Israel Resource Review 23rd August, 2001


Is the Temple Mount in Danger of Collapse?
Khaled Abu-Toameh
Correspondent, Jerusalem Weekly Supplement, Yediot Aharonot

Israel fears that Temple Mount retaining wall will collapse and that the region will burn. The problem: Aerial photographs of Temple Mount have proven that al-Aqsa Mosque's southern wall is inclined to one side. The reasons: Wear-and-tear over time, ground shifting and renovations being carried out by Waqf. The proposal: Israel proposed to assist in renovating wall but Waqf has yet to respond. Waqf: "If wall collapses, there will be general war." The municipality: "We are helpless."

Experts from Israel and other countries around the world have recently determined that one of Al-Aqsa Mosque's retaining walls is in danger of collapse. They claim that if renovations are not carried out immediately at the site, the wall is liable to collapse. Such an event, if it happens, has a vast potential for destruction and would even be liable - beyond direct losses to life that would be caused by a collapse - to ignite the Middle East. The Arab world would likely claim that the wall's collapse was the result of a religious-Israeli plot to destroy the mosques on the Temple Mount and build the Third Temple in their place.

The experts' determination was made on the basis of a precise study of aerial photographs of the Temple Mount. The experts were asked by the municipality and the police to examine the aerial photographs and render an opinion in wake of the construction and renovations which Islamic Waqf personnel have carried out in the Temple Mount area. While they were examining the maps, the experts were astounded to discover that Al-Aqsa Mosque's southern wall was bulging outwards, toward the south. The Mosque's southern wall is part of the Old City wall and overlooks the village of Silwan and David's City. Israeli archaeologists have been carrying out excavations at the foot of the several-dozen-meter long wall since 1967. In Israel, it is claimed that there is no connection between the excavations - which are being carried out at a reasonable distance from the wall itself - and the inclination of the wall. However, Israel fears that the Palestinians are liable to exploit the affair in order to claim that it is the archaeological excavations which are damaging the wall and threatening to bring about its collapse.

Since 1967, the Palestinians have been accusing Israel of excavating under the Temple Mount with the goal of undermining the foundations of the mosques and bringing about their collapse; this coming, in their words, in the framework of a plot by Jewish extremists to destroy the mosques and rebuild the Temple in their place. The Palestinian mufti of eastern Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrema Sabri recently warned that any attempt to infringe on the status quo on the Temple Mount would lead to all-out war in the Middle East.

The experts' opinion was recently passed on to the Islamic Waqf in eastern Jerusalem and the Jordanian government. The Waqf administration - which is subordinate to the Jordanian government - reported the matter to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. Israel offered to assist the Waqf in renovating the wall in order to prevent its collapse but has not, as of yet, met with any response to its offer. Apparently, the Waqf would prefer to carry out the renovations without Israeli involvement. One of the possibilities is Jordanian, Egyptian and Moroccan experts will soon tour the Temple Mount in order to study the issue and recommend ways to deal with the problem.

At this stage, it is not clear what exactly has caused the Mosque's wall to bulge. One assessment is that it is due to wear-and-tear over time and various ground movements which have occurred over the centuries. The experts do not rule out the possibility the extensive construction being carried out by the Islamic Waqf on the Temple Mount, including the establishment of a new underground mosque - El Marwani (which Jews call Solomon's Stables) - have also contributed to the wall's inclination. They claim that the presence of tens of thousands of worshippers in the Mosque, mainly during Ramadan, is pressing on the wall's stones and causing them to deviate. Shalom Goldstein, the municipality's adviser on Arab affairs, says that, "It is known to the municipality that the wall has a 'belly' which attests to the fact that it is indeed inclining to one side. However the municipality is helpless and cannot deal with the situation since it lacks a statutory position on the Temple Mount. Police officers go there. We can only watch from outside and sound warnings but beyond that, we have no authority."

This article ran in Yediot Aharonot on 17th August

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Remembering Hillel Kook:
A Giant of 20th century Jewish history
David Bedein

One of the drawbacks of longevity is that when that person dies, his impact on history may be lost on a new generation who did not know who he was. Such is the case with Hillel Kook, who died on August 18, 2001, at the age of 87.

On my 37th birthday, on August 31st, 1987, the day that I initiated a news agency, "Israel Resource", I interviewed and consulted with Hillel Kook, an older maverick who had made an imprint on Jewish and Zionist history. Hillel was introduced to me by the Jerusalem Post's late Louis Rappaport, whose book, published posthumously, "Shake Heaven and Earth: Peter Bergson and The Struggle to Rescue The Jews of Europe", by Gefen Publishers in Jerusalem, chronciled the amazing feats of this man.

At a time when so many books and museums have emerged of late concerning the destruction of European Jewry and its aftermath, Hillel Kook was one person which epitomized the question of that era: Could more have been done to save Jewry from the inferno of the death camps?

Hillel was the scion of the great Rabbinic Kook family. He made his mark on history when he arrived in the US in the late 1930's, to eventually assume the name of Peter Bergson, with the initial task of organizing a Jewish army for Palestine, in coordination with Z'ev Jabotinsky.

With the outbreak of the war and the gradual strangulation of the Jews under Nazi conquest in Europe, Kook/Bergson changed his goal to galvanzing a rescue and relief operation for Jews, to use any means possible to save Jews from Hitler's clutches.

The late Louis Rapaport, a journalist who spent more than 18 years with the Jerusalem Post until his untimely passing in 1991, spent many years chronicalling the untold efforts made by Bergson, whom Rapaport rightfully descibed as a man of with tremendous organizational agility, who operated under the worst of hostile circumstances.

The strains on Bergson were not only because of Hitler and the reports that streamed across the Atlantic about the mass murder of Jews. ( Bergson never liked to use the term "holocaust", which connoted a Greek perception of sacrfice on an alter. Bergson preferred to simple describe what happened as "mass murder")

In his book, Rapaport published previously unseen documentation which showed how Bergson's self-appointed task of organizing rescue efforts for Jews in Europe were hampered and almost crippled by Jewish organizations in the US, by Jewish officials in the US government and even in the Zionist leadership of the time. US titular leader Rabbi Stephen Wise and the pre-eminent Zionist of the time, Nahum Goldman, joined forces with US congressman Sol Bloom and FDR confidante Felix Frankfurter to carry out a campaign to besmirch and denigrade Bergson's efforts, which all four thought to be counterproductive to the two goals at hand: the defeat of Nazi Germany and the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

Rapaport obtained previously classified testimony which Bergson gave to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, chaired by New York Jewish congressman Sol Bloom, in which Bloom grilled Bergson and intimated that Bergson's activities were both un-American and anti-Zionist.

Undaunted, Bergson's tenacity of purpose led him to form an effective non-Jewish coalition in the US Congress that kept the issue of the Jewish plight in Europe on the agenda of the US media and constantly in front of world opinion.

The concrete accomplishment of what came to be known as the "Bergsonite lobby" in the US congress was the creation, in 1944, of the WRB, the War Refugee Board, which was credited with saving thousands of Jews in the waning days of World War II.

In a special citation from the US congress that Rapaport uncovered, both houses of congress gave direct and deserved credit to the activities of Peter Bergson which resulted in the creation of the War Refugee Board.

The work of Hillel Kook, operating under the name of Peter Bergson, remained virtually unknown and unrecognized for a full generation.

Jewish and Zionist organizations who had turned their backs on his efforts never wanted to admit that they had made an error in judgment.

Yet when I met Hillel he felt vindicated, with a good sense of humor.

It turned out that the late former US justice Arthur Goldberg and the eminent Zionist leader, Prof Arthur Goldberg, established a commission of inquiry in the early 1980's to determine if Jews in the US could have done more to rescue European Jewry. Their conclusion was yes. Goldberg and Hertzberg took the opportunity to specifically cite the efforts of Hillel Kook, alias Peter Bergson.

The question that Goldberg and Hertzberg posed and the question that those who take a moment to remember Hillel Kook will ask:

How many more Jews could have been rescued if a War Refugee Board had been established in 1942, instead of 1944. After all, Jewish organizations and the US state department had already been officially informed by mid-1942 that two million Jews had already been murdered.

In my last conversation with Louis Rapaport, shortly before his untimely death in 1991, Rapaport emotionally expressed to me his worry that his chronicle of Hillel Kook's life would not come out during Kook's lifetime, and may never ever be published, leaving another generation with little knowledge of the exploits of Peter Bergson.

Well, the book came out during Kook's lifetime, but not during the life of Rapaport.

Hillel Kook had a message: learn from history and what one man can do to affect it. He had specific advice about the attitude of Jewish organizations to issues of consequence and crisis in the Jewish people: Basically, not to trust them, because their survival as organizations always comes before the survival of far-away Jews.

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The Economic Cooperation Foundation and Dr. Yossi Beilin
Adriana Marin Grez
Freelance Correspondent

The ECF was founded ten years ago by Yossi Beilin, and initially registered at the address of Dr. Yair Hirschberg. The ECF charter states that its purpose is to facilitate the intervention of the EU in any future peace process between Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians. Not assistance. Intervention.

The ECF, working with the funding of the EU, was the initiator of the Oslo peace talks, as well as the informal understanding that was reached between Yossi Beilin and Abu Mazen.

Yossi Beilin, who has left the Israeli government and Knesset, now introduces himself as a senior researcher within the ECF.

That is despite the fact that ECF records show that Beilin resigned from the ECF back in 1995.

Perhaps that is why Beilin opened a second ECF office, not far from the registered ECF office.

It may soon be the job of the Israel Register of Non-Profit Organizations to determine if Beilin is keeping a system of double-book keeping.

The ECF coordinates a forum for about forty NGO's that are involved with any and all aspects of the negotiating process with the PLO. ECF provides these 35 to 40 NGO's with technical support and fund-raising services, according to Aviv Is-Am, the Project Director of the ECF. Under Beilin's direction and guidance, these NGO's have been meeting all through the current intifada and to work with Palestinian counterparts.

Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom, field director for "Rabbis for Human Rights" and liaison between the "Rabbis for Human Rights" and the ECF, stated that that these meetings have provided a "moral boost for the peace activists"

Beilin uses this forum as a way to consolidate EU funding for NGO's. From documents that we have examined, we learn that the EU uses Beilin as a referent for funding.

Not surprisingly, the ECF "Forum for Peace NGO's" are not on the PNGO (Palestinian NGO) black list of banned Israeli NGO's.

According to Avivit Ish-Am, the ECF is supported by donations world wide, With donations coming in from Belgium, Denmark, Britain, Holland and Italy.

One of the groups supporting the ECF is the "Christian foundation of Holland", which also sponsors "LAW", the virulent lobby of the PLO.

Avivit Ish-Am reports that foundations often give money to the ECF destined for Palestinian causes, because they trust that the ECF to hand over the money to the right people. This is a transparent move designed to prevent money from winding up in questionable P.A. accounts.

In this respect, Beilin actually plays a role that the P.A. was supposed to play for the areas under P.A. control.

The ECF also receives money from foundations in Europe, the United States and Canada. Among the foundations sponsoring the ECF are the Ford Foundation, which maintains close contact with the US state department, and with the Kahanoff Foundation, which is associated with the Hertzog family in Canada.

While ECF is registered as an Israeli organization and doesn't have offices outside of Israel, the ECF works closely with the Israel office of the Ebert Foundation, the political foundation of the SPD leftwing political party in Germany.

The ECF works on four general issues. The first is policy planning and policy Implementation. This section is concerned with issues respective to a permanent status with the Palestinians. They work on a long term basis. They deal with planning matters concerning refugees, security, settlements, border, economy and Jerusalem.

The second issue is crisis management and crisis prevention. In this respect , the ECF acts as a go-between with leaders of both sides and act as messengers between Israel and the Palestinians. [At a time of open war and conflict, one wonders whether a private foundation should play such a role.]

In this context, the ECF was actively involved in wording the Mitchell Report, which places the blame for the outbreak of rioting entirely on the shoulders on the state of Israel, even if the Mitchell report did not specifically note that Arik Sharon's Temple Mount visit did not spark the violence. It should be noted that the Mitchell Report was written while Beilin was the Israel Minister of Justice, and submitted after the Barak defeat to the Sharon administration.

The third issue is permanent status planning, designed to build a structure to build and maintain a peace after agreements are signed between Israel and the Palestinians.

The ECF is adapting European models of cross country cooperation for Israel and the Palestinians. One example is the 1999 "Cooperation North" between the municipalities of 70 towns in the Haifa and Jenin area. This aspect of the ECF program is funded by the German government.

The fourth issue that the ECF deals with is the already mentioned internal issue of Israeli Arabs. In working with Palestinians and Jordanians, they are working on a long term plan on how fully include Israeli Arabs into Israeli society. The ECF works as an advisor to the head of the municipal organization of the Arabs in Israel, the mayor of Jaffa and head of the monitoring group of Arabs in Israel.

Asked if there was talk about resuming peace talks within Palestinian society, Yossi Beilin acknowledged that he was instigating negotiations on all levels, while admitting that there was no talk about peace in Arab society and that no mirror image in Palestinian society exists to parallel Israeli peace activism.

Beilin blamed this on the kind of is conscious that peace as a subject can not develop with the kind of political system that the Palestinians have. Nevertheless he thinks that it is possible to simply ignore the fact that there is no corresponding political discourse in the Palestinian society and still no push for peace.

Beilin said that this does not prevent him from working on these peace initiatives, together with Avraham Burg, who was a founding and still active member of ECF, and with Shimon Peres. Burg is the leading candidate to win the race for Labor Party leadership on September 4th.

Sometimes, Beilin says, the work is done in a bilateral fashion between Burg and Beilin, sometimes among the three of them, with Burg, Beilin and Peres making decisions.

Yossi Beilin's assessment is that it is unrealistic to wait for a cease fire to start talks. Beilin openly states that he does not want the Israel Labor Party to wait for a cease fire and that he will continue to negotiate, even though terror attacks may continue

Yossi Beilin's perspective is that while negotiations may be halted for some time, getting them back on the negotiating table is the most important thing to achieve for him at the moment. And Beilin says that the politics of an Israeli government policy that there should be no negotiation under fire, are not relevant to him.

Asked about what will happen if Yassir Arafat builds a unity government with Hamas and Jihad, Beilin simply states that such a government is artificial and may make things a bit difficult, but that this would certainly not prevent him from continuing his cooperation with the PLO and the Palestinian Authority.

Tenacity is the middle name of Yossi Beilin.

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While violence rages back home, Canada may host Mideast lawmakers
Bill Gladstone
Correspondent, Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Unable to stop the drift toward war in their native land, Israeli and Palestinian legislators hope to be more successful in the quieter atmosphere of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia.

A Canadian parliamentary committee is making arrangements for the Halifax Peace Forum, which is expected to bring together six representatives each from the Israeli Knesset, the Palestinian legislative council and the Canadian Parliament for talks in the Nova Scotian capital from October 14 to 16.

The initiative was launched last January by Bill Casey, a member of Canada's Parliament from the Conservative Party, shortly after he approached Israeli and Palestinian diplomats stationed in Canada.

Both representatives told him that Canada should do more to promote peace in the Middle East.

"Both sides said the same thing, and that really impressed me," Casey told JTA. "They said that Canada could help facilitate and help build bridges that could lead to peace. They said that Canada was in a unique position, that Canada could do something that other countries couldn't do."

Casey discussed the idea of a forum with Liberal Party Parliament member Bill Graham, chair of a parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, and quickly won his support.

Then Casey, from Nova Scotia, approached House Speaker Peter Milliken, who wrote to his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts asking for their support and help in coordinating invitations to legislators from each side.

Accompanying Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley on a diplomatic tour of the Middle East in May, Casey delivered the letters to Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg and Ahmed Karia, speaker of the Palestinian legislative council. Both responded enthusiastically.

Casey also met with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, winning their support for the initiative.

Both sides have confirmed their desire to meet in Halifax in October despite the escalating Mideast violence, said Mark Entwistle, the veteran Canadian diplomat who is the forum's executive director.

"So far we have full green lights from the Israelis and the Palestinians in terms of wanting to have this opportunity kept open," he said. "So that's exactly what we're doing."

Entwistle, who was press secretary to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, said the steering committee is attempting to formulate a "smart agenda" to meet the needs of both sides.

He said the forum would have two main objectives: to build a new line of communication between Israelis and Palestinians and to discuss how Canada can play a more constructive role in the region.

"What makes this interesting is that it's a political meeting between elected legislators," Entwistle said. "But it's important to mention that it's not meant as a negotiating session. There are negotiators elsewhere."

"Our goals are very modest," Casey said. "We want to establish a dialogue. We want to learn from them what the issues are and what the best role for Canada might be."

David Cooper, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa, expressed support for the Canadian initiative.

"We believe in dialogue, and we feel it's something that won't hurt," he said. "Also, it will give Canadian parliamentarians some insight into the complex problems of the Middle East."

Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors have praised the idea, Casey said.

"The Canadian people, much more than the government, are getting behind this. They're volunteering to help in so many ways," Casey said. "We've received offers from the Jewish community, the Arab community and many others."

Among the offers of hospitality is one from Nova Scotia's Jewish Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman, who is planning to hold a reception for the visitors at Government House in Halifax.

"From the Canadian side, we're delighted to offer a safe and neutral venue," Entwistle said. "We'll take it one day at a time as we organize it."

This ran on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency wire on August 6, 2001

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Arafat (WAFA): "We Need a More Firm Stand Confronting the Israelis
After They Have Destroyed Everything We Built"
Wafa News Agency Release

President Arafat addressing the Arab Foreign Ministers in Cairo:ilt"

"We need a more firm stand confronting the Israelis after they have destroyed every thing we built"

Cairo, August 23rd, WAFA (Official Palestine news agency), President Yasser Arafat called, yesterday, for a more firm stand confronting the Israeli aggression after they have destroyed every thing the Palestinians have built over the years.

Addressing the Arab Foreign Ministers, with the participation of Sheikh Hamad Ben Jasim, the chairman of the current urgent summit, Mr. Amro Musa the Secretary General of the Arab League, Abdulelah Alkhatib the head of the Arab Follow up Committee, and several Arab Foreign Ministers, H.E. emphasized the importance of setting united Arab strategic plans in every direction, in order to oblige the UN Security Council, the International Community and the UN General Assembly to carry out their duties and liabilities, towards this region, stressing the need for them to fulfill their duties before it is too late.

He added that we are peace seekers and we seek a permanent, just, right and acceptable peace, which can be achieved by the Israeli withdrawal to the June 4th 1967 borders, and recognizing truly the Palestinian rights.

He also said that the breaches committed by Israel are bold violations to the agreements signed between us in Oslo, emphasizing that our nation will not be defeated no matter how much the Israeli war machine is powerful, for we will struggle until we achieve our national goals and internationally approved and recognized rights, of establishing our independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

We thank "imra" for calling this to our attention

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