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>Israel Faxx
>Sept. 5, 2003, Vol. 11, No. 155

Abbas Tells Parliament to Support Him or Dismiss Him

By VOA News

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has told the Palestinian parliament it must support him or dismiss him. Abbas laid down the ultimatum Thursday, during a speech in Ramallah outlining his first 100 days in office. After the session, a group of Palestinian parliament members filed an application for a no-confidence vote against Abbas. It was not immediately clear whether the vote would take place.

Parliament members have also scheduled a closed-door meeting for Saturday to hear the prime minister's account of his power struggle with Palestinian President Yasir Arafat. Arafat has refused to hand over full control of Palestinian security forces to Abbas and his security chief Mohammed Dahlan. The security apparatus would be key for reining in militant groups such as Hamas, as required by the internationally backed "road map" plan for peace with Israel.

In his speech Thursday, Abbas told legislators he intends to deal with the murderous groups through dialogue rather than military action. The prime minister blamed "Israeli provocations" for the lack of progress toward peace and for the collapse of a unilateral ceasefire called by the militant groups.

But he said the Palestinians remain committed to implementing the internationally backed "road map" plan for peace in the region. Meanwhile, the terrorist al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades has claimed responsibility for the killing of an Israeli soldier near the West Bank city of Jenin. The group is an armed offshoot of Arafat's Fatah action.

Abbas called for a government with a unified authority and unity in decision-making. He warned that without a legitimate force in the hands of one authority, there would be no progress in implementing the "Road Map to Peace."

IAF Pilots Perform Fly-Over at Auschwitz Death Camp

By Amiram Barkat, Ha'aretz

Ignoring protests by the National Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau and a heavy cloud cover, three Israel Air Force F-15 jets piloted by descendants of Holocaust survivors circled over the former Nazi death camp in what was designed as a tribute to the memories of Holocaust victims.

"It's a protest against the inhumanity of the Nazis on the Polish territory," said Israel's ambassador to Poland, Shevach Weiss. "It's a tribute to the ashes of those who were killed here."

During the fly-over, the blue Star of David painted on the planes was visible on the ground, where some 200 Israel Defense Forces soldiers stood at attention at the former Birkenau death camp, adjacent to Auschwitz.

In a short speech given from his aircraft and relayed to those on the ground, Brig.-Gen. Amir Eshel vowed to do everything possible to prevent anything similar to the Holocaust recurring. He also bade a symbolic farewell to his grandmother who was murdered in Auschwitz.

The fly-over went ahead despite criticism by the Polish museum located at the site and a claim by a Polish aviation control spokeswoman that poor weather had led to the cancellation of the tribute. "The National Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau deplores the demonstration of Israeli military might in this place," the museum said in a statement issued Wednesday.

"It's a cemetery, a place of silence and concentration," museum spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfelt said by telephone. "Flying the [F-15s] is a demonstration of military might which is an entirely inappropriate way to commemorate the victims."

During the fly-over, organizers read off the names of victims who arrived at Auschwitz exactly 60 years ago, on Sept. 4, 1943. The pilots in their planes carried pages of testimony on the victims..

Israel's ambassador to Poland, Shevach Weiss, insisted that the overflight was not a demonstration of Israeli air power. "They will fly over the camp for about a second to honor the ashes of their fathers and grandfathers. This will be a very emotional moment for them. They will probably be crying in the planes. This is not a demonstration of military power. Our army simply wants to honor the victims," the envoy told Reuters.

Both the IDF and Foreign Ministry defended the fly-over plans, citing cooperation between Israel and Poland to remember the more than one million people who perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the vast majority of them Jews, from 1940 until its liberation on January 27, 1945. A total of six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust.

Some 200 IDF soldiers took part in a ceremony at Birkenau, the former death camp adjacent to Auschwitz, according to Israeli officials. "It's a joint Israeli-Polish initiative and for a noble cause," Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled said. "We share a tragic history, and obviously it's being done in full cooperation."

Lieutenant Colonel Rabbi Zvi Black holding a Torah during a memorial ceremony attended by 200 IDF soldiers at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Thursday.

Artist's Auschwitz 'Souvenirs' Spark Controversy

By Reuters

A Polish artist has sparked controversy in the Netherlands by selling "Auschwitz souvenirs" -- from crematorium fridge magnets to "Arbeit Macht Frei" key rings -- to remind people of the horrors of the Nazi death camp.

T-shirts with the menacing skull-and-crossbones symbol from the camp's electric fences and key rings bearing the camp gate's infamous German inscription "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Sets You Free) have been on sale at a Dutch art show since late July.

Agata Siwek, a 30-year-old fine arts graduate who grew up near Auschwitz, said Thursday the items she put on sale in the southern city of Den Bosch were intended to remind people of the Holocaust and the need to combat discrimination and war. "Taking a souvenir and hanging it on your keys is a way to remember the evil inside all of us. It (Auschwitz) is the symbol of the ultimate evil," Siwek said.

The exhibition has polarized public opinion, with some condemning it as offensive to Holocaust survivors while others have hailed it as a way to highlight the Holocaust and provoke debate about conflicts and atrocities in the 21st century.

Six million Jews died in the Holocaust after Adolf Hitler's army swept across Europe during World War II. More than a million people, mostly Jews, died in the gas chambers or from disease and starvation in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

One Auschwitz survivor told Reuters Thursday that seeing people wearing "Auschwitz" T-shirts or sporting key rings could trigger painful memories. "It's a scandal that they do that. I have one real souvenir from Auschwitz -- like all survivors -- it's on my arm," said Salomon Zanten, referring to the number tattooed on his arm at the camp.

"The survivors have trouble every day. We never forget it. Those things don't help us. It's a bad idea. Where is the border? How far does one go?" said the 81-year-old, who was incarcerated for 18 months in Auschwitz and was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust.

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