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Knesset Hopes Hatikva Stays Unchanged


A law designed to prevent the changing of Hatikva passed in its first reading in the Knesset Wednesday.

The law's sponsor, MK Michael Nudelman of the National Union party, explained that the law's purpose is to protect Israel's national anthem against certain subversive interests who would like to change it in order to remove its Jewish character so as to reflect Israel's pluralistic society.

Israel to Exchange 400 Prisoners for Businessman Held by Hizbullah

By Ross Dunn (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel is to hand over hundreds of prisoners to the militant Lebanese group Hizbullah Thursday, in order to secure the release of just one of its citizens. German mediators who helped broker the agreement are supervising the exchange. For some Israelis the cost of the prisoner exchange is too high.

But Prime Minister Ariel Sharon insists that he has no choice but to agree to the terms to secure the life of Israeli businessman Elhanan Tannebaum, who was kidnapped by the Hizbullah more than three years ago.

Sharon's spokesman, Raanan Gissin, outlined the basis of the agreement to bring him home. "In return for our prisoners and Elhanan Tannebaum, Israel will release over 400 prisoners and detainees who are held in Israeli prison; these include both Palestinians, as well as Lebanese."

Under the agreement, Israel will also receive the remains of three soldiers kidnapped and killed by the Hizbullah. An IDF delegation has set off for Germany to confirm that the three bodies are indeed those of the three soldiers killed by the terrorist organization 40 months ago. The delegation, headed by IDF Chief Rabbi Brig. Gen. Yehuda Weiss and Abu Kabir Forensic Institute head Prof. Yehuda Hiss, is bringing DNA samples of the family members of the fallen soldiers Adi Avitan, Benny Avraham and Omar Souad.

Although they have already been presumed dead by Israel, a father of one of the soldiers, Haim Avraham, says the Hizbullah should also have confirmed this. He accused the leader of the Hizbullah, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, of mentally torturing the families of the Israeli soldiers. "Three and half years, we don't know nothing about [the fate] of our children," said Avraham. "We [only] know that the Germans will now finish the negotiations between the Hizbullah and the Israeli authorities."

The exchange is one of the biggest ever negotiated by Israel and includes the release of more than 30 prisoners from various Arab countries, 23 from Lebanon.

Zvi Rish, the Israeli lawyer for some of the most prominent of the Lebanese, says the hand-over will take place in Germany. "The deal will be completed via Frankfurt or another airport in Germany, in observation [and] in the presence of German mediators," he explained. The rest of those to be released from Israeli custody are Palestinians. All 400 will be set free at various points in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

At Least 9 Palestinians Killed in Gun Battle with Israeli Soldiers

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli soldiers killed at least nine Palestinians during gun battles that erupted when tanks raided the edge of Gaza City on Wednesday. An Israeli military spokesman said the incident began when troops guarding the Jewish settlement of Netzarim saw a group of armed men approaching.

According to Palestinian witnesses the troops, who were in armored vehicles, initially came under rocket propelled grenade fire. Two Palestinians were reported killed when the troops returned fire with the machine guns mounted on the vehicles.

The troops then entered the nearby Gaza City neighborhood of Zaitoun where they met fierce resistance from Palestinians who opened fire on them with automatic rifles and more rocket propelled grenades. Witnesses said gunmen swarmed through the neighborhood attacking the Israeli vehicles as they moved through the narrow streets. The Israeli spokesman acknowledged there were heavy exchanges of fire but said the raid was a limited measure and that only one tank and one bulldozer had engaged the gunmen.

Netzarim is located just outside the southern edge of Gaza City and has been the scene of frequent violent clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian militants in the more than three years of the Palestinian uprising. It was the deadliest incident in Gaza in a month. The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad says it lost five of its members in the clash and vowed to avenge their deaths. Mohammed al Hindi, an Islamic Jihad leader said, "The bloody message has been received...and the Palestinian people will know how to respond to it."

Lesson in PR From the Palestinians


In a masterful stroke of public relations, the Palestinian Authority's official news agency, WAFA, recently turned its own mistake into an attack on both Great Britain and those who warn against anti-Semitism.

WAFA reported last month that British Prime Minister Tony Blair had sent official holiday greetings to PLO leader Yasir Arafat. The report even noted that Blair had expressed his wish that the Arabs realize their hopes in establishing an independent Palestinian state.

The Prime Minister's Bureau in London, however, denied the entire report, explaining not only that Blair never sent such a greeting to Arafat, but also that such messages are in general not sent out during Christmas. A Downing Street spokeswoman told AFP in London, "We are not aware of such a message being sent, so I'm not sure what they're reporting, to be honest. The prime minister doesn't usually send out messages at this time of the year. It is not something that we do."

WAFA then jumped on the opportunity. It first "apologized" with yet another mention of the "independent Palestinian state," stating, "We wish to apologize for making a mistake by reporting that Mr. Blair had sent a cable of greetings to President Arafat in which he expresses his hope that the Palestinian people would realize their hopes of establishing an independent Palestinian state." WAFA insisted, however, that Blair had sent a "traditional greeting card" in response to a similar greeting card from Arafat on the occasion of Christmas.

The PA agency then expressed wonderment at "all the fuss" - a reference to the strong British denial. "Most probably this denial stems from the fear of being accused of anti-Semitism," WAFA said, "an accusation which the West is usually afraid of, although the contents [of the alleged greetings] did not include anti-Semitic [remarks] or similar things... What did WAFA say in its original story? Why all the fuss and who's behind it?"

WAFA then noted yet again its nationalist aspirations, blaming Great Britain in the process: "The hopes of the Palestinian people and their independent state, with Jerusalem as its capital, are legitimate. Britain is first and foremost responsible for the nakba [the 'disaster' of the creation of Israel in 1948]."

Israel, on the other hand, suffers from a dearth in public relations efforts. As reported by Arutz Sheva, Israel's Foreign Ministry Director-General Yoav Biran said that the Foreign Ministry public relations budget of less than 40 million shekels (about $9.3 million) is not enough for an efficient international information campaign.

Anti-Israel Propaganda On Cable TV, Newton, Mass.

By Emanuel A. Winston Commentary)

Dear Mayor David Cohen phone: 617-796-1100. I understand that Newton, Mass. has elected, through its city board to be a conduit for Muslim Arab Terrorist Propaganda on its Cable TV show. That would make Newton the first town to request that Arab Muslim terrorists be broadcast in America. Clearly, Newton will become well known to Americans in the coming weeks - even infamous.

U.S. soldiers are fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan while Newton's board and mayor has decided to become a voice for Arab Muslim terrorists broadcasting in America.

How did Muslim terrorists sign up Newton? Who was paid or has the Newton Board of Cable TV 'unanimously' volunteered its services - out of sympathy with their cause? Has Newton become a base for the voice of Arab Muslim terrorists, connected to Arab American Muslim organizations that are pressing for Newton's accommodation? Who exactly are the Newton Cable TV Board members? What is their connection to an Arab Muslim terrorist News Network?

The program planned to begin broadcasting into Newton living rooms is called "Mosaic" - a collection of 11 Middle East TV stations that will bring weekly anti-Israel propaganda in the form of "news reports" - all done under the guise of 'free speech'. Nine of the stations are from Arab countries, one from Iran - all controlled by their (non-democratic) governments). The 11th is the Arabic Channel of Israel.

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