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Ironically, Israel does protect the holy sites of all religions in a way that no Muslim country does. Muslim governments and Muslim mobs routinely desecrate and destroy non-Muslim houses of worship, do not allow other religions to openly flourish and, in addition, persecute, abduct, exile or murder those of other faiths. Israel does not do this.
But the Jewish state does look the other way when Jewish women, who are praying in a modest and religiously acceptable fashion at Jerusalem’s Western (Wailing) Wall, are attacked, both physically and verbally, by ultra-religious goons. I am talking about Women of the Wall, a group that has now been in existence for twenty-one years. . . .
WOW members are not challenging the Orthodox interpretation of halacha (Jewish religious law). They do not count themselves as a minyan (prayer quorum). They do not want to pray with men, or in the men’s section. They do not pray from an egalitarian siddur (prayer book). What they do is precisely what many modern Orthodox rabbis the world over permit women to do in their own synagogues in all-women’s prayer groups. The only difference is that WOW members want to do this at the Western (Wailing) Wall, which is a public and national holy site.
In the past, the Turks and then the Jordanians literally treated this holy site as a garbage dump and as a latrine; during this time, both male and female Jews prayed next to each other in a narrow alley-like corridor. In 1967, in a war of self-defense, Israeli forces liberated The Wall. For at least a decade or more, many public ceremonies were held there. Once, Israeli female soldiers sang the national anthem there when they were inducted into the Army. They can do so no longer. . . .
Women of the Wall are routinely cursed as “Nazis,” “witches,” “Christians,” “prostitutes,” “blasphemers,” “Reform” Jews–and worse.
No ultra-religious zealot has ever been arrested for violence against WOW. Only women have been arrested for “provoking” the violence . . . .
Phyllis Chesler, “Khomeini-ism comes to Israel: Women of the Wall vs. the Jewish State,” Chesler Chronicles, January 16, 2010
Representative of the Jewish minority in the Iranian Parliament Siyamak Marre Sedq said Iran is the only country in the world where Jews enjoy full freedom to carry out their social, cultural and ritual activities.
“MP: Iran only country where Jews are allowed to worship freely,” IRNA, January 16, 2010
The last Sunday of 2009 was the first time that anti-government demonstrators turned on the security forces, shattering seven months of passivity in a wave of violence. They discovered that the Islamic Republic’s demoralized riot police no longer had much fight left in them. They often turned tail and ran. Videos emerging from Iran showed angry crowds surrounding trapped, often bloodied, police and plainclothes religious loyalists.
“What grabbed me was the look in the eyes of the soldiers standing in the streets,” one witness told me on the phone from Tehran. “You could easily notice grief, guilt and fear in most of them.”
In the shocked silence that followed, there was a feeling that the center of gravity had shifted. Another friend wrote from Tehran: “It is getting really exciting. . . . These people are fearless, brave and amazing. Nothing can stop them.”
The movement has continued to pick up speed since then. This month, a diplomat at an Iranian embassy in Europe openly told me that the time of “justice and freedom” is coming. His time scale was “the next few months.” This would have been an extraordinary statement for a loyal servant of the Islamic Republic to make anywhere, much less in an embassy reception hall, which is probably bugged.
Iason Athanasiades, “Iran’s political winds are shifting,” Los Angeles Times, January 17, 2010
The Jan. 16 meeting of the P5+1 ended ingloriously. The U.S. representative said the P5+1, which will confer again by phone this month, remains committed to the “dual track” approach, in which the possibility of sanctions on Iran is part of the “pressure track.” Western media uniformly characterize the meeting’s outcome as indecisive; but although Russia’s envoy made no definitive pronouncements, the headline at state-owned media outlet RIA Novosti was categorical: “Iran Six decides [sic] against new sanctions on Tehran.”. . .
This meeting, of course, was the threat hanging over Iran if it elected not to comply with President Obama’s Dec. 31 deadline. . . . Obama’s State Department was already soft-peddling the deadline in mid-December, an approach unlikely to impress Iran with our seriousness. In fairness, however, making such an impression would require overcoming the relentless countersignals coming from our negotiating partners, whose businesses have spent recent months deepening their commercial ties with Iran. Whether it’s France’s Total SA bidding with China to develop Iranian gas fields or German port operator HPC contracting to manage the container port in Iran’s Bandar Abbas complex, our P5+1 partners are engaging themselves to make a lot of money from precisely the commercial activities we would have to sanction to affect Iran’s nuclear aspirations.
J.E. Dyer, “Stick a Fork in It,” Commentary, January 18, 2010
The Islamic Solidarity Games, due to be held in Iran in April, have been called off because of a dispute with Arab countries over what to call the Gulf.
The games federation in Saudi Arabia said the Iranian organisers had failed to address its concerns, particularly about the planned logo and medals.
These bear the words “Persian Gulf“, but Arab countries, who call it the Arabian Gulf, reject the term.
“Islamic Solidarity Games cancelled over Gulf dispute,” BBC, January 18, 2010
A man in Qatif divorced his wife of only a week last Saturday when he discovered that she had had her appendix removed without his knowledge, believing the procedure to be the result of a hereditary condition.
Manal Abdul Hadi, “7-day wife loses appendix, hubby,” Saudi Gazette, January 19, 2010
A female school principal refused to allow male rescue teams onto the school-grounds after a student had an epileptic attack, and other students fainted at the sight of their fellow classmate in such distress.
Ibrahim Alawi, “Male rescue teams denied access to girls’ school,” Saudi Gazette, January 19, 2010
Does the plot of the film Avatar symbolize the plight of the Native Americans, or of the Palestinians, or the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and the war on terror?
Jihad el-Khazen, “. . . From the Native Americans to Palestine,” Dar Al Hayat, January 20, 2010