|Israel Resource Review
||13th July, 2004
UNRWA Summer Killing School
Sky News 13 July 2004
news story which was aired on Sky News has vital elements that
were not mentioned in the story: The training grounds are at the
UNRWA camp of Nusseirat and the Popular Committes are run by
Muhammad Dahlan's section of the PA. These two facts are
significant for two reasons. Firstly, because the US Congress is
investigating as to whether UNRWA is in violation of US law
which forbids military training in US funded agencies abroad.
Secondly, because Israel is grooming Dahlan to run Gaza.]
Children as young as 10 are being recruited to fight
for the Palestinian cause.
Sky News has gained access to a young people's camp in
Gaza, where the only lesson taught is how to kill
Sky's Middle East Correspondent Emma Hurd said the
camp, at an undisclosed location, had been set up to
drill children in the ways of war.
The recruits, some of whom are dwarfed by their AK-47
assault rifles, are taught how to carry out ambushes.
They are also made to do an obstacle course, crawling
under barbed wire and leaping through hoops of fire
while their instructors fire live bullets overhead.
Hurd witnessed one training session in which a
militant, dressed as a Jewish settler complete with
yarmulke skull cap, was ambushed in his car.Gunmen
pulled the "settler" from his vehicle and Hurd was
told if this had been real he would have been killed.
She spoke to two 10-year-old recruits.
One of them, Mustafa, said he wanted to shoot down
Israeli aircraft and blow up tanks.
The camp is run by a group called the Popular
Resistance Committee, which said the next generation
of Palestinians needed to know how to fight the
The boys even "graduate" at the end of their training,
receiving a certificate from the camp commander
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The Brains Behind The Outpost
Correspondent, Yediot Ahronot
The issue of
the outposts is stuck like a bone in the Israeli government's throat.
Ariel Sharon's promise to the American administration to
evacuate all the outposts that were established since he assumed
office, remains only on paper. On the ground, nothing is moving.
The delay in the evacuation of the outposts irritates the
Americans. Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who was in Washington
last week, encountered impatient officials. Secretary of State
Colin Powell voiced his disappointment at the pace of the
outpost dismantling. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
also complained. Shalom found himself in an awkward situation.
At the same time, a thousand miles away, in his disordered office on
the Carmel in Haifa, sits Likud Central Committee member Aviad Visuli
and runs the legal campaign against the outpost evacuation, a campaign
whose sole purpose is to exhaust the system and delay the evacuation of
the next outpost. He is the spoke in the wheels of the bulldozers that
are supposed to descend onto the hills.
Visuli, 49, is the chairman of the Land of Israel Headquarters in
Haifa and the north, a controversial man of many accomplishments. For
many years he lived in Miami, did business in real estate and
accumulated, so he says, quite a fortune. Since his return to Israel in
the mid 1990s, he has not had to work for a living. He says of himself
that the wealth he accumulated made it possible for him to retire. He
established the Consumer Hotline non-profit organization. Quite a number
of large companies in Israel have been sued for huge sums in class
action suits, all of which were rejected by the court. He has a
reputation as a serial litigant, a court freak.
"He is a big headache," said a legal source in one of the companies
he sued, "and when he decided to wear out the political establishment
and military establishment, we breathed a sigh of relief. He harassed us
quite a bit."
Visuli received his 15 minutes of fame when he tried to "sting" Amram
Mitzna's election campaign two years ago. Visuli pretended to be a donor
and offered a donation of USD 20,000 in three checks. He met with the
CEO of the Haifa Foundation, Danny Neuman, and understood that the money
would be deposited in a US bank in the account of Mitzna's father. He
secretly documented the meeting with Neuman and then sent the tape to
The police began an investigation against Mitzna and his staff on
suspicion of breaking the Party Funding Law. The case was closed for
lack of evidence, but Visuli had done what he set out to do. He wore
Mitzna out in police investigations, and diverted public attention from
the issues of principle that were on the agenda in the election
campaign. Mitzna lost, Visuli put a check mark on his list. Two years
have since gone buy, and Visuli has marked a new target.
From the Red Army to an Outpost in Samaria
"The Land of Israel Headquarters in Haifa," registered as a
non-profit organization, was established immediately after the Oslo
accords were signed with the goal of fighting against them being
implemented. Visuli was elected to head the group in 2000, and a year
later registered in the Likud. A year afterwards he was elected a member
of the Central Committee in elections held in the Haifa branch.
He shoots in all directions. He is active in the Likud institutions,
he established the Land of Israel Faithful organization in the party and
heads it, he is a member of the Likud's legal forum and a member of the
extra-parliamentary organizations of the Right. The Likud knows him to
be a tenacious litigant to the Likud court, in appeals relating to
proposals and procedures in the Central Committee. These are matters
that sound deathly boring, but Visuli was smart enough to realize their
The residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza have also gotten to know
him. For years he has been touring the settlements and outposts, making
contacts and plotting action. The move that upgraded his involvement and
status in the settlements was in October 2002, when he set up the Center
for Aid to Outposts in Haifa. The center was set up in wake of the
evacuation of Havat Gilad that same month. "People who came to protest
the evacuation, including guys from the Haifa staff, were beaten by
police and soldiers, and there was no one to handle this. There was no
legal body on the Right to give assistance in such cases.
"I decided to investigate what had happened there, I drove to Havat
Gilad, which had been re-established in the meantime. When examining the
issue of the violence, I realized something amazing: the forces who had
come to evacuate us had never shown us a warrant of demolition for the
buildings. We decided to immediately get into the legal field and we
petitioned the High Court of Justice against the defense minister at the
time, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, over not presenting warrants for demolition.
It turned out that the security establishment had demolished buildings
without obtaining warrants."
The Center for Aid to Outposts is a one-man show. Visuli coordinates
the activities, receives calls, consults and handles the lawyers. He has
set up an many-branched system that gives indirect aid to the outposts:
he provides the outposts with furniture, electrical appliances, kitchen
equipment, computers and faxes. He has made the organization into an
interested party every time the sword of evacuation hangs over the
outposts. In many cases people from the Center for Aid sent construction
material to the outposts to help in their construction.
In addition, says Visuli, the center also helps man the outposts.
"For example, the Mevo Dotan B outpost. When it was set up, we sent
people to stay there in shifts of three-four days, including Saturdays."
The center also handles security for the outposts working with Gdud
Ha'aliya, a voluntary organization of new immigrants from the former
Soviet Union who were not taken to do reserve duty in the IDF because of
their age. This is a group of Red Army graduates who saw combat in
Afghanistan and Chechnya, and in Israel, have set up a para-military
unit structured like a battalion with platoons and companies and various
ranks. "These guys are scared of nothing. Usually they do guard work on
weekends in Judea and Samaria. We, the Haifa staff, mainly coordinate
guard duty for the outposts, mainly those manned by two-three people."
Work Arranger for Lawyers
The jewel in the crown of the Center for Aid's activity is in the
courtroom. Visuli has organized a large team of lawyers, over 40, from
all over the country. Each outpost and its in-house lawyer. All work
voluntarily, all are ideologically identified with settlement in Judea,
Samaria and Gaza. Visuli is the coordinator, who arranges their work
schedule. In some of the lawsuits he appears himself, although he isn't
a lawyer. "I'm now completing my second year of law school and I
understand matters. When I appear in court, I represent the organization
as an interested party who holds property in those outposts slated for
evacuation." That's how it happens that in the case of one outpost, two
petitions are made to the High Court of Justice, one on behalf of its
residents, the other on behalf of Visuli's organization, which owns
property in that outpost.
The legal battle over Havat Gilad left the outpost in place. Perhaps
not precisely, the outpost was moved 150 meters to the west, but it
continues to exist and new buildings have been added. Visuli is
considered a life preserver by the outposts. "A short time after the
Havat Gilad story, a guy phoned me from the Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost. He
told me that he had built the outpost by himself and now he was about to
be evacuated. We started with petitions to the High Court of Justice. To
this day he is evacuated and he rebuilds. He is evacuated, and he
Every time the outpost was to be evacuated, Visuli petitioned the
High Court of Justice. Not with one petition, and not two, but with a
long and wearying series of petitions. His argument is basic: Israelis
who live in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are entitled to legal rights, just
as are Israelis who live inside the Green Line. "Demolishing buildings
is an orderly procedure: a warrant for demolition, the right to a
hearing, the right to appeal to court, the right to delay evacuation
until the matter is settled. These are the basic rights. Until we in
Haifa got into this, there was no law and order in Judea and Samaria.
Outposts were evacuated and demolished illegally. Without warrants,
without proper handing over, without hearings, nothing."
One of the center's petitions argued that the residents of the
Yitzhar outpost had not been given the right to a hearing. The court
admitted the settlers' right to a hearing however the state argued that
the residents had been given the right to a hearing but had not taken
it. The petition was rejected and the demolition approved.
There were six buildings in the Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost in June last
year. Visuli argues that Israel Lands Authority officials appeared at
the outpost with three demolition warrants, but all six buildings were
demolished, rather than three. "We filed a complaint with the police
against all those who were involved in the demolition, and we demanded
that an investigation be launched and those involved be brought to
trial, and we also asked for compensation for the three buildings
demolished without warrants. At the same time a new building was built
and another two mobile buildings were brought to the outpost."
The security establishment scratched its head. Visuli, who at that
time was not known to them, had managed to tie up procedures. The
establishment's definition of the outposts was "illegal outposts."
Visuli threatened to sue for libel arguing that in the law there is no
such definition as "illegal outpost," but only illegal structure. The
name was then changed to "unauthorized outposts." To speed up the
evacuation process it was decided that instead of demolition warrants,
"circumscription warrants" would be issued for the unauthorized
outposts. These are sweeping demolition orders relating to a defined
section of land, a warrant that allows each building and structure to be
demolished. The circumscription warrant allows the residents of that
section to appeal within three days, only in writing, without an oral
In March this year, a petition was made to the High Court of Justice
arguing that the time allowed for appealing is unreasonable. The High
Court of Justice extended the time to eight days. Residents of the
outpost as well as the Haifa organization, which has property in the
outpost, submitted their reservations, each with their own arguments.
The army responded only to those submitted by the Haifa organization and
rejected them. It did not respond to the reservations submitted by the
outpost residents. Visuli's people made a beeline for the court for
local matters in Maale Adumim and appealed against their appeals being
unheard. The court said it did not have the authority to hear the matter
and directed the appellants to the High Court of Justice. A petition was
submitted, hearings were held, ultimately the petition was rejected.
The evacuation was delayed by months. Only in mid May was the
evacuation of Mitzpe Yitzhar made possible. A thousand police and
soldiers went to the hill and encountered a few hundred settlers. Dozens
were wounded and many military vehicles were damaged. The evacuation
began early in the morning but only in the evening was the army's
bulldozer able to go up the hill and demolish the buildings. Two other
pieces of heavy equipment were left at the bottom of the hill after
being disabled by the settlers.
After the evacuation, the outpost was rebuilt 150 meters away. Two
families live there, and two single men. The same war of attrition is
being waged in the other outposts slated for evacuation. This means
delays of several months.
Visuli says that even after the court decrees that an outpost can be
evacuated, the guys in the field don't intend to give the evacuation
forces an easy time of it. He says that the last evacuation worked only
because of the horses. "They were able to get up onto the outpost only
because they came on horseback. We were surprised by the horses. We
didn't know how to deal with them. I promise you that in the next
evacuation there will be no horses, and if there are, we'll put them out
of action immediately."
Question: How will you do that?
"People who know horses told me that if you poke the horse in his
backside, he loses his composure. All you need is a simple pin."
Bargains in Downtown Miami
Visuli's desk is full of papers. When he sits behind it, he seems to
be drowning in a sea of papers. Today he devotes all of his time to
legal battles against the police, the army and the state, as well as
libel suits. Of the time he lived in the United States, he doesn't
expand. He is only willing to say that he made a fortune in business. A
search of the Internet provides some information of his business. In
1995 he purchased an office building in downtown Miami for the bargain
price of USD 550,000. Less than four years later he sold it for USD 3.2
million. He still owns a number of buildings there, which pay rent.
In Miami too, he was often in court, in lawsuits related to various
business matters. He says that that in the years he lived there, he
changed lawyers over 20 times. There, he says, is where he learned to do
battle in court without relenting. Two years after he returned to
Israel, he established the Consumer Hotline, and he sued TWA, Cellcom,
Partner, Bezeq for huge sums in class action suits. He sued Partner for
example, for over NIS 1.5 billion.
He became a one-man representative and managed to thoroughly annoy
large companies. At one stage two companies he was suing hired a private
investigator. The investigation turned up improper management in the
non-profit organization, and three years ago, the organization was no
longer recognized as representing consumers. In any case, all his class
action suits were rejected.
His move from consumer affairs to representing the outposts was not
smooth. The Settlers Council did not like Visuli's legal activity at
first, and today too, keeps its distance from him. A senior source in
the Settlers Council says that he does not remember any significant
success of his in any of his petitions to the High Court of Justice in
the matter of the outposts. "All his victories were in the interim
stages. He manages to delay the end, but not prevent it. As far as we're
concerned this man is a riddle. He is always in court and it isn't clear
to us how he makes a living." The same source also said that some people
fear that Visuli is a GSS plant. "The man is suspicious, he is fighting
on too many fronts."
Visuli grins and says he's heard this before. "Nonsense. In the GSS,
I'm considered one of the biggest troublemakers. In our organization
we've already discovered four GSS plants who pretended to be activists,
and after we exposed them they left. I know from my sources that I am in
the sights of the GSS's Jewish department."
The people in the outposts don't care about this. Yehuda Libman, who
heads the outpost headquarters in Judea, Samaria and Gaza says that he
is in regular contact with Visuli. "He is very dominant in the battle
for the outposts. He was the first to spot that the legal field was the
main place where we could stick spokes in the wheels of evacuation. He
was the first to begin with appeals to court, and only afterwards others
joined, including the Settlers Council. He is always looking for
loopholes, dodges in the procedures against the outposts. I directed
each outpost that was slaved for evacuation to consult with him. He is
not always in charge of the lawsuits, sometimes he is behind the scenes,
but he is always involved."
Visuli admits that this is a war of attrition. All the lawsuits are
with the intention of wearing out the system. "We definitely intend to
exhaust the system until it realizes that all such steps are not
legitimate, are not legal. I do not fear legal attrition. I have a great
deal of experience in this."
He doesn't rest for a moment. His next big project is to stop the
disengagement plan. He promises a battle never seen before, much bigger
than the battle for the outposts, a battle that will naturally be waged
on the legal field. "The battle will be based on legal principles,
international law as well as Israeli law. We will set up a legal
department that only handles the disengagement matter."
The lawyers who work with him are preparing a suit against the prime
minister and the Likud ministers who support the disengagement plan,
personal lawsuits for breaking a promise to accept to accept the results
of the referendum held among the registered Likud members. "We have
quite a lot of ideas. For every soldier or policeman who touches a
civilian in the course of the evacuations, if there are any, we will
file a complaint with the police, we will press criminal charges as well
as a civilian lawsuit for compensation. As for the politicians and army
and police commanders involved, as of now we are looking into the
possibility of pressing charges against them for war crimes at the
International Court of Justice at The Hague, since the forcible transfer
of civilians is defined in international law as a war crime. We will
delay the implementation by any legal means possible, in any court in
Israel and overseas. I believe that we can delay the implementation of
this bad plan by at least five years."
This article ran in
Yediot Aharonot, July 9th, 2004
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President Katzav Visits Gush
Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim, Gush Katif
Sunday, 11 July 2004
Carrying black flags, the children of Gush Katif greeted the
President of Israel, Mr. Moshe Katsav and his wife Rachel, on
their visit to Gush Katif, the Jewish area of Gaza planned for expulsion.
In a meeting with the president, residents spoke from their hearts reminding Mr. Katsav how they reclaimed empty desert, built beautiful communities, founded synagogues, schools and yeshivas, and tend farms which supply 95% of insect-free kosher vegetables to Israel and the world.
Einat Yeffet, 17, said "my teacher was killed, a day after my brother was murdered, but we kept up our struggle. Now my government wants to expel me and my family. Why do we deserve this?"
Mrs. Rachel Saperstein, an immigrant from the United States, recalled in English that her husband lost his right arm in the Yom Kippur War and two fingers were shot off his remaining hand by an Arab terrorist. "We gave our body and blood to the land of Israel, and now that we are middle-aged we are to be thrown out of our home. Why?"
The President, feeling the frustration and anger, said the people should use legal means to fight their case. He stated he could not interfere with political decisions but he understood the wonderful people of Gush Katif and their contributions to Israel. He added that even the leftist parties appreciate the sacrifices, pioneering spirit and the bravery of the people of Gush Katif.
The meeting, held with mutual respect and admiration, concluded
with a pertinent question by a reporter. "Why" he asked, "does
the Israel Supreme Court turn down IDF requests to demolish
empty Arab buildings used by snipers, while the government of
Israel demands the expulsion of Jews and the destruction of
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Arafat to Exploit
Ruling for Sympathy, Control
Khaled Abu Toameh
Correspondent, Jerusalem Post
Ever since he arrived in the Gaza Strip in 1994, Palestinian Authority
Chairman Yasser Arafat has been seeking to internationalize the
conflict with Israel by involving as many countries as possible.
His objective is to isolate Israel in the international arena to
force it to make more concessions to the Palestinians.
Now that the International Court of Justice has ruled in favor of the
Palestinians on the West Bank security fence, Arafat is feeling upbeat because he feels he is approaching the end of his mission.
He has another reason to be satisfied: The ruling is likely to ease the
pressure on him to give up most of his powers and to end corruption. For the next few weeks, or months (he hopes), everyone will be busy talking about the fence as the case is brought before the UN General Assembly and other forums.
Arafat is now hoping to pursue the case against Israel by seeking a series of UN resolutions that would impose sanctions on Israel once it fails to comply with the court ruling, and that Israel will succumb to the pressure.
Over the past few years, Arafat has repeatedly called for dispatching an
international force to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He hopes that such a force would keep the world's attention focused on what's happening in these areas and guarantee continued financial aid to the PA.
Money plays a key role in ensuring Arafat's continued control over the PA
and, more important, the dozen or so Palestinian security forces.
Since the current wave of violence erupted in September 2000, Arafat stepped up his efforts to internationalize the conflict. A few days after the fighting broke out, Arafat called for dispatching an international force to the West Bank and Gaza Strip "to defend the Palestinians against Israeli atrocities" and has not missed an opportunity to repeat this call since then.
Arafat now appears to be on the brink of fulfilling his dream. For him, the
fact that he managed to raise the issue of the "Apartheid Wall" before the
court is in itself a significant achievement. Indeed, many Palestinians are
hailing the court opinion as an "historic and major" achievement for Palestinian diplomacy.
As one senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday, "even if the
wall is not torn down immediately, this is undoubtedly one of the most
significant victories for the Palestinians. The Palestinian cause is back on the top of the world's agenda."
Arafat is hoping that the trial would set a precedent for other cases he
wishes to bring to international forums. According to sources close to the PA, Arafat will now try to persuade the international community to put some of Israel's political and military officials on trial for war crimes against the Palestinians.
"Israel is a state of terror and apartheid and this is what we are planning
to prove to the entire world," said a Palestinian legal expert. "The fence is only part of the problem. We want to dig deeper. We want to see people like [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and [Defense Minister Shaul] Mofaz stand trial like [former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic."
Finally, the timing of Friday's court ruling could not have been better for
Arafat, who is under immense pressure to implement reforms in the
Only last week representatives of the Quartet announced that they were "sick and tired" of Arafat's foot-dragging on the issue of reforms and threatened to halt financial aid to the Palestinians.
The Egyptians, who have been trying for months to persuade Arafat to cede
control over security and to share powers with others, are now threatening to cut off their ties with the PA unless the reforms are implemented. In addition, Arafat is facing pressure from a growing number of Palestinians on the same issues.
The court ruling has turned the fence into the Palestinians' No. 1 problem.
Now Arafat will tell all those who are pressing him to reform that he will do so only when Israel respects the court ruling on the fence.
This article ran in the Jerusalem Post of July
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Now A Jew,
Married to Grandson
of Concentration Camp Survivor,
Sheds Light on "Operation Texas"
Claudia Taylor Brod never met her grandfather,
Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th president of the United States.
She inherited his legacy through history books, old family
photos and countless stories from her grandmother, Claudia
"Lady Bird" Johnson, who is 91 and still lives on the LBJ
Ranch in Stonewall, Texas.
Among the lessons handed down, Brod says, were a sense of
compassion and an obligation to give back to her community.
The youngest child of Luci Baines Johnson Turpin -- President
Johnson's youngest daughter -- Brod, 28, says those lessons
helped her realize "that I was part of this family, part of
this legacy and with that came a lot of responsibility for what
I had been given."
Now Brod has begun to put those lessons into action at home in
Miami Beach, where she has lived since 2000.
To celebrate the birth of her first child in February, Brod and her husband, Steven, donated $10,000, drawn from the Lyndon Johnson Family Foundation, to the Holocaust Survivors Program run by Jewish Community Services, a non-denominational agency for residents of Miami-Dade County. The gift was made on behalf of Brod's obstetrician, Dr. Steven Silvers, but her interest in Judaism runs deep.
Brod, whose husband is the grandchild of Holocaust survivors, converted to Judaism in 2003.
It was not easy to renounce Catholicism -- "I went to mass every Sunday until I turned 18," she says -- but Judaism "makes a little more sense to me.
"I started to read about the Jewish faith and I was really taken by it,"
she says. "I related to its unity and its survival over thousands of years."
Though she does not keep kosher and generally goes to temple only on holidays, Brod says she has embraced Judaism's emphasis on family and traditions.
"I love that you're not supposed to answer the phone [on the Sabbath] and that it gives you time to spend with family," she says.
As a steward of the Johnson family legacy, Brod believes her grandfather's administration is disproportionately defined by President Johnson's ordering thousands of American troops to Vietnam and committing America to major combat there.
"That kind of saddens me," she says.
James Smallwood, a retired history professor at Oklahoma State University, agrees that Vietnam overshadows Johnson's populist agendas -- the War on Poverty and the Great Society -- and the president's leadership in persuading Congress to pass landmark legislation such as the Civil Rights Act, the Voter Act, the Medicare amendment to the Social Security Act, and the Open Housing Law.
But there's more about Johnson's political career that remains obscure, particularly "Operation Texas," an allegedly covert program that Smallwood says helped save dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Jews from the Holocaust.
Smallwood purports that Johnson surreptitiously supplied documents to a friend who then used those documents to help Jews flee Eastern Europe and resettle in America.
'Some things that Johnson did were definitely unorthodox if not illegal,' Smallwood says.
But no one has presented any evidence to support such an allegation, says Claudia Anderson, an archivist with the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin. Anderson traces the legend of "Operation Texas" to a speech given by a prominent Jewish businessman in Austin, Jim Novy, during a dedication ceremony, which Johnson attended, for a synagogue named Congregation Agudas Achim in December 1963.
In his dedication speech, which was recorded, Novy alleged that in 1938 then-congressman Johnson had helped arrange -- through letters and telephone calls to ambassadors and immigration officials -- for 42 Jewish refugees from Germany and Poland to obtain visas to enter America.
Novy's speech also claimed that in 1940 Johnson used his political influence to skirt Texas law and help lodge Jewish refugees in state youth camps.
But, Anderson says, "there is absolutely no substantiation of that whatsoever."
Anderson did, however, find evidence that Johnson wrote letters to U.S. embassies in Eastern Europe, prior to World War II, that helped expedite the immigration of Jewish refugees to America.
"I definitely believe Johnson helped Jewish people come into this country by helping them cut red tape and immigration procedures," Anderson says.
Brod says she first learned of "Operation Texas" from her mother. And though she does not remember the details of the story, she found it to be "an act of moral courage" by her grandfather.
"He did some wonderful things as far as civil rights, as far as education, but this one in particular was one I could relate to," she says. "I married someone who's Jewish and then I became Jewish myself."
It also cemented Brod's conviction to carry on the family legacy of civic involvement.
"My grandmother did conservation. My grandfather did education,"
she says. "I feel it's my obligation . . . . The Jewish
community is a good place to start."
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Young Jews Turning On Israel Again?
Some College Students Duping
Birthright Officials to Press Palestinians Cause.
Israel Correspondent, The Jewish Week of New York
Az-Zawiya, West Bank
In a continuation of a small but troubling trend that was revealed last year, young diaspora Jews again are using popular youth programs like birthright israel and college fellowships as a vehicle to volunteer for a Palestinian-run group the Israeli government considers a danger to national security, The Jewish Week has learned.
Others are capitalizing on their dual Israeli-American citizenship and entering the country on Israeli passports to volunteer for the controversial International Solidarity Movement, which works actively against Israel's policies in the West Bank and Gaza.
The fact that several of the nine Jewish ISM volunteers known to have arrived during the past few weeks have come under false pretenses is noteworthy given last summer's revelations that a handful of participants enrolled in the birthright program, the subsidized trip for college-age students, with the intention of joining ISM.
Their arrival comes at a time when Israel has enacted a policy to deny entry to ISM activists.
A New Yorker, Ann Petter, was detained recently by Israeli officials at Ben Gurion Airport and asked to leave the country. She refused and as of Wednesday remained in custody.
Jessica, a 22-year-old from Plainview, N.Y., spent the first part of her summer touring Israel on a birthright mission. When the trip ended, the Duke University graduate went to a travel agent, extended her birthright plane ticket and became a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement.
Now Jessica, who like the other ISM volunteers interviewed spoke on condition that her last name not be published, spends her days trying to prevent Israeli soldiers from allegedly destroying Palestinian homes and fields, and from building the security barrier that will soon encircle this and other Arab villages west of the Jewish settlement of Ariel.
Like the other 50 or so ISM volunteers now residing in the West Bank, she routinely acts as a human shield by standing in front of bulldozers and between Palestinians and Israelis.
"I don't think that I, as a Jew, have a claim to this land", Jessica said, gazing at the replanted stump of an olive tree uprooted from an Az-Zawiya field by the Israeli army during its preparations for the barrier. "Why should I, as a Jew, have a right to live in Israel while Palestinians expelled in 1948 and 1967 don't have this right"??
Jessica's decision to join ISM, which Israel considers a danger to national security because it prevents soldiers from carrying out their duties, wasn't some last-minute inspiration evoked by birthright. Rather, she came on birthright largely because it provided free transport to the region.
"When someone arrives at the airport and declares that he is part of an anti-globalization or anarchist group, it's the right and obligation of Israel not to let him enter", said David Saranga, the Foreign Ministry's deputy spokesman.
While Saranga said he has no knowledge about whether such groups are actively trying to recruit Jewish volunteers due to the ease with which they can enter Israel, "it is important that the family of the young person be aware of this possibility".
Asked whether ISM encourages young Jews to utilize birthright and other subsidized programs to become volunteers, ISM spokeswoman Huwaida Arraf replied that "it hasn't been an ISM policy to do so. I wouldn't say we actively focus on recruiting Jewish volunteers over any other volunteers opposed to the occupation, but it so happens that a lot of our volunteers have been Jewish"
Journalist David Bedein, who has written extensively about ISM's recruitment tactics, insists the organization says openly that "it prefers to have Jewish volunteers because it's easier to get them into the country".
Bedein, the founder of the Israel Resource News Agency, sent a reporter to cover ISM's annual meeting in November.
"The participants were told to say they were coming as tourists at a time when Israel needs tourists", Bedein said. "They were told to wear a Jewish star and to talk about their Jewish family and friends in Israel".
ISM's Web site similarly provides tips on how to dupe Israeli officials.
Paul Patin, the press liaison for the American Embassy in Tel Aviv, acknowledged that people come as tourists and have other plans when they get here.
Patin stressed that "we have a State Department travel advisory urging American citizens to avoid travel to the West Bank and Gaza".
"We don't think Americans should be traveling there because it's too dangerous. If American citizens want us to help them get to the West Bank or Gaza, we can't help them. No matter what their job is, we think we're helping them by not helping them get there", he said firmly.
To dissuade young Jews from utilizing birthright as a "free ride". Bedein has urged the program to require participants who join anti-Israel organizations to reimburse the program.
Gidi Mark, birthright's marketing director, said he knows of "only a handful of participants who fit this description, out of 70,000".
"At most we're talking about one person in 10,000", he said. "During our screening hundreds of applicants were disqualified this summer, for a variety of reasons".
As for imposing penalties, Mark said, "We don't think it's wise to mention organizations that participants have never heard about and then give them ideas. As it is, our waiver says that if a participant's information is found to be false, they will have to pay for the trip. In five years we've sent back three who were found to have a different agenda"
Jessica may soon be added to the list. A basic Internet search using her full name revealed that she was one of the leaders of Duke's divest from Israel movement, a fact that she reportedly failed to disclose on her birthright application.
Smoking a cigarette in the garden of the simple house ISM rents in Az-Zawiya, a hilly village whose 6,500 Muslim residents will be separated from most of their fields once the security barrier is constructed, Jessica insisted that "I wasn't an activist in college".
Asked why she came on birthright, she smiled and said, "The free trip was a definite positive, but I was also interested to see how Judaism is connected to Israel, and how young American Jews are told they can be citizens of Israel. The sign when we arrived said, 'Welcome home" . . . "
Jessica said she and another friend who later joined ISM took copious notes during their birthright trip.
"I'm in the process of writing an e-zine about birthright", she said, referring to the mini-magazine she plans to distribute "informally".
"It will be targeted toward Jewish and left-wing organizations to help them understand how Jewish nationalism works", Jessica said.
Clearly, the New Yorker sees birthright as a powerful Jewish nationalist tool.
"It creates a family and makes that family Israel. American Jews become part of that family. It affects their lives, their politics, how they spend their money", she said with a hint of disapproval in her voice.
Raan, an intense young Israeli expatriate whose grandfather was Hanan Bar-on, Israel?s one-time ambassador to Ethiopia and Holland, used his Israeli passport to enter the country. On summer break from his doctoral program at a prestigious American university, Raan advocates "a single democratic state for all citizens of this country".
"I don't believe it is necessary to be a Jewish majority in this country", he said.
Raan's definition of "this country" is the country known as Israel plus the Palestinian-ruled territories. A self-described "radical", he believes that "as an Israeli, I bring to ISM some understanding of the socio-political and historical aspects of Israeli society".
Raan believes that his illustrious grandfather would be proud of him.
"He was on the liberal left", Raan said.
"I think that I?m carrying on his legacy".
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Is Israel's Barrier/Fence/Wall
No More Than a Cop-Out in the War Against the PLO?
Last September, when Israel Foreign Minister
Sylvan Shalom made a toast to the foreign press and the
diplomatic corps in honor of the Jewish News Year, The Israeli
government minister spoke with great satisfaction about the
separation barrier that had been built around Gaza, and declared
to his New Year well wishers that "Since the barrier was built
around Gaza, we have not witnessed even one terror attack from
Gaza. The people of Israel sleep well, knowing that a separation
barrier fence has been constructed".
I asked the minister an irreverent question - "What about the mortars fired by terrorists from Gaza day at the people of Sderot and the western Negev every day"?
The minister chose just that opportunity to call on his distinguished guests to dip apples in the honey of the new year instead of relating to the question on hand.
Perhaps the minister did not want to deal with the fact that barriers do not deter surface to surface lethal weapons during a time of war.
Yet what Israeli government spokespeople usually counter is that "The fence has still reduced the number of attacks".
Yet there is another reason for the reduction of Arab terror attacks.
Since April 2002, the Israel Defence Forces (The IDF), made a strategic decision to go on the offensive, and to conduct daily incursions into every Palestinian populated area, in order to eradicate PLO terror squads before they could attack Israeli population centers.
A case in point: During 21 consecutive days in the month of June, 2004, the IDF thwarted 21 armed PLO squads that were already en route to conduct terror attacks inside Israel's major population centers.
On the other hand, the Israeli government has ordered The IDF not to attack the leaders of the PLO who dispatch these same terror squads, because of a political decision to preserve the PLO as a political entity.
So the PLO war against Israel continues unabated, to liberate all of Palestine, albeit in stages.
People have forgotten that the PLO was founded by the Arab League in 1964 to continue the war that was launched in 1948 the Arab League for the express purpose of Israel's annihilation. Egypt was then the dominant power in the Arab League which fostered the PLO. Today, Saudi Arabia, in an active state of war with Israel since 1948, is the dominant power of the Arab League which stirs the cauldrons of the PLO.
People have forgotten that the PLO amended its charter in 1974 to adopt a "strategy of phases", so that the PLO could liberate Palestine "in stages", an approach which keeps Israel and the western world off guard.
On June 20th, at a press conference held at the office of the Prime Minister of Israel, Israel's National Security Council, Giora Eiland was asked if Israel had formulated a plan to defeat the PLO, which remains in a state of war with Israel.
Eiland's answer was straight forward: "We have decided not to engage in a war to defeat the PLO". And that is the problem.
Instead, the Israeli government prefers to deal with cosmetics: A barrier, which in some places is a fence and in other places is a wall, which is something that a democratically elected government can show to its people that it is doing something.
Yet Israel's construction of a barrier transforms a war with the PLO into a war with the entire Palestinian population, which is precisely what the PLO wants.
Perhaps it is for that reason that Abu Allah, Arafat's prime minister, is personally invested in the cement company used to construct that barrier.
The time has come for the government and people of Israle to focus their energies on a war against the PLO, not on the Palestinian people.
Amazingly, the PLO has not yet succeeded in conveying its message of war against Israel to the Palestinian people.
Having covered the Palestinian Authority areas since the PLO was imported from Tunis in 1994, I can report that you can discern a difference between the daily PLO incitement against Israel and the desire of the Palestinian Arab people to live at peace with Israel. The PLO has not yet succeeded in galvanizing the Palestinian population behind its cause.
Every PLO terrorist may be a Palestinian.
Yet not every Palestinian is a PLO terrorist.
However, Israel's construction of a barrier, instead of Israel's destruction of the Mukatta, the PLO headquarters in Ramallah, does little to defeat the PLO and nothing to stop PLO terror attacks inside Israel.
After all, this past Sunday morning, on July 11tg, 2004, it was the mainstream of the Fateh organization of the PLO which took credit for blowing up a bus in the heart of Tel Aviv, killing nineteen year old female soldier, Maayan Haim and maiming more than thirty other bus passengers. So long as the PLO continues to function, it will find ways to dispatch armed killers, even from amongst Israel's one million Arab citizens.
All a barrier does is to help the PLO solidify its base of support in the Palestinian population.
PLO terror will stop only when Israel decides to defeat the PLO, and when the Israeli government declares its determination to win the last battle of the 1948 War for Independence.
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