The Day In Israel: Monday Feb 22nd, 2010

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The BBC has been blasted by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) for airing an accusation that Jews around the world assist in supposed Mossad assassinations.

The AJC said in a statement that it was “dismayed that a guest on BBC Radio 4 was allowed to state unchallenged” that the Mossad relies on Jews for assassination plots.

“This baseless accusation crosses every red line between legitimate public discussion and bigoted fear-mongering,” said AJC executive director David Harris. “In less than a minute, the BBC has cast a shadow on the lives of Jews worldwide.”

BBC Radio 4’s PM program interviewed Gordon Thomas, author of Gideon’s Spies, a book about the Mossad, about the January 20 assassination of Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.

Local authorities and many international media outlets believe that the killing of Mabhouh, who bought rockets for Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip, was carried out by the Mossad.

In explaining the Mossad’s operating methods outside Israel, Thomas told PM host Eddie Mair, “They have a whole backup system called ‘asylum.’ These are people, local residents, Jewish people, who help the Mossad. It is estimated to be in the world about half a million; some people say a million; I tend to say it’s about half a million, all of them Mossad people.”

“Of course, Mr. Thomas is irresponsible in making such unfounded assertions on a radio program heard around the world,” said Harris, “but even more shocking is BBC, a premier public broadcaster with a far-reaching global network. How can the interviewer allow such aspersions to be cast on a community without the reporter calling the so-called expert to order?”

The comments also drew condemnation from observers of the BBC.

“Unfortunately, such ugly and nonsensical statements on the BBC come as no surprise. The BBC often handpicks interviewees who are likely to say such things as part of a wider pattern to demonize the State of Israel,” said Tom Gross, a former Middle East correspondent for The Sunday Telegraph and a Middle East analyst who has long been critical of BBC coverage of the region.

The AJC called on the BBC “to examine this disgraceful transmission, apologize to Jews around the world and remove from its archive the slanderous words.”

Reached for comment, the BBC press office in London said, “This interview was part of a wider piece about the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh which involved contributions from a number of people including Gordon Thomas, an author of a book about [the] Mossad.

“The sentiments expressed by Gordon Thomas were clearly his own opinions. They came at the end of the interview when it was being wrapped up and there was no time to come back on them.”

You can hear Thomas’ accusations here (from 17:30 onwards).

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

9:16PM: Oy to the vey: Someone thought this would be a good way to sell Israel.

SIZE DOESN’T MATTER – BIG PARADISE from Size Doesnt Matter on Vimeo.

6:30PM: Interesting (CNN!) report on Israel’s Winter Olympics ice skating hopefuls.

6:20PM: G-d bless Colonel Richard Kemp (who you will recall from here and here).

A former senior British army officer has said international media including the BBC are being exploited by “dark forces” who want to harm Israel.

Col Richard Kemp, who was a commander in Afghanistan, said some international criticism of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) was motivated by anti-Semitism.

He was speaking at a dinner in London hosted by a pro-Israel lobby group.

Col Kemp had defended the actions of the IDF at the UN Goldstone Hearings into the Gaza incursion of 2008.

The Israeli minister for Information and the Diaspora, Yuli Edelstein, was also present at the dinner hosted by the Zionist Federation.

He refused to comment on rumours that the Israeli secret service Mossad had fraudulently used the passports of British citizens during an operation to kill the Hamas boss Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.

Col Kemp, who is now retired from the Army and makes a living from writing, said the advice he received from the Israeli armed forces on how to tackle Afghan suicide bombers had been invaluable, and formed the basis of official army guidelines used by soldiers on the ground there.

There were some “bad” soldiers in the IDF, Col Kemp acknowledged.

But he added that despite similarities between the IDF and British forces, UK soldiers did not have to deal with the same amount of criticism from the international community.

“When we go into battle we do not get the same knee-jerk, almost Pavlovian response from many, many elements of the international media and international groups, humanitarian groups and other international groups such as the United Nations which should know better… of utter automatic condemnation. We don’t have to put up with that.”

The event, which was attended by over 400 British Jews, heard Mr Edelstein criticise the Goldstone report, which is widely regarded as biased within Israel, and warn against the rise of what he called a “new” anti-semitism.

He said that although it was important to investigate any allegations of wrongdoing by Israeli forces, the Goldstone report had influenced the enemies of his country to continue their campaign of hatred.

“Yes, we have to investigate, yes we have to check ourselves. Yes, I am ashamed of the soldier who stole some credit cards from a deserted house in the Gaza Strip. But between this and war crimes?”

6:12PM: Noah Pollak looks at Israel Derangement Syndrome in the British press.

6:08PM: David Hartwell, a security analyst at IHS Jane’s, talks about the use of European passports in last month’s killing of a Hamashole in Dubai and its impact on Israel’s relationship with European governments.

5:10PM: Earlier today, EU foreign ministers condemned the use of forged European passports by the assassins, but made no direct reference to Israel.

“The EU strongly condemns the fact that those involved in this action [assassination] used fraudulent EU member states’ passports and credit cards acquired through the theft of EU citizens’ identities,” a declaration on behalf of EU foreign ministers said.

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According to the European source, the UAE government did not blame Israel for carrying out the assassination nor did it request that Israel be cited in the EU statement.

Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has gone on the offensive in responding to claims Israel was behind the hit.

“The Arabs have a tendency to blame Israel for anything that happens in the Middle East,” the Israeli FM said, adding that the region “has many internal struggles within groups and states which are not as democratic as Israel is.”

5:05PM: The Dubai police chief has tied the killing of arch terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh to the Mossad.

Lt. Gen. Dhahi Khalfan Tamim said, ‘The police investigation has turned the assassination mission from a political crime – to a scandal, to a diplomatic crisis for Israel and has exposed the Israeli Mossad and the outrageous modes of operation its cells employed in order to murder Mabhouh.”

In an interview to Emirati paper al-Bayan published on Monday, Tamim said that “despite Israel’s attempts at denial, claiming there is no evidence that a Mossad cell carried out the assassination, the Dubai police are in possession of dozens of items of incriminating evidence against the cell which attest to the Mossad’s involvement.”

He further noted that “the tactical success of Mabhouh’s assassination is equal to its strategic and diplomatic failure.”

Tamim praised the Dubai police, saying, “Thanks to the Dubai police’s vigilance and capabilities and the strength of the evidence it holds and has handed over to the relevant countries, Mabhouh’s assassination has turned into a scandal and a diplomatic crisis for Israel.”

He rejected claims that western intelligence bodies cooperated with the Israeli Mossad in the operation.

The police chief added with satisfaction that this is the first time the Arab spectator has been able to witness the “crime of assassination.” He said the killing was a subject of interest in the West, to the point where western countries summoned Israeli ambassadors a number of times to demand official clarifications on the use of passports of four European countries.

Tamim stressed that the passports in question were not stolen or forged – but were real. “We do not rule out the possibility that Israel has a printer that prints passports of countries around the world, and this confirms that Israel is country that violates international law,” he said.

Meanwhile, one of the “dozens of items of incriminating evidence against the cell which attest to the Mossad’s involvement” was recently leaked to the media.

9:48AM: The PA reacted to Israel’s decision to include Rachel’s Tomb (in Bethlehem) and the Cave of the Patriarchs (in Hebron) in a national plan to rehabilitate some 150 Jewish and Zionist heritage sites by calling it “dangerous.”

“This particular violation is especially dangerous because it will add to the religious component of the conflict in a way that might bring dangerous consequences,” said Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’  government in Ramallah.

Aussie Dave’s rules of Palestinian Authority lexicon #37: When the PA speaks of “dangerous consequences” in relation to an Israeli action, it is almost always a threat of violence.

6:10AM: According to a new Gallop Poll regarding Americans’ perceptions of 20 nations that figure prominently in the news or US foreign policy, Israel ranked fifth amongst the countries viewed most favorably, Iran came in dead last, and while the PA was low down the list, there was a slight improvement in views over the past year (from 15%).
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Meanwhile, Israel was the most favored country amongst Republicans, while not faring as well amongst Democrats.

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