Newsletter : 4fax0226.txt
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Security Barrier Presents Sabbath Problems
In addition to all the problems surrounding the controversial counter-terrorism
security barrier, the IDF Chief Rabbinate has announced another concern. The over 200
gates that run the length of the barrier are connected to electronic sensors and activate
computers and receptors when the gates are opened. This poses a most serious problem on
the Sabbath since desecration of the Sabbath for non-security purposes will result. At
present, officials at the Zomet Institute are addressing the problem, seeking a solution
that would conform to IDF needs and prevent the desecration of the holy day.
Israel Raids 4 Palestinian Bank Branches
By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israeli forces raided four Palestinian bank branches Wednesday, seizing millions of
dollars during a hunt for militant groups' money. Israeli troops sealed off the four
Arab-owned banks in the West Bank city of Ramallah and imposed a curfew on the area. An
aide to Palestinian chieftain Yasir Arafat said the raid was an "unjustified provocation"
that would force a Palestinian reaction.
Israel said the raids were intended to freeze accounts that contain money linked to
Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Lebanese-based Hizbullah, as well as those of individual
terrorists. Israel said investigators were also looking for evidence that Arafat was
involved in funding terrorist activities.
Dozens of stone-throwing Palestinians clashed with the soldiers, who responded with
tear gas and rubber-coated bullets. Soldiers denied Palestinian claims that they also used
live ammunition. Local medical officials said more than a dozen Palestinians were injured,
at least three critically. Israeli troops also raided the office of an Islamic charity in
the West Bank city of Tulkarem.
Meanwhile, at The Hague, World Court hearings concluded Wednesday on the legality of
the barrier Israel is building in the West Bank. Israel boycotted the proceedings, calling
them an "international circus." Israel said the barrier is meant to stop Palestinian
suicide attacks. Palestinians called it a land grab and an attempt to impose a boundary on
a future Palestinian state. A ruling is not expected for several months, and it will not
Controversy Surrounds Plan to Evacuate Israel's Settlements in Gaza
By Meredith Buel (VOA-Washington)
The Bush administration is currently examining a proposal by Prime Minister Ariel
Sharon to evacuate Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. Some Middle East analysts are
calling the idea unprecedented and revolutionary for an Israeli leader.
Palestinians are expressing concern that Sharon's proposal for unilateral action may
signal an effort to consolidate Israel's hold on Palestinian territory in the West Bank
and bring an end to hopes for a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Sharon stunned his supporters in Israel's Likud party in early February when he ordered
the government to begin plans for the evacuation of Jewish settlements in the Gaza
Sharon said if peace talks with the Palestinians fail, he will remove as many as 17 of
the 21 settlements in Gaza, as well as a few others in the West Bank. The Israeli prime
minister said the evacuation in Gaza is only the first stage of a broader plan to relocate
all 7,500 Jews from Gaza.
Former Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, now director of the Washington Institute for Near
East Policy, said Sharon's decision was a major development in the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. "It is a revolutionary proposal by Israel. No Israeli prime minister has
publicly said anything like this up until now. The mere fact of saying it creates a new
political baseline in Israel. What, after all, is the ideology of Likud if in fact leaving
Gaza, getting out of settlements in the West Bank, is now established by the prime
minister of Israel who was also the architect of the settler movement? So it is a
Recent public opinion surveys say a majority of Israelis support giving up the
settlements as a move toward peace, but there is strong opposition from right-wing groups
and the settlers themselves.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who is the chairman of the opposition Labor
Party, supports the evacuation of the Gaza settlements. Peres, who shared the 1994 Nobel
Peace Prize with the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader
Yasir Arafat, said removal of the settlers has numerous benefits for Israel.
"If there is a cost for the withdrawal from Gaza, there is also a prize," said Peres.
"I mean people say, what are we going to get in return? We are getting rid of a terrible
burden in human terms, in money. We are going to enable our economy to breathe again, many
things like investment and tourism. I would describe the move, not as a retreat, but as a
new vision for Israel."
Bush administration officials said any withdrawal from Gaza needs to have safeguards to
reduce the chances that Hamas or other Palestinian groups would fill a power vacuum left
when the Israeli army, which guards the Jewish settlements, pulls out.
Sharon has given assurances that if the settlements are dismantled, he would still
support the "road map" peace plan put forward by the United States, Russia, the European
Union and the United Nations. That plan appeared to hit a dead end months ago. The
Israelis and the Palestinians accuse each other of not living up to their commitments on
the road map, and the current bloodshed, which began in September 2000, is continuing. He
is expected to visit Washington soon to discuss his plan with Bush.
Yishai: Ban Gibson's Jesus film in Israel
By Ha'aretz & Alan Silverman (VOA-Hollywood)
Shas chairman MK Eli Yishai on Wednesday called for Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the
Christ" movie to be banned from Israeli cinemas, calling it a blood libel.
In the U.S., the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying that the film
"repeats all of the stereotypes and myths surrounding the death of Jesus that have
accompanied anti-Semitism for the last 2,000 years. Regretfully, Gibson refused all of our
attempts for a dialogue aimed at preventing this harm to Jews."
ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said he was troubled by Gibson's claim of
historical accuracy. "He made his choice," Foxman told a news conference after viewing the
film. "And it's to blame the Jews."
"The Passion," which depicts in gruesome detail the final hours of the life of Jesus,
premiered in the U.S. and other countries Wednesday, but not in Israel. "The whole thing
is a blood libel," said Yishai, from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, using a term that
refers to a medieval slur that Jews used the blood of Christians to make unleavened bread
for the Passover festival.
Much of the controversy stems from the film's depiction of the Jewish high priest and
Jewish mob angrily demanding that the Roman governor Pilate put Jesus to death by
crucifixion: a characterization that, in centuries of so-called "Passion Plays," has been
blamed for accusations of deicide - murder of God - which has historically sparked
anti-Semitism. Romanian actress Maia Morganstern, who plays Mary, the mother of Jesus, is
Jewish and she said Gibson made changes because of her concerns.
"Mr. Mel Gibson knew exactly what he wanted and he is very much aware of the history;
but at the same time it is his view as an artist and I brought him my experience," she
said, "Only I could bring my emotional experience. It's not that I gave lessons or
something like that - not at all - but he trusted me and [the rest of] us so much: a sign
of respect. He asked for our opinion and at the same time he explained how he thinks and
what he feels like. It helped us very much."
However, it appeared unlikely that the film would be banned. Few films have been barred
in recent years, and the ones to be forbidden are usually pornographic. The Israeli film
board, which makes these decisions, could not be reached for comment.
Yishai said the belief that the Jews had killed Jesus had led to "millions" of Jews
being killed and persecuted in the last two millennia. "This libel used to spread by word
of mouth. Now the media are spreading it. We should not accept this."
Jewish leaders have said that the movie gives a harsh portrayal of Jews and blames them
for death of Jesus. They have warned it could lead to a rise in anti-Semitism. Gibson, who
also funded and co-scripted the film, denies that charge.
New York Cardinal Edward Egan, meanwhile, wrote to parishes to stress Jews were not
responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. "He gave His Life for us," Egan wrote in a
column to appear in next month's issue of Catholic New York. "No one took it from Him.
This is, and has always been, Catholic doctrine."
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