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PA Setting Stage for Diplomatic Failure With Israel


An official PA document passed to the UN and the international community states that even following Israel's implementation of the disengagement plan, Gaza would retain its "occupied" status. PA officials explained that despite the Israeli military withdrawal from the area, Israel would maintain control and therefore Gaza would remain under Israeli occupation. And outgoing Minister of Finance Binyamin Netanyahu warned of permitting the PA to establish a Gaza seaport. Netanyahu's comments followed the announced Security/Diplomatic Cabinet approval of the port. "The government is closing its eyes to steps which will lead to Gaza becoming a terror base. It is a colossal error which may permit the entry of weapons by the sea," added Netanyahu.

Evacuation Order Given, No Movement Within Gaza From Sunday


Starting Sunday, the Jewish fast day of Tisha B'Av, travel between towns within Gush Katif will be restricted by military order. Citizens are being told to leave their homes by Aug. 15. The order, delivered to the municipalities of Jewish towns in Gaza, informed citizens that they are to leave their homes by midnight following the breaking of the Tisha B'Av fast. Activist said the IDF order aims to prevent residents of any community from coming to the assistance of any other community during the eviction of the Jews from Gush Katif.

During the removal of a security structure from Kfar Darom Sunday, IDF soldiers forcefully prevented residents of N'vei Dekalim from reaching the town. The restriction will even apply to journalists, who until now have been allowed free access throughout the area by security forces

Gush Katif's spiritual leadership called upon residents Monday to remain in their homes past the legal deadline set by the government after which they are to be physically expelled - midnight next Tuesday night. "We stand before giant and daunting and decisive times," wrote Gush Katif rabbi Yigal Kaminetzky in a widely distributed announcement. "We must not bow our heads. The Nation of Israel needs us here today, strong and more steadfast than ever, since we are the heart and the foundation of the entire struggle...Our sages, of blessed memory, taught us that "even when a sharpened sword is laying on the neck of a person, he must not despair of mercy."

State Holds Billions Worth of Holocaust Victims' Property

By Ha'aretz

The State of Israel is in possession of some 1,000 pieces of real estate owned by Jews who died in the Holocaust, Custodian General Shlomo Shahar told a subcommittee of the Law and Constitution Committee on Monday that was discussing the bill for restitution of such property, ahead of its second and third readings. The custodian general said that besides the real estate some 500 other assets of survivors are in his custody, including money and valuables. In addition, some 3,500 accounts in Israeli banks that were owned by Holocaust victims have been handed over to the Custodian General's Office since the establishment of the state.

In January a parliamentary commission of inquiry headed by Knesset member Colette Avital (Labor) found that the value of the assets in the bank accounts amounted to approximately NIS 1 billion (about $250 million). The value of the real estate held by the state and some private corporations such as the Israel Land Development Company, Rassco and Yakhin, amounts to several billion more.

The proposed bill provides for the creation of a public corporation or a government authority to coordinate paying restitution for the property to the legal heirs. Avital asked Shahar why nothing has been done to locate the victims' heirs, and he replied that he had not been given the resources to do so.

Dimona Black Hebrews Join IDF to Set Up a Nahal Kibbutz

By Ha'aretz

A group of Black Hebrews is due to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces Tuesday with the intention of establishing a farming community in the southern Negev. This is the first time that a group made up of Black Hebrews has undertaken a Nahal project to build a new collective community close to the border. The Nahal Brigade combines military service with agricultural or community work.

The group's 10 men will join the Nahal brigade Tuesday while the eight women will be called up in mid-September. After the men complete 18 months of combat training, the group will start setting up the new community. The members plan to make a living from organic farming.

Yoel Marshak, head of the United Kibbutz Movement's (UKM) assignments' division, which is assisting the group, told Ha'aretz that three sites are being considered for the community, which the group calls a "kibbutz." The sites are in the area of the Halutza and Nitzana dunes. Marshak said he believed the community would be set up some three miles east of Nitzana, on the site of the former Nahal-Shelah outpost. The state has agreed to allocate land for the new community and help it get started, and the UKM has given the group members a seminar to prepare them for their IDF service. Marshak said UKM members would help any community that adopts the kibbutz ideology.

The Black Hebrews, whose full name is the African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem, first arrived from the United States in 1969 and settled mostly in Dimona. After a long battle, the state finally issued the community's 2,000 members Israeli identity cards as permanent residents in 2003.

Historian: 19th Century European Rivalry Boosted Zionism


Did rivalry between two competing European states in the early part of the 19th century ultimately pave the way for Zionism to take root in the land of Israel?

David Meir Levy, a historian interviewed by Israel National Radio's Tovia Singer, said that competition between Catholic France and Protestant Britain for influence in the Middle East, beginning around the time of Napoleon, ultimately gave Zionism a foothold in Israel that led to the creation of the Jewish State. He explained how each state attempted to carve out spheres of political and cultural influence in the Middle East by attempting to spread its own brand of Christianity among the Muslim Arab population.

France for example, set up Catholic churches and sent priests throughout the Arab world to spread its version of Christianity among the Arab population and gain influence. The French Catholic priests (perhaps due to Vatican influence) were very much opposed to the emerging Zionist movement in the late 19th century. They worked to rally the Arabs against Zionism, claiming it was designed to weaken Arab control of the Middle East.

On the other hand, a number of British Protestants, including some in the British government, began adopting a sympathetic approach to Zionism, in reaction to French of antagonism. Some even began to work on behalf of the Zionist cause.

As history would have it, Britain, not France eventually got the upper hand in the Middle East. Britain took Palestine from the Muslim Turks in World War I. British government sympathy for the Zionist movement created by Binyamin Ze'ev Herzl at the end of the 19th century led to the 1917 Balfour Declaration calling for the establishment of a Jewish National Home in the land of Israel.

Thirty-one years later, of course, only after waging a bitter war against British rule, did Israel become an independent state. The entire interview with David Meir Levy can be heard by going to."

Cheaper Airline Tickets to Israel is Jewish Cause

By Einat Wilf (Commentary)

The Ministries of Finance and Tourism have announced their intention to enact an "open skies" policy with respect to air travel. This policy would ease restrictions on foreign airlines wishing to offer flights to Israel. This should lead to dramatic reductions in the prices of flights into and out of Israel, and allow Israel to enjoy the benefits of cheap air travel. Ideally, the proposal should go even further, and remove all restrictions, except security and safety, on air operators traveling to Israel.

This may appear like a technical proposal, designed, at most, to boost tourism to Israel. In reality, it is probably one of the best things the government of Israel can do for Zionism and the Jewish people. The age of aliyah, as previously conceived as the full and permanent physical relocation of a person to Israel, is over.

While individuals will continue to immigrate to Israel, the future of Israel lies with opening up new forms of "partial aliyah" and new ways for Jews from around the world to engage with Israel and its people. Cheap communications, the internet, e-mail are creating new opportunities. Cheap air travel is critical to complete the picture.

For Jews wishing to link their lives with Israel, few real options exist. Making aliyah and giving money are limited answers. Most Jews have no intention of making aliyah, and very few Jews can afford to contribute the kind of sums that grant one standing in today's Jewish organizations.

A Jew making aliyah need only buy a single one-way ticket. For him, it does not matter much if the ticket costs $100 or $1000. For a young Jewish doctor wishing to continue living in her home country, but who would like to have a closer connection with Israel by coming here every summer to work at one of Israel's hospitals, the price of flights matters a lot. For the vast majority of Jews living outside Israel, including former Israelis, new ways must be created to allow them to contribute their talents and energies to Israel, and to link their lives with it.

These ways must emphasize the human resource contribution over the financial one. We are living in an age where the human mind is the source of wealth, so it is of the utmost importance that the best teachers, doctors, engineers, scientists, artists, writers, have an opportunity to contribute their skills and knowledge to Israel. Cheaper flights would be a boon to numerous programs linked with Israel, and provide new ways of engaging with Israel.

For example, the Birthright program could be expanded and extended with cheaper flights. The idea of having a second home in Israel might gain greater currency, if Jews in Europe could fly round-trip to Israel for less than $100, or if Jews from New York could fly to Israel for as much as they fly to the West Coast. Jews from Europe could even consider moving to Israel, while keeping their job in Europe, or vice versa.

Availability of cheaper flights could also expand the opportunities available to Israelis to work abroad, while continuing to live in Israel and it would serve Israel's growth industries by lowering a major cost to the operation of exporting hi-tech and industrial companies headquartered in Israel. The Open Skies policy is in the interest of the Jewish People as much as it is in the interest of Israel. While this may not be perceived as a traditional matter of concern for Jewish organizations, there are few policies that can be enacted right now that may have greater impact on how Israel and the Jewish people interact.

This is not just an Israeli domestic issue. It is a Jewish issue. Jewish organizations must make their voices heard in support of this policy. And should we succeed in seeing this policy through, perhaps we can all wish each other "to next year in Jerusalem" - for less than $100.

Uprooting Jews Violates International Treaties

By David Singer (Commentary)

Plans by the Israeli government to forcibly remove Jews from their homes in the West Bank and Gaza breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966 [Covenant], as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 [Convention]. Israel is a signatory to both.

Article 17 of the Covenant provides that: 1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation; 2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. Article 16 of the Convention expressly protects children and is a mirror image of Article 17. The International Court of Justice determined last year that both the Covenant and the Convention are applicable in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel had disputed. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan however also advised the International Court that Israel recognizes that the Convention is intended to protect its citizens from their own government in times of peace.

Israel's High Court of Justice acknowledged in its recent judgment on the Disengagement law that the forced evacuation of Israelis would undermine their human dignity. The High Court nevertheless asserted that the Disengagement law passed all constitutional tests because it "corresponds with the Zionist values of the State and is intended for a worthy purpose - the political, national and security purposes on which the Disengagement is based are designed to realize a vital and substantial need."

This viewpoint could not be successfully raised to negate Article 17, since Article 4.1 of the Covenant states: "In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, color, sex, language, religion or social origin." Israel's forced removal of Jewish residents of Gaza and the West Bank obviously involves discrimination solely on the ground of race and/or religion, and so, could not be relied on by Israel to escape its international obligations under the Covenant or the Convention.

Jews living in the West Bank and Gaza are legally entitled to reside there pursuant to the provisions of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the United Nations Charter, in order to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in those areas, as specifically stated in the Mandate document. Many returned there after 1967 to reclaim land from which other Jews had been driven out in 1948 by six invading Arab armies. Any attempt now to forcibly uproot Jews from their homes against their expressed will is, therefore, in breach of the inalienable rights conferred on them by the Covenant, the Convention, the Mandate and the United Nations Charter.

Choosing to stay will not be palatable to all 8,000 Jews affected by the withdrawal of Israel's army, and they will have the option of accepting the compensation packages that are being offered by the Israeli government to those who voluntarily leave. But one thing is certain ­ the forced removal of Jews from the West Bank and Gaza is not permitted or authorized under international law, and is in breach of international agreements in force since 1920 authorizing Jews to live in those areas.

President George Bush, President Vladimir Putin, the European Union and the United Nations have publicly welcomed the forced uprooting, whilst human rights organizations are deafening in their silence regarding such expulsions. Would they all act differently if the Arabs residing in the West Bank and Gaza were subjected to such proposed action against their will?

Ariel Sharon needs to revise his thinking on this aspect of his proposed Disengagement. He should urgently seek the opinion of the High Court of Justice on this issue before embarking on a course of action that has the capacity to lead to the outbreak of civil insubordination and threatens to seriously undermine the ability of Israel to resist those who seek its total annihilation.

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