Friday, October 07, 2005

Terror, Anti-Semitism Alerts Here and Abroad

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Terror, Anti-Semitism Alerts Here and Abroad
As the Muslim month of Ramadan gets underway, alerts of potential terrorist attacks increase in Israel, the US and elsewhere. And the UK's Chief Rabbi released an alert about British anti-Semitism.

 1. Terror, Anti-Semitism Alerts Here and Abroad
 2. Peres Defies Party Demands to Quit Coalition
 3. Israel to Offer to Free More Terrorists
 4. Israel, USA Collaborate on Bioterrorism Security
 5. Zim Officials Apologize to Japanese for Shipping Collision
 6. Alberta, Canada and JNF Sign Partnership in Water Research
 7. Haifa Judge Forges Documents, Refuses To Resign

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Friday, October 07, 2005
4 Tishrei 5766


1. Terror, Anti-Semitism Alerts Here and Abroad
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

As the Muslim month of Ramadan gets underway, alerts of potential terrorist attacks increase in Israel, the US and elsewhere. And the UK's Chief Rabbi released an alert about British anti-Semitism.

Today is the first Friday of the lunar month known in the Muslim calendar as Ramadan. Large crowds of Muslims are taking part in prayer services in Jerusalem, at the mosques located on the Temple Mount. As a result, police in the capital are on heightened alert status, as Friday prayers during Ramadan are frequently followed by rock and other attacks. 2,500 policemen are involved in the preventative operation in and around Jerusalem's Old City. By the early afternoon Friday, 60,000 Muslim worshippers had already made their way to the Temple Mount.

Police have set restrictions on those allowed to attend prayers on the Mount, limiting male worshippers to those over age 45, while no restrictions are in place for women. Statistically, violence erupting following Islamic prayer services is usually spearheaded by males under 45, police explain. The targets of these attacks have been security forces, as well as Jews praying at the Western Wall, which abuts the Temple Mount.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours and increase activities related to religious devotion. Friday is the Sabbath of the Muslim faith and, as such, the first Friday of the month of Ramadan attracts large crowds at Muslim worship services.

In addition to the heightened alert in the capital, warnings of terrorist kidnappings of Jews in Israel and at the vacation spots of the Sinai Peninsula have not abated. The IDF continues its effort to increase awareness among soldiers and officers to prevent the kidnapping of military personnel. Following the recent Hamas abduction and murder of a Jerusalem resident, Sasson Nuriel, whose tortured body was found in the Ramallah area, the military is issuing warnings to soldiers to increase vigilance when traveling or patrolling in proximity to the Palestinian Authority and in other sensitive areas.

In the United States, as well, the month of Ramadan has brought with it increased threats of Islamist terrorist attacks. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has ordered increased police presence in the city's subway system. This, City Hall explained, follows a credible terror alert that the city's underground mass transit system may be targeted in an attack in the coming days. The Federal Homeland Security Agency, on the other hand, played down the intelligence report, stating it was of "doubtful credibility." One of the intelligence reports cited in US media details an attack using a baby stroller laden with explosives, placed in a subway station.

Both Israel and the Jews are being blamed for the continuing, rapid global changes, placing the Jews in the role of scapegoat for Islamic terrorism, said Britain's chief rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, in an interview this week with the Jewish Chronicle newspaper. In particular, Rabbi Sacks warned of increasing anti-Semitism in his country, stating that, for the first time he remembers, it is "uncomfortable to be a Jew in Britain." As worrying signs of the hostile climate, the rabbi cited recent calls to abolish Holocaust Memorial Day, a call for divestment from Israel and the academic boycott against Israel.

John Mann, a UK member of parliament from the Labour party, last week convened a committee of his fellow legislators to investigate the recent increase in British anti-Semitism. The committee includes senior parliamentarians from all parties and all regions of the UK. The group will present a report of its findings and recommendations for action to combat anti-Semitism to government ministers.

2004 saw the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK, 532, since 1984, including the desecration of 17 synagogues. Among other aspects of the increase in anti-Semitic attacks to be investigated by the MPs will be the identity of most perpetrators of the attacks - extremist Muslims or right-wing fascists.

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2. Peres Defies Party Demands to Quit Coalition
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Shimon Peres said Friday the Labor party, which he heads, will remain in the coalition until the general election next October. Shinui party leader Yosef (Tommy) Lapid rejected an offer to join.

Peres is facing stiff opposition in the party's November primary vote that will decide if he will continue to lead Labor into the general elections. The term of the current Knesset expires in November 2006, and many analysts expect the government to fall by early next year over the issues of the budget and destroying more Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

Peres said that the expulsion from Gaza and northern Samaria could not have taken place without the cooperation of the Labor party, which holds 21 seats, including two won by the Am Echad (One Nation) party. Polls have shown that Labor's strength would remain the same if elections were held today.

Critics of Peres said that Labor must demand that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon continue with the policy of dismantling Jewish communities and forcing the residents out of their homes. Labor Secretary General Eitan Cabel said, "Now that disengagement is done, it is time for us to start acting like an alternative."

Peres claimed that by remaining in the government, Labor can use its clout to make changes in the budget to fight poverty.

Mr. Sharon met with Shinui party leader Lapid Thursday in an attempt to woo the 15-member, militantly secular faction back into the coalition, but Lapid rejected the overture.

"We are in the opposition because of our values," which include legalizing civil marriages, demanding the inclusion of ultra-orthodox youth in the IDF draft and cutting budget benefits for yeshivas, Lapid said.

He added that his party will vote against the proposed 2006 budget, which must be passed by March 31 in order for the government to continue in office. Interior Minister Ophir Pines (Labor) said that Labor should not support the budget unless major changes are made in social reforms.

The proposed budget already projects a deficit at the limit the American government has set for Israel to continue to receive foreign aid. Adding to pressure on the budget are burgeoning costs to cover the expulsion and the impracticality of expecting Washington to defray some of the costs, in the light of American expenses due to the Katrina hurricane disaster.

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3. Israel to Offer to Free More Terrorists
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Sharon's top aide Dov Weisglass and the PA chief negotiator are meeting Friday to map out details for next week's Sharon-Abbas summit. Israel to offer to free Arab prisoners and remove roadblocks.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), in return, will continue to promise to get tough on terrorism, said Ra'anan Gissin, spokesman for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. "Israel will take steps to help [the PA] in gaining control over the [Gaza] area," explained Gissin. He added that Israel is willing to remove roadblocks and ease travel restrictions, so long as they do not "carry a security penalty."

Weisglass and PA negotiator Saeb Erekat also are to discuss a final date for the summit meeting between Sharon and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, tentatively set for Tuesday, one day before the Yom Kippur holiday begins.

A "good will" offer to free more Arab prisoners, in addition to the 900 already released, was confirmed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who also heads the Committee on Prisoner Release. Finance Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said on Thursday that any prisoner release will not include terrorists with "blood on their hands." Olmert added, "We can consider anything that can ease the lives of (Palestinians) and won‘t endanger Israel's security."

The summit is considered a showpiece for both Israel and the PA, whose chairman, Abbas, is scheduled to meet with US President George W. Bush on October 20th. Both leaders face elections next year and are anxious for an agreement that will impress the American government while putting at ease voters at home, noted the Washington Times.

Erekat said, "I don't think Israelis and Palestinians can afford a failed summit at this stage."

Participation of Hamas in the upcoming PA legislative elections also is likely to be discussed by Sharon and Abbas. The PA already has suggested postponing the scheduled January vote for a second time under the threat that Hamas and other terrorist groups will win a plurality of seats. Sharon has stated that Israel will hinder the electoral process if Hamas runs candidates without disarming.

"Israeli behavior needs to contribute to an atmosphere of hope," said Kadoura Fares, a Palestinian legislator who warned against Israeli intervention in the elections. "They don't need to embarrass the Palestinian Authority."

Gissin, spokesman for Sharon, remarked, "We are ready to provide Abu Mazen [Abbas] with gestures, but it requires Abu Mazen to help himself. A new reality has descended on the territories. They understand that if they don't fight Hamas, Hamas will finish [the PA] for good."

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4. Israel, USA Collaborate on Bioterrorism Security
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

As part of Israeli and American collaboration in countering international terrorism, securing water supplies from biological and chemical threats have taken a front seat.

Dr. Raymond Kaempfer, the Philip Marcus Professor of Molecular Biology and Cancer Research in the Department of Molecular Virology at the Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine, has been awarded a massive $5.6 million grant from the US government this month to continue his breakthrough research into a broadly effective drug against superantigens. Superantigens are deadly toxins that, even in very low amounts, can pose a bio-terror threat. The award to Kaempfer is the largest grant ever awarded to an Israeli researcher by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"Our proposal was rated in the number one position by the scientific review panel," he said, a significant accomplishment for a non-American institution.

Dr. Kaempfer has received US Defense Department, military and NIH grants for his work in biodefense since 1993.

In other efforts to fight bioterrorism, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Israeli Ministry of National Infrastructures signed an agreement a little over one month ago to work together to improve water supply system security. Joint projects could include work on contamination warning systems, conducting field testing of sensor technologies, water supply risk assessment and management, and emergency response.

"Safeguarding our water supply is vital both for the well-being of our citizens and the preservation of our environment," said Judith E. Ayres, assistant administrator for International Affairs. "The statement of intent we have signed will foster greater collaboration between our nations to help protect this precious resource from unintentional or intentional contamination."

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5. Zim Officials Apologize to Japanese for Shipping Collision
By Debbie Berman

Zim shipping company managers publicly apologized for their involvement in an accident last week between an Israeli vessel and a Japanese fishing boat that resulted in the deaths of 7 crewmembers.

The apology, coupled with the Israeli company’s offer to compensate the families of victims was well received by the Japanese public. The Israeli and Japanese governments are working in conjunction with Zim representatives to thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident.

Zim Board of Directors Chairman Idan Ofer was the first to offer an official apology, after meeting with Japanese envoy Jun Yokota earlier this week. "On behalf of Zim Shipping, we want to first of all apologize to the crew of the Japanese vessel. It's a sad day for us. There is no doubt Zim's ship hit the Japanese boat, but we don't believe our captain was aware he hit anything…any captain aware that he hit a vessel, and that there were survivors, would have offered help," Ofer stated.

Zim’s public apology, which reflected a sensitivity to the cultural expectations in Japan, had a positive impact on Japanese public opinion. In addition the company’s claim of accountability offset earlier denials of Zim’s involvement and accusations of a “hit and run” scenario.

The apology also served a source of comfort to the families of the Japanese victims. "The most important point in the eyes of the Japanese is an apology from the depths of the heart," an Israeli Embassay official in Tokyo told Haaretz newspaper.

Yokota expressed his satisfaction with the Israeli company's response, stating "The Zim President visited with me today and apologized and offered complete cooperation in uncovering the facts. Mr. Ofer stated that he would do all that he could to help the families of the victims."

Probe into circumstances of collision intensifies

The investigation into the accident intensified yesterday following the Japanese Coast Guard's decision to dispatch four of their own investigators to Hong Kong to join Zim's internal team of investigators. The Israeli Transportation Ministry also sent a representative who is participating in the probe.

Israeli Ambassador to Japan Eli Cohen and Zim officials are slated to fly to northern Japan to meet with local leadership and personally offer condolences to family members of victims in the Hokkaido region. In addition the Captain on duty at the time of the collision, Moshe Ben David, will be returning to Israel for questioning and a temporary replacement will be sent to operate the Zim Asia vessel.

The Japanese government is reported to have contacted the Israel Foreign Ministry, sending a list of demands that Israel is said to have agreed to fully. This cooperation between the governments is what enabled the Japanese to take part in the investigation despite the fact that the accident occurred in international waters, which would have normally limited jurisdiction to International naval authorities.

Zim President Doron Goder stated emphatically that his company is determined to uncover the truth and will accept responsibility for any negligence on their part. “We will not rest until we find out what happened on the night of the accident. If we find that something was not according to proper procedure, those responsible will be punished,” Goder promised.

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6. Alberta, Canada and JNF Sign Partnership in Water Research
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

A Canadian province and the State of Israel have signed an agreement for water research, which will benefit water-scarce countries worldwide.

The Government of Alberta, Canada has pledged $1 million (Canadian) towards a joint venture with the Jewish National Fund for Israeli and Canadian scientists to research water irrigation and conservation techniques in Israel.

This is the first cooperation of this kind between a Canadian province and JNF-KKL. At a ceremony on Tuesday evening, JNF (Keren Kayemet Le'Yisrael - KKL) World Chairman Yehiel Leket and Alberta Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation, Dr. Lyle Oberg, signed the agreement.

Dr. Oberg is leading an Alberta mission to Israel that has been visiting sites central to Israel's water infrastructure, including the Sapir Station, where the national water carrier transfers water from the Galilee to the Negev; the Beit Shean Valley, where the reservoir system and Jordan River drainage basin are managed; the Shafdan Waste Water Treatment Center; the Besor research and development station; and the Arad Water Recycling Complex Water Desalination Plant.

The Canadian delegation has also been meeting with leading government officials, including Vice-Premier Shimon Peres.

The research conducted by Alberta and Israeli scientists will support Alberta's Water for Life Strategy and will be available worldwide to aid those regions suffering from water scarcity.

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7. Haifa Judge Forges Documents, Refuses To Resign
By Debbie Berman

Haifa Magistrate's Court Judge Hila Cohen is refusing to step down from the bench despite intense public and political pressure.

Cohen [pictured] continues to maintain her right to serve as an Israeli Judge, despite her conviction by the Judicial Disciplinary Court of forging the records of court proceedings and destroying court documents to cover up her repeated late arrivals.

In the early summer, a disciplinary court found that Judge Cohen had on several occasions arrived late for the hearings prompting the defendents to depart the courthouse leaving behind written requests for postponement. Cohen granted the postponements, but not before recording a make-believe session in the protocols as though the defendents had orally requested postponement. She proceeded to tear up the written requests which were left behind and dispose of them.

Although Cohen was convicted in June for her acts of forgery and destruction of court documentation, the Judicial Disciplinary Court did not call for her forced resignation. Supreme Court Justices Mishael Cheshin and Eliezer Rivlin ruled to suffice with rebuking Cohen for her actions and ordering her to be transferred to another judicary post. "Tearing up requests and throwing the pieces into the trash is a serious lapse in Judge Cohen's conduct, and we note that we have never heard of this type of conduct by a judge," Cheshin wrote.

In a lone dissenting opinion, Judge Moussia Arad called for Cohen’s removal from her position: “The opinion I wrote describes the judge's actions in detail. These acts show that the judge intentionally prepared, in 14 cases, false transcripts and destroyed requests by the defendants in order to prevent the documentation of her many late arrivals at the courthouse. Therefore, in my opinion, the appropriate punishment for the inappropriate conduct of the judge is to remove her from her post," she stated.

As part of her line of defense, Judge Cohen told the disciplinary court, "All of the judges do it." Cohen's attorney Baruch Rubin defended his client's stance, stating "the moment that the court made its decision that there was no ethical oversight in her actions and decreed that the judge was not acting with malicious intent, she does not feel it is incumbent upon her to resign."

Rubin explained, "The judge weighed all her options and decided that there is no need for her to resign simply because certain people in the system believe she should."

Pressure on Cohen to resign continues to intensify. Judge Arad strongly advocated for the removal of Cohen from her post, citing her inability to display honesty and integrity. Arad wrote in her opinion, "At the foundation of being a judge are personal integrity and honesty. Without these traits a person cannot be a judge.” Supreme Court President Aharon Barak asked Cohen to step down voluntarily.

Concerned that Cohen's continued presiding as a judge will constitute a blow to public confidence in the court system, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni took what is considered a drastic step of calling for a special session of the Judicial Appointments Committee to disqualify Cohen from continuing in any judicial position. Cohen said, in response, that the committee does not have the authority to overturn the decision of the Judicial Disciplinary Court which already ruled to allow her to continue in another judicial post.

The committee convened earlier this week and decided to postpone its decision on Cohen's fate, allowing the judge the opportunity to continue negotiations that would result in her voluntary resignation. The committee needs a majority of seven out of nine members in order to force the ousting of a judge. Livini says she is confident that the committee will decide to call on Cohen to quit.

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