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Slow Camel in Fast Lane


Drivers on Israel's high-speed private toll Highway 6 were surprised Wednesday by a new traveler on the road: a camel. The animal endangered the cars on the highway, where the official speed limit is 110 kilometers (68.5 miles) per hour. Four highway patrol cars are keeping the camel on the shoulder of the road, near the northern end, until officials can removed it.

Pentagon Denying Israelis Security Clearances


The Pentagon is citing a leak affair involving Defense Department analyst Lawrence Franklin and two pro-Israel lobbyists Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, as a basis for stripping security clearances from government contractor employees who have dual Israeli-American citizenship or family in Israel, The New York Sun reported Wednesday.

The two former AIPAC officials and the Pentagon analyst were indicted in August 2005 on charges they conspired to pass classified information to persons not entitled to receive it, including Israeli officials and members of the press.

According to the Sun, Defense Department attorneys have used the AIPAC leak indictments in at least three cases, to justify withdrawing or denying security clearances.

The paper quoted Virginian Lawyer Sheldon Cohen who has been tracking these cases, as saying: "The only reason to possibly use it (the dual citizenship issue) is to implicate anybody with a connection to Israel, to imply they cannot be trusted. There is no other conceivable reason to bring it up."

A study conducted by Cohen on the subject of Israel-related security clearance cases, found that "an unusually large number" of cases involving foreign influence concerns seem to relate to Israel.

The Sun reported that in one case, an Israeli-born mechanical engineer who has worked as a major defense contractor and has been living in the United States for over 25 years, faced an attempt by government lawyers to revoke his security clearance because of his dual citizenship, his possession of an Israeli passport and the fact that he has relatives in Israel.

"There was some basis for McCarthyism. Here there's nothing, just this dual loyalty business," David Schoen, the employee's attorney, told the Sun. "It really strikes me as un-American. His wife is American. His kids are American," the lawyer said. "He has never had a problem at Lockheed (where he worked)."

According to the attorney, at a hearing on the case a few weeks ago, a government attorney tried to submit the leak indictment as an exhibit, arguing that it showed Israel was actively spying on America.

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, a leader of the Jewish community in Washington, told the Sun he was disturbed by the growing number of similar incidents. "People around the country are turning to us and telling us of ongoing cases where people are stripped of their livelihoods just because they're Jewish," he said.

Olmert Heads to White House as Palestinian Government Faces Crisis

By Meredith Buel (VOA-Washington D.C.)

Newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to visit the White House May 23 for talks with President Bush.

The visit comes at a time when the Hamas-led Palestinian government faces a deepening financial crisis. In the past six months there have been dramatic changes in Palestinian politics, severely complicating efforts to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process.

Palestinian elections in January brought victory to Hamas, a group the United States, Israel, and the European Union say is a terrorist organization.

In March, Israel's new Kadima Party won the most seats in parliamentary elections, and Olmert became prime minister after Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke.

The success of Hamas at the polls led to the cutoff of direct assistance from the United States and other countries to the Palestinian government. This created a financial crisis within the Hamas-led administration because it has run out of money to pay its 165,000 employees.

Palestinian parliament member Ziad Abu-Amr said this could lead to a disaster in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. "The Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian order as a whole may be on the verge of a virtual collapse. I think unless something is done real fast this eventuality may materialize anytime. The situation is rather precarious."

The United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations, a group of Middle East mediators called the "Quartet", have agreed to find a way to finance humanitarian programs in the Palestinian Territories. Israel has also indicated a willingness to release some of the Palestinian tax revenue it collects that has been frozen since Hamas came to power.

But Abu-Amr says the cutoff of direct aid has increased hostility toward donor countries. "I think the United States of America and the European Union and the international community will do better if they find different rules of engaging the Palestinians other than this collective punishment and siege and boycott, which is construed and understood by the Palestinians as a means of humiliating the Palestinians, subjugating the Palestinians," he said.

The new Israeli Prime Minister said he is willing to negotiate with the Palestinians, but has expressed doubts that Hamas will be a partner in peace.

In the coming talks at the White House, Olmert is expected to outline a plan for unilateral separation, which calls for Israel to withdraw troops and Jewish settlers from large parts of the West Bank, while annexing major settlement blocks. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip last year.

Palestinians have condemned the proposal, saying it amounts to a massive land grab that violates international law.

Zalman Shoval, who served twice as the Israeli ambassador to the United States, said many people in his country have come to the conclusion that such independent action is the only way to move forward. "If before there had not been too much confidence in talks with the Palestinians anyway, after the Hamas victory there is almost a consensus in Israel that there is no one to talk to. Therefore, unilateral steps of one sort or another are the only practical option."

With the Israelis preparing to act without an agreement with the Palestinians, and Hamas heading the Palestinian Authority, Middle East analysts see little chance for reviving the peace process.

"Never has there been a grimmer situation for the pursuit of real, meaningful and effective peacemaking," said Aaron David Miller, a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, where he is writing a book about his 20-years at the State Department helping to formulate policy on the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"You have what I would describe to you as the four no's. There is no trust between Israelis and Palestinians. There have been no effective and empowered contacts or negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. There is no governing set of principles, mutually acceptable or accepted by Israelis and Palestinians that constrain or regulate their behavior. Finally, the fourth no, there is no third party willing and or able to play an effective and meaningful role in response to either crisis or opportunity," he said.

Olmert has insisted that no peace talks will take place with the Palestinians until Hamas agrees to recognize the Jewish state, something Hamas has refused to do. During his visit to Washington, Olmert is expected to seek both diplomatic and financial support for his plans to withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank.

School Children Face Graduation, Then Deportation

By Ha'aretz

Sergei Ostroshko, 41, an immigrant from the former Soviet Union, is worried about the fate of his son Vadim. In another three months Vadim will turn 18, at which point he will face deportation from Israel.

Ostroshko is an Israeli citizen who came from Ukraine six years ago. He is not eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return, and received his status through his wife Lilia. Vadim, his son from a former marriage, is not Jewish, but has lived in Netanya since he was 13 with his father, stepmother and 6-year-old brother.

Vadim, who is graduating high school next month and is currently studying for the matriculation exams, has been an illegal resident since his father invited him to come live with him. Vadim came on a tourist visa, which expired after three months - when he was in seventh grade. Since then his father has not managed to legalize his son's status.

"I want to live in Israel," Vadim says. "Contact with my biological mother was cut off eight years ago, and now she lives in Italy. Here I have many opportunities. After the army I can look for a good job. If they deport me, I have no other country to go to. My old grandfather, with whom I lived for two years after Dad immigrated to Israel, died."

Sergei Ostroshko says he submitted all the paperwork to arrange Vadim's status to the Interior Ministry bureau in Netanya. "The clerk there told me that if I brought the original documents on my son, they would give him a temporary identity number. I brought those documents last October, and since then I've received no reply."

Their story illustrates that sad plight of many child immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return. The state encouraged their parents to come, yet many of the children are living here with no civic status and no access to medical services and supplementary education services. Nor can they enlist in the Israel Defense Forces, enroll in academic studies or land a decent job as adults.

This injustice is largely the bane of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Most families (some 60 percent) who have emigrated from there in recent years are interfaith couples. When one spouse has a child from a previous marriage, Israel has trouble granting the child civic status. Many of these minors, like Vadim, entered on tourist visas that later expired, and they are now illegal residents.

These families turn to human rights organizations in an effort to solve their problems. National Council for the Child director Dr. Yitzhak Kadman; attorney Nicole Maor, head of the Israel Religious Action Center's Legal Aid Centers for Olim; and attorney Irit Rosenblum, director of New Family, told Ha'aretz that dozens of families each year apply to them for help regarding their children's status. Sergei Ostroshko, for example, turned to New Family for legal assistance.

"They explained to me that they can only write a letter to the Interior Ministry, but to handle my problem I need to hire a private lawyer and pay him $1,500. I have no money. I drive a semi-trailer, and my wages are just enough to provide for the family," Ostroshko said.

The previous Knesset rejected bills proposed by Yuri Stern (National Union) and former interior minister Ophir Pines-Paz to grant citizenship to immigrant children not eligible under the Law of Return. Stern said yesterday that he resubmitted his bill as soon as the present Knesset term began, in mid-April, but that his expectations are low. "I'm not pinning my hopes on the present Knesset or government taking care of the plight of the immigrants from the former Soviet Union," Stern said.

Kadman, of the National Council for the Child, sent a letter to Interior Minister Roni Bar-On about a week ago requesting that he "advance a painful subject - sorting out the status of thousands of immigrant children bereft of citizenship or status of any sort." The letter coincided with Bar-On's announcement about easing naturalization restrictions for the children of foreign workers.

Kadman has experienced many failures in his struggle for the immigrant children without rights. Similar letters were sent to the former interior ministers - Avraham Poraz of Shinui and Pines-Paz of Labor - to no avail.

Germany Opens Holocaust Archives


After 60 years, the German government has agreed to open up one of the largest archives dating from the Nazi-era that contains approximately 50 million documents.

Stored in the German town of Bad Arolsen, the files reveal the fates of 17 million people subjected to forced labor, medical experimentation, and execution in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Previously, only select relatives of the people listed in these files were granted access to the archives, and the information disclosed was severely restricted, often taking years to emerge.

Monday, the 11 nations that share custody of the archives that take up 27 kilometers of storage space agreed to grant full access to researchers. Understandably, German representatives were concerned that handing over this information to the public would break the confidentiality of the individuals listed in the files. The feeling of many Holocaust researchers who have been pressurizing the German government to open up this archive for years has been that Germany was reluctant to let the world gawk at further proof of the atrocities that the Nazi's committed.

"The papers may disclose, for instance, who was treated for lice at which camp, what medical experiments were conducted on particular prisoners, and which inmates were tempted to collaborate with their captors.´ David Stout observed in the New York Times.

The World Jewish Congress, whilst wholeheartedly supporting the decision to open the archives, noted that as part of the agreement, "provisions would be taken to ensure the dignity of individuals covered in the files".

Stout reported that Arthur Berger, the United States Holocaust Museum's senior adviser on external affairs commented that this move had demonstrated that Germany had faced its responsibility towards that chapter in its history and that researchers will find this information invaluable. But even more so, relatives deserved to know what happened to their families.

Paul Shapiro, director of advanced Holocaust studies at the US Holocaust museum, also hopes that the paper trail may reveal some of the names of individuals who were responsible for carrying out these orders that for the sake of justice should be brought to light.

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