Israel hardens opposition to war crimes report

20 10 2009

JERUSALEM — Israel hardened its opposition Tuesday to international calls for an independent inquiry into its fierce offensive against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip last winter, saying it would urge the U.S. to prevent the issue from advancing at the United Nations.

The decision came at a special Cabinet meeting called to discuss a U.N. report that has accused Israel and Palestinian militants of committing war crimes during the three-week operation. The report, which was adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council last week, recommends war crimes proceedings if the sides do not conduct credible independent investigations into their actions.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a fierce critic of the report, blocked a planned discussion Tuesday on whether to launch an investigation, senior officials said. Instead, Cabinet ministers established a special lobbying team that will urge the U.S. to use its veto power in the Security Council to prevent legal action against Israeli officials.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported Barak’s position, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was closed.

“Our struggle is to delegitimize the continuing attempt to delegitimize the state of Israel,” Netanyahu told the meeting, according to a statement from his office. “The most important sphere we need to work in is the sphere of public opinion in the democratic world.”

Both men have argued that the report was one-sided and undermines Israel’s right to defend itself. They also say that internal military investigations are sufficient. So far, the internal probes have cleared the army of any systemic wrongdoing.

But international pressure for an independent query has mounted since last week’s vote in the rights council.

Washington, which has reacted coolly to the report, is likely to veto attempts to prosecute Israelis. Still, the Israeli government is taking no chances. Tuesday’s decision by the Security Cabinet, a group of seven senior ministers, assigned legal, political and diplomatic officials to the lobbying effort, the officials said.

The U.N. report, overseen by respected South African jurist Richard Goldstone, has created an uproar in Israel. Officials say the Human Rights Council, which includes many Arab and Muslim countries, is hopelessly biased against Israel.

But Goldstone’s credentials as a former war crimes prosecutor in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, his Jewish faith and his close ties to Israel have made it hard for Israel to ignore his findings. Goldstone has personally urged Israel to hold an independent investigation.

Israel attacked Gaza last December in a bid to end eight years of relentless rocket fire by Palestinian militants. Some 1,400 Palestinians, including more than 900 civilians, were killed in the three-week war, according to Palestinian officials and human rights groups. Thirteen Israelis, including four civilians, also died.

The Goldstone report concluded that Israel deliberately struck civilians and repeatedly destroyed civilian infrastructure without military justification. It also accused Palestinian rocket squads affiliated with Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, and other Palestinian armed groups of deliberately going after Israeli civilians.

Each side has rejected the war crimes allegations against it.

(News Source: Ap.com/PCJN)





Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah Statement Re: Situation in Eretz Yisroel

6 01 2009

בס”ד

לבני ישראל היקרים, הדואגים אל אחיהם בעת צרה.

לאור המצב כעת אשר אלפי יהודים יושבי ארץ הקודש נתונים בסכנה מפרעות אויב, ראינו לנכון להדגיש ביותר החובה המוטלת על כולנו להתעורר בתפלה ולבקש רחמים על אחינו היקרים ולהרבות בצדקה וזכיות על שארית ישראל שלא יאונה להם שוד ושבר, ויש לחזק הנהוג לומר פרקי תהלים פג קל קמב בכל יום, וגם לשפוך שיח בתחנונים של “והוא רחום” שאומרים בשני וחמישי, ובברכת “השכיבנו” בערבית שמבקשים ופרוש עלינו סכת שלומך וחותמים שומר עמו ישראל לעד.

והשי”ת ברוב רחמיו וחסדיו יגן על עמו ונחלתו ויחלצם ממיצר, ויוציאנו מאפלה לאורה ומשעבוד לגאולה אכי”ר.

ח’ טבת תשס”ט
מועצת גדולי התורה בארה”ב

* * *

ROUGH TRANSLATION

To all dear Jews concerned about their fellow-Jews in this time of distress:

In light of the current situation, in which thousands of Jews in the Holy Land are in danger due to the attacks of the enemy, we regard it as proper to strongly emphasize the obligation on us all to awaken ourselves in prayer, to ask for Divine mercy for our dear brethren and to increase our charity and good deeds for the protection of the remnant of Yisroel from any and all harm. We should intensify the practice of reciting chapters 83, 130 and 142 of Tehillim each day, and fervently pour out our hearts in the prayer “V’hu Rachum” said on Monday and Thursday mornings and in the blessing of “Hashkiveinu” in Ma’ariv, where we ask Hashem to “spread upon us Your tent of peace” and conclude “the Guardian of His nation Yisroel forever.”

May Hashem in His abundant mercy and kindness shield His nation and heritage, release them from all straits, and take us from darkness to light and from subjugation to redemption. Amein, may it be His will.

8 Teves, 5769

Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America





Reminders of Jersey greeted Corzine throughout Israel trip

27 07 2008

New Jersey Governor Corzine

As he soaked up the sights and culture of Israel during a five-day trade mission halfway around the world last week, Gov. Jon Corzine often felt like New Jersey was just a Turnpike exit away.

From the first day of his journey to the last, Corzine stumbled upon reminders of his home state in all corners of the country.

Tourists recognized him during breakfasts at the hotel. Summer interns in the Knesset government headquarters told him they hailed from the Garden State. A cluster of Jersey schoolteachers descended on him at the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem.

“It feels like I’m in New Jersey most of the time when I am in a public forum,” Corzine said early on in the trip.

New Jersey and Israel often invite comparisons over their similar size and population, as well as specializing in some of the same industries. New Jersey’s large Jewish community also makes for strong cultural ties.

But for the governor and his traveling posse, last week took the link to another level.

Bradley Abelow, Corzine’s chief of staff, took to calling the New Jersey state Legislature “our Knesset,” after the famously combative Israeli legislative branch.

Parallels popped up when driving around the country. Spotting a nasty traffic jam on the main north-south highway leading to the urban center of Tel Aviv, Ambassador Asaf Shariv, consul general of Israel in New York, pointed to the green exit signs and grinned. “It’s like the Turnpike, no?”

The governor’s motorcade – led by a blue stretch limousine provided by the Israeli government — was itself an attention magnet. Curious passers-by who were told the governor of New Jersey was inside sometimes asked if he was the one who romanced an “Israeli guy,” Shariv said.

Corzine’s predecessor, former Gov. James E. McGreevey, resigned from office after admitting a homosexual affair with Israeli national Golan Cipel, who claims McGreevey sexually harassed him.

One-on-one connections were equally bizarre. Visiting Israel’s leading technical university on Tuesday, Corzine made small talk with a professor showing off a surveillance camera embedded in a miniature helicopter. Soon they found common ground: both used to live in Summit.

Another random encounter brought Corzine face to face with Kenny Kleinerman, who said he worked with former Gov. Thomas Kean on developing E-ZPass.

By Thursday morning, it was hardly a surprise when Tal Brody – the Trenton Central High School graduate who achieved Israeli basketball superstardom – stopped by Corzine’s hotel.

“It was like musical chairs in terms of people coming to meet with him,” said Abe Foxman, a Bergen County resident and national director of the Anti-Defamation League who stumbled upon the governor in the hotel dining room one morning. “He’s so comfortable, you’d think he was in Jersey.”

The constant stream of connections clearly amused Corzine as he hawked Jersey as a home for Israeli business. On a tour of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot Thursday afternoon – the last public stop on his official trip – Corzine was shown an exhibit of dangling mirrors meant to portray chaos.

Want chaos? “Come to New Jersey,” he said.

“You’re from New Jersey?” asked his young tour guide, Hadas Cahalla.

“Yes,” said the governor. “Are you?”

For once, the answer was no. NJ.com





Bush tells Israeli media peace does not depend on Olmert

13 05 2008

US President George W. Bush said in interviews published Tuesday ahead of a visit to Israel that the country’s peace process with the Palestinians does not depend on embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

 

Police suspect Olmert illicitly took hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from an American fund-raiser. The Israeli leader has said he would resign if indicted. (AP)





Rabbi, priests, sheriffs support Passaic imam in court

11 05 2008

A Jewish rabbi, Roman Catholic and Episcopalian priests, a federal prosecutor and two sherriffs took the witness stand today to heap praise upon a popular Muslim cleric as his attorneys began presenting their case for why he should not be deported.

Mohammad Qatanani, imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson faces deportation for allegedly failing to disclose on his 1996 green card application that he had been arrested and pleaded guilty to aiding the terrorist group Hamas in an Israeli military court three years earlier.

His attorneys argue that Qatanani was detained administratively, convicted in absentia and subject to interrogation tactics Israel’s top court later outlawed as torture.

Among the witnesses subpeonad by Qatatani’s lawyers was Assistant United States Attorney Charles McKenna, who described numerous trips to the Paterson mosque as part of an effort to create better understanding between law enforcement and the Muslim community.

As an example, he said investigators often interpreted the tendency of Muslim women to not look them in the eye as a sign of deceit. Through the dialogue at the mosque, they realized it is routine in Arab culture for women not to look men outside their family in the eye.

“It’s important for us to have leaders in the Islamic community who will be accepting of us and give us inroads in the community,” he said.

The sheriffs of two north Jersey counties echoed McKenna’s statements that the mosque’s open door policies had helped investigators become more familiar with cultural aspects of the Muslim community.

But they also described a more personal connection they had made through their cooperation with Qatanani.

“When I’m in his presence, and he does have a presence, this small, unassuming person, he doesn’t say “boo” but he gives me a better feeling of peace,” said Bergen County Sheriff Leo McGuire. “I feel better as a person to be with him.”

Jerry Speziale, the sheriff of Passaic County echoed McGuire’s testimony saying Qatatani “radiates peace.”

Christopher Brundage, one of two Department of Homeland Security attorneys serving as prosecutors in the case, pressed Speziale and McGuire, asking if they would have different opinions if they had known about Qatatani’s alleged ties to Hamas.

Speziale said he would need to see proof of the conviction himself. McGuire said, “It would surprise me,” but added, “it cannot change my mind about what I have observed.” NJ.com





Israel turned 60 today

8 05 2008

 

Israel celebrated the 60th anniversary of its creation today with fireworks, air force flyovers and street parties, but the atmosphere of heady jubilation was marred by doubts over future security and prospects for peace with the Palestinians.

A security crackdown sealing off the West Bank and Gaza and marches by Palestinians marking the expulsion of some 760,000 inhabitants as part of what they regard as the “Nakba” – the catastrophe – was a stark reminder of the uncertain future of the Jewish State.

Across the country, Israelis held barbecues in backyards and public parks and attended parachute jumps, a Bible quiz, concerts and the inauguration of a footpath around the Sea of Galilee.

The Nasa astronaut Garrett Reisman, the first Jewish crew member on the international space station, sent a greeting from space to the people of Israel. “Every time the station flies over the state of Israel, I try to find a window, and it never fails to move me when I see the familiar outline of Israel coming toward us from over the horizon,” the American-born astronaut said





ISRAEL: Terrorists Kill 2 Israelis

25 04 2008

Two Israelis were killed Friday morning when Palestinian terrorists opened fire at them in the Nitzane Shalom industrial complex near Tulkarm in the West Bank.Israel Defense Forces troops and police were at the scene and were searching for the shooters.

According to the preliminary investigation, at least one terrorist arrived at one of the factories in the complex and opened fire at the two.

The gunmen initially intended to infiltrate Israel but returned to the industrial complex after they were unable to penetrate the security barrier, Army Radio reported.

The two men, Shimon Mizrachi, 53, of Bat Hefer and Eli Wasserman, 51, of Alfei Menashe, were declared dead by a Magen David Adom team that was called to the area. They were security guards at one of the factories.

Wasserman’s funeral is scheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m. at the cemetery in Netanya. He is survived by a wife and two children.

Itzik Mimran, an MDA paramedic, was one of the first to arrive on the scene.

“When we arrived, there were two casualties,” he told Channel 10. “One of the senior medics reported that one of the casualties was dead and that another was wounded. We immediately initiated advanced resuscitation, but sadly he died.”

The two had weapons on their person, Mimran said.

The Nitzane Shalom complex was built in 1995. It houses nine factories that provide jobs to many Palestinians from the West Bank. Jewish.com