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Blair Says No Wreath Laying Ceremony


British Prime Minister Tony Blair refused a PA request that he place a wreath on Yasir Arafat's Ramallah grave during an official visit Tuesday, Israel TV News reported. Blair will be meeting with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem and PA leaders in Ramallah ahead of his planned London summit, which UK officials explain is not a peace conference, but a summit intended as an effort to push the PA to implement long awaited reforms. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has already announced that while Israel supports the move, it will not be attending.

Jewish Settlers Meet on Resistance to Gaza Withdrawals

By Larry James (VOA-Jerusalem) & Ha'aretz

A prominent leader of the settler movement is urging followers to engage in non-violent civil disobedience, in an effort to halt the removal of Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, rejecting the disengagement plan of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The chairman of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements called on the public to violate the transfer law, en masse, and to be ready to pay the price of mass imprisonment. Pinchas Wallerstein said he is not afraid of jail and he expressed the hope others would be willing to join him.

Wallerstein denounced Sharon's plans to evacuate all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and four small outposts in the West Bank as an injustice. The settler leader also said plans for a national unity government bringing together Sharon's Likud Party and its traditional opponent, Labor, are illegitimate. Sharon is close to signing a coalition agreement with Labor that would stabilize his government and guarantee strong political support for the Gaza withdrawal.

Settler leaders had been confident they could stop the Gaza plan with political lobbying and perhaps even bring down the Sharon government, if it came to that. But, despite the departure of pro-settler members of the government, last summer, and significant support in the Israeli parliament, Sharon managed to outmaneuver his opponents and appears to be emerging in a strong position.

A coalition with Labor and several small religious parties would give him a 67-seat majority in the 120-seat parliament. The left wing Yahad Party, which considers the settlement withdrawal crucially important, said it would throw its support behind. Sharon, despite the fact it is ideologically opposed to nearly ever other Sharon policy.

The withdrawal plan is accompanied by special legislation making it a crime, punishable by three years in prison, for anyone to physically resist the dismantling of the settlements. The disengagement bill must pass two more parliament votes before it becomes law. Sharon, once the settlers' strongest ally, called Wallerstein's words harsh. He said he understood the settlers' pain but cautioned that they must not break the law.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ordered the state prosecutor Monday to launch a probe into a recent leaflet distributed by Wallerstein, in which he called on the public to disobey the disengagement law, even at the cost of a prison sentence. Mazuz reached the decision after discussions with State Attorney Eran Shendar and other senior officials in the Justice Ministry.

The Yesha Council of Settlements decided Monday to back Wallerstein and joined his call for civil disobedience as a way to fight the pullout from the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of settlements. The council stressed, however, that any tactic which could result in a civil war or calls for violence should be avoided. "The Yesha Council stands behind Pinhas Wallerstein," said Bentzi Lieberman, the council chairman. "The proposal to expel Jews from their homes is immoral, tramples human rights and is in direct opposition to the principles of democracy."

The prosecution's probe is meant to establish whether Wallerstein's calls constitute incitement. Upon its completion, the prosecution will decide whether to launch a criminal probe.

Knesset members and the Peace Now organization on Monday urged Mazuz to launch a criminal investigation in Wallerstein's comments. "I hope that Pinhas Wallerstein will realize the weight given to things said by an elected official, and I hope that the Yesha Council will show responsibility and distance itself from these statements," Mazuz told reporters Monday.

Jewish Law Takes Precedence Over Israeli Law


Citizens need not fulfill orders that violate Jewish Law, even according to modern Israeli law. This was the general consensus reached at a Jewish Jurisprudence seminar this past Saturday.

Israel's "Jewish Law Heritage" movement organized the seminar, entitled, "The Fulfillment of Illegal Orders." The organization bemoans the fact that the British Mandatory laws became the "default" laws of the State upon its establishment, instead of Jewish Law. It tracks progress in this area, however, and notes examples of cases where Jewish Law provides inspiration for state law, or actually becomes the law.

Journalist David Bedein told Arutz-7, "It was fantastic to see 250 people, most of them lawyers and most of them very knowledgeable in Judaism, discussing the definition of an illegal order and concluding with a consensus that one must not adhere to such an order. They brought many examples from our sources, such as King Saul's order to kill the Priests of Nov, where it was clear that an illegal order of this nature must not be carried out."

Among the lecturers were Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubenstein and former IDF Chief Prosecutor Menachem Finkelstein. Bedein noted that the speakers refrained from giving specific examples, such as the disengagement/expulsion currently on the public agenda: "They spoke of the general responsibility of a soldier in the field who receives an illegal order. The soldier has the responsibility to decide on his own; he is not just a robot who must fulfill orders, but must rather use his own judgment. This was something that everyone agreed on: the responsibility of the individual to consider the situation and use his own judgment."

There was a consensus among the speakers that according to both modern Israeli law and Jewish law, a law that contradicts Jewish law need not be adhered to, as freedom of religion is guaranteed in both the Declaration of Independence and the Basic Laws. Another point widely made was that a Jewish king is not allowed to give orders to violate the Torah.

One leading lecturer with great military-legal experience reminded the audience that a military order to desecrate the Sabbath for a non-combat purpose is a clearly illegal order that must not be fulfilled. Justice Rubenstein expressed the hope that indictments would not be served, if at all possible, against soldiers who refuse orders based on their religious beliefs. He lamented the fact that most of Israel's judges don't use Jewish Jurisprudence in their rulings, due to lack of knowledge and lack of desire. correspondent Ruti Avraham reported that it was noted that though a soldier must fulfill orders, he will not be punished for not doing so if their illegality is "perfectly clear to him." On the other hand, if the order is "blatantly illegal," he is forbidden to carry it out.

Peres´ New Title To Cost 30 Million Shekels


Israelis will have to pay higher taxes to finance the proposed Labor-Likud coalition agreement, including 30 million shekels ($7 million) for Shimon Peres' demands for a special ministry of his own. Establishing a new office of Deputy Prime Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, as opposed to the post of Deputy Prime Minister held by Ehud Olmert, requires a director-general, office space, advisors and security.

Labor Party leader Shimon Peres threw a monkey wrench into the nearly completed coalition deal Sunday, demanding to receive the title of Deputy Prime Minister. The law currently allows for only one Deputy Prime Minister, however, and he is currently Ehud Olmert of the Likud - who refuses to step down.

"It's not a personal matter," Olmert explained. "If, God forbid, the Prime Minister should be prevented from fulfilling his duties, it doesn't make political sense for his replacement to come from the Labor Party." Sharon suggested that Peres be given the title of "Deputy Prime Minister in the Prime Minister's Office" as a way of getting around Olmert's stance. Such a move requires a change in the basic government law, which can be effected only with majority approval of the Knesset - a lengthy and uncertain process. Steps are underway, however, for a special Knesset session this Thursday to facilitate and speed up such a move.

U.S., Holocaust Survivors Reach Deal on Nazis' 'Gold Train'

By Reuters

The U.S. government and lawyers for tens of thousands of Hungarian Holocaust survivors agreed Monday in Miami to settle a lawsuit seeking compensation in the "gold train" case. The trainload of looted gold and art stolen from Jews by the Nazis was subsequently confiscated by American troops on its way from Hungary to Germany, but never returned to the property's lawful owners.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Sam Dubbin, said the agreement, which still has to be worked out in detail, would apply to between 30,000 and 50,000 Hungarian Jews whose property was stolen by the Nazis. For the Justice Department, Daniel Meron, principal deputy assistant attorney general, said the two sides "managed to narrow our differences," so the government decided not to continue to fight the case. The survivors sued in U.S. federal court in Miami in 2001. The Justice Department had sought to have the case thrown out.

The value of the seized property was estimated in 1994 to be worth $200 million at the time, and is believed to be worth 10 times that today. "This money won't bring back my parents, my loved ones and my sister. I don't care if I get $1 or $100,000 I just want closure," said one Holocaust survivor, Jack Rubin from Boynton Beach, Florida. Rubin, 76, was 15 when the Nazis took him to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Two weeks ago, the two sides agreed to accept mediation from Fred Fielding, a highly respected Washington figure who recently headed the fund that dealt with compensating families who lost relatives in the Twin Towers attack on 9/11. Executive director of the World Jewish Congress Israel Singer was also invited to serve an active participant between the sides.

Singer, who also chairs the Reparations Committee, conducted negotiations with Germany and Switzerland over the compensation funds, was to represent the position of the Jewish community in discussions between the Justice Department and the attorneys. A senior source in the Jewish community said at the time that Fielding's appointment could be regarded as "a positive and significant step forward by the American administration to the issue of the gold train."

44% of Americans Favor Curtailing Some Muslim Liberties

By Israel Faxx News Services

In a study to determine how much the public fears terrorism, almost half of respondents polled nationally said they believe the U.S. government should -- in some way -- curtail civil liberties for Muslim Americans, according to a new survey released by Cornell University.

About 27 percent of respondents said that all Muslim Americans should be required to register their location with the federal government, and 26 percent said they think that mosques should be closely monitored by U.S. law enforcement agencies. Twenty-nine percent agreed that undercover law enforcement agents should infiltrate Muslim civic and volunteer organizations, in order to keep tabs on their activities and fund raising.

About 22 percent said the federal government should profile citizens as potential threats based on the fact that they are Muslim or have Middle Eastern heritage. In all, about 44 percent said they believe that some curtailment of civil liberties is necessary for Muslim Americans. Conversely, 48 percent of respondents nationally said they do not believe that civil liberties for Muslim Americans should be restricted.

The Media and Society Research Group, in Cornell's Department of Communication, commissioned the poll, which was supervised by the Survey Research Institute, in Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. The results were based on 715 completed telephone interviews of respondents across the United States, and the poll has a margin of error of 3.6 percent.

"Our results highlight the need for continued dialogue about issues of civil liberties in time of war," said James Shanahan, Cornell associate professor of communication and a principal investigator in the study. He noted: "Most Americans understand that balancing political freedoms with security can sometimes be difficult. Nevertheless, while a majority of Americans support civil liberties even in these difficult times, and while more discussion about civil liberties is always warranted, our findings highlight that personal religiosity as well as exposure to news media are two important correlates of support for restrictions. We need to explore why these two very important channels of discourse may nurture fear rather than understanding."

Researchers found that opinions on restricting civil liberties for Muslim Americans vary by political self-identification. About 40 percent of Republican respondents agreed that Muslim Americans should be required to register their whereabouts, compared with 24 percent of Democratic respondents and 17 percent of independents. Forty-one percent of Republican respondents said that Muslim American civic groups should be infiltrated compared with 21 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of independents.

On whether mosques should be monitored, about 34 percent of the Republicans polled agreed they should be, compared with 22 percent of Democrats. Thirty-four percent of Republicans said that profiling of Muslim Americans is necessary, compared with 17 percent of Democrats.

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