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Violent `Mickey' Pulled from Hamas TV


Hamas TV has taken a show featuring a violent character resembling Mickey Mouse off the air, and says it will be reviewed. Translated clips from the show in which the hosts call for world domination and violence against Israel were provided by Palestinian Media Watch, and have received international publicity. The only surviving child of Walt Disney, the creator of Mickey, called Hamas "pure evil" for indoctrinating children to hate.

Iranian Cleric Threatens Tel Aviv


In a TV sermon, an Iranian Muslim cleric said "if Olmert is planning an attack on Iran, we'll fire tens of thousands of missiles."

During his sermon, broadcast last Friday, Sayyid Yahyah Ja'fari directly responded to comments attributed to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by Germany's Focus magazine.

In April, the German publication had initially reported that Olmert said Iran's nuclear program could be set back 10 years by firing a thousand cruise missiles a day for 10 days. The Prime Minister's Office denied the report, and Focus subsequently reedited its story, removing the quotes.

In a speech broadcast on Iran's Kerman TV, and translated by MEMRI, Ja'fari declared during his sermon, "Several days ago, the stupid Israeli prime minister said: `We can attack the Iranian nuclear industry with 10,000 cruise missiles, and delay it for another 10 years.' Our response is that if he is planning to fire 10,000 missiles, we will fire tens of thousands of missiles on Tel Aviv and Israel." The crowd responded with chants of "Allah Akbar" (God is greatest).

The cleric added that Israel would be also targeted by Iran if the US attacked. "If it (the US) acts stupidly and invades an Islamic country – especially a country like Iran – it should bear in mind that Israel will come under a very severe attack," Ja'fari said. "According to our officials and political analysts, this (a US strike on Iran) will not happen – I only said it for the sake of argument – because some of the American officials have a little sense, and they realize that their interests throughout the world would be in danger, and that the plundering Israel would also be attacked severely by us," he added.

Ja'fari also lashed out at the international community, saying it "remains silent. It has never done anything... if some Zionist goes to hell, then all the Western, American, and European media, as well as the Security Council, the UN and everyone else, go into action. However, if 100 Palestinians unjustly die a martyr's death on a single day – they don't care about it."

Turning to President George Bush, Ja'fari said: "As you can see, the killing in Iraq is outrageous. That international criminal, George Bush... If there is any justice in the world, undoubtedly, this man and his ilk, without a doubt, should be sentenced to 100 deaths. There is no doubt about it. The power of the world of Islam is great. The governments are dependent (upon America), and so they prevent the Muslim peoples from doing anything, and even if they were to do anything, it would be ineffective."

Radical Palestinian Group Claims Responsibility for Abduction of BBC Reporter

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

A little known Islamist terrorist group operating in the Gaza Strip is demanding that Britain release a radical Islamic cleric in British custody in return for the freedom of kidnapped BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston.

The group is called Jayash al-Islam, or the Army of Islam. It has posted a recording on the Internet demanding that British authorities release radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada al Filistini, who is in British custody suspected of having links to al-Qaeda. The speaker, who identifies himself as a member of Jayash al-Islam, says if Alan Johnston is to be freed Britain must release Abu Qatada and other prisoners.

The recording was posted on a Web site used by radical Islamists, including al-Qaida. The Web site also displayed what appeared to be Johnston's BBC ID card. It was the first time since Johnston was seized eight weeks ago that any items that could be identified as linked to his abduction have been publicly displayed. The recording was also left at the Gaza offices of the Al-Jazeera news channel.

The group is also believed to have been involved in the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit last year.

Judaism, Please. Hold the Deity.

By Jesse Tisch (

In a mainstream Jewish synagogue, God is like the pews--pretty much indispensable. Yet given the number of secular and agnostic Jews in America, it's worth pondering the question: Can you take the theism out of Judaism? That's the idea behind God-Optional Judaism, by Judith Seid

God-Optional Judaism is a warm, engaging introduction to the most liberal stream of Judaism: Secular Humanistic Judaism. Like most Secular Humanists, Seid takes disbelief seriously. Secular Humanists recoil from "lavish devotion" to God. "Some of us are just constitutionally unable to say what we don't believe," Seid explains. Instead, they focus on family, social justice, and Jewish peoplehood. They're on the side of the angels, without believing in them.

If that sounds new, it isn't. Seid is part of a long tradition of non-traditional Judaism. In the 20th century, Jews have been Jewish through politics, Yiddish culture, and the idea that humans, not a deity, have a say in the way the universe is run. As it happens, Seid is not so much anti-tradition as against the very idea of tradition.

"Who are the real Jews?" she asks at one point--her answer being that we all are, since there are multiple ways of being Jewish, all equally valid. Once that's out of the way, we're free to create our own Judaism, based on our own beliefs and principles.

To that end, Seid's book is crammed with advice for crafting your own self-tailored Judaism. Seid is pro-experimentation: She defends your right to cherry-pick from various traditions, including Eastern religions. (If you want to dabble in mysticism, Seid won't judge--though she thinks "Jewish Buddhist" is somewhat oxymoronic.) As for Jewish rituals, Seid lists plenty of possibilities beyond mainstream Judaism, from a secular shabbot (Sabbath) to marriage ceremonies to saying Kaddish (prayer said by mourners). If you're curious about God-optional funerals, Seid has you covered.

If all that makes the book sound chirpy, it occasionally is. But Seid is serious. And her book's message--that no one should have a monopoly on Judaism--is a serious one. Seid makes an elegant case for pluralism, based on the idea that Judaism has always tolerated (if not always embraced) multiple traditions. A quick walk through history proves her point: From the 8th century Karaites ("strongly anti-clerical") to various mystical movements in the Middle Ages, to the 19th century Haskalah, or "Jewish Enlightenment," Seid compiles a nice list of challenges to rabbinical authority.

Seid's own challenge is mostly polite, though occasionally pointed: Seid thinks the notion of "real Judaism" has been foisted on American Jews by the Orthodox, who claim that mantle for themselves. Agree or disagree, the idea of "authenticity" is worth engaging. In America, it informs every discussion about Israel ("real" Jews support Israel), synagogue membership ("real" Jews go to shul), and intermarriage ("real" Jews refrain). The cult of authenticity has profoundly shaped American Judaism, Seid points out. On one hand, it explains why so many agnostic Jews join religious synagogues: they want the "real" Judaism of their ancestors (even if their ancestors were atheists). On the other hand, it leads many American Jews to reject Judaism altogether, since they find "real" Judaism, with its manifold laws and proscriptions, incompatible with modern life.

The way out of this tangle, Seid realizes, is to broaden the definition of what's authentically Jewish. Seid truly gets it. What she doesn't do is lecture, kvetch, or admonish. God-Optional Judaism will find a sympathetic audience with Jews who judge Judaism too rigid and theistic, too patriarchal or paternalistic. It will appeal to the progressive side of religious Jews, and to the spiritual side of progressive Jews. And for those who find the whole idea of God-optional Judaism wrong and offensive, there are some great Jewish recipes to fall back on.

Jesse Tisch is a freelance writer and the assistant editor of Contemplate: the International Journal of Cultural Jewish Thought.

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