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Holocaust Denier Irving Sentenced to 3 Years


A Vienna court sentenced holocaust denier David Irving, 67, to a three-year jail term. His sentence is seen as light, with the realization he faced a maximum term of 10 years. The charges stemmed from a lecture he gave in Austria 16 years ago, denying the Holocaust. "I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz," Irving told the court. Denying the Holocaust is a crime in Austria, a German speaking country that enthusiastically supported Hitler's war against the Jews.

Hamas Seeks Coalition Government

By Jim Teeple (VOA-Jerusalem)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is holding talks with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on forming a new Palestinian government. The talks are taking place amid a new escalation of violence in the West Bank, where Israeli troops killed a senior Palestinian terrorist.

Leaders from Hamas said Abbas would formally ask Haniyeh to form a government on Tuesday. Hamas dominated recent parliamentary elections, and the naming of Haniyeh as prime minister is a formality.

Haniyeh has five weeks to form a government after being named prime minister. The Gaza-Hamas leader is seen as a moderate with close ties to many members of Abbas' Fatah Party.

Hamas controls 74 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian parliament, and could govern on its own, but leaders of the Islamic terrorist group said they would prefer to form a coalition government that would include members of Fatah, a prospect Fatah has been rejecting.

Haniyeh's first task will be to figure out how to pay about 140,000 Palestinian civil servants, who face a cutoff of their salaries next month, after Israel's Cabinet voted Sunday to halt monthly tax and customs transfers to the Palestinian Authority.

The transfers average about $50 million a month and make up about half the Palestinian Authority's estimated $116 million monthly budget. In a news conference, Abbas called the Israeli decision devastating.

Abbas said that in his meetings with Hamas leaders, he would keep an open mind, and wants to hear from them directly about their plans for a future government.

International donors also said they would cut aid to the Palestinian Authority, unless Hamas agrees to recognize Israel and disarm. Hamas has refused to do so. The group is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union, and is responsible for many suicide bombings in Israel.

Violence has been escalating in recent days. Early Monday, Israeli troops shot and killed a senior commander of the terrorist group Islamic Jihad in the West Bank city of Nablus. The Israeli commander in charge of the operation told Israel Radio his forces caught the militants off guard.

The Israeli commander said the terrorist, Ahmed Abu Sharik, was involved in several attacks against Israeli soldiers, and had helped to plan a recent suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. The commander said operations against Islamic Jihad militants would continue in the area for several more days.

Also Monday, other Hamas leaders met with Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran. The ayatollah urged Muslim nations to provide financial support to the Palestinian government.

Matar Plans Aggressive Defense in Freedom of Speech Case


Nadia Matar has been indicted on charges of "insulting a public servant" based on a letter she wrote to Disengagement Authority head Yonatan Bassi, comparing his actions to those of the Judenrat.

Bassi's job was to facilitate the expulsion this past summer of the Jews from Gush Katif and northern Shomron, and their relocation, while Matar is a co-founder and chairperson of the nationalist Women in Green activist organization. Matar wrote Bassi a letter in September 2004, after she heard that he was planning to write a letter to each of the residents destined for expulsion.

"I read that you have not yet formulated the final wording of your letter," Matar wrote to Bassi, "and therefore I am volunteering to 'help' you formulate it. I am enclosing a document that is chillingly similar to the one you plan to send - and all you have to do is to change the date (from 1942 to 2004) and the place (from Berlin to Gush Katif), and behold, your letter will be ready."

The document she enclosed was a letter from the Judenrat - the local Jewish leadership installed by the Nazi regime in Germany - to the Jews destined for evacuation to the death camps. Matar quoted the Judenrat letter as ending with a "moving call to the Jewish leaders in Berlin to behave calmly and to thus make the expulsion easier" - similar to the requests that the Disengagement Authority had of the Jews in Gush Katif and northern Shomron.

Speaking with IsraelNationalRadio last week, Matar said, "I wrote to Bassi that the Judenrat letter reminded me very much of what he planned to write, but I added that he was even worse - because the Jews of then had a Nazi gun to their heads, and therefore we cannot judge them, while he was not being forced by anyone to take part in this crime. If he did it anyway, I wrote, he would be remembered as one of those criminals who lifted their hand against the Jewish people."

"I want to make this very clear, however," she said. "I never compared Jews to Nazis; I wouldn't do that, and in fact, it is the Arabs today who are the Nazis, because they want to kill us indiscriminately. But any Jew who helps the Arabs can be compared to the Judenrat. I would never call Bassi a Nazi, but I can call him a collaborator with today's Nazis."

Whenever the case begins, she plans to turn it into a high-profile one: "As my lawyer says, we will use this to make a large case against the entire system. This is a simple case of freedom of speech; they are trying to muzzle the right-wing camp."

"We warned them at the time," Matar said, "when they first investigated me, that we would bring all the instances when left-wing figures made even stronger statements against the right-wing, and yet were not prosecuted."

One example of the above is when former Justice Minister Tommy Lapid said to then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in 1995, two weeks before the Rabin murder: "Yours is a Judenrat government."

Sharon himself made similar comments. When the Rabin government explained that the Oslo Accords were necessary because there was no alternative, then-Knesset member Sharon told the Kfar Chabad magazine, "It must be understood that this government, and those who head it, have been stricken with madness and have lost all restraint... Though no current situation should ever be compared with the Holocaust, I would still like to mention that before the Holocaust, as well, the Jewish leadership said then: There is no alternative."

Attorney Sheftel wrote a sharply worded letter to State Prosecutor Eran Shendar over a year ago, asking him to immediately close the case. Sheftel noted that the charges on which Matar was being investigated are not at all relevant to the case at hand.

"The purpose of Clause 288 of the Penal Code [Insulting a Public Servant] is to prevent a situation in which a citizen who requires the services of a public servant and is not satisfied with the response he received, uses foul language against that public servant. Another example is a motorist who rudely insults a policeman who gave him a ticket. This is the sole purpose of Clause 288. Under no circumstances is it designed to be used by the Prosecution and the police to intervene - and certainly not selectively and discriminately - in an issue of public discourse."

Sheftel then provided some historic background, stating that such "founding fathers" as Chaim Weizmann and David Ben-Gurion were among those who "poisoned the public discourse in Israel and within the Zionist movement... by their contemptible and repeated equating of Ze'ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin not only to the Judenrat who aided the Nazis - but to the Nazis themselves, and to Adolph Hitler in particular." Sheftel then gave specific examples of such "debased and wicked comparisons."

Iranian Foreign Minister Denies Wanting to 'Wipe Israel Off the Map'

By Reuters

Iran's foreign minister denied on Monday that Tehran wanted to see Israel "wiped off the map," saying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been misunderstood.

"Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned," Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference, speaking in English, after addressing the European Parliament. "How is it possible to remove a country from the map? He is talking about the regime. We do not legally recognize this regime," he said.

Ahmadinejad caused a storm of condemnation last October after Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted him as telling a conference: "Israel must be wiped off the map".

Mottaki's comments came as he sought to assure European Union lawmakers and institutions that Tehran had no ambitions to make nuclear weapons, despite widespread mistrust in Europe and the United States of the reasons behind Iran's nuclear program. Iran maintains it is for energy production only.

Mottaki also acknowledged the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany, despite Ahmadinejad saying in December that it was a myth.

He told the parliament's foreign affairs committee, speaking through an interpreter: "Our friends in Europe stress that such a crime has taken place and they have stated certain figures that were actually suffered. We have no argument about that, but what we are saying here is to put right such a horrific event, why should the Muslims pay a price?"

Controversial Candidate for Next Chief IDF Chaplain

By Ha'aretz

The leading candidate to become the next chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces once issued a controversial ruling on whether an IDF medic should treat a terrorist on Shabbat.

In response to a question posed by a combat medic who was called on to treat a wounded Arab terrorist on Shabbat, Col. Rabbi Avi Ronsky (Res.) wrote in 1996 that "if it's possible to get out of it and not treat him [this doesn't mean that another Jew should do it, but that he doesn't get treated at all on various pretexts], one must do so."

The sentence appears in the fourth of five paragraphs, in an opinion that actually reaches the opposite conclusion - that the medic should treat the terrorist, for two primary reasons: the fear of "loathing" (it is liable to become known that the terrorist was left to die, leading to attacks on Jews), and the Shin Bet security service's need to question the wounded terrorist.

Ronsky's comments generated a stormy discussion in religious circles when they were first published, in a book of responsa on the army and wartime. Yosef Ahituv, an educator at the religious kibbutz of Ein Tzurim, wrote to Ronsky that the religious ruling "contradicts the ethical code" of the IDF, and is unacceptable from my perspective" because Ronsky did not mention that the life of a non-Jew has value.

Ahituv said the explanation for why the terrorist should ultimately be treated is "shameful," and that people are liable to conclude that they should avoid treating the terrorists if they think they won't be caught, and asked, "Are you not concerned about the terrible desecration of God's name that could be caused by the mass publicity" of the comments?

Ronsky minimized the importance of the disagreement this week, saying the bottom line is that medics must treat wounded terrorists on Shabbat. He said he had not been writing anything original in referring to a situation in which a medic could refrain from treating someone, and that he had relied on the opinions of great sages.

"The life of a non-Jew certainly has value ... but the value of Shabbat is more important," said Ronsky. "When there is a clash between a directive in the spirit of the [IDF ethical] code and an order of Jewish law, it is clear that one must listen to the opinion of Jewish law."

The possible appointment of Ronsky as the IDF chief rabbi appears to be a solution to a taxing problem. Ronsky, who heads the yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, is perhaps the last bridge since the disengagement from the Gaza Strip between his radical surroundings and the IDF. He is considered restrained; he diligently opposed both refusal to follow a military command and right-wing attacks on IDF officers, and has clashed (sometimes physically) with "hilltop youth" who disliked his commitment to the army.

If Ronsky is appointed chief rabbi of the army, it will be a significant gesture on the part of the IDF, indicating that it is trying to appease the settlers, with whom it now has a stormy relationship.

Chief of Staff Dan Halutz decided a few months ago to replace Brigadier General Yisrael Weiss as chief rabbi, following his intentional ambiguousness during the disengagement period.

Halutz is looking for a replacement that is a commander, and preferably a settler. There are two candidates aside from Ronsky: Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, who heads the hesder yeshiva (combining military service and Torah study) in Petah Tikva and who is considered a moderate; and Rabbi Rafi Peretz, head of the pre-military academy in the former Gush Katif settlement of Atzmona. All three have a combat background, but Ronsky, 54, is considered the leading candidate.

Ronsky, one of the founders of Itamar, grew up secular, and became religious only after the Yom Kippur War, in which he served as a company commander. His commanders describe him as "a moderate person" who is "not charismatic, but responsible and serious."

Kosher Cell Phones


After refusing to comply with recommendations on kosher cellular phones by the Rabbinical Committee for Communications, the leading Israeli mobile communications operator Partner Communications has decided to surrender.

The company will be launching a kosher cellular phone for ultra-Orthodox users, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday. The phone functions are restricted to calls only, as text message services, Internet connection and video and voicemail applications are disabled.

By doing so, Partner will be joining rivals MIRS Communication, Pelephone, and Cellcom, who have recently launched kosher phones. Partner has been under pressure from its ultra-Orthodox customers to provide kosher phones after rabbis urged their communities to use the new invention.

Kosher phones proved popular among the one-million-strong Orthodox community, forcing Partner to reconsider its strategy. For a long period Partner refused to answer the committee's call to provide kosher phones, arguing that its costumers should benefit from all the services it provides.

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