Friday, December 23, 2005

A7news: Polls Show Sharon to Appoint 1/3 of Knesset

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Polls Show: Ariel Sharon to Appoint One-Third of the Knesset
Though Israel is officially a democracy, Ariel Sharon appears to be in the unique position of being able to determine, all by himself, a full third of the upcoming Knesset.
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 1. Polls Show: Ariel Sharon to Appoint One-Third of the Knesset
 2. Violence Against Jews Continues Worldwide
 3. Katif: Israel Pays to Clear Debris, Expellees Meet With Katzav
 4. Pinner Remains in Prison
 5. Bethlehem Tourism is Up, But Media Blame Israel
 6. On A7radio: Yosef, His Brothers and Chanukah: History Repeats
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Editor: Hillel Fendel
Friday, December 23, 2005
22 Kislev 5766


1. Polls Show: Ariel Sharon to Appoint One-Third of the Knesset
By Hillel Fendel

Though Israel is officially a democracy, Ariel Sharon appears to be in the unique position of being able to determine, all by himself, a full third of the upcoming Knesset.

When he quit the Likud and announced the formation of his new party last month, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon explained that as the party did not yet have institutions, he himself would set the party's list of Knesset candidates. With polls currently giving his party approximately one-third of the 120-member Knesset, it appears that he has the sole power of determining the identities of a significant number of members of Israel's 17th Knesset.

The issue comes to the fore with the reported tension in the party between Finance Minister Ehud Olmert and Justice Minister Tzippy Livny, both of whom wish to be appointed to the #2 slot. The matter has now been complicated by Shimon Peres' announcement that he, too, is leaning towards joining the list after all.

Peres originally said, when he quit Labor and joined Kadima several weeks ago, that he would not run for a Knesset list - but is now reconsidering. (Peres' flip-flop was reminiscent of his announcement two years ago, upon assuming the position of Temporary Chairman of the Labor Party, that he would not run for the permanent post - which he did, losing two months ago to Amir Peretz.)

Sharon must name 120 people to his list of Knesset candidates, knowing that the slot he personally chooses for each one will determine whether s/he becomes one of Israel's lawmakers or not. The higher on the list each candidate is, the more chances s/he has of entering the Knesset. If the party receives 30% of the popular vote, for instance, then it will have (roughly) 30% of the Knesset Members.

Other large parties choose their Knesset Members more democratically. In the Likud, on the other hand, the list is chosen in a vote of the 3,000 members of the party's Central Committee. That vote is currently scheduled for January 9, 2006. In Labor, the entire party membership throughout the country will choose the party's candidates, on Jan. 17.

Likud MK Yuli Edelstein, asked his opinion on Sharon's power to name MKs, said, "It's very negative. But in truth, I can't blame Sharon - it looks like one-third of the voters in Israel are willing to swallow this and vote for Kadima..."

Polls show that Sharon's Kadima party continues to hold a landslide lead over the other parties. If elections were held today, Kadima would receive 39-40 seats, while Labor would receive 19-22, and the Likud - 12-15.

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2. Violence Against Jews Continues Worldwide
By Ezra HaLevi

Though many of them have only appeared on page 2 of local Jewish papers, a wave of anti-Jewish attacks continues around the globe. In recent weeks...

* In Australia, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry's annual report points to Jews there increasingly being verbally abused and physically attacked. "There were 332 incidents of anti-Jewish assault, vandalism, intimidation and harassment in the past 12 months," according to the report. Among the incidents reported were arson attacks on synagogues, vandalism and Nazi graffiti on property, assaults on Jewish men by unknown assailants, and vandalism of Jewish schools and synagogues.

* A 16-year-old British Jew was attacked with a knife in Manchester last week. His ear was slashed and his assailant shouted anti-Jewish slogans as he attacked him. A local rabbi chased the attacker.

* A French court sentenced a 25-year-old man last week to three years in jail for vandalizing a cemetery with Nazi graffiti and anti-Jewish slogans.

* Three teens in Swampscott, Massachusetts have been charged with hate crimes after burning a van belonging to a local Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue. The same Chabad synagogue was broken into in October and anti-Jewish graffiti was scrawled inside the sanctuary.

* A large menorah was torn down and stomped to pieces by a group of vandals at a South Philadelphia community center last week. The community says it will put up a newer and brighter Chanukah menorah to replace it.

* An anti-Jewish TV program called "America is a Changing Country” was aired on cable access television in Maryland. The program, produced by the National Alliance neo-Nazi group, blames “Jewish media” for urban decay and the denigration of "Aryan values."

* Thousands of fans of Hungary's Ujpest FC soccer team chanted anti-Jewish slogans during a league match last month when the team played against MTK Budapest, a team with Hungarian Jewish roots.

* In Salt Lake City, Utah, a plaque featuring a quote by Rabbi Eric Silver was defaced. The plaque, part of the Judge Memorial Religious Freedom Shrine, featured the words: "Upon his deeds not his ideas does G-d's favor rest on man.'' Vandals scratched out the words "G-d" and "Rabbi" and added the words, "Jews suck." Rabbi Silver said, ``It is unfortunate that in times that we'd like to regard as enlightened this sort of thing can still occur."

* In Peru, Rabbi Guillermo Bronstein, rabbi of Lima's only Conservative synagogue, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency of a significant rise in attacks on the country's small Jewish community. Bronstein attributed the rise in attacks to the increase in neo-Nazi groups and the perception that the Jews have disproportionate influence in the government.

* Jews in the South Tottenham area of London have reported that they live in constant fear of violent attacks, citing several recent cases of unprovoked assaults on outwardly Orthodox Jews.

* According to a report released last week, the regimes in the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Syria promoted Holocaust-denial or defended Holocaust-deniers over the past year. Iran and Egypt have each been in the headlines several times in recent months for similar government statements and activities. Just Thursday, the head of Egypt`s Muslim Brotherhood said that the Holocaust is a "myth."

Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israeli branch of the Nazi watchdog group, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, warned, "There's no question that a very ugly wave of Holocaust denial is sweeping the Arab world."

Also on Thursday, a man was put on trial in Austria for publicly swearing allegiance to Adolf Hitler. A French group was reported to be distributing pork soup to homeless in a bid to exclude Jews and Muslims from benefiting from their magnanimity.

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3. Katif: Israel Pays to Clear Debris, Expellees Meet With Katzav
By Hillel Fendel

Israel has agreed to pay nearly $25 million to the UN to clear the debris remaining from the destroyed homes of Gush Katif... Gush Katif expellees held a positive meeting with President Katzav...

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) was asked to undertake the rehabilitation project of what was Gush Katif by the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Quartet. With more than 1.2 million tons of debris and rubble to be cleared and recycled, the project will cost US $24.7 million - underwritten totally by the Government of Israel. It will take an estimated 18 months to complete, and will employ several hundred PA workers. The concrete and metal debris cleared from the site will be milled and recycled for use as road paving and building materials.

The money will presumably also be used to clear the debris of the synagogues and greenhouses that the Arabs themselves destroyed.

MK Yuval Shteinitz (Likud), who voted for the Disengagement in the Knesset and against its delay, told Arutz-7, "We shouldn't have paid anything; they should thank us for what we left them. For Israel to pay is absurd, but unfortunately, we caved in all the way during these negotiations, simply in order to get this diplomatic achievement. I'd like to see the U.S. pay for what it did in Afghanistan... It's humiliating and irrational."

Shteinitz said the issue was discussed several months ago in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which he heads, and that he said the same things then.

This past Monday, President Moshe Katzav met with representatives of the destroyed Jewish communities and - at the Gush Katif residents' demand - directors of various government ministries.

The residents presented four main problems:
* heavy unemployment,
* the lack of agricultural plots for nearly all of the former farmers,
* the lack compensation for children who lived in Gush Katif and wish to build in their old/new communities,
* and the lack of funding for their communal frameworks.

The government officials said that in most cases, their hands are tied by the Evacuation/Compensation Law. President Katzav asked them to work to have the law changed, but to find other solutions in the interim. He suggested that the Ministry directors adopt the model utilized by the Education Ministry, which employs a community representative as a liaison between the town and its schools. The Agriculture Ministry's Director accepted the idea on the spot.

Prime Minister's Office Director Ilan Cohen said that as of January 1, the communities will receive funding. The residents say that most of the uprooted residents continue to live in their communal frameworks, yet money for synagogues, mikvaot, secretariat leaders (mayors), youth directors, welfare employees, culture directors and the like has not been provided since the expulsion.

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4. Pinner Remains in Prison
By Hillel Fendel

Daniel Pinner of Kfar Tapuach, imprisoned since June on charges that his self-defense shots wounded a Gush Katif Arab, will remain in prison for at least another month, a High Court justice ruled.

Though the evidence against him is weak, his attorney Baruch Ben-Yosef says, no judge in Israel has beeen willing to release him even to a form of house arrest. The latest to hear an appeal on this issue was Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Rivlin, Thursday, Dec. 22. "It looked at first like he saw through the whole story [and would release him to house arrest]," Ben-Yosef said, "but in the end, the usual happened... [The judge] said that the case is almost over, and things like that."

"My client admits that he fired," Ben-Yosef sums up the case, "but not at the Arab in question - and there is no proof that it was his bullet that hit him."

Pinner, 38 and unmarried, was in Gush Katif to volunteer his services as a licensed electrician in refurbishing the Palm Beach Hotel in the last weeks of the the Jewish presence there. He was taking a walk on the beach when "about 50 Arabs throwing rocks attacked me," he recently told IsraelNationalRadio's Avi Hyman. "I was carrying an Uzi, so I shot in the air. After a few yards they began throwing rocks again, so I fired several more shots in the air. The Arabs then backed off, and I went back to the hotel. Four days later I was arrested at home, with the police claiming that I had shot one of the Arabs and wounded him. First they said in the chest, later it turned out that there was an Arab who claimed to have been shot in the leg. Because of that I am in jail almost six months."

Pinner insists that his life was "clearly in danger."

The case is being heard by Be'er Sheva District Court Justice Rachel Barkai. In this week's hearing, she told both sides to present written summations - unless they wanted to limit themselves to a 10-minute oral presentation. Both sides said that ten minutes would be far from sufficient to sum up a months-long case. The prosecution will therefore present its summation within ten days, followed ten days later by the defense. A verdict is expected on January 24.

Asked earlier this month why he thinks he is still in prison despite his innocence, Pinner said, "At every stage the judges continue to claim that I am a danger to society. I think the real reason I am still in jail is that at the very first hearing, all those months ago, I was denied any legal representation, held incommunicado for five days, and there was a total news blackout on the basis of a request from the Shabak [General Security Service]... My arrest was extended ten days originally, then fifteen and so on and so on, based on a secret Shabak report which I have not seen and probably will never see."

Daniel Pinner said he would appreciate messages from supporters via voicemail at
03-906-8079 (+972-3-906-8079 from outside Israel) or by regular mail at: Daniel Pinner- Maasiyahu Prison, POB 13 72100, Disengagement Wing. He asks for prayers for Daniel Moshe Tzvi ben (son of) Channah Malka Fayge.

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5. Bethlehem Tourism is Up, But Media Blame Israel
By Hillel Fendel

Media around the world are painting a grim picture of Bethlehem a few days before Christmas - and blaming it on Israel. cites sample articles from the New Statesman and the Baltimore Sun. According to the Sun,
"A towering wall of gray concrete slabs, 30 feet high, cuts across what was once the main road into this town from Jerusalem. Just inside the barrier, past a new Israeli security terminal, a once-bustling neighborhood has become a ghost town. Shops are shuttered or empty, and the streets are deserted."

Buried several paragraphs later is the fact that tourism to Bethlehem is actually up:
"Figures kept by the Bethlehem Municipality show a rebound in tourist visits... the numbers have climbed steadily since [2002], reaching 100,000 in 2004 and 252,000 this year."

Yet this does not stop the paper from writing, just two paragraphs later,
"The deteriorating economy [emphasis added] has led to a steady exodus of the city's Christian residents, once a majority and now estimated at about 35 percent of the total population of 30,000."

The Statesman claims,
"The flicker of optimism has been dampened by the completion of the barrier around Bethlehem and the installation of the gate, which has given a sense of permanence to the isolation and the economy's free fall. The crossing is daunting even for tourists who are searched on their coaches as they enter Bethlehem."

HonestReporting notes that according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, each one of these points is factually incorrect:

* There is no barrier that completely encircles Bethlehem. A fence exists only where the Bethlehem area interfaces with Jerusalem, and only a very small segment of the fence is a concrete wall, which prevents terrorists from shooting at Israeli motorists.

* The economy has actually improved significantly. Tourism has doubled compared to last year, and Bethlehem's main industries are also up: Textiles by 50%, stone and marble export by 40%, and commercial transportation 20%. These increases have brought millions of dollars into the local economy.

* The IDF has decided to take a "calculated risk" to make access easier for tourists. IDF Lt.-Col. Aviv Feigel said, "The military will try to speed the process by not checking every tourist bus, but conducting spot checks of random buses instead."

The New Statesman also raps Israel for pushing Christians out of Bethlehem. But as FrontPage magazine points out, it is actually the Muslims who have been forcing the city's Christian residents to leave:

"The Vatican, in a rare diplomatic move, called publicly on the Israelis to intervene in Bethlehem on behalf of its severely receding Christian population. Now totaling less than 12% of Bethlehem's population, Christians, who have been the targets of continual PA violence, might leave entirely."

Just this week, some 20 Fatah Al-Aqsa gunmen disrupted Christmas preparations in Bethlehem, taking over the municipality building across from the Church of Nativity and demanding police jobs or payment from the Palestinian Authority. Click here for a detailed report on Muslim violence against Christians that is largely ignored by the media.

HonestReporting did not cite BBC, which reported on Thursday on the financial hardships of a Bethlehem Christian named Nasim Bannoura. The BBC report concluded, "Curfews, closures and the newly-built West Bank barrier have cut him off from business in Jerusalem."

Only towards the end of the report is it stated, "A few Christians speak privately of harassment, Muslims seizing Christian land and the fear of speaking out against radical groups" - but this is followed immediately by, "But many others say they live like brothers with their Muslim neighbours, sharing the struggle against Israeli occupation."

Israel Army Radio reported Friday that Israel will institute special shuttle buses to Bethlehem this weekend, in order to ease travel for tourists. "The number of holiday tourists to Bethlehem is expected to be lower than usual this year," the report stated, "because of the continuing tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and tensions between various factions in the Palestinian Authority itself."

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6. On A7radio: Yosef, His Brothers and Chanukah: History Repeats
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