Birzeit University receives e-mailed material offensive to Prophet Mohammed

 Following the distribution of a leaflet by settlers in Hebron last week that denigrated the Prophet Mohammed and the Qu'ran, similar material has been received via e-mail by Birzeit University and several Palestinian Authorityministries. Last week's leaflet distributed in Hebron served to reignite the two-week-old clashes in which over 100 Palestinians and 3 Israelis have been injured.

The material sent to Birzeit University and other Palestinian institutions is sure to increase the growing tension in the region, exacerbated by a stalled peace process, continuing land confiscation and provocation from the extremist settler community. The e-mail header provides inconclusive evidence about the source of the message. Birzeit has recently suffered from a number of racist and harassing e-mails and e-mail bombing from Jewish users of the Internet [example].

Condemnations of last week's incident by Israeli President WeizmannPrime Minister Netanyahu and the spokesperson of the settler community in Hebron, are widely perceived to be insincere, given Israel's other actions towards the Muslim community. West Bank and Gazan Palestinians wishing to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque or other Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem are regularly refused access at the end of a long and complicated permit process, and Jerusalem's Palestinians are currently being forced out of the city through refusal to renew ID cards in what Israeli human rights organisations B'Tselem and Hamoked describes as "quiet deportation." The settler responsible for the leaflet is in Israeli custody.

Albert Aghazarian, director of public relations at Birzeit University, commented, "One would expect such nonsense in almost any society, let alone a place such as here where the religious sensitivites are so acute. What is unique is the degree to which there is political connivance within the ruling Israeli establishment. How is it that the Ashkenazi (Western Jewish) Chief Rabbi, Bachshi Doron, has not yet condemned the Hebron incident?"


Christians protest publication of offensive image of Virgin Mary

In a similar incident, Israeli scientific magazine Galileo, published an article about the dangers of cloning, illustrated with an image depicting the Virgin Mary with a cow's head. Al-Quds Newspaper reported that editor Stephen Stepheski blamed the design and photographic department of the magazine, and apologised for any offence caused to the Christian community. Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah commented that the image represented a kind of provocation, "that leads to war and sectarian strife." Greek Orthodox Archmandate Dr. Attallah Hanna similarly attacked, " the slur on Christianity."