jeudi 31 juillet 2008

Brigadier General Tamir prosecuted for letting his son drive a military vehicle, but not for killing Palestinian civilians

Haaretz Last update - 09:06 31/07/2008
Neither an officer nor a gentleman
By Gideon Levy

Brigadier General Moshe "Chico" Tamir is a devoted and loving father who let his 14-year-old son drive a military all-terrain vehicle. Being the law-abiding organization that it is, the Israel Defense Forces probed the incident, calling it "serious." As a result, Tamir's promotion may be put on hold and he may be indicted. Certainly, a brigade commander who tried to cover up his son's accident by lying deserves to be punished. But the commander of the Gaza Brigade deserves much more for acts considerably more serious - acts that the world defines as war crimes and for which no one has been held accountable. I would like Tamir, the dedicated father, to meet a girl the same age as his beloved son whose world fell apart when she was 14 years old. I saw her in mourning in November 2006, in the courtyard of her destroyed house in Beit Hanun. Islam Athamneh lost eight family members: Her mother, grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins. They fled their house when it was struck by a shell and were killed by another onslaught. The legs of Abdullah, her three-year-old brother, were blown off. Islam, whose father had died years earlier, became an orphan. The soldiers who fired the 11 shells at houses in Beit Hanun were under the command of Tamir, the dedicated dad who let his son take a Tomcar for a joyride. Some 22 people were killed in the shelling and another 40 were hurt. Most lost limbs or sustained head wounds.

It was the Gaza Brigade commander, Tamir, who was responsible for that atrocity, but the IDF quickly absolved him of blame. Instead, they placed it on a faulty electronic component in the gun barrel. It was the chip, not Chico, who was to blame. In the seven days before the heinous shelling, which violates international law, Tamir's troops managed to kill 80 Palestinians, 40 of whom were innocent civilians, as part of Operation Autumn Clouds. Their blood was let and their deaths pale in significance to the Tomcar affair as far as the army is concerned. After all, what's some unlawful killing en masse next to illegally driving an ATV?

If indicted, it won't be the first time Tamir has been tried in court. In the summer of 2002, when he was the commander of the Golani Brigade, his soldiers fired a tank shell at a grocers' market in Jenin. That, too, was a war crime, but not to Israel. A 53-year-old vendor and three other children - two of whom were brothers - died in the shelling. They also had fathers who loved their sons just as much as Tamir loves his. The Military Advocate General believed Tamir was guilty of negligence, but a court cleared him of all charges. A few weeks later, Tamir's tanks fired a shell at the same market. This time, they killed a vendor who was loading onions onto his Peugeot 504.

Former IDF chief Moshe Yaalon once said about this officer and gentleman that he needs "reeducating" because of endemic disciplinary problems in his brigade. The person who bragged that his brigade behaved like Rottweilers; who thought more violence should be used against Palestinians; who said that the destruction his soldiers caused in a Jenin refugee camp did not "cause him any moral dilemmas," may now finally be punished. And for what? A Tomcar. And what might just spare him? For all his misdoings, this man may be cleared of blame because he is considered a "well-respected and important" officer in the IDF.

mardi 22 juillet 2008

Soldier filmed shooting bound Palestinian released from detention

Haaretz Last update - 18:58 22/07/2008
By News Agencies

The Israel Defense Forces soldier filmed shooting at a handcuffed Palestinian near the West Bank town of Na'alin last week was released from police detention on Tuesday and sent back to join his unit. The soldier, who was was filmed shooting a bound and blindfolded Palestinian with a rubber bullet at point blank range, told military investigators on Monday that his regiment commander had ordered him to fire. The incident was caught on camera by a villager and released Sunday by the human rights group B'Tselem. The footage apparently shows a soldier firing his rifle toward a Palestinian detained at the protest in the West Bank village of Na'alin. The rifle appeared to have been modified to fire rubber-coated metal bullets.

During his questioning, the soldier said that his commander, lieutenant colonel Omri, had told him "shoot him" three times. He then fired his rifle at the protester's foot. Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday condemnded the incident. "The Israeli military will investigate the incident, learn its lessons and hold those responsible to account," Barak said in televised remarks to legislators in his Labour Party. "Warriors do not behave like this." The soldier was arrested Sunday, but the defense asked for his release saying he did not pose a danger to anyone.

During the course of the investigation, the commander, seen in the video holding the Palestinian detainee, was also questioned. Military sources said that the commander was surprised by the shooting and that the incident had likely resulted from a misunderstanding between the soldier and the officer.

The incident occurred July 7 during protests in the village of Na'alin against the construction of Israel's barrier in the West Bank. The protester, Abu-Rahama, 27, had been tied up and blindfolded and was standing only a few centimeters away. Abu-Rahama told B'Tselem that he was beaten by the soldiers and then herded by soldiers and officers into a military jeep. In the video, a soldier is seen aiming his weapon at the demonstrator's legs from a short range. Abu-Rahama said he sustained wounds to his left foot and then received first aid treatment by an army medic on the spot before being released. An army statement said a military doctor who examined him found he had been "very slightly wounded with swelling to a toe on his right foot".

According to B'Tselem, the shooting was witnessed by several other soldiers and officers. The organization allegedly demanded an investigation be opened into his role and that the soldier who fired the gun "be brought to justice." "This was a serious incident in stark violation of the [military's] rules of conduct and safety," the army statement said. "The advocate-general ... ordered a military police investigation into the incident upon receiving the footage."

The video was filmed by a Palestinian girl, 14, from a window in her home in the village. "But there are questions about the edited parts," Major Avital Leibovitz, a military spokeswoman said, referring to the point where the video stops. The clip then resumes and shows footage of what appears to be a few moments later with Abu Rahama laying on the ground. B'Tselem's spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said the girl had accidentally stopped filming when she was startled by the gunshot and continued as soon as she became aware she had pressed the stop button.

As part of its "Shooting Back" project, B'Tselem has distributed about 100 cameras to Palestinians throughout the West Bank over the last year. Of these, several dozen were handed out in the Hebron area, where friction between Palestinians and Israelis is routine. B'Tselem released a video last month showing the beginning of an apparent assault by masked, stick-wielding settlers on Palestinian farmers. The footage shows four people holding sticks approaching the farmers near the settlement of Susya outside Hebron in the West Bank. One strikes a blow before the camera falls. Israel Police this month arrested two resident of the Susya settlement, one of them a minor, suspected of involvement in the attack.

dimanche 20 juillet 2008

Education Min. now seeking to adopt Leviev Jewish identity program

Haaretz Last update - 13:43 20/07/2008
By Or Kashti

In a stark turnaround, the Education Ministry is in advanced negotiations with the Lev Leviev Foundation to approve its Zman Masa (Journey Time) program for bolstering Jewish identity. For the past two years the ministry steadfastly objected to using the program in state elementary schools, but it has approved it for the upcoming school year under two key conditions: The course booklets must undergo major revisions, and the program must be taught by faculty members or student teachers, not Orthodox teachers from outside. Sources at the Leviev Foundation said the curriculum material is being rewritten, and that they hope to secure the necessary permits by mid-August. However, it remains unclear whether the program will indeed be taught exclusively by secular teachers.

This past school year, Zman Masa was taught at 66 elementary schools in Rishon Letzion, Netanya, Petah Tikva and Beit Shemesh. The Leviev Foundation covers the cost of instruction hours (two hours a week) and course materials. The foundation previously submitted two versions of the program for Education Ministry approval, and both were rejected, partly on the grounds that they take an Orthodox approach. When ministry officials met in late April to discuss the matter, pedagogic secretariat head Prof. Anat Zohar said that "the essential concept was not amended," and "the program is written from the viewpoint of faith, observing the commandments, and accepting God's sovereignty." Another official at the meeting said there had been "'patchwork' revisions, not a change of concept." For the past two school years the program operated without the authorization of the Education Ministry pedagogic secretariat, which is responsible for vetting outside programs. Zman Masa directors say the program was approved by the ministry's previous director general, Shmuel Abuav. After the discussion in April, it was decided that the program's course pamphlets would be brought in line with the Shenhar report, which stipulated that Judaism studies at state schools must take a pluralistic approach. In recent weeks, Dr. Ron Margolin of Tel Aviv University, who was a member of the committee that drafted the principles for studying cultural Judaism, has begun serving as a secular academic adviser for Zman Masa. Margolin says the program's directors realize they cannot take an Orthodox approach in state schools. "If they indeed make the changes, there is no reason not to cooperate with them," he added. Zman Masa officials say they are changing some units and deleting others, such as those on ritual hand washing, identifying kosher and non-kosher animals, and a supplemental chapter on the Temple and its vessels. Faith-based statements are being toned down. For example, the goal of "strengthening belief in the Almighty who created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day" has been changed to "learning about the creation story described in the Bible." In addition, reference to the Leviev Foundation will be deleted from title pages. The biggest stumbling block remains who will teach the program, if approved. Last year the program was taught by 160 adjunct teachers, all Orthodox. The Education Ministry insists that Jewish education must be the province of its teachers. But Zman Masa director Shai Rinsky says it is tough to find secular teachers for the program. "We are investing tremendous effort in this, but cannot make any commitments yet," he said. An Education Ministry official responded, "The program will be taught exclusively by teachers from the state school system."

mercredi 9 juillet 2008

Cosmetics firm sorry for topless DJ ad, but Haredim still irate

Haaretz Last update - 17:21 09/07/2008
By Adi Dovrat and Nati Toker, TheMarker

A recent marketing campaign for Unilever's Axe deodorant for men raised the hackles of the ultra-Orthodox community when the corporation sponsored a poolside party for teens, DJed by a topless Hungarian disc jockey flown in for the event, and attended by other partially-clad young women. Unsurprisingly, despite Unilever's written apology to the Haredi community, its leaders remain unsatisfied. Rabbi Gabriel Papenheim, who chairs the Kashrut Committee for Badatz, told TheMarker that the matter was initially to have ended with their apology, but Badatz is now demanding that an apology also be published in the secular press. "The insult was to the secular community no less than to us," he said. Papenheim added that if Unilever refused, the Badatz leaders would convene to decide on sanctions against the company.

Unilever, whose revenues largely come from the Haredi and religious sectors, is careful to keep its brands separate, and to avoid provocative advertising. In its campaign for Dove products, for instance, the company scrupulously avoided the use of women in T-shirts to avoid offending the religious-Haredi sector. But Axe is known for its more provocative public relations style, partially adapted to the brand's campaigns overseas.

Kol Hai radio announcer Mordechai Lavi interviewed several outspoken leaders of the community in a program broadcast last Monday, who called on the Haredi sector to avoid buying Unilever products. "They need to be taught that anyone using callous, cheap and substandard advertising techniques for their products will be rejected by the community. Their apology and clarification should be done through secular media, to make sure that no others will follow suit," said one interviewee. "The Haredi community is not silent and will not be silent," another raged.

But Unilever's response is not likely to soothe ruffled feathers. "Axe is an international brand that operates according to the international company's strategic advertising policy. The brand sponsored a private event. Unilever respects all of its customers, including the Haredi sector, who have been its loyal customers for decades. We apologize to anyone who was hurt by the event, and will try to be more careful in the future," the company said.

Ultra-Orthodox Tel Avivians abandoning secular ship

Haaretz Last update - 12:49 09/07/2008
By Moti Katz

The inhabitants of downtown Tel Aviv who have been strolling in the Rothschild Boulevard area of late cannot help but notice the abundance of "Apartment for Rent" signs on the balconies of buildings there. Alongside the phone number to call, and the notation "No Agents," there is the caution "Not on the Sabbath," usually hand-written.

Tel Aviv, which next year will celebrate its 100th anniversary, is losing its observant religious, a population concentrated in the downtown Lev Ha'ir area. At the height of its flourishing, in the 1960s, there were 20 Hasidic groups living here. The abandonment began some years ago, when the admors (spiritual leaders) passed away or left the city to live in large ultra-Orthodox centers like Jerusalem or Bnei Brak., and their disciples followed them. Of the many Hasidic courts only a very few remain, and many synagogues and educational institutions have shut down for lack of demand. According to Yossi Altschuler of the Nihul Nehasim real estate company, which has been active in the Lev Ha'ir area for about 20 years, this process has accelerated.

"Not in huge waves," he says, "but we are definitely witnessing a phenomenon of quite a number of religious families, mostly the elderly, who are leaving the city. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designation of Lev Ha'ir area as a World Heritage site has made it fashionable and has contributed to the wave of price increases. In Tel Aviv there is no chance of a positive influx of ultra-Orthodox population, since they cannot afford the high prices. They prefer to buy in places like Bnei Brak or in other places that are attractive to their public."

A couple that has lived in the city for 40 years and raised five children there are among those who have recently decided to sell their home and leave Tel Aviv. "It wasn't an easy decision to get up and move all of a sudden, leaving so many memories behind," says the mother of the family, as she showed the apartment to clients who had come to view the property. Sad-faced, she says: "This is where we started our life and here is where we raised our children. To start all over again at the age of 60 is hard, but the prices in this area are high, which makes it impossible to buy apartments here for the children but at the same time we can get a high price for this apartment here and move to a more religious area, near the children."

"The religious population in Lev Ha'ir does indeed have a big problem," confirms Rabbi Shimon Menachem Frenkel, son of the late Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, Rabbi Yitzchak Yedidya Frenkel. Frenkel, who serves as the rabbi of three synagogues in the city, mourns that religious Tel Aviv has lost its greatness. "Most of the synagogues are emptying and the young people are leaving and not coming back, and, to my regret, I have been seeing that recently the elderly parents have been leaving in their wake. Just this week I heard about a number of Gur Hasidic families that are leaving the community. This large community, which has existed in Tel Aviv since it was founded, is crumbling. My five sons don't live here any more either. My late father saw the start of the crumbling. When the Admor of Strikov left 22 years ago, he castigated him: 'Do you want to transform the city of Tel Aviv into a remote city?'"

Frenkel declares that he himself is remaining in the city and continuing his war to preserve the remnants of the religious character in Tel Aviv, but he is not optimistic. "A miracle has to happen. Maybe if the prices drop, the people will come back. But I am very much afraid that in a few more years the religious community will simply disappear."

The apartment prices are not the only reason for the new wave of departures. S., who lived on Oliphant Street in Tel Aviv for 40 years and left a few years ago, says the famous coexistence between religious and secular in the city has come to an end. S: "Times have changed. The secular have become even more secular and the religious have become more ultra-Orthodox. There used to be mutual respect. It used to be that the Kedoshei Antopol Synagogue on Oliphant Street was full on Friday nights and holidays, and nowadays it is sometimes hard to find a minyan.

"The secular people today don't have a feeling for religion. The secular people I knew in my childhood were for the most part from Europe and had a connection to religion. The secular people of today are absolutely secular. It used to be that you could feel the Sabbath in Tel Aviv. The shops were closed on Saturday, even if they were under secular ownership. "Today, the old shops have been replaced by the AM:PM and Tiv Ta'am chains that are open on the Sabbath. The population has changed. Even my own children don't want to come to grandma and grandpa for the Sabbath. They say to me: 'We don't understand how you grew up here? Why are you bringing us to a place where there is no Sabbath?' The ultra-Orthodox prefer to move to Beitar Ilit and Bnei Brak. They prefer nature reserves of Jews to nature reserves of Bauhaus buildings."

"Look," adds S. with a laugh, and points to a notice on a tree. "This notice exemplifies the big picture in the best way: 'Lost: a white cat with a red collar. Anyone who knows anything about where she is requested to contact...' You understand? In my childhood on nearly every notice board or tree in the area there were pashkevils (admonitory posters) and notices about hashevat aveda (the pious return of a lost object) - a lunch bag or a book bag that was forgotten, a little tallis that was found. From hashevat aveda to a lost cat. This is the story of the neighborhood."

Approaching the building where Rebbetzin R. lives, it is easy to tell which is her apartment by the faded plastic louvers, which are very different from the well-tended facade with the pretty Belgian windows of her new neighbors on the upper stories of the building. R., who is about 70, is the wife of one of the heads of the community in the area. She grew up in a prestigious family of a dynasty of admors from Austro-Hungary, which immigrated to the land of Israel before the establishment of the state.

"Imagine," she says, "when I was a girl, we were three families sharing one apartment. An ultra-Orthodox family, a traditional family and a secular family all lived together under one roof. It couldn't be said there were no problems - there were, because that's how it is when you live crowded together and meagerly. But there were never disagreements on matters of religion and tradition, there was mutual respect. Nowadays it isn't like that. I miss my secular neighbor who used to live in the adjacent apartment. When we would sing Sabbath songs, she and her family would turn the radio off to listen to the Sabbath songs that they remembered from their parents shtetl in Poland." "It isn't pleasant to say so," she adds, lowering her voice as though sharing a secret, "but money is also an element in the departure of the religious. The prices have gone up a lot. The big departure was around the 1970s. The parents, who couldn't manage to buy apartments for their children, had to buy apartments for them in other, cheaper cities like Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. The Hasidic communities are dwindling. The Vizhnitz community has left, and so has the Belz Hasidut. There used to be heders for teaching Torah to children from each Hasidut and now there is only one heder on Ahad Ha'am Street, which serves anyone who remains. "Look, in my building there used to be six religious families and today only we remain. In the building next door only three families remain. Only in the building across the street," she says, pointing proudly, "there are four (religious) families and just two secular families. They will never leave. They are Gur Hassidim! 'The patriots,' we call them. The ones who will never leave in any circumstances. They have had orders from the admor. "The neighbor upstairs told me one day that this building is now worth a lot of money, because they declared the area as...." She scratches the scarf wrapped around her head, trying to recall. "What did she call it? Oh, I remember. A Bohemian area. A Bohemian building for preservation. That's what she called it."

School separating Ashkenazi, Mizrahi kids may lose license

Haaretz Last update - 02:48 09/07/2008
By Yair Ettinger

The Education Ministry is threatening to withdraw the license of the Beit Yaakov girls' school in Immanuel unless it halts its policy of separating Ashkenazi and Mizrahi students. Until recently the ministry tended to accept the position of the Independent Education Center, to which the school belongs, according to which the separation is a "new track" based on educational and religious, not ethnic, factors. The ministry is to submit a response to the High Court of Justice on the issue within days.

In February the nonprofit Noar Kehalakha, which fights anti-Mizrahi discrimination in the ultra-Orthodox school system, submitted a petition to the High Court of Justice against the Education Ministry and the Independent Education Center alleging clear discrimination at the school. The suit claims the school served the entire community up until the current school year, when the administration decided to place most of the Ashkenazi students in separate classrooms. The school building was split, with a fence and separate entrances for girls from Ashkenazi and from Mizrahi families. In addition, the two groups began their day at different times and wore different uniforms.

The petition followed a Channel 2 television report and the appointment by Education Ministry Director General Shlomit Amichai of an examiner, attorney Mordechai Bas. In his March report, Bas cited the illegality of the school's actions but accepted the center's claim that the measures were part of a new track rather than separation on ethnic grounds. The ministry's response to the court stated that although the situation at the school "required correction," the motive for the separation "was not ethnic or racial at all and was based on legitimate considerations of differences and gaps in the worldview and the exercise of religious faith and practice that this entails." The ministry added that the situation at the school should not be restored immediately to its previous state.

Now, with the change in the ministry's position, Amichai is demanding just that, unless the Independent Education Center can present a clear curriculum and educational criteria for its "new track." In a letter sent to the center's attorney two weeks ago she wrote that in the absence of such a program and criteria the ministry will consider delicensing the school, "with all that implies on the level of economic sanctions and the cut of ministry support for the school." It should be noted that Amichai made a similar threat in January, before retracting it.

Police fail to bring indictments in settler attacks on Palestinians

Haaretz Last update - 06:28 09/07/2008
By Jonathan Lis

Only 10 percent of the instances in which Palestinians accused settlers of attacking them ended up in indictments being filed against the suspects, according to data presented today by the human rights group Yesh Din. The group examined 205 different cases of alleged assault by settlers that were reported over the years. The data on the 205 cases also shows that 163 of the cases have been closed by police and prosecution officials. Only in 13 cases, 8 percent, were indictments filed, while 149 cases were closed without charges being brought against the suspects. The group argues that police in the West Bank have failed in completing investigations on suspected attacks against Palestinians there.

'Weak arm of the law' "The weak arm [of the law] avoids enforcing laws on Israelis living in the West Bank, causes the state of Israel to violate its ethical and international obligations vis a vis the population under our control," said Michael Sfard, the legal counsel for Yesh Din. The group says that of the 149 police investigations that were closed, in 91 cases this was done because the "violator's identity was not known." Forty-three other cases were closed for lack of evidence, and the rest because there was no criminal violation, no public interest or for no obvious reason. In response the police in the West Bank said Tuesday that during 2007 "a total of 550 cases were opened in cases of disturbing the peace, involving Israelis against Palestinians, left wing activists or the security forces. Of these only 195 cases were violations against Palestinians." The police also pointed out that "of the 69 indictments of disturbing the peace, 30 of the cases involved a Palestinian plaintiff."

Study: Israeli Jews live nearly 4 years longer than Israeli Arabs

Haaretz Last update - 16:44 09/07/2008
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent

A new study reveals that Jewish Israeli men live an average of three and a half years longer than Israeli Arabs, in addition to enjoying substantially more government resources. The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel published its annual report on equality between Jewish and Arab citizens on Wednesday. The report focused on the gaps between Jews and Arabs in education, housing, welfare, health and employment. This year's report revealed that the gaps have deepened over the last year in most fields. According to the data, the Arab population receives only 70 percent of the resources they are entitled to in accordance with the percentage of Arabs within the general population. The biggest gap was recorded in the welfare field, where Arabs receive only 49 percent of the benefits they are entitled to. The state of Israel invests NIS 508 in every Jewish citizen on average, while only NIS 348 are invested in Arab citizens.

Furthermore, the report shows that these gaps result in 65.7 percent of Arab children living below the poverty line, as opposed to 31.4 percent of Jewish children. The primary reasons for this, the report says, are the cutbacks in welfare stipends and Israel's taxing policy. Moreover, the system in which the government conditions the transfer of funds on the matching contributions of the local authorities (matching), creates a vicious cycle among poor authorities that can't fund their part of the welfare budget and consequently lose their funding. Another factor is funds earmarked for local authorities that absorb Jewish immigrants, which the Arab sector does not enjoy. "The report reflects the Arab population's reality," said attorney Ali Khaidar. "You can see the deterioration in the quality of life and level of the Arab public," he added. One of the most alarming findings in the report is that gap in life expectancy. During recent years, the life expectancy of Jewish Israelis rose consistently among both men and women, while that of the Jewish sector rose only slightly. The life expectancy of a Jewish man is three and a half years longer than that of an Arab man, and a Jewish woman lives four years longer than an Arab woman, on average. There is also a substantial gap in the infant mortality rates among Jewish and Arab citizens, with 8.4 out of every 1000 Arab babies dying as opposed to 3.4 of every 1000 Jewish babies.

The only field in which Arabs display an advantage over Jews is home ownership. 93 percent of Israeli Arabs are home owners, while only 70 percent of Jews own their homes. However, the average value of an apartment in a Jewish town is NIS 770,000 while the average value of an apartment in an Arab community is NIS 618,000. The number of people per room averages 0.85 people among Jews and 1.42 people among Arabs. The amount of square meters per person is 50 percent higher among Jews than Arabs.

Rightist MK tries Knesset caucus effort to thwart Israeli Arabs

Haaretz Last update - 02:33 09/07/2008
By Shahar Ilan, Haaretz Correspondent

While the official name of the parliamentary alignment created Tuesday is the Legislative Caucus to Preserve the Jewish Identity of the State of Israel, it could more correctly termed the demographic caucus, or perhaps the caucus for the prevention of the proliferation of Arabs. The pressure group was founded by MK Eliyahu Gabbay (National Union-National Religious Party), who until now was best known for opposing Gay Pride parades in Jerusalem. By definition a legislative caucus concentrates the activity of more than a few MKs from more than a few parties, but Tuesday's event was a one-man show on the part of a man who is considered an outsider by his own party. While a few party colleagues did turn up, none stayed more than a few minutes.

Party colleague Aryeh Eldad took advantage of the opportunity to issue an announcement that - "the Israeli left, out of naivete, disingenuousness or stupidity, does not understand that it is indirectly aiding the enemy at home and abroad to destroy Israel. Israeli Arabs are the enemy of the Jewish state and should be treated as such," Eldad said.

Gabbay's action was motivated by the two recent terror attacks carried out by residents of East Jerusalem, who carry Israeli identity cards. "There are elements in the Arab population who are methodically working to infiltrate people into every community, to bring Arab families into kibbutzim, moshavim and communal villages, wherever they possibly can," Gabbay said. "The problem of the deprivation of Israeli Arabs simply doesn't exist, because it is the Jews and not the Arabs who are deprived," Gabbay said, noting that Arabs receive state social benefits and claiming they can build homes illegally while Jews are prosecuted for even adding a balcony without a building permit. Gabbay said that terrorists act out of nationalist motives only and are not driven to their actions by poverty and social distress. "One example is California, which once belonged to Mexico. There are poor and rich people there but still there's no Mexican terror in California," Gabbay said.

In the absence of MKs, representatives of various organizations presented their perspectives on the Arab problem. Erez Tadmor, of If You Will It, thinks the main problem is "the High Court of Justice, which is controlled by the left." He said that because the latter "views all attempts to preserve [Israel's] Jewish identity as racist," it is necessary to pass as many laws as possible restricting Israel's Arabs and containing stipulations obviating High Court intervention in these laws. Arieh Stav, director of the Ariel Center for Policy Research, focused mainly on Arab MKs. "It is inconceivable for an unmistakable fifth column to run its parties in the parliament. We have parties that openly cooperate with the enemy," Stav said. He said that the main problem is not the Arabs but rather a mental problem - "the Jewish pathology."

Report: 90% probes into attacks against Palestinians close with no indictment

Report: 90% probes into attacks against Palestinians close with no indictment
Human rights organization Yesh Din releases data showing only small number of police investigations into offenses committed by settlers against Palestinians in West Bank end with indictments filed against defendants. Police say data inaccurate, a respectable number of files reach court

Ynet Published: 07.09.08, 08:02

Nine out of 10 investigations into attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank end without no indictment served, according to data released Wednesday by the human rights organization Yesh Din which monitors the handling of investigations into offenses committed against Palestinians.
The report includes 205 inquiry files opened in recent years, out of which police processing and prosecutorial review have concluded in only 163 files. Out of those 163, only in 13 (8%) of the cases were indictments filed against defendants.

According to the organization, one case file was lost and never investigated, and 149 (91%) investigation files were closed without filing any indictments against suspects.
Yesh Din followed the processing by investigation and prosecution bodies of three main
categories of complaints: Offenses of various kinds of assaults, trespassing on Palestinian
land and offenses of causing damage to Palestinian property.
Out of 81 investigation files concerned with assault offenses, the processing of 62 has been completed. In 53 of the cases the investigation was closed.
Seventy-nine of the cases monitored by Yesh Din are concerned with the offense of criminal trespass and accompanying offenses: Cutting down, uprooting and setting fire to
olive and other fruit trees, seizing land, damaging crops, stealing olive sacks during the
harvest season and others. The police recommended filing indictments in only five of these cases.

In 22 investigation files concerned with damage to Palestinian property – theft, arson, vandalizing agricultural equipment and damage to other property – not one indictment was filed.
Following the findings, the organization asked for the police's explanation on the small number of cases ending with indictments. According to the police, 91 investigation files were closed on grounds of "perpetrator unknown" and 43 cases were closed on grounds of "lack of evidence".
In addition, one case was closed on grounds of "lack of public interest" and nine cases were closed based on "no criminal culpability."

'Settlers violent against Israelis, soldiers as well'
Lior Yavne, who oversees Yesh Din's research, data collection and public information, said that the police and State Prosecutor's Office must conduct a thorough self-examination due to the severe findings.
"In the end of 2006 we revealed the many failures and shortcomings leading to failure in 90% of the police investigations into Israeli civilians' offenses against Palestinians. The fact that the failure rate remains as it was, obligates the police and the State Prosecutor's Office to take real measures in order to fix the failures we revealed in the investigation files," he said.
According to the organization, the settlers' violence will eventually be directed also at security forces personnel serving in the area.
"The weak hand refraining from enforcing the law against Israelis living in the West Bank causes the State of Israel to violate its moral and international duties towards the people we control. And as has been proven in the past, wrongdoing against Palestinians which is not enforced by the law will also be directed against security forces and Israeli civilians who are not part of the settlers' group," said Attorney Michael Sfarad, Yesh Din's legal advisor.

The Judea and Samaria District Police said in response to the report that a total of 550 investigation files into riots of Israelis against Palestinians, security forces and left-wing activists were opened in 2007. Out of all the files, only 195 dealt with attacks against Palestinians.
Out of the 323 files handed over to the State Prosecutor's Office, the police said, indictments were served in 69 cases of riots, and some 30 were opened following a complaint filed by a Palestinian against an Israeli. Out of all the investigation files handled last year, the prosecution obtained conviction in 83 files, some of which began before 2007.

mardi 8 juillet 2008

Where's the money? Breakdown of assets held by Holocaust restitution company

Haaretz Last update - 06:45 08/07/2008

Assets belonging to Jewish Holocaust victims that have been transferred to the company:
-Custodian General:NIS 176 million in real estate, NIS 72 million in bank accounts
-Jewish National Fund: NIS 164 million in real estate, NIS 10 million in securities, NIS 304 million in J.K.T. stocks (Otzar Hityashvut Hayehudim)
-Bank accounts: NIS 20 million Total: NIS 746 million

Michael Eisenbud, of Kiryat Motzkin, requested the withdrawal of funds from an account in the Anglo-Palestine Bank (today Bank Leumi) opened by his father, who was killed in Lithuania in 1941, in 1936. In February he and his brother received NIS 300,000.

66,000 Holocaust victims on the company's list of property owners
6,604 Applications submitted to the company
105 Applications from heirs approved.
About 10 have received money
10,500 Holocaust survivors who received NIS 6,000 allocation each

Bank Leumi called account worthless, but Holocaust victim's sons to get NIS 400,000

Haaretz Last update - 06:45 08/07/2008
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent

Michael Eisenbud was a 13-year-old schoolboy in Panevezys, Lithuania in 1936 when his father attended a Zionist doctors' conference in Palestine and opened an account at the Anglo-Palestine Bank. Dr. Chaim Ben Zion Eisenbud continued depositing funds into the account until World War II broke out. In 1941, after the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union and occupied Lithuania, Dr. Chaim Ben Zion Eisenbud was taken, together with 7,000 of his fellow Jews from Panevezys, outside the city and shot to death. His sons Michael and Eliezer escaped to the Soviet area and served in the Red Army. In 1973 Eliezer Eisenbud immigrated to Israel and asked the bank by then Bank Leumi for the family's account. Michael immigrated in 1979, and the brothers have been attempting to release the funds for three decades.

"The Bank Leumi officials were very polite," says Michael. "They said the money was transferred to the Custodian General. There we were told that due to the lira's devaluation the money was worth very little and wasn't even worth issuing an inheritance order for." In 2005 the brothers appealed to the Knesset Inquiry Committee for the Location and Restitution of Assets of Holocaust Victims, chaired by MK Colette Avital. The committee passed the case on to the Company for Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets and in February the Eisnbuds received NIS 300,000 70 percent of the account's value, according to the company.

"They said it was an advance but it's not clear when we'll get the rest," Michael said. "In any case, at our age, I'm 85 it cannot make a difference to our lives. It's a pity we didn't have it when we first came and our economic situation was difficult."

The Eisenbuds' situation is good compared to that of thousands of other Holocaust heirs. Only 10 heirs have so far received money from the company, which began operating some 18 months ago. The company was set up to locate all assets bought or deposited in pre-WWII Palestine and transfer them to survivors and/or heirs of Holocaust victims. On Monday the company's executives updated the Knesset Control Committee of its activity. Until the end of June the company had located NIS 750 million worth of assets - lands, homes, bank accounts, stocks and bonds held by the Custodian General, the Jewish National Fund, banks especially Bank Leumi and the Israel Museum, which has more than 1,000 objets d'art that belonged to Holocaust victims.

The company is continuing in its attempts to retrieve and locate more property and other assets, reportedly worth hundreds of millions of shekels. The company posted on its Internet site the names of 66,000 Holocaust victims with assets in Israel. By the end of June, a total of 6,604 applications for the recovery of assets had had been filed. Only 105 applications have been approved; assets have been disbursed in about 10 of these cases. The company says the law mandates a one-year waiting period between the publication of the list of assets (the first was issued in June 2007) and the disbursement of funds, so that all potential can apply.

Several MKs and Holocaust representatives of survivors' organizations castigated the company for dragging its feet and for not using the retrieved assets to assist elderly and needy survivors. Comapny chair Avraham Roth accused the JNF, the Custodian General and banks of refusing to release the money in their possession, in violation of the law. The Custodian General's representative said the delay was due to a tender to appoint four accountants' firms to determine the assets' precise value. The JNF spokeswoman said the JNF had transferred all the real estate owned by Holocaust victims to the company.Bank Leumi said the company had given it a list of 1,200 accounts worth a total of NIS 130 million. "We checked, name by name, in our archives and in other archives. Some [account owners] aren't Holocaust victims, others live in enemy countries. We gave them a detailed list of every name about three weeks ago," the bank's spokesman said.

Israel ends curfew on Palestinian village of Na'alin

Haaretz Last update - 10:09 08/07/2008
By Reuters

The Israel Defense Forces lifted on Tuesday a curfew it imposed last week on the Palestinian town of Na'alin, where violent protests had erupted against Israel's West Bank separation fence. "It was lifted early this morning," a military spokeswoman said. The town's mayor confirmed the curfew, which was clamped on Na'alin on Friday after violence erupted during protests at a barrier construction site, had ended and said soldiers had pulled out.

"We woke up and luckily we did not see their presence in all of the town and now we are inspecting the damage they have inflicted on us," Mayor Ayman Nafi told Reuters by telephone. On Monday, IDF soldiers fired teargas and stun grenades, wounding at least three Palestinians in Na'alin as they attempted to stifle protests against the fence. "There were discussions between the villagers and the army commanders and they decided to lift the curfew," the military spokeswoman said. "The villagers promised not to protest and to keep the village quiet." The fence cuts off some Na'alin residents from their farmland. The IDF said eight security personnel and two workers have been hurt in protests in the Nilin area over the past month. The town of 5,000 lies some 12 miles east of Tel Aviv.

lundi 7 juillet 2008

IDF curfew forces West Bank village residents to stay indoors around the clock

Haaretz Last update - 02:02 07/07/2008
By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters

Shots sounded from the West Bank village of Na'alin on Sunday as locals marched in defiance of a daylight curfew imposed by the Israel Defense Forces troops who sealed off the area on Saturday. One resident said up to 50 people were hurt by tear gas and rubber bullets. The IDF said a soldier was wounded and declined to comment on any casualties among civilians on a third day of clashes and a clampdown that has kept journalists out. Troops again stopped reporters trying to enter the town of 5,000, 20 km (12 miles) east of Tel Aviv, which has been a focus for protests against separation fence Israel is building through the West Bank in what it says is a necessary security measure.

A Reuters correspondent on a hill overlooking Na'alin saw at least a dozen people walking and shouting through the village. He also heard several shots. Local people said by telephone they had been prevented from leaving the town since Friday. An IDF spokesman said the indefinite daylight curfew was imposed on townspeople on Sunday, forcing them to stay indoors around the clock, "in light of recent violent incidents". He said 8 Israeli security personnel and 2 workers building the separation barrier were hurt in protests over the past month.

The West Bank barrier, a network of razor-wire fences and concrete barricades, is intended to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers, Israel says. But it also loops around Jewish settlement blocs, cutting off West Bank villages from swathes of farmland. Four years ago this week, the World Court in the Hague ruled building the 720 km. (430 mile) barrier on occupied land was illegal. The United Nations says Israel has ignored that ruling.

On Saturday, the IDF blockaded the Palestinian village in what the army called an open-ended effort to curb protests against the separation fence. Troops encircled Na'alin, near the Palestinian hub city of Ramallah, under orders to vet those entering or leaving the village and turn back would-be demonstrators. "These protests have been getting increasingly violent, and they must be stopped," an IDF spokeswoman said.

On Friday, she said, hundreds of demonstrators threw rocks and rolled burning tires toward Israeli border policemen guarding the fence, wounding one person and damaging a jeep. Na'alin residents said the closure was imposed on Friday, which also saw a march against the barrier during which around 20 protesters were hurt by rubber bullets fired by Israeli security forces. Four protesters from an Israeli solidarity group were arrested, an organizer of the demonstration said. Casualties and other patients were prevented from leaving the village for treatment, said Salah al-Khawaja, spokesman for the Ni'lin Committee for Resisting the Wall. The military spokeswoman said security forces were attacked by hundreds of Palestinians who pelted them with rocks and rolled burning tyres at them, injuring a border policeman. She denied that the closure was affecting the movement of patients.

The IDF also relayed that over the last month there have been many other incidents of stone-throwing and tire-burning in a bid to sabotage work on the fence near the village. After the blockade was declared, some 200 demonstrators travelled to Na'alin. The army said in response to this that the protestors were forcing it to violate the Sabbath in order to maintain order. For their part, the protestors argued that their rallies are legitimate protests, which are held after the expropriation of Na'alin residents' land to benefit the nearby settlement of Hashmonaim and work on the fence. Israel says the network of fences and concrete barricades is intended to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers, but the barrier also loops around settlement blocs, cutting off some West Bank villages from swathes of farmland. Construction sites are flashpoints for confrontations between Israeli security forces and local Palestinians, who are often supported by left-wing protestors from Israel and abroad. The army spokeswoman said the blockade was for an indefinite period. Israel Radio said it would be in place until Monday and would then be reviewed by the military top brass.

Murky dealings over Migron - illegal sales of Arab land to Jewish settlers

Haaretz 07/07/2008 By Uri Blau

The Police's National Fraud Investigation Unit has been conducting a multifaceted investigation over the past few months into how some of the lands of the Migron outpost were purchased. The investigation focuses on a company called Al Wattan, which bought from Palestinians some of the land on which the outpost was built. It is suspected that some of the company documents ostensibly attesting to land purchases were forged. A Haaretz inquiry, which revealed the police investigation into this matter, exposes some of the serpentine methods used to purchase land in the territories, and the settlement establishment's connections to these deals. Even though the name of the company may be misleading, Al Wattan ("the homeland," in Arabic) is an Israeli company established in September 2002 by companies controlled by the Binyamin Regional Council, in order to purchase lands in Judea and Samaria. Like other companies engaged in similar activities, Al Wattan was registered as a company with the Civil Administration and not with the Israeli registrar of companies.

The Binyamin Regional Council's Web site and the web page describing the Binyamin Development Corporation, a shareholder in the company, contain no mention of Al Wattan's activities. Pinchas Wallerstein, former head of the Binyamin Regional Council, said in a conversation that to the best of his knowledge, in parallel with the abovementioned company, another company with the same name was registered in Ramallah and all the land acquisitions are conducted through it, because according to Palestinian law, lands may not be sold directly to Jews. Dubi Weiner, CEO of the Binyamin Development Corporation, confirmed that it is a company owned by them that deals in land purchases, and said he is unaware of a parallel company registered in Ramallah or of a police investigation into this matter. Haaretz found that in Ramallah there are numerous companies registered under the name Al Wattan, and it is unclear which of them is involved in land purchases.

Dozens of caravans, 40 families

The Migron outpost, today deemed one of the prominent symbols of illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank, was established in 2002 within the jurisdiction of the Binyamin Regional Council, not far from Kochav Yaakov. Currently the dozens of caravans there house over 40 families. In another month or so, the Supreme Court is to receive from the state an update on its efforts with regard to Migron, as part of ongoing legal proceedings involving a Peace Now petition seeking the outpost's evacuation. In 2004-2005, two families living in Migron approached the Civil Administration with a request to obtain building permits for permanent housing on section 23, plot 26, which they claim was purchased by Al Wattan and then leased to them. The residents presented the Civil Administration with a document that supposedly proved the purchase of the land: A power of attorney signed in June 2004 thousands of kilometers from Israel, in Orange County, California, by a notary named D.K. Shah. "I, the undersigned, Abd Allatif Hassan Sumarin," it stated, "formerly a resident of the village of Burka Ramallah and currently a resident of Orange County, California, received in advance the specified sums in this matter and I hereby appoint Al Wattan, Ltd., no. 562500496, as my legal and practical representative in order to negotiate, purchase, sell, hand over, transfer, mortgage, manage or handle the asset described below: section 26, plot 23, area of land 22,638 square meters, in the West Bank, Ramallah." However, the police suspect that this power of attorney, a copy of which Haaretz has obtained, is forged.

The suspicion is based, among other things, on a 1998 inheritance note signed in the Sharia Court in Ramallah that also reached the National Fraud Investigation Unit's investigators. In the note, the Sharia kadi of Ramallah writes that this Sumarin, who supposedly signed the power of attorney in 2004, died in 1961. Another suspicion was raised by the fact that despite repeated requests by the Civil Administration, Al Wattan has not provided documents attesting to the fact that it indeed purchased the lands according to the law. This much was even stated in the state's response to the High Court of Justice in December 2006, when the state's representative reported, "with regard to all the purchase claims - the required documents were not presented - [the claims] are mere idle claims and they are certainly not equivalent to the fact that the lands in the outpost are lands owned by Palestinian residents."

'We arranged it with Wallerstein'

The rabbi of the outpost, Itai Halevy, who is building his home on the disputed plot, said, "We were told that the community was built in a formal manner with the knowledge of the authorities and settlement agencies, just like every community in the State of Israel - we built the permanent homes about three years ago. I was told that the plot was purchased legally."

Did you pay for it?
Halevy: "No. It was purchased publicly, I think through the [regional] council."

How did you proceed after you decided to build a permanent home? "We looked at the documents here and were also in contact with Pinchas Wallerstein. I arranged everything with him. Who do we have who is more authorized than him? There is no justness in the whole legal complaint. The motives behind it are political, and they camouflaged it as something legal. Peace Now declares that it promotes political perceptions and any attempt to claim that there is a legal case here is absurd."

What about the charge that the power of attorney is forged?
"This claim is not clean-handed, and whoever makes it is not really interested in seeing justice come to light."

The other person leasing the land, Itai Harel, said that the Palestinian documents are the ones that are forgeries, and the matter should be clarified in a police investigation or in court, but not in the High Court of Justice. A few months ago, the Fraud Investigation Unit detectives went to the United States to gather testimony and among others, took Shaah's testimony. A person well versed in the details of the case related that the American notary denied any involvement in the matter and claimed that his notary's seal, which appears on the power of attorney, was stolen from him.

One of the addresses under which Al Wattan is registered is 17 Sheshet Hayamim Street, Jerusalem. The same address was used to register several real estate companies in recent years, as well as organizations involved in "redeeming" West Bank lands. This week there was no trace of any activity whatsoever there. Some of the companies and organizations are affiliated with Attorney Eli Shmuelian, who occasionally represents right-wing organizations. Shmuelian explained that he was not active in Al Wattan and his sole task was to register it.

Secretive world of land transfers

Someone who was in fact questioned in the case is Yitzhak (Tzahi) Mamo, a resident of Ofra who is registered at the Civil Administration as a director of Al Wattan. Mamo is a familiar figure in the entangled and secretive world of land transfers to Jews in the territories and East Jerusalem. He has at least one other company registered with the Civil Administration, Bnei Rachel, which deals primarily with lands in the vicinity of Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem.

"My business is basically land purchases," he explains. "This company [Al Wattan] is a company belonging to the Binyamin Regional Council. It was created solely for the occupied territories. It is a Judea and Samaria company because the law states that only a Judea and Samaria company may purchase lands. "I was its founder and was involved in a few purchases, not much more - because I deal with contacts with Arabs, they asked me to try to find lands in Migron. I think there were three or four purchases, and one of them is currently somehow connected to a police investigation, but I can't go into it. Not a single purchase was registered in practice for all kinds of reasons, some of them technical, others substantial."

When asked why an Arab name was chosen for a company affiliated with the Binyamin Regional Council and which deals with purchasing lands in the territories, Mamo responded cynically: "Why, isn't Arabic an official language of the State of Israel?"

The other registered director of the company, Jerry Saltzman, did not respond to Haaretz's queries. In a conversation with Haaretz, Wallerstein offered another window into the connection between the company and the establishment. "Al Wattan is a company authorized to conduct purchases and deals in the Palestinian Authority," he explains. "In order not to prevent the continuation of its activity, allow me not to say who the owners in Ramallah are. I acknowledge that if this company needs funds in order to complete deals that have an impact on the settlements, we help them raise them. I don't think the council has a legal tie to this body. Certainly the council doesn't invest money there."

The company's owners are financial bodies controlled by the Binyamin Regional Council. That is, the council has a connection to this company.

Wallerstein: "Certainly. I was referring to investments. It's very hard to conduct land deals in the Palestinian Authority. They are not permitted to arrange deals with Jews, and anyone who does is sentenced to death. The company is also registered in Ramallah under the name Al Wattan, and therefore I'm cautious. I can tell you about some who were indeed revealed and are no longer alive."

Where else is the company active?
"There are lots of places where we are trying to arrange deals. Some of them weren't finalized and we aren't completing them in order not to entangle the sellers."

Who funds the company? Contributions?
"If it is lands intended for employment, financial organizations agree to invest, because it yields them benefits. The same is true for construction and lands transferred to Himanuta (a subsidiary company of the Jewish National Fund) or to the Israel Lands Administration."

With regard to Migron, there are claims that the power of attorney supposedly signed by Sumarin is forged.
"It's possible. There were instances when there were stings, including in this company."

This refers to a person who signed a document in 2004, when there is a document indicating that he died years before then.
"We have the opposite proofs. We have a video recording of his voice long after his death certificate."

About six months ago the National Fraud Investigation Unit questioned you. Were you also questioned about this matter?
"I don't remember. If yes, it was not to a degree that bothered me. Al Wattan as a company operated completely legally." The Israel Lands Administration and the Jewish National Fund said in response that they have never arranged deals with the Al Wattan company. The police stated: "This is an investigation currently being conducted by the National Fraud Investigation Unit, and we do not usually comment on ongoing investigations."

dimanche 6 juillet 2008

Marriage registration mitigations underway

Marriage registration mitigations underway
Government initiates revolutionary move to turn Israel into uniform marriage registration area. Religious establishment objects, says it may contribute to assimilation

Nissan Shtrauchler
Yedioth Ahranoth Published: 07.06.08, 09:46

The Chief Rabbinate has expressed concern over a new government initiative, aimed at turning Israel into a single marriage registration zone, fearing it may encourage assimilation.

According to the new initiative, couples who wish to get married would be able to use the services of the rabbinate bureau of their choice, and will no longer be restricted to the bureau which oversees the residential area under which they appear in the Ministry of Interior records.

"Since the entire system has been computerized, it makes no sense to prevent young couples who want to get married to choose where they want to register," said Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel.

Yehezkel reportedly approached Minister of Religious Affairs Yitzhak Cohen on the matter last week, and asked him to implement the new regulation.

Duties of a gatekeeper
Should the new initiative go through, say many rabbis, the newfound registry freedoms may cause an increase in assimilation: The marriage registrar in every city is called "the gatekeeper," meaning he is the one who is tasked with finding out whether or not those registering are single and Jewish.

In many cases, couples – especially Jewish immigrants – find themselves facing being sent back and forth, forces to present various documents proving there are indeed Jews, and although some give in and produce whatever proof necessary, redundant as it may be; others give up, opting for a civil ceremony instead.

"It's a well known fact that some marriage registrars are more strict than others," said a marriage registrar from central Israel. "It's a very sensitive matter."

Minister Cohen, however, was adamant that no reform in the marriage registry would be made possible without the rabbis' consent; adding that "We cannot allow assimilation." The Chief Rabbinate announced Sunday that it would take the matter up with the (Shas) Sages Council.

The cabinet secretary, however, rejected the claims: "I hold the Halacha and the Sages Council in the highest regard, but when it comes to logistic changes in a service provided to the public the State will have the final say.

"I'm sorry to learn that people who have been properly converted by the religious establishment are so poorly treated in some places. If by chance, the proposed change will fix this problem as well, it would be a blessing," said Yehezkel.

Itamar Eichner and Natasha Mozgovaya contributed to this report

vendredi 4 juillet 2008

Peres: No chance of peace with Palestinians

Haaretz Last update - 08:09 04/07/2008
By Yossi Verter

President Shimon Peres believes there is no chance of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Peres, the one-time proponent of a "new Middle East" made this statement last Saturday at a dinner with the Jordanian and French ambassadors in Defense Minister Ehud Barak's Tel Aviv apartment. At the end of the meal an argument erupted between the Jordanian envoy, Ali Ayed, and a well-known "dovish" attorney, who said Israel had no chance of reaching an agreement with the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas' leadership. Barak supported his guest's hawkish stance.

At a certain point, Peres intervened, surprising the participants by joining the attorney's prediction. "It would be very hard to reach an agreement," Peres said, due to the Hamas-Fatah split. He said Abbas had no support among his people, no power to carry out security agreements and that any agreement Israel and the PA made crumbled a day later due to the PA's weakness. Therefore there is no chance of agreement, he summed.

Barak orders demolition of Jerusalem, yeshiva terrorists' homes

Haaretz Last update - 19:59 04/07/2008
By Haaretz Service

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered the Israel Defense Forces to issue injunctions calling to demolish the homes of two East Jerusalem men who had perpetrated terror attacks against Israeli civilians in Jerusalem, Army Radio reported Friday. The first home to be demolished housed Hussam Duwiyat, who plowed a bulldozer into a string of vehicles in downtown Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing three people and wounding dozens more. The second terrorist included in the injunction is Alaa Abu Dhaim who infiltrated the
Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem in March and gunned down eight students, also wounding many. Both perpetrators were killed by security forces during their respective attacks.

Barak's order was mainly based on Thursday's announcement by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz stating that razing homes of terrorists is permissable by law. Mazuz informed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Barak that rulings made by the High Court of Justice over the years clarify there is no constitutional barrier to demolishing the home of a terrorist, although there are legal obstacles in both the local and international arenas that must be considered. However, Mazuz warned Friday that the order could still raise legal difficulties in the international law arena as well as in Israel's law considerations.

A security source on Friday added that Barak's decision is not likely to be implemented immediately, but rather marks only the first stage in a process leading up to the actual demolition. An alternative option that had been voiced in recent days was to seal off the home of the East Jerusalem terrorist, so as to avoid causing damage to two other families who also live in the same building.

In response to Barak's order, human rights group B'Tselem called on Mazuz "not to sacrifice justice and morality on the altar of revenge." The group said that security experts had in the past concluded that the demolition of houses does not deter potential terrorists from carrying out attacks. B'Tselem maintains that these demolitions actually serve to fuel terror rather than eradicate it.

Mazuz arrived at his ruling on Thursday that the demolition was permissable after in-depth discussions, held at his office and at the State Prosecution office over the question of whether Israel is permitted under the law to demolish the home of the East Jerusalem terrorists. Prior to the discussions, the Shin Bet security service and the Military Advocate General submitted to Mazuz their legal opinion on the matter. Barak and Olmert also submitted their views, both backing the demolition of the terrorists' homes. Mazuz added that "the individual examination of the circumstances of each incident must be carried out by the Shin Bet and the army in coordination with the Justice Ministry, as is customary."

Earlier Thursday, Olmert reiterated his call to demolish the East Jerusalem home of Wednesday's terror attack perpetrator. "This is an attack which came from within Israel, into Israel. It creates a string of scenarios we never thought we would have to deal with in the past. We have invested thousands in the construction of a security fence. While it has been very effective, it turns out that a fence cannot give us the answer to the problem of terror which comes from our side," he said.

Speaking from the Ceasaria business forum in the southern port city of Eilat, Olmert also said the social benefits of the terrorist's family should be taken away in light of the attack. "I think we need to be tougher in some of the means we use against perpetrators of terror," Olmert told the conference. "If we have to destroy houses, then we must do so, and if we have to stop their social benefits, then we must do so. There cannot be a case where they massacre us and at the same time they get all the privileges that our society provides," he said.

Ramon: Cut off parts of East Jerusalem from capital

Vice Premier Haim Ramon (Kadima) told Army Radio on Thursday morning that Israel should treat the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Jabel Mukaber and Zur Baher as Palestinian villages, and revoke the permanent residency status of their residents. Wednesday's attacker came from Zur Baher, and Jabel Mukaber was the home of the Mercaz Harav terrorist. In the aftermath of both attacks, Ramon called for the two neighborhoods to be entirely cut off from Jerusalem.

"One of the main reasons that the attack was carried out yesterday with such ease was because there are Palestinian villages that for some reason are called Jerusalem - Jabel Mukaber and Zur Baher. They need to be treated as we treat Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jenin and Nablus," Ramon told Army Radio. "These are Palestinian villages that were never part of Jerusalem, they were annexed to the city in 1967. No Israeli has ever been there, and doesn't go near there," Ramon added, continuing, "If the separation fence was west of the two villages, which we all call Jerusalem, it would have been a lot harder to carry out these kinds of attacks. It's forbidden for [residents of the neighborhoods] to have Israeli identification cards. How many more Israelis will have to pay with their lives until this is carried out?"

Ramon also told Army Radio that he felt, as opposed to the prime minister and his fellow ministers, that demolishing the home of the terrorist's family would not prevent the next terror attack. However, he said that the house should be demolished anyway, if the law allows it. "I doubt that demolishing the house will achieve what it aims to achieve, though if possible, the house must be razed. The laws must be made to fit the policy and we mustn't give up," Ramon said. "What we are permitted to do, we must do as soon as possible." On Wednesday, following the attack, Olmert and Barak called for terrorists' homes to be razed, and Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski echoed this sentiment.

Body of murdered rabbi's wife won't undergo autopsy

Body of murdered rabbi's wife won't undergo autopsy
After MRI reveals woman killed during Ashkelon robbery was strangled, High Court instructs Jerusalem hospital to release body for burial, despite demand made by State Prosecutor's Office that it undergo autopsy. Zaka chairman: This is a great victory to the MRI method

Neta Sela Yedioth Ahranoth Latest Update: 07.04.08, 07:08

The High Court of Justice has instructed a Jerusalem hospital to release the body of Ziona Samin, the murdered wife of a prominent rabbi, so it can be buried.
In this ruling, the judges rejected a demand by the State Prosecutor's Office that the body undergo an autopsy, after an MRI revealed that she had been strangled.

The rabbi’s wife was found dead on Wednesday after having been allegedly strangled during a robbery in her Ashkelon home. The family of Ziona Samin, 62, transferred her body to a Jerusalem hospital on Thursday, where an MRI was conducted under the supervision of chief pathologist and director of the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute Yehuda Hiss.

Law vs. Halacha

The compromise was reached following the intervention of Shas Minister Yitzhak Cohen and the party's spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, after the family objected to an autopsy.

ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav said in response to the court ruling, "This is a great victory to the MRI method." Samin will be buried on Friday.

Earlier Thursday, the Magistrates' Court in Ashkelon received the State Prosecutor’s Office's demand to carry out an autopsy, which was followed by the family’s objection and a petition to the High Court of Justice filed by ZAKA members and a political official.

In response to the decision, an Orthodox crowd blocked Bar Ilan Street in Jerusalem using trash cans, and also hurled stones at a police car driving on Shivtei Yisrael Street in town. Rabbi Samin, head of the Yemenite congregation in Ashkelon, found his wife tied and beaten on the floor of their home.
In a hearing held Wednesday at the Magistrate's Court in Ashkelon, Rabbi Samin asked to make do with an external examination of the body and release it for burial. According to him, his wife did not die of the flu or any internal disease. However, the Southern District prosecutor, attorney Yiska Leibovitz demanded the body undergo a postmortem.

'Findings indicate death by strangulation'
Judge Dina Cohen decided to wait until the opinion of Prof. Yehuda Hiss is obtained. The report was received early Thursday, and the judge determined that there was room to conduct an autopsy on the body.

In response, ZAKA’s pro bono attorney Dror Schussheim petitioned The High Court to overrule the verdict. Meanwhile, political officials, including Shas Chairman Eli Yishai were working on the case. Yishai approached Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter and Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen as well as other sources.

Samin’s family members were upset at the judge’s ruling and the prosecutor’s insistence. “The funeral date has been postponed three times already,” Samin’s son-in-law Tal-Or Atari told Ynet. “Rabbi Samin is caving under the pressure of the events and has had to be treated.

“As an Orthodox family, we firmly object to any postmortem and abashment of the deceased’s honor. The Halacha strictly forbids us from doing so, and the family feels like Rebbetzin Samin is being murdered twice,” said Atari.

“All of the findings indicate (death by) strangulation. The prosecution wishes to operate on the body only to rule out any other death causes, should they catch the murderers. This is not a good enough reason to disrespect the dead,” Samin’s son-in-law concluded.

Efrat Weiss and Shmulik Hadad contributed to the report

Palestinians: Settlers fired rockets at us

Palestinians: Settlers fired rockets at us
Residents of West Bank village say Jews from nearby settlement trying to take over disputed grazing land by setting it on fire, launching rockets, mortars at their homes
Ali Waked Published: 07.04.08, 00:09

Palestinians from the northern West Bank village of Burin claimed Thursday that in the past few days they have suffered a series of attacks at the hands of Jews from the nearby settlement of Bracha in an effort to keep them away from grazing land.
According to the Palestinians, the settlers set nearly one acre of land on fire, fired into the air and even launched rockets toward their homes. No injuries were reported in either incident.
Abu Morasi, a local shepherd, said the settlers want to abolish him and his fellow shepherds from the disputed land in order to establish a new outpost nearby. According to him, during the past week the settlers have fired mortars toward the village on two separate occasions.
"Yesterday (Wednesday) they set up tents (on the land) but the army came and dismantled them," he said. "They don’t want us anywhere near the land so they can take it over and gradually advance toward the village.
"Today officials from the Civil Administration and the police arrived and tried to clear the settlers from the area, but they left without warning the settlers, and seconds later the settlers continued firing into the air and we threw stones at one another." Abu Morasi, 57, said.
"We shepherds are afraid to go out on our own to the fields for fear of being attacked. The settlers kill a goat or a sheep from time to time without any Israeli authoritative body stopping them."
The Judea and Samaria Police said in response "we have yet to receive a complaint regarding the burning of fields," but added that two days ago Palestinians filed a complaint saying settlers from Yitzhar of Bracha fired a missile. Police said security forces entered the village in search of the missile.

"The Palestinians handed parts of the 'missile' over to the police – or more like pipes they say are used as missiles," police said, "the IDF transferred the parts to Border Guard sappers, and their examination revealed that the parts were either cylindrical bins used to hold flares or firecrackers.
Efrat Weiss contributed to the report