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Jordan Prints Cartoons


The Arabic weekly Shihan on Thursday ran three of the 12 cartoons depicting Mohammed, one of which showed the Muslim prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a burning fuse. The Jordanian newspaper said it was printing the cartoons so its readers could see "the extent of the Danish offense." The Muslim world has been in a furor over the cartoons, which were published in a newspaper in Denmark. Papers in France and Norway also carried the cartoons.

Prophet Mohammed Newspaper Cartoons Anger Muslims

By VOA News

Palestinian gunmen have surrounded European Union offices in the Gaza Strip threatening violence and demanding an apology after newspapers in Europe reprinted Danish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

Newspapers in several EU countries published the cartoons Wednesday in a show of solidarity for press freedom. One cartoon shows the Prophet Mohammed wearing a turban shaped like a bomb.

The terrorists have threatened to target Danish, French, and Norwegian nationals in the Palestinian territories. The French-Egyptian owner of the French newspaper France Soir has fired an editor for reprinting the cartoons. A spokesman for the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders called on both sides to calm down.

The issue is being perceived as one pitting supporters of free speech against those arguing that religious beliefs must be respected. Some also consider it a clash within Europe between secular Europeans and the region's growing Muslim community. But Thursday, Robert Menard, head of the free press watchdog group Reporters Without Borders, warned the situation was radicalizing. He said the Arab world must weigh their words and those in the West must be careful not to make more inflammatory gestures. He called for dialogue between the two sides to resolve the situation.

On Wednesday, Menard said the international community should support newspapers' right to write freely. But, Thursday, he said that given the scope of the anger, he would not reprint the cartoons if he were a newspaper editor today.

So far, Denmark - the source of the cartoons - has been the hardest hit by the Muslim outrage. Several Arab countries have withdrawn their ambassadors from Denmark to protest the caricatures and Danish goods have been boycotted in Muslim countries. The Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons has apologized for offending Muslims, but not for its decision to publish the cartoons.

Police fear Temple Mount Disturbances


Jerusalem police are expected to limit entrance of Muslim worshippers to the Temple Mount complex in east Jerusalem to those aged 45 years and up for fear disturbances may erupt following prayer services

In light of intelligence information pointing to the possibility of disturbances and the intent to hold processions at the Muslim holy site, Jerusalem District Police Commander Ilan Franco recommended to Israel Police Chief Moshe Karadi and Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra to limit the entrance into the site. The entrance of women to the Temple Mount will not be limited.

The precautions are being taken due to the publication of cartoons mocking Islam's prophet Mohammed in foreign newspapers and the subsequent kidnapping Thursday of German national Christopher Kasten by gunmen in Nablus.

A group associated with Fatah, the Abu-Rish Brigades, issued an eight-hour ultimatum to Denmark and a similar demand for an apology. The group's announcement noted that should Denmark and Europe fail to apologies, "We'll abduct and hurt all citizens of the European countries who hurt Islam's feelings and honor."

The attack on the EU offices is the second this week. On Sunday, 15 masked al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades gunmen stormed the EU building and demanded an immediate apology from Denmark and Norway for publishing cartoons that offended many Muslim nations.

Hamas Feels Pressure to Moderate Stance

By Sonja Pace (VOA-Ramallah)

Hamas leaders are sending mixed signals - part moderation, part defiance - as they prepare to form a new Palestinian government in the weeks ahead. The terrorist Islamic group is well aware of increasing international pressure to moderate its stance.

There is no doubt Hamas can draw a crowd, mostly young men carrying Kalashnikovs in one hand and waving the green banner of Hamas in the other. Thousands of its supporters took to the streets after last month's elections, reveling in their victory.

Hamas won 74 of the 132 seats in the legislature, toppling the ruling Fatah party, which dominated Palestinian politics for more than four decades.

Farhat Asaad was Hamas' campaign manager. "We expected a majority or near majority, but we did not expect a big majority as what happened," he said. "I think the reason our population voted to [for] Hamas, because they have to change the leadership because it failed."

Founded in the late 1980s during the first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, Hamas staked out a position based on strident militancy in the fight against Israel and on grassroots support for the Palestinian public, especially the poor.

Hamas refused to recognize Israel's right to exist and opposed the Oslo peace accords signed by Yasir Arafat in 1993. To this day the Hamas charter calls for Israel's destruction, and Hamas leaders like Mahmoud Zahar still talk about Israel as a foreign entity in this region.

Speaking on Arab television after the election, Zahar said it was not Hamas that came from outside to take Jewish land. He blamed the West for planting, what he called this foreign and aggressive body in the heart of the Middle East.

Hamas' many deadly attacks against Israelis during the second intifada, which began more than five years ago, put its leaders high on Israel's target list. In 2004 Israel assassinated Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and then his successor, Abdelaziz Rantisi.

Afterwards, other Hamas leaders inside the Palestinian territories and in exile kept a low profile. The group has largely adhered to a cease-fire agreed to between the Palestinian Authority and Israel a year ago - and turned its attention to the ballot box.

Hamas candidates scored surprising victories in municipal elections in Gaza and the West Bank during the past year, before winning an outright parliamentary majority last month.

The Hamas victory presents a dilemma for Israel, the Europeans and the Americans - all of whom brand Hamas a terrorist organization and refuse to deal with the group unless it disarms, recognizes Israel's right to exist, and pursues peace.

Farhat Asaad expressed the feelings of many Palestinians and Arabs when he talked of what they see as the West's double standard in the region. "The West demand us to recognize the [Israeli] occupation, but they never [demand] the Israeli [occupation] to recognize our rights."

Responding to growing international pressure, Hamas leaders remain adamant they will not change their position, but they also hint at a more pragmatic approach. In Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar, a hardliner, said Hamas could consider a longer truce with Israel, if the Jewish state reciprocated.

Gaza's more moderate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said there should be no fear of Hamas. He also called on donors not to cut off aid to the Palestinians. He promised such funds would be spent only on legitimate programs to help the people.

In Damascus, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal spoke of Israel as a reality and said the group would respect existing agreements as long as they are in the interests of the Palestinians.

Hamas leaders are on a public relations campaign to calm jittery nerves at home and abroad. They insist they want to form a government based on ability, not religion.

Farhat Asaad said Hamas wants to work with others as it prepares to govern, but he also has a warning for the West and the pressure it is exerting. "The one who will come after us will be bin Laden," he added. "It is the choice of the West, not our choice."

Asaad said if the West causes Hamas to fail, a more radical leadership is likely to follow. But, he also remains optimistic that some sort of dialogue will be established and agreement reached. "It is in everyone's interest."

Video: Excessive Israeli Police Brutality Caught on Tape


Police crossed the boundaries of reasonable force, and entered into full-scale, unprovoked violence as they began beating resistors sitting non-violently with arms-crossed inside an Amona home.

Protestors were sitting peacefully on the floor of one of the nine Amona buildings slated for destruction, with their arms locked together. According to the eyewitness testimony of the photographer Avi Fishman from Kedumim, no one in the room did anything but sit in. Police stormed the room and beat those sitting in the home with the handles of their nightsticks.

In an interview to Thursday evening Minister of Public Security Gideon Ezra, in charge of the Israeli police, stated, "The police force carried out its task in Amona appropriately, and the policemen are worthy of praise for executing the operation as commanded by the government of Israel... It is eminently clear to me that if it were not for the violent resistance and the intention of the protestors to harm policemen, the operation would have ended differently."

Politicians on all sides of the political spectrum have blamed Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the police brutality. Many believe that Olmert wanted the violent scenes in order to prove that he will carry out a policy of Israeli disengagement at all costs.

In response to the mounting criticism, Olmert's aides told Ynet that Israel's nationalist camp is a "Jewish Hamas."

"The Attorney-General threatens administrative detention for those who oppose government policies; administrative detention being wholly devoid of due process inherent in a democratic society."

Is Johnnie Walker Kosher?


A harsh argument is causing a stir in the ultra-Orthodox world, after a group of rabbis declared that whiskey no longer meets kosher certification standards, Yedioth Ahronoth reported.

The issue was discussed in the past by the Council of Torah Sages, which ruled that whiskey is completely kosher because it is not wine. In addition, the rabbis relied on the ancient and strict wine production methods in the different whiskey breweries and decided that there was no fear that the whiskey was being mixed with wine produced by non-Jews, which is not kosher. Following that decision, kosher keepers were free to drink whiskey.

However, the Landau kosher supervision services of Rabbi Moshe Landau, head of the Bnei Brak Rabbinate, recently published an article claiming that whiskey is not kosher. The Landau kosher supervision system is considered to be one of the most prestigious kosher systems among the ultra-Orthodox public, and is the one that supplies the kosher certification to Coca Cola drinks.

According to the article, whiskey is aged in oak barrels, which were previously used to produce wine. The aging in old barrels gives the whiskey an extra taste that is not present in new barrels.

The rabbis claimed that since the wine produced in the barrels is not kosher, neither is the whiskey. Among the brands that age whiskey in old barrels are Johnny Walker, Chivas and Grant's.

The issue was also widely discussed in kosher conference held in Brussels last week. Rabbi Akiva Padwa from the London Beth Din's kashrut division, ruled that most of the whiskey brands are kosher, but that some brands undergo a special "finish" in barrels previously used to produce wine. The taste of the wine can still be felt in the drink, thus making it non-kosher, the rabbi said.

Padwa added that the whiskey's label indicates whether it had undergone an additional finish, using the words "two wood," "special finish" or "double matured."

On the other hand, an American group of rabbis dealing with kosher issues claimed that it had thoroughly investigated the issue and discovered that the oak barrels undergo a process of fire and vaporization, which removes the wine taste. Other rabbis wrote that aging in barrels of non-Jews' wine does not disqualify the whiskey.

One way or another, the controversial debate has stirred up emotions among the ultra-Orthodox public. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which is responsible for supplying import permits for kosher food, will also have to deal with the issue. In the meantime, kosher keepers will be forced to avoid drinking away their sorrows with a shot of whiskey.

Osem Food Products Cheaper in Brooklyn


Most Israelis living abroad complain that Israeli food products cost much more in the U.S than they do in Israel, and treating a child to a bag of Osem-made Bisli or Bamba in the U.S. costs as much as two or three times more than in Israel.

However, a Brooklyn, N.Y. resident recently turned to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth wondering how is it that Osem snacks are sold cheaper at his local grocery store, Moishe Discount, than in Israel.

A comparison of the price tags in the Brooklyn store to those in a central Israel supermarket do indeed prove that Osem products are sold cheaper in Brooklyn, even below the prices suggested by Osem itself.

For example, a bag of Bisli (suggested price: NIS 3.38) costs NIS 3.95 (about 85 cents) in the Israeli supermarket, but goes for just NIS 2.53 (55 cents) in New York.

Osem said in response, "The company's products are sold from our factory gates at identical prices to Israeli and foreign buyers. Any discrepancies between the prices may be attributed to various retail considerations and to the fact that there is no value added tax in the U.S."

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