Leading bookseller Steimatzky seemingly bowed to Islamic pressure, canceling its sales promotion of the latest Charlie Hebdo magazine depicting Mohammed. Some Israeli politicians pointedly defended freedom of expression.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman has instructed activists to buy copies of the “survivors’ issue” of French weekly Charlie Hebdo and to give them out at no charge after Steimatzky – Israel’s oldest and largest bookstore chain – apparently caved in to Islamic demands and cancelled an in-house launch of the magazine. The event was scheduled for Saturday night at a branch in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv.
The survivors’ issue, which has been selling in the millions worldwide, includes a cover cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
Steimatzky had received 600 copies to sell at the launch for 35 shekels each, Globes reports.
In a letter sent earlier that day to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Member of Knesset (Israel’s )Parliament Masud Gnaim, head of United Arab List, which is associated with the Islamic movement in Israel, warned:
“This is a very serious, dangerous and stupid step. This is not freedom of expression, but a hard blow to the holiest of holies for Muslims that will bring about unrest and great anger among the Arabs and Muslims in the country and in the whole world, and no one can predict the results.”
“Steimatzky decisively supports freedom of expression,” the bookseller told the Israeli daily Ma’ariv. “The company has sold the magazine for years and will continue to do so. However, the chain has decided the sale of this issue will not occur at a special event in our store, but it will be held online starting Monday at 5 p.m.”
Hatnuah party leader Tzipi Livni, in a rare agreement with Liberman, told IDF Radio: “We expect every European country to stand up to threats on freedom of expression, and that is how we need to act,” Livni said. “Our values and Israeli society are strong enough to know what the limits are, and the limit is the law. A caricature does not break the law.”
Thousands Demand Caliphate in PA Cities
Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinian Arabs, holding signs and flags promoting the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, protested on Saturday in the Palestinian Authority-administered cities of Ramallah and Hebron against the publication of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, according to a Reuters report.
“Khalifah [Islamic caliphate] will stop the insults against the Prophet,” read a huge sign.
“We have taken to the streets in order to demand Muslim armies act the way France and the West deserve in response to the repeated offences against the Prophet, peace be upon him,” declared Baher Saleh, a member of the Tahrir party, according to Reuters.
The party – Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Party of Liberation) – is part of an international political movement working towards the goal of an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law.
The fiercely anti-Israel demonstrators also chanted: “France is the mother of terrorism. America is the mother of terrorism.”
PA leader Mahmoud Abbas had attended the massive rally supporting freedom of expression in Paris following the massacre of 12 people – 10 journalists and two policemen – at Charlie Hebdo headquarters.
In a piece by Khaled Abu Toameh published on Friday by The Gatestone Institute, the award-winning Palestinian journalist declares:
“The glorification of terrorists and jihadists by the PA and the ongoing anti-Israel incitement by both the PA and Hamas, are driving many Palestinians into the open arms of the Islamic State.”
According to Abu Toameh, “Hamas and other Palestinian groups are continuing to deny the obvious, namely that the Islamic State terror group has managed to set up bases of power in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
In fact, earlier this month Israeli security busted an ISIS cell in the PA-administered city of Hebron, arresting three terrorists.
“According to Israeli security sources, dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members in the West Bank have defected to Islamic State in recent months. Their main goal, the sources said, is to topple the PA and launch terror attacks on Israel,” Abu Toameh writes.
Abbas Protected by Israeli Security
“Abbas is lucky that the Israeli security forces are still operating in the West Bank, including inside cities and towns controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Were it not for the IDF and various branches of the Israeli security establishment, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Islamic State would have toppled the Palestinian Authority and beheaded Abbas and his officials a long time ago,” he states.
“Still, Abbas does not feel comfortable acknowledging the fact that a growing number of Palestinians in the West Bank are joining Islamic State. Abbas fears that if he admits that Islamic State is already operating in the West Bank, this could dissuade many Western countries from supporting his effort to persuade the world to support the creation of an independent Palestinian state,” the author concludes.