Archive for December 2, 2012

PM says Palestinian incitement against Israel reflects root of the conflict

December 2, 2012

PM says Palestinian incitement against Israel reflects root of the conflict | The Times of Israel.

‘This is not a dispute over land, but a denial of the existence of the state of Israel,’ Netanyahu tells ministers

December 2, 2012, 7:01 pm 1
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, December 02 (photo credit: Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, December 02 (photo credit: Alex Kolomoisky/Flash90)

On the heels of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s fiery speech at the UN General Assembly last week, the cabinet on Sunday held a special briefing to highlight and counter “anti-Israeli incitement” in the Palestinian Authority.

Strategic Affairs Ministry Director-General Yossi Kuperwasser, the coordinator of a team tasked with monitoring incitement, said recent months have seen a negative record in expressions of hatred against Israel as seen in remarks by senior Palestinian Authority officials, on official websites, in the media and in the Palestinian Authority education system.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office failed to provide detailed statistics and referred media outlets to a Powerpoint presentation produced by a Palestinian media monitoring NGO,  Palestinian Media Watch.

Examples that were mentioned included “the use of Hitler’s ideas,” the glorification of suicide bombers, anti-Semitic caricatures, the nonappearance of Israel on official maps and calls for Palestinians to return to their “homes” in Jaffa and Haifa.

The remark regarding the use of Hitler’s ideas appeared to be based on an anti-Semitic quote attributed to Hitler that was uploaded next to an image of the Nazi leader to the Facebook wall of the Ikataba high school for girls in Tulkarm.

“This is additional proof that this is not a dispute over land but a denial of the existence of the State of Israel,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Their unwillingness to accept a Jewish state in any borders whatsoever is the root of the conflict.”

“When there is a map that shows Palestine over the entire area of Israel, it indicates a conflict here over the very existence of the State of Israel,” Netanyahu continued. “The Palestinian Authority is unwilling to move toward accepting the existence of the State of Israel. It is poisoning the Palestinian public.”

Netanyahu added that peace talks can only achieve so much in an atmosphere that breeds hatred.

“They are raising the younger generation to hate. They are educating for the destruction of Israel. I do not see any discourse for peace here; there is no discourse that paves the way for coexistence. The discourse is one of hatred and the destruction of the State of Israel.”

In his Thursday speech before the UN General Assembly, Abbas accused Jerusalem of war crimes and “ethnic cleansing.”

“What permits the Israeli government to blatantly continue with its aggressive policies and the perpetration of war crimes stems from its conviction that it is above the law and that it has immunity from accountability and consequences,” Abbas said. “This belief is bolstered by the failure by some to condemn and demand the cessation of its violations and crimes and by position that equate the victim and the executioner.”

“As long as the Palestinian Authority educates its people toward hatred, and non-recognition, of Israel, there will not be peace,” said Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon. “They are sending deep messages and this education is being absorbed by all sections of the populace, especially the younger generation.”

Iranian military agents reportedly in North Korea ahead of ballistic missile test

December 2, 2012

Iranian military agents reportedly in North Korea ahead of ballistic missile test | The Times of Israel.

Long-range test announced for December 10-22; previous attempt ended in failure

December 2, 2012, 4:56 pm 0
North Korea's Unha-3 rocket stands at Sohae Satellite Station in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, on April 8, 2012. (photo credit: AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)

North Korea’s Unha-3 rocket stands at Sohae Satellite Station in Tongchang-ri, North Korea, on April 8, 2012. (photo credit: AP Photo/David Guttenfelder, File)

A group of Iranian military operatives and missile technology experts are taking part in a test launch of a long-range ballistic missile in North Korea Sunday, Reuters reported.

The Iranians have been active in North Korea since late October, the agency reported, citing a Western official quoted by the Kyodo News Agency of Japan.

The group is reportedly based at a military base about 85 kilometers from the Chinese border and is assisting in missile and nuclear technology development for the North Korean military. Iran and North Korea signed a technology and science cooperation agreement in early September, and according to Reuters, US officials believe that Iran acquired ballistic missile parts from North Korea in 2010.

On Saturday, Pyongyang announced plans to test-fire a long-range rocket sometime between December 10 and 22. It would be North Korea’s second launch attempt under leader Kim Jong Un, who took power following his father Kim Jong Il’s death nearly a year ago. Some analysts have expressed skepticism that North Korea has corrected whatever caused the embarrassing misfire of its last rocket eight months ago. That launch earned the country widespread international condemnation.

North Korea has capable short- and medium-range missiles, but long-range launches in 1998, 2006, 2009 and in April of this year ended in failure. North Korea is not known to have succeeded in mounting an atomic bomb on a missile but is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least half a dozen bombs, according to US experts. In 2010 it revealed a uranium enrichment program that could provide a second source of material for nuclear weapons.

North Korea under its young leader has pledged to bolster its nuclear arsenal unless Washington scraps what it calls a “hostile” policy. North Korea maintains that it is building bombs to defend itself against what it sees as a US nuclear threat in the region.

Iranian arms flow into Syria remains uninterrupted

December 2, 2012

Iranian arms flow into Syria remains uninterrupted – Israel News, Ynetnews.

US intelligence sources say activity has been observed around Syrian arms compound, including at chemical weapon storage sites

Ynet

Published: 12.02.12, 16:38 / Israel News

New evidence regarding Iranian arms transported into Syria has been discovered by western intelligence sources, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

The sources claimed recent activity has also been observed around Syrian chemical weapon storage sites.

According to the newspaper’s sources it is still unknown whether Syrian President Bashar Assad plans to use unconventional weapon to remain in power, or whether the movements aim to warn the West against assisting the rebels fighting against his regime.

“The abuse of Iraqi airspace by Iran continues to be a concern,” an American official told the NYT. “We urge Iraq to be diligent and consistent in fulfilling its international obligations and commitments, either by continuing to require flights over Iraqi territory en route to Syria from Iran to land for inspection or by denying over flight requests for Iranian aircraft going to Syria.”

The New York Times reported that US efforts to prevent such flow of arms into Syria have so far failed, due to Iraq allowing Iranian cargo planes that are Syria-bound to cross its airspace uninspected.
לוחם בצבא סוריה החופשי בחלב (צילום: רויטרס)

Syrian rebel in Haleb (Photo: Reuters)

“It’s in some ways similar to what they’ve done before,” a senior American official told the New York Times. “But they’re doing some things that suggest they intend to use the weapons. It’s not just moving stuff around. These are different kind of activities.”

However, the official added that the Syrians have yet to take blatant steps towards using chemical weapons, such as preparing it for launch using artillery batteries or loading such warheads onto fighter jets.
המורדים ממשיכים בלחימה בחלב  (צילום: רויטרס)

Syrian rebel in Haleb (Photo: Reuters)

The report further said that Iraq has become the main route for arms transport to Syria, since Baghdad is unable to control the country’s airspace.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commented on the matter in September, saying that Iraq’s foreign minister is committed to inspecting flights from Iran passing through Iraq on their way to Syria, but only two inspections were actually performed – the last one on October 27.

According to American intelligence reports, Iran might have been tipped off by Iraqi officials prior to the inspections, which could explain why nothing was found on the planes.
גם ילדים מפגינים בחלב (צילום: AP)

Kids protesting in Syria (Photo: AP)

Adding to the United States’ frustrations, Iran appears to have been tipped off by Iraqi officials as to when inspections would be conducted, American officials said, citing classified reports by American intelligence analysts.

White House opposed new Iran sanctions | Foreign Policy

December 2, 2012

White House opposed new Iran sanctions | The Cable.

( And I was beginning to think that BHO was finally coming around… – JW )

The White House announced its opposition to a new round of Iran sanctions that the Senate unanimously approved Friday, in the latest instance of Congress pushing for more aggressive punitive measures on Iran than the administration deems prudent.

On Thursday, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which the Senate passed 94-0. The new legislative language would blacklist Iran’s energy, port, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors, while also placing new restrictions on Iran’s ability to get insurance for all these industries. The legislation would also vastly expand U.S. support for human rights inside Iran and impose new sanctions on Iranians who divert humanitarian assistance from its intended purpose.

“The window is closing. The time for the waiting game is over,” Menendez said on the Senate floor Thursday night. “Yes, our sanctions are having a demonstrable effect on the Iranian economy, but Iran is still working just as hard to develop nuclear weapons.”

But the White House told several Senate offices Thursday evening that the administration was opposed to the amendment. National Security Spokesman Tommy Vietor sent The Cable the administration’s official position, explaining the White House’s view the sanctions aren’t needed and aren’t helpful at this time.

“As we focus with our partners on effectively implementing these efforts, we believe additional authorities now threaten to undercut these efforts,” he said. “We also have concerns with some of the formulations as currently drafted in the text and want to work through them with our congressional partners to make the law more effective and consistent with the current sanctions law to ensure we don’t undercut our success to date.”

An e-mail from the NSC’s legislative affairs office to some Senate Democrats late Thursday evening, obtained by The Cable, went into extensive detail about the administration’s concerns about the new sanctions legislation, including that it might get in the way of the administration’s efforts to implement the last round of Iran sanctions, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act (TRA), to which it flatly objected at the time.

“We do not believe additional authority to apply more sanctions on Iran is necessary at this time,” read the e-mail, which the NSC legislative affairs office said represented the entire administration’s view. “At the same time, we are concerned that this amendment is duplicative and threatens to confuse and undermine some of the TRA provisions.”

One of the White House’s chief concerns is that Congress is not providing the administration enough waivers, which would give the United States the option of negating or postponing applications of the sanctions on a case-by-case basis.

The White House also said that secondary sanctions should apply only to those Iranian persons and entities that are guilty of aiding Iran’s nulear and missile programs. The new legislative language would designate entire categories of Iranian government entities to be sanctioned — whether or not each person or entity is directly involved in such activities.

The new sanctions too broadly punish companies that supply materials, such as certain metals, that could be used in Iran’s nuclear, military, or ballistic missile programs, the White House worries. The bill allows those materials to be sold to Iranian entities that intend to use them for non-military or nuclear-related purposes, but the administration said that the ambiguity in that part of the legislation will make it hard to implement.

Finally, the White House doesn’t want to implement the part of the new legislation that would require reports to Congress on the thousands of boats that dock at Iranian ports and the dozens of Iranian planes that make stops at airports around the world. Those reporting requirements “will impose serious time burdens on the Intelligence Community and sanctions officers,” the White House said in the e-mail.

The Obama administration often touts the Iran sanctions it once opposed. In the final presidential debate Oct. 22, President Barack Obama said his administration had “organized the strongest coalition and the strongest sanctions against Iran in history, and it is crippling their economy.”

The new Iran sanctions still must survive a House-Senate conference over the defense authorization bill, during which conferees may try to change certain portions of the new sanctions regime. Hill aides predict the White House will try to alter the new sanctions during that process, in what they would likely see as an effort to water them down.

“The truth is that the U.S. Congress continues to lead a comprehensive and unrelenting international sanctions program against the Iranian regime despite a comprehensive and unrelenting campaign by this administration to block or water down those sanctions at every move,” a senior GOP Senate aide told The Cable. “We beat them 100-0 last year and while they tried to kill this amendment more quietly this time, we beat them again 94-0. Hopefully House and Senate negotiators will stay strong and resist the administration’s strategy to dilute these sanctions in conference.”

Egypt’s top court suspends work indefinitely amid protest

December 2, 2012

Egypt’s top court suspends work indefinitely amid protest | Fox News.

Dec. 2, 2012: Riot police form a cordon as several thousand supporters of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi surround the Supreme Constitutional Court on Sunday. (AP)

Egypt’s top court said it was suspending its work indefinitely to protest “psychological and physical pressures” after supporters of the country’s Islamist president prevented judges from entering the courthouse Sunday to rule on the legitimacy of a disputed constitutional assembly.

The court’s decision is the latest turn in a worsening political crisis pitting President Mohammed Morsi and his Islamist allies against the mostly secular opposition. The standoff began when Morsi issued a package of decrees on Nov. 22 that gave him sweeping powers and extended immunity from the courts to a panel tasked with drafting a new constitution.

The Islamist-dominated panel then raced in a marathon session last week to vote on the new charter’s 230 clauses without the participation of liberal and Christian members. The fast-track hearing preempted a decision expected from the court on Sunday on whether to dissolve the committee — a ruling the judges postponed on Sunday.

Morsi on Saturday announced a referendum on the draft charter for Dec. 15, despite opposition protests and questions about the document’s legitimacy.

“It is the Egyptian judiciary’s blackest day on record,” the court said in a statement carried by the official MENA news agency, describing the scene outside the court complex, with Islamists carrying banners denouncing the tribunal and some of its judges.

Supporters of Morsi, who hails from the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, claim that the court’s judges are loyalists of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, who appointed them to their positions, and are trying to derail the country’s transition to democratic rule.

The court statement said the judges approached the court but decided against entering the building because they feared for their safety.

“The judges of the Supreme Constitutional Court were left with no choice but to announce to the glorious people of Egypt that they cannot carry out their sacred mission in this charged atmosphere,” the statement said.

The judges also were expected to rule to on the legitimacy of the Islamist-dominated upper house of parliament, known as the Shura Council.

By suspending its work, the court joined the country’s highest appeals court and its sister lower court in their indefinite strike to protest what they see as Morsi’s infringement on the judiciary. Most judges and prosecutors in the country have been on strike for a week.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/12/02/egypt-top-court-postpones-key-ruling-on-assembly/#ixzz2DuCIbs6E

Muslim Brotherhood’s “Paid Rapists” Sexually Assault Female Protesters

December 2, 2012

Muslim Brotherhood’s “Paid Rapists” Sexually Assault Female Protesters.

( I know… This sounds like the classic “babies on bayonets” propaganda from WW I.  I wish that it were.  It ISN’T! – JW  )

This latest triumph of political Islamist democracy has been brought to you by the letter O. So will the next one. And the one after that.

Egypt’s ruling party is paying gangs of thugs to sexually assault women protesting in Cairo’s Tahrir Square against President Mohamed Morsi, activists said.

One protestor, Yasmine, told the newspaper how she had been in the square filming the demonstrations for a few hours when the crowd suddenly turned.

Before she knew what was happening, about 50 men had surrounded her and began grabbing her breasts. She said they ripped off her clothes, starting with her headscarf and for nearly an hour, indecently assaulted her with their hands.

A few men tried to help her but they were beaten away. Eventually some residents who had seen the attack from their windows came to her aid and an elderly couple pulled her into their home. She suffered internal injuries and was unable to walk for a week.

So is there any truth to that? Apparently yes.

The newspaper spoke to two men who admitted they were paid to target female protestors. Victor and Tutu, both in their thirties, said they operate in a group of around 65 local men and got paid between £10 and £20 a time. But they would not reveal who pays them.

‘We’re told to go out and sexually harass girls so they leave the demonstration,’ Victor told The Times. He said the aim was to cause disruption and instil fear in protesters. He said members of the public sometimes joined in.

What does it cost for the Muslim Brotherhood to hire a paid rapist? Apparently around 15 to 30 dollars. The question is how much of the funding for the paid rapist squads comes from the Obama Administration’s foreign aid to Egypt?

Muslim Brotherhood ‘paying gangs to rape women and beat men protesting in Egypt’

December 2, 2012

Muslim Brotherhood ‘paying gangs to rape women and beat men protesting in Egypt’.

London: Egypt’s ruling party is paying gangs of thugs to sexually assault women protesting in Cairo’s Tahrir Square against President Mohamed Mursi.

Activists said that the Muslim Brotherhood is paying gangs to beat up men who are taking part in the latest round of protests, which followed after Mursi gave himself sweeping new powers.

It comes as the Muslim Brotherhood co-ordinated a demonstration in support of Mursi, who is rushing through a constitution to try to defuse opposition fury over his newly expanded powers, the Daily Mail reports.

According to the report, thousands of people marched from around Cairo to Tahrir Square, chanting ”Constitution: Void!” and ‘The people want to bring down the regime.”

Magda Adly, the director of the Nadeem Centre for Human Rights, said that under Mubarak, the government paid thugs to beat male protestors and sexually assault women, the report said.

“This is still happening now,” she told The Times, adding: “I believe thugs are being paid money to do this … the Muslim Brotherhood have the same political approaches as Mubarak.”

One protestor, Yasmine, told the newspaper how she was physically abused while filming the demonstrations.

She said that before she knew what was happening, about 50 men had surrounded her and began grabbing her breasts.

She said they ripped off her clothes, starting with her headscarf and for nearly an hour, indecently assaulted her with their hands.

A few men tried to help her, but they were beaten away. Eventually some residents who had seen the attack from their windows came to her help and an elderly couple pulled her into their home.

Yasmine said she was almost sure the assault was planned. She managed to throw her camera to a friend and was able to watch the footage later.

Afaf el-Sayed, a journalist and activist, told the newspaper she was assaulted by a group of men while protesting in Tahrir Square just over a month ago and she was sure her attackers were ‘thugs from the Muslim Brotherhood’.

According to the report, most attacks take place in one particular corner of the square, at roughly the same time every evening, and usually start with a group of men forming a human chain around women as if to protect them.

ANI

Unusual activity at Syrian chemical weapons sites amid rumors Assad is dead or fled

December 2, 2012

Unusual activity at Syrian chemical weapons sites amid rumors Assad is dead or fled.

DEBKAfile Special Report December 2, 2012, 11:44 AM (GMT+02:00)

 

Syrian WMD stores

Western intelligence officers were seeing new signs of activity at Syrian chemical weapons sites, they told the New York Times Sunday, Dec. 2. “It’s in some ways similar to what they’ve done before,” a senior U.S. intelligence official said. “But they’re doing some things that suggest they intend to use the weapons. It’s not just moving stuff around. These are different kind of activities.”
debkafile’s Middle East sources add rumors were flying around the region Saturday night and Sunday morning that President Bashar Assad had been killed or fled Syria. Neither is confirmed. However, the rebels have in recent days made major strategic gains and begun to turn the tide of war against’s Assad forces.

The new rumors tie in with the suggestive movements of chemical weapons detected by Western intelligence without any indication of their likely target.
Since the Syrian uprising erupted against his regime last year, Assad has often declared he would fight his enemies to the end and threatened that if his back was against the wall and life and regime were in jeopardy, he would rather set the entire Middle East on fire than surrender.

Report: New signs of activity at Syria’s chemical weapons sites

December 2, 2012

Report: New signs of activity at Syria’s chemical weapons sites – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

U.S. intelligence official tells the New York Times that Assad forces are ‘doing some things that suggest they intend to use the weapons.’

 

By | Dec.02, 2012 | 10:18 AM

 

A satellite image of al-Safir, Syria's main chemical weapons facility, near Aleppo.

A satellite image of al-Safir, Syria’s main chemical weapons facility, near Aleppo. Photo by GlobalSecurity.org

 

Western intelligence officials said that they have been seeing new signs of activity at Syrian sites used to hold chemical weapons, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

 

The officials said they were not sure whether the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad were preparing to employ the chemical weapons, or rather use them to deter the West from aiding the rebels.

 

“It’s in some ways similar to what they’ve done before,” a senior U.S. intelligence official told the New York Times. “But they’re doing some things that suggest they intend to use the weapons. It’s not just moving stuff around. These are different kind[s] of activities.”

 

The U.S. official noted that Assad forces are yet to take flagrant steps that would indicate that they plan to use the weapons, such as preparing them to be fired by artillery batteries.

 

U.S. officials believe Syria potentially has dozens of chemical and biological weapons sites scattered across the country. Its stockpiles are thought to include nerve agents such as VX, sarin and tabun.

 

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in September that Syrians have moved some of their chemical weapons capability to better secure it, but the country’s main chemical weapons sites remain intact and secure under government control.

 

Panetta said U.S. intelligence showed the major Syrian sites were secure in government hands, but some chemicals had been moved.

Thousands of miles from Iran, and still in danger

December 2, 2012

Thousands of miles from Iran, and still in danger | The Times of Israel.

Since fleeing for Europe, poet and professor Afshin Ellian has become a staunch critic of the Muslim world — which he says should emulate Israel

December 1, 2012, 11:05 pm 2
"Israel is what I wished Iran would be after the fall of the shah’s regime," says Afshin Ellian, an Iranian exile and professor at Holland's Leiden University. (Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)

“Israel is what I wished Iran would be after the fall of the shah’s regime,” says Afshin Ellian, an Iranian exile and professor at Holland’s Leiden University. (Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)

LEIDEN, the Netherlands (JTA) — Among his many talents, Afshin Ellian has a knack for making people want to kill him.

It’s a trait he demonstrated as a fugitive in his native Iran after the Islamic Revolution; then as a refugee in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he angered secular Stalinists; and finally in Holland, where he lives under 24-hour police protection because of his criticisms of Islam.

Ellian has never been someone to toe the line, however. As many in Europe were rushing to condemn Israel’s operation in Gaza last month, Ellian, probably the most famous Iranian in the Netherlands, used his platform at the Dutch magazine Elsevier to blame Hamas “for putting their people in an inhumane position by needlessly waging war.” He has criticized the Western media for ignoring massacres in Arab countries and focusing instead on Israel. And he has drawn death threats from Muslim militants for zingers like this: “Radical Islamists are so determined to prove Islam is the religion of peace that they are willing to kill for it.”

Having found himself in the line of fire so many times, it’s unsurprising that the 46-year-old philosopher, poet and law professor dismissed suggestions that he might be deterred by Hamas rockets from carrying through with his first trip to Israel, a country he first heard of as a young political activist in Iran.

“Israel is what I wished Iran would be after the fall of the shah’s regime,” Ellian said in an interview last month at his office at Leiden University. “Its democratic nature is seen as a weakness by the Islamists in power but is a powerful model for young Iranians seeking change. Israel is also a central element — a made-up enemy — in the identity of the Iranian Islamic Republic, which oppresses them and has made me stateless. In short, Israel is relevant to my life.”

A refugee from the Iranian revolution, Ellian has a high profile in the Netherlands. The author of several books, some of them on radical Islam, he is also a columnist for Elsevier and appears regularly on Dutch television as a Middle East commentator. His op-eds also have appeared in the Wall Street Journal and Der Spiegel.

‘Ruhollah Khomeini promised that the war with Iraq will lead to Jerusalem

. . . I had no idea where that was. I figured it had to be a village in Iraq’

For a small country, the Netherlands has produced more than its share of political provocateurs who live under constant threat of death for their views. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born former parliamentarian, lived for years under armed guard following the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, with whom she collaborated on a piece critical of Islam, before leaving for the United States. The anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders also lives under police protection.

Like Hirsi Ali and Wilders, Ellian came to embrace the Jewish state, both as the adversary of a shared enemy and a model of what a religiously inspired democracy in the Middle East could look like. He first heard of Israel as a teenager in Iran, fleeing the Islamists who would pick out political activists like himself in universities and on the street. His cousin, also an activist, was executed and dumped in a mass grave.

“I was in a bakery and Ruhollah Khomeini, the revolution’s spiritual leader, promised that the war with Iraq will lead to Jerusalem,” he said. “The baker and I had no idea where that was. I figured it had to be a village in Iraq.”

In Israel, Ellian delivered a lecture at the University of Haifa organized in part by Irgoen Olei Holland, an association of Dutch immigrants. The event is held each year on Nov. 26, the anniversary of a defiant 1940 speech by Rudolf Cleveringa, a non-Jewish Leiden professor, opposing the expulsion of Jews from academic and public life in Nazi-occupied Holland.

After his flight to Israel was diverted so the KLM crew could disembark — the airline had barred its employees from the country during last week’s fighting — Ellian wrote that the crew could “learn something about courage from Cleveringa.”

They also could learn something about courage from Ellian himself. The son of two left-leaning intellectuals, Ellian went into hiding soon after Islamists swept to power in Iran in 1979. At 17, he already was hiding with the liberal underground’s shrinking network of safe houses.

“I shacked up in a Christian cemetery one night,” he recalls. “The sexton told me I might as well find a grave.”

In 1982, Ellian fled Iran by camel, traveling 1,100 miles through the mountains to Pakistan. But that country proved no safer. Local police routinely arrested Iranians, and Ellian caught malaria and constantly switched addresses as he planned his next escape.

In Afghanistan, he stayed for three years and began his studies. But there, too, he ran afoul of ideological foes: Stalinists who had been in exile since before the fall of the shah.

“We newcomers led a small revolt against the Stalinists, not realizing we were playing with our lives,” Ellian said. “We came close to a kangaroo court or a lynch mob.”

In 1987 he fled again, this time with his wife to Holland, where he set his mind to his studies, earning three master’s degrees at the University of Tilburg within six years of his arrival — a first in the university’s history.

‘Radical Islamists are so determined to prove Islam is the religion of peace that they are willing to kill for it’

“I thought I could finally say anything,” he says of his current home. But danger was still lurking.

In 2000, he received the first of what would become many death threats after he criticized the Prophet Muhammad’s orders to kill critical poets in Medina, among other aspects of Islam. But Ellian would not be silenced. He accused the Iranian regime of “barbarity” and the “silent majority” of Muslims of complicity in the acts of violent radicals. The threats continued.

Many in Holland hailed him as a hero for disregarding his own safety in stating his beliefs — but not everyone viewed him as a paragon of courage. The influential Dutch-born writer Ian Buruma has dismissed Ellian as a “traumatized” man who “embraced a radical version of the European Enlightenment.” And earlier this month, the newspaper Volkskrant published an op-ed accusing Ellian of making generalizations about Muslims.

“I have nothing against Islam,” Ellian said. “But I should be able to criticize it in the same way that I am able to criticize Judaism and Christianity.”

Ellian was placed under 24-hour police protection shortly after receiving his first death threats. Four years later, after the van Gogh murder, security was beefed up considerably at his Leiden office, where he sits behind electronically locked doors.

“I was shocked,” Ellian said. “I fled the Middle East, but the Middle East followed me. I knew that this time I had nowhere else to flee, except maybe the moon.”


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