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Abu Mazen on Terrorists: 'They Are Freedom Fighters'


Interim PA leader Muhmad Abbas (Abu Mazen), who enjoys a wide lead in the PA presidential race and is expected to emerge the winner in Sunday's election, announced he would not use force to disarm terrorists. Referring to them as "those who are armed", Abu Mazen called them "freedom fighters." He added that he would disarm them "with dialogue and discussion," but they must be permitted to live "in honor and dignity."

Sharon to Soldiers in 1995: Follow Your Conscience


Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as a Knesset member opposing Oslo concessions, said in 1995 that IDF soldiers should follow their conscience before obeying orders. He also denounced "tyranny of the majority."

Opponents to the government's so-called disengagement plan Monday began passing out recordings of Sharon's statements to soldiers throughout the country. When he was an opposition Knesset member, Sharon spoke against the Labor government's plan to remove army bases from Judea, Samaria and Gaza (Yesha).

In a July, 1995, interview with Arutz-7 radio which was operating in Israel before the government shut it down two years ago, Sharon said, "As someone who has served in the IDF many years, I say that a soldier must follow orders, and if a soldier feels that an order given him is against his conscience, he personally, and I emphasize 'personally,' must stand before his commander, explain this to him and be prepared to accept the consequences."

During the mid-1990s, the Rabin government was negotiating with Yasir Arafat, with the help of then President Bill Clinton, to withdraw Jews from most of Yesha. Sharon strongly opposed the proposed destruction of Jewish communities and eviction of Jews. He added in the interview with Arutz-7, "It is important that in every matter, no one should cross the red lines (because) the responsibility for doing so is the government's."

Sharon, as an opposition member of the Knesset, added, "In democracy, tyranny of the majority is prohibited. It is impossible to accomplish everything, certainly now when we are talking about matters that will determine our fate." Sharon is now leading a campaign to dismantle army bases and Jewish communities and transfer the Jews and their property out of a large area of Samaria and all of Gaza.

Massive Sit-In Against Gov´t Expulsion Plan


More than 1,000 opponents to the government's so-called disengagement plan ignored wintry rain Monday and began an unprecedented demonstration of at least several days across from the Knesset.

Organizers have prepared for a protest that could last for weeks as the Knesset debates the proposed government plan to dismantle 25 Jewish communities in Gaza and northern Samaria, evict the residents and transfer the land to Arabs. The government has proposed that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would take responsibility for the areas, including the Mediterranean Sea, the border with Egypt, which has been used for arms smuggling and urban centers in the north, which have been headquarters for terrorists.

The peaceful sit-in began amid a stormy national debate over a growing move among soldiers to sign a pledge they will not help security forces during the planned evacuation. Daniella Weiss, head of the Kedumim Council in Samaria, openly called on soldiers to refuse orders. Other leaders in Yesha distanced themselves from Weiss' statement.

Organizers provided rainproof tents and arranged hot food for the thousands who are expected to participate in the massive sit-in. Families and yeshiva students from all over the country are participating.

One woman, a resident of the Samarian community of Neve Tzuf, said she came with her small children because "this is educational." She explained, "The children are influenced by what they see and hear and are frustrated since they want to do something." Her husband, who works in Tel Aviv, said he brought his children so that "one day I will be able to look in their eyes and say we did what we could to protect the Jewish people."

In preparation for possible execution of the government plan, protest leaders have organized a team of lawyers who will be on-call 24 hours a day. The attorneys, including volunteers, will act to free protestors whom police arrest during the planned passive resistance to the planned dismantling of Jewish communities. The team will advise people of their rights and will photograph incidents. Every one at the sit-in is to receive a printed card advising them on proper behavior if the government tries to carry out the eviction plan. Protestors should appear with a camera, cell phone, pencil and paper and the number of the legal counsel control center

The instructions also advise people to resist any attempt to be drawn into violence and to note who are witnesses if injured by police. They also are advised to reserve the right to not to answer if police inquiries are political and refuse to be photographed or fingerprinted. The instructions also emphasize that it is against the law for police to arrest children under 12. "It is important to communicate to the police that arrests will not break us," the instructions add.

Palestinians Look Toward Coming Elections With Great Expectations

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Ramallah) & Ha'aretz

With less than a week to go, the Palestinian presidential election campaign is in full swing. Candidates are taking their messages to the voters directly through speeches, radio and TV and through placards and billboards. Downtown Ramallah has been transformed - pictures of presidential candidates are everywhere - on walls, in shop windows and strung above the streets. Many of the pictures of suicide bombers or those young Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers have been plastered over with campaign posters.

A campaign fever has gripped this town. All those encountered on this afternoon said "yes" they would definitely go to vote. Seven candidates are running to succeed Yasir Arafat as Palestinian president. This time no one expects the landslide of the Arafat victory in 1996. This time it is more of a contest although long-time Arafat confidante Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, is the clear front-runner. His most serious rival is physician and human rights activist, Mustafa Barghouti.

Whoever wins next Sunday's election faces a difficult task and high expectations. "The first important thing for me is the security, then the investment and economic issues and the political issues related to Israel," said Hadil Kheneti, an administrative assistant in a private business in Ramallah.

Ahmed Qassem, an independent political affairs analyst said improving people's daily lives is directly linked to Israel. "We suffer too much to implement our dreams, to build our country, to increase our standard of living. All these problems which we face daily it is connected to the Israeli occupation," said Qassem. "If I want to go to my office, I want to go to my school, I want to go to hospital, and I will face obstacles from the Israeli side. They forbid me to go easily to my work, my family, into my field or farm, to any place."

Abbas, the leading candidate, on Monday promised Palestinian refugees they'll be able to return home one day - his most explicit comment yet on an explosive issue that has derailed peace talks in the past. Abbas was campaigning for a third straight day in Gaza, trying to counter his image as a gray bureaucrat who might not stand up to Israel by appealing to younger, more militant Palestinians with hard-line pronouncements.

Following warm embraces with militant leaders in refugee camps and his pledges that he would stand by the gunmen in their struggle to avoid capture by Israel, Abbas took an uncompromising stance on the refugee issue. Abbas endorsed the claim that Palestinian refugees and their descendants from the 1948 war have the right to return to their original homes. "We will never forget the rights of the refugees, and we will never forget their suffering. They will eventually gain their rights, and the day will come when the refugees return home," Abbas told the cheering crowd.

The Israeli government believes Palestinian refugees should be resettled in the Palestinian state that would be created through peace talks or in the places where they have lived for the past six decades. Israel offers compensation for lost property, and a previous, more moderate government agreed to take in a limited number of refugees on the basis of reunification of families.

Israel on Monday decided that it would not permit the candidates in the to visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to campaign. Abbas' aides said Sunday that he had not yet decided whether he wanted to visit the Temple Mount.

Hollywood has even entered the election with an appeal to motivate Palestinians to vote. A pro-Palestinian group's star attraction is actor Richard Gere. In a recorded public service announcement, he said, "I'm speaking for the entire world. We're with you during this election time. It's really important: Get out and vote," concluding the Palestinian TV commercial in Arabic, "Take part in the elections."

Search Called Off for Missing Israelis in SE Asia


Officials announced on Monday night that the search for missing Israelis Aiya Shapira and Uzi Saguy was being called off in Thailand. On Tuesday, a ceremony will be held ahead of the search team returning home. Officials added the decision was reached in consultation with family members in Israel. But other Israelis survived the tsunami, with a death toll now expected to surpass 150,000.

Shmuel Janah lost everything he had in the tsunami except for his life, passport, prayer shawl (tallit) and phylacteries (tefillin - worn during weekday morning prayers). Janah, 29, had been vacationing in Sri Lanka for just one week when the gigantic waves caused by a huge earthquake in the Indian Ocean wreaked havoc across Southeast Asia. He and five friends were surfing on a beach in Sri Lanka when the tsunami began to hit.

After managing to leave the sea, he went to his flooded room. "There was nothing that hadn't moved," he told reporters upon his return to Israel aboard a special El Al plane with 57 other Israelis who survived the epic catastrophe. The only possessions that remained undamaged were his tefillin, tallit and passport.

Israel sent an air force cargo plane to bring food and medicine to the survivors and brought them home. Despite pleas from authorities to leave the area, about 40 Israelis remain on the Andaman Islands near India, ignoring warnings of aftershocks and epidemics that might result from the unburied bodies.

Among the survivors who returned to Israel was Yonit Hagi of Jerusalem, who said that wherever she ran, water chased her and then added, "I found myself on a rooftop." She and others with her feared more floods, and they fled to a jungle. One of the organizers of a rescue team, Henry Magnus, said no Hollywood disaster movie could match the devastation he saw in Southeast Asia.

Proposed Israeli Law Would Prevent Models From Being Underweight

By ((c)2004)

One of Israel's top fashion photographers has seen enough skinny bodies, and he's determined to do something about it. In an age when young women are starving themselves in the name of beauty, Adi Barkan, well-known fashion photographer and owner of the Barkan Modeling Agency in Tel Aviv, together with Knesset member Inbal Gavrieli, have decided to fight the trend. They've introduced a bill to the Knesset requiring that models undergo health examinations, and have their BMI (body mass index) checked before entering the modeling profession. It's apparently the first bill of its kind in the world.

Beyond the glamour and glitz of the modeling industry lies a darker side. All around the world, scores of young women longing to be the next top model starve themselves, believing that they need to be unnaturally skinny in order to succeed in this world. While the American modeling industry is grappling with this problem, Barkan hopes, through his campaign, to stem the rise of profession-related illnesses and deal a blow to the 'skinny' culture that permeates the Israeli fashion world.

"Up until now, anorexia and bulimia have been the modeling world's dirty little secret," Barkan told ISRAEL21c. "We in this industry have perpetuated and even glorified eating disorders by celebrating thinness and packaging malnutrition in such an attractive way, that young women everywhere aspire to have 'the look.' It is time that this industry comes clean about this dangerous problem and shows the world that beauty and high fashion do not equal starvation."

The proposed law would require all potential models to submit to a nutritional test with a licensed nutritionist or dietician. Agencies would be forbidden to represent a model without a copy of the test results. Subsequently, the agency would not be allowed to continue representing the model unless she submits to the test every six months. Any agency that does not comply would be fined accordingly and the Health Ministry would monitor all forms.

According to statistics provided by the Health Ministry, seven percent of all adolescent girls in Israel display signs of an eating disorder. Based on interviews that Barkan has conducted with thousands of young aspiring models and the assistance of a certified nutritionist, he believes that 13.7 percent of these young girls are suffering from an eating disorder.

In advance of the first reading of the bill in the Knesset, a large scale television campaign, produced pro bono by the Tel Aviv-based advertising agency Reuveni Pridan, will be launched. It features a public service commercial focusing on body image and eating disorders. The commercial will portray four adolescent models in succession - each one thinner than the last. A voice-over introduces each model, stating that none of them is happy with her weight, and that each one wants to be as thin as the next girl. The fourth young woman shown, also thinking she's 'too fat,' is visibly wasting away from anorexia.

Israel's major television channels have each donated over a million dollars in airtime to broadcast the commercial beginning in mid-February. The public service slogan is called "Nothing is Worth This." Its goal is to increase awareness among parents and adolescents, demonstrate how to recognize the symptoms and how to help those who have eating disorders. Barkan said that an additional purpose is to raise awareness among young girls that there is a distinction between looking good and being obsessive about one's weight.

Unfortunately, the production of the commercial, which was to be filmed last week, had to be postponed due to the hospitalization of one of the participants who is currently being treated for anorexia. "We need to hold a mirror up to these teenage girls so that they can see the damage they are doing to themselves," said Knesset member Gavrieli. "That mirror starts with this television campaign, but continues with positive body images reflected in magazines, on billboards and on runways.

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