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Ashkenazi Jews, North African Arabs Carry Same Gene Mutation


Two new studies show that a significant percent of Ashkenazi Jews and North African Arabs with Parkinson's disease carry an identical gene mutation, according to medical website Medpage Today. Laurie Ozelius, PhD of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Suzanne Lesage, PhD of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research, Unit 679 in Paris conducted the studies. Both studies were published as letters in the January 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

World Taken by Surprise by Hamas Victory; Joy, Despair, Shock and Hope - All Greet Hamas Victory

By VOA News

Initial reactions to the apparent victory by the terrorist Islamic group Hamas in Wednesday's Palestinian elections run the gamut from shock and despair to cautious hope and joy. Hamas' rise to power is being widely described as a political earthquake with everyone feeling the tremors.

For Palestinian officials and Fatah party members there is an overwhelming sense of shock. "We woke up today and the sky was a different color," said Saeb Erekat, long-time Fatah member and peace negotiator.

Palestinian political analyst, Mahdi Abdelhadi of the Jerusalem-based PASSIA policy research center, told VOA the election outcome shows the level of discontent with Fatah. "The people voted not for Hamas, people voted against Fatah."

While Hamas activists reveled in their victory, Fatah supporters despaired and at one point a brief scuffle between the two broke out in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

For Israelis it seemed like a nightmare come true. Many were glued to their radios and televisions as events unfolded. Political leaders called urgent meetings to discuss the situation. Some conservative politicians said Israel should never have allowed Hamas to take part in the elections, while some liberals said Israel should have done more to support President Mahmoud Abbas. But there was broad consensus across the political spectrum that there could be no relations with Hamas, which is widely considered a terrorist group.

Hamas has been behind numerous deadly attacks against Israelis in recent years and has as part of its charter the aim to destroy Israel. On Thursday, top Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar did offer to extend the group's truce with Israel, if Israel would reciprocate.

Israeli Labor Party lawmaker, Ami Ayalon, said there could be no dialogue with Hamas or any chance for peace negotiations without fundamental change. Speaking on Israel radio, Ayalon said Hamas couldn't simply change tactics; it must make a real change and recognize Israel's right to exist.

The call for Hamas to change has come from many world leaders, including President Bush, who said the group could not be a partner for peace unless it renounces violence and recognizes Israel's right to exist.

International election monitors are holding out cautious hope that Hamas might indeed change. Former President Jimmy Carter, who led an international observer team from his Carter Center in Atlanta and the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, said he hoped Hamas would act "responsibly."

"My hope is that Hamas will take a position [that follows] international standards of responsibility concerning the maintenance of peace that will make it possible for governments to accept them and to communicate and deal with the new [Hamas] government," he said, adding that he praised the election process, and that from what he could tell it was absolutely free and absolutely fair.

The Palestinian cabinet resigned on Thursday after Hamas claimed victory. Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia told reporters after submitting his resignation that the voters' wishes should be respected. "I think if the majority has now approved and this has been reached, I think Hamas should form a new government. The president should ask Hamas to form a new government."

Abbas is now expected to ask Hamas to form a new government, although he has not said when he would do so. In the weeks leading up to the legislative election, Abbas said he would consider resigning if Hamas won a majority of seats.

Hamas leaders said they are seeking a "political partnership" with other Palestinian parties. At the same time, the terrorist leaders said that they have no plans to disarm or recognize Israel, as demanded by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

In a Thursday morning news conference, President Bush said that Hamas must change. "I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform. And I know you can't be a partner in peace if your party has got an armed wing."

He said that now that Hamas has won a parliamentary majority, it has a chance, and a choice. "The elections just took place. We will watch very carefully about the formation of the government. But I will continue to remind people of what I said. If your platform calls for the destruction of Israel, you are not a partner in peace and we are interested in peace."

Bush cautioned that the election of Hamas does not necessarily mean the peace process is dead. He interprets the victory not as a rejection of peace efforts, but as a sign of discontent with what he calls the old guard that has run Palestinian affairs for years.

"Obviously, people were not happy with the status quo," he said. "The people are demanding honest government. The people want services. They want to raise their children in an environment in which they can get a decent education and they can find health care."

Bush said the election showed democracy at work, and that the balloting amounted to a wake-up call to the Abbas' Fatah faction. Bush said he would like to see Abbas remain in office, and indicated that he hopes Fatah would take to heart the message sent by the voters.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Palestinian government that emerges must accept a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict and Israel's right to exist. She said the U.S. view of Hamas, the apparent election winner, has not changed.

But she also served notice that the Middle East peace process cannot go forward unless the Palestinian partner in the dialogue renounces violence and accepts Israel's right to exist. She said while the Palestinians have voted for change, the United States believes their aspirations for peace have not changed. She said any new government that emerges would have to adopt the basic tenets of the peace process if it is to gain international acceptance.

History of Hamas Murderous Attacks


Hamas has set the destruction of Israel as its goal. Between September 2000 and April 2004, Hamas perpetrated 425 terrorist attacks against Israel and murdered 377 Israelis - nine every month.

Islamic militant extremists in the Gaza Strip founded Hamas in 1988, shortly after the first intifada broke out. The word Hamas is an acronym for the Arabic words for "Islamic Resistance Movement."

Though it is also involved in social and welfare programs, the organization is devoted chiefly to the obliteration of Israel. Its charter states, "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."

The charter further states, "There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.

Hamas is responsible for 24 murders before the Oslo Accords, 156 more before the Oslo War began in September 2000, and at least another 377 since then - a total of at least 557.

The organization's first mass attack was a car bomb that blew up at a bus stop in Afula in April 1994, murdering 8 and wounding 51. Among the most horrific Hamas attacks were the following:

Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin was killed in an Israeli missile attack in March 2004, and less than a month later, the same fate befell his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi.

Netanyahu: 'Hamastan' Has Been Created Before Our Eyes

By & Ha'are3tz

The Hamas victory elicited harsh responses from Israeli politicians in the lead-up to March's Knesset elections. The right wing attacked Kadima and blamed the party for the Hamas victory while Labor and Meretz are bolstering their calls for unilateral moves.

Intelligence analysis has suggested that Hamas would, in the short term, maintain the period of calm. However, defense figures expressed concern that various Fatah factions disappointed by the election results would take out their frustration by executing terror attacks.

Responding to Hamas' victory, Likud's chairman, Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that "The state of 'Hamastan' has been created before our eyes - an Iranian satellite state in the image of the Taliban. It was created in close proximity to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ben-Gurion International Airport. We need to do some soul-searching, because the writing was on the wall. A policy of unilateral withdrawal rewarded Hamas terror."

Earlier Thursday, Likud said that the Hamas victory was a direct result of the disengagement plan and that Palestinians concluded from the Gaza pullout that terror and violence are the means to achieving diplomatic gains.

"The plan by Kadima and Labor for an additional unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank reflects a complete blindness to reality. [Acting Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert and Kadima are establishing a Hamas terror state that will be an Iranian offshoot, only a few kilometers from Israeli population centers," according to Likud.

Iranian Official Hopes Hamas Victory will Unite Palestinians

By Israel News Faxx Agencies

The Iranian Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the country welcomed the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council election and hoped the result would strengthen resistance against Israel.

The United States and Israel accuse Iran of arming and funding terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. But Iran said it only gives moral support to the Palestinian groups.

"Iran ... hopes that the powerful presence of Hamas at the [political] scene brings about great achievements for the Palestinian nation," said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi in a statement faxed to Reuters.

During a visit to Damascus this month, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pledged support for militant Palestinian factions at a meeting with leaders from Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Ahmadinejad has said Israel should be "wiped off the map."

State-run radio in Iran opened its afternoon news broadcast with the report of Hamas' victory, saying the vote showed that Palestinians support resistance against Israel. "Now the true representatives of the Palestinian people have come to power," said Javad Majidi, a student at Iran's Tehran University.

The Hamas victory was greeted with jubilation Thursday across the Muslim world. "This is a victory to all the region's free people," said Ayoub Muhanna, a 29-year-old Lebanese who owns a spare parts shop in the southeast town of Rashaya. "The Palestinians gave their vote to the party that gave of its blood."

Dawood al-Shirian, a Saudi who hosts a political talk show on Dubai TV, said a Hamas win "will reflect positively on the political process, because Hamas has a good reputation in the Palestinian street."

Hamas' participation in the political process is also "an indirect recognition" of the 1993 Oslo agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis, which the group has long rejected, because the Palestinian Authority was founded as a result of the Oslo agreement, al-Shirian said.

Al-Shirian said he expected the group to be tough negotiators if peace talks are reopened between Israelis and Palestinians. "They will be the Arab Sharon," he said. "They will be tough, but only a tough group can snatch concessions from Israel. "

Poll: 25% of Non-Jewish Immigrants Willing to Convert

By Ha'aretz

One-quarter of non-Jews who immigrated to Israel in the past few years are willing to convert to Judaism, according to the first comprehensive survey of immigrants on the issue.

The Absorption Ministry as part of a public relations campaign in the Russian-language media to encourage conversion initiated the study. An estimated 300,000 non-Jewish immigrants live in Israel. Despite government efforts, only about 100 undergo conversion annually, and the number of non-Jews is rising.

According to the study, women are far more willing to convert than men. About one-third of the female respondents said they are considering conversion, while half said they would recommend conversion to their non-Jewish friends. However, 79 percent of the non-Jewish female respondents said the conversion process was long and difficult, compared to only 72 percent of non-Jewish men. Some 37 percent of all respondents said they would not convert out of fear that they would not be accepted for conversion at the end of the process.

When asked about their identity, more than half of the non-Jewish respondents said they feel more Russian than Israeli. Jewish respondents, however, identify more strongly as Israelis than as Russians. For example, 42 percent of the Jewish respondents said they feel more Israeli than Russian on issues related to family and education, compared to 30 percent who said they feel more Russian.

The survey was carried out in two stages - before and after the media campaign. The findings show that a large number of respondents were exposed to the campaign, which led to a far more positive attitude toward the conversion process. For example, before the campaign, 66 percent of the non-Jewish women said they believed the goal of the conversion process was to make them religiously observant, while after the campaign that figure dropped to 48 percent.

However, the campaign seemed to increase opposition to conversion among mixed couples. The percentage of Jewish respondents married to non-Jews who expressed a positive attitude to conversion dropped from 38 percent before the campaign to only 24 percent after. Absorption Ministry officials said they would concentrate their efforts on mixed couples.

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