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ISIS Attacks Ramadi While Iraqi Forces Focus on Tikrit; BBC Suspends Top Gear Host Jeremy Clarkson; Rehabilitating Child Soldiers; ISIS Uses Child To Kill Israeli Arab Citizen; Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Makes Controversial Comments About Opposition

Aired March 11, 2015 - 11:00   ET


ATIKA SHUBERT, HOST: Progress against ISIS on one front as the terror group retaliates on another.

Iraqi forces and Shia militias are focused on Tikrit, while the militants shift their focus to the regional capital of Ramadi.

We're live in Iraq with the latest on a deadly game of cat and mouse that shows little signs of stopping.

Also ahead, the children of war: as ISIS uses a child to carry out an apparent killing on video. We examine the experience of the victims behind

the trigger.

And is it time for Jeremy Clarkson to hit the road? The Top Gear host drives his bosses to the brink.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World.

SHUBERT: Now, it's a major step forward, but also a setback for joint Iraqi forces battling ISIS. A mostly Shia militia has been fighting side

by side with Iraqi troops and Sunni fighters to push ISIS out of Tikrit. They've taken control of Tikrit's military hospital and continue to push

forward into the city enter. But, an apparent retaliation, ISIS has now launched a fresh assault on the city of Ramadi.

The Anbar provincial council says Ramadi is being attacked from all directions and the terror group has detonated 17 car bombs in and around

the city.

The fighting there comes as ISIS now releases a disturbing new video. This time, the victim, who you can see here, is an Israeli Arab and he is

apparently shot to death by a child.

ISIS says the man is a spy, a claim Israel and the victim's family deny.

Now we will have more on that video in a moment, but first I'd like to bring in our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman. He joins us

now live from Baghdad.

Ben, can you first run us through what's happening in Tikrit? How significant is it so far that they appear to have taken quite a bit of

territory there?


What we understand is in addition to that military hospital to the north of Tikrit, they've also entered the Qadasir (ph) neighborhood, which

is the northernmost district of Tikrit. In the south, they've also taken a hospital on the southern edge. And that hospital known as Saddam Hospital

a few years ago.

So they're definitely pushing in to the town, as we expected, however, it's not been a rapid push, because there are many IEDs left behind by

ISIS. But certainly so far they're making steady progress. And it's important to stress that in this operation, at least, it appears that it's

these Shia military forces, the paramilitary groups formed after the near collapse of the Iraqi army last summer that are taking the lead. It's been

estimated that as many as two-thirds of the troops going in to Tikrit are members of these groups, the so-called Hash Deshabi (ph), which actually

includes some Sunni tribesmen.

So the battle there goes on. ISIS does seem to be being pushed back steadily.

The situation in Ramadi, a bit of a different picture. What we heard this morning was that the city was being attacked from several sides. As

many as 17 car bombs, truck bombs going off at various checkpoints and security facilities.

Now Ramadi in recent months, in the best of times has been a contested city, parts of it are held by ISIS, parts of it there are government troops

and policemen in highly fortified positions.

Now in addition to those car bombs and truck bombs, well over 100 mortars and GRAD rockets were fired into the city. And we're hearing from

nearby hospitals that more than 100 Iraqi security personnel have been brought in wounded from that incident.

And we did have a chance to speak with Fallah al-Asawi (ph) who is the deputy head of the Anbar Provincial council who said that the believes that

this is in fact an attack by ISIS in revenge or to distract from the Tikrit offensive -- Atika.

SHUBERT: So slow, but steady progress in Tikrit, but one step forward, one step back in Ramadi.

Thank you very much. That's Ben Wedeman for us live in Baghdad.

Well, foreign fighters are still believed to be getting into Syria through the Turkish border. Critics charge that Turkey has not done enough

to police its border, but as Arwa Damon reports, it is now cracking down.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For years now, the porous Turkey-Syria border has been a well-traveled highway for refugees

fleeing the violence and fighters intent on joining the complex battlefield. And Turkey has long been accused of turning a blind eye to

the flow of jihadis and their weapons, allegations Ankara has consistently denied.

In late 2013, CNN was taken by a smuggler along the route he used to one of the illegal crossing points. He claimed to have shipped hundreds of

fighters across in just a few months, many to join al Qaeda-linked groups.

Under increased international pressure, and as ISIS gained in notoriety and power, Turkey has tried to crack down.

At airports across the country, additional screening measures have been implemented. Turkey has a list. It is compiled of some 10,000

individuals who are barred from entry. And plain clothes officers wait as passengers disembark certain planes.

Turkey argues that Europe needs to do its part as well in preventing suspicious individuals from traveling, point to confiscated items like

these that were found on passengers Turkish intelligence suspected were on their way to war in Syria and Iraq.

Turkey has also been digging massive ditches along parts of the border, fortifying others with thermal cameras, guard posts, and a beefed

up military presence.

Earlier this year, we met two smugglers in a town close to the border. For the last few months, Turkey has really cracked down, one told us.

But fully shutting down a border of 800 kilometers, or 500 miles, is impossible. There will always be security breaches and alternate routes,

especially for those who believe that joining ISIS is their ultimate destiny.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.


SHUBERT: Well, the U.S. Senate foreign relations committee is also holding a hearing on President Barack Obama's request to use force against

ISIS. Earlier, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the case that the overwhelming consensus within the U.S. and among its allies is that the

militant group has to be stopped.


JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The president already has statutory authority to act against ISIL, but a clear and formal expression

of this congress's backing at this moment in time would dispel doubt that might exist anywhere that Americans are united in this effort.

Approval of this resolution would encourage our friends and our partners in the Middle East. It would further energize the members and

prospective members of the global coalition that we have assembled to oppose DAESH. And it would constitute a richly deserved vote of confidence

in the men and women of our armed forces.


SHUBERT: Well, we turn now to the latest horrifying piece of propaganda from ISIS. It's a new video that appears to show a child of not

more than maybe 13-years-old at most shooting and killing a 19-year-old man, an Israeli-Arab. The militants say the man was a spy. A top Israeli

official, however, says that is not true.

CNN's Elise Labott is now with us from Jerusalem.

Elise, this is just such a horrific video. And we've already heard from the Israeli government denying that this man was a spy. What have his

family said?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The defense minister saying that he had no ties despite his Israeli citizenship -- he's a

Palestinian with Israeli citizenship -- that he had no ties to Israeli intelligence. And Atika, we spoke to the family last night, obviously

devastated, but denying also that their son had any ties to Mossad.

They describe a much different Mohammad Musallem, this 19-year-old teen who basically was a volunteer fireman. They described him as a warm,

caring, funny person. Take a listen to what the family told us last night.


AHMAD MUSALLAM, BROTHER OF MOHAMMAD MUSALLAM (through translator): I miss everything about Mohammad. Mohammad was different. He was born

during Ramadan. And we named him Mohammad. When he was little, I used to carry him and take care of him and change him when mom went to work.

Mohammad is not a brother, he is a son.

HIND MUSALLAM, MOTHER OF MOHAMMAD MUSALLEM (through translator): Mohammad is not an agent. Mohammad is not an agent. Mohammad doesn't have

a sheckel. If he was an agent, he would have lived a beautiful life. We could have been living a different life. And we wouldn't be living this


If my son was a spy, I wouldn't be cleaning houses so we can live.


LABOTT: And Atika, the family telling us that their son was recruited online to join ISIS. When he went there, they -- they didn't even

recognize him when they spoke to him on Skype. He had grown a beard. He was armed. And they realized that he had grown disillusioned with what he

was promised when he was recruited. He wanted to come home.

They tried to help him get home, wiring him money, even trying to enlist the Red Cross, but they were told months ago that when he was trying

to cross the border from Syria into Turkey that ISIS picked him up. And now that devastating video of Mohammad Musallam being killed. His brother

Ahmad telling us he saw the video and is just devastated but will not show it to his parents who refuse to believe that their son is gone, Atika.

SHUBERT: Yeah, just a terrible nightmare for them.

Well, thank you very much. That's Elise Labott for us live in Jerusalem.

Now as we mentioned, the assailant in that ISIS video is a young boy. CNN is not showing any of those horrifying images, but later this hour, we

will explore the implications of children forced into war and how that early exposure to violence forever shapes their young lives.

And, we'll take a deeper look at the lives of Arab-Israelis and the issues they face at home and away.

Now there's been a bit of a fallout in the U.S. this week after 47 Republican Senators issued an open letter. And that letter may have broken

the law.

On Monday, the Republicans signed a letter to Iran's leaders undercutting President Barack Obama's efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal

with Tehran.

Hillary Clinton also criticized the move calling it, quote, out of step with the best traditions of American leadership.

And of course the satire over the spat followed.

Take a look at this headline in The New Yorker, "Iran Offers to Mediate Talks Between Republicans and Obama." And the hashtag #47traitors

was very quick to start trending on Twitter.

Well, for more I'm joined by Sunlen Serfaty at the White House live. Sunlen, I mean, we've seen the fallout from this, but does it seem to be

longlasting? It's been 48 hours now since this letter went out. What happens next?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It does seem to be long lasting, Atika. You, know the White House called this reckless and they said that

it is not helpful to the negotiations.

And what we're seeing happen on Capitol Hill is really a fierce defense by the signatories, 47 in all, Republican senators who signed on to

the deal. They've not only defended it, but they're doubling down on this letter.

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, he says he doesn't regret signing the letter. In fact, he says he would sign it again. And

he said that's because the threat from Iran really requires them to, in his words, use such an unusual method to deal with it.

Now Senator -- former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she came out and really slammed Republicans on this, came to the defense of the

administration, calling out the letter for being out of step with tradition.


HILLARY CLINTON, FRM. U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: What was the purpose of this letter? There appear to be two logical answers. Either these

senators were trying to be helpful to the Iranians, or harmful to the commander-in-chief in the midst of high stakes international diplomacy.


SERFATY: Now, as the politics continue to swirl here in Washington, of course the diplomatic routes continue. Secretary of State John Kerry

will head to Switzerland on Sunday to meet with Iranian foreign minister. And those are the first face-to-face meetings that have happened since this


Now State Department officials says that they still believe that the chances of getting a deal are 50/50 -- Atika.

SHUBERT: Can I ask really quickly, Sunlen, I mean, there's been some suggestion that this letter may have actually broken the law, violating the

Logan Act which says you can't talk to a foreign government like this, especially in terms of disputes and controversies. What's the response?

SERFATY: That's right. This is -- there are a lot of questions being thrown around about the legality of this. Did senators break the law by

sending this letter directly to Iran? And that's under this arcane law called the Logan Act in which it prohibits American citizens from

communicating with foreign governments to conduct their own foreign policy.

Now we reached out to the Department of Justice and the White House and they say that they don't believe that it's worth pursuing any of these

legal questions. They say there's no appetite there, quote, this is a political issue and not a legal one, one official tells us.

But of course this has been picked up on social media. The hashtag #47traitors, in reference of course to those 47 Republicans who signed on

to the letter was trending for a significant part of yesterday -- Atika.

SHUBERT: Well, thank you very much. Sunles Sarfaty for us at the White House.

And staying with Iran, still to come later this hour, we'll see a side of the country rarely seen by the west. We visit a city with a thriving

Jewish community. And we find out what it's like to be part of that faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

But first, ISIS calls them the cubs of the caliphate. Well, how can children be forced to join the group then be rehabilitated? We explore

that question when we come back.


SHUBERT: You're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World with me Atika Shubert. Welcome back.

In recent years, we reported about child victims of war in places like Syria and Afghanistan and told you about child workers or young people

forced into early marriage. But there is also the phenomenon of children recruited into armed groups either by force or by persuasion.

Young people in ISIS-controlled parts of Syria and Iraq, some of them the children of jihadis, are exposed to the group's brutality daily. And

they have little choice but to join what ISIS calls, quote, the cubs of the caliphate, seen here in a recent propaganda video.

Other children are often lured into armed groups with promises of money, protection or power, all as you can imagine incentives in a war torn


And then, there are those reached remotely. ISIS in particular have a huge social media presence and are actively trying to groom young


Last month three UK schoolgirls became the latest teenagers to leave their homes and head to Turkey. Authorities believe they are now in Syria,

in fact in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.

Now their families say they had no idea what their children were planning. And have lashed out at police over how their case in particular

has been handled.


SHUBERT: Last month, two British 15-year-olds Shamima Begum and Amira Abase breezed through Gatwick Airport security in London with their

classmate 16-year-old Kadiza Sultana. They landed in Turkey on their way to Syria.

Shamima Begum was a fan of keeping up with the Kardashians. All were getting good grades in school. The families insist that they had no idea

the girls were intent on joining ISIS.

Not even when police visited Bethnal Green Academy to question the girls about a classmate that had gone missing in Syria months earlier in


According to the police and the school, officers handed each of the girls a letter to notify their parents, a letter that was never delivered.

That, the families say, would have been the red flag to alert them something was wrong, going to the heart of a national debate over who is

responsible for failing to stop the girls.

SHAIMA BEGUM, SISTER OF MISSING TEEN: If we had received the letter directly, we would have contacted the police, and I would have spoken to my

sister. And I would have said, hold on, OK, if she was a close friend of yours what do you know and how much information can you give?

HUSSEN ABASE, FATHER OF MISSING TEEN: We (inaudible) why is the big question. Why was the letter has given to them? Why they left?

BERNARD HOGAN-HOWE, METROPOLITAN POLICE COMMISSIONER: That failed. It was intended for them and it failed. And for that, of course we're


SHUBERT: The families received a police apology, but London's Metropolitan Police commissioner also defended police struggling to monitor

the hundreds of men and women leaving for Syria.

HOGAN-HOWE: The scale is big, at least 600, 700 people have already gone to Syria. So I don't think any of us can (inaudible) complexity of

(inaudible). The police are the last resort when it comes to the law.

SHUBERT: Police say in the last year, more than 20 British women and girls have gone to Syria. This is the last video of the girls of Bethnel

Green East London waiting at a Turkish bus terminal, their hoods turns up against the cold. Syrian activists have told CNN the girls are now in a

Sharia camp in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.

But British police say the girls are not being treated as terrorists and will not be put in jail if it's not too late for them to find a way



SHUBERT: So how do you rehabilitate young people who had been brainwashed by violent groups like this, or in some cases have either

witnessed horrific acts or even themselves carried it out?

I'm joined now by Charu Lata Hogg from Child Soldiers International.

Thank you so much for joining us.

My first question is why do groups like ISIS target children in particular?

CARU LATA HOGG, CHILD SOLDIER INTERNATIONAL: Well, it's not just ISIS. And I think it's very important to establish that. Children have

over the years in almost all conflicts been involved and recruited in youths by not just armed groups, but by both sides.

The reasons are pretty straightforward. Children are vulnerable. They're susceptible and compliant. They obey orders easily. They do not

question. They are an easy target, really, that is the reason.

SHUBERT: What about the scope of that they -- the scope that they're able to reach children with now? I mean we were talking just earlier about

social media. The fact that these girls from London, for example, apparently were reached online. Does this mean that they are now able to

reach far more victims?

HOGG: Well, the first set of victims are within the context. And there are different ways in which children are reached. Children have

traditionally been reached through the education system.

As we know in IS, you know, there has been a deliberate targeting of schools, curriculum within schools has been changed. The schools that are

within the control, or within IS territory are, you know, only teach religious studies. So, these children are not exposed to the normalcy of

education as we know it. But that's one side of it.

The second side is definitely -- you know, we cannot say for a fact that ISIS recruiting far more children than any other group across the

world today. It's difficult to establish that, because we have no access to numbers. We have very limited access to the group and to the

understanding of their strategies.

But one thing we do know is that they are amplifying this much more. They're using social media. They're telling other people how it's done.

And it's very unabashed.

Now know, this sort of recruitment, this use of children as suicide bombers, because the of the word suicide is quite complex and difficult for

us, because it is (inaudible) murder, really.

So the use of children as these suicide bombers has been used by the liberation Tiger of Tamil in Sri Lanka. Children have been used by al

Qaeda, by the Taliban across the world. But it's just we know more about it because groups like the IS are telling us about it.

SHUBERT: Yeah, and these horrific propaganda videos we've seen.

Well, let me ask, then, because often in these previous conflicts, and as you point out, this has been happening for some time now. The

rehabilitation begins when the conflict ends. And yet in Syria we're looking at a country that can barely function as a country now. So, how do

you then begin to help these children?

HOGG: Well, I think interventions have to be made at the community level, at the level of the family. You know, there has to be a

normalization of society before -- these children have not known anything but conflict. They've been exposed to nothing but the ideologies which

have been propagated by these groups on one side. And let's not forget that there are no innocent parties here. All sides in Syria recruit and

use children quite brutally.

So, the first step towards their rehabilitation will begin with societal change and a community awareness on this issue.

SHUBERT: Sadly, does that mean we are now looking at the possibility of a lost generation with entrenched position -- political differences

here. Does this mean we see this cycle of violence go on and on?

HOGG: Well, it has to be stemmed. You know, we can't -- I mean, I work for a human rights organization. And we cannot give up. This is just

one of the many violations that children go through. It is important to remember that as well.

And chance does come. It comes slowly. There's always a level of you know people lose the kind of fervor they once had with an armed group

because they don't.

You know, people can't live in conflict forever. They do get fed up with conflict. And that's when a resistance comes in. And that's where

the interventions have to be made.

SHUBERT: Well, thank you very much for joining us. I really appreciate that point of view.

Thank you.

And we are now coming up in Connect the World. Israel's foreign minister says, quote, disloyal Israeli Arabs should be beheaded. We look

at the difficulties Palestinians with Israeli passports face not only abroad, but at home.

And we'll go to Nigeria where a young woman who couldn't find a job found a recipe to success and a specialty cake business. Stay with us.



JOHN DEFTERIOS, EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: In Port Harcourt, the center of Nigeria's oil industry, a young entrepreneur is turning cakes into works

of art and slowly turning a profit.

IFY SIMPA, CAKE ARTIST: My name is Ify Simpa, a cake artist here in Nigeria. And I bake cakes. I design -- I love designing them, because I

love the fact that I could actually come up with something fresh and new for every client that walks through here. So that's what I do for a

living. And it's fun.

DEFTERIOS: Ify Simpa studied fine art at the University of Port Harcourt. She says after failing to get a job, she accidentally found her

passion as a baker in 2010.

SIMPA: I was never interesting in cake baking at all. My other sister bakes. So she talked me into it.

When I took it to the bride. She loved her cake, so I got excited. I'm like, oh, I could actually started doing this. That's my (inaudible)

led me to like to believe that I could actually do this cake. And from that cake to the next cake and to this and to cakes (inaudible)...

DEFTERIOS: Simpa started baking cakes at home with one employee. She opened a shop in 2014 and now employees three.

SIMPA: The girls, they love the princess cake. They love that (inaudible), so I do make a lot of princess cakes over the weekend. They

love them. A lot of orders come in for cakes like this. Everybody wants gold.

DEFTERIOS: Simpa's Cakes a la Parties, however, faces some obstacles to overcome.

SIMPA: (inaudible) very, very bad. So customers want to come this way to (inaudible) cakes. And by the way, people ask me where the cakes

(inaudible) if I tell them, it's like, oh this was bad (inaudible). They see you losing customers because of that.

We are losing customers because of high cost of production. Somebody will tell you that your cake is too expensive and they can't afford it.

DEFTERIOS: Simpa says she plans to save up and open another shop in another location. To lower her cost of doing business, she wants to

purchase a better power generator. the one she loses using blackouts is not fuel efficient. She is, however, optimistic about the future.

SIMPA: I want to see myself like in a good school -- own a school, baking school, then being able to be like (inaudible) name. Not really

about how good you are and how committed you are to actually giving out what you know within yourself, it's all about that.



SHUBERT: This is Connect the World. The top stories this hour. Pakistani security forces raided the headquarters of Karachi's top

political party, the MQM. The party says one of its workers died in the operation. Security officials say a number of criminal suspects were

arrested and large amounts of weapons and ammunition were seized.

The west is condemning the use of force by police against dozens of people in Myanmar. Students protesting against an education bill clashed

with police in the city of Letpadan on Tuesday. Some protesters were beaten with batons. Reports say police also used force to disperse

protesters last week in Yangon, the former capital city.

Joint Iraqi forces now control the military hospital in Tikrit as they continue the push out of the city, but ISIS have continued their own

offensive in Anbar Province, launched a fresh assault on the city of Ramadi. Also, ISIS has released a disturbing new video. This time the

victim who you see here is an Israeli Arab. And he is shown apparently shot to death by a child. ISIS says the man is a spy, a claim Israel and

the victim's family deny.

Now, the news of Musallam's murder came amid a brewing row over comments made by Israel's foreign minister last weekend. Avigdor Liberman

said that anybody who is, quote, against us should be beheaded. He also spoke about a fifth column inside Israel, citing as an example a majority

Palestinian town in Israel and its alleged reaction to the Gaza war.


AVIGDOR LIBERMAN, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): I would like to say, whoever is with us should get everything as they wish,

but those who are against us, there's nothing to be done. We need to pick up an ax and cut off their heads, otherwise we won't survive here.


SHUBERT: And Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, the term they prefer to use instead of Arab Israeli make up around one-fifth of Israel's

population. Liberman has been accused of racism against them in the past. A spokesman for his party told NBC the foreign minister was paraphrasing a

Zionist leader in his remarks, which he said were, quote, "made in the context of presenting the party's platform on the issue of instituting the

death penalty for mass murderers and terrorists."

Liberman's ultra nationalist party is a key coalition partner in the Israeli government. And there has been a furious reaction to his speech

from Arab Israeli politicians, the Palestinian leadership and former Israeli diplomats.

Earlier, I spoke to Alon Liel, former director general of the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs. He is one of the senior figures to publicly

object to Mr. Liberman's remarks.


ALON LIEL, FRM. DIR. GENERAL, ISRAELI MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: It was really, really shocking, because on the need to behead their rivals, it

was very clear whom he means, because a day or two before he specified who these rivals are. So in effect we know here in Israel who the people are

an I'm one of them.

So it was definitely not very pleasant to hear.

SHUBERT: I mean, you signed a letter condemning these comments. But they were said as part of an election campaign. How many people in Israel

really support this view that apparently Mr. Liberman supports?

LIEL: He gets in the polls at the moment six seats out of 120, so obviously not too many followers.

But still it was in my university. When he said it, there was applause of the students. And definitely there is a kind of a group that

is waiting for these comments and there is some competition between the parties in the right to capture this vote. And the reason is all the time

intensifying and in a way sharpening his comments is because he wants to get more votes from this extreme right.

SHUBERT: Well, you've had to deal with these kinds of incendiary comments before. You worked formally in the foreign ministry, having to

deal with foreign minister Liberman. I mean, these are comments that don't show any attempt to build bridges within the Arab community in Israel much

less with Arab nations. How do you work with somebody that seems to be working against diplomacy like this?

LIEL: What shocks us all the time is that this guy is the head of the Israeli diplomacy. One day, we heard the minister called Abba Ibn (ph). I

don't know if you heard this name. We had diplomats that were legends. Our diplomacy had an unbelievable reputation of being professional, of

being humanistic. And this guy is heading the whole diplomatic system of the state of Israel in the headquarters abroad and speaking in such a


SHUBERT: But how much damage has he already done with statements like this?

LIEL: You know, it's accumulating. And I think the damage to the image of Israel was done partially by his behavior and statements, but a

little bit more by his policies and Netanyahu's policies and they made Israel more isolated. They created the rift with the United States. But

in Europe, the situation is even worse. There is a lot of antagonism to the Israeli policies in Europe.

So I think they're going to pay the price of it. I think nobody expected this to really play a role in the elections, but I think the fact

that some of the public realizes that they are isolating Israel to a dangerous extent becomes a factor in the elections.

I will not be surprised is Netanyahu will not be the prime minister and if Liberman will not be the minister of foreign affairs.

SHUBERT: What kind of a bearing do you think this will have? You were saying that this court hurt Prime Minister Netanyahu, you know, hurt

Foreign Minister Liberman. What kind of impact will this have on the Arab parties that are currently in parliament?

LIEL: That's -- you mean in the elections? That's a very good question. I think that the wording -- the statements -- this sharp,

horrific statements that Liberman are -- is making is probably helping him a little bit in his campaign. But I think they're helping much more the

new joint Arab list, because they are uniting, further uniting the Arab camp. And they will attract more Arab voters to the polls.

So I think that maybe he's adding one seat to his list, but I think he's adding two or three to the Arab List. And for the first time ever in

the history of Israel we will have an Arab party with about 13, maybe even more, seats in parliament. And maybe even being the third party in its


So I think Liberman is responsible for the success of the campaign of the Arab party.


SHUBERT: A poll gauging Palestinian attitudes towards ISIS has just been released. Bear in mind, it was done before ISIS announced they had

killed a Palestinian teenager with Israeli citizenship. Now it says the percentage of those who consider the rise of ISIS as negative rose from

nearly 71 percent last October to almost 90 percent at the end of February. And the number of people who see ISIS advance as a positive thing dropped

to just over 7 percent.

A slight majority of those polled in Gaza and the West Bank, almost 52 percent, think that ISIS harms the Palestinian cause.

Well, from Palestinians inside Israel to a centuries old Jewish community inside of all places Iran. This week, we've been giving you a

remarkable look inside one of the most talked about countries on the planet right now, its population is almost entirely Muslim. But a tiny minority

practice other faiths, including judaism.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen just went to one city to find out what life is like for Jews in Iran. He joins us now from Tehran.

Fred, what did you find in this city? It's such a remarkable community to go and visit?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it certainly is. And especially when you go here to Friday prayers and you

hear those chants Death to Israel. And keep in mind that the leadership of this country on many occasions has said that they want to wipe Israel off

the face of the Earth, it was quite interesting for us to go and visit a Jewish community Isfahan and to find out that they are actually quite at

ease with living here in this country. Let's have a look.


PLEITGEN: It sounds like almost any other Jewish prayer anywhere in the world. But Michael Malakon (ph) is leading a service in Isfahan in

central Iran, a country that's threatened to annihilate Israel.

Still, Michael says, he doesn't have problems with his Muslim neighbors.

"I hang around with all kinds of young people," he says. "And I have a lot of Muslim friends."

There have been Jews in Iran for more than 2,500 years. Their numbers dwindled after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, but have since stabilized.

Syon Makhgrevte (ph) is the head of Isfahan's Jewish community. And he says despite Iran's rhetoric, despite the warnings from Israel's prime

minister, they feel at home in this community.

"Israel and Iran are countries," he says. "And we consider ourselves Iranian Jews, not Israeli Jews. So the hostilities between Israeli and

Iran don't affect us."

Isfahan is a historic town. It used to be the capital of the Persian empire. It's also a place with people of various faiths. With Orthodox

Christian cathedrals and the strong Jewish community.

This mall is known as the Jewish passage here in Isfahan, because most of the shops are actually owned by Jews. There's a lot more religious

diversity in this country than many people know about.

For instance, in Isfahan alone there are 13 synagogues.

Said Semyon owns this clothing store. His friends call him Mortehei (ph). He says the problems between Iran and Israel are not an issue here.

"We just want peace," he says. "We really hope that all these problems can be solved one day. God willing, we're just hoping for unity

and peace."

In a country so hostile to Israel, these Jews say they're able to practice their faith with no interference. And they're working to keep

Iran's ancient Jewish community alive and vibrant for many years to come.


PLEITGEN: And of course Atika, the fact that these people identify with Iran in no way means that they have anything against Israel.

We asked them what their ties are to Israel. And they say they have many friends there. Many of them actually do go to pilgrimages to Israel

quite frequently, nevertheless they say that for them the country of their citizenship, the country where they want to stay, is indeed Iran -- Atika.

SHUBERT: That's a fascinating look at that community there.

Thank you very much. Fred Pleitgen for us in Tehran.

Now there is more from Fred in Iran on Connect the World's Facebook page. Find out how Iranians view the possible dropping of western

sanctions if a nuclear deal is done.

And there's another report that might surprise you. In addition to the Jewish community Fred just reported on, until quite recently there was

a vibrant Israeli Jewish presence in Iran. Go to to watch their story.

Coming up, he has had many close calls in the past, but is the end for Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear. He had been suspended by the BBC. Stay with

us for more.


SHUBERT: You're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World with me Atika Shubert. Welcome back.

Jeremy Clarkson, the hugely successful host of the television show Top Gear has been suspended by the BBC following an alleged fight with a

producer. It isn't the first time Clarkson has run into trouble. Last year, he asked for forgiveness after allegedly using a racial slur. And

Argentina complained when a car number plate in the show seemed to make a reference to the 1982 Falklands war.

But, he certainly also has his supporters. More than 400,000 people have signed a petition for him to be reinstated.

Whatever you might think of Clarkson, the television power of Top Gear should not be underestimated. The show draws an estimated audience of 350

million people worldwide. Top Gear is shown in 214 territories across the globe. Some versions have their own presenters such as in Australia and

the United States.

Now the show is 15 million Facebook fans and 4 million people also use every month.

In a moment, we'll get a fan's perspective, but first let's go to Phil Black who is outside the BBC headquarters in London.

Phil, how much do we know about this altercation that Clarkson had with his producer?

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Very little, really, Atika. The word the BBC uses is fracas, a fracas involving a producer.

For that Clarkson has suspended, the show pulled from air.

Fracas is an interesting word and seems very specifically chosen. When you look it up, you get lots of other synonyms like skirmish, brawl,

fight, riot. It all suggests that this incident might be a little different from those previous controversies involving Clarkson. It may

involve more than just a few ill-chosen words, perhaps.

Clarkson himself has not been particularly contrite. That's not necessarily unlike him. When he first took to Twitter immediately after

the incident, the did apologize, but only to the opposition leader in this country for bumping him down the news agenda. When he left his London home

this morning, he seemed pretty relaxed as well.

Take a look at that moment as he is surrounded by a real media scrum.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About what you've done?

JEREMY CLARKSON, TOP GEAR HOST: I'm not going to be able to get to the Chelsea match tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeremy, what was it a bout?

Jeremy, what was it about?

Are you gone for the evening?


BLACK: So, suspended, his future at the BBC you'd have to say in some doubt, but still cracking jokes there, that irreverent humor that has made

him so famous, so popular around the world, joking that at least he's on track to catch a football match tonight, Atika.

SHUBERT: Yeah, he doesn't seem very repentant at all there. Well, thank you very much. Phil Black for us outside of the BBC headquarters

here in London.

Well, joining me now for a fan's perspective is Jeff Peters. He's joining us via Skype. He is a Jeremy Clarkson fan in the UK.

And first, I want to get your reaction to this alleged fracas, this -- well, we don't know exactly what it is. And when you heard about it, what

was your initial reaction?

JEFF PETERS, TOP GEAR FAN: Well, obviously we don't know the full details at the moment, so I think it's probably wrong to hang him out to


If he has done something badly wrong, of course he should expect the correction punishment, but until the proper facts have been established, I

think we should be careful to judge. Innocent until proven guilty.

SHUBERT: But this is a character who really sort of makes a name for himself by being controversial. So, perhaps it didn't surprise many

people, but the sort of implication that there might have been physical violence involve, did that surprise you in any way?

PETERS: A little bit. You know, he is an edgy character, a very strong character. He doesn't suffer fools. He likes things his own way.

And I think that that could possibly cause tensions. And he's always been controversial. He's near the knuckle. A public service broadcaster like

the BBC generally doesn't employ people like that.

I'm pretty certain that if the BBC stop employing him, he won't be short of broadcasting offers, because the public really warmed to him.

He's one of those people who you never know what he's going to say and do next.

SHUBERT: I was going to say, is this why people watch him? Is that what makes him so compelling is that you just never know when he is going

to blurt something out or even, you know, get a bit physical?

PETERS: Well, yes, I suppose you do never know.

I think a lot of British people associate with Jeremy Clarkson. He's very self-aware. He's humorous. Yes, he has got that side to him where he

says what he thinks and he doesn't really care what anybody else says, but he is somebody who -- I think he's intrinsic to the Top Gear show, the

whole product of it. And as you say a global audience of, what, 350 million; 6 million, 7 million in the United Kingdom, an extremely popular


But of course there are those who don't like him, who don't like the way that he operates, what he says and how he speaks.

SHUBERT: You know, you make a good point. He's very popular here in the UK. He really appeals to people here, but the show is incredibly

popular worldwide. And there have been issues of, for example, an alleged racial slur, the alleged insult in Argentina. He is watched worldwide.

Should there be some more consideration for those international, global viewers?

PETERS: Well, Jeremy Clarkson is and says what Jeremy Clarkson says. And he doesn't really mind what people say about him. Yeah, I think he has

been very close to the line in the past. He possibly has even crossed that particular line.

But I think with the Top Gear show is that it's not just for car people, it's for people who like the entertainment, the car side of it is

just an element, but I think most people will watch Top Gear for Clarkson and what he says to the other people on the show James May and the Hamster.

SHUBERT: Just a quick question, if there was no Jeremy Clarkson, would you still watch Top Gear? Do you think the show will survive?

PETERS: I think I probably would still watch it, but he is such a big, big part of that show. And it would be a real shame if he wasn't on

it anymore.

SHUBERT: Well, thank you very much. That's Jeff Peters for us, a fan of Jeremy Clarkson here in the UK.

Well, still ahead this hour, the power of ink. We'll take you to a Thai festival where body art goes beyond mere decoration.


SHUBERT: You're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World with me Atika Shubert. Welcome back.

Now some people get tattoos to prove their dedication to a loved one, others to remember a special moment in their lives, but for thousands of

people in Thailand the meaning of tattooes runs much deeper. And this past weekend at a festival outside the capital, crowds gathered to get their ink

topped up.

In tonight's parting shots, a photographer explains why they do it.


OMAR HAVANA, PHOTOGRAPHER; My name is Omar Havana. I'm Spanish. I'm 39 years old. I discovered this place outside (inaudible) 70 kilometers

outside (inaudible) in Thailand (inaudible).

Once a year, a unique march. Between 10,000, 15,000 people attending (inaudible) to renew the powers of their tattoos.

The protection of the tattoo is believed to (inaudible) with the Thai. So every year, they make this festival where they renew the powers of the


(inaudible) it's the tattoos in the skin of the believers, they breathe life into people.

As soon as they get the tattoo, they get into trances, different trances where they start to represent for awhile different animals:

elephants, tigers, monkeys.

Their trance is not like that, this is said to (inaudible) spiritually, their spiritual life. Their connection with that religion is

through the represented by the animal that is protecting them.

It's a trip into belief. It's b asically you are in the middle of 15,000 people believing in something that you question and you are not



SHUBERT: Do you have any stories or pictures that you want to share with CNN? Well, the team at Connect the World wants to hear from you.

Find us at and you can also tweet me @AtikaCNN.

I'm Atika Shubert. And that was Connect the World. Thank you very much for watching.