten, published a series of cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in a derogatory and libelous manner. Few Arabs or Muslims had ever heard of the newspaper before the controversy, yet they were rightly angered.

[ . . . ]

Everyday, newspapers throughout the world libel not only Islam but everything that the Arab world stands for that is principled and just. Everyday, the righteous Palestinian cause is victimized by hate crimes in newspapers all around the world, especially in the United States where free speech has exceptions when it comes to Arab and Muslim voices.

Yet we do nothing about these offenses.

The cartoons, says Hanania, also "may constitute a hate crime, which is considered an offense in most Western countries." In Mr. Hanania's fantasy world, "hate crime" obviously means any reference to which Arabs or Muslims may take offense. If you haven't yet viewed these "hate crime" cartoons for yourself, Charles has the slide show. And Jihad Watch has them up on its front page.

More shame


Lori Lowenthal Marcus, on her stint as an observer of the Arab palestinian elections, at Israpundit.



How has the Lord covered with a cloud the daughter of Zion in His anger! He has cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel, and has not remembered His footstool in the day of His anger.

The Lord has swallowed up unsparingly all the habitations of Jacob; He has thrown down in His wrath the strongholds of the daughter of Judah; He has brought them down to the ground; He has profaned the kingdom and the princes thereof.

He has cut off in fierce anger all the horn of Israel; He has drawn back His right hand from before the enemy; and He has burned in Jacob like a flaming fire, which devours round about.

-- Eicha (Lamentations) 2:1-3

Reading the news and the blogs today, the words of the prophet are echoing in my brain. I really am at a loss for words, so I'm going to pass the buck -- sort of.

Boker Tov Boulder has posted a lot of devastating photos, and commentary as well. These things just ought not to be.

As I've said before, though, I have terribly mixed feelings about the conduct of both sides in the battle over these admittedly illegal outposts. Everyone is behaving badly. In my book, there's no excuse for throwing rocks and cinder blocks at police. It's disproportionate, inappropriate, despicable. I can't imagine what sort of response a protester can expect to such actions, other than more violence. But the response surely appears to have gone way beyond what was necessary. Again, disproportionate, inappropriate, despicable.

Shai has wise words to share. So does Dave at Israelly Cool. And Ze'ev at Israel Perspectives has these observations, which are to weep for, and these, which go well beyond my own view of things but are worth sober consideration.

Ay yai yai. What is happening to us?

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