Dermer blasts world’s confusion on Islamic terror, treatment of Israel


The lineup of speakers at the Zionist Organization of America’s annual Louis D. Brandeis Awards dinner at the Grand Hyatt in NY Sunday evening, turned out to serve as the perfect venue for venting about Israel’s standing in the world and the offering of suggestions about the U.S. conducting the war on terror in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Paris and in Mali.

The highlight of the dinner was when Sheldon and Miriam Adelson (“The two greatest Zionists in the World,” according to ZOA President Morton Klein) presented the “Adelson Defender of Israel Award” to Hollywood actor Jon Voight.

“Voight is the leading Zionist in the entire Hollywood genre, a giant among righteous gentiles and an extraordinary defender of Israel,” Sheldon said before presenting him the award, which he said “looks like a marriage certificate.”

Israel’s new Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon addressed the crowd at the beginning of the event, describing his job as a defender of Israel’s policies as much harder than the work of Israel’s Ambassador Ron Dermer in Washington, DC. “I have to tell you, I have been here only six weeks, but it feels like six years,” he told the crowd that included top donors, politicians, and operatives, as well as hundreds of students, gathered in the ballroom. The UN Representative blasted the world body for referring to the wave of terrorism in Israel as a cycle of violence. “Let me be clear: there is no ‘cycle of violence.’ There’s only one side that is instigating violence and attacking Israelis for no reason other than the fact that they are Jews living in their historic homeland,” he stated.

Danon, who previously served as a minister in the Israeli government and as head of the World Likud, also made a point to declare, “We will not allow an international presence on Har Habayit – The Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is the heart of Jerusalem – our eternal and united capital.”

Ambassador Ron Dermer, who received the Dr. Bob Shillman Award for Outstanding Pro-Israel Diplomacy, delivered the keynote address. At the start of his speech, the Israeli Ambassador turned to Klein – an outspoken critic of the Obama administration – and quipped, “I have one request: every once and a while you need to get off the fence and tell the people what you really think – enough of this wishy-washiness back and forth.”

In his 30-minute speech, Dermer decried the world’s double standard when it comes to condemning terrorism directed at Israelis and its confusion in confronting ISIS and Islamic terrorism.

“Now that you’ve watched some of the 24/7news coverage, here is my question to all of you: by a show of hands, how many of you think the world has finally woken up? How many of you think the international community will now have the clarity to successfully prosecute this war and win it?” he asked the crowd. But no hands went up. “Zero, zero,” he joyously declared. “Well, I share your skepticism. Instead of clarity I see confusion – confusion over the nature of the enemy and confusion over the nature of terrorism.”

“The enemy has a name: it’s called Militant Islam. It’s not militant, it’s not Islam; it’s Militant Islam,” Dermer continued. “[But] it is not only important to define the enemy, it is important to defeat the enemy. And, once again, here I see confusion and [lack of] clarity. The main weapon of militant Islam today is terrorism, and to defeat them we must ensure that this weapon is neutralized. But to neutralize that weapon we must identify it. Terrorism is the deliberate targeting of non-combatants and is not defined by the identity of the perpetrator. Terrorism is an immoral weapon no matter what the circumstances… To counter them we need a moral antidote, we need moral outrage, and we need to deny terrorists any moral legitimacy for their actions… And here is where the world has totally and utterly failed.”

The Israeli Ambassador stressed that the world’s confusion is mostly notable with the “shameful treatment” of Israel. “Imagine what would happen if the international community said that the murderers in Paris and the French army in Syria were part of a ‘cycle of violence’ that had to stop,” he asserted. “Imagine what would happen if the UN Secretary General asked the French president and ISIS to act with restraint and work to restore calm.”

“The test … is not how [the world] responds to the terror attacks in Paris. It’s how it responds to the terror attacks in Jerusalem,” Dermer said. Adding, “When I see the Eiffel Tower lit up with Israeli Blue and White after a terror attack in Israel, then I will now that the world [has woken up and] finally gets it.”

Closing the evening was ZOA President Morton Klein. “We at ZOA will never be the ‘Sha! Shtil!’ (Hush! Quiet!) Jews of silence of the past,” he declared. “ZOA will blow, and blow, and blow its horn for the Jewish people of Israel.”

The event also featured former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who recently suggested that Christians should convert as many Jews possible. Klein called Bachmann the “Esther of our time” in his introductory remarks.

The National Democratic Council criticized the invitation of Bachmann. “What does ZOA have to say about Michelle Bachmann’s message that it’s more urgent than ever to convert as many Jews as possible to Christianity? Is that someone that they’d like to continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with?” the NJDC asked in an emailed statement.

Mort Klein told Jewish Insider that Bachmann apologized to him personally over the remarks, “and it was heartfelt.”

“She is an extraordinary friend of Israel and the Jewish people,” added Klein.

Amid rising Islamism in Africa, Israel-Senegal ties still flourishing


Struggling to be heard over a flock of bleating sheep, Israel’s ambassador to Senegal invites a crowd of impoverished Muslims to help themselves to about 100 sacrificial animals that the embassy corralled at a dusty community center here.

The October distribution, held as French troops battled Islamists in neighboring Mali and one month after Muslim radicals killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, is held annually in honor of Tabaski, the local name of the Muslim Eid al-Adha feast. The distribution is broadcast on national television in a land that is 95 percent Muslim, providing Israel with a powerful platform to burnish its image among Senegalese.

“It registers very strongly with locals that Israelis give them sheep for a Muslim holiday while most Arab embassies do nothing,” said Eli Ben-Tura, the Israeli ambassador.

The animals are just part of the millions that Israel has spent over the years in Senegal, a French-speaking Western African nation of 12 million where the average monthly salary is $158. In return, Senegal has supported Israel’s erection of a barrier to protect itself from Palestinian terrorism and, in December, signed over oil prospecting rights in its territorial waters to an Israeli-owned mining company.

Over the past decade, Israel's trade with Senegal has more than tripled.

“Like Israel, Senegal is an island of stability in an unstable region,” Ben-Tura told JTA in an interview last week at the Israeli Embassy overlooking Independence Plaza in Dakar, the capital city.

The importance Israel places on its partnership with Senegal was evident in Ben-Tura's speech on April 30 at Israel’s 65th Independence Day celebration at the Grand Theatre National, a magnificent structure built with Chinese funding in 2011 near Dakar’s main port.

Speaking to an audience of 1,000, Ben-Tura listed Israel’s latest gifts to the country: training for hundreds of farmers; preparations to train thousands more by Israeli experts stationed in the country; and the establishment of a permanent depot for agricultural equipment and disease control.

Even intercultural activities have not been overlooked. After speeches by Ben-Tura and Mamadou Talla, Senegal's minister of professional training, Israel Ballet artistic director Ido Tadmor and 40 local artists performed a modern dance routine featuring tea cups. Dozens of onlookers avidly recorded their every move on smartphones.

“Cultural exchange with Africa has been neglected for too long,” Ben-Tura said.

Yet beneath this seemingly symbiotic partnership may be a deeper concern.

Mali, which used to be part of a federal entity with Senegal, last year witnessed an Islamic insurgency so powerful that French troops were called in to quell it. Some 475,000 people became refugees, many of them in Senegal. Some observers believe Senegal is wooing Israel and the West mainly for protection from the Islamic upheaval.

“The effects of the insurgency are not felt here for the time being,” said Oleg Sergeev, minister-counselor of the Russian Embassy in Dakar. “But the Senegalese authorities are turning westward out of concern over the possibility that the Mali insurgency may be trickling over.”

As an impoverished Muslim nation heavily dependent on foreign aid, Senegal must toe a careful line in its embrace of the Jewish state. Anti-Semitic books with titles such as “Hitler the Zionist Puppet” are sold here at bookstands and in 2009, several hundred people burned an Israeli flag at a rally to protest Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

The Senegalese government, then chair of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, condemned the attack as “unjustified and unacceptable.” Still, the government’s condemnations never went beyond words.

“It was a very strong reaction, but it didn’t have an impact on diplomatic relations,” said Christian Clages, the German ambassador to Senegal.

Senegalese officials declined to address the reasons for their country's closeness with Israel. But observers attribute it variously to the country's moderate brand of Islam, its relative openness to the West and its past disillusionment with Arab regimes. In 1973, under pressure from Arab countries, Senegal severed its ties with Israel.

“The Arabs threatened sanctions and promised free oil but never delivered, to the bitter disappointment of the Senegalese,” said Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli Foreign Ministry official who negotiated the restoration of diplomatic relations in 1994.

Senegalese moderation was on display in 2012 when Jamra, one of the country's leading Islamic associations, protested the release of an anti-Muslim film, “The Innocence of Muslims.” The online video triggered violent protests around the world, but in Senegal, it led to the first meeting between Jamra and the Israeli Embassy.

Jamra’s executive president, Imam Massamba Diop, told JTA he learned in his November meeting with Ben-Tura that Israel had nothing to do with the film. And despite his organization's generally pro-Palestinian posture — it considers Israel’s blockade on Gaza illegal and organizes pro-Palestinian activities in Dakar — Diop supports his government's friendly relations with Israel.

“The Senegalese people deeply appreciate the event,” Diop said of the embassy's sheep distribution.

Another Senegalese Muslim leader, Sheikh Paye, arrived at the Israel Independence Day celebration in a shiny, traditional white-and-gold imam robe. A spiritual leader in one of Dakar’s 19 neighborhoods, Paye told JTA that his attachment to Israel stems neither from gratitude for its largesse nor considerations of realpolitik.

“My late father used to be a good friend of several Israeli ambassadors here,” Paye said. “He died three months ago, shortly before the Israeli Embassy’s invitation arrived. It’s an honor to represent him here to people from a country he loved but never visited.”

This past month in the Muslim world


Some news items from the Islamic world in the past month:

Nigeria:

June 18 (CNN): “A militant Islamist group [Boko Haram, which means “Western culture is forbidden”] claimed responsibility Monday for bombings the day before that the Nigerian Red Cross said left 50 people dead at three Christian churches in Nigeria.

“A suicide bomber drove at high speed through a barricade at the EWCA Goodnews Wusasa Zaria church. … Within minutes, another explosion occurred at the Christ the King Catholic Church in Zaria. … At least 10 people died and more than 50 were injured in that attack. … Later, at least 10 people died in a bombing at a church in the city of Kaduna. …

“The bombings are the latest in a string of violence directed at Nigerian churches.”


Pakistan:

July 4 (BBC): “A Pakistani mob has taken a man accused of blasphemy from a police station and burnt him to death.

“Witnesses said hundreds of people looked on as he screamed for help. Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law imposes the death penalty for insulting Islam. … The man was reportedly beaten and dragged to the spot where he is said to have desecrated the Koran. The mob then poured petrol on him and set him on fire, according to witnesses.”


Mali:

Much of Mali’s history is targeted for destruction by Islamists.

The Sunni Islamist movement, Ansar Dine, which means “Defenders of the Faith,” destroyed the graves of ancient Sufi saints, unearthed the saints’ bodies and threw them into a garbage heap. Ansar Dine did this for the same reason that the Taliban, when they ruled Afghanistan, used anti-aircraft and tank fire to destroy some of mankind’s greatest sculptures, the 1,700-year-old sandstone statues of Buddha. They believe that Islam demands the destruction of anything Muslims deem non-monotheistic.

July 1 (BBC): “Islamist rebels occupying the ancient city of Timbuktu in Mali have vowed to smash every mausoleum, in the face of international protests.”


Egypt:

In his first public speech after being elected president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi vowed that he would press the United States to release Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the “blind sheik” who is serving a life sentence for planning the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The bombing — intended to bring down the building and kill thousands of Americans — killed six Americans and injured more than a thousand.

Morsi is often referred to as a “moderate Islamist.”


Afghanistan:

Kabul, July 4 (Reuters): “A 30-year-old woman and two of her children were beheaded overnight in Afghanistan’s east, police said, in what appeared to be the latest in a rapidly growing trend of so-called honor killings.”

Kabul, July 7 (Reuters): “A man Afghan officials say is a member of the Taliban shot dead a woman accused of adultery in front of a crowd near Kabul. … The austere Islamist group dictates law even near the Afghan capital. In the three-minute video, a turban-clad man approaches a woman kneeling in the dirt and shoots her five times at close range with an automatic rifle, to cheers of jubilation from the 150 or so men watching. … ‘Allah warns us not to get close to adultery because it’s the wrong way,’ another man says as the shooter gets closer to the woman. ‘It is the order of Allah that she be executed.’ ”

This was a typical month.


Why do I note all this?

Certainly not to indict all Muslims. It goes without saying that many millions of Muslims are moral and decent people, and that the great majority of Muslim-Americans are just like other Americans. But among the American media and intellectual elites there is a denial of the evil that permeates the Islamist world. (“Islamist” refers to those Muslims — unfortunately, more than a few — who seek to have Sharia govern societies.) In August 2010, listeners to NPR and viewers of PBS, for example, were told that Islamist violence is no greater than Christian violence.

PBS host Tavis Smiley interviewed Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the ex-Muslim Somali writer and activist for human rights and for women’s rights in Islamic countries. After mentioning American-Muslim terrorist Maj. Nidal Hasan, who murdered 13 soldiers and injured another 30 at Fort Hood, Texas, and Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to murder hundreds in New York’s Times Square, this dialogue ensued:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Somehow, the idea got into their [Hasan’s and Shahzad’s] minds that to kill other people is a great thing to do and that they would be rewarded in the hereafter.

Tavis Smiley: But Christians do that every single day in this country.

Ali: Do they blow people up?

Smiley: Yes. Oh, Christians, every day, people walk into post offices, they walk into schools, that’s what Columbine is — I could do this all day long. … There are so many more examples, Ayaan, of Christians who do that than you could ever give me examples of Muslims who have done that inside this country, where you live and work.

Michel Martin of NPR, in discussing whether the Islamic mosque planned for near Ground Zero should be moved, compared the Muslim identity of the 9/11 terrorists to the “Christian identity” of American terrorist Timothy McVeigh: “Did anybody move a Christian church after Timothy McVeigh” bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995?

And ABC News “20/20” anchor Chris Cuomo tweeted this to his nearly 1 million followers: “To all my christian brothers and sisters, especially catholics — before u condemn muslims for violence, remember the crusades.”

Between the ongoing evil in many parts of the Islamic world and the Westerners who diminish that evil by arguing that Christians do the same thing, we are in trouble.


Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).