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Bird Flu Near Jerusalem?


Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital has reported that an Arab resident of a village located near Jerusalem may have contracted bird flu.

The resident told doctors he raises chickens, and that many of them recently died. The resident is being kept in isolation in a hospital ward. The hospital is awaiting the results of blood tests in order to determine whether the patient is in fact suffering from bird flu.

Kadima Party Names Ehud Olmert Chief

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israel's new centrist Kadima Party officially picked acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as party chairman on Monday. Olmert will now lead the party founded two months ago by Ariel Sharon to general elections on March 28. Olmert is now the man to beat in Israel's election. As the official head of Kadima, Olmert enjoys a wide degree of support in recent polls.

Sharon formed the Kadima Party in November, after he left the Likud Party with him. Akiva Aldar, a senior columnist at Ha'aretz said, with the selection of Olmert to lead Kadima, the political era of Sharon, who has suffered a massive stroke and brain hemorrhage, is now over. "Now that it seems that Mr. Sharon is definitely out of politics, hopefully, he will be back home soon, but he is definitely not capable to take the challenge of leading his party to the elections."

Several leading Labor Party leaders have also joined the Kadima Party, most notably, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Recent polls show Israelis hungry for a centrist party, with Kadima predicted to gain as many as a third of the 120 seats in the Israeli Knesset.

Akiva Aldar said that with so many personalities, frictions are likely to develop at some point within Kadima. "I [am] very suspicious of the quiet that is coming out of Kadima. It is too quiet, and it seems that they are very experienced politicians, and they know that, once they start fighting, that will be the beginning of the end. So, I believe it will start after the elections, because there are so many egos. But, the interests are probably bigger than the egos, and, right now, they are holding it inside, because they want to show some kind of harmony."

On Sunday, in his first substantive policy directive, Olmert got Israel's Cabinet to approve a plan that would allow East Jerusalem Arabs to vote in Palestinian elections later this month. Aldar said Sharon founded Kadima in order to be able to establish Israel's border with the Palestinians, and that goal will not change with Olmert now at the Kadima Party helm.

"What brings the Kadima leadership together on common ground is that Israel has dictated the borders, and to pursue the unilateral approach of Sharon, and to withdraw from more territories that Israel does not plan to keep under a final status settlement," noted Aldar, adding that Olmert and the Kadima Party will likely win the upcoming Israeli election, because the Israeli public sees the Kadima Party as carrying out the legacy of Ariel Sharon, setting Israel's final border with the Palestinians.

Army Declares Hebron Closed to Jews


Hebron has been declared a closed military zone, upon order of IDF Central District Commander Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh. Non-residents of the Jewish section of the city will not be allowed in by the IDF.

According to the military order, non-residents must request special permission from the Judea regional brigade to enter Hebron until January 22nd.

Residents are calling upon the general public to make their way to the City of the Patriarchs to protect Judaism's second-holiest city and to assert that Jews, who were barred from Hebron between 1929 and 1967, would never again be expelled from the city.

"Hebron, the first Jewish city in Eretz Yisrael, the roots of the Jewish people, site of the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, was closed to the Jewish people for 19 years, between 1948 and 1967, when under Jordanian occupation following the War of Independence," a statement from Hebron's Jewish community said following the announcement. "Entrance to Ma'arat HaMachpela was off-limits to Jews for 700 years, from 1267, following the Mameluk victory over the Crusaders, until the Six-Day War in 1967.

"Now, the State of Israel, impersonating the Mameluks and the Jordanians, is again closing Cave of the Patriarchs to Jews. What could be more dastardly than placing the second holiest site to the Jewish people in all the world, again, off-limits?"

Earlier Monday, hundreds of police and IDF reinforcements took the streets and rooftops of Hebron's Jewish neighborhoods. "They've come simply to provoke us, to scare us and to show their strength," said David Wilder, spokesman for the Hebron Jewish Community. "They have come with a tremendous show of force - soldiers, police, Yassam, Border Guard, and horses - and they're just standing and watching. I don't think there's been one arrest. They're simply waiting for someone to attack them."

The army wishes to expel 11 Jewish families of Hebron from their homes on Jewish-owned land that once served as an Arab marketplace. Though many media reports say that the issue involves "Palestinian homes," the land was actually purchased by the Sephardic Jewish community of Hebron 200 years ago and transferred to the present-day Jewish community. Arabs worked there for a time, but did not live there.

In 1929, Arabs massacred 67 of their Jewish neighbors living in the Jewish Quarter. The survivors were hurriedly evacuated, and the Jewish houses and synagogues were abandoned and left uninhabited. In 1953, Jordanian troops assisted Hebron's Arab population in razing the remains of the Jewish Quarter, turning the beautiful Avraham Avinu Synagogue into a goat sty. On part of the land was built an outdoor food market, which continued to operate, even after the Jews returned during the Six Day War in 1967.

Just over a decade ago, when Arab-initiated violence in Hebron was at one of its highs, the army decided to improve Jewish security in the area by clearing out the Arab storeowners in the marketplace. Several years later, after an Arab terrorist shot to death 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass with a bullet to her head, Jews decided to renew their title to the land. They began renovating the stores, turning them into inhabitable apartments, and moving families in. Eleven families currently live there.

Arabs then sued in Israel's Supreme Court against what they called the "infiltration" of the Jews to the stores, and the Court ruled in their favor - without agreeing with their basic premise. The Court did not deny that the land was Jewish-owned, but rather ordered the Jews thrown out in order that "sinners not go unpunished" for having entered the buildings without army permission.

Noam Arnon said at the time, "The Supreme Court decided that the land should be given to the Arabs, even though it is clearly Jewish land that was robbed from us... The Court simply ignored the fact that this is Jewish land."

Government Backs Down on Decision to Tax Overseas Donations


Israel's Finance Ministry has decided to reverse a decision made earlier this month to tax charitable donations from the U.S. sent to Israel's poor.

Tons of clothing, toys and medical supplies are being distributed among Israel's needy population to help them cope with the coming cold winter months. Acting Prime Minister and Finance Minister Ehud Olmert is slated to meet with President Bush in Washington later this week.

According to a report in the LA Times, in his capacity as Finance Minister, Olmert made the decision to impose a tax of up to 28.5% on U.S. charitable donations intended for Israel's needy and poor. A spokesperson for Olmert justified the decision by stating, "There is no clause in the Free Trade Agreement exempting charitable donations from taxation and therefore they may be subjected to taxation."

American Jewish leaders, U.S. diplomatic officials and Israeli politicians fiercely opposed Olmert's decision. At the time the Los Angeles Jewish community refused to pay the high amount of taxes demanded of them - over $85,000. The incident sparked a rare point of tension in the generally tranquil American Israeli diplomatic relationship.

In the wake of widespread criticism and pressure from U.S. Jewish charities and philanthropic organizations, the Finance Ministry announced this week that it would reduce the tax demanded from the Los Angeles Jewish community from over $85,000 to less than $8,000. Olmert's spokesperson maintained that the reduced tax was appropriate for charity items imported into Israel, in order to "maintain the precedent for future charitable donations."

Supreme Court Rejects Pollard´s Plea to be Prisoner of Zion


Israel's High Court has rejected Jonathan Pollard's request to be a Prisoner of Zion - which would have led to an end to torturous prison conditions and to better chances for his release.

The Supreme Court, Monday, rejected Pollard's plea to have the State of Israel recognize him as a Prisoner of Zion. The Court accepted the State's position that Pollard did not meet the required criteria, such as teaching Hebrew or encouraging immigration to Israel.

A former Prisoner of Zion, Prof. Ezriel Kochubievski of Rehovot, ridiculed this approach. Prior to the Court hearing last September, he said, "The government stipulates that Prisoners of Zion must have engaged in Zionism. When I was in the Soviet Union, I did not think of myself as engaging in Zionism; I just wanted to go to Israel. Pollard, however, was sent by Israel to carry out a specific mission. If that's not a Zionist activity that qualifies for Prisoner of Zion status, then I also do not qualify."

Pollard's wife Esther said sadly that granting her husband Prisoner of Zion status would have had two concrete results: "It would have stopped the torturous conditions that he has been undergoing for 20 years, and it would have led to much better chances for his release. The prison authorities in the U.S. would not dare to harass someone who has been recognized in this way by the Israeli government... It also would have helped smooth the way for diplomatic pressures in both Israel and the U.S., which would have helped secure his release."

She added "The whole country knows that he has been suffering in prison for 20 years merely because is a Jew who wanted to help Jews. Today's Supreme Court decision is very sad for all of us. The government knows how to do all sorts of tricks to find ways to free terrorist murderers," Mrs. Pollard said, "yet for Jonathan Pollard it refuses even to make the simplest gestures."

In January 2005, Pollard's request to be recognized as an official Prisoner of Zion was turned down by the official Prisoners of Zion Authority. One of the stated reasons for the rejection astonished many of those following the Pollard case. "How can we know that he will want to live in Israel upon his release from prison?" the committee wrote. In his frequent letters and messages from prison, Pollard has often stated his deep desire to live in Israel.

In response to the rejection, the Knesset passed a resolution-recognizing Pollard as a Prisoner of Zion, but this decision does not obligate the government.

Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who represented Pollard in his Supreme Court petition, told the Court that Pollard's life sentence -- for passing information to Israel, classified by the U.S. as a friendly nation -- is unprecedented in U.S. legal history. Persons convicted of actions similar to this, or even more serious than it, generally serve only 4-7 years in prison, while Pollard is now in his 21st year of a life sentence.

Darshan-Leitner also listed many incidents of torture inflicted upon Pollard while he was in prison. He was put in solitary confinement and had his clothes and glasses taken away for long periods of time during the winter months. He was forced to sleep irregular hours on a concrete slab. In addition, he was chained to an iron chair while guards sprayed ice water at him.

Dividing Jerusalem - The Alternate Plan

By Emanuel A. Winston (Commentary)

Another legacy from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to be passed on through Ehud Olmert and the prematurely born and newly hatched 'Kadima' Party, at the behest of the Bush Road Map, is to use a clever trick to divide Jerusalem. The new plan is to expand Jerusalem westward, in preparation to the transfer of East Jerusalem to the Arab Muslim Palestinians.

The original plan was to expand eastward, connecting the large community of Ma'ale Adumim with Jerusalem. But, that didn't fit the goals of the Bush family in their efforts to appease the Arabs and especially the Palestinians who have been, as they themselves so declare, the enemy of Israel.

None of this means anything to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, or former Secretary of State James Baker, as they foist on us the 'idea' that Arab elections are an injection of democracy. By that token the elections of Hitler, Stalin, Hafez al Assad, Saddam Hussein's successors and Hosni Mubarak are a guarantee that 'democracy' will flourish because there was an election.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, now under direct orders of Rice, must push forward a housing development into the green belt of forests west of Jerusalem, land that is Jewish Fund/Keren Kayemet nature reserve land. While all the building plans are moved forward, it is presumed that 'gifting' East Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas or to Hamas will not be noticed in the hubbub and excitement of massive building.

Everyone is supposed to think that this is merely a planned expansion of Jerusalem, with the focus of building housing and, possibly, expanding its industrial base. But, this is merely a political magician's trick as one hand is waved about while the other hand is picking our pockets.

Jerusalem was scheduled over a year ago to expand eastward, encompassing Ma'ale Adumim and its 32,000 Jewish men, women and children. It was also imperative that Jerusalem had a thickened belt of Jewish homes to ensure the Muslim Arab terrorists would not be able to endanger the city, the eternal, golden capital of the Jewish people forever.

Olmert, Peres, 'Kadima' are to divide Jerusalem as mandated by Bush and Rice, their denials notwithstanding.

Note! This has a strong bearing on the promises by Sharon and now Olmert to the PA that Arab Muslims living in East Jerusalem can vote in the upcoming elections. This includes Hamas running as independents as cover with Bush-Olmert approval. These promises were made because of pressure from Bush and Rice. The fiction of elections in Arab nations bringing democracy is a desperate grab by Bush to establish his legacy - no matter how illusory.

As for Arab Muslim Palestinians living in Israel voting for the PA President Mahmoud Abbas, then it is clear as day they are not Israeli citizens but, they belong to the mix of Arabs from many Arab Muslim countries, who call themselves "Palestinians" for political propaganda.

Do I think that there will be retribution for trying to divide Jerusalem? Indeed, I do!

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