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Judges Grill Pollard's Lawyers


Federal appeals court judges sharply questioned lawyers for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. They want a court order granting them access to classified information that they claim will assist them in their appeal for clemency for Pollard. The three-judge panel suggested in their questioning that the plea was not within the judicial process. One judge said there is no precedent for making the requested information available in a clemency appeal. If the petition is denied, Pollard may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. He was sentenced to life in jail in 1987 for spying for Israel.

Israel Turns Over Jericho to Palestinian Forces

By VOA News

Israel has formally turned over the West Bank city of Jericho to Palestinian forces. Israeli troops took down their national flag and dismantled a key checkpoint as Palestinian forces took up positions inside the city. Top commanders from both sides resolved a last-minute hitch over paperwork and signed an agreement to formalize the transfer. Israel still controls two checkpoints outside Jericho, but troops have relaxed security procedures to ease travel to the city. Jericho is the first of five towns (with Tulkarem, Qalqiliya, Ramallah, Bethlehem) that Israel plans to turn over to Palestinian control.

Meanwhile, Israeli television reported that Jewish extremists plan to take over a disputed holy site in Jerusalem to try to sabotage Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza. Also Wednesday in Cairo, Egyptian and Palestinian officials and Palestinian militant leaders are discussing a proposed one-year halt to Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets.

Call Somebody a Nazi? Go to Jail For Seven Years


Under new bills proposed by Labor Knesset members, calling somebody a "Nazi" might land you in the clink. And once you're in jail, watching a certain movie by Mel Brooks won't get you off for good behavior. Know someone who recently insulted somebody by calling him a Nazi? According to the bill proposed by MK Colette Avital (Labor), such a person, or anybody using Nazi terminology or symbolism lightly would face a prison term of up to seven years behind bars.

The Knesset is considering two legislative proposals submitted by Labor party MK's that would impose stiff penalties on anyone using Nazi terms, symbols, or imagery in every-day discourse. The bills outlaw the term "Nazi" or other words carrying a similar connotation. The bills also outlaw symbols of the Holocaust, such as concentration camp style prison garments, yellow Stars of David and swastikas.

Despite the stiff penalty, Avital's bill passed a Knesset committee by a vote of 14-3. Many MK's such as Aryeh Eldad of the National Union party, who strongly opposes the legislation, claim that it places unreasonable limitations on freedom of speech. Eldad claims that the bill will "silence" legitimate freedom of expression such as when opponents of the disengagement distributed orange Stars of David to symbolize the intensity of their disapproval of the government's plant to destroy 21 Jewish towns and villages and expel the residents from their homes in Gaza and Northern Samaria. Avital said that freedom of expression should "have its limits," pointing out that Israel has backed similar legislation in other countries. MK Yuli Tamir, who drafted one of the bills, said, "public discourse must be free of Nazi terminology."

If the bill passes, make sure you close you shutters and lock your doors before watching a DVD of Mel Brooks' "The Producers" or listen to Seinfeld crack a joke about Nazi soup.

Yigal Amir's Brother Charged With Threatening Sharon

By &

Police have charged Hagai Amir, brother of the assassin of Yitzchak Rabin, with threatening to kill Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. After prison guards restricted telephone privileges of imprisoned Yigal Amir's and family members had not heard from him, his brother Hagai visited and told a prison guard, "Are you afraid I'll assassinate Sharon?"

Amir added that he could arrange to have the prime minister killed, and the guards reported the conversation to authorities that arrested him. An indictment was filed at the Netanya Magistrate's Court Wednesday against the brother. "I can make a phone call and have Sharon killed and blown up," Hagai Amir told a prison guard in November. Amir's court date is set for May.

30 Knesset Members to Sign Petition Against Gay Pride Parade in Jerusalem

By Ha'aretz

More than 30 Knesset members have agreed to sign a petition calling for the cancellation of the Gay and Lesbian World Pride Parade in Jerusalem this summer. The campaign, which is being spearheaded by a group of American Evangelical Christians, together with Shas Knesset member Benny Elon and an association of Orthodox rabbis from New York, was launched at a news conference Wednesday and is hoping to garner the signatures of some one million Jews and Christians worldwide.

"The social damage this [parade] will cause the city is irreversible," Shas MK Nissim Zeev said at the Jerusalem event. "A small number of people are coming to influence our city and our youth. It's an anti-religious and anti-social way of life and we will not sit and allow this to happen. They're bringing something that is an abomination and trying to give it legitimacy in our city."

The petition was drafted by Pastor Leo Giovinetti, an influential Christian leader from California, and warns that "Israel is making a disastrous mistake" in allowing the parade to take place. "If Israel continues this way, bad things will happen," Giovinetti warned. "Every time God's people go against the five books of Moses, bad things happen. Homosexuality grieves God's heart, and God judges. Historically, God has judged and there is no reason to believe that he won't judge now."

"This is not a parade, this is a 10-day radical, militant, anti-family, anti-God celebration of sodomy and pornography," added Rabbi Yehuda Levin, a spokesman for the Rabbinical Alliance of American. "Are we crazy that we need to provoke God again?"

AG: Same-Sex Partner Entitled to National Insurance Survivor Benefits

By Ha'aretz

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz said that the National Insurance Institute must pay survivor benefits to same-sex partners. Mazuz issued the instruction in response to a lawsuit filed by Giora Raz in the Tel Aviv Labor Court against the NII. Raz petitioned the court to recognize him as a widower entitled to survivor's benefits following the death of his partner.

Mazuz's statements will have a widespread effect on the payment of a host of benefits awarded to couples, including work accident insurance, child birth allowances, and disability pensions, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel said. While Mazuz's instruction to the NII is significant, since it is binding, it is not the first time he has expressed support for the rights of same-sex couples. After the Nazareth District Court ruled in November that a man could inherit his deceased partner's apartment, Mazuz announced that the state would not contest the decision, and must allow same-sex couples the same economic rights as heterosexual couples.

Raz and his partner, Yaakov Lisboder, lived together for 23 years. In 2002, Lisboder was diagnosed with cancer, and had to give up his job at El Al Israel Airlines due to treatments. Raz also left his job to devote himself to his partner's care. Since Lisboder's death in 2002, Raz has been living on his NII retirement benefits of NIS 1,300 a month.

The NII refused Raz's demand to award him survivor's benefits, since the NII says Raz does not qualify as a widow according to the institute's law, which refers to "widows", "widowers" and other gender-specific terms in Hebrew. "We are glad to awaken to a day in which the attorney general gives recognition to the fact that same-sex couples are part of the reality of Israel in 2005," the Association of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexuals and Transgenders in Israel said in response to Mazuz's instruction.

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