Newsletter : 4fax0407.txt
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650,000 People Flood Israel's Nature Reserves During Pesach
Some 650,000 people spent the Pesach holiday Tuesday in nature reserves around the
country administered by the Jewish National Fund, according to Army Radio.
The most popular sites frequented were Eilat, the Hula Valley in the north, the Ben
Shemen forest and Ayalon Park in central Israel and Hamalakhim Forest in the southern
region. An expected 200,000 Israelis will travel overseas during Pesach. The most popular
destinations are Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and Istanbul, despite safety warnings regarding
these two locations issued by the Foreign Ministry
Palestinians in Gaza Give Mixed Reaction to Sharon's Withdrawal Plan
By Sonja Pace (VOA-Gaza City)
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Tuesday that he wants Israel to pull out of the Gaza
Strip and some parts of the West Bank as part of a unilateral disengagement from the
Palestinians. Sharon is seeking support for the plan within his own party and coalition
government and is to present his ideas next week to President Bush during a visit to
It is business as usual in downtown Gaza City - Palestinian policemen directing
traffic, children going to school, people out shopping. But, just a short drive away,
things are very different. Roads have been blocked off with concrete barriers and razor
wire, farms have been turned into a barren no-man's land with houses demolished and trees
uprooted. And, there are the tall, lone watchtowers. This is the typical scene around the
Jewish settlements that dot the landscape in several parts of the Gaza Strip.
These are often the flashpoints in the ongoing conflict. Palestinian militants try to
infiltrate and attack the settlements. Israeli soldiers stationed there to guard them,
shoot at anyone approaching, and often move out to track down suspected militants and
Now Ariel Sharon is calling for the removal of these settlements and the soldiers. It
would be hard to find a Palestinian who would not welcome an Israeli pullout. Shopkeeper
Bassam Diazada said it was a positive sign.
"This is what we are fighting for, what the resistance is for," he said. "We want them
to pull out from our territories. We have enough time, we are patient enough, and we are
fighting for the real purpose that we want our state. Now, step by step we will get what
we are looking for." Diazada said he believes Sharon wants to pull out because of pressure
from frequent attacks by Palestinian militants.
Militant groups such as Hamas have been in the forefront of staging those attacks.
Hamas supporter Ghazi Hamad does not agree with Diazada's optimism that a Palestinian
state is on the way. He does believe that an Israeli pullout would be a victory for the
"I think Sharon will go out from Gaza," he said. "He feels like Gaza turned into a
burden on his shoulder. He wants to minimize the security cost and also he wants to
concentrate his forces and his security in the West Bank. I think the Palestinians look at
this as a fruit of resistance and our struggle against occupation, against settlers here.
So, we feel in general it's a kind of victory."
But, Hamad is suspicious of Israeli motives. He believes Sharon wants to deal
separately with the two blocks of land, Gaza and the West Bank. He believes the prime
minister is telling Palestinians - you have Gaza, forget about the West Bank. That, he
says, will not work.
Sharon has repeatedly said he is proposing unilateral action because peace talks with
the Palestinians have gone nowhere and because the Palestinian leadership appears
unwilling or unable to rein in the militants as a first step toward resuming
In interviews published in Israeli media this week, Sharon said the pullout from Gaza
would be good for Israel and he said he has agreed to give up a few settlements in the
West Bank to satisfy the U.S. administration and leave open the door to possible future
Israeli withdrawals. But, said Sharon, the withdrawal plan could delay Palestinian
aspirations for an independent state for years to come.
That is exactly what Imad Falouji fears. He is a member of the Palestinian legislature
and an adviser to Yasir Arafat. Falouji said, "If Sharon wants to leave Gaza, it's OK. We
are very happy to see our land without Israel's occupation. But, the question is, what's
the price Sharon wants if he leaves Gaza. If the price is to keep silent about what
happens in the West Bank, to build settlements there. If Sharon thinks in terms of this
price it's impossible to see any Palestinian agreeing to this price. All the Palestinians
agree to make peace with Israel if Israel respects the minimum of our rights. This minimum
means Gaza, West Bank, East Jerusalem."
Palestinian economist Khaled Abdulshafi said an Israeli withdrawal could have some
immediate positive economic consequences. But he warned the political impact would be
damaging to the Palestinians and a setback to the internationally sanctioned road map
peace plan, which stipulates a negotiated settlement and the creation of a viable,
"Politically, it is a very dangerous plan because the Gaza pullout will be at the cost
of the West Bank," Abdulshafi said. "If we look at the possibility of having a future
viable Palestinian state, this is a setback. Sharon is intending to keep the settlements
in the West Bank. So, from that point of view it's a negative development for sure and it
is a setback in terms of the road map also. So, I believe the Palestinians should reject
that plan at the political level. However, if Sharon decides to get out of Gaza it could
be a positive development in terms of living conditions in the Gaza Strip because the
pullback would release resources that were held by the Israelis in terms of land, water,
and the movement restrictions within the Gaza Strip are going to be lifted. So,
definitely, this will have a positive impact on the Gaza economy, in a way."
Abdulshafi warned that improved economic conditions would not end or even diminish the
conflict. There is general agreement among Palestinians here that a viable Palestinian
state is the prerequisite for an end to the war with Israel, but for now most of them
don't see that happening.
Group: Firebombing Attack on Montreal Jewish School Avenges Yassin Killing
By Ha'aretz Service, CTV.ca News, Canadian Jewish News
A Monday morning firebombing attack on a Montreal Jewish day school, the St. Laurent
branch of United Talmud Torahs, was, according to a letter found at the scene, carried out
to avenge Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. Quebec's
French-language TVA television network reported that the letter denounced recent Israeli
attacks against Palestinians, including Yassin's killing.
The letter noted the arsonists intended the 2:15 a.m. attack was intended as a warning
and did not intend to harm people, Montreal media outlets reported. But this is just the
beginning, the letter warned, adding that if Israel continues its "crimes" in the Middle
East those then those responsible for the Montreal attack will carry out further
CTV News quoted a portion of the letter Monday: "Our goal was only to sound the alarm
without causing deaths But this is just a beginning. If your crimes continue in the Middle
East, our attacks will continue." There were no casualties in the arson but the blaze
destroyed books and damaged a computer system. Montréal police found anti-Semitic
notes taped to the school's walls.
Montreal's Jewish community is both fearful and enraged, after an attack on the school.
Rabbi Reuben Poupko, the co-chairman of the Jewish community security co-ordinating
committee, urged the community not to alter its normal activities in the wake of a
firebombing that seriously damaged a Jewish school "We intend not to grant these criminals
a victory by amending the way we live because of this act. We will continue to congregate
in our synagogues and educate our children in Jewish schools. We will determine how we
live, not them."
Last month, B'nai Brith Canada reported an increase in anti-Semitic incidents across
the country in 2003, saying there were almost 600 cases of violence, harassment and
vandalism against Jews and over 100 such incidents in Quebec alone.
In a separate incident, a 46-year-old man was arrested after a Star of David, an equal
sign and a swastika were sprayed on construction boarding in west-end Toronto. Last week,
the city held a massive rally in which politicians and community and Jewish leaders vowed
to stamp out racism.
Angry Judge Torpedoes Fee Request in Holocaust Case
By New York Law Journal
A federal judge has rejected a request for attorney fees in the $1.3 billion Swiss
settlement of Holocaust claims, saying the lawyer and his client contributed nothing to
the case and had essentially tried to blackmail the court. The attorney, Samuel J. Dubbin
of Miami, originally asked for $3.6 million in fees for his work and another $2.3 million
for research done by his client, Thomas Weiss, a founding member of the Holocaust
Dubbin, of Dubbin & Kravetz, later reduced his request to $550,000 and then
$300,000. Weiss withdrew his entire fee request in a letter to New York Chief Judge Edward
R. Korman late last month. By withdrawing his fee request, Korman said Weiss had come to
recognize that his research into the Swiss banking industry's ties to the Holocaust had no
impact on the Swiss settlement. "Mr. Dubbin," Korman wrote in In Re: Holocaust Victim
Assets Litigation, CV-96-4849, "has not."
The judge also accused Dubbin and Weiss of trying to play "hold-up" by threatening to
appeal the amended settlement unless the court approved attorney fees and money to fund
Weiss' private Holocaust research. "This was beyond the pale," Korman wrote. "I was not
going to be blackmailed, particularly with funds that belong to Holocaust survivors."
Weiss' survivors group has criticized the Swiss settlement as unduly favoring Holocaust
survivors in the former Soviet Union, who will receive 75 percent of the money. Korman
last month rejected criticisms of the distribution, saying the disparity was justified
because of the extreme poverty of the Soviet Union survivors.
Attorney fees for the Swiss settlement that have been approved since 2000 have been low
compared to those normally generated by cases of this size. Around $5.3 million in fees
have been approved, amounting to .4 percent of the settlement. Four of the 10 attorneys on
the case's executive committee worked pro bono or have donated their fees to charity.
Rabbis Tell Woman Married in U.S.: Choose Divorce or Jail
In a precedent-setting decision Sunday, the Rabbinic High Court ruled a woman must go
to jail for refusing to accept a divorce from her husband. The President of the High
Court, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, has the option of altering the ruling. However,
if he does not do so, and if the Supreme Court does not intervene in the decision, the
woman will be faced with the choice of accepting the divorce or going to prison.
The names of the couple in question are under a gag order, but one detail that has been
released is that they are not Israeli citizens. He is an American citizen, and she is
Belgian. They were wed in a religious ceremony in the United States.
The dayanim (rabbinic judges) wrote in their ruling that they were guided by the
principle of equality between the sexes. "We did a great deal for the freeing of women
from their agunut [women who cannot divorce because their husbands refuse or can't be
located]," explained the chief judge, Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky. "However to the same degree
we must remember that a man also has human rights, and he is also entitled to liberty from
his wife, who must grant him a divorce."
However, legal experts on the subject argue that the rabbinical court is keen to show
its dedication to equality only when it is a matter of defending the rights of men.
According to Jewish law, there is no equality among the sexes in matters having to do with
divorce. While the agreement of a woman to accept a divorce is no less a prerequisite than
it is for the husband to grant it, when a woman refuses to grant a divorce, the court may
grant the husband the right to marry a second wife. This is not an option open to a woman
whose husband refuses to grant a divorce.
The matter reached the courts in Israel when the wife filed a property claim against
the husband in family court. The husband, a lawyer by profession, is wealthy, and his wife
sued him for $10 million.
In July 2002 the rabbinical court ordered the woman to accept the divorce, but she
refused. The dayanim justified their unprecedented decision to jail her by pointing to the
woman's behavior, which they said indicated she wanted to blackmail her husband, using her
power not to agree to the divorce as a means to extort money.
Ancient Jewish Man's Remains Give Clues on Crucifixion
The graphic portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus in Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of
the Christ" has brought the ancient world's execution method of choice in all its horror
to the big screen. Jesus is the best-known victim of crucifixion. But the Romans, trying
to quash Jewish rebellions in the Holy Land in the first century, put thousands of other
Jews to death on the cross.
Yet, strangely, the remains of only one victim have ever been found. He was Yehohanan
Ben Hagkol, a Jewish man whose heel bone, excavated by archaeologists near Jerusalem in
1968, still had a nail embedded in it. "It is the only case ever found in the world where
there is indisputable evidence of crucifixion," said Joe Zias, a physical anthropologist
who examined the remains of Yehohanan Ben Hagkol.
"We've looked at thousands of skeletons in Jerusalem. Some were decapitated. Others
were mutilated. But we've never found another one that was crucified. It has to be one of
the most obscene forms of death ever invented by man," said Zias of the execution method
practiced between 400 BCE and CE 400 also by the Persians, Greeks, Assyrians,
Carthaginians and other ancient civilizations.
Prof. Martin Hengel, a leading scholar of crucifixions from Tubingen University in
Germany, said the Romans around Jerusalem crucified thousands of captured Jewish rebels
during the first century, when Jesus lived. Crosses dotted the landscape around the city.
Zias said that between CE 66 and 702, the Romans at times crucified as many as 500 Jews a
day until they quashed what became known as the first Jewish revolt and destroyed the
Second Temple. "Eventually they ran out of crosses and they ran out of space," he said.
Not much is known about Yehohanan Ben Hagkol, whose name in English means John, son of
Hagkol. The name was carved in ancient Hebrew letters on an ossuary containing his bones
in a tomb north of Jerusalem's Old City in 1968. At the time of his death he was between
24 and 28 years old, stood around five feet seven inches tall and was in excellent health
- until he was hoisted on to a cross some time between CE 50 and 70. "He could have been a
thief, he could have been a rebel. To his nation he may have been a hero," said
archaeologist Vassilios Tzaferias, who discovered Ben Hagkol's remains during the
excavation of an ancient Jewish family tomb.
The state of the skeletons in the tomb bore testimony to the turbulent times in which
the Jews of Jerusalem lived in the first century. Nine of the 35 people buried there had
met violent deaths. Others had died of starvation. When Ben Hagkol's remains were
examined, archaeologists noticed the nail piercing what remained of the heel bone.
Archaeologists believe they have not uncovered other physical evidence of crucifixion
because victims were sometimes tied rather than nailed to the cross and the corpses were
often thrown onto garbage dumps where animals would feed off them. Nails of the crucified
were also in high demand. People regarded them as powerful amulets that could ward off
evil, so they would remove them from the bodies of victims.
In Ben Hagkol's case, the nail hammered through his heel bone had bent after catching
in a knot of wood and relatives who retrieved his body would have been unable to remove
it. As shown in graphic detail in Gibson's film, victims were often brutally beaten with
whips of leather and metal before being taken to the cross.
Their hands were then either tied or nailed to the horizontal bar of the cross. They
were stripped naked, strung up and left, sometimes for days, until they died. "It was used
because it was so appalling. It was very painful and everybody could see the suffering. It
must have been very humiliating too, hanging naked at the cross," Hengel said.
Gibson's film shows Jesus being hammered to the cross through his hands, in line with
the traditional view depicted in religious icons and paintings since the Middle Ages. Zias
said this reflects theology rather than reality. Jesus, like other victims of crucifixion,
would either have had his hands tied to the cross, or been nailed through the wrist. "You
cannot crucify a person through the hands because there is nothing there but skin and
muscle. It will tear. It has to be done through the wrists."
Death could be relatively quick, within 10 minutes, for those whose hands were tied or
nailed directly above their heads and whose feet were restrained too. A person crucified
in this position would be unable to exhale, Zias said. This apparently was not the case
with Jesus' crucifixion since the Gospels say it took several hours for him to die. "The
body goes into shock and then you die from shock. You can keep a person up there for hours
or you can keep a person up there for a few days depending on the method of
Is the National Religious Party Giving Away West Bank, Gaza
By Gail Winston (Commentary)
The NRP says they will quit the government as soon as an "official government decision"
has been made to give away Gaza and significant parts of Judea and Samaria. But, needless
to say, by then it will be too late.
Sharon is already acting as if an "official government decision" has been made. Once
Sharon comes back from the U.S. with their reluctant "approval" - it will be a done deal.
The vote in the Likud party will be effectively irrelevant and you can kiss Yesha
The NRP could stop this by resigning now. By throwing the government into turmoil, they
would slow Sharon down. What about Labor joining the government? Sharon's plans already
reflect the dreams of the Labor party, so it doesn't really make a heck of a lot of
difference. There is one major advantage to having Labor in the coalition - they will be
looking for the first opportunity to bring down the government. This will also slow
Sharon's Pied Piper's march of the lemmings over the cliff of national suicide.
Unfortunately, the NRP Knesset members are simply too comfortable in their ministerial
seats and probably do not have the courage to risk their Volvos for the sake of the
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